Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Saturday, July 31, 2004


The Story of Joe and the Stiff Neck

Once up on a time, there was a boy named Joe. He was relatively happy. He had a lovely wife, two dogs who didn't crap in the house and a smoothie maker, which was so superior to a blender, because it had a spout on the bottom through which one could dispense the smoothie without all that hassle of lifting up the jar.

One day, as Joe was enjoying a delicious banana, crabmeat and whey smoothie, he noticed that he had a visitor. It was a stiff neck. The stiff neck was not a friendly visitor. Joe had not invited the stiff neck to come over. Joe didn't want to be rude, so he said, "Why, hello, stiff neck. Is there something that I can do for you? Would you like a smoothie?"

The stiff neck laughed. "I do not care for smoothies," said the stiff neck.

"But they're so healthful and delicious!" cried Joe. "Not to mention smooth!"

"To hell with your smoothies!" yelled the neck, which struck Joe as further evidence of the stiff neck's rudeness.

"Well, if you don't want a smoothie and there's nothing else I can offer you, why have you come?" asked Joe, who then took a sip of his own smoothie.

"I just want to make you miserable," said the stiff neck with a smirk. "Plus, I want to make sure that you look like an idiot whenever you need to turn around to look at something!"

Joe didn't like the sound of that at all. He finished his smoothie and then asked the stiff neck to leave. The stiff neck refused. When Joe tried to force the stiff neck away with some stretching and deep breaths, the stiff neck only laughed at him and stabbed at Joe with what felt like a huge fucking pair of scissors.

"I know!" thought Joe. "I'll seek help from my old friend, Mr. Advil!"

Joe sent Mr. Advil in through his mouth to drive the stiff neck away. When nothing happened for several hours, Joe asked the stiff neck, "Say, did you happen to see Mr. Advil? I sent him to have a chat with you awhile back, but I haven't heard from him."

"And you won't!" cackled the stiff neck, "unless maybe you see him in your stool!"

Over the next few days, Joe did fiercely battle the stiff neck, using aspirin, better pillows, neck rubs from his lovely wife, even Advil smoothies. Nothing seemed to work. Sometimes, the stiff neck would nap for a bit and Joe could almost move normally. Then the stiff neck would wake up and make sure Joe knew he was still around.

Finally, Joe decided that, as long as the stiff neck was around for good, he'd make him feel welcome. Joe made a special smoothie, one part blueberries, one part ice cream and one part his own salty tears. The stiff neck drank the smoothie up and gave Joe a big hug. And Joe and the stiff neck lived miserably ever fucking after.


Thursday, July 29, 2004


Battle of the Network Stars

Okay, so I didn't get to watch any of the convention coverage last night. I've not lived up to my patriotic duty. Neither, apparently did most Americans. I've heard and read story after story this week about how the big three networks have decided to cut back their coverage. And, y'know, it's absolutely fine. PBS does a great job, so I personally say that Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw (plus whatever trained monkey is covering the convention for FOX) can stay the fuck home and let their networks show Who Wants to Completely Lose Their Dignity or whatever piece of dung-encrusted reality trash they want.

Meanwhile, back in New York, my sketch troupe and I have found ourselves in a bit of a quandary. We're doing an anti-Bush show during the Republican National Convention and are trying to figure out what to call it. Initially, we were going with Lick Bush, but, dammit, I think that's just too bumper-stickery.

So I'm asking for your help. Do any of these catch your eye/ear/genitals?

Bush Bash
Kill the President...With Love
George W. Puffenstuff
Right Wing Hootenany
Alphonse D'amato's Persecution Parade
I Came to the Republican National Convention and All I Got Was This Lousy President
Agit-Props to the Peeps
Three Purple Hearts, You Cowardly Fuckbag
Laura Bush Douching
Cheney's Clogged Artery
Fuck the Right
Honkeys for Sharpton
Centrist Flapjacks
Revenge of the Sith
Hey! This Isn't the Lion King!
Get Out the Vote and Shove It Up Your Ass
Bush Has Crotch Rot
Tepid Political Humor
Tic Tac Dough
The Chucklenuts Go Loony

What do you think? Anything standing out? No? Damn.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Whither Cynicism?

There's a story with which I'm sure most of you are familiar. It's about how a young guitar player named Robert Johnson met the Devil at a crossroads. (Ralph Macchio may have been there, too. This is open for debate.) According to the story, Johnson sold his soul to the Devil and, in return, received the ability to play the guitar like nobody else on earth. From that day forward, audiences would sit spellbound as Johnson made music the likes of which had never been heard.

After the second night of the Democratic National Convention, I'm more convinced than ever that the story is true, and that a young politician named Barack Obama has made a similar deal.

How else to explain the extraordinary impact this man made with his first nationally televised speech before he's even been elected to a national office?

Maybe it has to do with the politicians who spoke before him.

First, there was Ted Kennedy, looking for all the world like Mr. Toad from Wind in the Willows, who gave a speech that made me wish he'd been drunker, because then he'd have at least been entertainingly pathetic instead of just long-winded.

