Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: Your imagination is, in all likelihood, drawing you away to faraway places, Aries, places like Successland and Competenceville. Places you will never ever find.

Taurus: Remember that there is a spirit in everything around you, Taurus. Just because we can't perceive something with our eyes, ears, nose, mouth or fingers doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. So that guy you pass on the street every morning who's perpetually engaged in an argument with his shoes may be onto something.

Gemini: Share more of your passion, love and happiness with the people around you, Gemini. Just be careful that your "sharing" doesn't involve a lot of groping.

Cancer: Drastic shifts in your emotions might be causing you to doubt certain instincts or feelings you have, Cancer. Which is good, as your instincts and feelings are unfailingly wrong.

Leo: Today is one of those days when you just want to lie on your back on the ground and just look up at the clouds, Leo. That's because you're in a coma.

Virgo: You are most likely going to be very drawn to the things you can't have, Virgo. So drawn to them, in fact, that you often steal them. And this is what grown-ups call "kleptomania".

Libra: You may find yourself staring at a blank page for what seems like hours on end while you try to get down on paper what you really want to say, Libra. But once the mushrooms wear off, you'll find your composition skills greatly improved, especially since you're no longer distracted by all the musical colors.

Scorpio: If you find yourself needing to do something in order to escape your life for awhile, Scorpio, then maybe you need to examine your life more closely. But be careful, as you'll probably find it's even shittier than you'd realized.

Sagittarius: Make your time spent with others much richer, Sagittarius, by contrasting it with time spent absolutely alone. I'm pretty certain that, for one thing, you masturbate a lot less when you're with others. Hopefully.

Capricorn: Attend a lecture or some kind of intellectual discussion in which people are actively expressing their strong ideas and opinions, Capricorn. And please try to refrain from making fart noises in the middle of it.

Aquarius: Be careful, Aquarius, that you aren't making witty conversation or entertaining jokes at someone else's expense. And by "witty conversation", I mostly mean pointing and yelling, "She look silly!"

Pisces: Make certain you take your time and gather all the necessary facts, Pisces, or else you may end up making an impulsive decision that you regret later on. Not that any amount of fact-gathering is going to keep you from trying to cram your fat ass into clothes three sizes too small for you.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


The Kids Are Alright (Except for the Psychotic Ones)

I had an okay day at work today. I need to make this clear. My job, while far from what I'd be doing if a genie popped out of my beer bottle and granted me three wishes, is not the worst job I've ever had. (That honor would go to my first teaching gig, about which I've taken great pains to forget as much as I can.)

I write all this because I know that my family will read what I'm about to describe and be upset. So I'll just say up front: it's all good.

Anyway, most of the kids I teach are your average, everyday middle-schoolers. This means that they're unfocused, surly and heavily into social drama of the "so-and-so said such-and-such about me/my friend/the color blue and so I must now yell at them in the middle of your class" variety. You wouldn't necessarily want them over to your house for brunch, but they're not bad.

Mixed in with them, there are a group of students in every class I have that go that little bit further toward what you'd have to, I guess, label outright hooliganism. The kids that do absolutely no work, freely curse each other out at full volume and more than occasionally get up out of their seats and run around the room throwing paper balls at each other. They're a hassle, but you deal with them as best you can and sometimes they even settle down long enough to turn in an incredibly half-assed assignment.

There are others, though, that just plain antagonize you. This isn't just misbehavior. It's not merely copping an attitude when you tell them to sit down. These kids have made it their mission to push you as far as they can.

I've got a handful of these little dears right now and I'm not sure exactly what the fuck to do with them.

I've got the kid who, during the conference with his father in November, actually stuck his tongue out at me, mocked me as I spoke and flipped me off when his father wasn't looking. That was particularly frustrating, because every time his dad would look over, all he'd see was his son hovering between boredom and respect. This kid continues to be a pain in class, doing absolutely zero work and doing his damnedest to disrupt what other students are working on.

Then there's the little gem who, over the last couple of weeks, has decided that he needs to derail my lessons every day. He gets up besides me and does a mocking Snoopy to my Lucy. He follows me around the room and repeatedly tells kids to whom I'm talking not to listen to me. He erases writing assignments I've put on the board. Yesterday, he took to making fun of my age (a point about which I'm utterly not sensitive). So he made lame joke after lame joke: "Hey Dusty! Aren't you supposed to retire?" "Hey Dusty! You want a cane?" I believe "dusty" is meant to connote an advanced state of decay. The problem isn't what the kid says to me, but that his disruption of my lessons is fucking irritating.

I'm dealing, as well, with a student who's not even one of my friggin' students anymore. This is a kid who I taught in a special ed class last year. He either graduated to high school or got kicked out of our school. It's possible he dropped out, but I don't know and, to be frank, I don't really give a dried-out rat turd. He's not my student anymore. But he and a friend of his pass me many afternoons as I walk to the train and he's made it his business to yell at me, "Hey! Mr. Wack-Off!"

Now, of all these kids, this one's the most puzzling. He doesn't have me anymore. Why in the name of No Child Left Behind would this kid give enough of a shit to yell at me? He should be completely and utterly indifferent. I just don't get why he bothers. Did I really have that big of an impact on the kid that he's got to take the time to do this?

In the end, I suppose I should take all this as a sign that I'm really reaching these kids. Reaching them enough to make them completely fucking hate me. Hurray!

Monday, January 29, 2007


They Shoot Actors, Don't They?

Really sad news today that Barbaro, the horse who struggled back from a serious injury suffered at last year's Preakness, has been euthanized. I don't follow horse racing, except during Triple Crown season and I don't know much about horses beyond what I read in Laura Hillenbrand's Seabiscuit: An American Legend.

