Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Friday, June 30, 2006
Feeling Somewhat Super
Maybe I'm still basking in the Truth, Justice and the American Way-ism of Superman Returns. (Have I mentioned that I liked it?) Maybe it has more to do with the Senate's disturbingly close, but still mildly reassuring defeat of the moronic anti-flag-burning amendment. Maybe it's yesterday's awesome Supreme Court fuck-you to the Bush administration's "I Am Like Unto a God" stance.
But whatever the reason, I'm heading into this long July 4th weekend feeling something I haven't felt in years. I'm feeling politically optimistic. Could this be the start of, in the immortal words of Herman's Hermits, "something good"? Is this the point at which we finally begin to emerge from our six-year political nightmare and begin to reign in the out-of-control executive branch and begin reclaiming our freedoms? Is it finally starting to sink in that all of this blind nationalism and trust in aggressive policy over smart policy have gotten us nowhere?
I hope. I really do. And I'm just getting to the point where I can see it happening. I grant you, it's still entirely possible that the Democrats will once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory with their utter lack of vision. But I'm beginning to feel like that might not happen.
Of course, it could just be that I'm overly euphoric about summer vacation finally being here, in which case, I reserve the right to disavow ever having sounded even vaguely hopeful.
Have a great weekend.
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Hairshirt Horoscope (Independence Weekend Edition)
Aries: Your bitterness knows no bounds at your family picnic this weekend as your siblings once again remind you that your potato salad isn't as good as your mother's. To keep the peace, bite your tongue and add a dash of paprika.
Taurus: The fireworks display you watch this year is one of the most spectacular things you've ever seen. Of course, you're on two hits of acid, so your wrist watch is also fascinating, as are blades of grass.
Gemini: To you, the 4th of July seems like a tacky and pointless holiday. You much prefer the upscale pleasures of Bastille Day. God, you're a wanker.
Cancer: You're prone to massive hissy-fits this holiday weekend, especially if you're a Cancer whose illegal detention of international prisoners was just blocked by the Supreme Court. Take solace in the fact that congress doesn't have the balls to call you on your warrantless wiretapping and shut the fuck up.
Leo: The holiday seems utterly pointless and rancid to you, as you are denied the sublime pleasure of seeing Superman Returns. You are an object of pity to all around you.
Virgo: You once again celebrate the freedoms that all Americans have--bought with the blood of our nation's armed forces and generations of patriots--by getting really drunk and passing out in your own vomit. God Bless America!
Libra: Remember: Jumping off of a cliff on your hang-glider and soaring over majestic mountainscapes is daring. Lighting a firecracker and dropping it in your shorts is just fucking stupid.
Scorpio: For the first time in what seems like years, your town's 4th of July parade will not be ruined by a thunderstorm. No, this time, it's the Ebola Virus. Just can't win for losing, can you?
Sagittarius: For some reason, you just can't seem to generate any enthusiasm among your friends for your awesome "Nude Re-enactment of the Signing of the Declaration of Independence" idea.
Capricorn: In a fit of drunken patriotism, you and your best friend stagger into the local Army recruitment office and enlist. You're kind of a Yankee Doodle Dipshit, aren't you?
Aquarius: Aquarians with children should be aware that dressing them in identical red, white and blue outfits is not nearly as adorable as you think. Especially when they're in their thirties.
Pisces: Nobody is impressed by your box of Bang Snaps.
I was hoping maybe Prego, who's hosting this week's Roundtable, would write something about much ass Bryan Singer's Superman Return kicks. I thought he might discuss the fantastic action sequence where Superman rescues a plane or that he'd muse on how Brandon Routh pays tribute to Christopher Reeve's work while still making it his own. There was the possibility, I considered, that Prego might rain praise on Kevin Spacey's turn as Lex Luthor or even how tolerable Kate Bosworth was.
That didn't happen.
Instead, Prego discusses the pervasive problem of wrinkled, aging rock stars who still feel the need to hobble around the stage warbling tunes we've all heard a million times. And he makes some excellent points. So head on over to Rustbelt Ramblings and put your two cents in.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
A Slight Delay
My apologies to anyone looking for the horoscopes. I will post them as early as possible tomorrow. You see, school let out today. So I'm drinking a beer, relaxing and going to see Superman Returns. All while pantsless.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Today, I'm feeling a bit like Alice after she chased that white rabbit down the hole. It's like the whole country has started taking crazy pills.
We're having the usual election year bullshit about a flag-burning amendment. It's nothing new. They do it every fucking time. But this year, the crazy pills are in full effect and there's actually a chance they're going to pass the fucking thing. What the fuck? This is like jokingly hitting on your 80-year-old payroll secretary for months and months and then one day she drops trou and says, "Go for it." It's not something you ever really meant to do. You just did it as a lark. The actual thought is kind of repellent.
Okay, there's got to be a less sexist analogy out there, but I'm too fucking lazy to think of it.
I've never thought of George W. Bush as a particularly level-headed fella, but he's sounding even more off his rocker this week. On NPR this morning, there was a story about North Korea. They were talking about Bush reasons for not wanting to enter into unilateral talks on North Korea's nukes. They quoted Bush as saying that one of the reasons is that North Korea doesn't have a transparent government.
Huh? George W. Bush criticizing another leader for not being transparent enough is like Courtney Love calling someone unstable. Seriously, why the hell is Bush so against sitting down with Kim Jong Il without China, Japan and the other cool kids at the table? Is he worried that everyone else will start to think that America's a geek for hanging out with North Korea?
We need someone to restore our national sanity. We need someone to show us the way. Fortunately, Superman Returns tomorrow.
Monday, June 26, 2006
I'm very excited about this Wednesday. Now, Wednesdays aren't normally anything to write home about around the Wack household. Usually, it's the night we do our dusting and I'll usually make a pretty intense jello salad to enjoy afterward, but that's generally about as exciting as Wednesdays get.
This Wednesday, though, has been on my calendar for awhile now. It's the last day of school in the New York City Public School system. And it's the day that Superman Returns opens. Imagine two such thrilling events just happening to converge like this. It's rare. Really rare. I don't think I've had a day this momentous since I got blown and found twenty bucks in the street on December 29th 1992. That one, I wrote about in my journal.
