Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Tuesday, February 28, 2006


News Zoo Review

I don't usually watch CNN. This is because it fucking sucks. I don't really watch any television news. This is because it rots your brain. Local news especially. You need only watch a network show in primetime to get a hint at how truly odious local news is. Newsbrief after newsbrief, we get the hair mountains leveling their eyes at the camera and intoning solemnly they'll be bringing us the latest about the all-cheese diet that could save your life. I really don't know how local news anchors can go without slitting their own wrists.

Anyway, I was watching CNN this morning because I'd already gone through last night's Colbert Report and I still hadn't finished my toast. So one newstard smiles at the other and says, "We thought it would be fun to look at all the crazy accessories for your iPod."

I must state here that it was, in point of fact, not fun. It was the opposite of fun. It was disturbing.

They brought out the iPod Wurlitzer, which is a full-sized jukebox with all the trimmings, into which you plug your iPod. I don't know why, but for some reason, this brought to my mind the old joke about the ant fucking the lion. If you're going to have a huge fucking jukebox taking up half of your living room, isn't it a little retarded to use it simply as a dock for something that fits in your front pocket? It's like using a Henry Moore sculpture for a paperweight.

Then they had a little robot dealie that has a 'pod port in it. You play your music and the little robot scratches on two turntables to which he is attached. Finally, all the visual excitement of a fake person playing mix-master to the hardcore sounds of your Debbie Boone collection.

And there was other nonsense, like the iPort/toilet paper dispenser combo. All of this just made me angry. Angry that idiots out there were going to buy this shit and even angrier that CNN was fucking telling me about it. This is not news. This is a fucking commercial. If Apple wants me to know about their new products, let 'em pay for a fucking billboard. I don't need this crap wedged into a "news" show.

See, this is why I get all my news from my neighborhood town crier. He gives it that personal spin.

Monday, February 27, 2006


Death...Exciting and Ne-e-e-ew

Something's going on. Some plot is afoot. Someone, with sinister intent, is bumping off a Love Boat-full of 70s television's B-stars. Why? Toward what end, I'm asking, are these fiends doing away with our beloved former Hollywood Squares guests?

First Don Knotts. (Ron Rotts! Ron Rotts!) Okay. So we're sad and we mourn the loss.

Then Darren McGavin. Holy shit! What're the odds that two polyester-age icons (Mr. Furley and Kolchak!) should kick it within hours of each other? The odds are pretty damn long, people. They're pretty damn long.

Okay. I can maybe--maybe--chalk this up to coincidence. They were both in their early 80s and reaching that age will tend to take its toll on a guy. So, I thought, yeah, maybe the two deaths were unrelated.

Until today.

Dennis Weaver? One of the great yokel-on-the-big-city-police-force-types of all kind? (I'd rank him a notch above Due South's Mountie Benton Fraser and twenty times better than Enos.) This is not a guy who would just willingly succumb to the Grim Reaper. There's more to it than that. There's got to be.

Which is why I think there's some foul doings going on here. Someone is out to get these guys. We need to warn them. We need to protect them.

Let's get James Garner into protective custody! Somebody buy Dirk Benedict a bullet-proof vest! Has anyone checked in on Conrad Bain lately?

Listen, these people are national treasures (in a loose interpretation of the phrase) and we need to preserve them. We need to get to the bottom of this.

What could be happening? Has Ricardo Montalban gone insane and decided to take out anyone who ever guested on Fantasy Island? Are movie producers looking to ramp up the visibility of old TV shows to drum up interest in big-screen remakes? Is this some geriatric version of Final Destination 4? Stop the madness!

I just fear that I'll wake up tomorrow and hear that Jim Nabors kicked it. I don't think I could deal with that.

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Tonight's Burning Question:

Is it me, or does the name Joey Cheek sound like an extra on the Sopranos?

"Listen, you tell that sonuvabitch dat he does not wanna fuck wit' Joey Cheek, awright?"


Ron Rotts! Ron Rotts!

You know, I don't know why, but I can't hear Don Knotts' name without thinking of the time he guest-starred on The Scooby Doo Movies. I just can't.

And now he's gone and I can't help thinking that this is one guy who ought to have a funny tombstone. Y'know? Something along the line of "The Bullet is Still in his Pocket". Or maybe they could use this headline from a paper in Sydney. As much as I'm sure that Mr. Knotts didn't mind being identified with his most famous character, I'm betting he would have chosen a different epitaph than that.

And so I can think of no better farewell than quoting Scooby once again: "Ron Rotts! Ron Rotts!"

Saturday, February 25, 2006


Life Takes Monstrous Gluttony

I've been watching the hell out of the Olympics this year. This has a lot to do with the fact that my wife has been out of town and even more to do with the fact that I'm too poor to have many alternatives to extended television viewing. Because of the amount of time I've spent watching the coverage on NBC, MSNBC, USA and CNBC, I now have a working knowledge of the rules and strategies of curling. Never in my life thought that I'd have even the slightest interest in a sport that unabashedly goofy, but I watched the men's and women's gold medal rounds.

This knowledge has not come, though, without a price. I've been exposed to hours and hours of ads during these Olympic games. I've already discussed some of these ads in brief, but I have yet to address the one commercial image that's been haunting me, even more so since I read my Entertainment Weekly this morning and discovered that a print campaign being run in conjunction with this TV spot is recycling this horrifying image for people who prefer print media to cable television.

I'm talking about Visa's "Life Takes Visa" campaign. You can watch the main commercial right here if you haven't already seen it. It's fairly innocuous, I suppose, on most levels. Just another series of shots of people living life to its fullest, largely due to the fact that they have Visa cards. It talks about all the things one needs to live a meaningful life. Standard stuff, like passion, joy, spontaneity, etc.

And then they get to Determination.

