Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Friday, April 28, 2006


Stop Me Before I Blab Again

So I worked for about an hour, writing a post on the immigration problem, the nation-wide protests scheduled for Monday and "Nuestro Himno", the Spanish-language take on the National Anthem that's been stirring up controversy today.

Then I read what I'd written and I realized that I don't know a goddamn thing about the issue and should just keep my fucking mouth shut. There're a lot of things about which I know absolutely nothing. And I'm making a pledge right here to do my best to never attempt to deal with them in any faux-substantial way.

And so, I want you to know that I will never write posts dealing with...
  • Organic gardening
  • Macro-economics
  • Particle physics
  • The physiological workings of the menstrual cycle
  • Jai alai
  • How to fix a car
  • Success
  • Islam
  • Gangsta rap (except the impact it has on Junior High fashions)
  • American Idol
  • Cigars
  • Dostoevsky
  • Video games
  • The appeal of Jimmy Fallon
...and an infinite number of other issues about which I know less than a gnat's fart. I apologize for presuming, even for a moment, that anyone should want to hear my opinion on anything of substance.

Thursday, April 27, 2006


Put on a shirt and tie, shine up those shoes and go read what Prego has to say in this week's Roundtable Post.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: A new job offer is just around the corner. Seeing as you live around the corner from a Taco Bell, this is nothing to get excited about.

Taurus: This week, you should heed the old Confucian saying, "She that types on the computer and gets jelly all over the keyboard needs to clean the damn thing off." Actually, that might have been Ann Landers, not Confucius.

Gemini: That peanut butter, tuna and guava sandwich you've been craving? Probably a bad idea.

Cancer: This week, you come to the conclusion that, in hindsight, the music of New Kids on the Block might not have been as timeless as it once seemed.

Leo: Unpacking upon your return from Spring Break in Daytona, you sadly realize that the three-pack of condoms you bought was a wee bit optimistic.

Virgo: When a bird craps on you, it's not good luck. If it had missed you, that would be good luck.

Libra: Your career as a "living statue" seems doomed even before you really get started. Damned epilepsy.

Scorpio: You need to spend some time alone, in deep self-reflection. As your calendar isn't exactly what one might call "booked-up", this shouldn't take too much schedule-juggling.

Sagittarius: You're so excited by Bush's choice of Tony Snow as his new press secretary that you rush right out and lynch someone. You Klansmen are so nutty!

You are crushed to learn this week that your film was not, as you'd thought, accepted at the Tribeca Film Festival, but rather at the Try Becca Film Festival, an annual amateur porn festival in Tulsa. It's still an honor, kind of.

Aquarius: A lint roller can be a very handy tool to have around, but it's not the most efficient way to get crumbs out of your pubes.

Pisces: The next time you're faced with a moral dilemma, try asking yourself, "What would Jesus do if he was a red-neck moron like me?"

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Black Gold...Texas Tea

Speaking before the Renewable Fuels Association, President Bush today addressed the nation's concerns about rising fuel costs by outlining a four-part plan to bring down prices at the pump.

Mr. Bush first announced a plan to halt fuel companies' deposits into the Strategic Oil Reserve, which had been somewhat depleted after last year's hurricane Katrina-induced fuel shortages. The president said, "We got plenty a' oil in the reserve right now, so we're gonna hold off on replacing it and let that oil stay on the open market. It's kinda like when you've got a jar in the house and you're putting money in it to buy a new plane or a third home. Then alluva sudden you need to buy a whole bunch of cocaine, but you don't have time to go to the bank. So you just dip into that jar and pay it back later. This is like that."

Next, Bush said that he had instructed the Justice Department to do an in-depth investigation into price gouging by the oil companies. Reached for comment at the Justice Department, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales described the plan thusly: "We've got this intern who we think is borderline retarded. Name's Buddy. Anyway, we're going to blindfold Buddy, spin him around a couple dozen times, then send him out on the streets. He's going to ask anyone he bumps into if they're price gouging. Anyone who says yes, we're going to prosecute. Buddy's very excited, because before this, the only thing we let him do is hand out paper towels in the bathroom."

Bush then detailed a plan to be put in place by the end of summer in which a giant siphon hose will be attached to Canada. "They seem to have plenty of cars and gas up there," Bush said. "So we're going to take just a little bit of that. They ain't gonna miss it anyway."

Finally, Bush has sent a team of researchers to the rain forests of South America to try to find some sort of wild animal that "...eats lesbians and pisses gasoline." Said Mr. Bush, "You figure there's all kinds of weird shit on this planet. The odds are that there oughtta be a animal like that out there somewhere." The president then spent the next five minutes trying to tie his shoes.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Never Mind the Bad and the Ugly

I let over thirty years of my life go by without having read The Grapes of Wrath. What the hell was I thinking? Finally, a few years ago, in the middle of a spree of classic-novel reading, I found my wife's ancient paperback edition and started through it. Wow.

I'd read Of Mice and Men after seeing the Malkovich/Sinise movie version, and it was good and all. But The Grapes of Wrath is just so much deeper. The language is so much more beautiful. The scope of the story is so much grander. And the ideas contained within echo my own viewpoint so very well. I fell in love with the book. And I began to wonder about people still dreaming about writing The Great American Novel. Had they just not read The Grapes of Wrath?

I'm not saying that people should stop writing. Just, what are the chances that someone's going to come that close to perfection? I mean, I'm re-reading it now and I'm just awed by the balance Steinbeck struck between the poetic and the vernacular. By how keenly he makes you feel the plight of the itinerant workers. By the sharply drawn characters and the dynamics between them. God, it's just so good.

I can think of so very few things in life that are quite that good. Things that shouldn't be changed one tiny bit. It's so wonderful to find these things.

Things like Alan Moore's The Watchmen, which blends words and pictures like no graphic novel before or since. It's the pinnacle of the art form. In fact, it validates comics as an art form.

Things like the Ren & Stimpy episode Space Madness or Chuck Jones's Rabbit Fire, in which Bugs and Daffy argue over which hunting season it is while poor confused Elmer Fudd repeatedly blows Daffy's beak off. These cartoons are, arguably (I suppose), the absolute best use of absolutely brilliant characters.

Things like Neko Case singing "The Tigers Have Spoken" or Ray Charles singing "You Don't Know Me", two songs that perfectly fit the voices of two truly great singers.

Things like my mom's lasagna, a meal that I could happily eat every day.

Things like Casablanca or Young Frankenstein, in which pitch-perfect casts were led through the perfect script by just the right director. How often does that happen? How often do you have a movie that just works on every level? These are movies that make you want to lynch hacks like Michael Bay.

Things like Ben & Jerry's Chubby Hubby or the cheesecake at Manhattan's Comfort Diner, two desserts that have undone every inch I've ever run on a treadmill.

