Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Friday, February 27, 2009


Man's Messiest Friend

Look at this handsome dog. Isn't he gorgeous? Doesn't he look intelligent and courageous and fun-loving and loyal? Well he is.

He's also reached a stage in life where he's no longer finding it easy to control his bladder. Which is inconvenient when you're caring for an infant. Because it's not like I can hand Ben his leash and say, "Go walk yourself, I'm trying to put the baby to sleep." Neither can I expect the Kid to hang out in the apartment on his own for awhile as I run Ben downstairs to take care of his business.

This means that, when Ben gives me The Look--and he's such a good boy; he always makes it very clear when it's an emergency, as opposed to a request--I have to snap to it. I've got to get the Kid into a coat and then into the carrier, both of which often cause much wailing, before Ben's kegels give out and piping hot dog piss streams forth onto the carpet upon which my infant son will soon be crawling.

This was an incredibly daunting task at first. My dogs can sometimes get a little freaked by other canines, so I was wary of having them attempt to start a rumble while I had the baby strapped to me. But walking a dog isn't something you can really do solo while pushing a stroller, either, so I had little choice.

Now that I'm a little more used to it, I actually walk both dogs, bend down to pick up turds without the baby falling out of the carrier, and can steer dogs and baby around without as much stress.

The problem now is that I'm not always here when Ben goes from emergency to core explosion. Today, for example, I took the Kid to see his mom at work. He likes it, she likes it, it's nice. When we get home, both of the dogs, as they often do, sat at the end of the hall, right inside the bedroom door, waiting for me. I think they like to be able to get a running start to greet me. I called to them and Mortimer came bounding down the hall. Ben, though, just sat there. When he didn't come, I wondered if he'd done something he knew I wouldn't be happy with, but a quick look around told me this wasn't the case.

So I called to him again and, hesitantly, he got up and started shambling down the hall toward me. Halfway through it, he stopped and just started peeing. I managed to grab his collar and steer him into the kitchen, my thought being that I could at least mop in there. Which I did immediately after he'd let go with a good half-gallon of urine. I then grabbed the Kid from the stroller, where he'd been sitting relatively patiently, and put him in the carrier, which brought said patience to noisy and bitter end.

Ah, what a beautiful scene: screaming kid, incontinent dog and me, walking down the street, leaving a trail of dog piss wherever we went.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Pod People

Hey! Pleased to announce another exciting episode of The Conversation is up on Podomatic. This week, Keith and I discuss the Oscars, disappointing movies, TV show video games and ex-girlfriends. Truly, this one has it all.

So, if you're a fan of podcasts, give a listen. And if you're not, go to hell.


Needles and Pins

Took the Kid in for his four-month pediatrician appointment yesterday. All is well. The reception/medical records staff were oohing and aahing over him, which is as it should be, 'cause he's fucking cute.

Naturally, he dropped a giant-sized poo bomb in his diaper while we sat in the waiting room. That meant I had to pray for a speedy call to the exam room, which we actually got, so it worked out well. Oddly, he freaked out a little when I laid him down on the exam table to change his diaper. Or not so oddly, I guess, assuming that he has some kind of baby memory of what went down the last time he was put on that crinkly paper.

Nor will he look kindly on the exam table the next time he's there, because, once again, crinkly exam table paper meant needles jabbed in his poor little body.

He was due for his four month shots and I got stuck with being the parental witness this time. Only fair, since my wife had to see it in December. It wasn't fun, but it was over fairly quickly. Now, I've heard people before say that, when their baby got shots, they had to fight an urge to beat the crap out of the nurse for hurting their baby. Can't say I had that urge. The nurse was just a nice lady doing her job. It's just that that job happens to be causing traumatic pain to little babies.

No, I was far too busy feeling bad for my son to worry about slapping the nurse. Oh, how he cried. Loudly and for a good long while. He cried as the first needle went in and he cried as the second and third went in. He cried while the nurse applied bandages and he cried when I got him dressed again.

I held him and hugged him and kissed him, but he went right on crying, occasionally giving looks along the lines of, "Your comfort means shit, Dad." Poor li'l fella.

He's aces today, of course. Needle trauma is intense, but short-lived.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


This Does Not Bode Well

Okay, we're only fifteen minutes into the Oscars and I can already tell it's going to be a long, long, stupid night. Sweet fucking Christ, do we really need a monologue about every fucking nominee? This is fucking agonizing. Fucking say their names, announce the winner and get to a stupid fucking montage. This blows leprous donkeys.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Plain as the Nose on Your Facebook

I'm on Facebook.

It's kind of fascinating. It's fascinating because I like to think about how much the world has changed just in my lifetime. Not long ago, when you lost contact with someone, you lost contact with them. Your best friend from summer camp could easily disappear off the face of the planet and you would be none the wiser, as you wouldn't have spoken with them in twenty-seven years.

Google changed that, somewhat. For a long while now, you've been able to waste copious amounts of time by googling people you used to know. And sometimes, you'd find them. But a lot of times, you weren't sure if you'd found the right person. Not always easy to tell. And, of course, there were people who were still impossible to find.

Now, it seems like everyone I've ever known is on Facebook and I'm friends with a whole goddamn lot of 'em.

But Facebook friendship is really only "friendship" in the very loosest of definitions. There's a tiny little bit of information in a person's profile and then you keep up to date on their day-to-day happens sometimes, if they're the type of person who updates their status even semi-regularly.

The dark side of all this is that you're inevitably going to be found by people about whom you'd forgotten and with whom you'd rather not renew ties. When these people add me as a friend, I always say yes, sometimes with a long pause to consider things. It's awfully rude to deny someone's friend request.

