Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Friday, December 29, 2006
Celebrity Predictions for 2007
Much like Ebeneezer Scrooge was haunted by a bunch of ghosts who really, really wanted him to play Secret Santa with his employees, I am plagued at the end of each and every year by unwanted psychic revelations. I don't know why it happens. I don't know why, every time I close my eyes in late December, I am forced to witness precognitive flashes of what lies in store for the glitterati in the coming twelve months. But I am. And, every year, I find that the only thing that enables me to get through the days, to end this torment, is to share these visions with the masses.
And so, for the third year in a row, I bring you my celebrity predictions for the new year.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
When I Was Seventeen, It Was a Very Good Year
It's Roundtable time. Atul over at Things I've Noticed is in a reflective mood this Ano Nuevo and he's wondering what you'd consider the best year of your life.
For me, it would have to be '78. I won the Nobel Prize in Literature that year. My relationship with Susan Anton was new and fresh. I led the Dallas Cowboys to a win in the Superbowl. And I cured polio.
So head on over to Things I've Noticed and share your best year, imaginary or not.
Velveeta Jukebox, Part V: Don't You (Forget About Me)
Is it even possible to hear Simple Minds' biggest hit without picturing Judd Nelson pumping his fist in the air and striding cockily across the football field? Okay, I suppose you can do it if you were born after 1980, but if that's the case then you're one of those feckless slackers and you don't count anyway. (I kid the twenty-somethings, but you know I love you.)
For those of us in high school at some point during the Reagan era, though, there was no greater chronicler of our times than Mr. John Hughes. Okay, again, I suppose that people who grew up in major cities and had film snobs for parents probably felt a stronger teenage affiliation with Truffaut. But people like me who had to take what the local mall cineplex dished out went gaga over Hughes.
There is no greater John Hughes movie than The Breakfast Club. Okay, I need to stop qualifying this shit. If you liked Sixteen Candles or Weird Science better, then just trust me when I say that you're in the minority. For most of us, there was no equal to this examination of the social strata of a suburban high school.
The flick had characters for almost everybody to identify with. To at least some degree, most everyone I know felt like they were in some way a kindred spirit with either the brain, the athlete, the basket case, the princess or the criminal.
If this was the movie we loved the most, the moment in the movie that we loved the most was the end, when the promise of Judd Nelson and Molly Ringwald breaking through the walls that divide them is cemented by the placement in Nelson's ear of Ringwald's earring and his subsequent triumphant march into the sunset. Never mind that we would go back to our own schools and be reminded that there was no way outside of winning a million dollars that we could ever ascend the social ladder in our own schools. In that darkened theater, there was hope.
And the song that helped to pump that hope up inside us is "Don't You (Forget About Me)". It's a solid enough bit of 80s pop. It's catchy. It has some fun keyboard action. It's got one of only a handful of drum solos that could get me to air drum. (Not, though, with the same level of enthusiasm I used to get for the percussion in "In the Air Tonight".) But the song's actual worth is negligible when one removes it from its association with that touchstone GenX film.
Now, I will say that I've seen The Breakfast Club since I passed the age of twenty-five and I've determined that, for me at least, it didn't really hold up that well. For starters, Molly Ringwald is nowhere near as hot as she seemed back then. Maybe my aesthetics have changed; I don't know. The jokes don't seem as clever; the characters seem much more like thin stereotypes than I recalled; it's harder to accept Judd Nelson as the cool rebel when you know that his career eventually spiralled down to a place where he's starring in movies called Lethal Eviction.
Despite all this, despite the fact that I can never see the movie in the same light again, the song still has the same power it did back then. The power to make me feel as if I can make friends with the jocks and the princesses. The power to dance to shitty music in a library. Which I'm going to go do right now.
In the next installment of Velveeta Jukebox, I'll examine the appeal of Norway's most successful cheese pop band. And, man, if there's a more successful Norwegian cheese pop band out there, I don't want to fucking know about it.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Hairshirt Horoscope 2007 Zodiac Forecast
Aries: For Aries, 2007 will be a year of searching; of questioning oneself. Really you need to just fucking hang your keys up when you get home at the end of the day so you always know where they are.
Taurus: Taureans with work-related problems will find that their level of job satisfaction skyrockets in the coming year. This is mostly because they start going to work high.
Gemini: Health concerns will continue to plague you, Gemini, until around May, which is when your doctor will sit you down and tell you that the lump on your breast is actually a bit of dried cottage cheese you hadn't managed to wash off after an Earth Day celebration.
Cancer: Expect an unpleasant surprise in the Fall. The stars are a bit hazy, so this could either be the death of a spouse or a new sitcom for Delta Burke.
Leo: Leos should seize the moment this year and explore their passions to the fullest. Don't just eat nachos; become one with them! (In a non-sexual way, please.)
Virgo: Don't let your fear of the unknown prevent you from moving forward with your life, Virgo. Make 2007 the year you finally use a bidet.
Libra: There will be setbacks for you this year, Libra. On the other hand, you get to discover a whole new way of living as you make friends with your fellow castrati.
Scorpio: Your birthday this year is a bit more solemn than usual, Scorpio, as you contemplate what kind of legacy you'll leave behind when your life ends. Not to worry: people will remember you. At least half a dozen times a week, people in your building will say, "Hey, didn't that asshole die?"
Sagittarius: Keep your eyes open for investment opportunities in August, Sagittarius. Something a bit more solid than your friend Lou who's starting an all-you-can-eat tofu chain.
Capricorn: Start a new health regimen in January, Capricorn, and you'll see results by March. And those results will be a couple thousand dollars less in your bank account for a gym membership you never use and a nagging sense of guilt every time you walk by that fucking place.
Aquarius: Aquarians will find themselves bothered by horrible vaginal itching come February. Not your own; there's just this really disgusting junkie woman who starts riding your bus every day.
Pisces: Pisces, this is the year you finally realize that you really want to be a shepherd. So...good luck with that.
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Best of 2006
The end of the year is here again. Wait. That makes it sound like this year has ended before, when clearly time is linear and this year is ending now for the first time. Better to say that New Year's Eve is once again approaching--better!--and I'm seeing all sorts of major magazines tossing out/off their Best of the Year awards. Because I'm so bitter at not writing for a magazine, I like to work up my own Best of list and then foist it on any poor bastard unlucky enough to accidentally come across the site. So here it is, folks, my celebration of the year that was.