But this news makes me incredibly sad anyway. There are about a thousand celebrities I think deserved to be euthanized before Barbaro. And here's a sampling:
  • Michael Richards--He did about twice as much damage to his career last year than Barbaro did to his leg. Richards will never race again. Put the poor bugger out of his misery.
  • Latoya Jackson--Latoya doesn't even look human anymore. And she's been reduced to appearing on a show where she maces people in the Midwest alongside Erik Estrada. Latoya needs to be put down before she hurts someone.
  • Dick Cheney--Just because.
  • David Spade--If Spade isn't gassed, and soon, we're going to have to live through at least another half-dozen sitcoms where he does his insanely tired greasy smarm bit and, personally, I don't think I can take it.
  • The Cast of Laguna Beach--I think it would be a great idea to drop these kids into a bottomless pit at the end of every season to spare us crap like The Hills. Really, there's only so many vacuous little rich fucks I can hack.
  • David Blaine--I'm pretty sure dying is the only "trick" left for this prick. I say he should go for it.
  • Aaron Sorkin--If the only way he can sort through his feelings about his relationship with Kristin Chenoweth is to inflict fucking Studio 60 on us, we're left with no choice.
Barbaro is gone, but he shouldn't have to go alone.

Saturday, January 27, 2007


Two Thumbs Up My Ass

My good friend Beigey recently invited me to contribute to a group blog called Five C Reviews, which deals in pop culture critiques in five hundred words or less. I was flattered by the offer and I accepted.

And then I was immediately hit by the revelation that I don't know nearly enough about anything to offer any kind of valid criticism. Oh, sure, I can make the occasional snarky comment along the lines of "Ben Affleck's performance in this movie made me long for the relative pleasure of an unanesthetized vasectomy." But that's not criticism, that's just truth.

The new album from The Shins came out this week and I enjoyed the living hell out of it from the first time I listened, which is unusual for me, because I normally have to hear an album a number of times before it really grabs me. But I couldn't tell you precisely why I like it. I can't just whip out a sentence along the lines of, "With Wincing the Night Away, front man James Mercer has taken the playful wordplay of Chutes Too Narrow and fused it with a more mature melodic sensibility." I can't whip that sentence out because I have no fucking idea what the hell I just wrote.

I mean, I'm not a caveman, but I don't know enough about art, movies, music or literature to parse out any kind of legitimate analysis. I've got friends who are music aficionados and can compare the harmonics of a Bright Eyes tune to early Dylan, but I wouldn't even know where to begin. Reading my half-assed odes to 80s pop tunes should be enough to convince anybody of that.

So I'm gonna make a few practice attempts right here.
  • The haunting contrapuntal melodies of the dirge-like songs in the second act of Grey Gardens throw the thin veneer of peppy optimism of the first act into sharp relief, highlighting the precipitous decline of these Williams-esque tragic figures.
  • While there are those who will be tempted to compare Taylor Hicks to the 19th century castrato Lucieno DiOrtaglio, I find such analogies specious, as DiOrtaglio's singing had much more masculine swagger.
  • In her new show, Daisy Craddock doesn't so much hold up a mirror to our society as she tears down the mirror that existed and replaces it with vastly different mirror that still has the price tag on it.
  • The fawn-like grace of Jennifer Garner transcends this genre film and carries it gently aloft, like a strong breeze buoying a Dunkin Donuts wrapper.
See, I just don't have it. So I guess I'm going to have to preface all of my reviews on 5C with a disclaimer stating that the writer freely admits that he doesn't have a fucking clue what he's talking about and the reader would probably be well-served doing the exact opposite of the reviewer's recommendation. And thus will I make the art world a better place.

Thursday, January 25, 2007


No, Not Ian Ziering

Prego is hosting Roundtable this week and has an appeal to the vanity in all of us.

Who would you have play You in the Movie of Your Life? Now, I realize that most of us would prefer to be prettied up and played by your Will Smiths, your Eva Mendeseses or your Johnny Depps. I gotta say, however, that I'm pretty sure the only person they could get to play someone as insignificant as myself would be someone along the lines of Three's Company's Richard Kline.

*deep weary sigh*

Anyway, head on over to Rustbelt Ramblings and tell Papa Prego who you want embodying you when your story makes it to the Big Screen. And remember: I've got dibs on Richard Kline.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: If you've been thinking about starting a garden, Aries, today is a great day to do it. Just be aware that there's a good chance you'll be digging up moldering corpses buried in your backyard by your psychopath neighbor.

Taurus: Family and friends may gather at your home, or the home of a neighbor, for an intimate get-together. The bitch of it is that you aren't going to be invited.

Gemini: A close friend or a lover could share a secret with you today, Gemini. Most likely, it will be something along the lines of the fact that they're creeped out when you refer to them as your "lover". Seriously, what the fuck, are you living in a Danielle Steele novel?

Cancer: Someone you've known for a long time, but haven't seen for awhile, could come back into the picture, Cancer. Sadly, they only want to know if they left their bong at your house and then they'll be on their way.

Leo: Today, you and your family--or a group of friends--might spend most of the day out and about, dear Leo. That's because your homeless.

Virgo: A class, lecture or workshop could prove fascinating and stimulating for you today, Virgo. Then again, when you take that much fucking acid, a potted plant is fascinating and stimulating.

Libra: If you've been thinking about buying a home, or otherwise purchasing real estate, Libra, this is an excellent day to get the ball rolling. Being utterly impoverished, however, you should be aware that the ball is going to be rolling for a long, long time.

Scorpio: A festive social event could start or consolidate a love relationship, Scorpio, which could last a long time. Now, I have no idea what it means to "consolidate a love relationship", but let's go ahead and say it means, "screw up a love relationship completely".

Sagittarius: Work only until you're pleasantly tired, Sagittarius, then quit for the day. That should sit well with your employer.

