Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Monday, April 30, 2007
Stamp Project Update
Well I am sad. Ever so sad.
Do you know, not one goddamn person I wrote to as part of this project has written me back? Not one. What's up with that?
I'd been depending, you may remember, on some back-and-forth correspondence to help me use up my stamps. I figured I could get a pleasant long-distance conversation going with some friends and help to keep the art of letters alive as an art form. Ha!
Oh, I got some e-mails from folks. In which they mentioned receiving a letter. But none of them took the time to dig through their junk drawer and find one of those old-fashioned letter-making thingies. What're those called again? Oh, right: a pen.
This one bozo, who shall remain nameless--let's just call him "Keith Marsteller"--made a comment to the fact that an e-mail conversation we had would've taken several weeks by the more traditional postal message. To which I responded, "Yes, but years from now, will scholars writing a book about our friendship be able to pull these e-mails out so they can be read by B-list celebrities in the inevitable Ken Burns-esque documentary? I think not."
What a sad, sad world we live in where sending out ten--ten!--personal letters nets not one missive in reply. I got so goddamn frustrated that I found alternate methods of ridding myself of these stamps. Methods that didn't depend on the existence of kindly folk willing to enter into an old-fashioned dialogue. I put a couple of 'em on the forms I mailed in to renew our dogs' licenses. I put an assload of them on the envelope I used to mail a screenplay to a friend instead of having the post office meter the postage. It makes for a much more colorful envelope, really.
And so now I despair. I still have thirty-three of these fucking things and exactly two weeks to use them. Now that I know I can't count on my "friends" (for lack of a better term), I guess I'm going to have to start writing total strangers. Maybe I'll just pull addresses at random and start sending them letter in which I introduce myself and beg them to be my pen pal. *whimper* *sniff*
It's a cruel, cruel world, ain't it?
Saturday, April 28, 2007
Shut Up and Act
So what the fuck is wrong with Alec Baldwin?
I'm not talking about his rant against his daughter, which I completely understand. (Hey, I teach teenagers and I'm all the time wanting to yell at them.)
No, I'm talking about his pouty-boy whining that he wants to quit 30 Rock to write a book about children and divorced parents. First off, if I'm desperate for information on children and divorce, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be scanning the bookstore shelves for something by the guy that starred in The Marrying Man. Mr. Baldwin has a long history of assuming that people give a shit what he says about anything and I think it's high time he was disabused of that notion and learned the important lesson that he needs to stick to acting.
Which brings me to my second point: Alec Baldwin is fucking brilliant on 30 Rock. It's one of the funniest comedies on the air. It's helped make NBC's Thursday night line-up the one night of fucking television I actually look forward to. And now Baldwin's going to take that away from me? What a douche! What a thoughtless little pig. Which, I suppose, is where his daughter gets it.
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Hello Stupid My Old Friend
Wow. It's been a long time since I did something quite that retarded.
Put some eggs on to boil when I got home, as I have stumbled upon a heretofore undiscovered fondness for putting sliced eggs on my sandwiches. I then sat down and messed around online.
A few minutes ago, I became distracted by what I took to be the smell of some jackwad burning tires outside...
Now I'm burning incense like fucking crazy to get the smell of singed eggshell out of the place. And I hope to hell I didn't ruin my favorite pot.
Sweet mustache-trimming Jesus, I'm stupid sometimes.
The Times: Are They A-Changin'?
So Suzanne is hosting this week's Roundtable and she's thinking about making some changes in her life. The question she's posing to the rest of us is: What do you want to change about your life?
Pretty easy for me. I want a kid.
Figure out what you want and go tell Suzanne at Perfecting the Fine Art of Procrastination.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
Aries: You're feeling especially sensual today, but that doesn't mean that anyone on the 7:45 #6 train wants to see your pole dance.
Taurus: Your seventy-five year-old mother has decided to spend your inheritance on a boob job, ass tuck and face-lift. I'm betting she's gonna look hot.
Gemini: Sex is a top priority with you today, Gemini. That's nothing unusual, however, as you're a rapist.
Cancer: Remember, a watched phone never rings! So, if you want your phone to ring, you're going to have to go ahead and blind yourself.
Leo: You are sadly mistaken: nowhere in the recipe for Chex Mix does it tell you to marinate your pretzels in Mr. Pibb.
Virgo: Your innate sensuality is tempered today with a touch of the mystical sort of romantic feeling found in fairy tales, Virgo. Or, to put it more plainly: you find yourself wanting to fuck a dwarf.
Libra: A desire to spruce up your home, Libra, might start with a thorough cleaning from attic to basement. You can have a lot of fun with this, especially if friends or lovers help out. Of course, many people get a little peeved when they arrive expecting an orgy and instead find themselves cleaning your bathroom grout.
Scorpio: You're in an especially sexy mood and not particularly afraid to say so. This is not appropriate behavior when you're meant to be teaching basic math skills to second-graders.
Sagittarius: Have you been waiting to hear about a grant that you applied for, perhaps to create a piece of art, write a book, or make a documentary film, Sagittarius? Probably not, since you spend most nights passed out in a puddle of your own vomit outside your neighborhood bar.
Capricorn: Turkey-stuffed tacos? Hey, why not! You only live once!
Aquarius: The desire to respect and honor that special someone in your life wars today with an equally strong desire to hit 'em in the face with a pie. I'd go with the pie.
Pisces: Have you been harboring a secret desire for someone whom you believe thinks of you only as a friend, Pisces? Well, it turns out they don't think of you as a friend. They think of you as "that creepy accountant who's always watching me through binoculars."
