Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
The Passion of the Ken
I’m sorry. I’m having a tough time writing right now. I…I can’t seem to make heads or tails of the world at the moment. I feel like I’ve had the rug pulled out from under me. Ken Jennings lost on Jeopardy. He lost. I don’t know if I can go on with life.
Nothing’s making sense anymore. Bush winning reelection, my goldfish dying, the news that I had ass herpes; all of these things I could live with. But…Ken? What the fuck?
I watched the whole thing. I watched as he missed two Double Jeopardy questions. Now, I wouldn’t have known the answers, but Ken? C’mon! And, and, and then, with only a $4,400 lead, he blew one of the easiest questions I’ve ever seen him get. I knew the answer. His opponent knew the answer. The semi-retarded kid who bags my groceries knew the answer.
But not Ken.
A long time ago, I lost my faith in a Judeo-Christian God. I decided that I found the notion of an all-powerful dude who gave a shit about people eating pork and who wasn’t Colonel Sanders just a bit ridiculous. I sought comfort in the more earth-bound signs that life isn’t without meaning, things like laughing children, the sunset along the Seine, marijuana. Then He came along.
He seemed to know everything. He smiled beatifically. He bore ill will toward no one. He came through every trial. He won more than two million dollars. He seemed like the one stable force in my ever-shifting life. But apparently I was a fool. Apparently he was a false god. This grinning Mormon who never wrote his name the same way twice.
I have no idea how I’ll go on. I don’t know if the sunrise will see me still walking on this Ken-forsaken earth. I don’t know anything anymore. I know only the bitter, bitter heartbreak of a Ken Jennings loss.
Damn you, Alex Trebec. Damn you to hell.
Monday, November 29, 2004
I’ve been getting so many people who, having read my wisdom-filled posts, have written to me asking advice on everything from how to best prepare Lamb with Mint Chutney to how to give their wives multiple orgasms using a tuba that I felt it just wasn’t right to deny them my incredible insight. So I’m taking today to give you, the miserable and the misery-enjoying, the benefit of my keen, keen mind by answering your pathetic cries for help.
My mother-in-law was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which came as a huge shock to the whole family, especially my wife and I, who had just borrowed a large sum of money from her. My dilemma is this: if, because of the Alzheimer’s, she no longer remembers that we borrowed the money, are we still obligated to pay her back? I mean, wouldn’t it just confuse her?
I’m a bit shocked and very much appalled by your question. Should you take advantage of a sick woman—a woman who needs your understanding, support and love, now more than ever—in order to further your financial status? Of course you should. Borrow more money. Those leeches in the health care industry are going to be sinking their fangs in soon enough. Get now while the getting’s good.
I’m having problems with my business partners. I opened up a store with them after my old business literally went up in flames. These girls are like daughters to me, but they’ve got no business savvy and they’re really in over their heads, which is, by coincidence, the name of the store. Their incompetence is going to sink this store quickly, and they’re going to drag me down with them. Legally, is there a way I can get out of this venture with my credit, reputation and bank account intact?
Legally? No. Legally, you took these girls on as partners and now you’re stuck with them. It doesn’t sound like you can buy them out and you can’t force them out. Illegally, though, there’s plenty you can do. You say these girls are like daughters to you, which means having them killed probably isn’t an option. Have you thought, though, about getting rid of the store? You say your last store went up in flames. If it happened once, it could happen again. To paraphrase the late, great Stephen King, “A little arson can be an unhappy woman’s best friend.”
I’m not dead. I’m just pale.
Whoops! My bad. Maybe if you wrote something I wanted to read, I wouldn’t be making these mistakes.
I’m pregnant and I’m not sure who the father is. See, my boyfriend and I broke up a few weeks ago and I had a one-night fling with a friend of mine. Then my boyfriend and I decided to give it another shot. Now, either of them could be the father and I just don’t know what to do. I didn’t tell my boyfriend about the fling with my friend; I don’t know how he’d react. And if it is my friend’s, I know he doesn’t want to settle down and I don’t think I’d want to settle down with him anyway. I need help.
Charleston, West Virginia
A couple of things pop into my head right off the bat. The first is that you probably shouldn’t have signed your real name. That was pretty fucking dumb, especially if your boyfriend or your friend can read. The second thing is that you’re a whore. A filthy, filthy whore! Hark ye, daughter of Jezebel! If ye fail to repent and mend thy devil-sucking ways, the baby scrabbling at thy teet will be the least of thine worries, paling in comparison to the lake of eternal hellfire that awaits ye and all other fornicators who defile the temples of thine bodies. So good luck with that.
That’s all the advice I have time for, folks. So now you’re going to have to solve the rest of your problems on your own.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
The Way I Were
During a very pleasant apres-dinner conversation on Thanksgiving, my wife, our friends and I got on the topic of past lives. My friend has an aunt who claims to remember multiple past lives and uses them to explain the type of life she leads now. The concept of multiple lives, over the course of which we undergo the full spectrum of human experience to wind up, ultimately, as completely well-rounded cosmic beings, is a fascinating one. It's not just karma; it's not merely a matter of being forced to live the life you earned the last time through. It's having a different type of journey each time through. I find the idea really intriguing. It has led me to form some hypotheses about what sort of lives I must have lived prior to this incarnation.
I'm guessing that I must have, some time within my last three or four lives, been incredibly successful. I must have lived a life wherein I experienced a meteoric, effortless rise to the top of my field. I would have probably never known what it's like to work a crappy day-job, having immediately reached the place where I wanted to be in life. This would balance out an incarnation that finds me 34 years old and scraping together subway fare.
There must have been a life in which I was a neat-freak. In that life, I would have been the type of person whose bedroom seems to always be ready for military inspection and who would sooner die than let the dishes pile up for days on end. Having come to this conclusion, I find it much easier to be at peace with my current level of slovenliness.
Somewhere in there, I imagine I was a guy who not only understood and met every need of my spouse, but had an almost telepathic sensitivity to her whims before she expressed them and never had to be told to do anything five times. When I was this person, I'm sure I never gave my wife cause to hurl things at my head.