Capricorn: A warm and loving communication could come today from a longtime friend or romantic partner, Capricorn. The question, then, is: do you consider a pet rabbit boiling on your stove to "warm and loving"?

Aquarius: Today, Aquarius, you should be experiencing a strong sense of contentment and satisfaction with your life. Or it could just be indigestion.

Pisces: Business transactions taking place in your neighborhood should prove sensible and satisfying today, Pisces. Of course, most business transactions in your neighborhood usually involve hookers, crack or both.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Must-See TV

Poor George. Poor, poor George. The guy has sunk down to an all-time low 28% approval rating. People are feeling about him the same way they feel about genital warts and telemarketers. And telemarketers with genital warts.

And despite all the shit he's catching, the poor sumbitch has to get up in front of everybody and talk about the many, many things he's fucked up. Analysts on all the major networks and political writers for all the major magazines have already chimed in with what they figure he's going to say.
Here at Hairshirt, though, we don't have to bother with all that speculative wanking. Thanks to our high-placed White House sources, we obtained a copy of the speech last Friday. Let me tell you, people, you are in for a treat. This is killer material and G the W is just the guy to deliver it.

I don't want to spoil the surprise too horribly, but I figure it can't hurt to post a few delectable excerpts.
  • The speech starts off thusly, in a rather light-hearted vein: My fellow Americans, members of congress and all those watching from abroad...I'm gonna keep this short, 'cause I gotta take a dook.
  • Speaking about the war in Iraq: I have spoken with military and civilian experts about the New Way Forward. We are all in agreement that the New Way Forward must move forward. If I didn't want to move forward, I woulda called it the Way to Go Back Someplace I Already Was. But I didn't call it that. Not as euphonious.
  • Speaking on immigration: We must move ahead cautiously on this issue of immigration. Sure, nobody wants Americans to lose their jobs to cheap immigrant labor. But it doesn't make sense to try to keep out everybody. There's good Mexicans, too. When I was in college, there was this gal my friends and I used to go see in Nogales who would get it on with a bear. A bear! That's talent. Do you really want to keep someone like that from moving here?
  • Bush follows up on his previous SotU proposal for manned missions to Mars: I'm a little disappointed that NASA scientists haven't done a better job of getting our guys back to the moon yet. It's always been my dream to have a barbecue on Mars and, at the rate they're going, I'm not going to have enough teeth left to eat my spareribs by the time I get there.
  • On global warming: You whiny bastards make me wanna puke. "Oh no! I can go out in January in flip-flops and get a tan!" Global warming would be awesome! If it actually existed, it would be awesome.
  • On alternate fuel sources: I am calling for this nation's scientists to double their efforts in creating a viable hydrogen fuel cell that can be used to replace the internal combustion engine. And then I want them to make a jet pack, with which I could fly up real high and drop water balloons filled with poo on people.
  • ???: Crab meat is okay.
  • The big finish: Ladies and gentlemen, there are, I know, those who believe that our nation is headed in the wrong direction. They see events in Iraq and feel hopeless. They don't believe that education is improving as much as we say it is. They worry that our environment is damaged beyond repair. These people need to relax and have a fucking beer. That's what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna go home and pound a six-pack in about twenty minutes. Good night.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Sugar Rush

My wife and I spent some time in Times Square today. It's someplace I try to avoid when possible, 'cause there's always a huge fucking crowd and they're always the type of people who stop abruptly on the sidewalk right in front of you. But today, we went to see the musical adaptation of Grey Gardens, which required us to be right in the heart of Neon Central.

The friend we went to see the show with took us to a Greek bakery on 42nd and I had a minor existential crisis. I like dessert. I'm a freak for pies and I have some ice cream probably six out of seven nights a week. When I looked in the case at the bakery, I was overwhelmed. There was just too goddamn much to choose from. There was some really nice-looking baklava. There were a few types of cheesecake. There were cookies of all sorts (although, I have to say that these fell pretty far down on my list, 'cause cookies I can get pretty much any time). There were a number of different cakes.

The lady came over to take our order and I panicked. I hadn't even kind of made up my mind. But I couldn't send her away; she was standing there with the plates. So I just pointed at something cakeish and chocolatey.

And it was a mistake. It was a big mistake, just like any number of mistakes I make when some dessert looks gooey and delicious and I think, "Hey...gooey and delicious!" But then I get it and it's so goddamn rich that I really don't need any more than one bite, but I've ordered the whole thing and paid for it, so I have no real choice but to eat it.

This thing was not what I was expecting. I was thinking it was a cake. I was so very wrong. It chocolate cement that was a half hour from setting. Denser than hell and far too rich. I had some coffee, which helped, but not enough. And yet I sat there through our pleasant dessert conversation and I ate the whole goddamn thing. Stupid.

After the show, when my wife and I were making our way to the uptown train, we came across a sight bewildering enough to make us wonder if the dessert we'd eaten three hours earlier had been laced with a slow-acting hallucinogenic. On Broadway and 48th, there is a store--a big-ass, three level job--called M&M World. They sell M&Ms.

The frigging place is three levels of shitty-looking M&M merchandise. T-shirts, nightgowns, plastic toys, vibrators. It's just bizarre. I wondered aloud, "Who the fuck would buy this?" And yet, the place had a good-sized crowd. Including us.

The big draw, I guess, was the fact that they sold every color of M&Ms you could think of and they did it by individual colors. So you could "custom blend" just the right combo of M&Ms for you. We were disgusted. We found it absolutely disgraceful. So we just put together a small bag of lavender and blue peanut M&Ms and left.

They were crunchy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007



So Hilary is in. Senator Clinton announced on her website this morning that she's "forming an exploratory committee". I really hate that statement. It's like if I said, "I'm going to look into the idea of scratching my balls." I know I'm going to scratch them. Why don't I just come out and say, "This is me, scratching my balls"?