Then we had Dick Gephardt, whose political career is now as faded and ethereal as his eyebrows. It took me halfway through his speech to remember that he even ran for president this year.

Following Gephardt, we had Tom Daschle, who shared the typical stories about how he loves to keep in touch with his South Dakota constituents. "I recall a conversation I had with a prostitute in Sioux Falls who took my dick out of her mouth long enough to ask, 'Senator, how am I going to afford health insurance if the Republicans take away my student loans?'"

After that came Janet Napolitano, the governor of Arizona, who is apparently the butcher younger sister of Billie Jean King.

Next there was Howard Dean, desperately trying to solicit that last tiny bit of adulation from the crowd with applause lines from eight months ago. "The democratic wing of the party! Haha...You know, 'cause, 'cause I'm liberal? Is this thing on?" I'm thinking that, after he lost in the primaries, party officials made him remove his testicles and put them in mini-storage. Either that or they had him on some kind of Super-Valium.

Then came the keynote speech. And I was awed. Let me just say that I'd heard the hype beforehand and was prepared to dislike Obama on principle. But when he was speaking, I literally couldn't help but be impressed. He's a fantastic, Clintonian speaker. He actually earned each five second pause for applause. Except for the bits he was obliged to throw in shoving daisies up Kerry's ass, he truly sounded like he has convictions. Convictions! Remember those?

I found myself, totally and without regret, buying into the hype and thinking, "This guy is going to be president someday." And so did the wonks covering the convention, at least those on PBS, who could be heard talking about "the birth of a new political star." This guy is the Tiger Woods of government! And I love it.

The thing is, though, this is all based on one goddamn speech. I have no idea what this guy stands for. For all I know, he could be against stem cell research and for the Star Wars missile defense system. He might be in favor of legalizing public whippings and regulating the amount of syrup I can pour on my flapjacks. But here I am, automatically giving him the benefit of the doubt.

Which is how I know. I know that this guy has made some sort of deal with the Devil. Because my cynicism is powerful mojo. It would take a genuine, Real Deal politician to get past that. And they don't make those anymore. Do they?

Tuesday, July 27, 2004



I don’t know how many of you had a chance—or the inclination—to watch the Democratic National Convention last night, but, man let me tell you, if you love hearing the name John Kerry over and over and over as much as I do, it was a treat. A typical speech went something like this:

“We need a leader of vision, like John Kerry. Y’know who wouldn’t have dragged us unilaterally into an unnecessary war? John Kerry. John Kerry proved his valor in Vietnam and he should be our next president. John Kerry, John Kerry, John Kerry. I have a yeast infection. I bet John Kerry could help me with that. John Kerry, John Kerry, John Edwards.”

The first few speeches that I saw, including those from Al Gore and Senator Barbara Mikulski, were pretty positive affairs, focusing on building up John Kerry and avoiding overt partisanship. Then Jimmy Carter got up there and offered forth a verbal bitch-slap to the Bush administration the likes of which I hadn’t expected from the peaceable peanut farmer. Here’s the excerpts:

“My name is Jimmy Carter, and I'm not running for president. But here's what I will be doing: everything I can to put John Kerry in the White House with John Edwards right there beside him.

"As many of you know, my first chosen career was in the United States Navy, where I served as a submarine officer. I served under two presidents, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower, men who represented different political parties. Both of whom had faced their active military responsibilities with honor.

"They knew the horrors of war, and later, as commanders-in-chief, they exercised restraint and judgment and had a clear sense of mission. We had confidence that our leaders, military and civilian, would not put our soldiers and sailors in harm's way by initiating 'wars of choice' unless America's vital interests were endangered.

"That’s not the case today. Today, we have a coked-up pussy boy in the White House, who sends troops willy-nilly wherever the fuck he wants. I’m so sick and fucking tired of the way that asshole has pissed off our allies around the world that I’d seriously like to run the sumbitch over with a forklift.

"You can’t be a war president one day and a peace president the next, based on the latest polls. Oh, oh, wait, I guess you can if your name is George 'W-for-Wanker' Bush. You know what? Let’s not wait until the election. Let’s kick ‘im out right now.

"No, no! Let go of me! I want a piece of him! Back off, man, I’m Jimmy Motherfucking Carter! I’m’a piss on that bitch-boy’s head!
Vote for John Kerry!”

It was very stirring, let me tell you. Can’t wait for Ron Reagan’s stem cell speech tonight.

Monday, July 26, 2004



Tomorrow and Wednesday, my lovely wife is taking the bar exam. I have absolutely nothing funny to say about the bar exam, really. Except maybe, "Hey, I took the bar exam. I aced the peanuts, but they took points off for puking."

See? It's just not a funny thing. So I've got this request: If you think of it tomorrow and Wednesday between 9AM and 4:30PM, please send up a pleasant thought for my wife doing extremely well. I already have no doubt that she will, but it can't hurt to have good thoughts and/or happy voodoo on your side.

And while you're sending up positive thoughts, wish for something nice for yourself. 'Cause you've been working hard, too.