Things like Glengarry Glenn Ross or Hamlet, the kind of plays that actors will sell their soul to be in. The kind of plays that give an actor a chance to be truly great. It makes it almost worth paying your dues in another shitty version of The Odd Couple or your director friend's ill-fated production of Oh, Seagull!, his singin' and dancin' Chekov adaptation.

Things that are good. Things that fill you with happiness and satisfaction. Things that can't really be improved upon. (I'd add my wife to this list, but she'd just accuse me of ass-kissing. Plus I really don't want anyone else trying to experience having her for a wife.)

It's nice sometimes to remind yourself that these good things exist.

Friday, April 21, 2006


A Very Close Call

This morning, I, like thousands of other New Yorkers, am down on my knees thanking the Almighty that our fair city was spared a catastrophic fate worse than death. Things were very tense up until midnight, as the very real possibility loomed over our heads that the city's doormen could have gone out on strike.

My God, can you imagine the anarchy that we barely avoided? I shudder just to think. I can see it, though. I can see the newspaper articles that would have described the hell on earth of a Manhattan without doormen...


NEW YORK, April 21 (A.P.) --New York City was plunged into bedlam today as the city began its first day in the grip of a doormen strike. Casualties so far have risen to the hundreds, with worse still to come as a city that's come to depend on its doormen tries to make due without.

On East 87th Street, 65-year-old Jason Benneton has been trapped outside of his building since arriving home last night. When he spoke to this reporter, Mr. Benneton appeared anxious and frightened. "I don't understand," Mr. Benneton said, "I tried walking into the building, but I ran into something and hurt my nose. There's this giant thing in the way and I can't go inside."

Mr. Benneton at one point flagged down a fire truck that was responding to an arson on 101st street. The entire crew attempted to explain to Mr. Benneton how to work a doorknob, but he was unable to grasp the concept.

In Midtown, Jill Caldwell's husband Ryan lies in a coma after an attempt to hail a cab went awry. Said Ms. Caldwell, "They wouldn't stop! We were standing there for what seemed like minutes, but they just wouldn't stop! I think doormen have some kind of magic button they press that makes taxis stop, but we don't have the button. We don't have it. So Ryan did the only thing he could think of. He dove out in front of a cab and stopped it with his body. What else could he do? We had tickets to Three Days of Rain. I called the ambulance and then went to the show. Julia Roberts was wonderful."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg hastened to reassure his constituents that the city can make it through this crisis. During a press conference, a reporter asked the mayor how he plans to cope, at which time Mr. Bloomberg confessed that he employs only undocumented immigrants as doormen at his building and they are too frightened of deportation to unionize.

A spokesman for the United Brotherhood of Door-Opening Guys told the Associated Press that contract talks were continuing, but that the union had some demands that they were not willing to concede, even if it meant a lengthy and, for the workers, costly strike. "Our job is exhausting. Opening doors all the time. Smiling. Kicking cigarette butts off the sidewalk. We will not accept any contract that doesn't include a provision guaranteeing our right to scratch ourselves without fear of repercussions."

And so the city waits. And hopes.

Man, I am so glad I live in a world where the doormen stayed on the job.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


One Last Word About How Absolutely Fucking Crazy Tom Cruise Is

Anyone who's read Hairshirt over the last few months may already be aware that I've got some issues with Tom Cruise. It's not just the fact that he took a seemingly sweet--if only moderately talented--actress and turned her into a shambling, smiling zombie down whose throat he sticks his tongue in public so that he doesn't seem as gay. It's not just the fact that he made every aspect of her pregnancy so very public, stopping just short, really, of conducting public tours of her uterus. It's not just his stumping for Scientology, a religion so patently fucking ridiculous that it makes Mormons' beliefs look plausible. It's not even the fact that he now seems to see himself not so much as an actor, but as a god.

A wrathful god. An interview with a reporter for a Swedish publication turned smugly (smug + ugly, people; it's the next big catch phrase) when the reporter cited experts who say that dyslexia can't be cured by Scientology.

There was an awkward pause, then Cruise burst into laughter. "“I'’m going to, in any case, admit that you have the courage of a madman,"” according to our translator. "“This is something no journalist has dared say to me face-to-face. . . .Scientology is a religion without divinity. Its teaching is a spiritual liberation from life'’s problems that can only be reached through advice, courses and deep studies. Your cynical media colleagues cast doubt over all the good that we do by spreading a bunch of hocus pocus about us."”

Doesn't this sound a lot like dialogue that Ming the Merciless might say to Flash Gordon? The man gets paid to run around and pretend to shoot people. And somehow he thinks this means that nobody can question his bullshit to his face? Who does he think he is, George Bush?

Anyway, it's not even his colossally bloated fucking sense of importance that bugs me so much about Tom Christ. It's the fact that we all feed into it. I shouldn't pay any attention to this assmunch. But I do.

I guess I could blame the media. They shove these plastic dipshits down our throats. I went to the grocery store last week and saw, literally, two brand new magazines doing exactly what US and In Touch do. They were called, I think, Celebrity Living and Distractions from Your Pathetic Fucking Life. But it's not only the tabloids. And it's not only the local television news, which I don't watch anymore unless I find myself really curious about how a deli on 72nd St. got away with using tainted mayonnaise in its potato salad until the crusading Shame Squad put a stop to it. Almost all media gives this same level of coverage to celebrity bullshit. And it doesn't help that CBS has elevated someone as vapid as Katie Couric to the anchor chair. Pretty soon Face the Nation is going to have Bob Schieffer doing segments in which he makes homemade ravioli with Senators.

I can't blame the media entirely, though. If people didn't buy magazines like People and Star or watch shows like Access Hollywood and ABC Nightly News, then the media would stop producing them. So it's not entirely their fault. It's ours. And it's been the same from Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks through Taylor and Burton through Brangelina. It's been happening from Fatty Arbuckle through Bob Crane through Michael Jackson.

We love to celebrate people who've done, when you think about it, nothing really all that great. Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey did nothing more than sing shitty pop songs and fart while looking good. And yet, at the height of their popularity, the nation paid them so much attention that you'd have thought they had healed lepers or figured out a cure for cellulite. We love celebrities. We love even more when they fuck up and fuck up huge. When they do, we're right there with our pitchforks and torches, ready to tear them apart and eat them. We are cannibals.

Which maybe explains why that sick fuck Tom Cruise was considering eating his baby's placenta.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


Scott McClellan Resigns as Press Secretary

In a continuation of staff shake-ups at the White House, Press Secretary Scott McClellan this morning announced his resignation from the post. McClellan, who has served the president for 2 1/2 years, appeared at a press conference with President Bush. The president praised McClellan and announced that, in a move many feel is designed to put a somewhat friendlier face on the administration, McClellan will be replaced in this position by the Easter Bunny.


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: You're one of the few people who firmly believes that the Duke lacrosse players are completely innocent. That's mostly because you've always just assumed that anyone who plays lacrosse is gay.

