Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Cliffhanger: An Appreciation

When I lived in Seattle, the theater company I'd helped found decided to put on a night of original shorts. We put out a call for submissions and, being a bunch of unknowns without the money to pay playwrights, we did not receive the latest from Stoppard and Mamet. What we did get seemed to have been written by the least talented students in the most cut-rate continuing education playwriting class ever. The stuff was just so pathetically bad that you could not read it without cracking up.

It was so bad, in fact, that we wanted to share it with an actual audience. It was decided, by those in the group who were more conscientious than me, that it might be a bit cruel to perform someone's work in order to mock it. And so we decided, instead, to write our own short plays and to make them as shitty as we could.
And so A Night of Shitty Theater was born.

My company in Seattle did Shitty Theater as a fundraiser for three years, writing new stuff each year. When I moved to New York, I brought the idea with me and I've written two more shows of shit. In that time, I've become a connoisseur of shit. I've developed a pretty good eye for what differentiates a merely bad movie or play from a true work of shit.

And, in that spirit, I'd like to say a few words about what is, in my opinion, the Shittiest Movie of All Time: Cliffhanger.

A truly shitty movie doesn't just ladle on a hackneyed story or cliched characters. It revels in them. If there is a tired, worn-out line that could be used in a situation, the shitty screenwriter works that motherfucker in there. The plot to a shitty movie should not make sense when you stop and think about it. If the characters acted in a rational manner, the movie would have some degree of verisimilitude, which is the antithesis of the shitty aesthetic. A shitty movie can only get so far, though, with a shitty director and a shitty screenplay. To reach the apex of shititude, you have to have a cast of really, really bad actors. Cliffhanger has all of this. And more.

Cliffhanger came at the tail end of what might be called Sylvester Stallone's "successful years", before the
craptacular box office implosion of Judge Dredd and Demolition Man taught him that he was not a God and drove him to try to find some pathetic redemption in Copland. So in this flick, he's just got hubris pouring out of his ass. He thinks he's the Alpha and Omega of action heroes here, and, with his co-writing credit on the screenplay, you just know that he beefed up his share of "good" lines. And he plays opposite Janine Turner, in a film performance that helped insure she wouldn't give very many more film performances. Then there's Michael Rooker, who's character, I believe, is named Angry Best Friend. And the cast is topped by John Lithgow, who seems to be in on the joke and actually parodying the movie he's in.

The "plot" of Cliffhanger involves a delightfully over-complicated theft of government bonds by Lithgow and his band of each-creepy-in-their-own-cliched-way villains. The theft goes awry and they crash land (in a fantastic sequence shot with twigs and model planes) onto a mountain, where they face off against Stallone and Rooker. But Stallone and Rooker's relationship is complicated, you see, by the fact that Stallone failed to save Rooker's girlfriend in a beautifully heavy-handed opening sequence that haunts the two men until about half an hour into the movie, when they both forget it happened.

Stallone dispatches the villains, one at a time. He rides one like a sled down a mountain. He shoots another one with a magical fires-when-submerged gun while he's swimming below the ice in a frozen lake. He impales the lone black villain on a stalactite after the fiend implies that he's going to take sexual advantage of Turner.

All this happens while people say some of the worst lines ever spoken on screen. Lines like:
  • "Hard times, man? What do you know about hard times? You did it your way...and she died."
  • "There were times when I didn't know what I wanted to do you...or hate you."
  • "Walker, you resilient bastard, you're still alive."
  • "We like it extreme!"
  • "The fight's not here, dammit! It's out there!"
  • "Damn you, Walker!!!"
All this and more. The thing ends with a Man vs Helicopter sequence that utterly rewrites the laws of physics. Lithgow's expression as he rides the chopper down to its inexplicably explosive destruction is worthy of the great Expressionist actor Max Shreck.

Dear God, I love this shitty, shitty movie. I have dreams of some day turning Cliffhanger into a Broadway musical. I've even written the exciting opening number, sung by Stallone's character as he's climbing the sheer face of a mountain. Sigh. If you have not yet had the pleasure of seeing this masterpiece of the Shitty Movie genre, I highly recommend you do so.

And now my question to you: What shitty movie is your favorite? I'm not talking, by the way, about a "guilty pleasure". I'm not talking about the Adam Sandler DVD you've got tucked away behind your Fellini collection that you watch because you think it's actually kind of funny. I'm talking about a movie that is so awful that you actually love it and are willing to say so proudly. C'mon, let's drag these films out into the daylight and love them for what they are.


Hairshirt Back to School Horoscope

Aries: You're determined that this year will be different; that this year will mean more; that this year, you will outshine everything you've done before; that this year will see you triumphant. Which is nice and all, but the reality is that you're still not gonna get laid. (But my God, you'll try.)

Taurus: This year will be a fierce battle of wills between you and a teacher, both hell bent to gain the upper hand in the student-teacher relationship. Well to hell with her. If she was all that fucking great, she wouldn't be stuck teaching kindergarten, a point you should be sure to make early and often.

Gemini: The fact that your mom insists on putting a pudding cup in the lunch she packs for you every day makes this year of law school particularly embarrassing.

Cancer: A whole new group of friends awaits you this year. Unfortunately, they really kind of suck compared to your old friends, who now want nothing to do with you.

Leo: This year, you'll be mortified when you start your first menstruation in the middle of gym class. It'll doubly suck when the gym teacher points out to you that boys don't menstruate.

Virgo: You shouldn't worry so much that it's taking you more than four years to complete your bachelor degree. What you should worry about is that fact that you're in year five and haven't declared a major.

Libra: "Why Halle Barry is Hot" is not a suitable topic for your doctoral thesis in African American Studies.

Scorpio: You need to take a long, hard look at your reasons for wanting to go out for cheerleading this year. Sure, there's the camaraderie of long hours practicing with the squad. And, yeah, it's a great way to get guys to want to go out with you. You may be stretching it a bit, though, to seriously think that you're going to win a cheering scholarship to Harvard.

Sagittarius: You really ought to consider joining a fraternity. Stupid fucking morons fit right in there.

Capricorn: You're right! Your spectacular job doing the morning announcements is a great launching pad to a career as a highly-paid disc jockey.

Aquarius: The fact that you truly believe that you'll get more out of every class this semester if you go high does not bode well for your dean's list status.

Pisces: Don't worry. Mommy will dry those big tears in your eyes as she drops you off for your first day of school. You have to try and be brave, little trooper. Those kids aren't going to beat you up. Just put a smile on and go be the best principal you know how to be.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Mother Discourage

There are things that make you feel like you're an actual New Yorker. Walking in the street when the sidewalk's too crowded. Knowing the places to avoid in high tourist season. Giving a stranger detailed directions on what trains to take to get to a certain destination without having to stop and think.

And then there's the Public Theater's shows at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park. You really have to have a certain level of New York-ish dedication to see these shows. The tickets are free, but to get them, you have to pick them up from either the Public Theater box office downtown or at the Delacorte. The tickets are distributed at one o'clock. The line, though, generally starts forming at four in the morning.

On Friday, my friend Deni and I met near the park a little after seven thirty and strolled over to the theater to find a line of epic proportions. It stretched down the pathway, around a corner and up a hill. The size of the line was a little intimidating, but we hopped in anyway. The woman ahead of us was nice enough to unfold her blanket and provide us a little cushion between the pavement and our asses.

We didn't get discouraged during our five and a half hour wait. Not when the Public Theater line management lady gave the same speech roughly eight times within our earshot. Not when an annoying fucking flautist set up shop and piped in our ears. Not when it rained and the woman ahead of us took her blanket away, forcing us to stand for the last three hours. A guy ahead of us had done a rough head-count of the line and estimated that there were maybe a hundred and eighty people in front of us. So we were pretty sure we were getting in. We were in a good enough mood that we didn't rat out the girl behind us, whose friend joined the line approximately four hours into the process, a Delacorte no-no.

When it came ticket-time and the audience wranglers had everyone stand up and compress the line a bit, we were enthusiastic, as our wait had come to an end. Looking behind us, we saw that we were maybe three-fifths of the way back the line, which seemed to bode well for our ticket-getting chances. So we happily did the slow inch toward the front, watching as people ahead of us got their tickets and gleefully skipped away.

When we got to about thirty feet from the box office, the Public staff announced that they were down to single tickets. That would mean that we would have been able to get tickets for ourselves and our wives, but that none of us would be sitting next to each other. We weren't happy about that, seeing as how we'd put in so much time, but at least we'd be getting tickets. There were only maybe twenty people ahead of us in line at this point.