I'm almost certain I lived the life of a hipster, someone who was always on top of every trend and was thought of as "cool" or "groovy" or whatever adjective best described, at that time, a person who never felt clueless or out of touch with cultural zeitgeist.
If I ever talk to a past-lives therapist, they will surely tell me that I was a country housewife at some point. The type of person who, today, would really love Hummel figures.
My god, think of all the lives I've probably led. Lives in which I wasn't grouchy, flabby, gluttonous or financially retarded. Lives in which I had a green thumb or triple-digit sexual conquests. Lives in which I had tremendous ability to sing, fix cars, play sports, understand the tax code or tolerate moronic presidents. In these past lives, I was great!
So if I want to take this life to sit around scratching my ass and reading Justice League, that's exactly what I'm going to do. I'll save the planet in my next go round. Or the one after.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Aries: A word of advice on your post-Thanksgiving shopping—it doesn’t matter how good a bargain you’ve found, it is never a good idea to pull a switchblade at Target.
Taurus: You’re far too anxious about cooking dinner tomorrow. To the point where you stand a good chance of waking up at 4 AM to the horrifying discovery that you’ve crammed your husband’s ass with bread, onions and herbs.
Gemini: Your holiday plans are hampered by the fact that most drivers are more hesitant to pick up a vomit-covered hitchhiker than you’d anticipated.
Cancer: Now that the holiday season has officially begun, you can finally wear those hilarious fake antlers 24-7. That’ll have the damsels lined up outside of your door.
Leo: The fact that you look forward to those celebrities “singing” during the parade does not speak well of your intellect.
Virgo: Let’s face it, unless you super glue them to the children’s table, your out-of-control nieces and nephews are going to trash your place. So for Christ’s sake, get the super glue.
Libra: It’s not the fact that you’re serving jelly beans, popcorn and toast that has your dinner guests so appalled, it’s the fact that it was mostly prepared by a dog and a bird. Do you have any idea how much guano must have gotten on the pretzels?
Scorpio: When your sexy neighbor asks you for help “stuffing her turkey”, she’s really asking for help with her turkey. So put the condoms back in your hope chest, chief.
Sagittarius: Your super-fun Thanksgiving party isn’t quite as well-attended as you’d hoped. Next time, you might want to rethink the whole “Come as Your Favorite Open Sore” theme.
Capricorn: You experience the most wonderful Thanksgiving you’ve ever had, largely because of your discovery of a Dharma & Greg marathon on TBS.
Aquarius: You find Thanksgiving is pretty much meaningless to you this year, which isn’t really surprising, as you live in Ghana, where they don’t celebrate the holiday.
Pisces: Frozen pie crust? You fucking disgust me.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
I'm Giving Thanks
Thanksgiving is almost upon us. As I will be on the road to Baltimore on Thursday, and tomorrow is Horoscope Day, I thought I'd take some time today to spread a little love around and let the world know about all of the things for which I'm giving thanks this year. That is, after all, the purpose of this holiday, along with gluttony, retail sales and forced proximity to one's family.
So, for 2004, I am thankful...
Have a lovely Thanksgiving. Enjoy the Macy's Commercial Parade, featuring balloons and floats with all the product placement nearest and dearest to your hearts. And don't forget to get out and shop, shop, shop the day after. Sure, it's a crowded hellish clusterfuck in every mall and department store, but you'll be doing your part to keep our economy running strong.
Monday, November 22, 2004
A Thanksgiving Tale
The woman looked at him, with his dirty ruffled collar and the tarnished buckles on his shoes, and immediately averted her eyes. He knew he wasn't pleasant to look at, but had these people no humanity? A fat man in a t-shirt that barely covered his jiggling belly walked by. Carl gave it another shot.
The fat man barely had the courtesy not to step on him. His fat foot gave Carl's thigh a kick as he attempted to walk over him. Carl took a pull on his bottle. He was going to have to stand up. These bastards wouldn't ever come toward you to give you money. You had to get in their faces. It wasn't really Carl's way, but he had no choice.
He hoisted himself to something resembling upright and lurched across the sidewalk to a mailbox. He noticed that he'd soiled his kneesocks. He attempted to straighten up his felt hat, which was a little crumpled, kind of like his soul. He hated this time of year. Then he heard something. From down the sidewalk, at the bus stop, he heard a snatch of a song. His song. There was a youngish woman with two bags of groceries at her feet. She looked very much in the spirit of the holiday. Carl took a couple of deep breaths to clear his head, then walked down the sidewalk toward her.
The woman stopped the song somewhere between the river and Grandmother's house. He saw the pity in her eyes the second she looked at him and he knew that this was a good mark. Beyond that, he could tell, from something in the way she carried herself, maybe, or perhaps because a quick glance into the bag revealed that she'd bought real cranberries and shortening instead of premade pie crusts, that she truly held Thanksgiving in her heart.
She reached into her purse and pulled out a few quarters and a shiny dime. "Here ya go." She dumped the change into Carl's outstretched hand. She smiled at him a second longer, then went back to looking for the bus. Maybe Carl should have taken that as a sign to move along, but it had been so long, he had to ask.
"Do you recognize me?" The woman looked a bit disconcerted that handing Carl some change hadn't concluded their interaction.
"No," she said. "I'm sorry, should I?"
"I'm Carl, goddammit!" Nothing from this wench but a puzzled, cow-like stare. "Carl the Thanksgiving Pilgrim? The icon of the harvest feast? Y'know, 'God be with ye. Happy Thanksgiving!'" The woman looked down at her shoes. Carl brought her face back up to his with a cold, hard stare.
"I'm sorry. I, I thought there were just...y'know The Pilgrims. I didn't realize there was one special one." She scooted her groceries closer to her.
"Well there is, goddammit. And he's me, Carl!" Hazel the Halloween Witch and he had commiserated about this very problem over some paint-huffing last week. "I bet you love that fat fuck Santa Claus, don't you? I just bet you squeal with delight at the thought of that fascist bastard bringing you gifties."
"I...I..." the stupid, stupid woman stammered.
"Well you and Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny can just lick my fucking ass!" The woman picked up her groceries and ran down the street to the next bus stop. Carl put the change in his pocket. He thought, "I fucking hate this holiday."
