Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Thursday, September 29, 2005
What to Get the Luminary Who Has Everything
I'm a big fan of the Amazon.com Wish List. So often, I don't have the faintest fucking clue what to buy someone and I go to Amazon and suddenly it's like, "Oh, shit! Of course! They like books they can place on their coffee tables and pretend to have read when people come over!" And then I buy one for them. Before Amazon, people had to expend energy thinking of what to buy their friends and family. Thank God those days are over.
While surfing around through the world of Amazon Wish Lists, I stumbled upon a number of lists for people of the famous persuasion and I thought I'd share some of their selections with you in case you were planning on getting them something.
Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Aries: The world looks mighty good to you, 'cause Tootsie Rolls are all you see. Whatever it is you think you see becomes a Tootsie Roll to you.
Taurus: Sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes, you don't.
Gemini: Nobody better lay a finger on your Butterfinger.
Cancer: When you bite into a York Peppermint Patty, you get the sensation of wind rushing through your hair as you rocket off of a ski-jump.
Leo: What would you do for a Klondike Bar?
Virgo: Two great tastes taste great together.
Libra: Say goodbye a little longer, make it last a little longer. Give your breath long-lasting freshness with Big Red.
Scorpio: Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee.
Sagittarius: It's not a cookie! It's fruit and cake!
Capricorn: How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop? Ask Mr. Owl.
Aquarius: Life Savers. A part of living.
Pisces: For the love of God, brush your fucking teeth.
Monday, September 26, 2005
Bi-coastal, that is.
This Christmas, I will have a show premiering in Seattle on December 1st, followed a week later by the New York premiere. The show will be known by a different title in each city, but I hasten to assure you that the two shows are, in fact, one and the same.
In Seattle, the show will be produced by my good friends at Open Circle Theater. They're calling the show Twas a Night of Shitty Theater and it will run December 1st through the 17th, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM. They're charging the bargain price of $10.
Here in NYC, the show's being done by my group, Special Productions. We're going to be putting it up at UNDER St. Mark's in the East Village and it will run December 8th through 17th. The first weekend, the show will be at 8PM. The second weekend, we switch to a late-night at 10:30PM. As we're in the Big Apple and things are a mite pricier here, we're charging $15. And just to be contrary, we're using the title A Shitty Christmas Carol and Other Pieces.
The show is a follow up to A Night of Shitty Theater, which is a fund-raiser my sketch group used to do in Seattle and which I subsequently did in the Fringe Festival here in New York. The show began when the theater company I was part of in Seattle put out a call for scripts for a planned evening of original works. We got a whole lot of crap. I was always under the opinion that a beginning playwriting teacher at some pathetic school saw our ad in the paper and encouraged her students to submit their work. This stuff was just abysmal. We read some of it out loud at a meeting and we were dying. Someone opined that we ought to read this shit for an audience. Someone with a conscience (it might have been my wife, but I honestly don't remember) piped up and pointed out how sadistically cruel it would be to use someone's work that way. The idea was too good to let go, though, so we decided, if we couldn't use the work that had been sent to us, we'd just create our own. So everybody pitched in and, in the end, we had a full night of short scenes of the so-bad-they're-good variety. We raised enough money that night that we went back and did it the next two years as well.
When I came to New York, the sketch group I formed with some friends liked the idea and we put up our own version, with a little more rehearsal and with the scripts memorized instead of being read. It's a good time. It's an especially good time because we tell the audience that these scripts were submitted to us by people from all over the country and some of them believe it. Man, they're gullible.
Anyway, unlike the original Shitty Theater, this one is all from my little noggin and it's all scenes about the holiday season. Let's face it, if you go see any live theater at Christmas, there's a pretty good chance you're going to see some crap. We figure, it's better to acknowledge the putrid nature of the plays going into it and to enjoy them for what they are. So, if you live on one of the coasts, you should make an effort to see this show. You will laugh until your ass falls off. In fact, you probably ought to bring some glue or staples to reattach your ass when you leave the theater. If you don't live on one of the coasts, do some traveling, ya lazy sumbitch. I'm giving plenty of advanced notice, so there's no excuses.
And so, as Tiny Tim says, "God bless us, every one. Except you."
Sunday, September 25, 2005
Medusa in the Multiplex
My wife and I went to see the excellent David Cronenberg flick A History of Violence last night. We saw it in a very, very crowded theater. The kind of crowded that forces late-coming couples to sit apart from each other. My wife and I were fortunate, in that we weren't stupid, so we got there in plenty of time to get two seats together, if not exactly the choicest seats in the house.
Not so lucky/intelligent was a couple that came in late into the previews. After walking up and down the aisle, blocking people's view of the sneak peak at Domino--which apparently stars Mickey Rourke and Ian Ziering!--they found one seat beside my wife and another in front of it. The husband/boyfriend/manwhore sat in our row and his female (?) companion sat basically in front of my wife. The woman (?) turned around several times during the previews to check and make sure that her fella hadn't run out of the theater screaming while she was watching the screen. This was a little distracting to those of us who kind of like watching previews, but we let it slide.
Maybe twenty minutes into the movie, my wife had an itch on her foot and shifted around so she could scratch it, bumping the seat in front of her with her leg in the process. The lady (?) who had come in late was in that seat and she immediately turned around and glared at my wife who whispered an apology. This apparently didn't satisfy the woman (?) who hissed, "Yes, well please be more careful."
Keep in mind here that my wife bumped the seat once. She wasn't sitting there drumming her feet on it. She hadn't kicked it so hard that her shoe went through it and lodged in this chick's (?) back. She had given the seat a quick, accidental thump, thus unleashing the gorgon.