Not a minute later, they announced that they were down to vouchers. This is when there were six people ahead of us. Six fucking people. Getting a voucher means that you don't have a ticket, but you have the privilege of coming an hour and a half before the show and waiting for someone to cancel. You're not guaranteed a spot and you have to do another ninety minutes of waiting. At this point, I was pissed. Pissed. Yelling, "Fuck! God-fucking-dammit!" at the cloudy sky kind of pissed. I was, at that moment, capable of tearing the heads off of the audience wranglers and shoving the severed skulls up the ass of the annoying flautist. I didn't, though. Instead, Deni and I went and played angry frisbee.

See, not only did the vouchers not guarantee us seats, but we really couldn't use them anyway, as you have to be there at six-thirty and my wife doesn't get home from work until almost seven at the earliest. We were deflated.

However, seeing as how this show features Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, we decided to give it another go. So we showed up this morning at six-thirty to find practically no line. There were so few people, in fact, that we opted to not join the line where it ended, but to grab a park bench some hundred feet further down the path and sit there as the line eventually reached and then passed us. We wouldn't be in the first fifty people to get tickets, but we were in very little danger of getting shut out and, more importantly, we'd have someplace to sit the entire time, which is very important if it rains and you've got a stream of water running down the path where you'd been placing your ass.

It turns out the bench move was a stroke of brilliance. Because it did rain. Oh, how it rained. And the people in the spots between where the line had ended when we came in and our bench ended up having to stand for the last three hours of the wait. We, meanwhile, sat on a lovely bench under our umbrellas, eating the snacks we'd brought and enjoying the garbage-bag-wrapped blankets Deni had brought to pad our seats.

And so I am now the proud holder of two tickets for tonight's performance of Mother Courage and Her Children, written by Bertolt Brecht, adapted by Tony Kushner, starring Ms. Meryl Streep and featuring Mr. Kevin Kline. I am all set for a night of wonderful New York theater. Which, of course, means tonight's show will be the one performance all year to be rained out.

Edit: So it did rain. It sprinkled, it poured, it misted. It rained the entire night. And they did the show anyway, with a slight delay of the curtain and a brief rain delay after the first scene.

Let me just say: if someone ever comes up to you and tells you that they'll give you the chance to see Meryl Streep perform live, but in return, you have to shove a flaming turd down a nun's'd best get out your lighter and start shoving. Streep was fucking amazing. I would watch her read a transcript of The O' Reilly Factor.

And then there was the awesome adaptation of the script by Tony Kushner, which was not exactly subtle in taking jabs at the current administration and was preaching to an enthusiastic Bush-hating choir. And then there were Kevin Kline and Austin Pendleton, who are both amazing, just in a different way than Streep. They're really more the kind of actors who play themselves in everything, but they do a brilliant job of it. And the supporting cast was tremendous also.

Just a really satisfying theatrical experience, and one that definitely warranted sitting in a wet park for a total of twelve hours.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Hairshirt Emmy Recap

Well, Emmy time has once again come and gone and if, like me, you sat down last night and watched the Show of Shows, you've probably reached the same conclusion that I have: The Emmys are the most socially relevant program going. What happened on that stage last night has such an amazing impact on the world we live in. So it would truly be remiss of me not to go into some detail about the ceremony itself.

The program started off with a little filmed bit starring host Conan O'Brien. Now, I'm not normally a fan of this guy, as he's one of those "funny" late-night hosts. Fortunately, last night he didn't appear to be trying too hard to be funny at all. In fact, after the film segment, he launched into a song and dance number from The Music Man. I thought, "Wow! This guy has his finger on the pulse of America's youth! The kids like nothing better than show tunes!"

Some of the first awards handed out were for Supportive Acting in a Comedy. The Emmy voters, in a stunning move, gave the award to Megan Mullally of Will & Grace. What a bold choice! Giving the award to someone who's won it seventeen times was the last thing anyone would've expected. Bravo, Academy! Then they handed one to Jeremy Piven for his work on some HBO program. I'll be honest, I had to look up who the hell this guy was. All I know is that he was wearing a cravat, and I'm all for anybody who does that.

They sort of pissed around for awhile after that, giving awards to people I neither knew nor cared to know. Finally, they came to the award for Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program. I'll be honest, I had little hope that the Emmy voters would have the guts to make the right call in this category. They had one superstar going up against a bunch of snarky late-night hosts. David Letterman? Jon Stewart? You call these guys talented? I sure don't. You know who I do call talented? The gentleman that beat both of them. That would be one Mr. Barry Manilow. That's right. The guy who had his best days a couple of decades ago was recognized, not based on "popularity" or "being even mildly relevant", but because the man's got more talent in his pinky than Stephen Colbert and Conan O'Brien have in their large intestines.

Then there were a bunch more awards, some of which I cared about (it's so fantastic that a guy can win an award for directing an awards show) and some of which I didn't (who the hell is this "Helen Mirren" person anyway?) and a whole lot more of the good stuff, by which I mean the snappy patter between the celebrities presenting the awards. I don't know who writes that stuff, but he deserves a raise.

The highlight of the evening, for me, had to be the tail end of the Salute to Aaron Spelling. I've been waiting nearly thirty years for a reunion of the original Charlie's Angels and, let me tell you, it did not disappoint. These ladies were just oozing class out of every hole. My wife seemed to think they looked like they'd all had some work done, but I beg to differ. Farah Fawcett? Why, there's no more natural beauty on the planet. Kate Jackson's skin looked so stretched-out like that because of daily application of Oil of Olay. Let the doubters squawk about how unnatural it is for a 58-year-old woman to have absolutely no wrinkles. I think she looked as fresh as a rose, especially if it's one of those roses you get in the drug store. Hearing her go on and on and on about Aaron Spelling's genius more than convinced me. Anybody who can have the foresight to find a major star like Lauren Tewes must have the Touch of God.

I had a few issues with the later awards (where was the love for Two-and-a-Half Men?) but, for the most part, this year's Emmys were everything I've come to expect. Bravo, Academy! Bravo!

Sunday, August 27, 2006


My Coffee 'Tis of Thee

Interesting article this morning on Salon. It's a look at the trend of teenagers hanging out at Starbucks and drinking coffee drinks in lieu of eating a proper meal. The article talks about the chain's new-ish role as a teen hangout and how kids are getting addicted to caffeine at a younger age through the miracle of non-bitter sugared-up coffee drinks. Which, of course, prompted me to think of my own history with this most wonderful of all drugs.

The first time I ever had a sip of coffee was when I was maybe four or five. My parents had had a party the night before and my sister and I came down in the morning while my parents were still sleeping it off. My folks were not big on the whole "clean up before you go to bed" school of thought. They were much more of the "fuck it, I'm going to bed and I'll worry about this shit in the morning" type of folks. So there were plates of stuff all over, ashtrays full-to-overflowing and half-empty glasses/cups/mugs of liquids. Being small and a fan of soda, I saw this as an opportunity to get me some of that delicious Pepsi that I was only allowed to have so much of. I picked up a mug filled with a dark liquid and I took a slug. Turned out that it was cold coffee (made, probably, at the end of the party to help drivers sober up before weaving home). I nearly barfed and I didn't touch the stuff for years and years.

My grandparents (paternal) were huge, huge coffee drinkers. I remember my grandma making iced coffee in the summers. Now, this was a good fifteen years before the Frappuchino. It wasn't some attempt to be gourmet or anything, my grandparents just preferred coffee to tea, hot or iced. I think I tried one once and, even with a couple dozen spoonfuls of sugar, it was too bitter for me.

As a kid, I knew from an early age how to make a pot of coffee, even if I never partook of the stuff. The first time I ever made a pot for myself was the New Year's I went to my first non-family party. I'd gotten hammered. Drunk enough that someone had to drive my car home. And then I was supposed to go to Pennsylvania with some friends of the family who were coming through at around four in the morning to pick me up. Riding to PA with family friends while intoxicated didn't sound like a great idea to me. So I forced myself to drink three cups of coffee, which sobered me up enough that I drove the last hour of the trip. Thus was I introduced first-hand to the wonderful benefits of being a coffee drinker.

I still preferred Diet Dr. Pepper to coffee, though. I drank tons of that stuff, even before they'd gotten the hang of making it taste like regular. When Diet Dr. Pepper first came out, it tasted sort of like how Pepsi might taste if you poured some of it in your mouth, swished it around for about five minutes and then spat it back out in the bottle. I was fat, though, and figured out at a fairly young age that adding a buttload of non-diet soda to my weekly intake wasn't going to help me get thin.