Sunday, November 21, 2004
So Tom Delay gets to keep his job as House Majority Leader despite his indictment. There's a decent chance that an amendment will be added to the constitution to allow Arnold Shwarzenegger to run for the presidency. The CIA will no longer be providing actual intelligence, just reports to back up whatever the White House says. Seems like the GOP is grabbing its "mandate" and running with it. Which got me to thinking what other rule changes they might have in the works.
I don't know about you, but I think this exciting new direction for our country is going to make things a lot better. After all, what did "debate" and "public discourse" ever get us? Nothin' but trouble.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Oh dear fucking God. So I'm part of this program called New York City Teaching Fellows. They take people who've been working professionally for a number of years and train them to be public school teachers. You have a six-week course in the summer and then BOOM, you've got your own class. The first year is exceptionally brutal.
My mentor from last year recently asked me to give a speech at a reception for first-year teachers. She asked me because I'd had such a rotten year last year, but stuck it out, and this year am doing a lot better in a new position at a new school. She also asked me because I write comedy and she thought I could be funny. I said yes. The reception was last night and I gave my speech.
Apparently, my friends who were in the audience told me, the Regional Superintendant (along with other high mucketty-mucks) cringed and scowled during my speech. Then, this morning, I got a call from my poor mentor, who told me she'd been told to report to her supervisor's office on Monday morning to explain her "choice in speakers." She asked me to write a note stating that she had no knowledge of the content of my speech before I gave it.
I'm fucking pissed. Here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to post the speech today. I'd like some feedback. Was it not evident that it was meant to be funny? Would it have driven you from the educational field, were that your profession? Or are these people fucking morons? Tomorrow, I'll post the letter I wrote to them. [Edit: No, I won't. One day on this shit is enough.] Gaaaaaah!
I remember very well what I was doing at this time last year. I was drinking heavily. Mostly bourbon, but also the occasional mojito. Last year was, no exaggerating, the most difficult year I’ve ever had. And that’s including 2001, in which I lived through an earthquake, an apartment fire and September 11. So that’s saying something.
Anyway, last year sucked. They had many of these sort of New Teacher gatherings last year. I didn’t go to one of them. My enthusiasm was so squashed, my dislike for what I was doing was so intense that I didn’t want to be around the sort of people who I imagined coming to these things, the first year teachers who were enthusiastic and happy, the sort of first year teachers who had natural class-management skills. The first year teachers who had their bulletin boards up a week early, who walked their class noiselessly up and down the stairwells, whose students all aced the fifth grade social studies test, thanks to their amazing coaching skills. God, I hated them.
I was the other kind of first-year teacher. I was the kind of first-year teacher who took until March to finally get in the habit of writing out more than one day’s worth of lesson plans at a time. I was the kind of first-year teacher who lost his voice from yelling. I was the kind of first-year teacher who had to work really, really hard to reign in those impulses we all have to chuck kids out the window.
I remember my first observation. It was a train wreck. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did. My kids were unruly, my organization was poorly thought out, I didn’t get the ideas across. I sat down with my A.P. afterwards and he asked me how I thought the lesson had gone. I went, point by point, through everything I’d messed up. He was impressed that I was aware of all the problems. He still gave me the Unsatisfactory rating, but he was glad that I at least knew how badly I sucked.
The year wore on. I constantly had colleagues tell me one of two things: They said either, “Yes, things are bad now, but as soon as Fill in the Blank comes, it’ll be better.” “Oh, they’re better at Christmas.” “Oh, February, it’s a whole new ball game and it’s so much better.” “Yes, this time of year is always the pits. But after Easter, when we’re in the home stretch, it gets better.” Or they’d tell me…exactly the opposite. “Oh, right before Christmas, they’re holy terrors.” “Oh, I hate March. There’s no breaks and the kids are horrible.” “Oh, once they take their end-of-the-year tests, they’re out of control.” All of this I heard. Depending on who you listened to, happy days were right around the corner or the End Was Near. Turns out it was the latter.
As the year went on, my class got worse. I kept waiting for one of those magic moments I heard in speeches during our summer Fellows training. “For months, Tiffany would hiss and yowl and come at me with a switchblade. Then I read her Charlotte’s Web and now she gives me hugs whenever she sees me!” I didn’t have any of those moments. Instead, I got treated to week-long stretches where I was filling out incident reports daily. I still had no real clue what I was doing. Every day was just survival.
About a month before the end of school, I had a day with about three fights in my class. I had students walk out every period. I sat down with my principal and A.P. They asked me what I thought should be done about my class. Let me say that again. They asked me what I thought should be done. I was a first year teacher. How the hell would I know? They decided that it might be a good idea to break up my class. They would split my class among the other already over-crowded fifth-grade classrooms and I would then be used to provide extra preps to the teachers who had my kids. Mind you, this is after we’d already taken the class picture, which, I had thought, firmly establishes you as a class. They offered this solution like they’d already tried everything. Like they’d given me all the support I’d ever needed.
At this point, I wanted, more than I had all year, to quit. Then I thought of all the work I’d put in up to that point. I thought of how I’d feel if I’d just given up. I thought of how truly crappy the job market is under Bush. And I decided that I’d rather grit my teeth and crawl to the finish line. Which I did. My principal never got around to splitting my kids up. I’d asked her not to, but I don’t know if she actually listened to me or if she just never found the time to do it.
I got through the last month and a half by counting the days every morning. I kept reminding myself that soon I would have two solid months off, as long as you didn’t count the classes I’d have to take. I put my shoulders down and I did it. It wasn’t fun. When my kids had their graduation ceremony, they didn’t hug me as much as other kids hugged their teachers. I didn’t have quite the warm and fuzzy, tears-in-my-eyes, I’m-going-to-miss-them feeling that I imagine some teachers had. I was just relieved that it was over.
This year, I’m at a different school. We’re half-way through November. I really, really don’t want to jinx things, but I will say that this year is about a thousand times better. I’m still not great. I have not achieved mastery of classroom management. I have still yelled on occasion. But I’m teaching something for which I have passion. I’ve found that being a cluster teacher suits me way better than having my own classroom. I’m at a school which has its problems, but has problems it’s easier for me to deal with. It’s still hard. But I’m not generally suicidal.