This, of course, ticked my wife off so much that she had trouble concentrating on the flick for a little while. She shares with me a certain amount of distaste for self-righteous condescending douschebags, so she was a little distracted from the movie by thoughts of blowing a snot in this dipshit's hair. I myself was caught up in some of the truly excellent acting going on on the screen, and didn't take note of the asshole until a very nice gentleman who had a hearing problem a few seats down from me turned to his wife to ask for clarification of a plot point. The human colostomy in front of us turned around and fixed this poor old guy with a death glare. She was just about to tell him how inconsiderate it was of him to have a throat when he stopped talking. Robbed of her chance to dress down a total stranger, the woman (?) turned around as huffily as she could manage. It wasn't a retreat of any kind, she was turning around with purpose, letting all within eyesight know that, while she was returning her gaze to the screen, it was in no way an act of surrender; that we had been spared her wrath solely because she was making that choice.
This cracked me up. In fact, for the rest of the film, any time there was the slightest noise in the theater, I could tell it was bugging the shit out of her and I grinned from ear to ear. This included the time an usher stood with the door open for about a minute, letting in some truly thunderous lobby noise and the time the hard-of-hearing guy's wife's cell phone went off and she had trouble finding it. I watched this curly-haired lady (?) come very, very close to exploding. It was great. Never have I been so thankful for inconsiderate theater patrons.
When the lights came up, I had to practically drag my wife out of the theater. She's a lawyer and her instincts tend toward the tenacious. She really wanted to lay into this bitch (?) and recommend that she maybe stick to DVDs if her attention was so very delicate that someone's nose hair hitting the floor three rows back would send her into that kind of rage.
Afterward, my wife and I compared notes on the various things we'd thought about doing to this she-devil (?). We'd both considered a course of chair-kicks at ten minute intervals. My wife had had the notion of "accidentally" emptying her water bottle on the woman's (?) head. I'd wished for some better tools of revenge, such as a straw and some spitballs or, to borrow from an old Howie Mandel routine, a squirtgun filled with Jergen's Lotion.
Realistically, though, I think we both knew that any verbal confrontation with this lady (?) would be pointless, as she was quite probably the type of person who will never, ever see another person's point of view. Neither would any of our more Dennis the Menacian torments have done anything other than provoke some sort of physical assault. I think our best course of action was to simply take the high road and enjoy her growing anger at every other living creature who in some way reminded her that she wasn't the only one in the theater.
I love taking the high road.
Saturday, September 24, 2005
My Body the Traitor
In a few weeks, I'm going to be turning 35. Now, this is not, in and of itself, that huge a thing. I've known for a long, long time that I'm not floating in the Lake of Life, but rather on a tributary to the River Styx, so it's not like I've only recently become aware of my own mortality. What sucks about approaching the point of no longer being in my early thirties is that my body has begun this nasty campaign to make sure that I don't forget it.
I've never been a big one for--oh, what is the word...exercise? I've always done a fair amount of walking in my day-to-day life, but I've seen the inside of a gym maybe once since I left college, when I saw the inside of a gym not at all. And yet, I've never gotten hugely fat. I wouldn't say I've ever been pleasingly trim. Nobody would ever have looked at me and thought, "Say, he looks just like Tobey Maguire at his post-Ice Storm, pre-back injury physical best." I've always managed to maintain a certain flabby averageness. Until this summer.
This summer, I had two months off from teaching and I did exactly what I'd planned to do: I sat in front of this computer and I wrote. Actually, if I'm being honest, I didn't do exactly what I'd planned, because I had also told myself that I was going to run my dog to the dog park a few times a week and bike daily and generally buff myself up. Anyway, the end result of this chair-bound activity is that I ended the summer with a gut. An actual if-I-don't-suck-it-in-it-hangs-over-my-belt gut. That just pisses me off. So now I have to "run" and "eat healthier foods". It's such bullshit.
That's not the only thing my body's doing to me. There's also the back pain.
I messed up my back once in college playing in a rare--for me--game of football. It hurt for a few days and then it went away. It's come back every once in a great while ever since. But over the past year or so, it's popping up more often, like a pedophile who's finally spotted the kid he wants in the schoolyard or some other analogy that's less disturbing. And it's not like I'm doing things to fuck it up, either. I'm not reaching across the car seat to pick up a sack of lead. I'm not lifting wet sandbags to a higher shelf. My back is just spontaneously deciding, "Hey, I feel like going out!" I may need to get a new back.
And then there's the ear hair. It's not long and thick or anything, but it's starting to grow and that just freaks my shit out. I spent too many years working in nursing homes wishing the nurses' aides would tweeze the dreadlock from Mr. Humphey's lobe to deal with the idea that I'm going to have to start shaving body parts that I've never had to shave.
So I'm starting to look into alternatives to this whole aging process. I'm thinking I might have myself cryogenically frozen until they come up with a new formula for Nair that doesn't sting quite so much. What a glorious day that will be.
Friday, September 23, 2005
Kids Say The Darndest Things
I had a little cross-cultural hilarity in my classroom today. I teach in a neighborhood of the Bronx that is a mix of mostly Dominican and Puerto Rican, with a seasoning of Jamaican, Middle Eastern and Dutch. (I'm kidding. There's no Dutch.)
So today, I'm walking around, checking on the work my kids are doing and these two little seventh-graders are painting their nails black with a Crayola marker. The one kid shows me his hand and says, "Mr. Wack, look: I'm Gothic."