When I got to college, I still wasn't a coffee drinker. I had a mini-fridge in my room and I kept soda in there. Until my sophomore year, when I was hanging out at the house of one of my more sophisticated classmates. He was a year ahead of me and lived off-campus. He played piano, liked jazz and was basically a rockstar in the theater department, at least in terms of girls who wanted to/actually did sleep with him. I thought he was really cool. So we were hanging out one night and he made some espresso. Not wanting to seem like a rube, I accepted the tiny little cup he offered me and I downed it. Then I got a quick case of the holy-shit-that's-bitter shivers. Then I had another. And I liked it. And that was it.

I've loved coffee ever since, in all its forms. I love espresso. I love iced mochas. I love coffee ice cream. But most of all, I love a big old mug of plain black drip. Especially on a morning like this, with a massive chill in the air and gray clouds in the sky. To sit listening to good music and drinking a cup of coffee is pretty damn close to heaven.

Now, there have been, I have to say, long periods of my life when coffee was not my caffeine-delivery system of choice.

I've written before about my decade-long struggle with the monster that is Diet Mountain Dew. A monster, by the way, that I slew this past December. I slew the living shit out of it. It's weird, but I get this little twinge of nostalgia whenever I walk by a bottle of the stuff. It's somewhat akin, I guess, to the feeling I get when I see someone lighting up a cigarette. It's that sort of, "Oh! I used to be able to have that" kind of feeling. You know the one. Like hanging out with an ex-girlfriend.

And there was also a period when I preferred, instead of drinking coffee, eating chocolate-covered espresso beans. This was in college. I used to love to get high and then chug beans to keep me awake. I still love them, but I've long since realized that they're best in moderation.

It took me a long time to get to a place where I'm comfortable with my caffeine intake. These kids who are drinking a grande skim vanilla latte before their big algebra test are going to go through the same journey of self-caffeinated discovery that I did. They're just starting it sooner, thanks to the omnipresence of Starbucks on the American landscape. I suppose, though, that it's better they're drinking coffee than shooting heroin. Or maybe it's not. I don't know.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


Mas Musica

Well, it seems to be Music Day here at Hairshirt. Not only did I drone on for multiple paragraphs about opera, but now I'm sending you over to Metaphor Voodoo for this week's Roundtable, wherein Ms. Serena X asks a question about what makes a song good.

Personally, I think the only thing a song needs to be good is to be sung by Britney Spears. What a talent!

Anyway, go on over to Metaphor Voodoo and deliver unto Serena your opinion.

Quick note: Ever since coming up with the title for my last post, I literally cannot stop myself from singing, "Oh Bwoomhilda, you're so wuvwy" and then answering myself with "Yes, I know it. I can't help it!" Damn y0u, Chuck Jones!


What's Opera, Doc?

I saw La Traviata on Tuesday. I haven't been to an opera in a long time. Ever, actually. Which is a really, really long time. I went to a production of Amahl and the Night Visitors when I was in sixth grade, but I'm not going to count that because I'm pretty sure I spent most of the show thumb wrestling with a friend.

I'm not entirely ignorant on the subject, though. I own a copy of The Marriage of Figaro and selections from Don Giovanni. I only really listen to them when I'm writing and need something that I can completely ignore, but that's neither here nor there.

We went to see the production in Central Park. The Metropolitan Opera was doing a free outdoor show. A friend of my wife's was going with her husband and invited us along. Being us, we got off to a later start than we'd intended and the show had started by the time we got there. Which presented a few problems.

The show was done on the Great Lawn. If you've never been to Central Park, allow me to just say that the Great Lawn is, basically, a huge fucking lawn. Big space, lots of room. Until you fill it with New Yorkers eager to see a free show on a lovely summer evening. Then, the big, open space becomes a big crowded space. A sea of people on blankets or in lawn chairs, jammed one up against another, leaving, often, a couple of inches between their encampment and the one next to them. Which means that, to get to a spot somewhere within this mass of humanity, you have to negotiate your way through a minefield of paper plates, candles and sprawled out limbs; hopping from one tiny little patch of grass to the next; whispering a hurried "Sorry!" to the person whose ankle you just landed on. And you can't go in a straight line. Because the tiny little patches of grass don't go in a straight line. So you're bobbing and weaving through what is essentially a Denny's children's placemat "Help Bobby Find His Way to the Store" puzzle writ large. It's a little bit frustrating.

Even more so when you have no fucking idea where you're meant to be going in the first place. When I say the Great Lawn is a big space, I mean it. And when you fill that space with a hundred thousand or so people, picking out the two you're supposed to be meeting is no mean feat. Some of the more experienced park-opera veterans floated big bunches of balloons above their sites, making it marginally easier to figure out where one was supposed to go. Our directions were not quite so specific. This was no fault of the nice folks we were trying to find, it's just really difficult to get precise directions during a whispered conversation on a cell phone when a soprano is blaring in your ear.

And some of the opera-goers were not what you'd call understanding about the need to locate your friends. One utter douchebag who had her stuff set up not five feet from the edge of the lawn felt the need to shush my wife. I'm really hoping that she attempted to quiet down every single person who dared to speak when arriving at the edge of the lawn and that, just maybe, one of them smacked the shit out of her. Listen folks, if you're seeing an opera for free in public, and you're too lazy to get there early enough to snag a seat down front, and you pitch your tent (so to speak) right by the closest thoroughfare to the event, people are going to be speaking near you. So keep your fucking shh-es to yourself.

Anyway, despite the obstacles, we did eventually manage to find my wife's friend and her husband, who had been so very nice as to bring a huge blanket and hold onto all the space they could. So there was plenty of room for us. We broke out our picnic supper and listened to the music. And here, then, is another small problem. The Met had passed out free programs, but they'd done that well before we got there. I would assume that the program would have notes on the libretto, the kind that tell you what the fuck is going on. See, I had no clue. Don't speak Italian. To be honest, I didn't even know that it was La Traviata I'd seen until I came home and looked it up. So I didn't have clue fucking one what was going on onstage.

But the thing is, even with all that--the crowd and the maze and my utter cluelessness--it was fantastic. I mean, it was a concert-style production anyway; not fully staged. So it's not like I could have followed the details of the story even if I'd been briefed on the general outline. Plus we were far enough away from the stage that you couldn't really see much. And so I just used the music as a soundtrack for watching other things. The planes flying above the city. The people trying to get from one place to another through the crowd (which is actually incredibly fucking entertaining when it's not you). The young couple in front of me who went from cute cuddling to near-penetration. The music was beautiful. The night was gorgeous. My wife was right beside me. It was great.

And it was free, which is nice. Almost makes up for the fact that both The Shins and Neko Case played/are playing in town this week (both at McClarren Pool) and I can't afford tickets to either. See, New York may be an incredibly pricey place to live, but there's always some cool free thing to do. Can you get that in Des Moines? Maybe. I've never fucking been there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: Right now, you're really wishing your family had undergone some horrible tragedy, maybe something like being partly wiped out by the Khmer Rouge, because that would make you seem a lot cooler.

Taurus: This week, you accept Jesus as your personal trainer. And he's going to have you doing a lot of crunches, 'cause he's all big on abs.

Gemini: Tonight is the night you finally finish the screenplay you've been working on for years. Tomorrow, you will unleash upon agents and studios the glory that is In the Shadow of the Kangaroo: The Mr. Green Jeans Story. And the world of entertainment will never be the same.

Cancer: Good news for Cancers living in California--Schwarzenegger is raising the minimum wage to eight bucks an hour. The bad news is that there is no minimum wage for crack whores. You're still only getting one rock per handjob.

Leo: Today, Leo, you're feeling so fucking great that you want to sing. Might I suggest that you go with something from the Backstreet Boys? I find nothing expresses joy quite like a rousing acapella rendition of "Larger Than Life".

Virgo: You will prove yourself the most incompetent junkie in the world this week when you glue your nostrils together while attempting to huff.

Libra: This week, Libra, you just feel like being a big ol' whore. I say go for it.

Scorpio: A letter to your congressional representative will be taken a lot more seriously if it isn't written in crayon. You might also want to reconsider the picture of your house you've drawn at the bottom.

Sagittarius: Don't look now, Sagittarius, but there's a marriage proposal just around the corner. And, sure, being the seventh wife of an eighty-five year-old Mormon dude might not seem all that desirable, but hey, you're not getting any younger, are you?

Capricorn: This week, Capricorn, you're struck by the awesome idea of putting a bell around your boss's neck so you always know when she's coming. Innovative thinking like that is what's going to get you ahead in the world.

Aquarius: Aquarians experience a traumatizing sexual episode this week when they inadvertently start thinking of Donald Rumsfeld's nutsack during intercourse. They may never recover.