Taurus: This week, you finally find that last hidden Easter egg. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that its stench finds you.

Gemini: You need to find time to let your hair down, pour yourself a drink, crank up your favorite Gordon Lightfoot album and just get crazy.

Cancer: Measuring your penis in centimeters instead of inches can be a soothing balm on your self-esteem. Finally, the metric system is good for something.

Leo: Unfinished tasks require your attention this week. For example, that old woman you started helping across the street on Sunday is still in the intersection, waiting for you to come back.

Virgo: Shrink-wrapping your head is not the most effective way to fight allergies.

Libra: Try not to let your frustrations get the best of you this week. Potty training is hard at any age, so there's no reason to beat yourself up just because you're in your mid-thirties and wearing Huggies Pull-Ups.

Scorpio: Now that Tom and Katie have had their baby, you feel listless and without purpose. Not to worry. Melissa Etheridge and her partner are expecting, too, so your feverish speculation celebrity pregnancy quota is still being met.

Sagittarius: You're haunted day and night by the same question: McGriddle or BK French Toast Sandwich?

Capricorn: You take your first long-distance train trip this week and come to the astounding realization that it's just as boring as flying, just longer.

Aquarius: The speakers you bought for your iPod finally allow you to play the theme from Welcome Back, Kotter at full volume whenever you enter a room. The age of the personal soundtrack is upon us!

Pisces: Either the Dwarf Princes of Alterion VII have renewed their assault on planet earth, causing people to melt in front of you as you walk down the street or you forgot to take your anti-psychotic meds this morning.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006


The Passion of the Snagglepuss

I am awash in shame. I can barely hold my head up. I cannot look at myself in a mirror. I have disgraced myself, my family and my country.

My wife and I went to Brooklyn last night to join a work friend of hers for trivia night in a neighborhood bar. I was doing fairly well, contributing to the team. I remembered that Caesar Augustus was ruler of Rome when Jesus was born. I knew that Dolly Parton sang "Islands in the Stream" with Kenny Rogers. I was feeling good about myself.

They say that pride goeth before the fall. (Which has always confused me just a little. Setting aside the word "goeth", which I just can't say with a straight face, you're left with the question of what exactly they're saying pride's role in this whole fall is. Does it mean that pride goeth away and then you fall? Or are they saying that you've got this massive thing of pride you're carrying around and you can't see where you're going and you trip on a tree root and fall? I'm just not sure.)

Anyway, a question was asked that went something like this: "What '60s cartoon character's catch-phrases included 'Exit, stage left' and 'Heavens to murgatroid!'?" I grabbed the pen and smugly wrote down my answer. I hastened to assure the team that, even if we got no other questions right in that round, I at least knew for a fact that we'd be getting a point thanks to my keen memory.

When they read the answers back a few minutes later, I let loose with a scream that mixed agony, rage, frustration and a dash of picante sauce. I had, you see, mistakenly written that the character was named "Snaggletooth".

Snaggletooth? Fucking Snaggletooth? Why? Why on earth would I make a mistake like that? How the hell many episodes of Yogi's Ark and Laff-a-lympics did I fucking watch when I was a kid? I dishonored every hour of shitty cartoons I ever watched. I might as well have made reference to "Quick Draw McPervis" or "Guava Ape". I have disgraced Hanna-Barbera.

I was unable to shake my shame for the rest of the night. (I wish that was part of the joke, but it's absolutely true.) I just kept thinking, "Snaggletooth? Fuck!" I walked back to the train from the bar shaking my head and stifling the instinct to literally kick myself. I just knew that Huckleberry Hound was rolling over in his grave that very moment. The whole thing might have tortured me all night if my wife and I hadn't stepped onto the subway train and into a nightmare straight out of Hieronymous Bosch.

We forgot, you see, the cardinal rule of the New York City Subway system: If a car is empty, there's a damn good reason. We were tired, wanted to sit and saw a car positively full of available seating. As we stepped on board and the doors closed behind us, we were subjected to a full olfactory assault. A guy was sleeping on a seat toward the front of the car, a rather ominous trail of semi-dried liquid of some sort running from him to about the middle of the car. And he was exuding the most horrific poo smell I have ever come in contact with. And I worked in nursing homes for six years. Wow.

We beat a hasty retreat to the next car, meeting the knowing smiles of fellow passengers who'd done the same thing at the previous station. We sat down and only then did it hit me that I hadn't even checked to see if the guy was alive. I wasn't moved to go back in and take another look or anything, 'cause damn, that was some stench. Instead, I just sat and watched all the way from Borough Hall all the way to 135th street as groups of people fled the poo car. It's a uniquely New York form of entertainment, watching the mad scramble to get away from a hellacious stench.

Anyway, it put my shame in the whole "Snaggletooth" fiasco out of my head until this morning, when I woke up crying. I might have to commit hari kari. Or ritualistic disembowelment, even. Exit, stage left!

Monday, April 17, 2006


Brutal Dictators Are People, Too

The New York City Police Department this week is ramping up its campaign to make the city a safer place by mounting video cameras on city streets. Predictably, there are already people whining that putting the entire city under surveillance is the first step on the road to an Orwellian nightmare in which we'll all have behavior-modification microchips embedded beneath our flesh.

Well, I'm here to say I think they're a great idea. Hey, if somebody's walking down the street, smoking a joint, I want the police to know about it so they can throw that toking bastard in jail. What's that? "If he's not hurting anybody, then why is it a problem?" I'll tell you why, pal. What if that "harmless hop-head" is on his way to his job at Subway? So he gets all high in order to deal with having such an unrelentingly shitty career and then he's making sandwiches while stoned. Then I come in, thinking that I'll enjoy myself a nice six-inch VeggieMax on honey oat. Only herb-boy is lost in the purple haze when he's supposed to be listening to my order, so instead of putting honey mustard on my sandwich, he uses dijon. I hate dijon mustard. Hate it! So I'd much rather see this little prick in jail than putting the wrong mustard on my sandwich.

Let me give you another example of how these cameras are going to make life in the city better. Let's say it's winter. We're experiencing a nasty snow storm and the streets and sidewalks are icy. (Fortunately, thanks to global warming, we'll never have to go through something like this again, but this is just a hypothetical, so we'll say they somehow restore our planet's eco-health and move along with the imaginary story.) So there's this fat guy. He's walking down a deserted street. He's eating a cake. Maybe it's his birthday or maybe he just makes it a habit to munch on cake. It's German chocolate. He's taking a big bite of cake and really enjoying the coconut aspect of it all and he's not really watching where he's going and there's nobody else on the street to tell him to watch out. He steps onto an icy patch, falls forward and lands face first in his cake. Now, normally, this guy falls, there's nobody there to see it. He cleans himself off, goes to the office and the only consequence is that he's going to mourn the loss of the rest of his cake. A fat guy falling onto cake and nobody sees it? What a waste! But if there are cameras digi-patrolling the streets, then the cops who are monitoring this can have an excellent laugh at this guy's expense. Hell, maybe we all could.