Anyway, there are things about Clinton that I like. She's my senator and I'm okay with her on a number of points. I'm not okay with the fact that she's felt the need over the last couple of years to drift to the right on certain issues, to make herself more palatable to a wider demographic. I'm not okay with her initial "He's the president and we have to respect what he's doing at this point in our nation's history" bullshit that led to Cap'n Douchebag getting us into Iraq.

And I'm most definitely not okay with the claim she makes in her Announcement Video. She says that, while she "can't visit every living room in America, [she's] going to try." This is just an outright lie, Senator. If you actually made an attempt to visit every living room in this country, you would have no time to do anything else for the next several decades.

So let's be clear here: what exactly are you doing? Are you running for President? Or are you attempting to set a world record for having visited the most living rooms of any American in history?

Either way, I'm not crazy about your chances.


Is the Can Half-Empty or Half-Full?

A great thing about marriage is that you get to experience family traditions that are utterly and completely different than yours. For instance, my family and I recently introduced my wife to the tradition of mercilessly ridiculing each other for how we look in old family slides (my mom's ill-advised attempt at long hair; the Engleburt Humperdink-esqe picture of my dad on an early-70s New Year's Eve; the fat-boy man-boobs I sported at age 13 on a trip to Myrtle Beach). This is something we've done since I was young and I love it.

My wife's family does something at Christmas that my family never really got into: they put some emphasis on the Christmas Stocking.

My family made some half-hearted attempts at working with Christmas Stockings when I was a kid, but it never really caught on. We do a bang-up job on actual wrapped presents, but stockings are not our forte.

The first year I spent Christmas with my wife's family, I was made a part of the annual Sock Exchange, in which the adults all draw each other's names and then are responsible for filling that person's sock. [I need to interrupt things here to explain that the socks are filled by "Santa", so any child in the family who might, for some inexplicable reason, be reading this should be yanked away from the computer right now.] I was extremely embarrassed when I opened my sock and saw how much genuinely cool stuff I'd been given. Small kitchen gadgets, wind-up toy nuns, thirteen pounds of chocolate. I'd drawn the name of my brother-in-law and I think I got him an orange and some Twizzlers. It was mortifying.

I learned my lesson after that, though, and have done my best since then to come up with a good amount of worthy stocking stuffers.

The exchange has been a bit spottier since my wife and I moved to New York. It's a lot more difficult to pull a name from a hat when you're on the opposite coast. So, some years, spouses have just taken care of each other's stockings. And, this year, with our travel as nutty as it was, my wife and I both completely forgot to do anything stocking-related. I had a couple of small things for hers, but not enough to live up to the tradition.

My mother-in-law and my wife's sister, though, were on it. They'd anticipated our lame-itude and had already gotten stuff for each of us.

Included in our sock bounty was a curious little plastic contraption that took some figuring out. It looked something like a hi-tech toilet seat for a dollhouse and most of us were utterly puzzled as to its purpose. We were told that this was a device you put on half-empty soda cans to keep the delicious beverage inside from losing all of its carbonation, so that it can be enjoyed later.

This seemed like a great idea to me. I was actually quite excited to try it out. Y'see, my wife has, for the entirety of our relationship, had a habit of getting thirsty for a soda at around 10:30 PM. Or right before we're going someplace. So she'd pop open a can, take a few sips and leave it in the refrigerator, reassuring me that she was going to drink it later.

Which she never--ever--did. Instead, the can would sit in the fridge until I was putting groceries away and had to clear out the four or five dozen half-drunk Diet Sierra Mists to make way for a jar of gourmet gazpacho.

Now, this may seem like one of those things that looks good in theory but that actually just sits on the can doing nothing much. But, I've gotta tell you, these things work. And we've been using them left and right. My wife can have a sip of soda any damn time she wants and then finish it at her leisure. Hell, even I did it last night. I got thirsty right before we were going out to dinner with friends. Normally, I would have thought, "Well, I'll never finish a full can of soda. Guess I'll just have to have some water. *sigh*" But, instead, I popped a can open, took a sip and then slapped it back in the icebox with one of these soda-saver dealies on there and then finished it off when we got home.

So I just wanted to say a big thank you to my in-laws. And to Jokari, maker of the Can Pump N' Pour. God bless you and the wonderful work you're doing.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Velveeta Jukebox, Part VI: Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)

So, the original idea for this installment was to write about A-Ha's "Take on Me". It's a truly great 80s cheese pop tune and I love it. But then I realized that I don't really have all that much to say about it. My sister absolutely loved the video (as, I'm sure, did most girls her age). The video was one of a handful that were on a Video Jukebox in the food court of the Carnation Mall in Alliance, Ohio (birthplace of yours truly). An actual video jukebox. You put money in and it played a video. Not a concept that caught on until about twenty years later when you could do the whole thing on your computer instead of having to sit and watch in the middle of a goddamn food court.

Anyway, instead of trying to stretch such a thin entry out to a semi-respectable length, I've decided to scrap the idea (despite the "Next Time" line I wrote in the last Velveeta Jukebox which, I'm certain, has had thousands upon thousands of people waiting with baited breath for my thoughts on A-Ha) and I'm writing instead about a song I just down-loaded last night and which caught my ear as I was sitting on my homeward-bound 4 train this afternoon.

In my younger days, I knew a number of people who were fairly rabid Journey fans. Living in small-town Ohio in the 80s, the odds of this were heavily in your favor. My friend Dan was very much into the band when we were in high school. He was a guitar-rock guy in general and actually fronted the one and only garage band in Berlin Center. They were called Curfew and they played our high school's Christmas show one year and followed that up with a very well-received command performance at a school dance. (I'm sure nobody involved with the group remembers that I came up with the band's incredible name, but that's neither here nor there.) Curfew had a sound that I would say was definitely Journey-influenced.