I realize--I do--that the ad is meant to be funny. "Oh, look! They say you need 'risk' and then, ha-ha, they have a guy, tee-hee, pouring questionable milk into his coffee! Nyuck-nyuck-nyuck!" But I am still just...I guess I'd have to say I'm disturbed by the fact that they illustrate the point that life takes determination by showing a guy in a greasy-looking restaurant trying to eat a cheeseburger the size of his head.

Now, I'll concede a point here: it would, I admit, take a lot of determination to eat a five pound cheeseburger. But it would take a lot more of something else: stupidity. If they wanted use this image of gluttony to say, "Life takes stupidity", then I wouldn't object to it. But they're not. They're saying that the only thing that's going to get that huge chunk of dead cow down that guy's throat is the same determination that it takes to become a U.S. Senator. (Or something along those lines.)

They are saying--even on their jokey level--that you have to admire someone who walks into a restaurant and decides to stuff enough beef to feed a family of six in his mouth. Well, see, you don't have to admire that. The fact that so many Americans do seem to hold this sort of binging in high esteem speaks volumes about why this country's six-year-olds are ready for SlimFast shakes.

Yeah, yeah. "Just an ad." "Meant to be humorous." Blah blah blah blah blah.

I guess this hits me so hard because I once made the mistake of trying to eat a huge burger myself. I was working at a tool and die shop after my freshman year of college. A bunch of the guys ordered food from this diner that delivered and, when I took a look at the menu, I decided I'd order a "Gutbuster". The Gutbuster was a half-pound burger on a home-made bun. I was hungry. It sounded good.

When the food arrived, and I held the Gutbuster in my hands, it looked so huge. I was scared. Hell, I was just a kid. What'd I know about the hazards of dumping a full pound of red meat down your gullet? So I did it. I managed to eat the whole friggin' thing.

And then I spent the next three hours wishing I could take my digestive system out and run it through a carwash. You've seen pictures of a snake lying immobile on a rock while its stomach starts to work on the water buffalo that you can actually see poking through its skin? That's how I felt. I could have died. It was touch and go there for awhile. And now Visa wants people to think that huge burgers are a life-goal?

For shame, Visa. For shame.

Friday, February 24, 2006


A Cry for Help

I'm scaring myself. Truly, I feel as if there's a big part of me that I don't even know at all. This part of me is emerging after thirty-five years of hibernation and now it's awakened and fighting for control of my mind. This part of me is pushing me to go down a dark, dark path that I have, all my life, forsworn. This hideous, freakish voice in my head is trying to talk me into going to the New York Comic-Con. I'm frightened.

I've been reading comics since I was ten. I admit to it. I've written before about my problem, over the past couple of years, of spending far too much time and energy on internet message boards, discussing comics. It's not healthy. There are so many things a person could be doing that aren't shamefully geektastic that I feel bad about actually being interested in who's going to be writing Wonder Woman after the Infinite Crisis mini-series is over. (It's The O.C. creator Allan Heinberg, by the by.)

But this time wasteage has been the worst thing about my addiction, and I've still managed to function. I haven't been stuck at my keyboard for days at a stretch, arguing over whether Spider-Man could beat Man-Bat in a fair fight. (He could.)

Now, though, I actually have found myself thinking, "Hey, they make all kinds of announcements about upcoming comics at these conventions. And it's just a twenty minute trainride away. Maybe I could pick up a few back issues of Green Lantern." I actually thought that shit. Scary.

It's scary because you can read comics and not be that much of a geek. There're always people who read way more than you do. You can read/post on the occasional message board and still have some self-respect. There're always people who get way more worked up than you over which of Wolverine's uniforms is actually cooler. So you can always use that sense of perspective to maintain your self-image.

But when you willingly go to a comic convention, you're crossing a line. That's it. Game over. You might just as well take a community college course in Conversational Klingon. You might just as well pay a tailor to make you a custom-fitted Hawkman outfit. You might just as well take out a full-page ad in the New York Times, saying "I am a fucking geek."

So, I'm taking some solace from the fact that I haven't listened to that voice. I'm not going to the convention. I'm able to recognize what a thin line I'm walking on and I feel that recognition will keep me safe.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go do something manly, like watch the last of the Gold Medal round in Men's Curling.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Tonight's Burning Question:

Who the hell decided that it would be better if, instead of just wearing skates that looked like skates, women figure skaters should stretch their pantyhose down over the outside of their boots so it looks like they've got hideously misshapen feet with blades growing out of them?

Is this the first step on the road to some futuristic world in which skaters are genetically engineered to just have organic blades that are a real part of their bodies?

Hmm...mutant skaters. Tonya Harding could lead them!



The White House is set today to release its own findings on the flawed government response to Hurricane Katrina, this coming in the wake of the scathing indictment of the Bush administration's disaster relief performance issued last week by congress.

Hairshirt has obtained a copy of the White House report, from which come the following excerpts.

On the federal government's failure to prepare in advance for a levee breach that had been predicted for years by climatologists: "[Blame] for this lack of preparation has to fall squarely on the climate. If Louisiana hadn't insisted on being so damp, this would have been a non-issue."

On the administration's failure to react to the initial reports of flooding: "See, really, it's a matter of semantics. When someone says, 'flooding', you can never be sure if it's just like a little bit of water leaking into the basement or if it's a real gully-washer. They should've come up with a more specific description, like, 'there're massive fucking shitloads of water about to run into New Orleans; like more water than Kissinger has genital warts', That would've really gotten the message across."

On FEMA director Michael Brown's admission that he was unaware of flood victims being housed in the Superdome: "Michael's just not a football fan. When they said 'Superdome', he was thinking 'Thunderdome' and was just confused about why they'd be talking about Tina Turner during a disaster. They should've used a more common frame of reference. They could've referred to it as 'that place where the pony show was last year'."

On the heavy-handed response to looting that included orders to "shoot to kill" people who were simply trying to find food: "If you let people get away with taking Twinkies and potato chips, the next thing you know, they're stealing Hummers. We can not let just anyone drive around in a Hummer, or it loses all its cache."