To which I replied, "Are you telling me you're a style of architecture?"
The boy was somewhat indignant. "No, no. I'm Gothic! You know, like worshipping Satan and all that?"
I tried to set him straight. I said, "Oscar, 'Gothic' is a type of literature or a type of architecture, both overblown and foreboding. Are you a type of literature?"
He persisted. "I'm Gothic."
I said, "Let me be clear: What you're trying to tell me is that you're 'Goth'. 'Goth' refers to really pretentious pale kids who listen to crappy music and pose a lot. 'Gothic' is a particular aesthetic style. In truth, you are not Gothic and neither are you Goth, as you have no idea who The Cure are. Now please get to work."
I looked at him to make sure I'd clarified the situation. He looked at me and said, "I'm Gothic."
I think I might flunk him.
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Father Dowling Wasn't No Sissy
According to today's New York Times, the Vatican is planning on sending church officials to visit seminaries all over the United States in attempt to enforce its ban on homosexuals in the clergy. The officials will be attempting to weed out any gays before they are confirmed into the priesthood. The reasoning behind this, the Times says, is that homosexuals cannot be trusted to stay celibate, especially in the seminaries themselves which one cardinal describes as, "like just this huge smorgasbord of ass."
Debate rages, with those opposed to this inquisition--you should pardon the expression--saying that, if the church attempts to ban homosexuals from serving, gay priests will simply go deeper into the closet. Father Francis Gonzalez of the Baltimore archdiocese comments, "I mean, how you gonna catch these guys? It's not like they're blowing each other on the altar."
How you gonna catch them, indeed. Hairshirt put this question to our insiders at the Vatican, who sent us a copy of a list of "tells" that officials will be looking for when interviewing seminarians. That list includes:
Wednesday, September 21, 2005
Aries: It's very noble of you to want to raise money for hurricane victims, but a "Give Me Oral Sex-Athon" is probably not the best way to go about it.
Taurus: You fall into a deep depression this week after finding out that none of your friends agree with you that "Food, Folks & Fun" was the best McDonald's slogan ever.
Gemini: It's your third date and you've decided to have them over and cook a romantic dinner. You are faced with a choice as old as dating itself: Do I serve Spaghetti-Os or Beefaroni?
Cancer: Your church finally gets new lights installed and, now that you can see better, you suddenly realize that, for the past six months, you've been seeking absolution from the hat check girl.
Leo: The world holds new wonders for you each and every day. Today, for example, you are absolutely delighted to discover that "God" spelled backward is "dog". You're not really that bright.
Virgo: It's a great week to start new projects, like knitting that blow up sex doll you've been wanting.
Libra: Your sister and brother-in-law decide to name their newborn son "Rosengrantz Godot", which very firmly cements in your mind their status as The Most Pretentious Fucks in the Known Universe.
Scorpio: You decide this week to find a new doctor, after being told by your current physician that he thinks freeze-drying your genitals might be a good treatment for chlamydia.
Sagittarius: Today, you hit on the brilliant idea of having the Senate Judiciary Committee recommend that your husband order take-out. You may have some trouble, though, with Mike DeWine, who has been known to be vehemently pro-home cookin'.
Capricorn: Your world will never again seem as bright and innocent now that you've learned that a super model used cocaine.
Aquarius: Remember: In a suicide pact, the smarter person always goes second, just in case.
Pisces: You're thrown for a bit of a loop this week when your boyfriend tells you he wants the two of you to act out his ultimate sex fantasy, which involves you dressing up like a sea otter and him dressing up like Gabe Kaplan from TV's Welcome Back Kotter.
Monday, September 19, 2005
Oprah, Oprah, Uber Alles
On Oprah's season premiere today, she introduced her studio audience to her new set. They screamed as if a genie had just granted them unlimited wishes, plus unlimited orgasms whenever they wanted. What the hell is wrong with these people?
If Oprah were to provide bathtubs for all of her studio audience, then fill those tubs with soapy bubbles, order the audience to climb in and then hand out razor blades and tell them to slit their wrists, they'd do it. They'd cheer their fucking heads off and they'd do it. If she then went a step further and instructed everyone watching at home to join in, the drains of America would run red.
Actually, when you think about it, that could happen. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. I'd say Oprah's power over these people is fairly absolute. What's to stop her from getting a little bored with everything and just deciding to test the limits of her influence?
Pretty scary fucking thought, no?
Sunday, September 18, 2005
I Don't Want My MTV
MTV is on in my living room. My wife, who uses her mighty brain in massive ways at her job, sometimes likes to unwind with television programming that calls for slightly less mental acuity.
I should say for the record that I was never huge on the MTV. We had cable for a year or two when the 80s started. I remember mostly watching HBO a lot. To this day, I can tell you plot points from For Your Eyes Only and Time After Time, because HBO tended to show their movies about thrice daily for months and I watched them over and over and over whenever possible. Our cable provider didn't provide MTV, so we had to make do with Friday Night Videos and HBO's Video Jukebox, which ate up time between movies by showing the odd pop video here and there. The only video I really remember seeing on Video Jukebox is Olivia Newton John's "Physical", which didn't exactly have me hungry to feast on this particular mode of expression.
Then my family moved to an even tinier town where cable companies saw--and continue to see to this day--absolutely no potential for profit, given the sparse population and the number of cows they'd have to temporarily displace while stringing their cables. As a result, I never had MTV directly available to me until college. By that time, they'd started the process of focusing less on the M and more on the TV and, as endless repetition of the same C & C Music Factory clip didn't really do a lot for me, I found some of their programming actually appealed to my tastes.