Best Advancement of the Political Process: Non-Voting Primaries. Presidential elections have always been so darned confusing. There's all those candidates to choose from. You never have enough time to look into all of them and figure out who you like. I usually just write all the candidates' names in Cheese Whiz on my kitchen counter, leave it over-night and vote for the one that traps the most roaches. So it's so refreshing that the media is saving us the trouble of voting for these people by narrowing the Democratic field down to two a good twenty-three months before the 2008 election. Thanks, guys!
Best Celebrity Break-Up: Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson. Sorry, Vaughniston! For sheer proof of the fact that most celebrities are kind of moronic and should be banned from procreating, you can't beat a marriage falling apart because of Borat.
Best Rodent: The Spiny Dormouse. The Laotian Rock Rat had a hell of a year, but nobody rocked it in '06 like Rodentia Platacanthomyidae.
Bestest Best Guy in the World: Karl Rove. Listen, his team got the shit smacked out of them in the midterm elections and he doesn't seem to be getting much visible love from the White House these days, so I thought maybe a "Best of" award on a blog might cheer him up. You hang in there, Karl.
Best New Ice Cream I Found: Haagen-Dazs Mayan Chocolate. Maybe this stuff was around before this year, but I had it for the first time a few weeks ago and I'm hooked. Cinnamon-flavored chocolate with rich fudge swirls. I usually think Haagen Dazs tastes like dog shit, but this stuff puts the "mmm" in "Hmmm, how did I get so fucking fat?"
Best Use of Pictures of Britney Spears' Crotch: Promoting Abstinence. I admit it. I was vaguely curious about these pantie-less shots on the internet and...I looked. I was blinded for hours. You hear about something like that and you're drawn to it against your will and then it's so damned gross that you have trouble keeping food down for a week. Shudder.
Best Racism: George Allen's Racism. Talk about your embarrassment of riches. There were so many news stories this year about notable racists, it was truly hard to pick just one. But, unlike Mel Gibson's racism or Michael Richards' racism or Iran's big Holocaust Denial Hoedown, the whole "Macaca" thing actually helped accomplish something aside from outing a celebrity as an insensitive/hate-filled putz. This particular racism actually helped the Democrats take congress. So, yay for racism!
Best Way to Rid the World of Ben Affleck: Covering Him with Cocaine and Letting Paris Hilton Snort Him Up Her Nose. I was thinking about maybe suggesting that he be drawn and quartered, but I'd hate to see a pretty horse with Affleck all over it. So I decided that we should fight celebrity with celebrity.
Best Spoiled Food: Week Old Crab Salad. The rancid mayonnaise is awesome enough, but then you throw in seafood that's starting to rot and you've got a Spoiled Food Jamboree.
Best Deity: Ganesh. Buddha's jolly. Zeus gets the chicks. Jesus does awesome party tricks. But, when it comes to sheer heavenly being charisma, you just can't top this elephant-headed charmer.
So hey, I don't know about you, but 2006 largely sucked ass for me. So here's wishing us all a much brighter, much happier 2007.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
I know that, at this point, it's a little late in the game, and that you've all already gotten me a fantastic Christmas gift. But, just in case you've been waiting for the last minute--or want to reevaluate and replace a gift you've already prepared for me--I thought I'd take a couple of minutes to let everyone know what I'm wanting for the holiday.
But whatever you're getting me, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas (or whatever the hell it is you celebrate).
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Very bummed tonight. My wife and I just got back from the last visit we'll ever make to our favorite New York bookstore. Ivy's Books and Curiosities is about half a block from the 96th street stop on the 2/3 line. We're on that block all the time, shopping for one thing or another or heading to the park. We stopped in to Ivy's frequently on these trips.
It was an excellent version of your stereotypical independent book store. Tall shelves, a fantastic "recommended" section, knowledgeable employees and a huge dog named Gus whose name is actually featured on the window. Their selection is pretty small, but they can order anything they don't have and it takes barely any time at all.
I don't want to paint an incorrect portrait here. It's not like we went there every day and the staff knew us by name or anything. In fact, Gus usually barked at me when he was there. But we've shopped there since we moved to Manhattan and we've always done our best to support them.
Okay, we've also been guilty of giving in to our hunger for convenience/discounts and shopping at Barnes & Satan, but we really did try, especially when it came to buying gifts. We bought a lot of books this Christmas and we bought all of 'em at Ivy's.
So, when I saw in yesterday's New York Times that the place was closing at the end of this month, it depressed the hell out of me. My wife and I decided we'd head down there tonight, as this would be our last chance to see the place before it gets turned into a Baby GAP or something. We bought an Ivy's mug and a few more last minute presents--plus one or two things just for ourselves; we love books.
When the owner rang us up, we attempted to express our sorrow at the store's closing, but it's not easy to put into words how saddened you are by something like this when you're staring at the person who's feeling it about a million times more deeply than you are. Really, the only thing we could do was thank him and tell him how much we loved the place. We walked out with our heads hung low.
It wasn't until we'd gone back to the store so my wife could run in and get some bookmarks that I took a close look at their window and noticed a picture of Gus, who apparently passed away in the last week or so. A black line had been painted through this name on the window. I feel so bad for the owner.
I also feel bad for the rest of America. We've helped make it impossible for places like Ivy's to stay afloat. We're all so eager to suckle discounts from Wal-Mart's teat (or whatever giant corporate teat you want to substitute in this analogy) that independent businesses have absolutely no way to compete.
These monstrous corporations, which want you to think that they actually have everyone's best interests at heart, specifically target small businesses. I remember years ago, when I worked for B&N and was helping to open their flagship Seattle store, which they'd opened in a plaza that already had a very nice little bookstore which specialized in a particular kind of book--can't for the life of me remember which kind. Anyway, the corporate trolls came in for our training and I asked them if they would ever consider trying to co-exist with an existing nearby small bookstore that specialized like that by, say, ceding that one particular area to them. You would have thought I'd ask if they'd mind me having sex with a copy of Beowulf in the display window. No, these assholes find a small store doing well and then open right next to it and grind it into paste.