The first Superman movie made such an impression on me as a kid and is so very dear to my heart that I actually wrote an entire sketch show just so I could do a scene where I got to perform "Can You Read My Mind?" onstage. This would be a whole lot funnier if it wasn't actually true. Superman is the movie that got me into comic books. So you might say it's responsible for my pissing thousands of dollars down the drain over the last twenty-seven or so years. Thanks, Richard Donner!
The scary part is, I'm looking forward to this movie so much that it's probably going to disappoint me somehow. That's the curse of being a fanboy. While everyone around you is digging the special effects and having a great time, you're bitching that they got Superman's belt wrong. (They did, too.)
So I'm trying to keep my expectations as low as possible, despite the fact that the reviews I've read so far have been pretty positive. I'm trying to prepare myself by telling myself that it's more likely to be akin to Superman III than Superman II.
Oh, Superman II. You had me at "Kneel before Zod."
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Piss!?! Christ! *
I read a story this week about a convenience store clerk who was sentenced to six months in jail because he urinated in a bottle of Mountain Dew. I actually feel kind of bad for the kid. Come on, who among us hasn't pissed in a soda and then put it up for retail sale?
The story raises another question, though. I drank Mountain Dew (or at least Diet Dew) for a long, long time, only kicking the habit for good this year. I feel like I'm something of an expert on Mountain Dew; a "Dewspert", if you will. So what I'm wondering is, how the hell could the victim of this prank taste the urine? I mean, Mountain Dew is some uriney-tasting stuff as is.
I guess my feelings on this story boil down to this: There is a long-standing American tradition of putting bodily fluids into food as a way of either playing a nearly harmless prank or a way of getting revenge for a slight done to you. From the pissed-off waiter who flicks a boog into the soup of a bitchy customer to the office worker who brings in banana bread into which she's had her husband jerk it, we are a nation that finds accidental consumption of waste products hilarious. Can we truly blame this poor Florida youth for engaging in behavior our society has deemed chuckle-worthy?
I say, when you buy that Mountain Dew; when you order that Big Mac, hold the pickles; when you send back your steak to have it cooked a little more thoroughly, you are doing so with the knowledge that someone might have touched their ass to it by the time it reaches you. Let the buyer beware.
And let the convenience store clerks urinate.
*With apologies to Andres Serrano
Friday, June 23, 2006
Prom and Circumstance
We're slowly, slowly reaching the end of the school year in the New York City Public School system. That means that we've reached the time of year for certain rituals about which I'm not all that wild. I'm not talking about the endless field trips, although God knows I hate them. It's not those absolutely pointless three days of school we're going to forced to go through next week, during which most teachers will be having the kids who bother to show up help clean the classrooms. It's none of that.
The thing that really kind of irks me is how the eighth graders at my school (and elsewhere within the system) are treated like high school graduates. They had a prom on Monday. A prom. They had a big graduation ceremony this afternoon. Some of them even bought fucking class rings for Christ's sake.
Now, I probably sound like a huge asshole here, so lemme 'splain. I realize that (some of) these kids have worked very hard over the course of their educational career so far. Our school is a K-8 school, and some of them have been here since they started school, so it's a big change they're about to go through as they move to high school, I realize that. But calling this "graduation"?
We didn't do that when I was a kid. Maybe this is how it's done now all over, I don't know. What I do know is that, in the Bronx school where I work, the graduation and the prom and the class rings aren't just about acknowledging the work the kids have put in. I asked about the thinking behind all the hoopla last year and I was told that, for a lot of these kids, this may be the only graduation they have. A lot of them will probably drop out before they finish high school, I was told, and so they ought to have a big deal made out of this milestone.
Now, I know that that's not the only reason. There's also the fact that some of these kids will be going to high school in other parts of the city, so this is a nice community thing. There's also the pure greed on the part of the people who sell the class rings and the graduation robes and the prom dresses and such.
But to have such a large part of this be low expectations? What the hell kind of message is that sending? "Yeah, kid, enjoy getting this junior high diploma, 'cause nobody's expecting you to get any further than that in life."
I mean, yeah, have an "Eighth Grade End of the Year" dance. Throw the kids an "Exit Ceremony". But let them know that, if they want to go to Prom, if they want to graduate, they're gonna have to stick it out for four more years. And let them know that they're capable of it and that it's what we expect. Low expectations help no one.
Except maybe Adam Sandler. I saw Click today on another field trip and it didn't suck as bad as I'd feared it would. So that was nice.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Kiss Our Star-Spangled Ass
The world, it's been said, is a lot like high school. Okay, I don't know if that's actually been said, but I'll just go ahead and say it now so that I can continue with my analogy. So the world is a high school and, right now, the United States is pretty much that asshole football player who used to give you wedgies, vomit on people at parties, get girls pregnant and then try to talk 'em into paying for their own abortion. Whether or not you feel that way about the U.S., you have to admit that it's pretty much how the rest of the world sees us.
Now, any other country would maybe start taking steps to repair their international reputation. But not us. We've got leaders who just don't much give a shit what people think. And so, when our worldwide popularity has pretty much reached its nadir, we're basically pulling down our pants and waving our genitals around. Just this week, we've got eight servicemen going on trial for the premeditated murder of an Iraqi civilian. The abuses at Guantanamo Bay and other prisons continue to be revealed in print and on screen. Our movie stars are taking over entire countries for the birth of their children.
And worst of all, in my opinion, is how we've been handling the threat of a missile test by North Korea. Instead of sitting down and talking about things, what's the best solution we can come up with? We threaten to try to shoot their missile down with a defense system that doesn't work. There is no good that can come from this pathetically empty threat. The absolute best outcome is that we end up saying, "Whatever. We decided we didn't want to waste our missile defense on your stupid missile, so there." At worst, they shoot the missile, we try to shoot it down and fail utterly, making us look like the biggest limp-dick morons on the planet.
So I'm thinking, as long we seem to be trying to piss off the rest of the globe, why not go whole hog? Here, then, is my list of things we can do to make everyone hate us even more. Maybe you can add to what I've got.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Hairshirt Summer Horoscope
Aries: This summer, you're on a bit of a shoestring, so that relaxing beach getaway you've been planning is going to have to scaled back to dumping a bucket of sand into your bathtub.