The first season of The Real World, for example, I watched whenever possible. It was something new and different, that they would quickly turn into the televised equivalent of the Big Mac (the same every time; not terribly nutritious, but filling enough). Liquid Television had some interesting shorts on it, although I could never figure out if there was an actual complete story to Aeon Flux or if they'd just provided three random chunks that I was seeing every time I watched. I watched for another year or so, up until the network canceled The State and then I decided that I didn't care to be in MTV's target demographic, so I quit tuning in.
So when I walk through the apartment and my wife has it on occasionally, I am utterly appalled by what I see. I'm put off firstly because the people they show tend to be more than a decade younger than me and it makes me feel like I'm ready for a colostomy bag. But mostly I hate it because I can't figure out why in the name of weeping Jesus anybody would make shows like these. They've got one called Super Sweet 16, in which these brain-dead, vacuous Paris Hiltons-in-training throw themselves parties with a budget roughly equivalent to the GNP of medium-sized European countries. The thought that any parent enables their kids to do this makes me want to shoot them out of a cannon directly into a brick wall. Then there's Laguna Beach, which is the exact same thing without the birthdays. I've also seen a "documentary series" they run called I Want a Famous Face, in which young people with less than no self-esteem are butchered and sewn back together by doctors to look more like Jessica Simpson.
Now, I'm not too stupid to realize that all of these shows are possibly intended to either mock their subjects or at least show the audience that something's wrong with them. But I can't help but wonder if they don't do exactly the opposite. I can easily imagine a 14-year-old sitting in front of the tube, thinking, "Oh my God. Why can't I hire Linkin Park to play one of my parties? That's the kind of life I want!"
This is why I'm planning, when I have kids, to do my utmost to make sure the only cable channel they watch is C-SPAN. Plus maybe the occasional episode of Inside the Actor's Studio when I want to show them how assholes talk. Or maybe I'll just lock them in an isolation tank until they're old enough to get a job.
Saturday, September 17, 2005
Extreme Travel Adventures of the Domesticated
There are times in a marriage when a wife and husband just completely fail to see things the same way. I don't know if you could chalk it up to the affects of estrogen vs those of testosterone on the human mind or if maybe it's just that different life experiences teach you to approach things in one way rather than another.
Case in point:
One of my oldest friends is getting married in a couple of weeks and I'm flying to San Francisco for the wedding. I can't take time off of work just then because it's right before we get a couple of days off for Rosh Hashanah and if you give the appearance of trying to stretch a holiday weekend even longer, school administration will lop off your hand and cauterize the stump in the cafeteria oven. They're fucking vicious.
When I went to book my flight yesterday, my options were a bit limited and I found that the best way to go was to fly out the morning of the wedding, which is a Saturday, and then fly back early on Sunday. It means I won't have to miss any work and these were the most affordable tickets. It also means I won't have the time to get my picture taken in a cell in Alcatraz, but I'm willing to forego that, as I'm traveling specifically for my friend's wedding and not to satisfy some California jones.
The wedding is in the evening. I figure the reception will probably go until at least midnight and my flight leaves at 7. My plan, then, was to take a good book and just kill a few hours reading at the airport, then sleep on the plane.
I fully admit that this is maybe not the most mature plan in the world. It's not what my parents would do. And, yes, I'm a little old to be staying up all night on purpose. But the plan works for me on a number of levels. First, I don't really feel a strong need to plop down cash for a hotel that I'm going to be using for so little time. Unless you're using a room for illicit sexual purposes, you're not getting your money's worth unless you get a full night's sleep. Also, I'm a paranoid traveler. I like getting to the airport way early. You never know if this is the day that all of the security personnel are going to be out with mono and it takes you five hours just to get up to the metal detector.
My wife does not see things this way. Try as I might, I can't quite understand precisely why the idea upsets her so much. Perhaps she fears that, spending that much time in the airport, I might overindulge in Cinnabon and come home packing an extra ten pounds of fat. Maybe she's worried that I'll fall asleep and some villainous lout will make off with my unconscious form and I'll awake to discover I've been Shanghied into the world of white slavery as a Bangkok prostitute. Or it could be she just doesn't want her husband to be like some kind of hobo. I don't know.
What it boils down to is that I'm going to end up getting a hotel. There's all kinds of them around the airport and they're not that expensive and blah blah blah, so I'll just do it. Oh sure, I could simply follow through on my plan and then tell my wife I got a hotel. But she's a lawyer. She thinks like a lawyer. She would log onto my bank account and look for a charge for a hotel room. She's cagey.
I could make some kind of appeal to her; explain that I'm 34 years old and I don't get the chance to do these sorts of things much any more and why can't I have this one pathetically unextreme "adventure"? But I'm sure she'd have an answer right there at her fingertips. She's just smarter than me. I'll have to find another way to be insignificantly daring. Maybe I'll drink something from the minibar.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Aries: Your heartbreak over Matt Damon's announced engagement knows no bounds. Actually, Aries, you're better off with your current boyfriend. After all, how can millions of dollars and an Oscar compete with the ability to drink a beer bong of one's own vomit on a dare?
Taurus: Despite how fervently you support the confirmation of John Roberts, you really shouldn't compare his Senate hearings to The Inquisition. If Patrick Leahy starts searing Roberts' flesh with a hot poker to get him to renounce Judaism, then you've maybe got an argument, but until that point, not so much.