When I mentioned the store's closing to a co-worker who was in the teacher's room when I read the article in the Times, she said, "Oh, it's like in You've Got Mail." This got me thinking about a couple of things. First off, it got me thinking how much I hate that fucking movie. (You can practically hear both Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan thinking, "Give me my fucking paycheck and don't ever make me have to star in derivative crap like this again!") And second, it made me angry thinking about how the Hanks character in that, behemoth though his company is, is meant to be this awesome guy who just wants to use his company's power of discounting to get books in the hands of the masses. Why, what a wonderfully benevolent corporation! Yay! What a crock of shit.
So now my wife and I are going to do our best to find another independent bookstore and stay away from Barnes & Noble forever. However, I'm still keeping my Amazon wish list. So...yeah.
The Never-Ending Story
It's Roundtable time again and our host this week is founding patron RW.
He's trying something a little bit different. It's a collaborative writing effort between him...and the world. Here's the idea: RW is starting a story. You have the opportunity to contribute to it. That's right. Simply read the original post and all the comments, then add your own section to the tale. You have a chance to be part of literary history. The resulting story will be published in the June issue of Redbook! (No, it actually won't.)
So click on over to Chasing Vincenzo and do your best Hemingway impression. (Not the running with the bulls stuff or the suicide.)
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Hairshirt Christmas Horoscope
Aries: This year, surprise your spouse with the one gift you know they really want: a divorce.
Taurus: Despite your deeply held convictions, a double-beef soft taco does not make the greatest stocking stuffer in the world, even if you unwrap it, add extra hot sauce and then wrap it up again.
Gemini: Maybe you should just admit to your kid that you haven't read the bible and don't know the details of Jesus' birth instead of launching into some long-winded story involving "magic pelicans" and Darth Maul.
Cancer: You need to look explore the fact that Heatmiser kind of turns you on.
Leo: Fine; you hate Christmas and feel like you have to drink just to be able to put up with being with your family. You're not alone in that, I suppose. But are you going to start turning to that solution more and more? Like what about the hard tests you face in third grade next year? Are you going to start doing shots as you sharpen your pencils? It's a cycle, man.
Virgo: Nobody wants to smell your "special Christmas farts".
Libra: Give yourself the gift of a little dignity this year by not wrapping up a porn DVD and pretending you got a gift from Santa.
Scorpio: Kissing under the mistletoe is a social custom, not actual holiday magic. So, "spiking" your sister's friends' cocoa with ground up mistletoe will not supernaturally compel them to make out with you. It will just give them massive stomach cramps.
Sagittarius: Santa fucking hates you and has ever since you wiped a boog on the cookies you left out for him when you were nine.
Capricorn: The special gift you can give this holiday season is to let your Gentile friends think they're doing something really great wishing you "Happy Hanukkah", instead of reminding them that it's actually a minor holiday that many Jewish folks don't give a shit about.
Aquarius: This marks the first Christmas in a decade that doesn't end with you face down in a puddle of your own vomit. In point of fact, you'll be face down in someone else's vomit, which makes for a nice change.
Pisces: The fact that you have entire scenes from The Santa Clause memorized kind of makes me want to hit you with a baseball bat.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Velveeta Jukebox, Part IV: Tarzan Boy
I had a few moments of hesitation as I typed the ending of my previous Velveeta Jukebox. I made a claim, you see. I said that, in the following installment, I'd be writing about "...the Greatest 80s song of all time." I wondered as I typed, could I really make that statement about the song I had in mind? Is not cheese in the eye of the beholder? Is there truly a way to prove that one certain pop song is the Alpha and Omega of Cheese Pop? The answer: Oh, yes.
"Tarzan Boy" is the story of a boy who is like Tarzan. That's it. There's no real story. No real point. Nothing beyond a synthesizer and a dream of setting the Tarzan Yell to music. A dream which is boldly realized.
One wonders what might have happened had Jimmy McShane, the singer of Baltimora been more of a Lone Ranger fan than an admirer of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Might we have heard "Tonto's Boy"? I like to think we might have.
This song burst onto the scene in 1985, when I was a freshman in high school and deeply involved in being a geek with no social life. It so happens I had read and re-read the first few books in the Tarzan series, which my dad had in paperback. I'd been a huge fan of the Filmation cartoon series as a kid. A big enough fan that I memorized--and used, often--portions of the apeman's monologue which opened the show:
The Jungle; here I was born. And here my parents died when I was but an infant. I would have soon perished, too, had I not been found by a kindly she-ape named Kala, who adopted me as her own and taught me the ways of the wild. I learned quickly and grew stronger each day. And now I share the friendship and trust of all jungle creatures. The jungle is filled with beauty...and danger. And lost cities filled with good...and evil. This is my domain and I protect those who come here. For I am Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle.My love of the cartoon translated into love of the books, which translated into love of an insanely cheesy pop song. Watch the video, if you dare. It's just Jimmy McShane, dancing around a sound stage. Really. That's it. Two years after Thriller and the best Baltimora can do is Jimmy McShane dancing by himself.
The song had a second run up the charts, thanks to its inclusion in the soundtrack of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. *shudder* And, a few years after that, the Baltimora legacy was pissed all over as Listerine used the song as accompaniment to an animated bottle swinging through a minty-fresh forest.
Sadly, Jimmy McShane passed away in 1995. So let's help keep his memory alive by treasuring "Tarzan Boy" as the Cheese Pop masterpiece that it was. And is.
Next time, in Velveeta Jukebox, an analysis of an indelible 80s movie song.
Tuesdays Suck Ass
I had a wonderful moment this morning. My alarm went off and I was out of bed before I'd really even woken up. I looked at the clock and I thought, "Wait a minute... Why did I set the alarm? I don't have to get up. It's Saturday." I got that great, great feeling that comes with the knowledge you get to go back to sleep.
Then I realized that I was mistaken, that it was Tuesday and that I really did have to get up. Which is a really, really shitty feeling.
Monday, December 18, 2006
Comes a Commercial
Lo! I have seen it! There it was, on the horizon; stinking like a fetid swamp of turds and used diapers. The stench of it washed over me in roiling waves of putritude.