Sunday, April 22, 2007
My Nephew Riley
Sweet merciful Jesus, this is a cute kid. A few weeks early, but doing just fine. He is insanely cute and both the wife and I think he's the cat's meow, the bee's knee's and the old guy from the 1920's analogies. I bought him a Cleveland Indians onesie (you can't start the indoctrination too early) and, as soon as he's old enough to hold things for an extended period, I'm gonna get him reading comic books. I'm gonna be the uncle about which he says, "Oh, Christ, Uncle Joe's coming over? He's gonna do the 'Pull my finger' gag...again!" This is going to be fun.
Thursday, April 19, 2007
Baba o' Riley*
So there's fantastic news in the Hairshirt family! My big sister just gave birth--a few weeks early--to a healthy baby boy. Huzzah! Sound the horns!
I have three awesome nephews and a wonderful niece on my wife's side of the family, but this is the first nephew to whom I can spill all kinds of secrets about the stuff his mom pulled when she was young. How cool is that?
So we'll be taking off for Ohio in the morning to go get a look at the little guy. I'm so excited that I just can't hide it. Also, I'm doing the Neutron Dance.
Welcome to Earth, little Riley! We'll try and make sure it's not utterly wrecked by the time you're old enough to start getting some good use out of it.
*Okay, I'm not actually sure if he'll even have a baba, as I think his mommy's breast-feeding, but I couldn't pass up the title.
Most Super-Best Person in the World
Steph Waller is taking her turn at bat for this week's Roundtable and she's wondering why we feel the need to be the bestest. I'd worry about that kind of stuff, too, if I didn't know that I am the best. Anyway, head on over to The Incurable Insomniac and do it quick so you can be the first one to comment! Hurry, or you're a loser!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Aries: If you have been thinking of making a career change, Aries, today is a good day to go to the library and do some research on the professions that interest you. Alternatively, you could write a bunch of different careers scraps of paper, throw them on your living room floor, feed your dog some burnt toast and see which one he throws up on first. First career puked on is your destiny.
Taurus: One thing that is clear is that you are likely to achieve extraordinary success through the use of technological innovations. Too bad they haven't come up with that Electric Ass Scratcher yet, huh?
Gemini: An unexpected change of plans could have you spending most of the day at the office, handling one crisis or another. It's kind of sad that you refer to your McDonald's fry station as "the office", but I suppose that's neither here nor there right now.
Cancer: It is hard to imagine a world without computers. Or without Pat Sajak.
Leo: With no advance warning, you could find yourself serving lunch or dinner for a group of ten! Even more disconcerting is the nagging question of how, exactly, you wound up in a bad '50s sitcom.
Virgo: Virgos will have all the love and support they need to get them through anything that comes their way. Except maybe Michael Bay movie. There's nothing to help anyone get through that.
Libra: You may be visiting friends or taking advantage of sales and doing some shopping. That's going to be difficult, given that you're friendless and broke, but, hey, go ahead and give it a shot.
Scorpio: A vacation just may be in order. I hear Iraq is lovely this time of year.
Sagittarius: Perhaps you've been thinking of starting your own business, and today you get the germ of an idea. Hey, wait a minute... Business? Germ? That's it! You could start your own organic germ farm!
Capricorn: Today may have you itching for a change, Capricorn. Or it could just be crabs.
Aquarius: Since social activities are highlighted today, why not round up your team members and treat them all to lunch, to celebrate. Oh, that's right, because you're a self-centered jerk.
Pisces: Adventure calls, and whether it be physical--such as a journey; mental--such as attending a class or a lecture; or pornographic--such as watching porn, you will find that it enlarges your world in just the way you had hoped.
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
So Help Me Dog
Wow. I'm a little nervous about writing anything about this, 'cause I'm fairly certain the second I hit "Publish", a meteor will crash into my apartment, but...things have gone pretty well today.
...Okay, no sudden Wrath of God yet, so I guess I'm okay for now. So, yeah, I went down for Jury Duty this morning, sat around for awhile reading my magazine, showed them the proof that I'd already served and wasn't due to serve again for another year and was summarily dismissed. I practically fucking skipped out of the courtroom, grinning at all the poor bastards who were stuck there.
I know that, especially as a teacher, I should consider it my duty and an honor to sit on a jury. But fuck that. I will say that the Federal District courtroom was a hundred thousand times classier than the pile of shit NY State Court room I was in three years ago. No roaches or anything. (Plus, wood panelling! Yowza!)
Then I took my ailing iPod to TekServe, New York's Apple SpecialistsTM. After another, shorter wait, a very nice lady plugged my iPod into her computer and stopped me in the middle of my babbling explanation of the problems I'd been having to tell me that there didn't seem to be any problem whatsoever. And it seems she was right, as it's playing "You're the One" by the Black Keys right now. I don't know what the hell happened, but I'm not looking a miraculous healing in the mouth.
All this left me with time this afternoon to take my dogs to the newish dog park that's just down our street.
Now, when my wife and I lived in Seattle, the neighborhood dog park was practically our second home. We took Ben, our older dog, there every damn day. We had Dog Park Friends and even a Dog Park Enemy, this beret-wearing dickhead with a fat-ass weimaraner. After they closed that dog park down--it was in a semi-schmancy neighborhood and the rich pricks who lived there weren't nuts about the urine, the barking and such--we loaded Ben in the car for regular trips to the next-closest run.
Once we moved to New York, though, there wasn't really a dog run close enough to not be an utter and complete hassle. (You try finding a parking place in this city.) So Ben just laid around getting chubby and Mortimer, who'd never had a regular dog park routine, never got used to being around other dogs.
So, when this dog park opened up a couple months back, I was a little hesitant to go. I've got a nasty case of the paranoids, see, and when you couple that with the type of high-strung yahoos who sometimes go to dog parks, I just worried that too much wrestling from Mortimer or too much barking from Ben would set someone off.
If you've never been to a dog park, lemme 'splain: Dogs like to wrestle and play fight. Dogs hump each other to establish dominance. Fights do occasionally break out, but things usually work themselves out once everyone's figured out who's who.