On the lack of communication between FEMA and other agencies involved in the relief effort: "They'd just gotten new cell phones and they hadn't gotten the new numbers programmed in yet, so...y'know."

On the unavailability of National Guard troops in Iraq who normally would have been available to help in evacuation/rescue operations: "Oh, come on. The National Guard's a joke. Look at the shitty job they've been doing in Iraq. You think they would've been any help whatsoever after the flood? Wait, are you actually typing that?"

On President Bush's ham-handed initial comments, such as "You're doing a heck of a job, Brownie" : "The President has an incredibly dry wit. The press just didn't' understand that the President was being ironic. That was actually the harshest dressing down I've ever seen someone receive in public. I cringed."

On the mishandling of relief money, such as when prepaid debit cards issued to some victims before the program was hastily discontinued: "Yeah, we blame MasterCard for that one."

On displaced hurricane victims still without permanent homes: "Whoopsie!"

So as you can see, the botched response was entirely someone else's fault. The full report will be issued today under the title, I'm Rubber, You're Glue; Whatever You Say Bounces Off Me and Sticks to You.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: That sudden and overpowering notion that you should quit your job and take up the biathlon, perfecting your technique and taking the 2010 Vancouver Winter Games by storm? Yeah, you might want to think that one over for awhile.

Taurus: Diet be damned, today, you deserve to eat an entire bag of malted milk balls. Just don't eat them with soda, or you might explode. It's what happened to Mikey, the Life cereal kid.

Gemini: Your viewing of the movie Curious George is ruined this week when you realize that you've already read the book and know how it ends.

Cancer: You are so fucking pissed that Pope Benedict didn't include you in his first batch of Cardinals that you are tempted to send him a box of cat turds.

Leo: You get very nervous this week when a black cat crosses your path. Then, you realize that it's just a hallucination brought on by your severe psychosis and that sets your mind at ease.

Virgo: Your underpants do not contain magical powers. They were not given to you by an old wizard who charged you with stopping evil in our world. You should definitely not attempt to stop a bank robbery while wearing the underpants and nothing else.

Libra: This week, while in London, you fail to mind the gap.

Scorpio: Someone from your past is trying to get ahold of you. Actually, it's that lady you flicked a boog on ten seconds ago, so we're talking very, very recent past.

Sagittarius: There are very specific rules about joining the Mile High Club, one of which is that both partners need to be conscious the entire time.

Capricorn: You need to ask yourself: how certain are you that that milk wasn't too far past the expiration date? Well?

Aquarius: You are shocked this week to find that Mickey Rooney isn't fucking dead yet. What the fuck does it take to kill that guy?

Pisces: There's a reason that most people don't enjoy tapioca in their beer.

Monday, February 20, 2006


I Love George W. Bush

Hello and happy Presidents' Day! The day when we get to celebrate what a wonderful, wonderful president we have. I'm so happy about our president! I wish he'd been president for my entire life! It's so great how he's so interested in alternative energy sources! It's almost like he didn't spend the first five years of his presidency with the oil industry's dick in his mouth. I love him! Yay for Bush! Yay!

Bear in mind that I'm writing this from Seattle, where I flew yesterday to surprise my wife, who's been here for almost a week. So I'm in a pretty good mood and more inclined to cut Georgie Boy some slack.

Under normal circumstances, not even the tremendous sentiment that Presidents' Day always brings out would stop me from harping on about what a completely evil pile of diseased monkey shit I think Bush is and from going on and on about all of the truly horrific things he's done/doing to fuck up our country.

But not today. Today, all I can say is, you're doing a heck of a job, Bushie.

Sunday, February 19, 2006


What the Olympics Teach Us

I've been spending a lot of time this week watching the Winter Olympics. It's really a lot like watching FOX News, in that I get to hear over and over how valiant and inspiring Americans are and the rest of the world are pretty much reduced to extras. It's great.

The best thing about the Olympics is that they foster a sense of brotherhood and teach us to understand each other. For example, I now have a clear understanding of why a whole bunch of people around the world are going apeshit and burning down buildings over a cartoon. I get it now. I think it became clear to me in the middle of the Men's Super G, when the French guy flew wide of the gate and got all pissy.

I've learned a lot more than that, too, from having NBC and its affiliated cable channels on my TV nearly constantly. I've learned that, without Applebee's, America as we know it would cease to exist. Before the Olympics, I'd thought of them as merely another ghastly fucking restaurant chain serving artery-clogging deep fried shit to the masses. Somehow, I'd missed the fact that they are a gathering place, existing solely to bring us together with our neighbors to experience tender moments that tighten the bond of community.

I've also learned that McDonald's is still going with that "I'm lovin' it" slogan that annoyed the piss out of me three or four years ago when they first came out with it. And now they've got a whole series of commercials that feature people sitting on a park bench with a plastic Ronald McDonald and treating as some sort of confessor/idol. So are these the fries of Ronald, shed for our sins?

I've learned that Bode Miller really kind of sucks. He should stick to his lucrative drinking career and leave skiing to those who seem to be able to ski a straight line.

Olympic coverage has taught me that it's okay to say overtly homoerotic things as long as it's in the context of sports play-by-play, such as when one of the announcers showed a slow-mo shot of a skier and said, "Look at the strength in his buttocks!" To be truthful, I don't ever really want to look at the power in someone's buttocks. I don't want to see their spandexed crotch waving around, either.

Thanks to the commercials that come every three minutes or so, I've found out that the average age of a New York City prosecutor is 28. Also, they're all apparently sexy and they sleep together a lot. I broke it down into an algebraic formula which goes something like this:
(Law & Order - wrinkles) x Grey's Anatomy=show that will last three weeks.

Something that's become incredibly clear to me is that a lot of winter sports terms sound dirty when you take them out of context. Try some out and see if I'm not right: Two man luge. Wax technician. Triple toe loop. Dick Buttons. See?