Pisces: Sure, it seems counterintuitive during the dog days of summer, but maybe you might want to just consider cooking up a big hot bowl of chili tonight. That's good eating.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Ground-Breaking Humor

I remember watching the Comedy Central Roast of Drew Carey when it was first on. I laughed my fucking ass off. It seemed really out there, y'know? These bilious insults flying back and forth, tearing into every single person on the stage. It cracked my shit up.

I watched the Roast of Hugh Hefner five years ago. Also funny. I remember reading an article about it in the New York Observer before it aired. (I read that article about eighty thousand fucking times as I was working at the Humane Society at the time and the New York Observer sells so incredibly poorly that vendors donated hundreds of the frigging things to us to line the animals' cages.)

This Sunday, I DVR'd the Roast of William Shatner. I love a good Captain Kirk impression as much as the next guy, so I thought it might be good for a chuckle or two.

But sweet nose-picking Jesus, this thing is awful. An hour and forty-five minutes of ass-fucking jokes. Wahoo! The comedy stylings of Artie Lange and Greg Giraldo! Yippee! Andy Dick acting weird! How exciting!

I mean, seriously, I get it. Farrah Fawcett was attractive and now she's not. Betty White is old and old people wet their pants. George Takei is gay and gay people have butt sex. It's not that I don't think that these jokes are offensive. They are, but that doesn't fucking bother me. What bothers me is that every one of these third rate jaggoffs runs through the exact same fucking routine. The first time someone makes a reference to Jason Alexander not having worked steadily since Seinfeld, I find it a little funny. By the time every single goddamn person on the dais repeats it with little/no variation, it makes me want to fill up my ear canals with a calking gun.

Until they can find someone funnier than fucking Lisa Lampanelli, Comedy Central needs to stop airing these fucking things. Let them stay inside the Friar's Club like Alan King's moldering corpse. If I want to hear two hours of people giggling about butt sex, I'll hang out with junior high students.


In Which I Try to Tidy Up

Our bedroom gets, from time to time, a little bit messy. Unless you're one of those annoying fucking people who takes time every day to tidy up before beddy-bye, all of us have this issue sometimes. You know, you don't throw your laundry in the hamper one night and then the next night you think, "Why bother?" and then it just sort of snowballs until you're stepping over a week-old pizza to get to your nightstand.

Ours wasn't quite to the week-old pizza stage, but it was looking sloppy enough for my wife to look around last night, give a soul-deep sigh and say, "The bedroom is really, really messy."

Now, seeing as how I'm still off for the summer, I know there will be people who will ask, "But Joe... Why are you not keeping up on housework?" To which I reply, "Go fuck yourself, you presumptuous prick!" Then I calm down a bit and explain it a little more clearly.

I do clean. I try to keep up with the dishes on a more or less daily basis. I vacuum from time to time. My wife is the sort to reach the limit of her tolerance for untidiness at 10:00 at night and start massively cleaning the living room. This after a full day of work and a commute that would leave a Viking comatose. So, between her work schedule and my preoccupation with other things--those comic book message boards aren't going to read themselves, people--we sometimes fall a bit behind.

And so, this morning, after I got back from the laundromat, I thought, "Hey! It'd be nice if I took care of this mess!" Which, on the surface, seems like a simple enough task. But it's not. No, sir, not at all.

See, we live in New York. This means that, even in an apartment that is by most Manhattan standards fairly spacious, we don't have a whole lot of room. Every inch of closet space we have is jammed with our belongings. We've actually considered hoisting our bed up on stilts so that we could squeeze a few more cubic feet of storage space underneath. So when you're trying to tidy up the room by putting things away, there's not always an "away" where you can put things.

And then there's the things that we need to get rid of, but can't. Like our old computer. We don't need it. We don't want it. But we haven't taken the time to remove all of our data from it, so just tossing it onto the street could lead to problems down the road. Sitting on top of that is a paper folder that was loaned to me by the stage manager of the last show I directed. I don't need that here. It doesn't even fold paper into theater-program-shapes, so it wasn't right for the task in the first place. Now, it's doubly not wanted. I've e-mailed her about when I could maybe get it to her, but I haven't heard back. Can I just pitch it? What if she then phones me and says, "Hey, I need to pick up my $3000 paper folder from you." That could be awkward. We've got a number of things in this category sitting around the bedroom, and there doesn't ever seem to be much we can do with them except move them to another spot.

My biggest problem by far, though, is my wife's clothes. My wife has a lot of clothes. It comes with that whole ovary thing. She's got enough clothes that there isn't a spare micrometer in her closet and we need to use a team of mules to get her dresser drawers closed. So, as we've been busy with one thing or another, she's had laundry that was done a couple of weeks ago sitting on the top of her dresser.

Which doesn't, I suppose, seem like that daunting a problem. You open a drawer, jam stuff in, end of story. But, no. See, my wife's clothes-sorting system is a foreign language to me. Mine's pretty straight-forward, I think. Socks here, boxers here. A drawer for t-shirts, a drawer for things I'm not wearing because it's not the right season and everything else in the closet. My wife, though, seems to have some t-shirts in one place and others, for reasons not evident to me, someplace else. In her closet, skirts are mixed in with jackets and pants hang side by side with blouses. And I'm just too fucking stupid to crack the code. I was completely unable to put anything in her dresser. There wasn't room in there for the tiniest sock, much less for the hundreds of thousands of t-shirts for which I needed to find a home.

And then, because I'm a guy, the thought crosses my mind that she's just got too many clothes. I know she doesn't wear a lot of this stuff. Maybe I should just go through and get rid of some stuff. Thin out the herd. Then everything fits, problem solved.

I quickly checked that impulse. I just sort of thought about my testicles and how much I'd miss them if they were, say, torn from my body and tossed out the window. So, when my wife comes home, she's not going to find perfection. She's going to find a neater room than she left this morning, marred by a stack of things I was not clever enough to take care of. And that's about as good as I'm capable of.

Monday, August 21, 2006


Shit About Me That You Neither Know nor Care About

I don't normally go in for these sorts of things. I really don't. However, because RW is such a nice guy, and I'd feel like a real prick if I didn't accept being tagged by this meme (or whatever it's called; I'm not that bright about these sorts of things) I'll go ahead and answer these questions. My deal is this, though, one answer in each of the categories will be a lie. See if you can find them all.

4 jobs I've had:

1. French fry dude at McDonald's
2. Activity director at a nursing home
3. Easter Bunny at a shopping mall
4. Foreign policy advisor to President Bush

4 movies I could watch over and over:
1. The Fugitive
2. Casablanca
3. Young Frankenstein
4. Battlefield Earth

4 places I have lived:
1. Kent, Ohio
2. Phoenix, AZ
3. Seattle, WA
4. Cloud Cuckoo Land

TV shows I love to watch:
1. The Daily Show
2. Life on Mars
3. The Office
4. Paris Hilton Sucks Off Carnies

4 places I have been on vacation:
1. Paris
2. Orcas Island, WA
3. New Providence Island
4. Fallujah

4 websites I visit daily:
1. Newsarama
2. Google News
3. Doonesbury
4.The On-Line Klingon Dictionary

4 fave foods:
1. Pie
2. Pizza
3. Good lasagna
4. Raw Goat

4 places I'd like to be right now:
1. Cedar Point (the Amazement Park!)
2. 1998 (No Bush, no Iraq war)
3. In Paris, with my wife
4. Laguna Beach

RW ended his response to this with a list of people he was tagging. I'm not gonna do that. The whole thing is a little too close to chain letters. I hate chain letters. So I'm ending this with me, dammit.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Summer Is Not Over, Goddammit

I was walking my dogs Monday morning, because it's one of those things a man just has to do sometimes, y'know? We were passing by a school that's on the next block. I saw all of these people who looked at least somewhat teacherish walking into the building.

Now, when you're a teacher and you see something like that at 6:30 in the morning in the middle of August, a number of things run through your head. The first is, who the fuck comes to work at 6:30? At my school, we've got some folks who insist on getting there around 7:00, but they're the exception to the rule. If school starts at 8:15, most of the teachers are rolling in at 8:14:59.

The next thing that goes through your head, once you've moved past the obscenely early start time, is panic. You have to stop several times and think: I'm not supposed to be back until August 31st, right? That's right, isn't it? I know I've looked at the school year calendar and I'm certain that's what it said. The last day of work, my principal said, "See you August 31st," right? Shit!

Then, when you've reassured yourself that you haven't fucked up severely and cost yourself the job that you bitch about so very, very much, you move on to the meat of the subject. What are these people doing here?