Ignorant owners, though, think that the slightest barking means your dog is the canine Charles Manson. They think that, if your dog mounts another boy dog, it's sexual and your dog is gay. People can get real worked up over simple dog behaviors. I've seen it happen and it's not pretty.
Which is why I get so wiggy when Ben mounts someone or Mortimer puts his mouth on someone. So far, though, they've been absolutely fine. And I'm feeling like a better owner. There's really only one thing I'm worried about when I take them now: all those gay dogs.
Monday, April 16, 2007
Campaign Fucking Finance!
How the fuck desperate for political news is the media? Desperate enough that the amount of money candidates have raised is being treated like a fucking pre-primary election. This is the kind of bullshit that causes candidates to drop out after maybe one goddamn primary.
Let the people vote, dammit! That's how this is all supposed to be done. We're not giving them a fucking loan, we're electing them to public office. I don't honestly give a thimble full of mouse turds how much money these people raise. What I care about is their opinions, their ideas and what they intend to do once they get into office.
But this is all I'm hearing about. Hillary's raised more money, but from less people. McCain isn't raising money from internet donors as Mitt Romney. Big fucking deal! Are any of them going to end the war? Do any of them have a viable plan for universal health care? Which of them doesn't have their head completely up their own ass on the environment? Fuck money.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
News Flash II: The Quickening
Hot on the heels of the earth-shattering "Wolfowitz Is a Douchebag" story which broke earlier in the week, now comes the mind-blowing revelation that abstinence-only sex education might not be a great idea!
You mean to tell me that raging-hormone-filled teenagers might figure out the mystifying Penis+Vagina=Intercourse equation even when we don't have teachers telling them about it? Say it ain't so! Can it really be that the Bush Administration's claims that the same Just Say No campaign that worked so amazingly effectively against drugs would be the perfect way to curb teenage pregnancy and the spread of AIDS might not be true? Well color me shocked.
I mean, it's just counter intuitive, isn't it? You'd naturally think that, if you tell kids to keep it in their pants instead of teaching them about the broad spectrum of human sexuality, along with the physical and emotional risks of sexual activity, they'd be able to keep their desires in check until safely ensconced in a traditional man/woman matrimonial arrangement, when they could have intercourse for the purpose of procreation. But apparently not. Go figure.
Seriously, isn't it a whole lot better for teens to think of masturbation as something shameful that's going to damn their soul to hell instead of thinking of it as something natural that everyone does? Shouldn't we teach kids who think they might be gay that homosexuality is something to be suppressed or "cured" so that they can live miserable and self-loathing--albeit sanctified in the eyes of God--lives? I don't know about you, but I'd much rather my child wasn't exposed to information about condoms. Sure, the godless heathens will tell you that all that does is ensure that, when teens do become sexually active, they're less likely to know how to protect themselves, but you and I know that, as soon as you show 'em a rubber, they'll want to rush right out and use one.
So I don't know where the liberal media got their information on this, but I can tell you right here and now that I think it's all a bunch of bull-droppings. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go put on a dress and flog myself.
Saturday, April 14, 2007
Whine, Bitch & Moan
I'm gonna go ahead and advise most everybody to skip this post. You're not going to want to read it, as it's just a lot of me griping about my life when I'm actually incredibly lucky to have a job and a home and a lovely wife and both my balls and all that good shit.
Seriously, why the hell are you still reading this? Shoo.
Ye gods, I had a shitty day yesterday. I almost left for work without my iPod, which would have meant the horrifying prospect of being forced to listen to packs of nimroddic high schoolers gossipping or talking about their exciting experiences with marijuana while I glumly tried to tune them out and read Slaughterhouse-Five. Fortunately, I remembered before I'd left the building and I ducked back in the apartment and grabbed the iPod.
Not so fortunately, my iPod froze the fuck up. I've had the experience before where it won't play. Then you shut it off for awhile or say three Hail Marys and it starts back up. But this was not that. This was frozen screen, no play, light on, very bad. Wouldn't shut off, wouldn't do a goddamn thing. So I was forced to listen to the nimroddic high schoolers, with the added bonus of worrying what the fuck was wrong with my iPod.
The goddamn thing was still frozen when I got to work, but I kept a stiff upper lip, shoved it in my bag and forgot about it. But I think it had affected my mood just enough to put me in exactly the wrong place for the events that followed.
I do small-group instruction in tandem with another teacher in the mornings. We were doing some work on English, going over cause and effect. The other teacher instructed the kids to write a sentence with a cause and effect structure.
We'll set aside for now how depressing it is that only one out of ten kids actually wrote a sentence instead of doing a flow-chart. What really got to me is when I saw that one of the kids had written "Mr. Wack is so ugly--> I was blinded." This is the kind of thing that I can normally chuckle at and ignore, but something about my mood yesterday caused it to hit me like a kick in the nutsack. That and when she shared it with her friends and they all giggled and pointed.
Later in the day, I was wrapping up class with my "best" group of seventh graders. I have them next on Tuesday, but I won't be there, as I'm skipping out on work to experience the joys of jury duty. So I said, "Okay, listen up: I'm not going to be here on Tuesday..." at which point they cheered and applauded.
And, again, this is not that huge of a fucking deal and I'd normally be able to smile and shoot back a "Yeah, I'll miss you, too" or something. But I couldn't. It just fucking crushed me.
It crushed me because there are teachers there who the kids really like. And there are teachers there who the kids really and truly respect. And I'm neither of those. I'm not a great teacher. I'm just not. I'm strict enough that the kids resent me for making them spit out their gum and pull their fucking pants up over their underwear. I'm lazy enough that I don't always follow up with my detentions and phone calls. I'm not so dedicated that I stay after school every day to work with small groups of kids. I'm not innovative enough that my every lesson is exciting. I'm the educational equivalent of egg salad. (Look, I know it's a shitty analogy, but it's a week after Easter and I'm tired of having to eat egg salad, so it's on my fucking mind, okay?)