In college, I spent a lot of time hanging out with a drummer named Jason who ended up fronting a Journey cover band. They were called, I believe, Wheel in the Sky.

I myself was fairly indifferent to Journey during my formative years. I didn't own any of their albums, but neither would I turn the radio off if one of their songs came on. I heard enough of them that I can still sing along and only mangle about two-thirds of the lyrics.

Now, even though I sing along, I don't even come close to hitting any of the castrato-ish high notes that Steve Perry manages to reach on most Journey recordings. I think the man is part chipmunk.

Part chipmunk or not, he's definitely All 80s in the video for that most dramatic of all Journey songs, "Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)". How can you tell it's their most dramatic song? It's got a fucking subtitle, people.

Oh! the delicious joys of this video. The air-keyboarding! The mullets! The hairsprayed-to-within-an-inch-of-her-life leading lady! The intense-dockworkers-on-a-break theme of it all! (It really kind of makes the "Take on Me" video look like Fellini.) And the lyrics. My god, the lyrics.

I don't think I ever really listened to the lyrics of this thing before. "I'm reaching for you!" "If he ever hurts you, true love won't desert you!" "Troubled times/caught between confusion and pain...pain...pain." "If you must go, I wish you love." "I still love you, girl."

Did Steve Perry have absolutely no fucking self-esteem? I mean, yeah, he's a geek. Look at him. But the man sold an awful lot of goddamn records. And yet, in this song, he's telling this cold-hearted trollop who dropped him like a Kennedy in the sixties that, if she ever breaks up with the dude she's currently fucking, he (poor, pathetic Steve Perry) will take her back in a heartbeat. As far as he's concerned, they're really just sort of on a break and she'll come back to him eventually. Wow.

And all of this to a driving guitar score that lives up to the word bombastic.

How can you not love this? How can you not just open up and let this pathetic wallowing into your soul. You really just have to give it up for people who took themselves this seriously and yet looked like they did. God bless them.

Next time in Velveeta Jukebox, we'll check out a non-dangerous rhythmic movement.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


More Middlebrow Than Frida Kahlo

I have an appreciation for high culture. I swear I do. I love museums. I enjoy classical music. I can get my mind around a work of serious literature.

But I have a deeper appreciation for pop culture. I love the stuff. And I was thinking this week about really, really good pop culture. The kind that hits you in the exact perfect way. Those rare moments when pop culture becomes sort of transcendent.

For me, there aren't that many of those moments. Bear in mind, I'm not talking about just good moments. I'm talking about the ones that actually give you goosebumps.

The moments I can think of off the top of my head are:
  • The moment in Back to the Future when Marty recovers from nearly being wiped out of existence, stands up straight and hits the guitar chord in the crescendo of "Earth Angel". It's just such a great combo of the song, the moment and Michael J. Fox's incredible likability. I love it every damn time I see it.
  • The "Guinevere" sequence in Camelot. It's the scene where Arthur has sentenced Guinevere to death and she's rescued by Lancelot. My dad played Arthur when I was a teenager and I remember that I got chills as soon as the chorus started singing.
  • The last note of "Old Friends" on Simon & Garfunkel's Bookends. A string section finishes the song and a violin holds the last, sad note of the song for a long time before dropping and joining with the guitars of the "Bookends Theme".
  • The death of Dr. Larch in John Irving's Cider House Rules. I've read this frigging book a good half-dozen times and I fucking cry my eyes out every goddamn time Nurse Angela says, "Dr. Larch has found a home. Let us be happy for Dr. Larch."
Now, again, I'm not saying that any of these moments are the pinnacle of artistic achievement. But they get to me. What pop culture moments get to you?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: In an attempt to be less selfish, you take a solemn vow to just grab handfuls of the mixed nuts instead of picking out all the almonds. Then you sit there and pick out all the almonds anyway. You're a selfish bugger, aren't you?

Taurus: Difficult as it may be to face all those projects you've let pile up, Taurus, it would be even more difficult to eat your way out from the bottom of a pudding cup the size of Madison Square Garden. This is just one of the many things you'll be thinking of this week instead of facing your projects. Well done.

Gemini: Things are not always as they first appear, Gemini. For example, that guy who looks like a friendly and personable coke dealer is actually an undercover cop.

Cancer: Sometimes it is easier to attend to the small, mundane details of life rather than lift your eyes to the horizon and confront the big picture, Cancer. This is unfortunate, as there's a really hot blonde with the curtains wide open on the horizon and you're missing the free show.

Leo: This is an excellent week to give voice to your secret desires, Leo. Who knows? That grocery store clerk you've had your eye on might really be into creepy-looking older guys.

Virgo: It is time for you to refill the well of your soul, Virgo, which shouldn't take too long, as it's got the depth of a thimble.

Libra: You would make an excellent judge, dear Libra, as you have the ability to consider all aspects of a situation. You'd also make a great lookout on a pirate ship and a swell bi-sexual.

Scorpio: Just because one person is no longer part of your life doesn't mean that all people are unreliable. There are plenty of reliable people out there. It's just that none of them want to have anything to do with a dipshit like you.

Sagittarius: It can be hard letting go of old habits, Sagittarius. For example, I have no doubt that you'll continue wiping your boogers on the coats of unsuspecting commuters that have the misfortune to sit next to you on the bus until the day you die.

Capricorn: You always suspected that your job was making you crazy, Capricorn. Turns out it was the schizophrenia doing that.

Aquarius: Just how long has it been since you indulged in your favorite chocolate pleasure, dear Aquarius? If I had to guess, judging by the size of your ass, I'd say it was about ten seconds ago. I'd also guess that your favorite chocolate pleasure is ten pounds of chocolate, covered in lard.