But the biggest lesson I've learned is that Pizza Hut's new Cheesey Bites pizza looks absolutely disgusting. Sweet fucking Jesus, it looks greasier than Kevin Federline. Who on earth would want to ingest something like that? Since when does pizza have to supply it's own fucking appetizers? This is why Americans now weigh an average of 350 lbs. (I got that figure from some guy on the street. He looked knowledgeable.)

So I've been eagerly learning all that the Olympics can teach me. And now I'm ready for them to be over so I can stop hearing about fucking Ice Dancers and can watch The Office again. Fucking Olympics.

Saturday, February 18, 2006


Moustache Tales

I wear a beard for a number of reasons. The biggest reason, I guess, is that my wife likes me with one. Way the hell back when we worked together at a bookstore--before we even started dating--I'd grown one of my first tentative experiments with facial hair, a goatee and had gotten sick of it and shaved it off. She made a comment to me along the lines of, "Oh, you shaved your beard" in a tone which implied that she wasn't nuts about my clean-shaven face. I grew it back immediately.

There are other reasons. I have an awareness of my weak chin, which always makes me look like a hillbilly of some sort when I get my first glimpse of myself in the mirror after shaving everything off. Also, like most men, I'm just sort of fascinated by the fact that I can grow facial hair. It has that same kind of "hey, cool" factor as a yo-yo. "Check out what I can do!"

But I get sick of it every once in awhile. I get tired of the same old thing on my face and I look for excuses to get rid of it for awhile, usually not getting rid of the whole thing, but toying around with muttonchops or reminding myself why nobody should wear a handlebar moustache.

Often the shaving catalyst is something gross. Like the time I ate corn on the cob and, failing to properly clean my moustache, got a whiff of rancid three-hour-old butter directly under my nose. Or the time I couldn't properly eat a simple bowl of fucking soup without some of it running all over my face.

Today, I came very close to getting rid of the whole kit and caboodle. I was sitting at the computer ('cause that's what I tend to do) and I sneezed. Just a simple little sneeze. Didn't think anything of it. Until about twenty minutes later when I went to itch my nose and found a clump of snot clinging to my moustache which I'd failed to notice because I couldn't fucking feel it. Ick.

I did not shave it off. But I trimmed the motherfucker to within an inch of its life. And I'm avoiding corn on the cob for awhile.

Friday, February 17, 2006



It is simply amazing what a good shower can do for your mood. This morning, I had one of the most enjoyable showers I've had in a long time. And it didn't even involve any "special handshakes".

With nobody else in the household to disturb, I was able to be as loud as I wished, and so I...
  • sung as much as I could remember of "That's the Way (Uh-Huh, Uh-Huh) I Like It"
  • popped a new cartridge in my Gillette Mach3 Turbo and engaged in some free-style precision shaving, knocking off one errant mustache hair at a time
  • performed the opening notes of the Godfather Theme as a tremorous whistle; in my best faux-tuba sounds and as a series of Carol Channing "la-la"s
  • attempted to make the stupidest face I could in my shaving mirror (the winner was accompanied by a fantastic "duhhhhh" sound that I wish I could replicate here)
  • worked on my Dick Cheney impression (unfortunately, it sounded, in the end, too much like someone doing an impression of Jon Stewart doing an impression of the Vice-President)
  • worked up a dynamic shampoo lather and molded my hair into a pompadour
  • composed a haiku about the loofah
I stepped from the tub a better--and cleaner--man. And so I say...good morning!

Thursday, February 16, 2006


Crankytown (Won't You Take Me to...)

It's happened again. Due to circumstances far beyond my control, I once again find myself an unwilling resident of...Crankytown.

I don't wish for this to be the case. I'd love to be, for example, giddy. Giddy would be nice. But I'm not. I'm just plain old pissy.

This is due, in part, to my continuing disgust with the Bush administration and the evil things they do. (The fact that it took me about a minute and a half to find five links to evil Bush shit has just increased my disgust.) It's due, also, to the continuing stress of working in a job where pimply thirteen-year-olds get away with saying, "I'm'a slap your face like a bitch" to me with no real consequences.

But mostly it's because my wife is out of town again. Deep sigh.

I spent a large part of the day once again being Mister Yelly Guy in my classes. I yelled at kids who were too noisy, I yelled at kids who weren't paying attention, I yelled at kids who looked at me wrong. I got super-pissed when, after ordering pizza for the class who'd earned the most points from me in January, and not eating all morning in anticipation of having a few slices myself, the kids passed out too much to each student and we ran out before I could have so much as a piece of crust. I didn't yell that time, but I seethed. I seethed like a motherfucker.

Now, normally, I'd let this sort of feeling linger and I'd spend the entirety of my wife's trip being an utterly miserable prick. This time, I'm not going to do that. This time, I'm going to improve my mood, whatever it takes. If I have to spend two hours tickling my own ass with a feather, I'm going to get happy.

Just you wait, world. You're going to see a shinier, happier Joe in the next few days. (And hopefully I won't have to go anywhere near my ass with a feather to achieve this.)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: Writing a letter of protest to the Westminster Kennel Club over the Best in Show awarded to a Bull Terrier is fine, but make sure you spell-check. You don't want a repeat of last year's "you'll suffer God's wreath" debacle.

Taurus: The rumored Cruise-Holmes split has absolutely devastated your sense of the rightness of the universe. How, you wonder, can anything ever be lasting and perfect if this, strongest of all possible loves, can come apart so very easily?

Gemini: This week, you get so excited during the broadcast of the Men's Curling semi-finals that you vomit all over yourself. The lesson? Have paper towels on hand when you watch curling.

Cancer: There are better philosophers to quote than Forrest Gump and it's time you learned that.

Leo: Your oysters & broccoli pizza is not going to be quite the taste sensation you'd hoped.

Virgo: There are only so many naked pictures of themselves a person can send to Molly Ringwald before she's going to get the wrong impression.