So, when speaking to first year teachers, I guess I would have to say that, even if it’s bad, you can get through it. It may seem like your year is crawling by and you will be forever trapped in a…a kind of hell, really. You may decide before it’s over that you aren’t cut out to teach. It happens. But before you make a decision to quit, try to put things in perspective. The first year will end. If you stick it out, you’ll be better for having gone through it. At the very least, you’ll have proved that you can go through all that without chucking a kid out the window. And that’s an accomplishment.
That's it. That's the speech that got my former mentor in trouble. Is it that fucking evil? Once again, all I've got is Gaaaaahh!!
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Kick the Fuck out of the Habit
Today is the Great American Smokeout, a day when smokers across the country--and our tobacco-addicted friends up north, too--are encouraged to finally give up cigarettes. I know there's nothing worse than a sanctimonious ex-smoker, but I've gotta say: I quit nearly six years ago and it's one of the best things I ever did. So I thought I'd take today to help those who are still hooked on those "coffin nails"--mercy, what a clever expression that is--and offer some Tips to Quit Smoking.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Aries: Some things you need to get clear before you conduct any more on-line business: There is no banker in Zaire who needs you to deposit his money in your account; the e-mail from the "Biling Depratment" wasn't sent by your ISP; your penis will not be enlarged. It's tiny. Deal with it.
Taurus: Your dreams this week are haunted by a mysterious figure in black. Don't worry, it's not the grim reaper. It is, however, the late Paul Lynde. Personally, I think the reaper is less disturbing.
Gemini: You are plagued by the inescapable notion that you left your iron on this morning. Do not worry. You don't own an iron. I mean, come on, just look at your pants. Have they ever even seen an iron? I think not.
Cancer: Your dreams of becoming a celebrated inventor are dashed when you finally realize that the world doesn't need or want a condom made out of coleslaw.
Leo: And on a star-spangled night, my love, you can rest your head on my shoulder. While by the dawn's early light, my love, I will defend your right to cry. Love American-style. That's me and you!
Virgo: Before making travel plans, re-evaluate your budget. The trip to Jamaica will have to wait. You can, however, afford to get stoned and sit in your bathtub while you play a Ziggy Marley CD. Oh, wait. Never mind. You can't afford the CD, either. Well, you can hum.
Libra: That's not dry skin. That's leprosy.
Scorpio: Shaving your ass may seem like a good idea right now. When your buns start itching like crazy at work, you may see things a little differently.
Sagittarius: The acid is just about to kick in and you jklasgr 0894wnkl sajkl zxnmjias!@.
Capricorn: You are not ready for children. You are not ready for a dog. You are not ready for a goldfish or a houseplant. You are, in fact, pretty much in need of a nanny for yourself.
Aquarius: You meet the man you are destined to marry this week. Don't let the fact that he's wearing milk carton shoes and has his dick out put you off.
Pisces: You are promoted at work! You're moving from the fry station to the McNuggets! Your master's degree is finally paying off. Mazel tov!
Monday, November 15, 2004
So Long to the Sane One
Goodbye to the one sane person in an administration that puts the ass in assholes. Goodbye to the guy who always seemed to be standing off to the side cringing as the worst of the shit was happening. Goodbye to the voice of reason in a chorus of ululating zealots. Goodbye to the only kid on his side of the seesaw.
I'm betting you'll see the speed lines when Powell actually leaves his office. The sinking feeling he had when it hit home the kind of people he was working with had to have been of Titanic-post-iceberg proportions. It must have been something akin to accepting a job at an animal shelter because you love puppies and then finding out you're the one in charge of euthanasia.
This is a guy who had clout. The American people loved him. He had to hold a press conference to tell the world that he wasn't going to run for president. I didn't run for president either and absolutely nobody gave a shit. But Powell had people begging him to do it. When Team Bush announced that he'd accepted Secretary of State, you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief around the country, people thinking, "Well thank God for that. At least we know Bush can't fuck up that badly when Colin Powell is in charge of foreign policy."
The problem, of course, was that Powell was in charge of precisely squat. Instead, he was sent all over the world to apologize for the dipshits who were steering the ship. He was, on more than one occasion, forced to revise his statements when he'd accidentally said something intelligent that contradicted Bush Doctrine, or "The Holy Word" as it was called in the West Wing.
In clashes with Donald Rumsfeld, Powell always got the fuzzy end of the lollipop, largely because the Defense Department is the one that has all the guns. Having huge diplomacy just isn't as impressive. And so Powell was force-fed a steady diet of shit sandwiches for which he had to say thank you, the biggest of which he ate in front of the U.N. and the entire world, the day he stood there and made a phony case for war against Iraq.
This war, you have to believe, was waged in a way that probably had Powell banging his head on his desk late into the evening. You have to figure that, somewhere in his home, Powell has a punching bag with Cheney's picture on it. I know the last time I hated my co-workers so much, I hid an egg in the break room my last day of work so the stench would eventually drive them all insaner.
And now, the man who had so much potential, who had such a future in American politics, is the one ostracized by the popular kids. It's like the football team had him write all of their term papers and then outed him at the homecoming dance. Whatever simile you use, the man has to be bitter with a capital Fuck You. I hope he didn't sign a confidentiality agreement or anything, 'cause I'd love to read his tell-all book. He's a straight-shooter, though, so he'll probably stay mum on the details for a couple decades. What a pity.
So here's to you, Colin Powell. Bet your bottom dollar the job will now go to someone a whole lot dumber.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
I Fall to Pieces
Thanks to a technical glitch at Blogspot, I just lost a post I'd been working on for about an hour and a half. I find myself now in no mood to write it over again this evening. Instead, I'm just going to mope. So here's some things about which I'm currently sad:
This calls for some deep, deep sighing.
Friday, November 12, 2004
He Writes the Songs, He Writes the Songs
I know you've probably heard the same things I have about why John Ashcroft is resigning as Attorney General: He wants to spend more time with his family; he's too controversial after the PATRIOT ACT thing; his alien masters have recalled him to planet Zygo. Any one of these sounds plausible to me. Except that I just heard from a very well-placed source in the Justice Department (which always sounded like a really cool government-sanctioned splinter group of the Justice League to me) that the real reason is nothing quite so pedestrian.