Taurus: Your annual vow to get in shape during the summer months finally yields results; you do a sit-up on July 29th. Congratulations.
Gemini: You will be tempted to believe that the increased heat this summer is all in your imagination. You'll be proved wrong in that assumption when the sidewalk in front of your house melts in August.
Cancer: You are caught in a Three's Company-esque web of lies this summer as a casual boast about your fictitious "house in the country" drives you to more and more desperate measures to avoid having to confess your lie. It's funny in a pathetic kind of way.
Leo: The summer solstice finds you eager to fire up your brand new grill for some spicy summer BBQ! Which would be great if you had a deck or a patio or anything that allowed you to grill outside instead of in your sink.
Virgo: You find the longer summer daylight hours frustrating, as it means you have a harder time pissing outdoors without being seen.
Libra: Your joy knows no bounds as it's very, very nearly blueberry season. Think of the pies you can make! My God, think of the pies! Seriously!
Scorpio: Sticky summer days mean that you're just that much more easily irritated. Not that it takes much even in moderate weather.
Sagittarius: The question you have to ask yourself is: Is it an acceptable lie to tell your neighbors your teenager is at summer camp when they're actually doing thirty days in county for possession?
Capricorn: It's very nice of you to want to open the fire hydrant so that neighborhood kids can cool off. There are, however, better ways to do it than ripping the whole thing out of the ground with your backhoe.
Aquarius: This summer, you truly learn the meaning of happiness. You'll still be a miserable asshole, but you finally buy a dictionary and look up the word happiness. You hadn't realized it was spelled with two Ps.
Pisces: You're fantastically excited by the TV networks' summer line-ups. You're just kind of stupid that way, aren't you?
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
We Are So Fucking Nice Here
According to an article in Reader's Digest, America's leading source of hard-hitting news, New York City is the politest city on the face of the planet. Take that, Vatican City! I know there will be people who live in other parts of the country who will be a bit dubious upon hearing of NYC's status as the Manner Capitol of the World. Before I moved here, I would've doubted it, too. But it's a fact. People that live here are just as nice as can be.
For example, when I was mugged last week, the guy was just so nice. He asked me if I wouldn't mind terribly shutting the fuck up. He said, "It pains me to inform you, but if you do not give me the money from your wallet, I shall be forced, as, you understand, a last resort, to spill your guts all over the sidewalk." And he took the time to help me pick some of my guts up after he had spilled them. In other cities, I'm quite certain I wouldn't have gotten a "Have a pleasant day" as my mugger ran off.
The junkies who piss in the street in front of our house are also just so very sweet. They will often, when they see you about to step off the curb, say something along the lines of, "You might want to watch your step there, friend, the street right there is coated in my urine."
The crazy pantsless guy who yells at me sometimes on the 4 Train always makes sure that any specks of boiled egg he spits onto my shirt get wiped off before we reach my station. When I lived in Phoenix, the crazy guys spat eggs at you on purpose. You think they'd clean it off? Think again, mister.
And the retail clerks here! Don't get me started on how wonderful they are or I'll just go on typing all damn night. Yes, it sometimes takes a couple of dozen minutes to get them to acknowledge that you're standing at the counter waiting for them, but once they do notice you, they will bend over backwards to make sure that you're getting the best customer service experience of your life. Yes, occasionally, they'll stare at the cash register with a zombie-ish look on their face and not say a word. And, okay, sometimes they're more concerned about carrying on a conversation with the harpy at the register next to them. But you only really get those types of jerks maybe 97% of the time.
So I'm just as pleased as punch that Reader's Digest has put to paper what I've know for a long time: The Big Apple has a great big heart. Which is actually a little disgusting when you think of it, an apple with a heart. But whatever.
Monday, June 19, 2006
My Cranky Pants Need to Be Hemmed
Well I'm in something of a funk. And I don't actually know why.
It could have something to do with the god-awful heat in New York. (95 degrees yesterday.) I broke down and put in the air conditioner last Friday, so hello doubled electric bills! This means that our apartment is relatively comfy, even though it's completely disgusting right outside our front door. Man, I love this city, but in the heat, the make-up falls off the prom queen to reveal the skanky, cold-sore covered whore beneath. (Wow, that's probably the worst analogy I've come up with in months. And that's saying something.)
In the heat, the dirt mixes with the humidity and makes you feel like you need to take a bath anytime you step outside. And since I don't like feeling this way, I'm thinking this could be behind my mood.
Then there's the class this morning that spent the entire period insulting me. I realize that being called "Gringo" should just roll off my back. I know that there are worse things than a student drawing a caricature of you with a dick in your mouth. I know that, on the scale of universal injustice, having a kid say, in broken English, "I'm going to come to your house and pee-pee on your sofa" doesn't rank that high. But, even though I only have to see this class once more, it still kinda gets me down.
As if that's not enough, people are actually feeling the need to defend Kyle XY. Come on, folks. We're better than this, aren't we? Please, God, tell me we are. Yeah, I get it, not having a belly button is freaky. But is it enough to build an entire show around? I mean, the most dire consequence of not having a belly button is that he can't get the fucking thing pierced.
The good news is that, nine days from now, I will be free. Free! Free! With all the time in the world to utterly disappoint myself by not getting as much accomplished as I want. Hurray for letting myself down! Again!
Okay. Enough of this. I'm gonna go steal some kid's yo-yo to make myself feel more powerful.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Tiny Little Signs of the Apocolypse
With all the evil in the world these days, there are plenty of really huge reasons to be pissed off. Between the fifty-thousand places in the world that are teetering on full-on civil war (Sri Lanka, Somalia, Iraq, etc.); the general limp-dickedness of the Democratic Party; the break-neck toboggan slide of American culture and the ticking doomsday clock that is global warming, there's just a wealth of reasons for cranky folk like me to hate the world.
But I find that it's still the little things that mean the most.
For example, there's a service industry trend that's got me ready to jump over the counter and strangle whatever cash-register jockey throws it at me. I don't know if this is nation-wide or just here in New York, but I'm increasingly finding that a retail clerk will look at a line of customers and say, "Can I help the following customer?"