Anyway, a busted iPod was enough of a catalyst to take my insecurities as a teacher and just blow them all out of proportion. Isn't it great to know what a thin line separates a tolerable day from a soul-crushing one?
Friday, April 13, 2007
We've got an assload of books in our house. My parents have, in fact, vowed that they would never help us move again after my father spent three hours trapped at the bottom of a book-alanche the last time.
But I managed, yesterday, to locate in this forest of former trees my copies of Cat's Cradle, Deadeye Dick and Slaughterhouse-Five. I don't believe I've re-read any of them in at least eight years.
I read all the Vonnegut I could get my hands on when I was in my early twenties. Now seems like a good time to take another look.
Thursday, April 12, 2007
This just in:
Apparently, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz is a huge fucking prick! News of Wolfowitz's utter dickdom shocked absolutely
Reached for comment, deposed Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said, "Oh, yeah. Paulie's a real cocksmoker."
I'm not normally a violent person. I generally hope for people to get along and I don't tend to wish anyone ill. I really don't. I swear.
But I'm gonna state here and now that I would like to see Tyra Banks shot out of a cannon and directly into a brick wall.
I've had the horrendous misfortune to be trapped folding clothes in a laundromat where the television was blasting forth her obnoxious fucking talk show. Actually, this has happened a few times and it's lead me to wonder just what kind of sadistic bastards run laundromats. I was, in fact, made unwilling witness to the episode where she dressed up in a fat suit and then walked around filming how cruel we all are to fat people. I had to swallow some vomit when she sat on stage and cried--cried--at how vicious people were to her when she looked fat. It took every ounce of willpower I possess to stop myself from clawing out my eyes and stuffing the empty sockets with dryer sheets to stop the madness.
As if occasional spin-cycle-related exposure to this harpy weren't bad enough, I've got a wife who enjoys America's Next Top Model. I can't fault her for this. It's a popular program and god knows she's not alone. But it means that I have to clear the fuck out of the living room or else I'm aurally assaulted by the nightmarish repetition of the phrase, "I hold in my hand two photographs. But only one of you will go on to have a chance at becoming America's Next Top Model." Sweet dog-walking Christ, how have we suffered this witch to live?
And what the fuck has possessed network executives to give this heinous dipshit a weekly--and a daily--platform from which to suckle her own ego? This has to stop. Her shows need to be cancelled immediately. Failing that, she should be allowed to continue to appear on television only as long as wears a clown suit and lets people hurl week-old lattes at her.
My question, then, for anyone who's made it this far through the rant, is this: Who do you want to see shot from a cannon into a brick wall? Please spew forth some invective.
Wednesday, April 11, 2007
Aries: A sudden and unexpected visit from someone who lives far away is likely to throw your usual schedule out of kilter, Aries. In fact, you're thrown so out of kilter that you lose all control of your bodily functions and wind up spewing urine and vomit all over your kitchen floor while attempting to serve your visitor crumb cake. It's no wonder you never have company.
Taurus: Last minute tax preparation can be a trying experience, Taurus. Go over all your financial records and you could be pleasantly surprised. Not by good financial news, but by the fact that you find an uneaten Skittle.
Gemini: Why do you fear gnomes?
Cancer: A rather disconcerting rumor about your job could reach your ears, Cancer. The rumor goes something like this: Your job is a soul-crushing, monumental waste of your life. Thank god you know that rumor's false, huh?
Leo: You could have a rather frantic day, with your mind constantly shifting from one focus to another. Schizophrenia's a bitch, isn't it?
Virgo: Someone whom you work with, probably a woman, is apt to leave the job suddenly, Virgo, with no notice and no reason given. This could be confusing, until you realize that she's a junkie and she just needs to go get her smack on.
Libra: Don't get so irritated today that you throw up your hands and give up. Giving up is fine, but leave your goddamn hands where they are.
Scorpio: A rather upsetting dream could disturb your sleep tonight, dear Scorpio. When you awaken and get focused in the real world, it may seem so bizarre it isn't worthy of any serious consideration. Nonetheless, write it down later, and after some time has passed go over the symbols and see what they suggest to you. The dream is trying to tell you something about a situation in your life, specifically that you're a putz who takes instructions from a fucking horoscope.
Sagittarius: A colleague, or possibly a romantic partner, might be in a rather touchy mood today, Sagittarius, so by all means ratchet up their anger by pointing at them and laughing when they spill bean dip on themselves.
Capricorn: You generally tend to be very intuitive, Capricorn, but today you might find that your psychic abilities may short-circuit. Seriously, your head is going to explode. Just like in Scanners. It's going to be awesome.
Aquarius: Some rather upsetting news about a friend could come to you today, Aquarius, probably over the phone. Now, when I say "probably", I mean that you shouldn't assume that I'm wrong if this news comes, say, through a telegram. It could be in sky-writing. Hell, if might even just spell itself out mysteriously in your Alpha-Bits. The point is, I'm right.
Pisces: Family members, along with your significant other, are apt to be rather disgruntled.
So shoot them before they shoot you.
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I have had a very pleasant, relaxing Spring Break. Didn't do anything all that spectacular. The closest I came to a vacation was the day I drove my wife to Long Island for periodontal surgery. (And I'm certain my wife will appreciate my description of that as a "vacation". Sorry, sweetheart. I promise I don't actually consider your painful experience a relaxing getaway. Although I did get to lounge around a beautiful strip mall.)
Even though I haven't jetted off to Maui, though, I've had a very peaceful time the last week. It's been like a refreshing nap in the middle of a hectic day. But--as long as we're going with the nap analogy--I had a couple of instances yesterday and today where I jerked awake and had a few panicky moments before I realized I could go back to sleep. Lemme 'splain.