Think about that. We could have an entire cable channel filled with cheap reality shows that use the feed from these cameras. You could have one show that features dramatic police chases. You could have a "wacky bloopers" show featuring things like the fat cake guy. You could have a late-night adults-only show that shows people who think they're getting away with having public sex. With the advertising revenue the channel generates, these cameras would pay for themselves!

And as far as that dystopian future the cry-babies are so scared of, would that really be such a bad thing? Wouldn't it be kind of comforting to know that your government had installed a lowjack on you that could shut down all of your bodily functions if you step out of line? I mean, we're all faced with these moral judgment calls every day and it gets tiring. It would be very restful to just let some guy in a central control room who's never met you make those decisions for you.

Don't forget: in all of those movies that show the future as some sort of oppressive totalitarian society, the women are often dressed in form-fitting black military outfits. That's hot. So much better than Logan's Run-style flowy, billowy white outfits.

Anyway, no matter what side of this debate you come down on, I think we can all agree that fat guys falling into German chocolate cake are funny.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Here Comes Jesus Cottontail

Happy Easter!

I spent this morning hiding Easter eggs all around our apartment for our kids. Seeing as how we don't have any kids yet, I'm really hoping they keep for a few years.

I'm not the only one celebrating this holiday, though, which might surprise you. (Seriously, stop and think about this: people are celebrating a guy coming out of a cave after being nailed for a few days to some wood.)
  • Pope Benedict XVI celebrated his first Easter mass by kicking it old school. The pontiff returned to the practice of washing the feet of laymen, a tradition Pope John Paul II had given up in 1985 after developing a severe allergy to athlete's foot. Pope Benny ramped things up a notch, not only washing the laymen's feet, but giving them a full-service pedicure, including painting the laymen's nails with two coats of Covergirl's Seashell Pink.
  • A bunch of Filipino guys celebrated the holiday by having themselves crucified. I think this is an awesome idea and I'm going to do something along these lines next Christmas, when I plan to have myself pushed out of the vagina of a virgin.
  • In a related story, a Scottish TV reporter celebrated being a big cry-baby by deciding at the last minute not to have himself crucified. He'd been in the Philippines in order to make himself part of the story and then chickened out at the last minute. Apparently, he'd been under the impression that Filipino crucifixion was something like Civil War re-enactments and that they'd use fake nails or something.
  • President Bush celebrated the holiday by buying Donald Rumsfeld a beautiful Easter bonnet. Said the President, "I think this pretty hat with all the lace and flowers expresses my complete confidence in the job that Rummy is doing. I'm sure he'll be wearing it during the upcoming invasion of Iran. Whoops!"
  • Tom Cruise celebrated Easter by being even creepier.

Saturday, April 15, 2006


Spring Kvetching

How do we, as human beings, acquire so much shit? Doing a little cleaning today and I'm just astounded by the sheer amount of crap we have. It seems like I've taken endless loads of stuff to the Goodwill in the nearly four years since we filled the apartment up with everything we brought with us from Seattle. We've made a conscious effort to pare down a bit. We've carted suitcases full of books to Strand Bookstore's purchasing desk (usually to be told by the snotty buyer that we didn't have "anything that interesting" or that he couldn't take this or that cookbook because it had a crease in the jacket). We hauled two metric tons of clothes all the way to the Buffalo Exchange in Williamsburg last month to clear out some space in our closets. (They bought three things, which brought us to the conclusion that we need to go out and buy some hipper clothes and see if they'll buy those.)

All of this determined effort to get rid of stuff and we still have literal piles of stuff heaped atop our dressers, desks and pretty much every other flat, non-moving surface.

When I worked in the nursing home industry, I visited the homes of a number of our patients, often to help them prepare to give up their residences for good. One lady's apartment had devolved into a veritable rat's warren of paper mounds and canned goods, through which she had left a path wide enough to move through. I don't want that. I don't need some perfect feng shui, minimalist home. I don't want a living room that consists of a metal couch and a planter.

But neither do I want to have to move something every time I wish to sit. Is it possible to have a happy medium?

*Deep, heavy sigh*

Friday, April 14, 2006


Smashing One's Head Repeatedly into a Brick Wall (Is Better Than This)

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday at this time, I was feeling very Snow White in the forest. Little birds were landing on my shoulder and a happy tune was in my heart. Cut to now. I'm fairly quivering with rage and if a bird were to land on my shoulder, I would very probably crush the fucking life from it.

Thanks, Earthlink!

Here's the deal, see: We've had our internet service through Earthlink for probably coming up on ten years. No real complaints for most of that time. When I was still mailing in the bill every month, they were very nice about not shutting my service off if I forgot for an extra week. They have very reasonable rates. For most of the time that I've had them, I've been a what you might call "satisfied customer". Now, not so much.

We've got DSL, which I love. It lets me get my pointless shit a whole lot faster, for which I'm grateful. We've had it for almost a year now and it's mostly been peachy. But for about the last month or so, I've had periodic loss of connection. Every once in awhile, the modem has a little issue and decides it doesn't want to work for me anymore. Which means I have to turn it off and wait for it to start back up again, a process that takes a couple of minutes. A two minute wait is very rarely catastrophic, but it's still a pain in the ass, especially when I'm paying for perfect service, not shitty service. (I considered the Shitty Service Package, which is ten bucks cheaper, but decided to go with the Perfect.)

So I've been meaning to call Earthlink customer service up and get it straightened out. As I'm off today, I thought I'd tackle this item on my to-do list. So I navigate through their "Help Menu" (and I wonder if that's meant to be ironic) and hold for a couple of minutes until the "technician" gets on the line.

Okay, there's probably no way to bitch about this without coming across as a racist assburger, but the fact that the vast majority of customer service phone jobs have been outsourced to India over the last few years has made it a lot harder for me to be a satisfied customer. I understand that it's more cost-effective for the companies. I know that the people who I'm talking to are probably just as skilled as the pot-smoking college kid I would've gotten on the line five years ago. I know that I shouldn't complain about someone's English skills when I speak only one language and sound like a retarded three-year-old when I attempt to talk in Spanish.

But come on! The lady on the phone with me couldn't understand my repeated explanation of the nature of the problem. She had me turn the goddamn thing off three or four times. She didn't' seem familiar with the modem I have, because she kept asking me questions about a modem that sounded nothing like mine. And when she'd go off on one of her pre-written explanation paragraphs, I had no fucking idea what the hell she was saying. She'd leave me on hold for awhile, during which time I would lose my DSL connection and turn the modem off and on to restore it. I'd tell her about it when she got back on the line and she'd once again ask me about the blinky lights on the front of the modem. She seemed very interested in the blinky lights.