I cannot overstate how much this is akin to someone taking a cheese grater to every nerve in my body. It's "next". That's all. You don't get paid for adding extra fucking syllables, so why not just stick with the word "next"? I don't get it. Is it meant to sound classier? It doesn't. It sounds wrong.
You should not be asking for "the following" guest unless you then specifically name the guest whose presence at the counter you're requesting. "Following", in this context, does not mean "next". If you're that fucking fired up to get away from the word "next", then use a thesaurus and come with something that's actually appropriate. Like "subsequent". "Can I help the subsequent guest?" That sounds pretentious and stupid, but it's at least proper syntax. So, retail clerks who ask to help "the following guest" are invited to lick the following balls: mine. (See, that's an appropriate use of the word "following".)
I'm also driven to fits of rage, or at least disgusted bewilderment, by the ad campaign for a new show on ABC Family. The show is called Kyle XY and the entire marketing campaign is based on the fact that the main character doesn't have a belly button.
In the televised commercials, one of the characters says, "He doesn't have a belly button" and then we see a close-up of a belly button-less torso. The print ads show a young man hiking up his shirt to reveal that he doesn't have a belly button.
That's the hook? That's it? Is ABC Family so completely pathetic that their marketing people sat around thinking, "Okay, what about this show is so compelling that people are going to see it and just have to watch? Oh! The 'no belly button' thing! What a freaky and fascinating detail!"
I mean, there's got to be more to it than that, right? I'm guessing it's meant to be some sort of sci-fi thing, so is there some kind of fun conspiracy in store or did Disney produce thirteen episodes of a show where a family tries to find this kid's belly button? Or maybe he's a candidate for the world's first belly button transplant. Or perhaps he's meant to be a superior being because he doesn't have to worry about the whole lint thing. I don't know. There just has to be something else about the series that they could have promoted.
And these are the types of things I spend my time thinking about. I'm a sad, sad little man.
Friday, June 16, 2006
What a Long Field Trip It's Been
Oh, sweet merciful pastry-filling Jesus, the last bit of the school year is the hardest.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I get the same response from everyone: "What the fuck are you bitching about? You get the next two goddamn months off, you miserable fucking prick!" To which I always have to reply, "You're right, Mom, but it's not an easy job."
The last month of the school year is, in our building anyway, chock full o' field trips. The idea is that you reward the kids who are good with opportunities to get out of the classroom and you attempt to force kids who are not so good to mend their ways or they don't go. Which rarely works. Much of the time, the kids who are not so good continue to fuck around and get left behind on field trip day for some other teacher to deal with. Usually me.
Last year, I taught mostly sixth grade and was considered kind of part of the sixth grade teaching team. Consequently, I was sent on all the sixth grade field trips. This year, I have thirteen different classes, so it's a bit harder for me to go, because when the sixth grade is on a trip, I still have seventh grade classes to teach, and vice versa.
And y'know, that's really pretty okey-doke with me. I don't really like field trips. You're with the kids all day, no breaks. You have to try to keep them quiet--or at least not screaming--on the subway and in museums and wherever. Then there's the inevitable kid who has a bathroom emergency or pukes or something. Plus, and this is the part I really, really don't like, you always--always--have to fucking eat at McDonald's. I have done my level best as an adult to avoid that shithole. But on field trips, that's where we have to go. Because it's cheap, the kids like it (they haven't grown tastebuds yet) and because McDonald's is one of the restaurants that tolerates (nay, thrives on) large groups of kids.
On the whole, I'd much, much rather stay at school and have a lighter-than-normal classload.
Maybe it's just that field trips remind me too much of the outings I used to have to take the residents on when I worked in nursing homes. My God, I hated that.
It was always either a struggle to find residents who wanted to go or, the exact opposite, the pain in the ass of having to disappoint a resident when you'd reached your limit. Then you had to jam three wheelchairs in the invariably crappy facility van and then unload them on a crowded street. There was always the fear that one of them would have a heart attack while you were out.
At the first nursing home at which I worked, I had a van full of residents on an outing. We'd just gone down the hill from the facility and turned onto the four lane street at the bottom of the hill when the drive shaft literally fell off of the van. It was a bit jarring. We ground to a halt and I ended up hauling the residents across three lanes of traffic and back up the hill. Fun!
We had, for a time, this one resident who, by virtue of being one of the few geriatrics in the place who could walk fairly well unassisted and sit on the van's bench seat instead of taking up a wheelchair space, got to go on a whole lot more outings than I would have liked. He was a mean old fuck. One time, he yelled and screamed to go on an outing to the movies. We went to see The Birdcage. When we came out of the theater, he threw a fit. "Why, I almost walked right out of there. I can't believe you took me to a movie about a bunch of faggots!" Karma came back at him, though. A few weeks later, he once again complained his way onto the trip, but had no clean clothes. A t-shirt was procured from the lost and found; he put it on and we were on our way. It wasn't until we'd reached our destination that we noticed that the t-shirt said, "My Next Husband Will Be Rich".
Another time, we took this really nice guy. Mentally retarded, severely physically handicapped in a wheelchair. We went to the movies at a multiplex in the suburbs. About half an hour into the flick, the guy nudges me and lets me know that he has to go to the bathroom. I wheel him out of the theater and into the john, and there I find that someone forgot to pack his handheld portable urinal. The guy can't get out of his chair; I can't lift him onto a toilet and he can't hit the wall-mounted urinal from his seated position.
So I tell him to hang on and I run to the concession stand. I call over the pimple-on-legs behind the counter, explain the situation and ask him if he'll let me have a cup. After looking around for a moment to see if maybe someone with more seniority than himself can answer instead of him, he falls back on his training protocol and tells me that, as a very strict inventory is kept of the cups to prevent theft, he can't let me have one. I appeal to his humanitarianism, but he seems to be unaware of exactly what that is. He says he'll be happy to sell me a large soda. As I don't have an extra ten bucks in my pocket, I can't buy one.