Libra: It's awesome that you still have your childhood teddy bear, but it might be unwise to bring it on a first date.

Scorpio: We all get frustrated when we can't finish a crossword puzzle, but sending a letter-bomb to Will Shortz might indicate that your fuse is a bit short.

Sagittarius: Today, you find yourself repeatedly saying, "Bjork!" And who can blame you? It's fun! "Bjork! Bjork! Bjork!"

Capricorn: Although your new love seems strong, it actually has the life-expectancy of a Dick Cheney hunting partner, so you shouldn't make any long-term plans.

Aquarius: A stuffed moose-head does indeed make a very manly wall-hanging. One must question, however, the wisdom of putting it up in the bathroom.

Pisces: Coffee, si! Coffee enema, no!

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Project Run Away

Why--I'm asking--why do male figure skaters have to be dressed like rejects...

... from Starlight Express?

Can't we give these poor bastards some dignity? It isn't enough that they have to fall on their asses in front of an international television audience. It isn't enough that they're skating around to music you wouldn't load on your comatose enemy's iPod. It isn't enough that their very names are punch lines in gay jokes told by rednecks nationwide. But they also have to parade around in costumes that make the outfits on Dancing with the Stars look like the Hilfinger Spring Collection.

Have some pity, world. Get these guys some hockey outfits. Something to hide the bulge and pad the cocyx. Poor, poor sons of bitches.


Advice to the Young Bachelor on Valentine's Day

I didn't date a lot in college. I had girlfriends periodically, but I didn't really go out on many according-to-Hoyle "dates" with them. Mostly, it would be hanging out with friends or going to a theater party or something along those lines. And given the fact that, for the great bulk of my college years, I didn't have a girlfriend, I left Kent State University not knowing that much about how to get dates or what to do when I mysteriously wound up on one.

So when, about a year out of college, I began dating the enchanting creature who would eventually become my wife, I had little practical dating experience and had to fall back on other methods to figure out what the hell to do.

The one thing I had going for me was my patented "coffee shot". As a high percentage of the dates I had been on had ended up at Denny's or some other dinerish place, I'd come up with this little trick that I used in place of actual charm. I would pull the lid off of a non-dairy creamer container, pour some sugar on the area of my hand between my thumb and index finger, lick it off, pour the creamer down my throat and follow it with a coffee chaser. I'm not going to brag by telling you how many co-eds I bedded with this little beauty, but suffice it to say the number hovers in the zeroes.

Other than the coffee shot, though, I had nothing. No moves; no strategies; no clue. I didn't realize, for example, that a first date is not the best time to discuss what drugs one has or hasn't done. It leads the person with whom you are out to form probably not an entirely accurate picture of you. I didn't know that it's probably not a good idea to suggest to your date that the two of you leave a play at intermission, even though you know--thanks to your BFA--that you've been watching complete shit. She's likely, you see, to think you're an utter theater snob.

But the biggest mistake I made when I started dating my future spouse I can blame entirely on Cosmo. I was sitting around with some friends one night and one of the ladies had brought an issue. There was an article on dating dos and don'ts for guys. They said, for example, that you should, without saying a word, remove your date's shoe and begin giving a foot massage. This turned out to be pretty good advice, actually, except I found out you should not do this while the woman is standing. The other suggestion that I took to heart was that a great second or third date is to invite the woman to your house and cook a meal for her.

Now, I have to stop here to say that the majority of my attempts at cooking since I'd been on my own had been along the lines of dumping a turkey pot-pie on some egg noodles to create an instant casserole. Not exactly out of the Cordon Bleu cookbook.

But I was game. I tracked down a recipe for manicotti. I got stuff to make a salad and followed Cosmo's helpful hint that you should have the lady help make the salad so that it becomes more of a shared experience. The dinner was a success. The manicotti was pretty good and it got me to a fourth date and fifth and so on. The problem was that it encouraged me to experiment with more cooking, which led to me being the primary chef when we moved in together, which further led to the atrophy of even the most rudimentary cooking skills on my wife's part, which still further led to her being unable to scramble a couple of eggs without consulting The Joy of Cooking.

I don't mind cooking. I often find it quite enjoyable. But I wish to hell I'd known on that fateful Phoenix evening that I'd end up down the road cooking every frickin' night for the rest of my natural life. And so I say, to any young man considering a run at Crepes Suzette this February fourteenth, think twice. Maybe you should just get sandwiches from Subway instead.

Sunday, February 12, 2006


Big Angry Dick

Well, it looks like we've finally got the answer to the age-old question, "Exactly how mean a son of a bitch is Dick Cheney?" That answer would be: mean enough that, if you piss him off, he will shoot you in the face.

Goddamn, man. You will not catch me crossing Big Dick, let me tell you. Now, I don't know exactly who this rich guy was that Cheney blasted, but I bet he's regretting whatever it was he did or said that stuck in Dick's craw.

If I had to guess, I'd surmise that it went down a little something like this:

RICH GUY: That's a nice gun you've got there, Mr. Vice-President.

CHENEY: Grunt.

RICH GUY: Say, you think maybe you guys screwed the pooch on this whole Iraq thing?


Well, I certainly hope the cops that arrested the Vice-President were extremely careful when they took him down. I'd imagine it's a scary thing to be on the kaboomy end of a gun in Cheney's hands.

This doesn't appear to have been a fantastic weekend for Dick's boss-man, either. Time has published pictures of Georgie with Jack Abramoff, who Bush has claimed he never met. Bush also claims that he never made out with Abramoff or dressed up like Catholic school girls with him and lip-synced "99 Luftballoons", but the pictures say otherwise.

Okay, they don't really show that, but, man, wouldn't it be fucking awesome if they did?

Friday, February 10, 2006



A couple weeks back, I had a particularly okay day at work. My worst seventh-grade class was missing one of the students who makes it my worst and my other classes were all for the most part doing what I'd asked them to do. There was another teacher, however, who was having a particularly bad day.