After forty-five minutes of uselessness, she gave me a "ticket number" and transferred me, apparently to the person sitting right next to her, because there was no discernible improvement in the level of knowledge. This person, too, had me shut the modem off and turn it back on, then asked me to describe the lights. I got really sick of describing the lights.

Finally, I got pissy. I all but screamed, "The problem is with the modem! Just send me a new modem! Send it, you fucking twit!" (I'm paraphrasing.) She seemed to disagree. She suggested that I go about my business and call back when the connection was lost again.

So, basically, I used an hour of my daytime minutes to speak to someone in India and raise my blood-pressure. Awesome. I think I'm going to call back and just tell them that I accidentally dropped the modem in the toilet, so they need to send me a new one. Maybe that'll do it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


Death at Disney!

A forty-nine-year-old German woman died yesterday after going on the Mission: SPACE ride at Disney World. The ride was reopened today after the park's engineers found that it was working properly. A sad story, but one that I think is very interesting, due to the media coverage the incident received.

The headlines of articles about the woman's death mostly read like the above-linked Reuters article. A sampling:

"Woman Dies After Riding Disney "Rocket" --Reuters

"Woman dies after ride at Disney World" --Chicago Tribune

"Woman Dies After Riding Epcot Ride" --Houston Chronicle

"Disney Mission: SPACE rider dies after falling ill" --St. Petersburg Times

And then there's the headline on the official Disney World site:

"Mission: SPACE even more exciting than we thought before!"

Which seems just a little callous, although I suppose it's a pretty effective marketing approach.


It's Thursday and Roundtabler Trish has a really lovely story about Easter traditions. Check it out, and then go get yourself a nice basket of candies and eggs. And candied eggs. Ang egg candies. And cheap plastic grass.


Camera Shy

At the risk of disappointing the ones of readers who click onto Hairshirt to get their dose of Misery Done Right TM, I'm sitting here this morning almost completely content. I'm sporting flip-flops and shorts, in anticipation of a lovely New York Spring day. I've got a pot full of delicious coffee that I'm drinking one cup at a time from my favorite diner-style cup. I'm at the beginning of an eleven day break from teaching, during which I expect to sleep in a whole fucking lot.

I'd be almost completely at ease if it weren't for the webcam my wife picked up over the weekend. I understand the reason behind the purchase. My father-in-law has one on his computer and it's really nice to be able to see your loved ones when you're IMing. It eliminates the suspicion that you might not be talking to your friend, but rather a sex pervert who's somehow hijacked your friend's computer.

As nifty a tool as the webcam is, though, there are a few problems I have with it.

First off, this particular webcam is mounted on our monitor in a way that makes it look like it's crawling over the top on its way to plunge its circuits into my skull and make me into its cyborg slave. The largest part of it is vaguely head-shaped, and that cyclopsian eye is just staring at me.

The second problem is that I'm not always aware of when my wife is using it. Last night, she was IMing my sister-in-law when I came back to get ready for bed. I was nekkid from the waist down when my wife shrieked, "Hey! Make sure you're not in camera range!" That's no good. I don't want to traumatize my niece or nephews accidentally. "Come say hi to your auntie." "Mommy, there's a big hairy ass on the screen! My eyes! My eyes!"

Finally, and this is really the scariest problem,
I really have no way to be absolutely certain that it's not taking pictures of me right now. I don't know who owns Creative. It could be a government front company. Homeland Security could be filming me right now. Hang on one second, because I'm going to run a test.

(Brief interlude)

Okay, I just held up a sign that said "President Bush Fucks Retarded Donkeys" and nobody's busted down my door yet, so that makes me feel a little better. A little.

Anyway, under surveillance or not, I'm going to go enjoy my time off now. Happy Passover! Happy Easter! Happy Drunken Passing Out Day!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006


Hairshirt Spring Holiday Horoscope

Aries: During this year's holy celebration, you truly come to know Christ the Lord. You're stuck on a bus next to him while going to Iowa to visit family. Goddamn, that guy can talk. "Judas betrayed me, blah blah blah. Hung on the cross, blah blah blah."

Taurus: You come to the sad realization this year that dying each half of an egg a different color is not quite as fancy-looking as you used to think.

Gemini: Once again, the prophet Elijah doesn't show up for your Passover Seder. He does, however, call to let you know he's not going to make it and that you should go ahead and eat without him.

Cancer: Feeling left out that all your Jewish and Christian friends are enjoying groovy holiday fun, you invent your own holiday, "Drunken Passing-Out Day". The idea is that you drink a lot and pass out. If you pass out in a puddle of your own vomit, you'll have a prosperous year.

Leo: Your thirty-two year old daughter no longer really needs you to put together an Easter basket for her. Actually, what she could really use is a shot of penicillin to clear up her gonorhea.

Virgo: It's good that you go to church on Easter. It would be better, though, if you didn't feel the need to dress like Darth Maul. Makes the rest of the congregation nervous.

Libra: You're incredibly excited that a friend has invited you for your first Passover Seder. The fact that you show up with a big bowl of your famous Deviled Ham Spread means that it will probably be your last Passover Seder.

Scorpio: For you this week, Good Friday could more accurately be described as Shitty Friday, or even Testicularly Painful Friday.

Sagittarius: Your passion for discounted Easter candy turns ugly this year, as, during an Easter Monday sale at Walgreen's, you fracture the ribs of an 80-year-old woman who's reaching for the last package of Peeps.

Capricorn: Your recipe for Matzah-sagna is not the big hit you were expecting it to be.

Aquarius: This year, you celebrate the resurrection of Jesus with a Viagra-fueled resurrection of your own. Sadly, you're all by yourself when this happens.

Pisces: It's nice that you love to make the Easter egg hunt a challenge for your kids, but perhaps burying eggs in a five-foot-deep hole is taking it just a step too far.

Monday, April 10, 2006


Wash-n-Dry, Moan-n-Bitch

I just got back from the laundromat. I'm thirty-five fucking years old and I just got back from the laundromat. It's depressing. Should I not, by this age, live someplace with a washer and dryer? Even a kind of crappy one that I bitch about all the time and can't quite afford to replace. That'd be acceptable.

If I lived just about anyplace else in the nation, I would probably be at a place in my life where I would have a washer and dryer. I'm not rich, but I make an okay living. By now, if I lived in, say, Oshkosh, I'd have bought a small house, have a yard, maybe grow cucumbers in the summer. (Not that I like or would eat cucumbers.) And I'd almost certainly have a crummy, cobwebbed room in the basement in which I would be able to wash my whites, my blues and greens, my browns and my greys.

But no. I live in New York. Specifically, I live in Manhattan, where the middle class has been shown a huge middle finger and told, "Go fuck yourself, because we don't need you. Manhattan is now only for millionaires or higher." Yes, it's a great place to live. Dammit. The museums and the diversity and the mass transit and blah blah fucking blah.