Gemini: This week, you take your belief in the old saying, "Never let them see you sweat" a bit too far and have your pores sealed off with polyurethane.
Cancer: Friends beg you this week to get help with your drinking problem. Fortunately, you'll be hammered, so it won't bug you.
Leo: You need to be friendlier to that junkie you see hiking up her skirt and peeing in the middle of the street. You never know when you might need her help. For instance, if you need to buy some crack.
Virgo: This is a great week for purchases. Specifically, you're gonna want to really stock up on bullets, loose-leaf paper and Sloppy Joe sauce. The reason for this particular combination will become apparent as the week progresses.
Libra: You are not a little teapot. You are neither short, nor stout.
Scorpio: The time has come to ask yourself if yet another pair of expensive shoes are really going to make you any happier and to answer, "Yeah, probably."
Sagittarius: You are rightly disturbed by your recurring sex dream about Jon Lovitz.
Capricorn: Here we are, face to face, a couple of silver spoons. Hoping to find we're two of a kind. Making a go, making it grow, together. We're find our way. Together, taking the time each day to learn all about those things you just can't buy. Two silver spoons together, you and I.
Aquarius: Your aversion to spicy foods leads you this week to begin wearing a condom on your tongue during meals. Avoid ones with the reservoir tip.
Pisces: This week, you're faced with the age-old question of what to do when your 5-year-old is finally mature enough to ask, "Mommy, why do the government men want to take away our grenades and kick us out of the compound?"
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Sufferin' for Suffrage
It's Primary Day here in New York City. All across the five boroughs, New Yorkers are pausing in the middle of their attempts to squeeze a zit on their back and thinking, "Oh, shit, I should go vote." And then going back to squeezing the zit. The only race most people care about is the Mayoral primary, and it's pretty much an inconsequential vote, because the winner is most likely going to get the shit kicked out of them in November by Mayor Bloomberg. Not that he's a great mayor by any means, but the prevailing attitude around here seems to be, "He hasn't, like, pistol-whipped a toddler or anything, has he? Okay. Then why bother voting him out?" The only real way Bloomberg could be voted out is if one of the long-shot candidates, a congressman, should happen to win the primary. The guy's name is Anthony Weiner. There could, potentially, be a huge swell of support for him, just for the novelty of saying, "Mayor Weiner".
The other races, nobody cares about. Well, wait. I should say, instead, that the people who concern themselves deeply about who the Public Advocate is are people who would probably bore the shit out of me at dinner.
But, in spite of this being a relatively meaningless little primary, I'm disappointed that I can't vote in it. I've voted in almost every election for anything since I was 17. (I got to vote in the '88 presidential primary because I was going to be 18 by the time the general election rolled around.) I've felt, for the most part, that voting is a right that people have fought and died for in this country and it's something we are duty-bound to do. I still feel this, despite frustration that the two-party system in the U.S. has stagnated to the point where we don't have an actual choice in who's elected, but are rather forced in presidential elections to choose between the two candidates to whom corporations have decided to give their money.
I'm really kind of wildly inconsistent in my thinking.
Anyway, the type of frustration I mention above led me to, when registering to vote here in Harlem, abandon the Democratic Party, to which I'd belonged my whole life. I signed up, instead, as a Green.
Now, there aren't a whole lot of Green candidates in Harlem running for, say, Manhattan District Attorney. It's not like I could go to the polls and have my choice of eight people. So, to Greens, this primary is particularly meaningless. Which leads back to my disappointment. There are Democratic candidates running for Borough President or for Mayor for whom I'd like to vote. I've listened to what some of them have to say and I'd like to be able to support them.
But because I wanted to make some sort of half-assed stand about the need for third parties, I can't. Being a Green sucks. A lot of the candidates are just kind of geeky. Like they wouldn't have a chance at an even marginally successful campaign as a Democrat, so they decided to go Green. It's not like this everywhere. I remember there being some really interesting Green politicians in Seattle. And I don't even mean "interesting" in that, "Hey, this guy's so fucking crazy he might just show up for the debate and put mayonnaise and live weasels in his pants" kind of way.
Basically, registering as a Green was the dumbest thing I've done politically since that first presidential primary in '88 when I stupidly thought "Hmm, I guess the most liberal thing I could do would be to vote for Jesse Jackson." I just don't seem to be getting any smarter, do I?
Monday, September 12, 2005
A Reader Shares
Many of the millions and millions of people around the world who visit Hairshirt on a regular basis are moved by the profundity of what they read to send us letters. A large percentage of these letters praise Hairshirt for being at the forefront of modern thought and for our keen insight into nearly every facet of the human experience. Others, though, seek to take advantage of the great wisdom of the Hairshirt staff to improve their own lives. Every great once in awhile, we get a letter that our editorial staff feel the need to share with the public.
Today, we are printing a letter from a Hairshirt reader with a unique story to tell.
First, allow me to say that I think you are all the 21st Century equivalent of Solomon, Noel Coward, Teddy Roosevelt and Rod McKuen all rolled into one.
I have a slight deformity that has been, since birth, the bane of my existence. I have a third nostril.
As a child, I was taunted mercilessly by my schoolmates, who called me things like "triple boog" or "Sir Sneezealot" or "Eddie tri-nostril" or "hey freaky guy". In high school, I was the student council member who always got stuck taking tickets at every school dance, as I never had a date. Who, I used to think, would want to dance with a guy with a third nostril? I graduated at the top of my class from business school, but I have yet to follow my academic achievements up with real-world business success, because companies are hesitant to hire me. One exec actually told me, "Eddie, I don't want clients made uncomfortable in meetings because they can't figure out which nostril they're supposed to be looking at."