The guy is a substitute. Now, I'll say right here and now that you could not give me enough Dutch apple pies to be a substitute. You could not find a team of wild horses powerful enough to drag me to work each day as a substitute. If you found a zombie to break open my skull and eat a portion of my brain, infecting me with his zombiosity and leaving me a mindless, shambling husk of myself, said mindless, shambling husk would not be willing to shamble into classrooms to teach the prepubescent zombies.

I say all this to illustrate the fact that I empathize with substitute teachers and admire the ones who have found a way to really make it work. This guy has not. On the day in question, this substitute had apparently been eating ten flavors of shit from various classes for most of the day. I work with pretty much all of the kids he was trying to teach that day and I can say, in his defense, some of them can be fairly bitchly.

I was one floor up from my usual place of work, teaching the one class I teach on the fifth floor. I came down to get my stuff for the end of the day and I noticed a ruckus in the room next door to the room in which I've borrowed a closet.

(I'll digress for a moment here to explain that I am a cluster/specialty/what-have-you teacher and I do not have my own classroom, which has its pros and cons. Chief among pros would be that I don't have to have a homeroom and I don't have to worry about "classroom environment", as I'm always squatting in someone else's place. The downside is that I have had to beg a co-worker for a closet in her room in which I can store my supplies and keep my coat during the day. There's another downside which I'll address momentarily.)

I saw the middle school dean speaking rather severely with a couple of students, while this sub harangued her about what a menace this class was and about how they had taken his coat. I later saw him with his coat on, so I'm assuming this theft was temporary.

Anyway, intrigued by what I'd witnessed of the aftermath, I sought out the full story from another teacher on the hall, who informed me that there had been a fight in the class the sub was working with. The sub panicked. Instead of breaking the fight up himself or asking a student how to call security, he ran into the hallway, screaming, "Fight! Fight! Help me! Help me!" This, of course, had the effect of emptying the surrounding classrooms, as junior high students always want to see a good fight. Not good. The ensuing melee is when the sub lost track of his coat.

I was, I will say, less than surprised when the guy failed to show up for work the next day, causing a bit of a train wreck, as administration was unaware of his absence until none of the seventh grade teachers could go to our next class because we were all waiting for each other (and the not-present sub) to relieve us.

I was more than surprised when the guy showed up again today. I figured maybe he'd had a scheduling conflict or something and made a mental note to the effect that he must have strong character to return to a place where he'd had such problems. He was, in short, someone to be admired.

Turns out, no. Later in the day, I was in the recently established teachers' lounge. (Up until last year, it had been the book room and teachers without a classroom had to perch in the library or fashion an office out of a cardboard box and some duct tape.) This is the downside of cluster teaching to which I referred earlier. On my preparatory periods, I don't have a classroom in which I can sit and work. So the teachers' lounge is one of very few options for me. So I was sitting in there today, trying to read a paper, when the sub comes in and starts talking to me.

I have a thing about trying to be polite. So I did the "look up to answer questions and then look right back down at the paper" thing, trying to make it obvious that I wasn't interested in a conversation. But the sub did not take the hint. He kept on talking about schedules and the day next week when he wouldn't be able to stay all day and the contract that was approved in the fall and his mother's anal warts. (He may not actually have mentioned his mother's anal warts, but I was trying my best to listen as little as possible.)

Finally, the period was basically over and I'd read precisely none of my paper. I gave up and put it away. Then the guy says, "Hey, you missed something" and gestures to my face. The fact that I hadn't eaten anything or picked any boogs while sitting there made me wonder what the hell he was talking about. He said, "Yeah, you've got a...a, uh, tuft." I gave him the blankest stare humanly possible. He told me to turn my head so he could get a better look. I have absolutely no fucking idea why, but I did it. This second view confirmed for him that I had a problem. He did his best to elaborate. "You've got a tuft over there that sticks out farther than on the other side. Turn your head the other way." And I fucking did it, again. "Yeah. See, on that side, it's like a full mutton-chop, but on the other side, it's a regular Abe Lincoln." The man has knowledge of some arcane beard terminology that left me clueless. But what he was trying to get at, I in the end surmised, was that my beard was not perfectly trimmed.

Not being the kind of man who normally critiques the facial hair of complete strangers, I was at a loss as to how to respond. So I just got the hell out of there at the earliest convenience. Then, later in the day, on my lunch break, when he came back in the room, I made an excuse and hid in the darkest bowels of the library.

So here's another reason not to substitute teach. It apparently turns you into a beard-criticizing assmunch.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: This might not be the best time to ask the mosque next door if they wouldn't mind lowering the volume on their call to prayer. Seems they're feeling a bit sensitive right now.

Taurus: While they certainly appreciate the effort, your family isn't exactly wowed by your attempts to dress up Hamburger Helper by adding a dash of paprika.

Gemini: Your life is like a rollercoaster; mostly in that it's run by toothless carnies.

Cancer: The Seahawks lost the game four days ago. It's now time for you to get the fuck over it and take a shower, already.

Leo: While the government does not officially acknowledge that they are using purchases to profile potential terrorists, you might want to think twice before ordering that copy of How to Wreak Havoc on Imperialist Oppressors in 50 Days.

Virgo: You are the one person in America who thoroughly enjoyed the Rolling Stones' Superbowl halftime show.

Libra: Stop picking at that scab.

Scorpio: It's wonderful that Peanuts had such a profound impact on your formative years, but you need to find a more mature insult to hurl at people on a daily basis than "blockhead". May I suggest "assface"?

Sagittarius: Jesus loves you, but he wants you to stop calling him at four in the morning to drunkenly sob about your relationships.

Capricorn: Looking for a delicious side-dish to go with the chicken? Try oven-roasted corn on the cob!

Aquarius: Your determination to get in shape seems to be losing ground to your determination to eat a box and a half of Oreos every evening.