I don't have the New York City school calendar printed up and posted by my desk or anything, but I look at it occasionally, and I usually have a pretty good idea of when breaks are coming up. Before this Spring Break, I double-checked to make sure that we were actually off until April 11th. I had this knowledge in my head and felt confident of it.
But then, yesterday, I got a little uneasy as I got ready to take my dogs for their morning walk. What if, I thought, I got it wrong? What if I actually have to be at work this morning and I'm late and I have to try to make a mad dash for the train?
I did my best to reassure myself. "Hey, you're not an idiot, bra'," I told myself. "If you think you're off 'til Wednesday, you're off 'til Wednesday." My mind was set further at ease as I walked by a school down the block and saw, at the late, late hour of 6:50, that the lights in their office was off. I breathed a sigh of relief and came back to the apartment, where I enjoyed a That Girl marathon on Oxygen.
It happened again this morning. "Yeah, you think you're off today, but how do you know? How do you know?" I should probably note here that I hate--fucking hate--being late. Three years at my current job and I haven't been late once. I would much rather get to work early and sit around on my ass for half an hour, twiddling my thumbs, than walk in three minutes late and have to run up the stairs before my teacherless class goes Lord of the Flies and throws a flaming overhead projector out the window.
My panic this morning was not helped by the fact that, this time, when I walked past the school down the block, I heard music coming from one of the classrooms above my head. Further along the building, I see a ground-floor class with its lights on. Rounding the building, I notice that the kitchen window is open and lights are on in there as well. Things aren't looking good.
Now, I should say that this by no means convinced me that I was vacationally mistaken. I hadn't actually seen any teachers. Also, this is the freaky charter school that starts classes in the middle of August and has kids at school on Saturdays, so it wouldn't surprise me if they'd been back studying algorithms for days.
Still, the seed of doubt had been planted. So I pulled on my dogs' leashes and dashed down the sidewalk. Our older dog, Ben, threw me a look that said, "You do realize I haven't crapped yet? Do you truly want me to dump in the house?"
I ran up the stairs and hurriedly typed the Department of Ed calendar page into the web browser. There in plain black and white: Spring Break: March 31-April 10. One last day of sweet, sweet freedom. I'm so fucking retarded.
Monday, April 09, 2007
Variations on a Theme
Being on Spring Break, I've had time over the last week or so to get done all those things I normally have to cram into the tiny, George-Bush's-bookshelf-sized space of a two-day weekend. Laundry? Did it on Wednesday. Groceries? Fridge has been fully stocked since Thursday. Getting drunk and puking out the window on passersby? Monday, Tuesday and twice on Friday.
Which means that I had time this weekend to get around to a couple of things that I had been meaning to do for months. Neither of these things was "Give the Apartment a Thorough Cleaning", but that's a matter for a later discussion.
One of those things was to re-watch Casablanca. My fucking god, I love that movie. It's really kind of perfect. There has never been a more fantastically amoral character than Claude Reins' Louie. There's never been a hero as utterly cool as Bogart's Rick. And Ingrid Bergman just makes infidelity and ethical uncertainty hot. I live in constant fear that some tapioca-headed exec at Warner brothers is going to get an idea in the cavernous space where his brain should be to remake Casablanca with, say, Josh Hartnett and Lindsay Lohan. God help us, they'd probably have Michael Bay direct. *shudder* If this ever happens, do not be surprised to read a headline along the lines of "New York School Teacher Arrested for Hurling Feces at Movie Premiere".
The other thing I got a chance to do was to finish loading up every bit of music in our house onto my iPod. I'm proud to say that I have now officially used up more than half of the available space. (30 gigs is a lot of fucking room, folks.) I even went through my wife's music and grabbed a selection. Mazzy Star? Si! Tori Amos? No. (God, no.)
I included, in this spastic upload-athon, an album I'm sure my wife thinks should be tossed into the street to be run over by an entire parade-full of filthy-shod pedestrians. The album is number six in the series Television's Greatest Hits. It's the only disc in the series that I own, although I used to have the first three on cassette. (Cassetes, children, were a device that we used to store music on way, way back when. They were smaller than LPs, you see, and they made really fun noises when the tape player ate them.)
Now, don't want to give the impression that I spend every day bopping down the street to the theme from Facts of Life, but I do have a very healthy appreciation for TV themes. What I especially love about them is the fact that, even though we so rarely pay any attention to them when they're on our television, they're instantly recognizable when you hear them. Nothing more than the first few bass notes have to hit my ear before I know that I'm listening to the theme from Barney Miller. I love, as well, how perfectly all these theme songs fit into the era from which they came. From the groovy jazziness of Spider-Man to the disco overtones of Mork & Mindy, you hear these songs and you know precisely what decade spawned them.
You also get that wave of memory of the person you were when you sat down to watch the shows. The theme from Fantasy Island reminds me instantly of the little kid who desperately tried, week after week, to stay awake long enough to find out how Mr. Rourke was going to solve his visitors' problems. I hear The Cosby Show and I think of that poor pathetic high school student who wasn't getting laid. Play me music from Twin Peaks and I think of that poor pathetic college student who wasn't getting laid. There's just a whole lot of fucking music that reminds me of the great stretches of time when I wasn't getting laid.
To me, the best TV themes--and by best, I mean cheesetastically awful--are the ones where the show's star had their agent somehow work it into their contract that they--the star--got to sing the theme. Good lord, did the world really need to hear Marla Gibbs warbling her way through the opening credits of 227? The alpha and omega of star-sung TV themes, though, has to be Lee Majors ear-torturing rendition of The Fall Guy. Lo, there comes a terrible beauty.
Today's TV theme songs are just not as impressive. Half of the shows do away with the opening credits altogether and just play them over the action. Others use pre-existing pop songs (I'm looking at you, CSIs.) I would remind you that, back in the day, TV themes were so good that they became pop songs. That's right, we should never forget that Joey Scarbury took "The Theme from Greatest American Hero" to the Top 40.