Every once in awhile, though, I just get to thinking that I'd chuck it all for fenced-in yard so my dogs could go out at night on their own and crap to their hearts content, while I sat in my bathrobe, snuggling with my wife on the couch. And where I could wash some goddamn clothes without thirty pounds of quarters in my pocket.

Sunday, April 09, 2006


Palm Down

I know the story behind the Easter season. I know what most of the important days of Lent leading up to the Big Resurrection Jubilee are meant to symbolize. I know the general rituals of season. But there's something I have never, ever understood about one particular day in this whole Jesuspalooza.

When you go to church on Palm Sunday, the day we celebrate people throwing palms on the ground in front of Jesus and his donkey, they give you a palm frond. I saw people walking around with them everywhere I went today. I remember being a kid and receiving one when we'd go to Palm Sunday services in the Lutheran church where my sister had catechism. I know what the palms are supposed to represent and all. What I don't know is this: what the hell are you supposed to do with the friggin' frond once you leave church?

A you meant to find some really Christy-looking person and toss your frond in front of them? Should you use it to tickle any non-believers into submission? Are you supposed to weave it into a little palm husk craft project of some kind? I remember playing with it for about twenty minutes--maybe hitting my sister with it a few times--and then forgetting it existed until I found it weeks later and finally threw it away.

Why the hell do people need to take these things from the church? My guess is that it's a cross-promotional deal the churches worked out with the floral industry decades ago. I think it'd be a whole lot more environmentally responsible if the congregation were given whole palm trees to plant someplace. Think how much oxygen we'd be putting back into the atmosphere if every Christian around the world planted a tree once a year. New rain forests would sprout up.

So, Pope Whatsyerbutt, I call upon you to steer your church in a new and more ecologically-minded direction. Forget the frond! Plant a tree in Jesus' name. Amen.

Saturday, April 08, 2006


Brett Favre=Whiny Bitch?

My parents watch a lot of SportsCenter. When we visit them, the TV in the living room is almost always locked on ESPN and they're getting highlights and scores and such. I should state very clearly right here that this is not a criticism. (Relax, Mom.) My folks like sports and they don't always get to watch the games they want to see because of busy schedules, so they want to catch what they missed. I've watched SportsCenter from time to time, but have never had the devotion to it, say, that I had for Headline News in college. (The decline of Headline News over the last fifteen years is an entire post in and of itself.)

However, in an attempt to be a better fan of the Cleveland Indians, I've been turning SportsCenter on more often this week, usually while I do the dishes. (It also helps me feel a bit less girlie about doing dishes, but that's an entire post in and of itself.)

I had it on this morning as I scrubbed some enchilada sauce-encrusted pots and pans and that's how I happened to see Brett Favre's morning press conference. For anyone who's unaware, Favre, the nigh-legendary quarterback for the NFL's Green Bay Packers has been waffling lately about whether or not to return to the team for the new season. There's been a lot of speculation about this lately, with pundits questioning whether his displeasure with the team's performance in recent years would lead him to retire or if the Green Bay management would take his indecision as a hint to spend money on some name-brand talent in order to entice Favre to stick around. Favre called a press conference this morning and most folks thought he'd be announcing his decision.

I should say right here that I don't give a fuck about Green Bay and was annoyed that SportsCenter was taking time out of their baseball recaps to cover something so inconsequential. I was annoyed even more because Favre didn't alert the media in order to end the speculation and say what he was doing one way or another. No, he sat in front of a bunch of cameras and microphones to tell the nation that he hadn't made his mind up yet.

He got reporters out of bed early to drop broad hints that he wanted Packers management to get some more talented people on the team in order to "make a statement to the league." He also chastised the press for getting on his case about not being able to make up his fucking mind. Boo-hoo, Brett. Boo-skippity-fucking-hoo.

Is there anyone, any non-retarded adult, in the country who feels sorry for a multi-millionaire who gets to throw a ball around for a living, just because his bosses won't do exactly what he wants? Yeah, life's tough, Brett. How's that H3 working out for you?

I'm going to propose right here and now a constitutional amendment. I think it should be right up there below the Bill of Rights. Professional athletes are not fucking allowed to bitch about anything. Anything. If you get paid more than the entire population of Erie, Pennsylvania makes in a year to run up and down a field, court or track, then you need to shut up and be grateful that you don't have to do any real work. If someone in your family dies, you are allowed to be sad. If your teammates can't deal with you coming out of the closet, then you may be indignant. But that's about it. You officially have nothing else to gripe about.

The sport's rough on your body? So what. You can hire five homeless guys to carry you around. You have the pressure of fan expectations? Big deal. Try working the lunch rush at Hardees. The fame is too much and you just want some privacy? Tough shit. Stop crying and give me the autograph you're charging me twenty bucks for.

I realize athletes aren't the only ones who act like this. Actors and musicians who have entire department stores closed so they can shop in private should be loaded onto a catapult and shot into a brick wall, too. But athletes just seem to have more of a sense of entitlement. "Hey, you can't jail me for fucking that fourteen-year-old! I've got the play-offs coming up!" Wrong, dick! Just because you can lift a fucking VW Microbus above your head does not mean that society owes you.

And so I say to Mr. Favre: make up your fucking mind. Either accept an obscene amount of money to play for another year or accept an obscene amount of money to become an analyst for FOX Sports. But don't make me listen to you whine about it any more.

Friday, April 07, 2006


My Report Card

I got problems. I'm lazy. I'm chunky. I've got the worst financial sense this side of...some guy who's lousy with money. I try. I do. I've been running since last August, but I've been inconsistent. I've been working on a re-write of my last screenplay, but I've been letting it sit while I either work on other stuff or sit in front of the television watching Grey's Anatomy. (That's a joke, folks. I usually try to leave the room when any "hunky doctor" shows come on the tube.) I've been putting money in savings, but I have a bad habit of not checking my bank account daily, so the money I'm left after making a savings deposit runs out like drool down a baby's chin. Or a drunk's chin. Or something. Basically, I'm a little pathetic.

So here's what I'm gonna do: I'm a teacher. (At least that's what it said on my tax return. My students might beg to differ.) I'm going to use some teacher tactics.

As any teacher--even a shitty one--knows, you have to use different strategies on different types of students. A kid who gets in your face and says, "I'm'a snuff you, bitch" is probably not going to turn it around if you promise to have lunch with them. You need to think about what type of student you're dealing with and come up with something that's going to motivate them.

When I was a kid, I was a grade-grubber. Well, maybe not a full-on grubber, but I liked me the A's. I liked 'em a whole lot. And I got a lot of them, too. Not that I was taking particle physics in elementary school or anything. So I'm thinking that what I need to do is start grading myself.