I looked at how all of these teachers were dressed. They seemed to mostly be wearing dark clothes. The men all had ties; many of the women wore dresses or skirts. So I thought, "Oh! That makes sense. Someone on staff died and they're meeting here at 6:30 in the morning so they can carpool to the funeral, which must be in the middle of Pennsylvania. Oh, that's so sad. I'll frown as I walk past, so they'll know I'm sympathetic." And I walked past, frowning. I was perfectly happy with this explanation, which seemed to tie up all the loose ends for me.

The problem was, when I walked past the next morning--a little later, because I got off to a slightly later start--those fuckers were there again. Still coming in before I thought work was supposed to start, still dressed more formally than I was comfortable with, still there way too fucking early. What the fuck?

So now I'm back to the drawing board, trying to figure these fuckers out. I'm thinking it's possible that the region this school is in is doing some heavy training early, in which case I should just be glad I'm in Region One. But, the school across the street from our house is in the same region, and that place is a goddamn ghost town right now. So it's not a region thing. And if it's just training, why the hell do these bastards look like they're going to prom? Beginning of the year training at my school, they're lucky if we show up in pants. Who the hell comes in for training in their Sunday best?

Which is when we shift from curiosity to bitterness.

Those assholes think they're so fucking awesome. "Oooo! I'm a dedicated teacher! I give up my summer so I can be better trained! I refuse to walk through the neighborhood where my students work unless I look respectable! My shit smells like roses!" I'm supposed to be impressed by a group of schmucks who doesn't take full advantage of their time off? Bullshit.

Then comes guilt.

Can I even call myself a teacher? Hell, I haven't started planning my opening units yet. I've been trying to not even think about going back to work. I'm an asshole. I hope one of my students shanks me.

And then, after all of this, we get the final twist. This morning, I'm walking my dogs past the school, I see all the teachers coming to work, early and dressy. I mutter under my breath. When I'm walking back to our apartment, I see something else. Students. The kids are showing up, dressed for school. There's staff outside the front door, greeting them with hugs and smiles. Huh?

You mean to tell me this school starts two and a half weeks early? What the fuck is that about? What the hell is wrong with these people? Do they get out two and a half weeks early? I don't think they do. I distinctly remember noticing their last day of school a couple months ago, which seemed to be the exact same as ours. Wow.

OK, it might make me a lousy teacher. Maybe I'm just not dedicated enough, maybe I don't have the children's best interests at heart, yadda, yadda, yadda. But if my principal stood up at a staff meeting and said, "Listen, folks, I've decided that we're cutting summer vacation short. It's better for the kids. See you August 14th," I would be the first one to hurl my grade book at him. And I would definitely not be alone.

Does that mean that we're not good teachers? Is this school down the street from me necessarily a fantastic place?
Does not coming back early mean that I'm selfishly robbing my students of a better future? Probably. Dammit.

Thursday, August 17, 2006


Dan Savage Kicks Ass

Don over at Everything in Moderation uses his Roundtable post this week to discuss what's going on with my favorite advice columnist.

Dan Savage, long-time columnist in--and now editor of--Seattle alterna-weekly The Stranger, has been using his column a lot more often lately to discuss political issues which are important to him (and to anyone with a pulse, really). After last week's column, in which he dealt with a Washington State court ruling that refused to support gay marriage, a bunch of whiny readers sent him letters upbraiding him for diverting attention away from his usual kink.

Head on over to Don's site, take a look at what he's got to say, then voice your own opinion. If you're at all reasonable, you'll agree with my comment. If you're an asshole, feel free to disagree all you want.


The Demon Barber of Pretty Boys

All right. So I expressed, recently, my feelings about Hugh Jackman being cast as Billy Bigelow in a new version of Carousel. I also attempted to explain my reasons for bringing up musical theater. At the risk of alienating any readers to whom musical theater is anathema, I'm talking about the same topic today, so please feel free to stop here if you fall into that category.

I was absolutely appalled this morning to read the news that Johnny Depp is going to be playing Sweeney Todd in a big-screen adaptation of the Sondheim musical, to be directed by Tim Burton.

Now, I am not the type of person who would, under normal circumstances, be appalled to hear any casting news that involved Johnny Depp, as I'm a great admirer of his work and I think that he could probably play just about anything. Just not Sweeney Todd.

I love Sondheim. And Sweeney Todd is my favorite musical. (It's nothing to brag about that I have a favorite musical, I realize, but we'll set that aside for now.) I've loved the show since I was a kid. I've seen several live productions, I've watched the Angela Lansbury/George Hearn PBS version a number of times over the years and I've listened to Len Cariou and co. enough times on the original cast recording to have it fairly well memorized.

Sweeney Todd is a middle-aged dude. He's had an incredibly tough couple of decades when the show opens and he's looking rough. He is, in short, an ugly motherfucker. Now, you've got make-up, you've got special effects, you've got innovative costume choices, but you are never going to make Johnny Depp into an ugly middle-aged dude. You're just not.

From his first season on 21 Jump Street right on up through today, Mr. Depp is, no matter how you slice it, pretty. He's got that look that you just can't ugly up. Even with buck teeth in Ed Wood; even with his head shaved in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas; even with all that pirate shit on him in those awful fucking Disney movies, you cannot cover up Depp's pretty. Can't be done.

This is to say nothing of the fact that he just doesn't look old enough to have a teenaged daughter who's old enough to run off with a sailor after escaping from her lecherous, evil guardian.

This is a continuation of that shittiest of Hollywood traditions. Take Frankie and Johnny in the Claire de Lune. This was a smash Broadway play that starred Kathy Bates as an aging waitress who finds love with a coworker. They go to make a movie of it and they say, "Hmm. We need an actress who an audience can believe has self-esteem issues and isn't used to men falling all over her; someone who looks like she's a bit over-the-hill and hasn't had a good life. Oh! Let's get Michelle Pfeiffer!"

Are movie execs afraid we'll run screaming from the theater if the people on the screen aren't pageant-ready? Yo no entiendo. So, I'm guessing we'll probably seeing Reese Witherspoon as Mrs. Lovett. (Actually, since this is Tim Burton, I'm guessing he'll plug Helena Bonham Carter in there. Which probably wouldn't be all that bad, grumble grumble.)

Look, I'm sure that Depp will acquit himself nicely in the part and I'm sure that I'll enjoy it. It's just, it would be nice if the pretty pretties didn't all the time wind up with the nicest plums. Y'know who'd make a good Sweeney Todd? Mel Gibson. He's got the age for it and there's no doubt that he could convincingly play someone who's batshit crazy.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Snakes, Plane, Blah Blah Blah

So I'm doing the dishes just now, watching last night's Daily Show. They've got Samuel L. Jackson on and they show a clip from Snakes on a Plane.

I've got to say, I don't want to see this movie. I don't want to see it because I'm sure that it's got a lot of lame-ass acting. It's directed by the guy who did Final Destination 2, so I'm fairly certain I'm not going to be wowed by the cinematic artistry. I know without even reading much about it that I would be annoyed by what's certain to be a weak and contrived plot.

The only way I could love this movie would be if the opening credits finish, we do a close-up of Samuel L. Jackson, he yells, "I'm sick of these motherfuckin' snakes on this motherfuckin' plane!" and the screen fades to black. If the entirety of the movie was that one line, I'd have to argue that it would be one of the most brilliant films of all time. I would actually pay full price if that was the movie.

It probably isn't, though.


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: You're pretty stoked about Gerald Ford's second hospitalization of the summer, as you've had him on your dead pool list for three years running. Good for you, Aries!

Taurus: The secret ingredient of your mother's Home-made Mushroom Soup that she's guarded all your life and has vowed she will reveal to you only on her deathbed? Salt.

Gemini: Today, you feel energized, on the top of your game, ready to take on the world. Ah, meth.

Cancer: However stressful your day is, there's going to be a nice surprise waiting for you when you get home. Unless you were expecting your fifteen-year-old daughter to be pregnant, in which case it won't be all that surprising.

Leo: A heretofore undiagnosed kiwi allergy calls a rather abrupt halt to your date this evening and leaves you stuck with the bill for removing a half-gallon of vomit from your dinner companion's clothes.

Virgo: You're going to have to go ahead and spend the fifty or so dollars and buy an actual puppy, because your kids are too old to be fooled by a sock puppet.

Pop the champagne corks! Ring the bells! Wake the neighbors! Tonight is a night for you to celebrate! Of course, when you're a raging drunk, it's like you're celebrating every night.

You're going to have to wait a bit for your horoscope, Scorpio. Depending on whether a bunch of new planets are officially added to our solar system, which would change your astrological configuration, you are either about to come into a lot of money or the test results will show that it's herpes, just like you thought.