I guess the one contemporary show I can think of with a memorable theme is Cold Case, which my wife watches and which, weekly, pierces my eardrum with that god-awful opening shriek. But at least I know that, years from now, whenever I hear it, I'll remember that, week after week, I used to go in the other room so I wouldn't have to watch it.
Sunday, April 08, 2007
I went to college at a big state university with a moderate-sized theater program. In this program, I did a good amount of work, both in the main-stage faculty-directed shows and in student-produced work. I thought of myself as a decent actor and I got enough positive feedback from people to reinforce that opinion. I wanted more than that, though. I wanted some kind of proof that I was good.
Our department had an award dinner at the end of every year. At the dinner, they gave awards that had been voted on by the student body which recognized outstanding acting. The faculty also gave out awards to graduating seniors, two to be exact, for outstanding work and for outstanding contribution to the theater department. From my freshman year on, I wanted an award. I was (pathetically) desperate for that kind of validation.
And, of course, year after year I would hear other people's names being called while I popped a forkful of overly-garlicked chicken into my mouth. I got a little depressed about it all. "What," I wondered, "do these guys have that I don't? Why the fuck can't I get just a little recognition that I do good work?"
Then, my senior year, two things happened. First, I helped tally the votes for the student-generated awards and saw that I'd gotten just a few votes less than the guy who won for Best Male Leading Performance. And I thought, "Hey! People liked my work!"
Then, at the award dinner, a housemate of mine--a guy who had been the department Golden Child since freshman year--got not one, but both of the faculty awards. And I thought, "Well, shit. These awards aren't a measure of someone's worth. It's pretty subjective, really. It just means that the faculty like him a whole lot. I mean a whole lot." I knew a number of people who I thought were just as good at acting as him. I knew people who'd contributed just as much to the department. But the faculty just liked him a lot.
(Let me pause for a moment here to state that this guy was--and is--in fact a fantastic actor and remains a friend of mine to this day.)
The thing was, I realized that I needed to stop looking for that kind of outside validation. I needed to stop judging myself by the recognition that other people got when I didn't. I needed to be happy for my friends' successes, because to do otherwise would leave me bitter and resentful for absolutely no good reason.
I bring this up because it applies to the infertility problems that have been haunting my wife and I for the last year and a half. In a weird universal irony, basically every other couple we know who aren't dead set against having kids is either expecting right now or has had a kid within the last year. (Sounds like exaggeration, I know, but there are literally nine couples we know who've grabbed the golden ticket.)
And it's easy, at times like this when you feel like the universe/God/Allah/Johnny Carson is playing some kind of sick joke on you, to begrudge other people their happiness. It's easy to fall into the "Why not me, dammit?" trap. But what the hell good does that do? What's the point in harboring a grudge because other people don't have a problem?
All it really does, in the end, is to keep you from enjoying your life. It drowns any optimism you might have and keeps you mired in self-pity. And that's an utterly shitty place to be mired. Despite the general theme of this blog--and despite the image I've done my best to project over the last, oh, let's say twenty years or so--I'm basically an optimistic person. I have hope. I know that there's a kid in our future, somewhere down the road. I don't know exactly how the road is going to get us there, but I'm sure of the destination.
So, to all of our fecund friends, I say congratulations. We'll be with you in a little while.
Saturday, April 07, 2007
Hail to the Chief
It's baseball season again. Just saying that makes me feel all warm and cozy. My beloved Cleveland Indians are not so warm and cozy. In fact, they've been crushed under the weight of a weekend snowstorm and have not had a chance to play--and beat the living shit out of--the Mariners.
I come, though, not to praise The Tribe, but to whine about them.
I was in the bathroom the other day. I won't say what I was doing, but suffice it to say that our cat had had a very busy day. I took a look in the mirror, at my ratty old Indians t-shirt. Chief Wahoo stared back at me accusingly in the mirror, that big smile of his seemingly asking, "Are you proud of yourself, douchebag? Are you happy to support a team that has me as a mascot?"
And the truth is that I'm not.
The debate has been around for ages, I know. And there are thousands upon thousands of people who think, "What's the big fucking deal?" I can understand their point of view. The name is part of a proud baseball tradition dating back to the early part of the last century. And... Well, actually, that's the only argument I can kind of understand.
Have you looked at Chief Wahoo? Have you seen what a disrespectful caricature of American Indians he is? Can you blame American Indians for protesting this?
Look, I'm not a PC Nazi. I kind of think "hate crimes" have the same amount of hate as regular crimes. I don't think it's a good idea to try to legislate thought. I think that, in general, people get too uptight about this sort of thing and we all would probably benefit from lightening up a bit.
But Chief Wahoo is a bit too much. You'll notice that the Sambo's restaurant chain went out of business a long time ago. You don't see any new Charlie Chan movies popping up in your local cineplex. You think people would feel the same about the Boston Celtics if there mascot wasn't a cute leprechaun, but rather a bloated red-headed dude gnawing on a potato and vomiting on himself while taking a swing at a cop?
And, as some playwright pointed out a long fucking time ago, "A rose by any other name would still smell as sweet." It's Cleveland's team. Would people be any less apt to root for them if they were called, say, the Cleveland Comets? (I'm really proud of that name suggestion, by the way, so kiss my ass if you don't think it rocks.)
I do not claim to have the only valid point of view on this. Neither do I think that people who disagree should be boiled in their own mucous. All I know is that, if the Indians were to change their name, I could enjoy my favorite sport without feeling even a tiny bit guilty.
Friday, April 06, 2007
Mr. Coffee Is an Asshat
I was feeling pissy this morning. I was feeling so incredibly pissy that my wife walked into the kitchen and said, "Why are you so pissy?" I could do nothing in reply but point a shaky finger at our coffee-maker and stammer in rage.