The truth? The man simply wants to devote more time to his musical career. Thanks to Michael Moore, we've all had the great good fortune of seeing/hearing Ashcroft's melifluous warbling of Let the Eagle Soar. Well friends, let me be the first to inform you that you ain't heard nothing yet. The soon-to-be-former Top Sheister in the Land has a brand new album coming out in early '05 and yours truly just so happens to have received a copy of the liner notes. Unfortunately, my source at Justice wasn't able to send me the album itself, but she tells me that a friend in the steno pool (I didn't realize there still was such a thing as a steno pool, but apparently Ashcroft had them reinstall one as soon as he took office as part of a bold initiative to take our country back to the good old days of the 1950s) was asked to type the liner notes up and she ran off a few extra copies.
The album is dedicated "...to George, who believed in me when the people of my home state had kicked me to the curb and pissed all over me." Ashcroft thanks Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld and the entire cabinet, along with Jimmy Buffet and Wang Chung. The really great part, though, is the song lyrics. The album seems to be a sort of Country & Western affair, as the lists of musicians who played on each of the songs tend to list "Second slide guitar," "bow fiddle" and a little something called the "corn-cob harmonikay." The songs--and there are thirteen of them--are all originals, with the exception of a somewhat inexplicable cover of The Theme from Shaft. The titles of Ashcroft's songs fill one with anticipation. Songs like "I'm Not at Liberty to Love You", "All My Rowdy Friends Have Now Found Jesus, Thank You Very Much" and "Missin' Joe McCarthy" all sound destined to shoot to the top of the charts.
I don't have space to share everything, but here're the lyrics to my two favorite songs:
Hey! What You Been Reading?
You were lookin' at me
In the lib-er-ar-y
I was standin' in the checkout li-i-ine.
Wasn't gettin' nothing fancy
Just the latest from Clancy
And I thought you looked so mighty fi-i-ine.
But to my dismay
What I learned that day
Was there's no way you will ever be mi-i-ine.
Hey there beautiful, what you been reading?
'Cause it looks from where I sit like your heart's a-bleeding.
By the looks'a what you checked out
There don't seem to be no doubt
That a lengthy term in jail's what you're a needing.
Hey hey hey hey hey! What you been reading?
You were settin' off sparks
With that book by Marx
And despite your smokin' bo-o-od,
I don't want to nag
But it sends up a flag
When you're readin' all about the jiha-a-ad
There's no Mother Goose
And no Doctor Seuss
Y'see the FBI is findin' it o-o-odd.
(Repeat chorus twice, fade)
I Stole Your Rights, You Stole My Heart
Little darlin', when you walked right my door
I didn't think that I could take no more.
I watched you walk away from me
So now I've curtailed your liberty
I stole your rights, you stole my heart.
I stole your ri-i-ights, you stole my heart
I should've seen you'd leave right from the start.
You tell me that you're leavin' me,
But you cain't talk if your speech ain't free.
I stole your rights, little lady,
You stole my heart.
Saw your picture in the paper yesterday.
It was you and your fiancee (he looked gay).
You've made me feel just like a clown
So now I'm shuttin' the paper down.
I stole your rights, you stole my heart.
Well I guess our love's a ship that's now done sailed,
But it looks like my heart's still securely jailed.
Well it may just be there awhile
Hey, it might never come to trial.
I stole your rights, you stole my heart.
(Repeat Chorus twice, fade out.)
I think this album is going to sweep next year's CMA Awards, along with the People's Choice Awards and the Latin Grammys. Good luck, John-John, in your next brilliant career.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Where Have You Gone, Yasser Arafat?
I remember the first time I met the man. I was knocking them back in a little dive in Tel Aviv, trying to drown the misery of my latest divorce, this one from Marla, who'd run off with the guy who married us about an hour into the honeymoon. I was on my fourth round out of a probable twenty when this scruffy-looking little fella in a checkered head wrap plopped himself down two barstools over.
"Davood, gimme a Heineken," he said, knocking a cigarette loose from his pack. He looked like I felt: too depressed to sleep, too tired to cry.
I tossed a few extra shekels on the table. "That one's on me, chief," I told the guy doing the fetching.
Yasser took a quick swig and then tipped the bottle in my direction. "In that case," he paused to light his smoke, "make it two." He offered me a cigarette and I disappointed myself by taking one. The smoke nearly made me wretch. It was fucking great.
I slid the peanuts in his direction. "Problems with your lady, Cochise?" I was desperate for some commiseration. Misery doesn't just love company, it positively joneses for it.
"Nah," he said. "My people were displaced when the Jews founded Israel and now we're being shoved into a tiny little area and our oppressors are showing signs of wanting even that. Zionists. Can't live with them, can't overcome their superior armaments and their support from America."
I sucked the last bit of vodka from my ice cubes and waved the empty glass in the general direction of the bartender. "Listen, pal," I told my stubbly-chinned new friend, "I'm on my fifth wife. Fifth divorce, I mean. I been kicked out of more beds than a flatulent hooker and I'm still going. I grant you, it may look like I'm not doing so well tonight, but that's 'cause the wound is fresh. Come tomorrow, I will be landing on my good foot and hitting the ground running. I'd be willing to bet that I'll be on the prowl for my next ex-wife this time Tuesday. If I can do that, don't even try to tell me that establishing a homeland in a politically and theologically volatile region is that tough."
"Wow," he said. "Either this Heineken is a lot stronger than I figured or you're starting to make sense to me." He offered another smoke, which, to the damnation of my eternal soul, I took.
"I'm telling you, pal," I told him, looking him right in the eye, but occasionally looking at an ingrown eyebrow hair that had caused a nasty inflammation near the bridge of his nose, "You just manage to even sit down and talk with those guys without going nuclear and you'll get yourself the Nobel Peace Prize."
"Yes," he said. "I will win the Nobel Peace Prize and then Madonna will convert to Judaism."