Pisces: If you feel like you are trying to push a square peg into a round hole, Pisces, then you should probably ask yourself why the hell your penis is square. Seriously, what the fuck did you do to that thing?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Hangman Bleeps and Bloopers!

This week's horribly botched hanging of the co-defendants in Saddam Hussein's has sparked outrage from groups around the world, from Iraqi Sunnis to the United Nations. Death penalty opponents are taking the opportunity to renew the call for an international moratorium on state killings.

Here at Hairshirt, we are big fans of the death penalty. It gets rid of pesky overlords. It opens up room in our jails for even more scumbags. And it gave everyone a wonderfully warm sense of closure. You ask anybody whose family was brutally executed by Saddam Hussein: "How has Saddam's execution affected the way you feel about the loss of your family?" You know what they'll say? They'll say, "I was really pissed for a long, long time. But now I'm cool with it. Saddam's hanging healed my metaphysical boo-boo."

And it's not like we haven't had the occasional head pop off during these things before. In fact, if you read your history books just a little more carefully, you'll see that this sort of thing happens all the time and the world just keeps right on spinning. For example:
  • August, 1927: Due to faulty wiring in the Massachusetts prison where he is being executed, anarchist Bartolomeo Vanzetti is placed in the electric chair no less than thirty-seven times when the prison's fuses keep blowing. Finally, a quick-thinking guard just whacks Vanzetti over the head with a frying pan.
  • July, 1934: FBI agents who ambush John Dillinger outside of the Biograph theater all turn out to be really, really bad shots. One agent grazes Dillinger in the foot, but he escapes mortal wounding until he trips on the sidewalk and falls on some bullets that Agent Carl Schweinshtupper had accidentally dropped on the pavement before the ambush.
  • June, 1953: Julius Rosenberg manages to secret a bag of dog poop in his prison jumper. During his electrocution, the bag catches fire. Only after they've attempted to stomp the fire out do prison guards realize that they've now got dog poop on their shoes. Reportedly, Ethel Rosenberg laughed herself silly for about twenty minutes straight upon hearing the story.
  • May, 1962: Israeli officials get the mischievous notion to tie the hangman's noose around Adolph Eichmann's testicles instead of his neck. When the trap door is released, Eichmann drops quickly and is promptly ripped in two. Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion vomits after catching half of Eichmann's large intestine in his lap.
  • May 1994: The execution of serial killer John Wayne Gacy is halted for twenty minutes when it's discovered that the chemical hooked up to the IV meant to give Gacy a lethal injection is actually a vat of barbecue sauce from the kitchen. Despite Gacy's pleas for authorities to find some way to go ahead and kill him with the barbecue sauce, prison medical staff eventually put the right chemicals in place and the fat clown is put down.
Yeah, sure, from time to time executions are botched. And, okay, innocent people are sometimes put to death. But isn't it worth it to give so many people such peace of mind?

Monday, January 15, 2007


And That's the Weekend That Was

Three-day weekend. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when we're supposed to feel motivated to do something to improve the world. My wife and I, off together for three days. And we did fucking squat.

Okay, not complete squat. But close.

We did get a couple of runs in. We finally got the last of the Christmas decorations put away. But that's about it. The plants that I've been wanting to re-pot for the last three months because they've grown far too large for the plastic pieces of shit they came in? Still in the pieces of shit. The laundry that's piled up in our closet, waiting for nothing more than a trip downstairs to our newly-available (and free) landlord's washing machine? Still reeking. The espresso maker we got for Christmas that we've been vowing to learn how to use? Still gathering dust on the kitchen counter.

Instead, we've spent time watching really questionable movies. Friday night--sweet, pesto-making Christ help us--we watched Harrison Ford in Firewall. It's not like we sought it out and paid $10.50 apiece to see it in a theater or chose it out of a wide selection at the video store. We stumbled across it on HBO. But still.

What a pile. Okay, Harrison Ford doesn't take kindly to people threatening his family. We get it. After watching the same plot in fifteen different movies, we get it. I really spent the entire film thinking, "Wow. He needs a nap." Seriously, he's going to make Indiana Jones 4? Is he hunting down The Lost Colostomy Bag of Quetzalcoatl?

Mr. Ford really needs to shift gears. He's always been hyper-aware that his fans like him in a certain type of movie (at least that's what he's always said in interviews), but he needs to give up on the action flicks and do some character parts. It's not like the man can't act. Put him in a comedy or a straight-up drama. Just for Christ's sake don't make him run around and tackle people anymore.

Then, last night, my wife made me watch The Family Stone. Nice cast. Lots of pretty people to look at. But I really didn't get it. Who exactly are we supposed to like in this? The "quirkily perfect" family made me want to wretch, plus they seemed to be acting like assholes toward their son/brother's lady friend for reasons that were unclear to me. Sarah Jessica Parker's character just seemed like a boring, tense dipshit. Then people fall out of love and in love with their former love's siblings and we're supposed to be okay with it. Yo no entiendo.

This morning, we sunk even lower. Comedy Central was on when my wife turned on the television and we actually sat through at least forty-five minutes of Out Cold. A Jeremy London-starring slob-versus-snobs ski flick? (Actually, it could be Jason London who's in this steaming pile of cinema, but I don't care enough to find out.) I felt dirty. Fortunately, we didn't let ourselves sink so low as to actually watch the whole thing.

I guess the important thing about this weekend is that all of the wretchedly time-wasting activities that we did, we did together. And there is nobody I'd rather rot my brain with than my wife.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Whiny Whining

I don't know what the hell's going on with me. It seems like it's taking me more and more energy to drag even the smallest bit of writing out of me. I sit down at the computer and get up two hours later with nothing to show for it except a fuller knowledge of what anonymous strangers think of the latest issue of Teen Titans.