My mind reeled. Was this reality? Was this a horrid nightmare? What the fuck was Nicole Kidman thinking?
Ups and downs this weekend. We had some good friends in town and I got to spend a bunch of time with them, shopping, playing frisbee, dining, checking out the permanent collection at MoMA, etc. My wife, however, was stuck at home for the entirety of the fucking weekend, working on a brief for her job, so I was missing her. I finally finished up my shopping for my wife, which was both an up and a down, as I had to brave the insane crowds on Fifth Avenue.
And, speaking of insane, my wife and I had our weirdest encounter yet with a New York stranger.
We were on our way to run in the park Saturday morning. We were walking to the 2/3 train (meaning the line on which both the Two and Three trains run, for anyone who might be confused as to why anyone would want to ride on two-thirds of a train) and were coming up to a building on our block that is currently being gutted and renovated. A male voice immediately behind us bellowed someone's name. Startling as it might be to have an unexpected yell come sneaking up on you, I've gotten used to sudden loud noises and wasn't really rattled.
After the yelling, a guy carrying a black plastic shopping bag came running past us and stopped basically right in our way. He was in front of the building which is being gutted and, as I prepared to step around him, he said, "I didn't know they closed this building."
Not concerned with his feelings about the building one way or another, I walked past him. As I did so, though, his arm brushed up against me and the black plastic shopping bag in his hand fell to the ground. As it hit, something made of glass inside it shattered. The man knelt down by the bag, from which I could now see what--from a quick visual and olfactory check--seemed to be water pouring out. The man looked up at me as if I'd just stepped on the neck of his aged grandmother.
He gave forth with something along the lines of, "What the fuck? You don't see somebody standing in front of you, you just fucking slam into them?" Now, having clear recollection of both his running basically right in my path and my attempting to step around him, I knew that this was not, in fact, really my fault. But, as the guy was clearly upset, I tried to be as polite as possible.
"I'm sorry, sir," I said, "I didn't mean to bump into you." The apology did little to assuage the guy's indignation.
"I don't care," he said, " I want my shit back!" In an effort to solve the problem and get going with the rest of my weekend, I told the guy I'd buy him another whatever it was. I asked him what had been in the bag. He pulled the label-free broken neck of the bottle from the wreck of the bag and responded he'd been carrying a bottle of Courvoisier. This is when I realized what was going on and lost any lingering guilt I might have felt about the guy's broken bottle.
Obviously, I was now expected to give the guy $70 for a new bottle. Remembering the clear, non-cognac-looking liquid that was pouring from the bag without the least trace of an alcoholic smell, I reached the conclusion that the guy had filled some random fucking bottle with water, steered himself directly into my path, brushed his arm against me and dropped the bottle on purpose. Not a scam as ambitious as The Sting, perhaps, but a scam nonetheless.
When he tried to tell me it was Courvoisier, I said something like, "I don't think so" and started to walk away. He got in my face and started yelling about "...want[ing his] shit back!" I stepped around him and urged my wife down the street. He came after me, still clutching the bottle's broken neck. He got once again in my face and demanded to know why I wasn't pulling out my wallet. I started past him again, but he shoved me back, at which point my wife yelled at him not to shove me. I said, "Sir, I'm not giving you any money."
He reiterated that this was not acceptable to him and requested, with much gesticulation and bellicosity, an explanation. I told him that, for starters, he was waving a broken bottle neck in my face, at which he tossed said bottle neck away and declared that he needed no such weaponry.
By now, a couple of women had come down the sidewalk and were watching the goings-on. One of them said something like, "The decent thing to do would be to buy him another one." My wife didn't take kindly to this and started to try to explain the situation to them. I nudged her down the street and said, "It's fine, sweetheart. Let's go."
The guy, who clearly felt that it was not fine, got back in my face and commenced with the name calling. There was "faggot" and "cracker" and other such delights. He shoved me again, which prompted my wife to reach toward him to maybe pull him away from me. He slapped her arm away and said something like, "Fuck you, bitch", which was really a step too far, I thought. I told him not to touch her. I grabbed her and walked her past him and down the street, listening to more "Cracker!" "Faggot!" and "Bitch!" along with the threat that I would not be living in this neighborhood for long (!).
Now, I won't say that my heart-rate didn't escalate during this. But, all in all, I think I did an okay job of keeping my cool. I didn't return the name-calling. I referred to him as "Sir" at all times; e.g., "I'm not going to pay you, sir, because you are trying to scam me." I did not give him money just to end the situation.
I think I handled the situation this way because I've been a teacher for three and a half years now and not only have I had my share of students get up in my face and act threatening, but I've also dealt with enough students bald-facedly telling me they'd spit out their gum to know when someone's trying to get over on me.
And, lest my parents read this post and begin to fear for my safety, let me clearly state that this was a scam. The guy tried to guilt me into paying him and, when then didn't work, he shifted gears and tried to scare me. He's not someone I see around here and I know he has no intention of making sure I don't live in this neighborhood.
If he really wanted me out of the neighborhood, he'd give me enough money to move someplace better. But I don't see him doing that.
Saturday, December 16, 2006
When You're Here, You're Family (Stupid, Stupid Family)
Just came across this story about people in Indiana who got ill this week after eating at an Olive Garden restaurant. Apparently, health officials and the management of the Olive Garden are working feverishly to determine what it was that made the people sick.
I'm gonna go ahead and save them some time on this one: They got sick from eating at fucking Olive Garden.
Just like with the Taco Bell e-coli business, I just think that people should know that, when they eat at these places, they're taking their lives in their own hands. I mean, come on! How naive do you have to be? "What? Unlimited soup and breadsticks?!? And that's all made with loving care from quality ingredients, right?"
It's made by poor shmucks who couldn't get a better paying job and resent the living hell out of being stuck driving to a mall complex five times a week to spend eight hours or so shuffling around a steamy kitchen under the direction of an assbite who thinks he's God's Gift to Business Savvy because he got promoted to manager. They cannot be happy. And, if you've seen Like Water for Chocolate, you know that whatever a cook is feeling is magically imbued into the food they're making. So you're eating all that bitterness. Along with whatever germs they've got on their hands after coming back from their bathroom break and walking right on by the Employees Must Wash Their Hands sign without slowing down.