A little vodka spilled out my nose on that one, I laughed so hard. And that was it. We were friends. We'd call each other up every few months or so and meet for drinks. He'd try to argue that he'd never been what you'd really call a terrorist and I tried to argue that a few bought and paid-for blowjobs on business trips didn't constitute infidelity. He had really strong feelings on infidels.
We drifted apart after he moved to Ramallah. I was busy with my start-up. He was under house arrest for years. We still traded birthday cards, though. I miss him. How can you not miss a guy who does such a wicked Clinton impression? Yeah, Yasser taught me that a person can be responsible for bringing terror into negotiations with his ideological opposites and still play a mean game of darts.
Sleep well, sweet Bumpy Face.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Aries: Nobody on the train is fooled by your sniffing the air and saying, "Oh my God! Who did that?"
Taurus: For single Taureans, this may be the week you find true love! For married Taureans, this may be the week you find a completely unexpected STD. Whoops!
Gemini: Having already completed all of your Christmas shopping is not something you should brag about. It doesn't make you "super efficient." It makes you "completely without a life" and "an obnoxious dipshit." Having said that, I really hope you got me that new Neko Case CD I asked for.
Cancer: Congratulations! You're the new Attorney General! God knows you couldn't fuck it up worse than the last guy.
Leo: You live up to your sign this week when you show the courage of a lion in dealing with adverse situations. Unfortunately, you also show your sign's tendency to maul and eat gazelles during a trip to your local zoo.
Virgo: Everything works out for you and you get everything you've ever desired in life. No, I'm kidding. Actually, you've got a tumor.
Libra: Don't go to bed with no price on your head. No, no. Don't do it. Don't do the crime if you can't do the time. No, no. Don't do it. And keep your eyes on the sparrow, when the going gets narrow. Why can't I go where the cold wind won't blow? Well, well, well, well, well.
Scorpio: This is not a good time to make major decisions regarding your finances. It's okay to shell out a buck fifty for some eggs, but that should be about the limit to your spending.
Sagittarius: Peeing in a confessional booth and pistol-whipping a nun is not a good way to "call God out." Just leave God a message and he'll get back to you when he can. He's fucking busy, dude.
Capricorn: You're feeling underappreciated this week, like everyone takes you for granted. This will not last, Capricorn. Once you kill the first hostage, they'll see just how important you are.
Aquarius: Your corn muffins are burning!
Pisces: You're starting to get the feeling that sitting at home on Fridays, watching Hope & Faith and The George Lopez Show isn't quite fulfilling enough. Pal, that's what Pay-Per-View is for!
Monday, November 08, 2004
I came home from class tonight and my wife was watching one of the reality shows wherein two families switch wives/mothers for a period of time and, when the cultures clash and the hackles are raised, hilarity doth inevitably ensue. At first, I was appalled. I was appalled for a number of reasons, one being that the patriarch of one family was a mullet-sporting, terbaccer-chawin' Fan of Foxworthy and I feel that we already have far too many of these on television as is. Another issue I had with this program is that I truly don't give a Pope-fart how upset lil' Johnny is that his "new mommy" makes him eat tofu.
But then I got to thinking of all the ways that this program could be interesting. So I've come up with a whole bunch of variations on the genre, at least three of which I'm fairly certain will be picked up by UPN, 'cause I've looked and they ain't got shit on right now.
In this version, groups of prostitutes exchange pimps for a week. The hookers have to get used to a whole new style of beating, they have to get hooked on new drugs and, inevitably each week, the pimp feels that his new whores are disrespecting him.
Trophy Wife Swap
We throw in a fun twist with this one. Both wives are jettisoned for two weeks, to be replaced by young, nubile twenty-somethings, with whom the husbands are required to have sex. Most of the family conflict comes when the fathers change their wills to redistribute their estate in the trophy wives favor. There's much fun to be had in watching how miserable the fathers are when they have to go back to how things were.
Future Wife Swap
This one has some interesting sci-fi elements to it. A present-day house wife is swapped for one from 1000 years in the future. The first episode gets particularly wacky when the wife from the future mistakes her new children for cyborgs and executes them all.
Golden Retriever owners trade canines with German Shepard owners in this Animal Planet edition. The dramatic tension builds as each owner has to adjust to picking up a whole different kind of poo. In the pilot episode, a chihuahua owner can't get used to a basset hound's incessant barking.
For two weeks, America gets to swap leaders with another country. The series highlights both the good (Jacques Chirac gets all Americans universal health coverage) and the bad (Bush uses the Icelandic Army to invade North Korea).
Real Wife Swap
Two pairs of swingers swap wives for sexual thrills. All four participants are as grotesque as most swingers usually turn out to be, so the sex is less titillating and more erection-killing.
America's Funniest Hidden Wife Swaps
This version is essentially the same as the one running currently on ABC, with a few key differences: The show is shot entirely with hidden cameras, which allows the producers to do the whole thing without letting the family's children know what's going on. Instead, they're told that Mommy died in a hunting accident and Daddy has remarried. The emotional stakes are ratcheted way, way up.
David Caruso is sent to the Vegas one, Gary Sinise is moved to Miami and the tubbo with the dyed beard is switched to New York. It makes no difference whatsoever.
Two people spend a week using each others kidneys, lungs or spleens.
Two convenience mart managers trade stores for two weeks. Each comes to appreciate how lucky they are that they get along with their Slurpee machine repairmen.
For one week, two holy men change religions. The audience gets the thrill of learning the differences between two theological philosophies, plus the fun of seeing a baptist minister trying to pronounce anything in Hindi.
We've exchanged Bob's regular coffee with new Folger's Crystals. Let's see if he notices.
All of these are gems. And a few of them, I think, will be winging their way to your city during next summer's burn-off season.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
King of Pain
Most people, I would surmise, don't like being hurt. Most people, on discovering that something causes them pain, will strive to avoid that thing. It's a simple, pavlovian sort of stimulus-response reaction. When the monkey is given electric shock every time he smears his poo on the wall, he stops smearing the poo. I am the dumbest monkey ever.
My high school and college relationships were early examples of my inability to not cause myself pain. Time after time, I dove head first into wading pools of love, smashing my head on the flimsily metaphorical concrete of reality and wound up nursing massive head wounds. I would fall helplessly in love on the first date, torture myself with jealousy whenever the object of my desire was in the same room as another man and then spill my guts about a week into the "relationship", which most women, shockingly, found off-putting. I didn't learn the first, second or even third time this happened. I got over that particular habit, but I continue this type of behavior today. Por ejemplo...
