Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Thursday, November 29, 2007


Autumn in New York

Fall has always been one of my favorite seasons. I think it may have something to do with my love of office supplies and the fact that, as a kid, when the air turned brisk, it meant that I was going to get new pens. (Wow, that sounds even sadder than it did in my head.)

I'm beginning, though, to reevaluate my autumnal ardor and here's why: I've got two dogs.

I walk them a few times every day. It's not that bad a gig. It gets you outside in the fresh (or relatively fresh) air. You become accustomed to picking up turds. But there are times when I don't want to be out forever. There are times when I want my dogs to complete any transactions they might need to make with semblance of expediency so that I can get back inside and read the Onion AV Club's review of tonight's 30 Rock.

But at this time of year, my dogs take twice as goddamn long to walk because they have to stop constantly to sniff all the leaves. Bad enough they gotta piss on anything that's not moving. Bad enough they can't get all their crap out at once, but rather prefer to drop a little bit here and a little more there. But now they're savoring the aroma of every friggin' tree-bit that's on the ground.

This phenomena confused me for a while until I was struck by a revelation, an experience which feels somewhat akin to having a cranberry fall on one's head. I believe that leaves smell like squirrel. Think about it: where do squirrels spend the bulk of their time? Trees. They hang out in trees and rub their stupid bushy tails all over the leaves up there. Then the leaves drop off the trees and lay on the ground, smelling all squirrelly. Then my dogs are driven mad by the idea that there are a bunch of invisible squirrels all over the place that they can't get to. Basically, it's become a hassle. Thank God global warming is going to eliminate autumn. And probably squirrels, too.

On another dog-walking note. I just wanted to mention that, on tonight's ten o'clock walk, as I paused to allow Ben to take a lengthy, lengthy pee, I noticed something shiny on the ground. I don't normally pay much attention to shiny things ever since that horrible bear-trap incident back in '04. (And you should read that as "aught four", by the way.) This shiny object, though, really grabbed me, visually. I bent down to take a closer look and saw that it was a harmonica.

I picked it up and carried it with me for a few minutes. I considered bringing it into the house, giving it a cleaning and figuring out a few tunes on it. It sounded vaguely magical to me. Little boy (or 37-year-old dude, but whatever) finds magic harmonica and is transformed into a superstar!

Then I paused to consider the fact that it could be filled with mud and/or junkie-spit. No amount of cleaning can remove the taint of junkie-spit. So I opted to not keep it. I didn't throw it away, though. I propped it up on a fire hydrant, right at eye-level for a young child. Maybe it'll transform their life. They've probably got a higher tolerance for junkie-spit.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: While at a wine-tasting this week, you'll need to remind yourself that it's not appropriate to describe a Riesling as "pimptastic."

Taurus: This is a great time to get into the holiday spirit by baking Christmas cookies. You should especially bake those mocha cookies that your husband loves so very much. NOTE: This horoscope may only apply to those Taureans who are married to Joe Wack.

Gemini: Looking at old pictures really takes you back. Back to a time when you were basically just as utterly pathetic as you are now, but had slightly more hair.

Cancer: There's a tender, nurturing side of your personality that you've been keeping in check as of late. Now is the time to indulge that side. Maybe by breast-feeding a monkey or something.

Leo: It's Office Holiday Party season, and you know what that means! It's time to read up and determine exactly how much touching you can do and still stay on the friendly side of the company's sexual harassment policy. Good luck, there, Gropey!

Virgo: Even though the holidays can be terribly lonely for people without any romantic partner or friends or family that cares enough to stay in contact, you should still hold off on killing yourself because... Uhhh... See, there's hope that, um... I don't know, maybe the writers' strike will end and there will be awesome new episodes of The Office soon.

Libra: Sex with a rubber chicken is neither funny, nor hot.

Scorpio: This is a great week to take an interest in community improvement. Maybe you could knit a beautiful sweater for that hooker offering ten-dollar handjobs who hangs out on the corner.

Sagittarius: A voice from your past makes itself heard this week. It's telling you to lay off the Ben & Jerry's and maybe do a sit-up here and there.

Capricorn: This week, you find yourself re-evaluating your opinion of Barack Obama, in light of Oprah Winfrey's work on behalf of his campaign. Yesssss. You love Obama. Don't break from the HiveMind. Praise the Oprah, from whom all blessings flow.

Aquarius: Maybe you should make something different for dinner tonight. Perhaps a spicy gazpacho!

Pisces: Your boyfriend will not stick around long if you insist on using pet names for him like "My Big Limp-Dicked Teddy Bear."