All these places need to have a giant sign over the door that clearly states: Eat at Your Own Risk.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Oh, The Places You'll Virtually Go
John Sadowski, host of this week's Roundtable, is wondering where you go when you first get on line. No, really, he's asking.
So head on over to JohnSadowski.com and fess up. (Unless your first browser stop every day is picturestojackitby.com, in which case you might want to just read without commenting.)
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Aries: This week, you find yourself thinking a thought that haunts you every Christmas season: what the fuck is a bob-tail and why would you put bells on it?
Taurus: Feel free to punch in the crotch any dipshit who complains about cold weather by calling into snarky doubt the existence of global warming.
Gemini: It's once again time to bake your famous Christmas cookies! You know the ones I'm talking about; the ones with dates and filberts that you give to all your friends every year and then they choke down one just to try to be nice and they end up dumping the rest in the trash two weeks after Christmas when they look in their cookie tin and realize that nobody's ever going to fucking eat those things. Those ones.
Cancer: Some people prefer the Beatles. Some people prefer the Rolling Stones. You're a giant geek and don't care for any music that hasn't been played on the Doctor Demento show.
Leo: Things are looking a little bleak for your weekend plans. Perhaps if your plans were more realistic and didn't involve flying in a rocket ship and being awarded the Best Person Ever medal by Jesus and Abraham Lincoln's clone, your plans might actually reach fruition every once in awhile.
Virgo: Don't let some snot-nosed kid's remark get you down. Unless he actually rubs some of the snot on you or something.
Libra: Tonight, in tribute to the late Peter Boyle, you'll put on a pair of moon boots and do a soft shoe in your living room while howling "Puttin' on the Ritz". It's really the least you can do.
Scorpio: Your plan to spice up your Hanukkah celebration this year by hiring a mariachi band to play during your seder may not be quite the brainstorm you think.
Sagittarius: Entomologist or not, you really shouldn't name your first-born child "Larva".
Capricorn: An older relative might be feeling lonely right around now and could really use a visit to cheer them up. And if you could do it without making any "old man smell" jokes or looking at your watch every two seconds, that'd be great.
Aquarius: You start to tell someone that you "...always start [your] day by eating breakfast and kicking ass and [you've] already had [your] breakfast," when you realize that you haven't, actually, eaten. It's always awkward to start a brawl with a lie, don't you think?
Pisces: The office Christmas party is not the place to get raging drunk. Unless, of course, making out with some skank from accounting and puking on your supervisor's shoes is your idea of a great time, in which case go for it.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
Man, I'm tired. I just got back to the States after a flying trip to Iran to attend the Holocaust Denial Conference. I had such an awesome time. I'm a little hung over, though. I was out drinking last night with my buddy David Duke. That motherfucker can put it away, man. He's an animal! I don't think, I'll be honest, I've laughed as much in the last year as I did at this conference. Holocaust deniers are just good people, y'know? At lunch yesterday, my friend Mahmoud Amahdinejad did this fucking hilarious bit where he hung a curly-fry from each ear and shouted, "Look at me! I'm a Hassid!" It killed.
But it wasn't all fun and games, of course. Holocaust denying takes a lot of rigorous intellectual brain-thingies. And we had a lot to think about. My first day at the conference started with a really tedious four-hour sign-in. They have to do a cavity search and a quick blood-typing to make sure you aren't carrying Zionist white cells. Then I spent the afternoon in a really great workshop in which we compared our reasons for denying the Holocaust. Most people came up with stuff like, "You're telling me the Germans seriously would have gone to all that trouble just to kill Jews?" This one guy from Syria said his sole reason for believing the Holocaust didn't happen was because his bitch ex-wife says it did and she's never been fucking right about anything. Which is pretty sound reasoning, I think.
Then, yesterday, I passed the morning in an awesome brain-storming session about what else we should be denying. The short list looks something like this:
I would have stayed a bit longer, but there was kind of an awkward moment last night at the bar when David Duke put his hand on my thigh and kind of left it there. I was like, "Hey, Dukester, what's up with that?" and then he went into this whole kind of thing, like, "I don't know what your hangup is. I'm not gay and blah blah blah." I think maybe there are some things Davey's not dealing with, but that's a whole other kind of denial.
Anyway, the important thing is that the Holocaust never happened. Just ask Mel Gibson.
Monday, December 11, 2006
My wife and I went to see The Nutcracker yesterday. This was the New York City Ballet version, choreographed 52 years ago by George Balanchine. That's a long damn time for one work of choreography to exist.
I love the music of this show, but I don't recall ever actually going to see it performed. I have very vague memories of going to see a ballet when I was maybe seven or so, but I don't for the life of me remember what the hell it was. Since one out of every two ballets performed in the U.S. are The Nutcracker, I suppose there's a pretty good chance that's what it was.
This production was pretty good, I guess. The story, folks, is not much to speak of. A little girl gets a nutcracker from her freak-ass godfather, she and the nutcracker fight off an assload of mice, then spend the entirety of the second act sitting, while food dances in front of them. Not a whole lot of plot there.
Anyway, we saw a matinee performance and we were surrounded by kids. (And a text-messaging assbite who was apparently conducting a job interview with her thumbs while sitting in the theater; my wife nearly decked her.) They made the standard kid noise throughout--screaming at the approach of the mouse king, laughing at the funny movements during the Chinese tea dance, etc.
Then, when Dewdrop comes on to dance with her flowers, a couple of little girls started squealing and yelled, "Oh! Here come the real ballerinas!" Which made me wince a little in sympathy for the poor schmucks playing the mice, who, I'm sure, were thinking something along the lines of, "I'll show you a real ballerina, you little fuck! Want to see my bleeding fucking toes?"
Poor, poor mice. Will the children never learn?
Saturday, December 09, 2006
I'm not cheap. I don't think that's my issue. What I am is determined to get everything I can from what I pay for.