So he gives me two small courtesy water cups. I run back to the restroom, unzip my resident's pants and we get him aimed into the first of the two cups. When that one's getting dangerously close to full, I say, "Hang on! You've got to pinch it off, man! Pinch it off!" He tries, but fails. I pull the full cup away and the poor guy is like a firehose, urine going all over the place. I manage to get the second cup in there, but the damage is done. There's urine all over the floor, on the walls, it's a mess. Which I felt was a backwards kind of justice, as the pimply concession stand clerk probably had to pull bathroom clean-up duty later.
I've never had a school field trip go quite as spectacularly awry as that. I pray I never do.
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Grab your lighter, have a few drinks and head on over to Life of a Franco-American in the U.K., where Lauren is hosting a discussion of First Concerts.
Y'know, I left a comment saying that my first concert was AC/DC's Explode Your Television tour, but now that I think about it, I guess my real first concert wasn't a music concert at all, it was George Carlin in Cleveland.
Let's see: Screaming fans? Check. Concert venue? Check. Went with a buddy? Check (well, I believe my parents drove). Bought the t-shirt? Check.
Yup, that was my first concert.
So, once again, George Carlin has made a liar out of me. Damn you, Carlin!!!
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
Aries: A child comes to you with a problem this week. Unfortunately for him, you're way too coked up to be of any help.
Taurus: Taureans this week will be feeling a little camera-shy. The NSA, however, does not care one iota about your feelings, so consider yourself still under surveillance.
Gemini: Make sure you set aside some time this week to spend with your loved ones. No, not your testicles, your other loved ones. Jesus, always with the masturbation, this one.
Cancer: You find your pinball game has suffered greatly since you got that artificial hip.
Leo: No matter how upset you get today, Leo, it's not okay to stab someone. Seriously, just keep the fucking knife away.
Virgo: When looking at travel options for an upcoming trip, remember: the cheaper the bus ticket, the more likely that the "restroom" consists of an open window out of which you can stick your ass.
Libra: This is not a good week for Librans to go in front of congressional committees. So you might want to fake a heart attack or something.
Scorpio: You are so geared up for tonight's big Flag Day celebration that you haven't been able to sleep for days, looking forward to the flag-making contests and the flag pie and all the flags and such. So you see? There is an upside to being retarded.
Sagittarius: A moustache might make you look more sophisticated, but not when it's drawn on with a Sharpie.
Capricorn: When your good-neighbor policy consists of welcoming folks to the block with your famous "Neighborhood Rap", you need to get a new policy.
Aquarius: You are as absolutely certain that you look great in a Speedo as George W. Bush is certain that his Iraq policies have been sound. And you're just as justified in that certainty.
Pisces: Even though you're out of toilet paper and desperate, you must never wipe your ass with the cat.
Monday, June 12, 2006
I'm doing a bit of cleaning in our bedroom today and I came across a problem that I'm sure many people have: what do I do with the bag of wigs?
We don't have all that much closet space, and we've been keeping the wigbag under the bed. The problem with that is that, much like the overhead bins on an airplane, items sometimes shift under the bed and the wigbag will spill out from under, often catching us by surprise as we step on it. Stepping on the wigbag is a little disconcerting and you're never exactly sure at first just what the fuck you've got your foot on.
So what I've tried to do this time is to make sure the wigbag is securely in the center of the underbed space, blocked in on all sides by luggage or Halloween decorations, making absolutely certain that it's not going to jump out and frighten us.
I look forward to that day in the murky future when we have a home with enough storage space that we don't have to keep anything--including the wigbag--under the bed. My wife, I'm fairly certain, simply wishes that her husband wasn't the type of person who insists on keeping a bag of wigs.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Sports of All Sorts (International Version)
It's been a very sporty morning in our household. Not that we were engaging in any sporting activities ourselves. Actually, we've been sitting on our asses eating pancakes. (I've recently discovered just how much better they are when made with buttermilk. Wow!)
But we've been watching sports. You might not know this, but the World Cup is going on right now. It's really kind of awe-inspiring how the entire world is so transfixed by this event; how the countries around the globe are so passionate about it. Well, except us. You might say that football/soccer is sort of the Kyoto Protocol of the sports world: every single country but the United States comes together in recognition of how great something is. All alone in the world, we are arrogant enough to not only thumb our noses at this sport, but we invented our own game, called it football, renamed their game "soccer" and insist vehemently that ours is better. It's American arrogance run amok.
Which is why we decided that, this year, we'd follow the World Cup. We would join with our brethren and sisterdudes (what the hell is the female equivalent of brethren?) around the world and enjoy this international phenomenon. We checked out the schedule, pulled up a chair in front of ESPN2 and proceeded to watch us some soccer. For about five minutes, after which we were so fucking bored that we had to change the channel.
I'm sorry. We tried; we did. But we just couldn't get excited about this game that seems to be mostly running around. I could get five times as much enjoyment watching a bunch of toddlers chasing a duck. I want to like it. I really do. But it's just so dull!
So we switched to the French Open. The men's finals are this morning, featuring young Spaniard Abu Nedal (or something along those lines; I wasn't actually paying that much attention) versus the powerfully Swiss Roger Federer (whose last name, I believe, is German for "more feder").
Tennis is another game that sort of puzzles me. Why the hell can't they just agree on a surface, instead of having various courts made of clay, grass and human skin (or whatever the other type is). And the scoring is just confusing as hell. When someone scores a point, they give him/her fifteen points. When they score again, they've reached thirty. Another score and they get...forty? You'd think, logically, that they'd then have forty-five. But no. Truly, things would be a lot simpler if they just gave you one point, two points, etc. But perhaps scoring by ones makes them feel wimpy or something. I don't know.
And then you have the issue of how many games equal a set and how many sets you have to win to win the match and blah blah blah. I just tried explaining it to my very confused wife and the two of us almost came to blows because I just couldn't clarify things. Basically, tennis has been around since the middle ages and people were fucking stupid then, so this was the best scoring system they could come up with. It made, I'm sure, a lot of sense to people who also believed in dragons.
But, even with all the confusion, tennis is a game I can almost enjoy watching. I say almost because I'm a little bothered by all the grunting. This Nadal kid, every fucking time he hits the ball, it sounds like he's about to orgasm. Why do they need to do this? If you absolutely must make a noise, why not just make some sort of quiet popping sound? It would just be so much more dignified.