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Peace in Our Time

So, in case you haven't heard, George W. Bush has solved the problems in the Middle East. Yay! Thanks, Dubya! Now the world can relax and have a beer together.

It seems to me that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is sort of the sports car and/or ill-advised ear-piercing of American presidencies. Once an administration reaches a certain age, it starts to feel a little useless. It starts looking around at what it's got going and realizes it needs some Zazz!

So the administration is sitting at the bar, tossing back a few and listening to a Lynrd Skynrd album it loved in high school and it starts thinking, "Hey! Y'know what I ought to do? I oughtta fuckin' force the Israelis and the Palestinians to fuckin' sign a lasting peace treaty. Chicks dig Nobel Prizes. That fuckin' pussy Gore has one. I want one, too."

The reasoning, I guess, is that Peace In The Middle East=Awesome Legacy. Posterity will overlook blowjobs and wars started under false pretenses if you can make the Holy Land eternally secure.

And I can understand the logic here, I guess. You gotta have a gigantic ego to be President. You get yourself elected President, you've probably got the kind of ego that believes it can solve in a few months a problem that goes back hundreds of years, to when a rabbi and an imam first flipped each other off in a Jerusalem goat cart traffic dispute.

Still, I'll wish George and Condi good luck on this. I don't think for a moment that this is going to work out, but I'd happily congratulate the administration if it did. You're still a shitty, shitty president, though.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


A Short Poem for the Holiday Season:

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Rampant greed and consumerism are threatening to destroy our very souls and for evidence of this you need look no further than local news reports this weekend of people running into K-Mart at 4AM to buy deeply discounted wide-screen TVs

Merry Christmas to you!

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Where Are the Superfriends of Our Youth?

Y'know what's pissing me off about Thanksgiving these days? I'll tell you. It's not the explosive diarrhea that comes with eating eight ounces of cranberry sauce. It's not the barely concealed sexual tension between Al Roker and Willard Scott when they do segments together during the Macy's parade.

It's the lack of network cartoons.

When I was a kid, the networks used to be considerate. They knew that parents were saddled with their stupid kids all day. And, to help them out, the networks used to run special extra broadcasts of their Saturday morning cartoons.

My sister and I fucking loved that. Not only did we get to eat my Grandpa's stuffing until we puked; not only was the Christmas season now officially here so that we could get to work on our Christmas lists; but here were even more of the cartoons we rotted our brains with on a weekly basis.

It was awesome! It was like getting extra marshmallows on your spaghetti. It made a great day that much greater.

I guess what surprises me about the whole experience, in hindsight, is the fact that my sister and I never argued over what cartoons to watch. That's rare, people. My sister never tried to force me to watch any girly shit. She was totally down with Scooby and with Tarzan and the Super 7 and with that Godzilla cartoon except for the godforsaken presence of "Godzookie." We shared the same taste in shitty animation.

Don't get me wrong, our youth wasn't all sunshine and ass-rainbows. Remind me to tell you sometime about how she and my cousin Jen always made me be Sabrina when we played Charlie's Angels.

But our mutual cartooning was harmonious. Even more so on a Thanksgiving morning, lying in a mashed potato-induced stupor in the "little room" at my grandparents'.

Today's kids don't get to share that same wonderful experience. No, they're forced to choose between 3000 cable channels or updating their MySpace page or texting their 12-year-old friends from the kids' table. What a pitiful, Scoobyless existence.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Hairshirt Thanksgiving Horoscope

Aries: Anxious over what wine to serve with Thanksgiving dinner? Try mixing a bunch of different wines together! It's both edgy and classy!

Taurus: No matter what you may have heard, it is not good manners to stick your knife down your throat and vomit your host's dinner all over the table. In fact, some people may even find this behavior offensive.

Gemini: Using a store bought crust? Why not just go all the way and take a steaming dump in your pies?

Cancer: Remember to talk with your children about the origins of the Thanksgiving holiday. Be sure to include the part where we gave the Indians blankets covered with smallpox. It does a lot to explain the traditions behind Bush's foreign policy.

Leo: Before cooking your delicious Thanksgiving meal, be sure you pull back the foil to expose the tater tots.

Virgo: While you're honoring tradition by pulling on the wishbone, take a moment to remember that it was once a vital part of a living organism that you've just ingested. And don't tell anyone your wish, or it won't come true!

Libra: Looking for a hip new way to enjoy tired old Thanksgiving stand-bys? Why not try a turkey and greenbean smoothie?

Scorpio: Serving your Thanksgiving dinner while naked will only make people leery of eating the gravy.

Sagittarius: Liven up the table with an intellectual conversation. Open up a debate about exactly what the Pilgrim's farts might have smelled like.