I keep the toothpaste until I have squeezed every single bit of it from the tube; pressing, squeezing, stopping just short of running a steamroller over it to make sure it's empty. I give the peanut butter jar a last going-over with the spatula before tossing it. I save the dish soap bottle after it "appears" to be empty so I can get one more sinkful of dishes by giving it a good rinse-out. I have a good dozen T-shirts in my dresser with holes, bleach stains and frayed collars because I figure I can still use them for running or sleeping in.
Again: not cheap. Just getting my money's worth.
I bring this up to help explain what's going on with my current earphone situation. I've got an iPod Nano. Love it. It's handy, it's nice. The original earphones were shredded some time ago when my younger dog jumped up in a fit of excitement over a really successful dump or something and flailed about with his paws, catching the wires with his nails and yanking them from my ears.
Since then, I've been using a pair of earphones I got for free the last time my wife and I flew. These are not your high-end earphones. I'm not enough of a music snob that I'm bothered by their sound quality, so it's worked out okay. Until this week.
A few days ago, I was on my way to work, bopping down the street to the beat of Human League's "Don't You Want Me?". (It may have been some other piece of cheesy pop crap, but let's go ahead and say it was Human League, just for the sake of the narrative.) It was a fairly windy day, bits of stuff being tossed through the air. All of a sudden, I get a sharp pain in my left ear. It felt like I'd been the victim of an urban blow-darting or something along those lines. I pulled my earphone out and looked around for a suspect as I rubbed my ear. I didn't see any pygmies running away from the scene, so I assumed that the aforementioned wind had blown some bit of detritus at my auditory canal and I went about my business.
The next day, I was in my kitchen listening to some Christmas music when it happened again. There was a sort of popping sensation, then I got a sharp pain in my ear. Which is when I figured out that my cheap-ass, airline-issued earphones have finally neared the end of their lifespan and have decided that, instead of slowly deteriorating into monophonic uselessness, they're going to fight against the dying of the light with all the violence they can muster, by shorting out on a semi-regular basis and sharing the pain of their demise with whoever's wearing them at the time.
So I suppose the normal thing to do once one has realized that one's audio equipment is inflicting pain on one would be to get rid of it. Well, see, I don't want to be quite so hasty. After all, the shock is only coming once a day--or every other day, even--so what's the big deal? To clarify: I'm not planning on hanging on to these things long-term or anything. I'm just not making a hurried effort to replace them. I'll use them until I happen to find myself passing by a store wherein I can procure a new set. And I'll just suffer the occasional electric shock until such time.
'Cause I'll be damned if I'm not going to get everything I can out of these cheap, crappy headphones that I got for free.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Ancient Chinese Secret, Huh?
As my wife has a two-hour (average) commute to her job, while I ride the convenient and sweet-smelling subways, there are a number of household chores that fall to me. One of those is the laundry.
I've been washing my own clothes since roughly the age of eleven, which is right around when my mom decided she could no longer deal with what I did to my clothes. Most of that time, though, I was doing only my wash, and I never really cared all that much for the condition of my clothes when they came out of the dryer. I wanted them to be stain-free and to be relatively odor-free, but other than that, I wasn't too picky.
Adding my wife's laundry to my own over the last couple of years, though, I've noticed that I'm not always the best launderer, and it's started to bother me. I'm not talking about the occasional wool sweater I've shrunk down to doll-size. I'm not talking about the dozens of socks I've lost. I'm not even talking about the one or two occasions on which I've forgotten to add the soap.
My problem here boils down to one issue: my whites are not as white as I'd like.
Now, I don't want to give the wrong appearance here. I long ago learned to separate my colors. I pay attention to the tags enough that I usually have clothes in on the right cycle. I even started using (environmentally friendly) bleach. But I still have relatively dingy whites. And my white dress shirts have...pit stains. (Oh the shame.)
So tonight, while my wife is out with friends, I'm taking advantage of some time alone to make some bold experiments in whitening. I bought a special high-end stain treatment at Gracious Home and, even as I write this, my whites are soaking in a sink full of hot, hot water, where--hopefully--the yellow around my shirts' armpits is fading away into nothingness.
I ask, if you have a spare moment this evening, that you might consider taking a moment to send up a prayer to the laundry gods. Pray that my whites come out just a little brighter. Do this and I'll pay you back by praying for you the next time you're uncertain whether or not that sour cream you just ate was far enough past the expiration date to wreak havoc on your digestive tract. Thanks in advance.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Velveeta Jukebox, Part III: Christmas Wrapping
There was, back in the 80s, a television show called Square Pegs. Maybe you remember it. Maybe it's on cable someplace and you're an obsessive fan of it who landed here only after reaching page 3,978 of the show's listings on Google. Anyway, the show, which starred a post-Annie, pre-Mars Attacks Sarah Jessica Parker, was about two girls desperately trying to fit in at their high school. A relatively unremarkable show, I suppose, in the vast configuration of things.
It did, though, manage to capture parts of the cultural goings-on (I was going to say zeitgeist, but it just sounded too fucking pretentious for a discussion of a sitcom co-starring Tracy Nelson) of 1982 and freeze those goings-on in amber (or video-tape) for future generations.
It featured a Valley Girl, the afore-mentioned Ms. Nelson. It had a New-Wave Kid, played by the same guy who'd go on to lack of fame portraying Kirk's son in Wrath of Khan. It had a Preppy Girl, Jami Gertz, who looked a whole lot hotter a few years later in The Lost Boys.
One thing it really had going for it was a killer theme song by The Waitresses, an excellent 80s band out of Kent, Ohio who never got the success they deserved. In fact, pretty much the apex of their success was the fact that they sang the theme song of a sitcom that lasted more than a season. They had another kind-of hit, the Newest Waviest "I Know What Boys Like", which, not at all coincidentally, they sang on an episode of Square Pegs.
Their most lasting contribution to the world of music, though, was their recording of the truly classic cheesy holiday beauty, "Christmas Wrapping".
(A word of caution to anyone clicking on the above link. You're probably a whole lot better off going to iTunes or someplace and just buying the song if you don't have it, 'cause the only video I could find of the song on YouTube was created by what appears to be a high school junior with a lot of time on her hands who basically sits in her room and lip-synchs the entire song. It's cute and I'm sure she's a very nice girl, but it's actually a little mortifying to watch someone spend five-plus minutes essentially standing in front of a mirror with a hairbrush in their hands.)