Frappachinos. Love 'em. They're tasty, they're caffeinated, they're available at least twice on every block here in New York City, where Starbucks spring up like dandelions. Without fail, though, they cause me intensely painful brain freeze. Maybe not with every sip, but with at least every other sip. And there's no really good way to drink them to avoid this, at least for me. So you'd think that maybe I would either not drink them or at least let them melt completely until they're the same temperature and consistency as those prepackaged versions they sell in SevenElevens nationwide. But I can't not drink them. They're delicious. And I can't let them warm up, because then I'm essentially drinking a Yoo Hoo and who the hell wants that?
Tonight is Saturday, as all the normal people who are out drinking and socializing can tell you in between pints. There's a show broadcast on Saturdays that is telecast live. Its city of origin is New York. It sucks. This is a show that has only been sporadically funny for the last fifteen years. Even without Jimmy Fallon, it's still laden with Horatio Sanz. I rarely like the musical guest. The monologues are usually pathetic, even worse when the guest host decides they want to sing. As funny as Tina Fey is, the news is only one section of a too long show. And yet, I will probably watch it tonight. It would be easy enough to just keep the television off. But there's some idiotic little part of me that says, "You loved it as a kid! What if they do something really funny! It happens every six years or so, maybe tonight's the night!" Then I watch and regret. I can't learn.
The prime example of my thick-headedness right now is my aching, throbbing back.
I am murder on shoes. I wear them out and wear them until they are tattered threads hanging together through sheer force of will and the occasional piece of duct tape. Part of the reason for this is that, economically, I can't afford to go out and buy new shoes every few weeks. So when I fuck up and buy a pair of shoes that doesn't work out entirely well, I tend to try to make the best of things.
Such is the case with a pair of black shoes I bought for some special occasion that has now entirely escaped my memory. They fit better than anything else I'd tried on that day, although not perfectly. I didn't feel like test-walking every goddamn pair of shoes in the place, and I figured I'd only be wearing them for a few hours. They served their purpose and were then relegated to my closet.
Recently, though, I found myself without a "go-to" pair of shoes for work. The shoes I had been wearing were now not only completely without tread, but had, in fact, worn completely through the sole, so that water, pebbles and small rats could find their way in and harass my foot. So I pulled the black shoes out of the closet and slapped 'em on my feet. After a week of wearing them through school days that saw me on my feet about 92% of the time, my back began spasming. Of course, I was far too thick to realize at first that it was the shoes that had done it to me. I was thinking maybe I'd lifted something without realizing it or perhaps that some pissed-off student had gone to their houngon and gotten them to fix up a Mr. Wack voo-doo doll, sticking some nice sharp pins in the lower back.
Only after I changed shoes and immediately felt slightly better did I come to the correct conclusion. This is where a normal person would have tossed the shoes in the garbage. However, I'm a huge putz, so I put them right back in the closet. Then, the next time it rained and I needed something on my feet that wouldn't leak like a sieve, I put them right back on. I made it through a day feeling okay. I thought maybe that was the trick. I could just wear them for a day and that wouldn't be long enough to fuck me up.
Folks, ignorance is not bliss. It's just ignorance. Today, a day after last wearing the Shoes of Pain, my back feels like I've been hit by a very small car. It hurts to sit up, it hurts to walk, but mostly it hurts to think about what an absolute moron I am. I hereby vow to never wear these shoes again.
Does anybody want them?
Friday, November 05, 2004
Conspiracy in Pink
By the time you read this, I may be dead. I have been working for the past three years--at the behest of my pastor, Pastor John Flippy of the First Church of the Assumption--undercover in the Gay Community. I presented myself as a sympathetic straight guy, occasionally introducing myself as "bi-curious" just to gain access to the gays' inner sanctum (and I'm not using that in any kind of perverty way). My agenda during that time was to ascertain the nature of the gay conspiracy in the U.S. Finally, I've achieved my goal, though it may cost me my life. I'm living now constantly in fear that my door may be broken down and my home invaded by wild bands of hairdressers who will destroy any evidence of their plot and then scratch my eyes out while blaring ABBA on my stereo to cover my screams.
You see, last night, after three psyche-scarring years of pretending to laugh at Absolutely Fabulous and care about Olympic ice skating, I got my hands on the Gay Manifesto, the document in which the Gays lay out their plan for world domination. Don't ask me to recount the specifics of how I got this information. Suffice it to say I'll never look at Jim Nabors the same way again. Here now is that document in full.
Brothers, sisters and hermaphrodites,
The time is nigh. We are poised to move our agenda as never before in 2005. John Kerry seems to be a lock to win the presidency. [Editor's note: This document appears to have been written in late October of this year.] We begin our move forward on the day of his inauguration. Phase One of our plan is simple. Once Gay Marriage has been legalized, sleeper cells in cities around the country will wed en masse. Not only will men marry men and women marry women, but men will marry children, women will marry polar bears and pre-op transexual hookers will marry houseplants. We want to make sure that, by the time we're done, the institution of marriage is a complete laughing stock. This should send the divorce rate sky high as those straight fools find their wedding vows now ringing hollow. When the divorces happen, we move straight (you should pardon the expression) to Phase Two.
In Phase Two, we go on the recruitment drive to end all recruitment drives. Those dumb heterosexuals will all be feeling very vulnerable, maybe even drinking heavily. We'll swoop in while they're at their weakest and have butt sex with them. This will turn them gay. Then they'll help us spread our mental illness around the world!
Phase Three will begin when the last married couples on earth finally throw in the towel. Then, while most of the planet is devolving into a worldwide orgy, we'll storm the White House and the Kremlin and wherever it is that those limeys have their leadership and we'll kick them out of power, putting our Fuhrer, Richard Simmons in charge.
Under his rule, really macho, God-fearing men will be placed in concentration camps where they'll be forced to watch endless episodes of Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and Will & Grace. This will break their spirit even further.
Finally, we will buy tankers full of pink paint and color every corner of the globe a nice bright fuschia.