So I think I'm going to, for now, give up on both of these mystifying, Euro-dominated sports. Instead, I'm going to kick back and watch something quintessentially American. Like dwarf-tossing. Easy to understand, difficult to not enjoy. And so much less grunting.
I find myself in the rather awkward position of actually wanting to see an Anne Hathaway movie. This leaves me feeling a little unsure of myself, because I'm not really the sort of person who takes a look at a picture like the one to the left and thinks, "Wow, that is an actress whose work I know I'm going to love."
I have never, with the sole exception of Brokeback Mountain, seen an Anne Hathaway flick. I realize that this may shock some people, because, really, didn't most guys in their mid-thirties rush out on opening weekend of Princess Diaries II: The Quickening? But no, I have never seen any of her films (again, with the exception of the gay cowboy Oscar-bait film, in which I thought she was serviceable, if not quite as convincing as Michele Williams).
Anyway, I find myself in this strange place because I saw two--count 'em, two--movies today. I won't go into detail about which movies, cause it's not important. I'll just say that neither of them sucked as badly as people had led me to believe, and so I was pleasantly surprised both times. I'll also just quickly mention that one of these movies led me to question just how the fuck Halle Berry ever won an Academy Award. Seriously: how?
So before both of these movies, I was shown a trailer for Anne Hathaway's new movie, The Devil Wears Prada. Now, I read Entertainment Weekly. I have an awareness of this project and I know that it has fuck-all to do with anything in which I'm even remotely interested. And yet...here I am, intrigued.
I'm intrigued because the trailer is so very, very different from every other trailer I've seen in recent memory. My problem with the modern movie trailer is the need these marketing fuckheads have to give away the entire story in two-and-a-half minutes. They don't want the audience to be in any way, shape or form surprised when they actually see the damn film, lest they get all scared. It's like the mama bird chewing the worm up and then puking it into the mouths of her children. Okay, maybe it's not exactly like that, but I like the analogy and I'm sticking to it.
For me, the epitome of this problem was the Matthew McConaughey/J-Lo debacle, The Wedding Planner. Now, I doubt this movie could have held the least tiny little shock to a retarded caveman in the first place. But they went so very, very far to make sure that every little bit of the plot was given away before anybody saw the goddamn thing that they took trailers to a whole new ridiculous level. We get the whole basic story, "She's a workaholic with no social life, he's an easy going hunk, they meet and fall in love, but she's planning his wedding." But then they go that extra step and actually show us McConaughey searching desperately for her, running into her dad (played by Alex Rocco, in a role I really hope he regrets), who tells her, "What are you waiting around here for? Go get her!"
I suppose we should all be glad that they showed enough in the fucking trailer that nobody had to go see the fucking thing.
What the people behind The Devil Wears Prada have done is to go to the other extreme. They simply show a scene. A full scene. From the movie. No hyper editing. No needle-scratch sound effects. No "In a world gone mad...one woman..." Nope. They just showed a scene, featuring the excellent timing of Meryl Streep and Stanley Tucci. They didn't give away every joke in the fucking thing. They didn't tailor edit it for the target demographic. They just showed a fucking scene.
And for that reason alone, I intend to go see that movie. I'm just going to make sure I take my wife, 'cause it's not the kind of movie I'd want to be seen watching alone. No es macho.
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Wo die liede unserer jugend sind?
So one way I know that I'm getting really old is that I have a fondness for songs that are old enough to get served in a bar. Loving old songs isn't a sign of decrepitude in and of itself. I mean, you can have an appreciation for Ella Fitzgerald or Deep Purple even if you're a college student in 2006. What makes you old is when you loved these songs when they first came out and have distinct memories tied to them.
It really doesn't seem that long ago that "oldies" stations played Jan & Dean or The Four Seasons or The Supremes. But now songs from my youth are oldies. That sucks.
What sucks even more is when I find myself wanting to listen to them. That has just always seemed like some kind of nostalgic wallowing to me and I never thought I'd be guilty of it. I mean, a lot of the music of my youth really, in retrospect, sucks. So it's actually the memory of being young and listening to these songs that I like, not necessarily the tunes. (Or complete and utter lack thereof.)
And what's worse is that I lived in the sticks as a kid. I wasn't a city kid who had access to all sorts of cool subgenres or hip alternative scenes. No, I had to listen to whatever pop crap HOTFM 101 or CD106 (the Wolf!) was pumping out. And it really was kinda crap. And I really kinda still love a lot of it.
Because I think most of us listen to what's popular in our formative years, before we start to develop whatever will eventually pass for our musical taste. I left pop for classic rock in high school, then switched to alternative in college, then discovered jazz in my early twenties. And of course, each time I discovered a new form of music, there was a certain amount of disdain for what I'd been listening to. Which is why, once my classic rock phase ended, it was almost a decade before I could truly face my former obsession with Aerosmith.
But I'm at a place where I can deal with--yes, even embrace--all of the music I've listened to over the course of my life. (Maybe not all. I have no real clue why I ever bought a Faster Pussycat tape.)
What this has meant is that I can sing along with classic rock tunes in the shower and not care that I really ought to be listening to Belle & Sebastian instead. I can pogo enthusiastically at a They Might Be Giants concert and feel only slightly embarrassed that so many of the other people there are half my age. The downside to all of this is that we live in an age where, if I get a sudden yen to listen to Mr. Mister's "Kyrie", I can actually go to iTunes and buy the goddamn thing.
Which is what I did on Monday. I got the tune stuck in my head and I thought, "Y'know, I should put that on my iPod." And, y'know, it's really not as good as I'd remembered. The chorus still gets me, but the rest of the song is what you might call drivel. It's one of those songs that makes me remember why I'm glad I don't just have Top 40 radio to listen to anymore. And I paid for it.
I also paid for the version of Falco's "Rock Me, Amadeus" that's entirely in German without the cool "In 1756 in Salzburg, Austria, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born" guy talking. I don't want that version. I want the one I remember. I don't want the lame-ass remake of "99 Luftballons" I paid for, either. Why the hell did Nena need to record an alt-rock version? Well, I guess the answer would be, "So she doesn't have to resort to giving handjobs in the back alleys of Leipzig to pay her rent."