Sunday, July 25, 2004


A Few Choice Words

The following is a list of phrases I'm ninety-nine percent certain you will never read/hear again outside of this website:
  • really subtle clown
  • my favorite enema
  • intense egg salad
  • The bank that cares about you
  • In George W. Bush's second term...
  • popular pedophile
  • critically-acclaimed Rob Schneider film
  • understated reality show
  • phlegm-scented
  • kid-friendly stripper
  • chocolate-covered artichoke heart
  • happy-go-nihilistic
  • flossing for dummies
  • Academy Award-winner Tara Reid
  • armpit piercing
  • comic book aficionado/ladies man
  • popefucker

Now let's never speak of this again.

Saturday, July 24, 2004


Ich Bein Ein Fanboy

There's a very fine line between being interested in things that might be considered, for lack of a better term, geeky and actually being a huge, mouth-breathing geek. It's not, though, something you can really determine for yourself. Brad Pitt can put on a pair of thick-framed glasses and brandish a pack of Magic the Gathering cards, yelling, "Look at me! I'm a huge nerd!" The rest of the world, though, knows that, no, in fact he is a supercool pretty boy pothead movie star. Conversely, Bill Gates can buy The Shins, make himself lead guitarist and start fucking Beyonce and the world will still say, "Mr. Gates, you are a very rich and powerful geek. But geek you are."

There's a trick in this. The trick is in being cool enough that you can get away with having shamefully geeky habits. This is how Chris Rock can be a twelfth-level dungeon master and nobody thinks less of him. Charlize Theron can have the complete Kenner line of Star Wars figures mint in the box and she's still super hot. Jake Gyllenhall can dress up in medieval costumes on the weekend and go jousting and still hold the anorexic attentions of Kirsten Dunst.

I can't get away with this. I am in no way, shape or form a cool person. I don't know where to find any underground after-hours clubs. I'm never even out "after-hours." I buy clothes at Old Navy. I still really like They Might Be Giants. Not cool. Not even a little.

And so I find myself worried about this nosedive I seem to be taking since moving to New York a few years ago. When my wife and I lived in Seattle--well, first off, she wasn't my wife during the seven years we lived together, so that's a little hipper than marriage right there--we had a fairly large group of friends and we rarely had a dearth of things to do on the weekend. Again, I'm not saying that we were snorting cocaine off of the cast of One Tree Hill, but we went out. Since moving here, my wife's been in law school. This doesn't lend itself to partying.

So we stay in a lot. Consequently, I spend more time on line. And here's where things start to get slightly scary. I have, for many years, been a reader of comic books. I don't deny this if people ask, but I keep my comics--literally--in the closet. You will not see justice League posters in our living room. Neither of our dogs is named Krypto. I do not dress as Swamp Thing at Halloween. Over the last year and a half, though I've been surfing a lot more Comic Book news sites. ("News" is a term used fairly loosely here, as the vast majority of the world could give a shit that there's a new letterer on Teen Titans.)

This weekend, in San Diego, is the huge San Diego International Comic Convention. Think of all the horrifying cliches you can imagine about a comic book convention--the acne, debates over Wonder Woman's bra size, people speaking Klingon--and then multiply it by two hundred thousand and you have San Diego. It's like South by Southwest, Lollapalooza and the Mel Tillis Theater in Branson all rolled into one, but for geeks.

This is where many comic book companies announce their huge projects for the year. They announce new books, they announce changes in writers, they discuss upcoming storylines, etc. And this year--pardon me while I grab a straight razor to slit my wrists open in shame--I'm following the news. Twice daily. Why? Good fucking God, why do I care that Lois Lane will be shot this year? Does it make any tiny bit of difference in the world that Captain Marvel is going to return to the Justice Society? It does not.

I need to get out of the house. I need to be around people who not only don't care that Aquaman now has a magical hand made of water, they don't even know who the fuck Aquaman is. I need to go drink. 'Cause that, that would make me happier with myself.

Friday, July 23, 2004


Misery Loves Company

Welcome to Hairshirt, your site for enjoyable misery.

On this site, you will not find the writings of some guy who believes every thought that squirts out of his brain to hold deep universal truths. You will not find anti-government screeds, unless they are in some sort of humorous form; for example, "Q: How many presidents does it take to change a lightbulb? A: George Bush is a fucking idiot!" You will not find a day-to-day log of my struggle to make it in this soul-crushing world, because I don't try that hard to make it and even I don't find it interesting. You will not find naked pictures. There's enough of those online as is.

I'm a writer living in New York City. I don't have a writing job, I have a teaching job, hence the misery. My wife is preparing to take the Bar Exam, hence more misery. My sketch comedy group never performs because we're painfully shy. My chest hair has turned grey. One of my least favorite people on the planet is achieving massive success. The Cleveland Indians haven't won a championship in fifty-plus years. The American movie-going public seems to think that Sleepover is a good idea. Life sucks.

Which is why I need an outlet through which I can channel the river of crap that is life. And I thank you for being on the receiving end.