Remember, my fellow perverts: Today San Francisco, tomorrow the World! Hugs!
Harvey Fierstein, your secretary of conquest.
I just thank God that 11 states passed anti-gay marriage initiatives this week. Otherwise, the Gays might have been able to follow through with their plan. I only pray that our President, George W. Bush has the courage to lead us toward a national amendment to preserve the sanctity of marriage. I mean, can you imagine the horror of a world in which marriage vows meant nothing, in which people cheated on one another and got divorced a lot? In which some people's marriages were loveless shams? My lord, what a nightmare that would be.
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Aries: You have a vague, uneasy feeling. Almost as if the country was completely fucked for the next four years.
Taurus: Your creative powers are at their peak today. The novel you've been working on is still a piece of shit, though. Try "creating" something a little less demanding, like maybe a sandwich.
Gemini: The next few days prove completely humiliating, as you repeatedly leave for work in the morning without putting on your pants. Probably you should stick to your "No crystal meth on a weeknight" rule.
Cancer: It's not that people don't like you. Well, no, okay, actually that's exactly what it is. It's time you knew.
Leo: Who can turn the world on with a smile? Who can take a nothing day and suddenly make it all seem worthwhile? Well it's you, girl, and you should know it. With each laugh and every little move, look, you show it. Love is all around, no need to waste it. You could have the town. Why don't you take it? You're gonna make it after all.
Virgo: Within the next few days, you will come into a large amount of money. Sadly, you will blow it all on macaroni salad. Virgo, you need to learn that there can be too much of a good thing, especially when it doesn't keep outside the refrigerator.
Libra: You are about to lose your job. Fortunately for you, there may be an opening for "Leader of the Palestinian People" real soon. You should apply. Pay sucks, but there's a 401(k).
Scorpio: You are horrified to discover that your hot new lover is actually your long-lost sister. So horrified, in fact, that you break it off in another week or so.
Sagittarius: When the voices in your head start telling you to kill your neighbor, you should not listen to them. When they tell you to take a shower, already, you might want to go ahead and do it.
Capricorn: This is not a good time to think too much about the future. Put any thoughts you may have about retiring on the back burner, say for at least four years. Especially if you're a Supreme Court Justice.
Aquarius: The more passionately you argue that "Dancing on the Ceiling" is the greatest pop song ever, the longer it will be until you get laid.
Pisces: You need to face your hair loss and not try to hide it with that awful comb-over, ma'am.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Hey Ho "Way to Go" Ohio
Let me start by saying, "Oh, shit."
I'm just too depressed to write today. Tears falling on the keyboard could very well cause my computer to short out. Because of this, the horoscopes will come tomorrow. Today, though, I have a guest blogger. I wanted to find someone who could speak to what happened last night. So, here to explain things, my guest blogger: America.
Hey, thanks Joe. Hi, folks. Uh, wow. Quite a night, huh? I didn't get a whole lotta sleep. More of me turned out for this thing than at any time in forty years and it didn't change a fucking thing, huh? Yep. Now, I know a lot of people around the world are wondering how this could have happened. They look at my buddy George and they see a zealot with no capacity whatsoever to reason through a line of thinking. They see a self-righteous megalomaniacal frat boy who's poured a whole shitload of gasoline on a fire in somebody else's backyard. They see an inarticulate boob who has turned his back on the entire rest of the globe.
They see all this and they think, "Well, surely America is not so completely senseless that it will choose once again to be lead by such a man. Surely the debacle that is the war in Iraq has shown them that this man has all the brains God gave a turnip. America itself is good. Despite what the government does, we like America and have faith that it will not fuck up so completely as to put this man back in the White House."
Whoops! Sorry. See, here's what most of you folks in other countries have failed to take into account: I'm retarded. I am so completely fucking gullible that I let the Bush administration scare me with stories of the boogie man and then let them reassure me with the claim that only they know how to help me. I'm so irretrievably moronic that I was led into believing that a war hero who realized how awful war is and that it should only be the very last resort is morally inferior to a man whose daddy paid for him to fly planes around Texas and snort cocaine while others were dying. I had someone begin the process of taking my rights away in the name of protecting me and I gave it up like Paris Hilton on prom night. Or any night, really.
I guess part of the problem is that I just don't pay attention. I mean, you've seen how fat and lazy I am. Hello? Do I look like the kind of country that's going to read magazines or search for actually informative websites when I can just sit back and let FOX News eat the facts for me and then spit them into my mouth half-digested? I would much rather just assume, when the president implies that Saddam Hussein was behind September 11th, that he's telling the truth. It's so much easier than using logic.
Anyway, I sure am glad that this whole election thing is over. I find it really mentally draining to focus on politics so much. All I want right now is to go back to watching E! and reading the article in US magazine about which one of the Olsen twins is the happier (I think it's Ashley!) Or maybe I'll just take a nice long nap and let Uncle Georgie steer the ship. And c'mon, you all have to love someone who's just so darn confident, don't you? You have to figure that God gave him that ego for a reason. Who am I to argue with his ego? Nobody. Just the sole remaining superpower.
I'd like to leave a wake-up call for 2008, please.
Okay. Thanks, America. Tomorrow, horoscopes.
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Tonight's the Night. Gonna Be All Right...
I'm catching all the election coverage, but I do have time for a quick joke.
Guy 1: Knock knock.
Guy 2: Who's there?
Guy 1: Bush is a fucking idiot.
Guy 2: Bush is a fucking idiot who?
Guy 1: Bush is a fucking idiot so don't goddamn vote for him!
Yeah. That's a good one. Think good thoughts.
Monday, November 01, 2004
Rockabye the Vote
This is it. I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep tonight. I feel like a kid on the night before Christmas. A really lame Christmas where I was only going to get one present and it was either going to be a dress shirt that I could wear to church or a turd shoved up my nose. I'll leave it to you to decide which candidate is which present.
If you find yourself similarly worked up tonight, here are some ways you can ensure that you get enough REM sleep that you're not hallucinating in the booth and voting for the wrong person.
However you do it, make sure you get plenty of rest tomorrow so you can vote that screaming ass-monkey out of office.