Maybe I'm just tired. Maybe the fat around my waist has metastasized to my brain and I'll soon be able to accomplish no greater mental feat than to figure out what time Lost comes on. I've already documented in great detail the various and sundry ways 2006 sucked ass. But it shouldn't take that fucking long to recover from a soul-crushing year.

So what the hell can I do to get back some of my creative energy? (And even non-creative, seeing as how I also haven't felt motivated to put my shoes away and they're constantly getting under my wife's feet.)

Maybe there's some kind of holistic approach. A tea, perhaps. I know it won't be Enviga, the "calorie-burning" canned green tea non-sensation from Nestle. When I was doing some Christmas shopping last month, there were a couple of guys passing out free cans of this shit outside of Lincoln Center. When you're walking along with shopping bags and somebody hands you a can, you just kind of naturally take it and drop it in the bag, right? I remember being surprised by the can when I got back to the apartment. I threw it in the fridge and it sat there until about a week and a half ago when I had a mighty thirst going and nothing else with which to quench it but the Enviga and five cans of pineapple juice. Let me just say that Enviga is disgusting. It tastes something along the lines of what you might get if you kept a teabag and a bottle of St. Joseph's Baby Aspirin in a sheep's bladder for a week and then poured it into a tin cup. The stuff doesn't so much burn calories as it keeps you slim by making you vomit.

So what else could I do, here? I know running is supposed to be a good way to boost endorphins and energy levels and all that happy shit. The trouble is, my wife and I have been just about the worst runners ever over the last month or so. We get up at the ass-crack of dawn so I can take care of the dogs and she can begin her hour-and-a-half mega-trek to her job. Then I deal with junior high-schoolers all day and she deals with environmental scofflaws before making her two-hour return trip. By the time we get home, we're both cranky and tired and the idea of dragging our asses to the park for a run is about as appealing as the notion of putting an angry muskrat down our pants. On the weekends, we're pros. We're out there running our asses off. But the weekdays are hard, man. They're just hard.

I guess I could join a writers' group or something. Having a bunch of peers judge your work once a week would probably be good motivation to keep my nose to the grindstone. But I don't want to be surrounded by a bunch of twenty-somethings whose work is five times stronger than mine.

So I guess I don't know what the solution is. I guess I just try to put myself on a schedule, like I'm able to do during the summer, and make sure that I'm writing every day. Cut back on television; cut back on web-surfing. Set deadlines for myself.

Or I could just chuck the whole thing and accept the fact that I'm never going to do anything more important than producing a show in the Fringe Festival. Sweet Jesus, folks, I'm sorry. I'm not nearly as depressed or despairing as this may sound. I'm gonna go ahead and chalk this up to post-holiday blues. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got a three-day weekend to waste.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Time, Time, Time, See What's Become of Me

It's Roundtable time again. This week, Stephen of Serenade in Green is taking a look at Time Magazine's choice for Person of the Year.

Personally, I thought naming "You" person of the year in recognition of "your" use of YouTube and other sites that give voice to the masses was pretty fucking moronic. Think about it: if you're reading Time Magazine, are you really the kind of person who's going to spend five hours videotaping yourself as you drop Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke?

One needs to be careful who one includes in "You". Now, "you" should head on over to Serenade in Green and share "your" opinion.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: You are so incredibly jazzed about how warm this winter has been! You've been wearing flip-flops and working on your tan! If this is global warming, you're gonna rush out and buy a Hummer!

Taurus: Intellectually engaging pursuits are in the offing tonight, Taurus. It's a fantastic time to enjoy an opera or a novel by Camus. Or you could sit on your ass with a bowl of ice cream and watch Top Chef. Whatever works.

Gemini: There comes a time when you have to let go of your fear and just take that leap of faith. And that time is most definitely not this time, when you're much better off cowering in the corner.

Cancer: A wise man once said, "It's better to be seen picking the underwear out of your ass-crack than to wind up with skidmarks." Those sage words really hit home for you this week.

Leo: This is a time when you really need to try to answer those big important questions that you normally tend to push to the back of your mind. Right now, you've got the energy and ability to find the answers. If, I should add, the question is something along the lines of "Would I enjoy bestiality?", you should probably try pushing it further back in your mind.

Virgo: You're anxious to get home this evening so you can enjoy President Bush's speech about changes to his Iraq policy. Honestly, it's almost as fun as watching Two and a Half Men. Almost.

Libra: The many wins for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest at last night's People's Choice Awards have really restored you faith in the belief that democracy can work.

Scorpio: You spend a great deal of time this week trying to settle on the right Pathetic Mid-Life Crisis Expenditure. You're having a hard time choosing between pectoral implants and a new electric guitar. Might I put in my vote for paying someone an exorbitant fee to chop off your pathetic receding-hairline-defying ponytail?

Sagittarius: Remember, sometimes a small lie can spare someone's feelings. And more importantly, it'll keep everyone from knowing what a gigantic whore your are.

Capricorn: Looking for a way to smite your enemies? Try boiling oil!

Aquarius: You need to try to mask your disappointment when you find out that your date isn't suggesting an exciting new sexual activity, but is genuinely offering you some mixed nuts.

Pisces: You secretly enjoy your dog's farts.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Ella Fitzgerald (and Gerald Fits Ella)

While going through the enormous task of putting all of my music on my iPod, I'm getting a chance to review my musical history. This includes revisiting bands I haven't listened to for awhile, but still have a great fondness for (Hello, Aerosmith. How've you been?) as well as bands I haven't listened to for awhile and still won't be (Ye Gods, why the hell did I buy a Cherry Poppin' Daddies album?).

As a result of all this, I've spent the last day or so listening to various recordings by Ella Fitzgerald.