Pisces: None of your friends has the courage to tell you that your haircut looks like a moose took a hay-filled shit on your head. But they're all thinking it.

Monday, February 06, 2006


I'm a Bigger Idiot Than I've Let On

So at this point in time, I'd just like to make a quick apology to anyone who tried to call me yesterday and were unable to reach me. I spent the day without phone service. See, I did something unrelentingly stupid.

We have a tiny, tiny kitchen. There's not a lot of counter space and there're only a couple of outlets. The outlet that's most accessible for things like recharging one's phone happens to be right by the sink.

This does not normally create any problems. Except on those occasions where someone in the house acts like the dumbest kid on the short bus and leaves their phone on vibrate when the sink is filled with dishes in which pools of water have been allowed to collect because that same someone is an immense slob. (That someone would be me, by the by.)

As a consequence of my phone vibrating its way off of the shelf and into a half-filled Ziggy mug, my phone spent the bulk of the day apart and drying. I put it together every few hours just to marvel at all the different ways the keypad could malfunction.

Anyway, because of this intensely head-up-ass situation, all of the thousands of people who normally phone me on Sundays, looking for advice on one thing or another or asking about my heavenly recipe for prune cake (and this is, in point of fact, not a joke; I've got a great prune cake recipe) were unable to reach me and so spent the day in moral confusion or without delicious prune cake. And so I humbly beg your forgiveness and promise to either charge my fucking phone someplace else or remember to switch it to my ring tone, which is currently the melodious voice of Debbie Boone singing a dance remix of "You Light Up My Life". She does. She does light up my life.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


On Gay Cowboys (Well, not literally ON them)

My wife and I finally went to see Brokeback Mountain last night. It played to a sold-out crowd in the largest theater at the Lincoln Square Loew's, so...yeah. It's good to see Bill O'Reilly has his finger so firmly on the pulse of the American movie-going public. What do you think, Bill; will Big Mama's House 2 continue to pack 'em in?

Anyway, what I have to say about Brokeback Mountain is: If you want to be really well depressed, this is the flick for you. It's kind of a photo negative of It's a Wonderful Life. I'm thinking you could go to this movie on your birthday after you've just had amazing sex and eaten the best-tasting blueberry pie ever made on the planet and you'd still come out of the theater looking for some razor blades to slice open your wrists. It's that depressing. So, of course, I recommend it highly.

The movie is an indictment of the homophobia in our society that, to this day, keeps men and women in the closet and denying their true selves. And it's great to read over and over how courageous Jake Gyllenhall and Heath Ledger feel they were to take the parts in the first place. Kudos for signing on to well-paying Oscar bait, fellas. Seriously, they were fantastic in the movie, but shut up about how difficult it was to kiss each other. All you had to do was close your eyes and think about the five cars you could buy with your paychecks.

While the film is mostly about society's intolerance of homosexuals, it's also a movie about how anybody--gay, straight or necrophiliac--can piss away their life until they find themselves middle-aged and living in a trailer with two plates and no furniture. And that's the aspect of it that I'm choosing to focus on, because it's the one with the greatest potential to depress me.

When I think about the fact that it's been twenty years since I was fifteen--hell, when I take a second to consider that I'm old enough to have clear memories of twenty years ago--it scares the living shit out of me. That empty trailer is only five or six more years-of-not-getting-paid-to-write away. Not literally, of course. I've lived in a trailer before and I don't see it ever happening again, especially when my wife has a law degree and increases the household earning potential. But I'm talking about the figurative empty trailer, man. The empty trailer of the soul.

Anyway, you should go see Brokeback Mountain. If you don't go for the gay sex scenes, then go for the post-film depression. If you don't go for the post-film depression, then go so that, when it wins six or seven Academy Awards, you don't have to say, "No, I didn't see it. I stayed home and ordered Into the Blue on pay-per-view instead. Jessica Alba's fucking stacked, man."

Saturday, February 04, 2006


Those Wacky Muslims

As the anger felt among Muslims over the depiction of the prophet Muhammad in a newspaper cartoon continues to incite violent protests against the European Union, news comes today that the Islamic community may soon have another target for its ire: the television industry.

Daily Variety reports that the cable network FX is in discussions to pick up a series from Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst Films that would reimagine Muhammad and Jesus as roommates attempting to start up a crisis counseling center in Jerusalem. The series, tentatively titled Non-Prophet, will star Breckin Meyer as Jesus and Kutcher's former That 70s Show co-star Wilmer Valderrama as Muhammad.

Reached for comment at Demi Moore's house, Kutcher told Variety, "It's gonna be, like, funny and stuff."

The Muslim community appears to be split in its response to the program. Cleric Ahmed al-Hassoun of the Syrian group People For the Love of Allah's Glory told a reporter for the Associated Press, "The infidel Kutcher will scream for agony in the belly of a snake. The Butterfly Effect was an insult to everyone, but what he's doing now is, in essence, directing a stream of urine at the heart of our religion. PFLAG will not rest until we have Ashton's head on a platter. Plus, he's way too young for Demi."

Meanwhile, the New York-based Islamic Anti-Defamation League released a statement in which they said, "From anyone else, this show would be an insult. But when it comes from the man who gave us Punk'd, what can we do but laugh?"

FX has expressed confidence in the new show, which they say will form part of a comedy bloc in tandem with the returning Monk and a reality show in which people defecate on Danny Bonaduce's head. The network will apparently have no trouble finding advertisers for the show and have reportedly reached a sponsorship deal with Enzyte.

Friday, February 03, 2006


Boot Hill

So yesterday, I'm standing on the platform after school, listening to some music and waiting for the 4 train to whisk me home (okay, not straight home, 'cause I was going to the comic book store first because I'm an immense fucking geek and I just had to know what was going to happen to Green Lantern and Green Arrow, who'd been attacked by an alien and left with huge hallucinogenic, life-sucking flowers attached to their chests) when a guy walked up to me.