In addition to having difficulty with social acceptance, my condition has physical drawbacks. My my kleenex bill is outrageous. I've been kicked out of apartment buildings because of the tremendous volume of my snoring. I can't go near an Indian restaurant because of my hyper-developed sense of smell.
Until I found Hairshirt, I tried to put a happy face on my life. I smiled when children on the street would point and say, "Mommy, that man gots a third nostril!" I suffered through countless rounds of unsuccessful speed-dating, which often were ended preemptively with the vomiting of the woman sitting opposite me. I attended church regularly and told myself that God must have a reason for making me this way.
Since I began visiting your site, and took to heart your message of wallowing in and embracing your misery, I've abandoned such superficial attempts at happiness and found my life's true joy in small every day moments like freaking out Mormon missionaries or chasing little kids down the street, pointing and yelling, "I smell your fear!" I realize now that I am a freak. And the fact that it gives me something to bitch about on a regular basis makes my life so much richer.
Eddie, for all of us at Hairshirt, allow me to say that you sound really hideous, what with the third nostril and all. Thanks for reading Hairshirt, but please don't send us any pictures or anything like that, okay?
Sunday, September 11, 2005
Try to Remember the Kind of September...
September 11th, 2001 really sucked.
I mean, it was just a shitty, shitty day. You think of all the days you've had in your life and you've got, I'm sure, a few whoppers. Like the day your parents found your bong and the ounce of weed you'd just bought for spring break. Like the day you got fired from your job and then came home to find your husband boning the nanny. Like the day the doctor told you that you had herpes and advised you to contact anyone you might have had sex with recently to let them know they'd been exposed. Those days all sucked. But 9/11 sucked worse.
It sucked on so many levels as to defy all reason. It sucked on levels big: lives lost; a terrified populace; the skyline of a city forever changed; a man who'd been destined to be an unremarkable one-term president suddenly gaining political clout to launch a war, grant ridiculous tax breaks to the wealthy and shape the judiciary for decades to come. It sucked on levels small: people stuck for days in airports; annoying levels of bumper sticker-driven pseudo-patriotism; more bad country music on the radio. It sucked on all the levels in between.
It sucked in different ways for everybody. It sucked for me mainly because my girlfriend was in New York and I was on the other side of the continent and on the other side of an international border.
She'd been admitted to law school in White Plains. With her parents' help, we'd moved our stuff across the country in July, then she'd stayed there to start classes and I'd flown back to Seattle, where I was rehearsing a show for the Vancouver Fringe Festival. We were apart for, in total, about a month and a half. Not a good time. She was dealing with first-year law school classes and a dog who'd developed unexplained projectile diarrhea. I had it a lot easier, what with the lack of dog shit, but I was lonely and horny and miserable, too.
So, I make it through August and then it's time to take the show to Vancouver. This was a sketch comedy show. It was with the sketch troupe I'd founded with friends three years earlier and we'd been doing really strong work. We'd built a good reputation in Seattle, we were drawing decent crowds and getting good reviews and tightening up our stuff. And these were all great people. I love the people who were involved in this group and I loved spending time with them, which made the trip to Vancouver a great time, in spite of problems we had.
The problems were problems typical of any fringe festival. Our venue sucked. We were a trifle too lazy to really publicize our show as much as we should. We had lame time slots. Several people had their cars broken into. Some of us got bedbug bites from the not-quite-sanitary conditions of the hostel in which we were staying. But we had a great time anyway. My girlfriend flew to Vancouver to surprise me--still the best surprise I've ever received--and I was enjoying myself to no end.
Then I wake up one morning and, as I'm brushing my teeth in the hostel bathroom, a guy comes up to me wide-eyed and says, "Did you hear what happened to the World Trade Center?" Now, something like this is difficult to wrap one's head around under the best circumstances and I was hung over, so I was taken way, way aback. I got dressed as quickly as I could and I went to the hostel's common room, where I joined a huge crowd of strangers watching endless repetitions of the shot of the plane going into the second tower.
The first thing I tried to do was to get a hold of my girlfriend, which was completely impossible, because everyone in America who knew somebody in New York was trying to call them. So I got online on the hostel's coin-operated internet terminal and I found an e-mail telling me that she was okay. I got a whole lot of calls that day from family and friends who knew that we'd moved to the New York area. I made a lot of calls to my girlfriend and to everyone else I knew. (I wound up with a five hundred dollar phone bill from the experience, as I was calling on a cell phone that had international roaming charges being applied to it.)
Everyone in our group was shell-shocked. We dealt with it how most people, I assume, dealt with it: We got high and went to see American Pie II. We didn't really know what else to do. Half of our troupe had gone back to Seattle, because we had four days in between shows and not everyone could take the time off work. With the travel situation what it was, we didn't know if they'd even be able to get back up to Vancouver in time. And then there was our show. It was a sketch show set entirely in an airport. It had a sketch wherein a guy's ass is mistaken for George W. Bush and holds a press conference. And it ended with a group of terrorists blowing up the airport. So we weren't sure if people would be in the mood for what we were offering.
It was an awful couple of days, trying to decide what to do, worrying about our families in the States and whether or not more attacks were imminent. We sat in the hostel bar for hours and hours, our eyes glued to the television coverage as our president, looking drunk, staggered around the rubble and shouted platitudes from his bullhorn. In the end, we called it quits, a decision that sent shockwaves through the twos of people who gave a shit what we did. We loaded up our truck and limped back across the border.