I don't know if other people's coffee-makers do this, but our machine is designed to stop the flow of coffee from the basket if you remove the pot from the warmer. They do this for people who are just so fucking anxious for that first cup that they are physically incapable of waiting until the whole torturous dripping process has finished. I'm guessing there was a lawsuit at some point in which a caffeine-head sued Mr. Coffee for third-degree burns on his pouring hand.
The stop-flow magic is achieved by the inclusion of a lever which the pot hits when in position that, in turn, hits another lever on the grounds basket that uncovers the hole through which the java drips. What this means, unfortunately, is that, if the pot is not in the precise position to hit that lever, the machine figures that the pot isn't there and it stops the flow at the basket.
It does not stop the water coming in from the reservoir. The water continues to flow into the basket but, having no means of egress, it just fills up--and then overflows--the grounds basket, dumping grounds-contaminated, and undrinkable, sludge into the pot.
This is frustrating. Especially before seven o'clock when you haven't had a cup of goddamn coffee. It's frustrating in part because you're looking forward to having your morning jamocha and you think you've done pretty much all you need toward making that happen, only to have the rug pulled out from under you.
It's doubly frustrating because then you have to clean the goddamn coffee-maker, which is not easy because there are grounds all over the fucking place and there's hot water and steam to deal with and the grounds get into all the fucking crevasses and you have to dig them out.
And I was pissy this morning because this happened to me goddamn twice.
Anyway, I'm better now. I'm better because the third time was a charm and I'm sitting here with a delicious mug of my favorite Mexican blend, it's delicate chocolate overtones wafting toward my nose.
I'm better also because I popped my earphones in and gave a listen to the new Fountains of Wayne album, Traffic and Weather. It's just so full of fun songs and playful lyrics that it's difficult for me to listen to it and still be in a bad mood.
I don't know if I'd say that it stands up to Welcome, Interstate Managers, because a few of the tracks have mildly cheesy tunes and there are one or two relatively generic songs on the album. But, on the whole, I love it.
Songs like "'92 Subaru" and the title track actually make me laugh out loud. "Planet of Weed", meanwhile, makes me wish I was still a pot-smoking college kid, because I would have worn out my cassette player listening to it. There are the requisite quasi-country songs that FoW do so well ("Fire in the Canyon" and "Seatbacks and Traytables"). While there isn't one song that I would call a potential pop smash like "Stacy's Mom", I think the album as a whole is really solid and definitely worth the wait.
Hey, I've got to love any album that can quell my coffee-machine rage.
Thursday, April 05, 2007
Stamp Project Update
Okay, so I've been into this Stamp Project for coming up on a week here and, until today, I hadn't written one goddamn letter. It's not easy, folks. There's all that writing and such.
But I got on it today. I cranked out six letters to friends all over the country and I'm dropping them in the mailbox tonight. So...six down.
Except that I also found thirteen more stamps today. Which just throws my balance all to hell. Now I've got more stamps and less time. Son of a bitch.
I think what's going to help is if people I write to actually write back. You get a dialogue going and it's a whole lot easier to use up stamps. But...will that work in this day and age, when e-mail and cell phones and astral projection make instant communication so much easier? Only time will tell, I suppose.
So: Day 6, 53 stamps, 6 letters sent. Oy.
Where's My Goddamn Jetpack?
Stephen is doing hosting duty for this week's Roundtable and he's casting his mind back to the future. Specifically, he's taking a look at our mediocre present in comparison to how folks used to imagine it. And he's finding that we really kind of suck. I, for one, think the world would be a much better place if we'd developed the kind of technology that allowed George Jetson to have a robot maid. I'm thinking this because our apartment could really use some robot cleaning.
Anyway, head on over to Serenade in Green and voice your opinion about how much better the future used to be.
Snow Miser Can Kiss My Ass
This is just not right. I'm a little pissed off, to be truthful. It's fucking snowing. It's snowing on April 5th, three days before Easter.
It's Spring, goddammit! You shouldn't have snow in goddamn Spring!
Now, I know that these things happen. I know that it's just a tiny bit of snow and it's not going to stick and I should just resign myself and get over it.
But I'm on Spring Break, dammit. I should be able to go to the park and play a little frisbee if I want to. I should be able to walk around in flip-flops. I should not have to look out my window and see white flakes falling from the sky. And yet I do.
Son of a bitch.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Hairshirt Easter Horoscope
Aries: It is not okay to make kids hunt for Easter eggs in your pants.
Taurus: In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it, you'll be the most ridiculously overdressed lady in the Easter Parade.
Gemini: This year, you're really hoping to find a marshmallow peep shaped like Jesus.
Cancer: You've found your job working as a shopping mall Easter Bunny so very rewarding that you want to do something equally as meaningful after the holiday. Maybe you could get a job cleaning out port-a-potties.
Leo: You just can't shake your suspicion that there was no Jesus and this whole holiday was created by the egg industry to ratchet up their profits.
Virgo: By all means, buy your kid a huge Easter basket filled with all kinds of candy. It's fun when kids are awake and screaming/running through the house for five days straight.
Libra: Giving up masturbation for Lent was not a good idea. Now, when your family is enjoying a lovely Easter Sunday mass, you're going to be wanking away all morning. Jesus would not be happy.
Scorpio: You're struck by something when you listen to the Pope's mass from St. Peter's this year: Benedict has a sexy motherfucking voice.
Sagittarius: Is your kid really gonna notice that you waited until the day after Easter so you could get his candy at a discount? I think not.
Capricorn: This week, you'll spend hours and hours hand-crafting beautiful, intricately-designed eggs. Which your kids will then ruin in about .5 seconds when they slam them into their baskets at mach 3.
Aquarius: This year, you're haunted by a nagging question that just won't go away: Why the fuck to we call the day when Jesus was crucified "Good Friday"? Wouldn't "Utterly Shitty Friday" be more appropriate?