"Christmas Wrapping" is the story of an independent 80s gal who decides she's too fucking tired and depressed to spend Christmas with her friends/family/drug dealer. So she goes about preparing a Christmas feast for one in the comfort of her own apartment; a little bitter, but comfortable with where she is. As she prepares her celebration, she reminisces about a guy she's been trying to hook up with for "most of '81," but has been unable to connect with because of various obstacles that have always seemed to pop up at the last minute. On a last-minute trip to the grocery for cranberry sauce, she bumps into [SPOILER ALERT!] the very same guy she'd been thinking of and the two of them hook up for a Yuletide Sextravaganza.
This song blends together two things I really love: Christmas and cheesy pop. It's been a staple of the Wack holiday stereo since I had to listen to it on cassette. It's not really the holiday season until I've heard this song for the twelfth time. Which I'm about to do right...now.
Merry Christmas to all and to all: "Totally different head. Totally."
Next time in the Velveeta Jukebox, we celebrate possibly the greatest 80s song of all time. (Which would actually, I suppose, be just that small portion of "all time" that took place during the 80s.)
It's Roundtable time again! Ring the fucking bells! Roll out the goat-humping red carpet! Strike up the cock-a-doodie band!
Suzanne over at Perfecting the Fine Art of Procrastination is our host this week and she's looking for your thoughts on curse words. So go now, with all haste, and tell you what you by-god think.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Aries: You face some tough decisions this week. Nothing as tough as whether to pay $920,000 for a fucking used dress instead of feeding poor people for a decade, but tough nonetheless.
Taurus: Having trouble deciding on a Christmas gift for Grandma? How about porn? Old ladies love it!
Gemini: You are truly shocked to find that the Iraq Study Group concluded that the war in Iraq is not going well. They're really a Glass Is Half Empty kind of bunch, aren't they?
Cancer: As the weather turns colder, you need to start wearing pants.
Leo: A relationship precious and dear to your heart comes to an end this week when the hooker you've been seeing for five years decides to retire. Asking for a free handjob for old times sake would be tacky.
Virgo: A good week to start on new long-term projects. Like a baby, say. Or organizing your sock drawer, if you're not as ambitious.
Libra: There's a glob of mayonnaise in your beard. From yesterday.
Scorpio: Don't fret too much about New York City banning trans fats in restaurants. You can always sneak your own trans fat in and surreptitiously sprinkle it on your food under the table.
Sagittarius: There's probably a better way to commemorate Pearl Harbor Day than jacking it to pictures of Josh Hartnett.
Capricorn: Now is the time to stop brooding about your past mistakes. Brood, instead, on the many colossal fuck-ups that lie ahead.
Aquarius: A home bikini wax should not be attempted using bubble gum.
Pisces: Not all of life's problems can be solved with chicken soup, Pisces. Herpes, for instance. Chicken soup does jack squat for Herpes.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
I Saw Three [Christmas Movies] Come Sailing In
Man, I'm on a roll here. I don't know why, but I've been on a Christmas movie tear this week.
I watched White Christmas on Saturday. I really can't explain exactly why I watch that movie every year, other than the simple fact that it's Christmassy and I have it. It's kind of a pile.
For anyone who's never seen it...well, first, don't. And second, the movie is basically the story of how the hottest song and dance team in the country pulls off a Christmas miracle to save the floundering Vermont inn owned by the general who commanded them in World War II. And it's just as compelling as that sounds.
Don't get me wrong, I love Der Bingle. When I was really young, we basically had four Christmas albums in the house: Ed Ames, Elvis Presley, a compilation my folks got from Goodyear--which had Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass and Ella doing "Sleigh Ride"--and Bing. I'm a sucker for that album. I even love fucking "Mele Kalikimaka", for Christ's sake.
But White Christmas is built entirely on the premise that "White Christmas" is a great song. That's it. They try to weave some story in there. There's some nice dancing with Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen. And there's a whole lot of really shitty Irving Berlin songs. "What Can You Do with a General"? Sweet rectal prolapse, that's a lame song!
Then there's the fact that, as much as I absolutely love Rosemary Clooney's singing--I could listen to "C'mon-a My House" 'til the cows come home--her acting in this is stiffer than George Bush at the Kennedy Center Honors. Plus, she and Bing have all the chemistry of the last piece of sweaty cheese on the deli tray.
And yet, I've seen the damn thing at least fifteen times. Maybe it's because, even as lame as it is, it beats the living shit out of modern Christmas fare like Deck the Halls or The Santa Clause or Ben Affleck Takes a Steaming Dump All Over Christmas.
Yesterday, as I've already described, I wept my way through my annual viewing of It's a Wonderful Life. Today, then, it was time for the ne plus ultra of seasonal viewing: A Christmas Carol.
Anyone who has any great sentiment for the Christmas holiday has, I'm sure, their favorite filmed version of this venerable tale. There are many people for whom Alistair Sim is the one and only Ebeneezer. Others, I'm told, delight in singing along with the "razzleberry dressing" song in the Mr. Magoo version. Hell, for all I know, there may be people for whom the Fonzie-starring, Depression-set An American Christmas Carol ruined all others. (The scary part of this is that I had to look none of these up on IMDB.)
For me, though, the only Christmas Carol I need stars the late, great George C. Scott. It's a version he did for Hallmark Hall of Fame in the early-to-mid-eighties and I love it.
It's got Roger Rees as Fred; David Warner as Bob Cratchit and Edward "The Equalizer" Woodward as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Their Tiny Tim is no great shakes and you kind of want to beat him to death with his own crutch by the time he whimpers his twelfth "God bless us, every one", but, other than that, it's solid.
Seriously, though, my man George the C. is the reason to watch this one. He plays a great asshead throughout and then, after the spirits do their thing, he tackles Ebeneezer's embrace of Christmas so well that he'll make you want to be as good a man as the old city's known.
And so, as Tiny Tim said, "God bless us, every--ouch, my heart exploded!"