I did pick up a couple of songs that scratch the cheese-rock itch I was feeling. I got Human League's "Don't You Want Me", which was exactly as I'd remembered, and The Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town". I couldn't, however, find "Safety Dance" for download anyplace. Nor could I find my all-time favorite pop song in existence, "Tarzan Boy".
My God, I love Tarzan Boy. It's just so full of cheesey goodness. It's like a fondue. And I cain't finds it. iTunes has a fucking Karaoke version and they've got some dipshit doing a cover, but they do not have the beautiful original by Baltimora. I found an import of Baltimora's Greatest Hits (which really should be singular), but I don't want to pay twenty-five bucks for an album from which I'll simply rip one song and then promptly discard. And so I am, for now, Tarzan Boy-less.
But I've got all the Mr. Mister I'll ever fucking need.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
Meme-ories, All Alone in the Moonlight...
I don't normally do this. In fact, I've never, ever done this before and I guarantee you I won't do it again, as it's so fucking close to chain letters and I fucking hate chain letters. However, because I was tagged by such an upstanding lady as EveryDaySuperGoddess, I'm going to go ahead and respond to this. I want to make it clear that I'm doing this only under protest.
Five Items in My Fridge
Dead mouse (I'd get rid of it, but whatever)
Human finger (I'm saving up to get it sewn back on)
Last night's creamed corn (I always make too much)
Five Items in My Closet
Straight-jacket (as a reminder; I'm not ever going back)
Fat pants (really at this point, just "pants")
Tux I rented under someone else's name in 1989
High-powered rifle I've nicknamed "Betty Lou"
Five Items in My Car
Someone's tooth I once pried out of my front bumper
Porn (I get stuck in traffic a lot)
Chewed-up Nylabone (I get stuck in traffic a lot)
Five Items in My Purse
I don't have a purse. I'm a guy, and guys don't fucking carry purses. I do have a back pack. Mostly I use it to carry dead mice.
For this week's Roundtable, we have Donny B. discussing the relative merits of Christina Aguilera vs Paris Hilton, not just in terms of skankiness, but also musically.
I feel very lucky to be able to say that I wouldn't recognize a song by either of them if my very life depended on it. I've heard person after person say that Ms. Aguilera--despite a propensity for utter whoredom--actually has a very strong voice. Which would be great if she sang anything other than poppy dance tunes. I'm not a very dancey guy, see.
As for Ms. Hilton, all I can say is that the clock has got to be sitting on 14:59 of her allotted 15:00, doesn't it? How much longer can she sleeze along Fame Boulevard powered by nothing but money and a willingness to blow anybody? If she's still around come 2007, I say we break out the villagers, torches and pitchforks and have ourselves a good old-fashioned Frankensteining.
Wednesday, June 07, 2006
Aries: You're feeling terribly conflicted, unsure of your own emotions, as you find yourself going against every celebrity-worshipping instinct in your being and forming the opinion that Shiloh is a stupid fucking name for a baby girl. I only hope you can someday forgive yourself for your anti-Brangelina heresy.
Taurus: The warmer weather does not necessarily mean it's time to break out your Slip-n-Slide. You're in your thirties now and you risk breaking a hip.
Gemini: It is not okay to bring a prostitute to a family funeral. Unless you're related to her, in which case, go to town.
Cancer: If you're out of milk and you're seriously considering pouring Gatorade on your morning bowl of Bran Flakes, please, please, please just shake it off and run to the store instead.
Leo: That guy you've had your eye on for months finally notices you this week. That's mostly because you're dressed in a clown suit and waving a gun. You're actually pretty hard to miss.
Virgo: While you shouldn't feel bad about how excited you are that the new Superman movie opens in three weeks, you should probably abandon your plan to wear your Man of Steel Underoos from now until the premiere.
Libra: This week, you're filled with an intense desire to eat as much pistachio pudding as you possibly can. I don't know, man, it's just a fucked-up week for you.
Scorpio: You should not tell your girlfriend that you've named her breasts "Starsky & Hutch". She will not be flattered.
Sagittarius: Sagittarians who have been attempting to sell something will find they suddenly have multiple buyers. Which is great, because the baby-selling market has really been in decline lately.
Capricorn: Repeat after me: A yo-yo is not a sex toy.
Aquarius: Nobody wants to hear you sing your favorite Human League songs.
Pisces: Glue can put a broken vase back together, but it can't mend a broken heart. I tried it once and I just wound up with this bloody, sticky mess. Really just not effective.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
The Boy Who Cried Poop
Well, it happened yesterday. That inevitable moment in the life of any teacher. I was responsible for a child pooping his pants.
Now, I've got to say up front here that I'm not what I would consider directly responsible. I mean, I didn't feed the kid a laxative; I didn't lock him in a closet for five days; I didn't jump out from behind a tree and yell, "Boo!" Also, there's a decent reason for my having done what I did.
The child in question is one of my younger students. (But not that damn young. Nowhere near young enough that this sort of thing should even kind of enter the picture.) I think he might have developmental issues that have somehow not been addressed by, say, reassigning him to a small-class setting. The kid does nothing in my class. Other kids are writing a scene or rehearsing with their group, he's in the corner, playing with blocks. He's never written anything for me, he's never completed an assignment. And it's not as if I'm the only teacher who's noticed this lack of...mental acuity.
Every day, I see him wandering around the hallway. Or running. Sometimes, he runs. He spends, I swear, a good third of the time in the hallway. His classes just don't hold his attention. Superman arm-wrestling Jesus on the back of a dinosaur couldn't hold his attention.
And every time I have his class, he's on me from the moment I walk in, asking to go to the bathroom. If I say yes, it's pretty much guaranteed I'm not going to see him for at least fifteen minutes. Sometimes longer. Every once in awhile, I get fed up and I say, "Don't bother asking me for the next week, because I'm not going to be giving you any passes." And then he asks me and I give him a pass and I don't see him until the end of the period.
So yesterday, I'm having the kids write and the class is fairly quiet and most everyone is concentrating. I'm calling my students up one at a time and going over my gradebook with any of them that are in danger of failing my class for the marking period. I'm sitting with a student when The Wanderer comes up and asks to go to the bathroom. I tell him that I'm with meeting with somebody at the moment, so no. He goes away. He comes back up a few minutes later and asks again. This time, he's doing a bit of a dance.