Pisces: All the decorating you do for Easter; all the shopping you do to find your kids just the right outfits; all the hours you spend cooking for the family's big Easter Sunday feast; none of it makes up for the fact that Easter is a lame-ass holiday with no good opportunities to get fucking drunk.
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
Twelve Gullible Men
Nearly three years ago, I learned an important lesson: jury duty blows and I don't ever want to do it if I can avoid it.
Some time in 2004, I got called in to serve on a Grand Jury. I went to the courthouse, figuring that "grand" meant that we'd all wear smoking jackets and drink champagne. Boy, was I wrong. Turns out, it's the same thing as regular jury duty, but longer. Yuck.
The good news, I was told, was that, having served, I wouldn't be called for at least another four years. Lying bastards.
A month or so ago, I got a "Jury Survey" in the mail. I filled it out and made sure to write in that I wasn't supposed to have to serve again until 2008. Does the State of New York care? No. Heartless pricks. Just because I didn't send them "proof" of my service, they decided they had the right to just call me back in.
So now I've got to trek on down in two weeks and find a way to get out of it. I'm thinking I might just walk into court with my dick out. Seems like they wouldn't want anyone sitting on a jury who walks around with his junk flapping in the breeze, right?
I could also, I was thinking, get real drunk and puke on the judge. Judges hate that, or so I've heard. Then I got a really smooth idea. I remember reading about this juror, years ago, who insisted on coming to the courtroom every day in her Star Trek costume. And I thought, "Hey! What if I did the same thing, but made it a Klan robe?" There's no way they'd have a klansman serve, would they?
I don't know. But somehow, I'm going to dodge this. I might even stoop to bringing in proof that I served three years ago.
But what this has really got me wondering about is, what about all those people who never return the surveys or who just don't show up for jury duty? They make a point to tell the poor shlubs cooling their heels in the courtroom, "All these names we read and nobody answers? Those people are looking at some major fines and possible jail time."
I'm thinking maybe that's bullshit. I'm thinking the smart folks just ignore it and it's only the saps who get roped into actually sitting on a jury. Which really says something about our justice system, doesn't it?
Monday, April 02, 2007
I don't care for Long Island. I'm sorry. I know there are dozens of people who live there and love it. It just doesn't appeal to me. And here's why:
Today, my wife had to go in for some periodontal surgery, a fairly unpleasant procedure in which they ripped the gums off of her teeth, filled her mouth up with insulation and caulk and then wired the whole thing back together. As my wife isn't especially skilled at driving while wiping copious amounts of blood from her chin, I accompanied her to Happauge and then killed time while I waited to drive her home.
There isn't a whole hell of a lot to do in Happauge while waiting for someone to get through periodontal surgery. So I filled a prescription for her. I grabbed a couple of slices of pizza. I stopped by a Starbucks.
Now, in the city, I could have done most of that on the same block. On Long Island, I had to drive to all these places. This is why suburbanites weigh so goddamn much. Ya can't walk. There aren't even any goddamn sidewalks.
Not only did I have to drive, but the roads around there are these obnoxious four lane dealies and you can't turn half the time, so I was constantly having to drive past where I needed to go, make a U-turn and double back. So I gained weight and wasted gas. Yippee!
And so, with apologies to those who choose to live in such a place, I gotta say, I would rather shave my nads with a steak knife than live on Long Island. A dull steak knife.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Notes from the Underpants
I have a little list I keep of things I find unpleasant. David Caruso's on there. So are ingrown toenails.
I can now add Red Onion Farts to the list. Good god.
Shove That Joy Buzzer Up Your Ass
Scientists are saying that the moon is going to explode some time within the next three weeks.
April fools! Ha ha ha ha ha! Oh, my god, that's so funny. Hee hee. Oh, oh my.
I fucking hate April Fools Day. Which is odd, I suppose, because I don't have anything against practical jokes in and of themselves, as long as they're not being televised by Dick Clark or Ashton Kutcher, who should both get rashes on their dongs. I appreciate a good water-bucket-over-the-doorway gag as much as the next guy. I did my share of whoopee cushioning as a lad. I can see the humor in dressing up as a policeman and telling someone their only child was killed in a bus crash.
But April Fools Day just takes something relatively funny and ruins it. Maybe it's because I'm a middle school teacher and, to me, April Fools means that at least four or five dozen kids are going to try the "Mister Wack, your shoe's untied!" thing. Maybe it's because I get irritated that news organizations waste their time on phony stories that nobody would believe for half a second. Or maybe I've just gotten older and can no longer get into the idea of a day when every dickhead has a license to put a bag of flaming dog poop on my porch. (And, yes, I'm aware of the fact that I don't actually have a porch, but I'm trying to make a point, so stop hassling me, man.)
There were, I know, valid reasons behind the creation of April Fool's Day. Historians trace the origin of the holiday to the Spanish Inquisition, when the first of April was set aside as the one day of the year when Torquemada would attempt to convert non-believers by performing hilarious, Christ-positive sketch comedy. It never worked all that well--it didn't help that most of Torquemada's sketches involved repetition of lame catch-phrases and relied too heavily on wigs and make-up--but they kept coming back to it, mostly because of the highly influential Cardinal Shekky, who was a great believer in the transformative power of fart jokes.
But the Inquisition was a long, long time ago, folks. We no longer torture Jews, except for making them listen to Pat Boone Christmas records in the workplace. We don't need this holiday any more.
And so I modestly propose a change: I think we should take the opportunity to create a practical holiday. We should change the first of April to April Tools Day. Make it the day every year when people around the world take out their tools and inspect them to make sure they're still in good working order. Think of how many household accidents could be prevented if we had a day designated for finding frayed power drill cords. Wouldn't it be nice if you knew you were missing your 3mm socket before you had use for it?
April Tools Day. It's the wave of the future.