I'm going to give myself a grade at the end of every week. I'm going to come up with a rubric. I'm going to look at how much I've exercised, how much non-blog writing I've done and how fiscally responsible I've been and I'm going to assign myself a grade from A to F.

This week, I'm giving myself a B in Exercise, as I've nearly kept to my Five Times a Week schedule, skipping only Sunday. For Writing, I get a C. I've written nothing this week that hasn't been posted right fucking here. Monetarily, I'll go C-. I spent too much on food this week and made a couple of small purchases that I could have done without.

"Joe's an intelligent student, but he's just not applying himself."

Thursday, April 06, 2006


If today was a normal day, I'd probably be going off on Tom Cruise's purchase of a custom-made adult pacifier to shove in Katie Holmes' mouth when she's in labor so that she doesn't do something un-Scientological, like make a noise. Yeah, you want to be careful not to complain or scream when you're passing something gigantic out of your urinary tract.

Or I'd be acting as a booster for the idea of having Paris Hilton play Mother Theresa in movie. (My God in heaven, this is such a beautiful idea.)

Today is not a normal day, though. It's Thursday and time for Roundtable. And so, I yield the remainder of my time to Lauren, who will tell you the lovely tale of an immigrant and her legacy. Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Hairshirt Horoscope (Special Edition)

Aries: This week, you find that people you thought of as friends are just not there for you when you really need them, much like every Republican in the House is not there for Tom DeLay.

Taurus: This is a good week to get outside and enjoy a few rounds of golf, the same game Tom DeLay played in Scotland on a trip he took for ethically shaky reasons.

Gemini: This week, you need to really take to heart the old saying, "What goes around comes around." For a great example of this, just see Tom DeLay.

Cancer: This week, you find that your faith really gives you strength through adverse times. Not, maybe, as much strength as Tom DeLay had when he figured that Christ Jesus would help him get away with all sorts of improprieties, but strength enough.

Leo: This week, you will be drawn to a new love like Tom DeLay was drawn to lobbyists' money.

Virgo: Be careful that you don't become a hypocrite this week. Like the kind of hypocrite who would use every smear tactic in the book and then announce that he's not running for re-election because the other side might practice "the politics of personal destruction". Like Tom DeLay.

Libra: Tonight, instead of going out on the town, you really feel more like staying home, close to your loved ones. Kind of like Tom DeLay might, if anyone loved him.

Scorpio: At times this week, you find yourself feeling old, like you're no longer useful. That's not the case at all. You've got decades of productivity ahead of you and a lot to offer the world. Unlike Tom DeLay.

Sagittarius: After reading this article, you get the utterly creepy feeling that Ann Coulter probably masturbates to a picture of Tom DeLay. Ick.

Remember, a real friend will point out to you when you've got a really bad haircut. Obviously, nobody ever did this for Tom DeLay.

Aquarius: Caring for those around you means doing what's best for them at all times, not just when you're about to get run out of Washington on a rail, like Tom DeLay.

Pisces: Tom DeLay's a real piece of shit, isn't he? Not that that has anything to do with you, Pisces. By the way, your lucky number this week is 8. Or 13 or something like that.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Malevolent Elf Gets Anchor Gig

So do you think Bob Schieffer is stomping around his office saying, "Seriously?!?"

I realize she's popular. I know she's got a wonderful way with celebrity interviews. I think it's great that we've all seen the inside of her ass. But to elevate her to the spot once held by Cronkite? Sweet merciful Jesus, that's wrong.

This is not a journalist. This is a perky hairdo with a smile like a fucking pirhana. And yeah, hey, I absolutely agree with those who say that we are far, far overdue for a network anchor who's not a white guy. But we can do better than this. What about Cokie Roberts? What about hiring Christiane Amanpour away from CNN? What about Waylon Flowers and Madam? Fucking anybody besides Katie.

Hey, why the hell do we even need an anchor? Why not use some innovative new technology to allow viewers to choose from a menu of personalized computer-generated anchors? You're fond of Big Bird? Press a button and he's telling you about the Iraqi insurgency. Single and horny? Make a minor adjustment and Jenna Jameson is interviewing Vicente Fox topless. You could have Woody Allen giving you NASDAQ stats or Speed Buggy discussing Tom Delay's retirement from politics.

Isn't that a much more appealing notion than having to stare nightly at the woman who's been brow-beating Al Roker for over a decade?

Monday, April 03, 2006


With Apologies to Beigey

My good friend Beigey came out for a visit last August from Seattle. My friend Deni came down from Boston and the three of us took a day to go out to Coney Island. We had a fantastic time, riding the Cyclone, hitting the batting cages, walking on the beach, taking in a Cyclones game. I love Coney. Love it.

While we were there, we spotted a mural that depicted cast members from The Warriors. Beigey immediately broke out into a line from the movie and went on to say that he was a fan. I had no comment at the time, because I'd never seen it. Actually, I might have commented, "Oh. I've never seen that."

I remember when it came out. I was a very timid little 8-year old who was relatively sheltered from adult content in movies. For example, my mother made sure to cover my eyes during several scenes in The Jerk. I've seen The Jerk a number of times since college and I can't for the life of me remember what the hell might have been going on on the screen that would have caused her to do that. Anyway, what I remember about when The Warriors came out was that I was scared of it. I think I might have thought that the fierce-looking men depicted in the ads ate children or something.

I remember that there was a lot of controversy and that people were upset by the film's violence. My parents must have had a discussion about it at some point, because I remember at least one of them coming down on the "Well, they're not getting my money for that crap" side of things. So I made it through my childhood and subsequent adolescence without having seen the movie.

A couple months after Beigey's visit, I saw that they'd made a video game out of the movie. The ads were everywhere for awhile. It looked intriguing. So I put the movie on our Netflix queue.

It came last week and I popped it in the DVD player yesterday and took it for a spin. Man, it sucked. I'm sorry, Beigey. This is just my opinion, but I thought it was a big ol' steaming turd.

If you haven't seen the movie, I'll try not to spoil it here. Suffice it to say, it consists mainly of the members of the titular gang running around. Literally. They run here, then they run there. They run from cops, they run to catch trains. Run, run, run. Run, Warriors, run. And then they fight a little bit. Mostly, they fight other gangs. Gangs that looked like they escaped from a really shitty Broadway musical. All of the gangs, you see, sport a distinct look based on their "theme". There's a gang dressed in pinstriped baseball uniforms with faux-KISS makeup on. There's a gang in striped shirts and bib-alls whose leader is on roller-skates, like a malevolent Bay City Roller. I mean, come on, there's a gang dressed as fucking mimes. Mimes! Run for your lives! It's Shields and Yarnell!

So instead of a story, we get running and a little bit of fighting. When I say "a little", I mean it. I watched this and thought, "This was controversially violent?" The climactic show-down with the gang that chased the Warriors all the way from The Bronx to Coney consists of the head Warrior tossing a knife into the arm of the squeaky-voiced Rogue chief. And that's it. Most gang fights, you see, stop when someone gets an owie.