I goddamn love Ella. And I think that--of all the numerous reasons to love Ella--the big thing I dig about her is the fact that, with Ella, it always seems to be about the song. When you hear Ella singing a song, you just get the feeling that that's how it's supposed to sound. A Billy Holiday record is about Billy's voice. Nina Simone and Betty Carter (and I love both of them, don't get me wrong) adapted every song to fit their own styles. But Ella sings the songs the way the writers intended. So, basically, I'm saying that every time Ella recorded a song, she laid down the definitive version.

And so I'm enjoying the hell out of listening to all my Ella discs, as she sings her way through Gershwin, Berlin and especially Cole Porter.

See, this is why ones of readers can't get through a day without Hairshirt. Where are you going to get insight as keen as "I like Ella Fitzgerald"? Bittersweet Jesus, I'm good.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Enter the Draggin'

I don't know what the hell is wrong with me these days, but I've got less than no energy. All last week and again today, I've had to really push myself to get out of bed in the morning. Now, that's kind of to be expected at five in the morning, but I'm usually better than this. Last week, I kind of understand, what with getting back from vacation and having gotten used to sleeping in until the incredibly self-indulgent hour of eight.

This week, though, there's really no excuse. And yet here I am.

I nearly fell asleep at the laundromat tonight. Which would really suck as I pride myself on my laundrofficiency. I'm good in the laundromat. The second that spin cycle stops, I'm there with the cart, dryer sheet in hand and ready to cart everything over to be tumbled dry.

Today, though, I stood a good chance of snoozing right through the Add Bleach light. Which would have been disaster, of course. Fortunately, the laundry management was thoughtful enough to put Geraldo at Large on the television, which gave me a huge burst of adrenaline so I could get the goddamn folding done and get the hell away from that skeevy moustache. *shudder*

Anyway, I'm hoping that I'm not coming down with some illness which drains your energy first, then leaves you in a weakened heap on the floor while your bowels liquidate. 'Cause it's hard to teach middle school students from that position. "Okay, class, I need quiet hands from anyone who wants to volunteer to drive Mr. Wack to the hospital."

Sunday, January 07, 2007


I (Heart) My iPod

Blogging on three glasses of wine here, so I can't guarantee any respectable level of wit or spelling. I'm sitting here, as I've been for large portions of the day, uploading music to my new iPod. Sweet merciful Jesus, I love this thing. I've got discs that I haven't listened to in years that I'm hearing now because I'm putting them on this thing.

I've got friends--and you know who you are, Deni--who are vehemently anti-iPod, because they hang onto the need to physically own music. And I empathize, because I felt that way for a long, long time.

But I'm now a full-blown convert. I fucking love the fact that I can go to cheap foreign websites and download entire albums that I wouldn't normally spend the $18 on just because someone says I should check them out. I adore the ability to have every piece of music I hold dear in one spot, without all the fuss of walking to the CD rack.

I fully acknowledge the nightmare possibility that we'll all end up enslaved to our technology and we'll be assimilated by killer cyborgs because we've grown too dependent on them. But I still fucking love my iPod.

Yay, Apple!

Friday, January 05, 2007


Lo, I Am Like Unto a God!

So the CD drive on our computer went belly up this week. Just when I got a 30G iPod from my wife for Christmas (thanks, honey!!!) and was salivating at the prospect of putting every single goddamn disc I own on the thing, I was thwarted by worn-out hardware.

Did I despair, even for a second? Yeah, I did. I was actually pretty desperate.

But then I snapped out of it and, with my own two hands, I swapped out the CD drive from our old computer, which does not write DVDs, but still functions pretty darn well. Even as I type this, it's busy ripping Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison off of a disc.

All because I am so fucking amazing. Kind of.

Thursday, January 04, 2007


Don't Fence Me In

It's time! It's time! It's Roundtable time again! When magical fairies wave their sparkly wands and enchanted pixie dust rains down from the skies!

This week, I'm sending you to Sereena X at Metaphor Voodoo for a discussion of confinement. And not just your regular S&M-sort of bondage, either. Head on over and write a bit about your dealings with enclosed spaces.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


A Heartfelt Thank You...With Stamps!

We're back!

My wife and I just completed our annual holiday trek to visit with our families. And, let me say, it was really fantastic getting to spend time with them--I love my family and I love my wife's family; they're all really fun to be with--but the actual traveling part of the year-end extravaganza sucked ass. I won't go into details. Suffice it to say it involved fog, a canceled flight from Atlanta, lost luggage and my wife and I both having to call our bosses to explain why we were missing a day of work.

But it's over now. And I'm left with a new year to face. I've made a few resolutions with which I won't bore you, all designed to make 2007 a more productive and less ass-sucky 365 days. The one thing I did want to mention is a decision I've made.

I let myself down this year. And I let down everyone who knows me. I have, most every year since about 1993, made and sent my own Christmas cards. They're nothing spectacular. They're not beautiful, as I can't draw to save my ass. But they're usually at least sort of funny and they reflect my sensibility and they say--if nothing else--"Hey man, I care enough about you to take the time to draw and photocopy a mediocre cartoon for you and then mail the goddamn thing."

But this year, I didn't. I bought Christmas cards. And I bought them from Barnes & Noble. Not cool. Yeah, they were pretty funny. Yeah, it took some minimal amount of effort to address and sign them. But it wasn't the same.

And it got me thinking that I want to put a little more personal effort into letting people know how much I appreciate them. So I decided that I'm going to try to be the Thank You card master. I'm going to do my best to send people goddamn Thank You cards when they do nice things for me. I'm going to be fucking courteous.

Now I'm not sure what kind of Thank You cards these might be. I don't know that I have the skill to create my own Thank You cards. But, whatever form they take, I'm going to thank the living hell out of people in 2007.

I'd send you all a Thank You card for reading this, but I don't have your address. Sorry.