Sagittarius: You're a little weirded out by your new love interest's sexual habits. Give it a try and just make an attempt to roll with things and enjoy it. You never know, dressing up like Batman and Robin might turn out to be the sexiest thing you've ever done.

Capricorn: Don't forget to take your list with you to the grocery store today. Remember, the last time you went without one, you ended up coming home with nothing but five cases of Top Ramen and a tube of Dentucreme.

Aquarius: If your life was a circus, today would be the day when the clown car drives off a cliff.

Pisces: Remember that time you and your frat buddies got really hammered and had a circle jerk? Well, your blackmailer does. And he's got pictures.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Land of the Dumb

Not that it necessarily needed to be quantified, but there's a new poll out from Zogby which proves that Americans are fucking stupid.

The poll revealed that, among other really embarrassing findings, about twice as many people can name the all three Stooges as can name all three branches of government. So, it's official: our country is stupid. We need to just accept it and change our name to The United States of Stupistan.

We can redo our flag. Instead of stars and stripes and such, we should just have a picture of a guy picking his nose and eating it. Likewise, we'll need to ditch "The Star-Spangled Banner" and go with a national anthem that better reflects our moronitude. Maybe a Britney Spears song. Or the theme from The Dukes of Hazzard.

God knows, we've already got a leader who reflects our Pride in Ignorance. And I say he's doing a heck of a job of shouting to the world just exactly how brain-dead the American people are. Why, just look at how he did his best to undermine the day-old Mid-East cease-fire by holding a press conference in which he pissed all over Hezbollah.

So let's all just follow G.W.B.'s lead and embrace our inner drooling idiot. Let's shut down the independent film industry and concentrate only on Michael Bay films. Let's halt publication of literary fiction and print nothing but quick weight-loss guides, insta-biographies and Ann Coulter books. Let's bulldoze five-star restaurants and use the space for bigger McDonald's parking lots so we can have plenty of space to park the Hummers we drive from our house two hundred yards away.

It's a global village, folks. And we're apparently the village idiot.

Sunday, August 13, 2006


What a Friend We Have in Agnosticism

I've written before here about my lack of religious beliefs. I'm way too fucking lazy at 11:00 PM to dig through my archives and find the exact posts, so you'll have to take it on faith (oh! the puns!) that I have, indeed, raised this topic before. And also that it was amazingly witty. So, if I'm repeating myself a lot today, writing the same crap about beliefs that you've read before, I have to apologize.

I've been thinking about it a whole lot today. That's partly because of some yelling at the television I did earlier. I was watching Morgan Spurlock's excellent 30 Days, specifically an episode I hadn't seen before wherein a Kansas atheist goes and lives with a family of Christians for the titular period of time.

The Christians seemed like nice enough folk, although I was baffled, as usual, at how anybody can listen to Christian rock and not want to slice their own ears off with a Ginsu. There were the usual Christian vs Atheist problems. Some of the atheists on the show felt a bit persecuted (they live in Texas, so...there you go) and complained that they were constantly having Christianity shoved down their throats. Some of the Christians put forth prostelytizing as a big part of their faith, which means that they're not doing their job if they're not telling non-believers that they need to get with God's program. (Or pogrom. Whichever.)

What disturbed me most, though, was the husband in the Christian family's inability to understand how on earth one could have a set of morals by which to live if you don't have it spelled out for you in some sort of holy book. This is where the yelling at the television came in.

Why in the name of Don Knotts does anybody have to have everything fucking written down for them? It doesn't take an all-powerful fucking cosmic being to tell me how to be a moral and ethical person. I don't need a benevolent sky-king to command me to treat people how I want to be treated; it's common fucking sense.

But the Christians on the program could not understand how a person could live a moral life without a concrete doctrine. And that bugs the piss out of me.

But it also got me thinking about what I believe, which is basically that it's unspeakably arrogant of any one group, after thousands and thousands of years of human history, to suddenly say, "Yeah, you remember all of those other guys that came before, with their pantheons and their sun-worshipping and all that? Well, they were wrong and we're right. We can all stop looking now, 'cause we've got the one way. And you're going to hell." It's just such fucking nonsense.

Sorry, that's not right, either. It's not right for me to say to a Christian, "You and your brimstone-throwing, ark-commanding cloud-dweller are fucking stupid." It would be just as arrogant of me to say that I've got it exactly right. Intellectually, I cannot believe in a God, but that doesn't negate the comfort and direction that religion provides for millions of people.

And there are times when it would be so very, very nice to be able to drop to my knees and pray. To have the faith to ask God to help me with something and to actually think it would work. I don't have that, though. And I'm actually glad about that most of the time. I like having the freedom of not being locked in a particular dogma that's dictated to me by a church official with a vested interest in spreading the Word as he/she sees it.

So what the hell can I do since I can't pray? I can believe that, although there is no sentient being who controls all of existence, there is an energy that's larger than us of which we are all part. And I can believe that that energy can give us strength without believing that the strength is coming from a giant dude in a robe and white beard. And I can be positive in my thoughts, knowing that, even if the worst happens, I haven't made myself absolutely miserable until it does.

And by the way, if I'm ever proven wrong about the existence/lack of existence of God, then He's going to have to answer for Hurricane Katrina, the Bush presidency and The Simple Life. "Holy Father, you got some 'splaining to do!"


Master of Snacks

My wife's been out of town since Thursday and you'll notice that I haven't done nearly the whining about it that I usually do when she's not around. Kinda proud of that. There are a few things I have to thank for keeping me on a somewhat more even keel this time.

First, I've had myself on a schedule this summer. I mean literally. I have it posted right on my desk. I have my week neatly divided into blocks of time in which I blog, eat, exercise, walk the dogs and write. And I've done a pretty good job of sticking to it. So I haven't had my usual wifeless issues with wandering around in a fog wondering what the hell I ought to be doing. I just look at the schedule and say, "Oh! I'm meant to be cutting my toenails right now. Better get on that."

Another thing that's made things a bit easier is that one of my best friends moved to town this summer. Which means that this weekend, while I haven't had the love of my life around to cuddle and talk with, I've at least had someone who I can toss a frisbee with. Thanks, Deni!

And then there's the Snackmaster.

I do the cooking in our house. I've discussed this before. Like anyone else who normally cooks for the entire household, when I'm suddenly preparing food for just myself, I get a little lost. I make too much. I skip meals because it's just not worth the effort of cooking something if it's just for me. I give up and order pizza. Not this time, though. This time, I've kept myself quite happy by using my trusty Snackmaster, not just to whip up an effort-free grilled cheese. No, no.

This weekend, I've been exploring the infinite variety of sandwich-based foods one can prepare with a Snackmaster. I've done tomato-and-cheese toasties. I've taken left-over burrito filling, slapped it between two slices of multi-grain bread and grilled it up nicely. I'm thinking of trying it with a ragout of roasted eggplant and heirloom tomatoes.

It's been nice. I don't have to do a lot of clean-up. I'm not making too much. And it usually involves melted cheese, which always makes everything better, don't you think? It also takes me back to family camping trips when I was a kid. We had several "hobo pie" makers and we'd eat cheaply the entire trip by jamming a turkey & cheese sandwich into them, laying it in the fire for a few minutes, then popping it out onto a paper plate. I've wondered, in my adult years, how homeless people might feel about campers blithely enjoying "hobo pies". But not too much.

Anyway, my wife's back tomorrow. So I'll put the Snackmaster back up on the shelf and resume my culinary duties. I much prefer sleeping with my wife to cooking with the Snackmaster, even though sleeping with my wife generally involves less melted cheese. Except that one time. Which we won't discuss here.

Saturday, August 12, 2006


IMDB Is the Devil's Playground

I was at the gym this morning ('cause, y'know, I do that sometimes) running on the treadmill and trying to maintain an interest in the rebroadcast of last night's Mets/Nationals game playing on the television in front of me. This wasn't easy as I neither give a shit about-- nor have any sort of working knowledge of--either team.

A couple of sets over, there was an utterly repulsive-looking TV movie running on TNT. It looked like your basic Lifetime special; a romantic "comedy" that, if I'd been forced to actually sit through it, would've made me jam a letter-opener up my nose in an attempt to lobotomize myself and stop the suffering.

The thing is, though, that there are only so many fucking close-ups of Paul Lo Duca I can watch without hearing whatever the hell the idiot commentators are talking about that's keeping him on the screen for minutes at a time before my eyes start to wander over to any other goddamn thing in the room that'll hold their attention.