Capricorn: For extra flavor, don't bother with rubbing spices onto the turkey's skin, just pour the spices directly into your mouth and cut out the middleman.

Aquarius: Want smoother mashed potatoes? Pre-chew them! Just put a whole boiled potato in your mouth and chew it for about five minutes, then spit it back into the bowl. Your guests will say, "Ooo, it's so good!"

Pisces: If you can't think of anything to be thankful for, just give a shout-out to the guy that invented pants.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Jelly Beans: A Versatile Foodstuff

Watched A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving tonight. It is so very much the most underrated of the Peanuts holiday specials. Those heartless fucks at ABC cut the crap out of it to add in more commercials for shit like Extreme Makeover Extra Maudlin Home Edition. They removed the entirety of the Snoopy/Woodstock carnivorous/cannibalistic feast! Feh.

Not much to say about this that hasn't been said before, but I did want to take a second to give some recognition to the fact that this show contains what is probably the greatest toast sequence you'll ever see in any entertainment medium ever.

Oh, Woodstock. How can you not tell that you've grabbed Snoopy's ear instead of a slice of bread? It is an absurdity!

One question is weighing heavily on my mind and it's this: Why is Franklin made to sit on one side of the table all by himself? That's not right. You can have a dog serving jellybeans, but the black kid can't bump elbows with Whitey? Is that how it is? For shame, Chuck. For shame.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


The Return of the Hairshirt Horoscope

Aries: Sometimes, you've got to shut down your rational side and let the dreamer in you take over. Just try not to do this while you've got a scalpel in your hand and you're removing someone's gallbladder.

Tarus: Everything is going to be just fine. Except for the fact that the writers' strike will drag on and you won't be seeing anymore new episodes of 30 Rock. Which sucks and all, but try to keep things in perspective.

Gemini: Anyone who calls you a cheap whore obviously doesn't know you. Or it's possible you blew their brother in the back room of a pool hall. Either way, keep your chin up, whore.

Cancer: An existential crisis has you questioning your role in the universe. Fucking put the bong down occasionally, ya hippie.

Leo: Wouldn't a fresh-baked batch of cookies taste really great right now? Or, I suppose, you could just pour yourself another shot of paint thinner and conserve your strength for your next plasma donation.

Virgo: This week, you're going to fuck someone really ugly and quite possibly contract a venereal disease. Sorry things are so bleak. Check back next time. Maybe you'll find a quarter on the street or something.

Libra: A big choice looms in your not-too-distant future. Try not to fuck it up.

Scorpio: Like a wise man once said: Don't sweat the small stuff. And it's all small stuff. Except for all the stuff that's fucking huge and soul-crushing. Which you can probably go ahead and sweat.

Sagittarius: This week, you've got an abundance of energy and enthusiasm that's really goddamn irritating.

Capricorn: Now that Michael Mukasey has been sworn in as Attorney General, you're pretty sure this country is going to return to its days as a paragon of justice and decency. You're kind of fucking stupid, aren't you?

Aquarius: You may be going through some dark times right now. Just try to keep a sense of perspective and whine about it as much as possible to your co-workers, 'cause they just can't get enough of your griping.

Pisces: As you start a new job this week, you want to be sure that you're putting your best foot forward. And hopefully not slipping in a puddle of junkie vomit. That junkie vomit'll ruin your day, pal, lemme tell you.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


The Ideas, They Keep On Flowing

Another idea for TV execs facing emptying schedules in light of their horrendous greed:

An exciting hybrid of America's Next Top Model and The Biggest Loser, in which Tyra Banks tries to get a bunch of anorexic women to eat a chimichanga. We could call it Stick to Your Ribs!

Friday, November 09, 2007


A Little Help for Distraught Network Execs

"The writers are striking!"

"Yes, yes, they're very handsome, but that's not important now."

You may have heard, the Writers' Guild is out on strike. As I'm very pro-union, I want to do everything I can to help, including posting a link to a petition in support of their demands.

I also feel bad for the studios, though. I mean, a lot of these poor studio executives have payments on their fifth homes which they're not going to be able to make if this strike drags on for a few years. So I wanted to help them, too.

Which is why I sat down today and wrote out a list of story ideas for various TV shows. I figure, in a pinch, the studio execs could just use one of my ideas and have the actors ad lib some dialogue. I've watched a few episodes of The Ghost Whisperer, those lines can't be that fucking difficult to come up with.