And the acting! Sweet Jesus, the acting! I haven't seen performances like this since the nursing home I worked at did it's all-quadriplegic production of The Fantasticks. I thought, "Wow! It's no wonder James Remar didn't work much between 1979 and 2000. It would take a long time to live down a prolapsed rectum of an acting job like that."

Sometimes, folks, "cult movie" just means "crappy movie that's better if you're really high".

Sunday, April 02, 2006


The Kind of Fan I Am

Tonight is it. Baseball season starts. I am, in my own way, very excited. I say "in my own way" because I want to be very careful here. I don't want to give the wrong sort of impression.

When I mention that I love baseball, I get a couple of different reactions. I get one type of reaction from people who hate the sport (and there are many of them out there). Some of these people feel that baseball is the least interesting of the major American team sports. They think it moves too slow and they completely fail to see the appeal. Other people just have disdain for all sports and assume that anyone who enjoys them is a moron upon whom they need not waste their time. I don't really give a shit what these people think (except for my wife, who falls into the "don't see the appeal" crowd and she's stuck with me anyway) and don't feel the need to justify my enjoyment of the game with some kind of long-winded George Wills-ian lecture on the American spirit and blah blah fucking blah.

The other reaction I get, and the one that's more troubling for me, is from people who also love the game, but love it in a different way than I do. These people will automatically assume that you have the same level of expertise as them and start discussing trades made eighteen years ago or the reason that the Brewers' slugging percentage is going to keep them from contention. These folks--stat-heads, I guess, would be as good a term for them as any other--are great, and a lot of fun to watch games with, because they're just full of quasi-useful trivia. But they're enjoying things on a whole different level than me.

Which is why I feel the need to make this disclaimer: I am a fairly casual fan. I love to watch the game. I would rather go to a baseball game than any other live sporting event. Some of my fondest memories of childhood are listening to ballgames on the radio while I rode someplace with my dad in his truck. I understand the game well enough to never be confused by what's going on. But.

I am not a stat-head. I check the paper daily during the season to see where everyone is in the standings. I check to see if anyone from my team (Cleveland) is doing particularly well in any of the major stat categories. But that's about it. I do not commit to memory the ERA of every pitcher in the American League. I do not know from one week to the next exactly which player is leading in runs batted in. (And by the way, anyone who says RBIs as a plural should be shot. It's "runs", people. Plurality is built right in, just like WMD.) I do not follow my team in the off season. I try, but it's annoying to go to the Indians page on and see the same thing for weeks and weeks, so I eventually just forget. If I were a better fan, I'd be on top of all this. But I'm not. I'm lazy and would rather use my valuable internet time discussing the Golden Age Green Lantern's role in the post-Infinite Crisis DC Universe.

This is why I was taken so completely aback when I picked up the Sports Illustrated Baseball preview this week (the only issue I buy all year) and saw that Coco Crisp had been traded. I loved watching him play last year. Why, I thought, did they get rid of him? Yes, I see that they got a great young third base prospect out of it and I see that his replacement in left field has a .304 average, but are either of them as interestingly named? No. No, they're not. I liked Coco and he should have stayed.

I wish I could be more like my dad in this department. Any time Cleveland trades away a marquee player (or even just a sandwich board player) my dad automatically shifts into "We're Better Off Without Him, Anyway, So Fuck It" mode. When the big guns are traded, they're dead to him. Kenny Lofton? He was old. Manny Ramirez? He was a whiny prima donna. Omar Vizqel? Well, no, I don't think even my dad could justify shitcanning Omar. *sigh* This is another reason why I'm such a crappy fan. I get attached to players. I think the game would be better if it were possible for someone to spend his entire career in one place.

But it's a business. It's driven by numbers. Which is why stat-heads are just truer, purer fans than someone like me. And yet, I'll be watching tonight as Cleveland takes on the World Champion Chicago White Sox. And I'll be broken-hearted that Big Jim Thome will be their designated hitter. Why'd you have to go, Jim? Why? Oh, that's right. Because this is a business and not a family. Well you know what? All of you people who think about the game with your heads instead of your hearts can just go to hell! 'Cause I, for one, care. I care. Just not enough to be completely informed so that I don't come across as a half-assed dipshit in casual conversations.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Written on the Subway Walls

I don't like to think that I'm that susceptible to the siren song of advertising, but I'm beginning to suspect that that's not the case.

It's those goddamn subway ads. When you're standing on the train during a heavy commute and you don't have anything to read, you need someplace to look. Someplace other than at the seventeen-year-old couple making out or the crazy lady rearranging her sandwich bag collection.

And so you read the ads. It's a bit easier to ignore ads when you've got a bunch of different ones in the car. Some cars, you see, have been broken up and sold as individual ads. So you'll see one for a technical college that can teach you how to repair air conditioners and one for a product liability attorney who can make you rich if your kid ate lead paint and one for Dr. Zizmor. Dr. Zizmor runs a dermatological practice on the Upper East Side and he's all over the subways in ads that always feature his smirky face. My favorite Dr. Zizmor ad was one that ran maybe a year after September 11th. That one featured his wife, as well, in a huge sun hat. It informed the public at large that Dr. and Mrs. Zizmor saluted the courage and fortitude of New Yorkers. And also that Dr. Zizmor's citrus face peel could help defeat the terrorists or something along those lines.

So these ads that stand on their own in a heterogeneous grouping are a little easier to let run off the back of your mind. But there are many trains where an advertiser buys one entire side of the car. No matter where you look on these cars, the message is getting through. It's effective.

This type of advertising is responsible for my trying Anheuser WorldSelect (recently re-named Anheuser World Lager, which isn't quite as international sounding to me). It's also a prime reason that I joined the NYC Teaching Fellows program. The Teaching Fellows spend a huge chunk of their advertising budget on these subway ads. Which means that I now get to stare at them on my homeward commute and seethe at how deceptive they are. "You remember your first grade teacher's name. Who's going to remember yours?" I'll tell you who's going to remember my name: the kid who goes to jail for assaulting me.

And now these full-car ads are responsible for my wife and I deciding that we want to go to the Bahamas. The ads feature pictures of blue water and lush green forests. They promise kayaking and snorkeling. This is incredibly effective when you look out the window below the ad and see slush piling up on a dingy street corner.

The website that goes with this ad campaign is nicely put together, too, and features ocean sounds. We were practically drooling as we looked at all the different islands.

So I'm thinking that maybe the Democrats should adopt this same strategy before the November elections. Full-car banner ads featuring their candidates relaxing in a hammock on the beach. A website where you can hear waves lapping against the shore and the call of the gulls. Yeah, it has nothing to do with the election, but it'd be nice if voters could associate something positive with the party, wouldn't it?