So I found myself looking back over at the crap on TNT. It starred Patricia Heaton, who's always been as appealing to me as chilled wheat paste, and Lainie Kazan, who is a nasally notch below Fran Drescher on the Vomitously Annoying Actress Scale. It looked like it was set either in Italy or in the Sonoma Valley or in an Olive Garden off of I-95 and from what I could gather, the plot seemed to involve a woman whose mother plans on smothering all the men in the house with her enormous breasts. I'll be honest, I wasn't really working overtime to figure out what was happening.

The thing I kept looking over for was that there was an actor, playing opposite Patricia Heaton, who I recognized, but could not place. I knew that he looked older than I remembered him, probably because the only work he's able to get is the occasional shitty TV movie with Patricia Heaton as the lead, and when the fuck would I have seen that? But, as I finished up my sad little attempt at exercise, I still couldn't place him. So I thought, "Oh, I'll just look up Patricia Heaton movies on IMDB when I get home."

This is a problem. I don't give a fricasseed rat turd about fucking Patricia Heaton movies. Nor will my world come crashing down if I never figure out who the vaguely familiar actor is. I should not give a fuck and I definitely shouldn't be spending time on this issue when I could be doing something productive, like washing my clothes so I don't have to work out in shorts that are quite so crusty.

And this is the real evil of the internet age. It's not the people who no longer physically interact with other people, like I've heard so many nitwits whine about. It's not the easy availability of morality-killing pornography that fucking fundamentalists are all twisted up over. It's not even the increased opportunities for child molesters to make contact with children that Dateline NBC seems to be so jazzed over. The real evil of the internet is that we have the ability to search out the answers to all these fucking picayune questions that we used to be able to shrug off and say, "Ah, who knows?"

And IMDB is absolutely the worst.

Formerly Productive Citizen #1: Hey, what the hell was the name of that sitcom that starred Michael Keaton and Jim Belushi?

Formerly Productive Citizen #2: Oh, shit, I don't remember. Hang on! I'll IMDB it.

Nobody should care about a sitcom which starred Michael Keaton and Jim Belushi! Nobody! (It was called Working Stiffs, by the way.) And even if someone does care, there's no earthly reason that we should be spending a nanosecond trying to learn something about it, dammit.

The scales have fallen from my eyes and I now see IMDB as the modern-day Bread and Circuses that it is. And I'm done with it, do you hear me? Done. I'm going to use my precious time to read Shakespeare and learn foreign languages and bake really delicious chocolate cream pies. Hang on a second...

Okay so the movie was called The Engagement Ring and the actor whose name I couldn't remember was Vincent Spano. Also, Patricia Heaton was born in Bay Village, Ohio, which is a suburb of Cleveland. I dated a girl from Bay Village once. But that's not important.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Travels Without Charley

Stephen over at Serenade in Green serves up a well-timed travel-themed post for this week's Roundtable. Head on over and tell Stephen where you been lately. There's a new kid in town. Everybody loves him. When you're not around.

Good Christ, I hate that song.


You're Thor? I'm Tho Thor I Can't Even Pith!

It's a beautiful, beautiful day in New York. A wonderful cool breeze is blowing through my apartment, meaning sweet, sweet relief from an air-conditioning-inflated electric bill. It's cool enough that I can enjoy coffee again! It's so incredibly nice out because we had one hell of a storm blow through last evening.

The weatherfolk had forecast a "chance of thunderstorms", but we got something a bit more intense than I'd expected. When I walked our dogs last night, there was a police emergency crew on my block taking a chainsaw to a tree that had been blown apart and blocked the street. This morning, in the park, I saw that huge streams of water had swept away great chunks of dirt and wood chips from one of my favorite spots and that there was another downed tree.

And during this storm, I was sitting inside the apartment, watching the rain splash against the window. Which makes me feel old.

Now, see if you can follow my warped, moronic logic on this:

I love storms. When I was a kid, they scared the living shit out of me. I was petrified that I was going to be struck by lightning or that a tornado was going to swoop down out of the smallest storm cloud and smash my body into paste. I remember one time waking up in the middle of the night, looking out the window of my bedroom and thinking that a couple of tree branches were actually a funnel cloud. I ran through the house, waking my family up and yelling for them to join me in the basement.

Then, when I was about thirteen, we moved to the former campground where my grandparents lived. That summer, I rode out a storm with my grandpa in a tin-roofed pavilion. My grandpa was having a great time, watching the lightning, staying dry in the center of the pavilion as the rain blew in through the open sides and soaked the floor. The sound the rain made pounding on the roof is one of my favorite noises to this day. It was awesome. And I learned that storms are natural and beautiful and--as long as you don't do anything too stupid--enjoyable.

It changed my outlook on things. Instead of running for a bomb shelter the first time I saw a flash of lightning, I learned to look forward to storms. I learned that, in the words of the immortal Eddie Rabbit, "I love a rainy night."

I remember a storm when I was in college. There was massive flooding and a friend of mine and I decided to go splash around in a newly-created roadside lake. It was a great time.

On our honeymoon, my wife and I got wetter than I thought humanly possible while walking in the park by our hotel during a Montreal gullywasher.

But last night, when this storm was blowing through, instead of running downstairs to check it out; instead of going outside to marvel at the power of nature; instead of celebrating the glory of Thor, God of Thunder; instead of standing in the middle of the maelstrom and reminding myself that I'm alive; I sat on my fat ass watching South Park and eating pizza. What the hell's wrong with me?

I'll tell you what the hell's wrong with me: I'm so fucking whiny and self-absorbed that I actively look for signs of my own decrepitude. Is it that bad a thing that I don't stay out all night anymore? Is it that bad a thing that I don't get high anymore? Is it that bad a thing that I'd rather finish my delicious home-made pizza than rush outside and get my clothes all wet and then have to change into something dry before I can finish my pizza? Probably not. Probably, it's okay. Probably it's not a sign that I'm ready to lie pissing myself in a nursing home bed.

Still, maybe next time I'll put South Park on pause.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Now THAT'S a Terror Threat!

So, unless you're living in a cave (specifically a cave without a radio, television or DSL modem) you've heard about this morning's arrest of twenty-one people involved in a plot to use liquid explosives to blow up a number of planes flying from the U.K. to the U.S.

I've heard officials describing this plot as incredibly well-coordinated and "advanced". So that means that, if they hadn't been stopped, this horrific scheme would have been carried out in the near future, leaving hundreds dead and the British and American people once again fearing for our lives.

This is so much better than American authorities cracking down on a bunch of idiots thinking vaguely about taking out the Sears tower. I mean, this is a serious fucking threat, unlike most of the shit that Bush and Co. have used to crank up the Threat Level Colors over the past few years.

Which I'm sure they'll do now. They'll probably see a nice opportunity to scare the public afresh and try to convince people that only macho Republicans can stop shit like this from happening again.

I'd like the authorities to explore the possibility that this whole thing was cooked up by Johnson & Johnson or other manufacturers of toiletries. I mean, with airline passengers not allowed to carry any liquids/gels on the plane except medicine and baby formula, shampoo-makers stand to make a fucking fortune as travelers have to either buy new soap or spend their vacations stinking.

Scary, scary stuff. Almost as scary as the shitty TV movie that'll inevitably be made out of this.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: You're terribly sad today, Aries, that your favorite senatorial candidate ran out of Joe-mentum. In fact, he seems to have developed a bit of Joe-nertia.

Taurus: Your normal daily routine is disrupted today, Taurus, either by a wonderful surprise visit from an old friend or a sudden need to go home and get some clean pants. The stars aren't real clear on which one.

Gemini: Don't freshly-baked oatmeal cookies, soft and warm from the oven, sound good? Well, you'll be able to enjoy as many of them as you want as soon as you emerge from the coma you're going to lapse into after an accident this afternoon. Mmm. Cookies.

Cancer: Yes, it's your intention to reassure your blind date about her physical appearance and, yes, you're doing it very well, but no woman likes to have someone she just met sing "Baby Got Back" to her in a crowded restaurant.

Leo: Maybe there's a better way to live your life than trying to emulate Judd Nelson in Breakfast Club. Perhaps you might consider his work in From the Hip instead.

Virgo: It's wonderful how much you enjoy Diet Sierra Mist. Most people, though, would say that bathing in it takes things just a couple steps too far.

Libra: You need to work on overcoming your fears, Libra. Your fear of brushing your teeth might be a good place to start.

Scorpio: A sudden urge to make changes in your life results in your moving a chair from one side of the living room to the other. Way to go, Scorpio.

Sagittarius: It's a gorgeous day outside, Sagittarius. So maybe you might consider stepping away from your computer and skipping the Jeri Ryan-themed Wankathon you'd had penciled in for today.