Try these plots on for size:
  • Two and a Half Men--Charlie and Alan commit seppuku when they realize that they have been raking in cash for years while being painfully fucking unfunny.
  • Smallville--Clark ditches the emo haircut, puts on some fucking tights and flies already.
  • Heroes--Sylar kills the Deadly Black Goop Twins. Then he kills the little Findya Girl. Then he kills Peter's odd-looking Irish girlfriend. Then he kills Micah and his boring cousin. Then he forces Matt to move out of Mohinder's apartment. Then he erases the audience's memory of how utterly shitty the second season has been.
  • Scrubs--JD gets run over by a train while listening to a Rogue Wave song. Then his ex-girlfriend and kid get spun off into a much more entertaining show.
  • The Unit--Jonas and Bob come out and adopt a Guatemalan child.
  • Law & Order--I know L&O does all these cool ripped-from-the-headlines stories, so I took a look at today's newspaper and I came up with an awesome one: McCoy investigates a mysterious bus-route change.
  • Cavemen--This one was tricky, 'cause how can you improve on perfection? Then it hit me: All you've gotta do is edit together the original commercials into a half-hour format. And you save on paying new actors! Genius!
  • Grey's Anatomy--One of the doctors starts dating someone they don't all work with and everybody flips their shit. Meanwhile, a patient has a horribly painful disease that teaches Meridith a valuable life lesson that she whines about in voice-over.
  • NUMB3RS--I've never watched this show, but I assume it's all about counting. So, in this episode, I'd have them cover the low twelve-thousands.
  • Las Vegas--Now that Selleck is starring in this, do you really think the show's tens of viewers would notice if you just started rerunning Magnum, P.I. in its slot?
So, studio execs, you're welcome in advance. Feel free to use whichever of these ideas you want and we won't even worry about story credit. Just send me a coffee mug from your network gift shop and we'll call it even.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


Kids Say the Stupidest Fucking Things

For the entire first ten weeks of school, my 8th graders were supposed to be working on a report in which they explored a theater-related career. Which means that 90% of them did jack squat until last weekend, then put in the absolute least amount of effort physically possible and handed it in.

Here's the things that pissed me off most while grading them:

  • I was really, really unhappy when I came across the student who wrote that, when actors "...aren't good in film acting, they have to perform Shakespeare in plays."
  • I found it utterly appalling that about 30% of my students, at some point in their paper--if not throughout--typed "u" when they meant "you." Instant communication is great, but it's fucking ruining a generation of writers. Unless you are Prince, you deserve to be smacked upside your head anytime you can't be bothered to add in two more fucking letters.
  • I was astonished at the gall of children who could bald-facedly cut and paste information from a website, then argue with me when I docked them points for plagiarism. Even when confronted by the question, "Kayla, can you even tell me what Espirit de Corps means?" and coming up snake-eyes on the answer, these kids still maintained their fabulistic position.
  • I had to grudgingly admire the balls of the kid who decided the best approach to his research paper on the realities of being a working actor was to describe the plot of Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. I'm not kidding. It made up about one-fifth of his paper.

I don't know. Perhaps I'm expecting too much of 14-year-olds. Or perhaps these little buggers need to get their heads out of their asses if they don't want to flunk out of their freshman English classes next year.

Sunday, November 04, 2007


MRI! I Just Had a Thing Called MRI!

To recap: almost two months ago, I went to my GP to get some help with a sore leg. He said it seemed like maybe a tear in my hamstring or something. He sent me to an orthopedist who he figured would give me an MRI and get to the root of the problem.
Last week, I finally got the goddamn MRI. I've got no idea what the hell it says yet--I get to discuss it with my orthopedist on Wednesday. I assume he'll selflessly devote an entire three minutes to explaining the results to me. In the meantime, I'm left to my paranoid fever-dreams that it's going to show a clusterfuck of tumors and my fond recollections of the procedure itself. As I have no real desire to explore the tumor paranoia, let me tell you a little about the MRI.

The imaging facility is on the Upper East Side. It is, in fact, literally around the corner from 5th Avenue in the 70s. This is where rich people live. This is in the heart of Museum Mile. So the place is not easy to find, as a flashing neon sign that says "East River Imaging" would lower property values. So the facility, tucked away in the basement of a tony apartment building is marked by a small, hard-to-read plaque. The plaque is so hard to read that they have a guy stationed outside whose sole job is to look for confused people, ask them if they're looking for East River Imaging and usher them down the stairs. He's very good at his job.

After checking in, I was taken back to a dressing room. It was about the size of your average fitting room at Old Navy. You have to strip down to socks and undies and put on a green hospital gown that looked disquietingly like the "tupa" that Albert Brooks wore in Defending Your Life. Once I changed, I just sort of stood there in my tupa with the dressing room door open, waiting for the guy to come get me. It's not a great feeling, sitting in a gown in a cubicle while people walk by in the hall. I felt vaguely like an Amsterdam hooker.