Monday, December 04, 2006
A couple of years back--and I mean almost exactly a couple of years--I wrote a post that was a bit cynical about It's a Wonderful Life. I love the movie, and loved it at the time I was writing, but I was in a mood then to pick it apart a bit.
I watched it again over the last couple of days. (Started it last night, fell asleep, finished it earlier tonight.) I cried my fucking eyeballs out. Again. After the kind of year I've had, I wasn't picking it apart in the slightest. And from the moment George comes home and finds his kids at the top of the stairs 'til the final chorus of "Auld Lang Syne", I was bawling like a white collar criminal his first night in prison.
Never mind that, in reality, the townfolks probably would've shrugged and gone on with their holiday. The idea that, if we try to do good, we'll see the karma swing back to us, the idea that the universe eventually cuts us a break, is very appealing. And tear-inducing; let's not forget that part.
So here's to George Bailey. And here's to that poor bastard whose only line was, "We'll wait for ya, baby." ('Cause he needs love, too.)
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Velveeta Jukebox, Part II: Go West
Welcome to the second edition of Velveeta Jukebox, in which I take a look at some of the best of the best of the cheesiest. This week, we're looking at the only song on my list that comes from after 1989.
It is one of the gayest songs ever recorded. Seriously, seriously gay. I don't mean that in the junior high, "Dude, that's fucking gay" sense. I mean that it's a Pet Shop Boys cover of a Village People song. That's, like, gay squared.
The year was 1993. The World Trade Center was bombed; foreshadowing the cataclysm that would come eight years later. Cheers went off the air with a bloated final episode and a drunken cast appearing on Jay Leno, foreshadowing the craptacular Seinfeld finale that would come five years later. Michael Jordan retired, foreshadowing his unretirement that would come seventeen months and one embarrassing stint in minor-league baseball later.
And the Pet Shop Boys recorded and released their version of the Village People's "Go West".
This song is the lispiest, fayest song ever sung into a microphone. It makes PSB's earlier "West End Girls" sound like the Theme from Shaft in comparison. Which is fine and all, it's just not my usual cup of tea. I would guess that there were probably some "extended dance mixes" that were big on the club circuit, but I never heard them. I hate clubs and I hate dancing. This song has meaning for me for completely different reasons.
In 1993, I graduated from college. I hadn't gotten into any graduate schools. I had no great acting work lined up. I hadn't made plans with friends to move someplace and take the theater scene by storm. I had no real idea what to do.
What I did have was an uncle who lived in Phoenix. I didn't figure on hitting it big as an actor in Arizona, but I thought it might be far enough away from home that I could start to figure out how to do things on my own. (With the occasional help from my parents when I needed a car or help with the rent every once in a pathetic while.)
I was scared, though. I'd never lived farther than forty-five minutes from my hometown. I'd never lived in a city larger than Kent, Ohio. I didn't have a job. I didn't have any idea what I was going to do.
But, one day not long after I moved there, I heard "Go West" on the radio. And it reassured me. It came along at just the right moment to lift me up just a little bit and kind of tell me that getting out of Ohio and moving across the country might not be a fatal mistake.
As it turns out, I hated Phoenix. I loved my uncle and I made a lot of friends there, but the city itself was just not for me. Too dry; too spread out; too conservative. But it was a first step on the long and twisty road toward adulthood. And I met the love of my life there, so it wasn't a complete waste of time.
"Go West" is one of the songs that brings back good memories of my time in Phoenix. There are also "Leaving Las Vegas", "Loser", "Laid", "Screenwriter's Blues" and the entirety of Bjork's album Debut. Of all of them, though, only "Go West" is cheesy enough to earn a spot in the Velveeta Jukebox.
Next time, we look at one of the greatest Christmas songs of all times, sung by a classic 80s band.
Children of a Lesser Dog
Just took my dogs to the vet. We take them to the Humane Society, where I used to work before I decided that making children's lives miserable would be a good way to earn a living, so I got to say hi to a bunch of really nice people with whom I used to work.
The vet who looked at our boys is one who started some time after I quit, so she hadn't ever seen them before and didn't know me from Adam. I felt bad, because, as she didn't know him, she didn't realize that our younger dog, Mortimer, is incredibly sweet. Instead, all she got to see was his spastic, squirrelly side. He was not happy to be there.
From the car ride down to sitting in the waiting room to being put up on the examination table, Mortimer was nervous as all get out. He wasn't nuts about having his teeth looked at. He didn't like when she ran a comb over him to look for fleas. And when it came to the blood-draw to test for heartworm, he just wasn't having it.
I tried to get a good grip on him, but he squirmed away. He actually nearly leapt off of the table at one point as the vet came at him with the needle. Then the vet tech got a hold of him and held him steady for just long enough so that the doctor could get a jab at him. Then, in the 2.5 seconds she took to get some blood, he lashed out with his anal glands, splashing some truly foul liquid on the exam room wall.
That's a little embarrassing. Saying, "He's really a nice boy, I swear" doesn't work very effectively when the vet tech is wiping his butt gunk off the wall. I felt really bad for him.
And, of course, our older dog, Ben, was an angel. 'Cause that's just how he is. And so Momo got the inevitable, "You should be more like your brother here." Poor li'l guy.
Anyway, we've got two healthy dogs. Who are a bit "oily". The vet said we should be bathing them more often, which--along with the anal gland squirting--made us feel like first cousins of Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel.
So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go wash my dogs and scrub the ass-fluid off of my shoes.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Fuck Taco Bell
Time was, I thought Taco Bell was just a greasy little place to go grab something heavy to shove down your gullet after the bar closed and you were in danger of puking unless you had something to soak up all that liquor.
Then tonight, I got a spam comment from them promoting some stupid goddamn football thing they're doing. I've got the security dealie where you have to type in the crazy, jumbled-up letters in order to post a comment, which means they've hired someone to search out blog posts that have "bell" in the title so they can paste in their fucking ad, which begins, "Speaking of bells..." Whoever the poor idiot is they've paid to do that, I hope he/she/it sees this and--since I know they won't feel guilt--gains a little better sense of what a useless fucking parasite they are.
Fuck Taco Bell and fuck the greasy rat meat they put in their inedible slop. And to anyone who isn't Taco Bell: hope you're having a lovely holiday season. Hugs!