After a few days, I flew back to New York and talked my girlfriend into marrying me, as I didn't want us to die in another attack and be eternally separated in the ether because we'd neglected to formalize things. In the years since, on the 11th, I try to take a moment to think of the people with whom I went through the days surrounding the attacks. I'm grateful to have had them there and I'm sorry that we had such a crusty turd of an ending to what had been one of the greatest collaborations of my life.
In the end, the only thing I can say about the attacks and what's happened since is this: Fuck George Bush.
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Don't Let the Door...
So Michael Brown is no longer in control of the situation on the Gulf Coast. Okay, let me rephrase that: Michael Brown is no longer pretending to be in control of the situation on the Gulf Coast. Yesterday, he was moved back to Washington and relinquished control over the federal government's recovery operations in Louisiana and Mississippi. FEMA says that this has nothing to do with the lethal clusterfuck he made of the post-hurricane rescue operations and George Bush hasn't held a press conference to officially retract his "You're doing a hell of a job here, Brownie" comment.
If, then, Brown's gross incompetence over the last few weeks isn't behind the move, then what is? They can parse this any way they want, but in the end, it's clearly a demotion. Hairshirt has spoken to a host of Washington insiders in the hours since the announcement of Brown's transfer and we heard a wide variety of theories, including:
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Every Little Bit Helps
In this time of national emergency, when so many people are suffering so greatly, Americans want more than ever to chip in. We all feel the need to do something to help our countrymen who have been so tragically affected by this disaster. Celebrities feel this need especially keenly, possibly because they spend so very much of their time sitting on their asses watching their bank account grow fatter in return for looking at a camera occasionally and saying words that someone else gives them.
Oprah shed her spotlight this week on the victims of Hurricane Katrina and on what some famous people were doing to help. For two days, she broadcast shows that featured such luminaries as Chris Rock meeting with the evacuees and bringing them much-needed supplies. Matthew McConaughey took a boat and ferried around survivors and rescued trapped pets. John Travolta and Kelly Preston used their plane to bring literally tons of food, water and other necessities to the people of the Gulf Coast. Even those of us who tend toward cynicism couldn't help but be moved by the stories of the people the stars were helping, nor could we resist admiring what these show biz types--whether motivated by actual concern for others, an opportunity for some good P.R. or by a desire to show how supercool Scientologists are--were trying to do.
Oprah was not alone in wanting to help those hit hardest by this devastation. Maury Povich, too, wanted to use the bully pulpit of his television program to aid those in need. And so he gathered his celebrity friends, who, while not, perhaps, as famous or successful as the members of Oprah's Angel Network, still wished to be put to use. Maury sent them on missions of mercy, to be documented in a two-part special which will be broadcast next week. Here's a partial list of the superstars who heeded his call:
Wednesday, September 07, 2005
Aries: Your idea for a buddy movie starring Bob Denver and William Rehnquist is now completely fucked. To be honest, a studio probably would have wanted to recast with Brad Pitt and Snoop Dogg anyway.
Taurus: This week, your worst nightmare comes true: you learn that your neighbor has been secretly videotaping you as you dance naked to your Boz Scaggs records, and he's posted them online. The good news is that you're a more popular download than the Tom Sizemore sex tape.
Gemini: There's no concrete rule on when it's the right time to sleep with someone you've started seeing, but it's usually a pretty good idea to wait until you're out of the restaurant on the first date.
Cancer: Don't be afraid to try new things. Except new versions of Russian Roulette. You can go ahead and be scared of those.
Leo: Buying deodorant is not "splurging". Just ask anyone who suffers the misfortune of standing next to you on the subway.
Virgo: Your "Honk If You Killed Christ" bumper sticker is not an effective form of religious outreach.
Libra: Serving someone breakfast in bed is sexy. Next time, though, you might want to make something a little better than your patented "ketchup soup".
Scorpio: This week, you will find marshmallows in your underpants. The stars aren't saying how they got there and, frankly, the stars don't want to know.
Sagittarius: Your new boyfriend is lying to you. He is not Tom Cruise and that was not an "E-meter" he used on you last night. Just be thankful that you'll be able to sit down in a few days and move on.
Capricorn: The egg salad you made in June is angry and wants out of the refrigerator. You'd be well advised not to piss it off.
Aquarius: Just because you've shown your tits to strangers in a city does not mean you "feel the pain" of its residents "a little more" when something goes horrifically wrong there.
Pisces: Yes, the California state legislature has legalized gay marriage. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to make a killing on your "His & His" bath towel idea.
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
Find Your Happy Place
And on it goes.
The people, for the most part, have been evacuated from New Orleans. The danger, for the most part, has passed. But still, more and more depressing news is coming from the Gulf Coast. From an Oprah segment about the animals left behind to the grandstanding of fuckbag "journalists" to the president's snooty beyatch of a mother, we've still got plenty of stuff coming out hour by hour to anger and depress us.
Which is why we at Hairshirt are more concerned than ever about boosting people's happiness. Scientists at the Hairshirt Institute for Groovy Moods and Smiles have been working overtime to find ways to improve the national mood. Their study found a handful of concrete methods guaranteed to make a person feel a least a little bit better about the world and their place in it.
An unabridged paper on their findings will be published in the New England Journal of Medicine next quarter. Look for it on a newsstand near you. In the meantime, here is a brief summary of things to do when feeling overwhelmed by the unrelentingly bleak news from the Gulf States, Iraq or the Supreme Court hearings.
Sunday, September 04, 2005
God fucking dammit.