So the guy comes to take me to the MRI room and I have to leave all my stuff in the dressing room, which made me really nervous, because I'd just bought a box of Mallomars and I just knew some felonious lab tech was going to bust in and steal them. You can't trust those people. Despite my anxiety, I did my best to try to relax, so as not to mess up the MRI results.

Anyone who hasn't had an MRI is, I'm sure, at least somewhat familiar with the procedure from its recurring appearance on FOX's hit show House. That House. It's just amazing how someone so cranky can be so brilliant! I can't get enough!

Anyway, so they shove you into this tube and you lie there for half an hour or so while a bunch of machinery whizzes around you. One thing that House hadn't prepared me for was the noise that an MRI makes. It sounds a little like a Phillip Glass symphony written in celebration of fire drills. It wouldn't be so bad if it was one sort of loud, sustained noise. But it gets quiet, then loud, then the beeping changes to a buzzing, then it's tapping out a Kafka novel in Morse code. It makes it really hard to relax in there.

The fact is, I'm not entirely convinced that this is a legitimate medical procedure. I'm of the opinion that the MRI machine doesn't actually do any kind of scanning whatsoever. I think it might actually be part of one massive ongoing psychological experiment. "Okay, see, we take these people and we wedge them into this sort of Buck Rogers-looking coffin to ramp up their claustrophobia, we tell them to stay absolutely still, then we bombard them with full-volume Emergency Broadcasting System noises. I posit that the average man will lose his shit in five minutes."

But, real procedure or massive hoax, I made it through and now my hope is that this will help them decide how to make me not quite so fucking owie. Because only Gregory House can really make a limp look cool. On me, it just looks like I'm posing.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


All in the Family

When we're not base-jumping or playing high-stakes baccarat in Monte Carlo, my wife and I enjoy taking in the occasional movie. I mean, it's not like that's all we ever do for entertainment or anything. We are so incredibly active. Busy, busy, busy. Yup.

So last night, because American Gangster was sold out, we went to see the new Steve Carell movie, Dan in Real Life.

Both of us had been what you might call hesitant to see this one. The poster, after all, shows Carell resting his head on a stack of pancakes. I can't abide anyone being disrespectful of flapjacks. Additionally, the previews made the film look like a real corn syrup kind of picture, so I added it to my No list.

Then I read a bunch of reviews that all expressed similar pleasant surprise. The movie, they said, was not the treacle one might expect. Neither, these critics said, was the presence onscreen of Dane Cook a motivator for slicing open one's wrists while in the audience. After getting this go-ahead from critics, and because of our fondness for Steve Carell, we took a chance.

And I've got to say the movie didn't suck. Carell was actually really good and I liked his relationship with Juliet Binoche. Dane Cook's performance was, for me, reminiscent of Kim Basinger in L.A. Confidential, in that I didn't want to slap him every second he was onscreen, unlike most of my other encounters with him.

In fact, the movie was actually--predictability aside--pretty good.

The one thing I really had a problem with was that it had a bad case of FPFS. FPFS, for those of you not in the know, is Fictional Perfect Family Syndrome. It's a horrific disease that strikes writers, who are, through hideous dementia, driven to create family dynamics in their movies that would never, ever exist in real life.

The family in Dan in Real Life comes together every year to help close up their parents' beachfront home in Rhode Island. And they're all really happy to see each other. And they eat every meal together and they play touch football and they race each other at crosswords and they wake up and join each other on the lawn for aerobics and they have a fucking talent show.

None of them harbor resentment because the parents spent more on their brother's college education than on theirs. None of them hate their siblings' spouses. None of them seem to be itching to get the fuck away from there, even for a second.

Now, in the name of full disclosure--and before my mother's blood-pressure shoots through the roof--I should say here that both of my parents come from families as large as the Fictional Perfect Family in Dan in Real Life. Growing up, we spent a lot of time with both sides of the family and everyone enjoyed each others' company and we played board games and volley ball and had a great time. But it wasn't perfect.

There were arguments here and there. My sister and cousins and I had to bug the adults for fucking hours before we could get a game started. There were certainly no aerobics done on the lawn. And if you'd suggested a talent show, you would have been written out of the will.

This is how it should be. Families are not perfect. They're just not. If they seem to be perfect, you can bet that there's something fucked-up underneath. So when a writer tries to create an ideal family, with awesome traditions and super-close relationships and just the right quirks, it always ends up looking like a woman with bad plastic surgery. You can tell what she was going for and, possibly it looks nice, but there's just something wrong about it.

So I'm going to beg all writers out there: whatever you think the ideal family would be, never, ever write it.