Capricorn: This week, you'll be convinced by a television commercial to buy the latest George Pelecano novel. You're an idiot, by the way.

Aquarius: Did you put on deodorant this morning? Are you sure? Seriously, do you actually remember the moment you picked it up, applied it and put the cap back on?

Pisces: You should, indeed, let sleeping dogs lie. Just be aware that sleeping dogs sometimes let out with some really nasty farts.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Ann of Red, White and Blue Gables

I was reading some stuff on the Huffington Post last night (I just started reading it a few days ago and I'm still not sure what I think of it) and I came across an article from Media Matters which debunks a number of things from Ann Coulter's new book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

They found a whole assload of examples of Coulter citing articles completely out of context or crediting her own whacked-out ideas to other sources to make it seem less like she was pulling stuff out of her ass. None of this surprised me; I mean, if you've ever heard this woman speak, you realize that she's got a completely Bush administration view of life: make up your tiny little mind and then twist the facts as much as you need to back your ideas up.

But as I was reading comment after comment from people calling her a crusty douchebag or saying that she has congress with the devil or what-have-you, I thought about the fact that her books are read almost entirely--I would guess--by people who think exactly like she does. And Al Franken books--I would guess--are read almost entirely by people like me.

Because we all like to have someone tell us that how we feel is dead on. We all like to have someone throw a few logs on our bonfire of outrage. But that's one reason we can't get anything done in this country. We're far too busy throwing used diapers at the people on the other side.

So I'm thinking I'm going to try reading Coulter's latest. I'm not going to buy the fucking thing, 'cause God knows I don't want to give that woman any money. I'm going to check it out from the library. I'm fairly certain I know the kind of shit I'll find in there and I can say with confidence that I'll probably disagree with every single thing I find in there. I'm not going to promise to finish the book, 'cause I very well may get three pages into it and find that my intestines leap up through my torso and attack my brain rather than allow me to read any more. But I'm going to try.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Music to Not Have Sex By

Disturbing news on the wires this morning: apparently, a new study has found that teens who listen to music with "sexually degrading" lyrics tend to have sex at an earlier age. The study says that, among teenagers who regularly listen to songs in which women are treated as objects, "...51% start having sex within two years."

This is shedding some light on my own teenage years. When I was eleven and twelve years old, I listened to fucking Christopher Cross and Air Supply. This is why I didn't lose my virginity until I was almost out of high school. It makes utter and complete sense; I mean, you try getting an erection while listening to "All Out of Love". It can't be done!

And the pop music of my high school years was no better. "Tarzan Boy" isn't going to get anybody in the mood, at least not straight people. "Rock Me Amadeus"? "99 Luftbaloons"? "Walking On Sunshine"? Unsexy. Unsexy. Unsexy.

Yeah, I guess Janet Jackson had some songs about being nasty, but rural white boys like me didn't know that that was a good way to get girls to lower their inhibitions, we just knew that we couldn't dance very well, so we sat by the bleachers drinking punch while girls danced with each other.

None of the music that I actually owned and liked was the least bit sexy. I was a giant Aerosmith fan in high school. Do you think that sent the women flocking my way? "Ooo! He's listening to 'Permanent Vacation' and he's got a mullet. That's so fucking hot!" Then, the summer after I graduated, I found They Might Be Giants and listened to them all the way through college. You're not going to get a whole hell of a lot of play when you walk around campus singing "Purple Toupee". You're just not.

In a way, I guess it's kind of comforting. The problem isn't that I was a pathetic loser who was too shy to even attempt to put moves on any girl I liked. The problem was my playlist.

So I say to the kids of today: You go for it, kids. Listen to that music, fuck like bunnies and to hell with the consequences. You know something? Hips don't lie. Neither, in fact, do elbows.

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Not Just Bad, But Bad For You

Sereena over at Metaphor Voodoo is talking today about the problems with the government's reimagined Food Pyramid. She thinks it's fucked. So she's having people log on and suggest foods of their own for a new, better food pyramid that's not so beholden to The Man.

I like this idea and my contribution was Totino's Pizza Rolls. I put those on because I've seen ads for "improved" Totino's Pizza Rolls and they reminded me how utterly disgusting these things are.

When I was a kid, I loved those La Choy Egg Rolls. They've got as much do to with a real egg roll as watermelon-flavored gum has to do with actual watermelon, but I liked 'em anyway. I scarfed them up like nobody's business, which may help to explain why I spent my junior high years as a huge fat-ass.

, I saw these pizza rolls in the grocery store, figured they'd be just like my beloved egg rolls (only better, 'cause they were pizza-ish) and begged my mom to get them. Which is how I experienced heartburn for the very first time.

These things are disgusting. They're molten fake cheese, ketchup and artificial pepperoni flavoring all wrapped up in a greasy little shell. It's like if you put a slice of bad pizza in your shoe and then wore the shoe around all day until the pizza slice was all scrunched up in the toe. Then you take it out and slap it on a plate.

Why then, you may ask (but probably won't), did I put it in this glorious new food pyramid? Basically to get a warning out to the masses: Don't eat these fucking things.


I Was a Teenage Ito

So I'm zipping around Google News this morning and I come across a story that says Hugh Jackman is going to be playing Billy Bigelow in a new production of Carousel.

And I thought, "Oh my God! He'd be a perfect Billy Bigelow! He's going to be awesome in that part. I can't wait to see it."

And then I stopped for a moment and I thought, "Man. I find it vaguely disconcerting that I'm that enthusiastic about a musical."

But there's a perfectly valid, non-gay reason that I have a knowledge of--and a fondness for--musicals. I grew up doing community theater. At nine years old, I got my start in the chorus of Fiddler on the Roof. Twenty-seven years later and I still occasionally find myself singing bits of "If I Were a Rich Man". The stuff sticks with you, friends, let me tell ya.

I did musicals throughout my teenage years, largely because all community theaters do a shitload of musicals. I danced the "Shipoopi" with a face swollen up like Eric Stoltz in Mask from poison ivy. I played a Nazi soldier in two different productions of Sound of Music because my dad was directing and needed extra bodies. I played Young Patrick in my high school's Mame and played Ito two years later for a community theater. I've played Doody and Dream Jud and the Munchkin Coroner.

Then I got to college and I found out that not only did you not have to do musicals if you didn't really want to, but, if your singing voice isn't all that great, you're actually encouraged not to. So I stopped.

Still, though I doubt I'll ever be onstage singing again, I continue to have an appreciation for the genre. I'm not, mind you, out there standing in line for preview tickets for Lestat or anything. *shudder* But I can enjoy a good, non-jukebox, special-effects-light, funny musical.

And for the record, I think Hugh Jackman will make an excellent Billy Bigelow.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: Condoleezza Rice will never be your willing sex slave. Sorry, pal, you're just going to have to make do with your gap-toothed blow-up doll. If you're that desperate to nail someone who's been Secretary of State, I hear Warren Christopher swings.

Taurus: You may be tempted, in this heat, to fry an egg on the sidewalk. Really, you should stick to frying an egg white on the sidewalk; it's just got a lot less cholesterol.

Gemini: After Mel Gibson's actions over the weekend, you find yourself conflicted about a man who had been one of your favorite actors. How, oh how, will you ever be able to sit down as you used to and enjoy the majesty that is Bird on a Wire?

Cancer: Injecting stem cells into your boobs will not make them bigger.

Leo: Make sure you take a little extra time today to indulge yourself. I mean, you're already an egomaniac who doesn't give two shits about anybody else, but today, you should be even more self-centered. Buy yourself a handjob or something.

Virgo: You rather fancy yourself the Picasso of meeting notes margin doodling. Actually, you're really more like the guy who draws Funky Winkerbean.

Libra: You're feeling bold and experimental in the kitchen this week. You're considering mixing together two TV dinners in a big bowl. You're like a shorter, hairier male Julia Childs for the new millennium!

Scorpio: You've got some disappointment coming this week, Scorpio. And you're going to need to find a better way to deal with letdowns than pulling down your pants and pissing on people that upset you.

Sagittarius: You're a little tired today after a long night of dancing in the street in celebration of Fidel Castro's illness. Why, you haven't had that much fun since Kim Jong Il went in for root canal. Good times.

Capricorn: Now is the time to have that serious conversation with a loved one that you've been putting off. You might find it easier if you get really hammered first.

Aquarius: Sure, you can continue to blame the farts on your fiancee's dog; but I ask you: is that really the right way to start a lifetime together, built on a pack of lies?

Pisces: Great news, Pisces! That special someone is ready to pop the big question: "Oh, Jesus, was I actually drunk enough to have sex with you?"