So, as if things in this country aren't fucked up enough, what with the calamity and the colossal fuck-ups in the Gulf; what with the war in Iraq continuing to eat up money and young people's lives; what with the president's right-wing Supreme Court nominee going in front of the Senate on his way to a probable slam-dunk of a confirmation...as if things weren't bad enough with all that, now fucking Rehnquist dies and gives Bush and his fascist fuckbags another opportunity to load the court up with bible-thumping idealogues.
Son of a fucking bitch.
So what else? What the hell else is going to go completely fucking wrong? I guess now humankind will spontaneously develop ass-warts on a global scale. Or maybe fucking Al Quaeda will launch a series of attacks on petroleum processing plants to drive up the price of gas some more. Or perhaps Paul Simon, David Mamet and John Irving will all kick off on the same day.
Miserable goat-humping ball sniffers!
This is just too much. I've been in a funk for days now and, apparently, the universe isn't going to be happy until it drives me to strap a fucking engine block to my ankles and dive off the Brooklyn Bridge. Good news? Could we please, please, pretty please with fucking chocolate frosting on top, get some good fucking news?
Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! I think that bears repeating: Yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!
Seriously, is Pat Robertson's every wish starting to come true? Is the CIA now gonna go bump off Chavez down in Venezuela just to make Robertson's year complete? Sweet merciful nose-picking Christ, this sucks.
I need good news. Please? Something? Anything?
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Everything and Everyone Sucks
I can't take any more. I've been reading story after story after story about the devastation in the Gulf Coast region and how local, state and federal authorities fucked up utterly. I loathed Bush before this. I'm hoping that the fact that so completely bungled this wakes more of the country up to the fact that we've got Gomer Pyle's brain-damaged cousin in the White House.
It's overwhelming. So I'm going to turn off the computer and go watch The Sound of Music or something else that's uplifting. Oh, wait, The Sound of Music is about Nazis. Okay, well, maybe Forrest Gump. Oh, shit. That one has a retarded guy whose wife dies from AIDS. Finding Nemo? No, another dead wife there. Christ, this is tougher than I thought. Oh! Porn! I'll watch some porn! Nothing restores one's faith in humanity like porn! It brings people closer together.
Before I go, though, just a quick and random sighting from this morning: I was walking my dogs and I saw a construction vehicle, a cherry picker of some sort, driving down the street. On the side of the truck, they'd painted "Putzmeister." Now, that's obviously not something you paint on your truck without realizing the statement you're making. What kind of self-hating bugger would take the time and energy to paint that on their truck? This is someone who apparently thinks, "Y'know, I really hate myself. How can I make sure that everyone who sees me knows just what kind of worthless bastard I am?" Man. As depressed as I am at the moment, at least I'm not painting self-hating phrases on my bike.
Friday, September 02, 2005
In a Perfect World
Man. The news these days is so unrelentingly bleak that even a blog dedicated to the celebration of misery is feeling overwhelmed. So I thought I'd take today to be a little more sunshiny.
Here, then, is a list of sentences that would cheer me up right about now. I don't think I'll ever get the chance to hear most of these spoken out loud--at least not any time soon--but I'm going to be listening for them anyway.
Thursday, September 01, 2005
I'm down. I'm down like Tara Reid at a dance club. Because Tara Reid is a slut and would probably go down on someone when at a dance club and so I'm comparing her to my mood. It's a simile.
Anyway, I can't quite pinpoint the reason for my downosity. It might have to do with the bottles and cans that I can't bring myself to put in the recycling can. It might be the fact that I'm horribly out of shape and so even a simple bike ride around Central Park leaves my thighs screaming like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween. It could be that the Eastland Academy blog is going the way of the dodo. Or maybe it's a more noble state of mind, like I'm feeling the pain of the people in New Orleans. Probably it's not that last one, though, because I can't begin to imagine what they must be going through and I'm not sad enough about it to drop what I'm doing and go down there and volunteer or anything.
Whatever the reason, though, for this existential funkitude, I just feel like throwing out some venom. So I thought I'd keep things simple today and just write up a list of people to whom I'd like to feed a big slice of pistachio and shit pie. (The pistachios are, I realize, kind of gilding the lily, but I think it makes a little extra statement.)
The problem I run into, though, is that there aren't a whole lot of people really pissing me off right now. The waitress in the bar where I met some friends last night was a bit slow, but it didn't piss me off. Martha Stewart talking about what a hellish experience it was to be under house arrest on her gimundous estate and to only be allowed off of it when she really needed to be is a little annoying, but I've never had to go through that, so maybe it does really suck. The mere existence of Ben Affleck is normally enough for me to want to smack somebody, but he's about to be a dad, so I can't really wish him any ill.
I guess the only person I can really find it in myself to loathe today is George "Ritz Cracker" Bush, whose administration drained away people and funding that could have helped prevent at least some of the damage to New Orleans. I realize that he's not to blame for the hurricane and I realize that, even if he hadn't cut funding for programs to look into improving the levees, even if his policies hadn't helped to destroy wetlands around the city that might have helped stem the tide, even if he hadn't diverted so many national guard troops to Iraq who might have otherwise been available for disaster relief, this isn't ultimately his fault. But I don't care and he's a fucking asshole. He cut short his vacation by two days? Yippee! He requested that his pilot fly Air Force One over the devastated area? Big fucking deal! The man's financial policies are, in my opinion, at least partially responsible for some of the people who didn't have the means to leave the city.
Sorry. Sorry. George Bush is not to blame for this. But fuck him anyway.