Let me say, I haven't been a teacher for all that long, but I've been one long enough to have caught on to the fact that kids are very adept at faking a potty dance to fool you into letting them out of the class. So I looked him right in the eye and I said, "I'm sorry. But you ask me to go to the bathroom every single class. And you always say it's an emergency. And today, the answer is no."
And he went back to his seat. And ten seconds later, I was proved completely wrong. Which is when I sent him.
At that point, though, the barn had burned down around the horses. He carried the smell around with him the rest of the day, even after another teacher sent the kid to the nurse, who gave him some clean pants, but didn't have him clean himself.
So now I'm the dickhead who made a kid crap himself. I love teaching.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Holy shit! India beat West Indies, thanks largely to Opener Wasim Jaffer's double century. Jaffer had a superb 212 off 399 balls with 24 fours and a six! This is unbelievable! Also, I have absolutely no idea what the fuck any of it means! Nor do I care!
You know the only thing I can think of that's more pointless than fucking cricket? A constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
It's Not Easy Being Green
Love horror movies? Enjoy getting so frightened by what's onscreen that you have to buy new underwear immediately after leaving the theater? Sick and tired of the J-horror trend that officially jumped the shark when Jennifer Connelly was menaced by a leaky ceiling?
Well, my wife and I saw the--the scariest movie of the year this evening. It's called An Inconvenient Truth. It stars Al Gore, but that's not what makes it so scary, although seeing those jowls thirty feet tall does give a person pause. If you haven't heard of this documentary, it's basically a feature-film version of a slide show that Gore has been giving for years on global warming. He walks the audience through the facts of global warming research and debunks some of the myths that the Bush administration and others have put out there to muddy the waters.
It's scary shit. And I have a very hard time understanding how anyone can not believe this. How can you look at the weather in recent years, the very definitely melting glaciers, the dwindling worldwide population of magical dancing snowmen and not see that we're fucking things up on a biblical scale?
Unlike some of the things I blame Bush and his cronies for (heart disease, the cancellation of Arrested Development, erectile dysfunction) this one can actually be laid, in part, right at George W's feet. One of the first things that fucknut did when he took office was to back out of the Kyoto Protocol. And he's followed up with bad policy after bad policy, putting his money-grubbing friends ahead of the future of our planet.
Now, unlike New York magazine, I'm not among those who's been convinced by this movie that Al Gore should take another run at the presidency. He does come across in this movie as very knowledgeable, very passionate and actually funny. The statistics he cites would not, by themselves, have the impact that they do when Gore is tying them together. I think, if he'd shown this side of himself in 2000, we might be living in a very different country and you know goddamn good and well that we'd have had more progress on the ecological disaster facing us than lip service to alternate fuels every couple of years and ironically-named bills that pretend to be cleaning up our environment when they actually do nothing more than put money in the pockets of the president's corporate backers.
Unfortunately--unfortunate in so very many ways--we got stuck with the Cracker from Crawford and so we find ourselves even closer to the environmental brink. I know that there are people who don't believe this. I know that there are people who get pissed off if you try to talk about it. I know that there's no way in hell that some of these people will come within a two-mile radius of a theater playing this film. But I did.
And it's the sort of film that makes one want to take action of some sort. Even more action than writing about it on a blog read regularly by four people. Which is why I'm going to actually write a pen/paper letter to my congressman (Charles Rangel) and my senators (Chuck Schumer and...damn, who the hell's my other senator?). I've recently seen that taking the time to write a real letter can make a difference. But I'm going to do more than that. I'm going to try to make changes in the way I do things. I'm already relatively environmentally aware in my everyday actions, but I'm going to take it a couple of steps further.
Because I don't want my children to look back at my life and wonder what the living fuck we were thinking. And I don't want them to have to take that look back from the raft they're living on because we've melted the polar ice caps and made the worst Kevin Costner vehicle ever into a fucking reality.
I urge everyone I know to do something, too.
Again With This Crap
Ye Gods, is there a more transparent example anywhere in history of political pandering than the GOP strategy of hauling out, yet again, flag-burning and gay-marriage amendments at mid-term election time? Is there anyone, anyone in this country, who doesn't see this and think, "Oh. Yeah, Bush is doing this to get conservative voters to the polls"? I'm fairly certain that a lobotomized gnu who's only been shipped to America in the last week could see this and manage to indicate through some sort of hoof-stomping what an obvious political ploy this is.
Sadly, it'll probably work, despite how pathetic it is. It worked last time, there's no reason to believe that voting booths across the nation won't be dancing to the rhythm of thumped bibles once again. "Two men with the right to inherit each other's property? That's an abomination in the eyes of Jesus! Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get home to my wife/sister."
And flag-burning? Sweet milk of magnesia! Why don't the Republicans go ahead and introduce a bill that would make Bush King for Life, but would also make it a federal crime to shoot puppies out of cannons. Democrats vote against it and then get accused of hating puppies. It's just as subtle as flag-burning, truly.
Why can't the Left play this same game? Why can't we come up with some bullshit amendment that has no chance of passing or any real purpose other than to mobilize liberal votes? Good for the goose, good for the gander, right? Let's introduce an amendment outlawing patchouli and Birkenstocks. That oughtta bring liberals to the polls in full force. Or maybe a special tax on the number of Indigo Girls albums you own.
Whatever we come up with, we need to do is soon. Already, the cries of "Activist judges! Gay agenda! The sky is falling!" are filling the airwaves. And since the Democrats can't come up with any kind of unifying vision that would compel voters to get off their duffs and support them at the polls, we need to approach this from the other way.
See, I'm kind of like a younger, liberal Karl Rove, with these fantastic ideas. Just not a Karl Rove that will ever have any sort of political influence or power.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
Stephen at Serenade in Green has some feelings about paper towels and he wants to share them with you. And he wants you to share back. Basically, he's attempting to start a paper towel dialogue. I fully support this, as we all too often suppress our feelings about paper towels. This is why the East Coast/West Coast paper towel war has drug on for so long. Increase the Peace. Or at least the absorbency.