Now, I'm not a fan of having people walk up to me at all, because of encounters like the one I had during last night's 10PM dog walk with the fella I unsuccessfully attempted to avoid after noticing that he was drinking from a brown paper bag and carrying four identical belts with huge ugly buckles. I'd have been wise to try a little harder to avoid him, as he proceeded to engage me in a heavily slurred five minute conversation about the rapture. It was nice, at least, that I'd made a sufficient impression on him that he felt the need to tell me he loved me.

Happily, the guy on the train platform had no desire to talk to me about anything vaguely theological or alcoholic. (Although his diction was not exactly perfect and, as my earphones were doing nothing to improve my ability to understand him, I had to temporarily turn off a very nice Stevie Wonder tune to catch what the fuck he was saying.)

What he wanted to discuss with me was my boots. My boots, you may or may not recall, were giving me no end of fits for awhile; were, in fact, engaged in a life or death struggle with my feet.

So this guy says (repeatedly and mumbly), "Are those comfortable?" He had been thinking, you see, of purchasing a pair of North Face boots for himself, as they had been recommended to him.

Finally, I thought, finally a chance to share my story. Finally, an opportunity for someone else to gain from my insight. I fixed him with a serious look. "They're great," I said. "However...they take a few weeks to break in. During which time, they tear your fucking feet to shreds."

My new acquaintance seemed a little at a loss as to how to respond to this news. So I did my best to reassure him. "Now, though, they're really comfortable." I was tempted to follow this up by stomping my boots into the cement and yelling at them, "Aren't you, you fucks?! You're fucking comfortable now, huh? 'Cause you are no match for me! You bled me and you hurt me and you did your level best to cripple me and now I wear you like you were flip-flops, bitch!"

I didn't however, actually launch into this stream of shoe-hating invective, as the train pulled up at that exact moment and I had to jump on and grab a seat. I'd been on my feet all day and they were killing me.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


What Rodents Tell Us

Happy Groundhog Day!

The word from Punxsutawney is that the groundhog came out, saw three minutes of the State of the Union address and ran back down his hole as quickly as his fat little legs could carry him. I believe that means we've got three more years of shitty government.

I'm going to ask the same thing that I ask every year at this time: Why, oh why, did we ever give the groundhog this much authority over our lives? Why didn't we resolve to treat him the same as we treat the oppossum: as roadkill?

Damn you, groundhog!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006


To Sir, With Absolutely No Love

Things are not like they were when I was in school. Granted, I was a junior high-schooler in rural Ohio and that was over twenty years ago, but still...

I had one of the worst classes I've ever taught today. This was with a special ed class that has been a bit out of hand all year. But I've had good days with them, too. Today was not one of them.

When I went to pick the kids up from lunch, exactly two of them came with me. The rest either hid or told me to my face that they were staying right there. So things didn't exactly start off well. And they went downhill from there.

I had a five minute battle with two girls trying to get them to spit out their gum. (I make the mistake of trying to enforce the school's No Gum policy and it never gets me anything but heartbreak.) So that set off a bad tone right there.

Then one of the girls decided that she wanted to spend the entirety of the class yelling out the third story window to kids she knew on the playground. Which meant that I had to close the window. Which she then reopened. I closed it again. She reopened it. And we went on like this for some time, with fully half of the class joining in.

If it was all just this opening and closing nonsense, it wouldn't have been so bad. I might even have been able to teach the lesson on blocking that I'd come there to teach. But mixed in with this opening and closing was a whole lot of cursing and threats.

Now, I realize that I curse like a fucking sailor. I love cursing. I think it fucking rocks. But I do not curse in school.

I do not think that children under eighteen should be cursing. More specifically, I do not think that they should be cursing at me. Even more specifically, I do not think that they should be telling me to "shut the fuck up" or that I "smile like a bitch" or that they're going to "slap the shit out of" me. I do not need to be reminded twenty times in forty minutes that I'm "not [their] fucking father". I'm actually already well aware of that fact. And quite glad of it, as well.

I find myself wearying of the struggles in this class. There are only so many times when a student can tell you that they "don't give a fuck" about your class before you no longer feel like teaching it to them. There are only so many times you can be told that a student "fucking hate[s] you" before you start to reciprocate.

Fortunately, I'm paid an incredibly huge salary to put up with all this nonsense.

Oh, wait. No I'm not.



Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: You were absolutely horrified to discover during last night's State of the Union address that you are addicted to oil. Now you're desperately searching for a twelve-step program to kick the habit.

Taurus: You find yourself overwhelmed by this deep conviction that, beneath those feminine clothes and that air of sophistication, you are really a moose trapped in a woman's body. And now you're hearing the Call of the Wild.

Gemini: You will find yourself much more successful in the one-night-stand department if you can come up with a better line than, "I want to put my pee-pee in you."

Cancer: There are much better ways to honor the memory of Coretta Scott King than by watching "How Stella Got Her Groove Back."

Leo: Fruity Pebbles are not nearly as delicious as you remember them being. Just a word of caution when you find yourself growing nostalgic while in the cereal aisle.

Virgo: You're certain that you'll be treated to an incredibly exciting game this Sunday. You really live to be let down, don't you?

Libra: You are in foul spirits today, after finding out that Sharon Colman's Badgered was nominated for Best Animated Short; you find her work puerile and derivative. You, sir, need a life.

Scorpio: Staples do not make adequate cufflinks.

Sagittarius: A yogurt bath sounds very luxurious in the abstract, but you won't feel quite so pampered when you're cleaning it out of your ear canal for five hours.

Capricorn: There's nothing wrong with your resume that a few dozen lies can't fix.

Aquarius: Yes, a coward dies a thousand deaths, a brave man only one, but those thousand deaths start a long way down the road and that one is right now.

Pisces: Your life-long dream of becoming a professional figure-skater would be much easier to realize if you weren't forty-seven.