And, really, what's the worse that happens if you accept? Well, okay, I'm leaving out extreme cases where you're friended by an ex-lover who still feels that, if they can't have you, nobody can. Because that really is the exception to the rule, right? More often, the worst is that you're then bombarded with status updates from these people that you can very easily just not read.

Don't get me wrong. It can be really annoying when someone you don't like all that much feels the need to update their status to alert the world of every sad little bit of minutae that pops into their heads. I don't need to know that you're planning on taking advantage of the sunny day to wash your car. I really don't. But, again, nobody's forcing me to read it.

Another dark side is that things become a little high-schooly at times. I've sat IMing with a friend about mutual "friends" of ours who annoy us. I'm not proud of that, but I did it.

And I've noticed that several members of my high school graduating class--members of which joined Facebook in droves the last few weeks to find whoever it is that's planning our twentieth reunion--have now removed our high school from their profile. I'm assuming it's because they figured it was the only way to dodge any more people they don't want to be-"friend".

Now, of course, I'm dying to know why they removed it from their status. But it's not like I'm going to ask them directly. We're not that good of friends.


Hey! I Used to Not Be Quite So Disgusted by Myself!

So I just spent basically the entire day scanning pictures into an old laptop. (I'd go into why I'm not scanning them into the laptop on which I'm typing this, but that's another story for another day when I won't tell it either.)

Anyway, the pictures I'm scanning are from my last year of college up through about 1997, but I've been looking at even more, running right up through about 2005. It's really fantastic to kind of take a look at the breadth of one's life over the years. And it really hammers home one major point: I'm motherfucking fat.

The grey in my beard, I'm okay with, mostly. Yeah, it's freaky to see that it wasn't there just a few years back, but I don't really give a shit about that. The other sign of age that I can't really do anything about is my jowls. I'm destined to be a jowly bastard and there's nothing I can do about it. The jowls have been there all along, it's just that they're more pronounced when I'm as plump as I am right now.

Which is pretty goddamn plump. I look at pictures of me from the year-and-a-half when I lived in Arizona or soon after our arrival in Seattle and I have to mentally add five inches of lard to even recognize the person as me. This was mostly because I was too poor to afford to eat very often, but dammit, I was skinny.

My wife, of course, is sweet enough to say, "Honey, you were too thin then. You look better a little filled out." Which actually translates to: "You are such a fucking whale. What the hell happened to the marginally attractive guy I agreed to move in with?"

I'm flailing around trying to find an excuse and I have to resort to the kid. With the kid here, we're both tired all the time and we're more inclined to just give in to our lazier tendencies and not exercise.

So, son, if you're reading this fifteen years from now and your father hasn't been able to see his feet in recent memory, just remember that it's all your fault.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Curses! Foiled Again!

Man, my wife and I are growing desperate. Before the kid was born--a miraculous event, for which we are both overwhelmingly grateful--we were giant movie-goers. We saw movies all the goddamn time. If we couldn't afford a movie in a given week, we'd seek out free advanced screenings. We love movies.

Thanks to the baby--who we love unreservedly--we haven't seen a movie in four months. Every week for the last ten weeks or so, my wife has suggested that we just bite the bullet and go see a flick. "If he starts crying, I'll just feed him right there," she says. "We can go see an early show with a tiny audience of mostly drunks and hard-of-hearing retirees," she pleads.

Well I'm not heartless. I like to let my lady have her way now and again to make her feel like she's got some power in the relationship. So I've put some effort into this whole movie thing.

We tried, in fact, to go see Slumdog Millionaire back before Christmas when my sister-in-law was here and we could leave the kid with her. And, of course, during the holiday movie-going season, the fucking thing was sold out long before we stumbled onto the line.

Since then, one thing or another has prevented us from getting into a multiplex.

Today, though, we had it all planned out. Middle of the week, nobody's going to be there. First show of the day, discount show so we can walk out if he goes apeshit and we won't have dropped the full $11.00 (which isn't, I realize, going to break the bank, but still...). The Village Voice says there's a 10:25 showing of Milk at the Times Square AMC, so we strap the baby to my chest and hustle on down there, arriving just a minute or two late.

And the goddamn doors are locked. What in the name of Mickey Rooney's ball sac is going on here, I wonder? The first show listed on their marquee is 1:25. There's all kinds of other people standing around outside, so I know I'm not insane. My wife starts trying to get on the Voice website on her cell, but crappy reception or a crappy phone--I'm not sure which--won't let her on and we eventually just decide that I made some kind of idiotic mistake.

We trudge uptown and make it to the Lincoln Plaza Theaters (sub-art house, supra-multiplex) in time for the noonish showing of the same movie. Should we do it? Has the baby reached his breaking point of being out and about? Will my back survive the experience? We zip over to the nearby WaMu, as the Lincoln Plaza doesn't accept debit cards. We hurry back to the ticket window and I say, "Two for Milk, please."

At which point, the lady in the booth says, "Yeah, I don't think they'll let you in with the baby." I was irate. "You filthy whore!" I cried and beat at the glass until my fists bled. Or maybe we just walked away depressed, I don't honestly remember. The woman did suggest that we try the Lincoln Square 13 uptown, where they're playing My Bloody Valentine and Paul Blart: Mall Cop, which, sadly, I've already seen.

And so, my wife and I are going into this weekend's Oscars having seen none of the Best Picture nominees. I know that we'll get back to the movies eventually. We just may have to sneak the baby into the theater in a gym bag.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009



Now that we've started up the ol' podcast again, we're tryin' to keep it going on a more or less weekly basis. So it's time for another episode. Go give it a listen. 'Cause it's not quite as rusty as last week's. It's not Mercury Radio Theater on the Air or anything, but neither is it Rush Limbaugh Jacks It to Pictures of Ann Coulter.

Friday, February 13, 2009


That's-a One Spicey Meat-a-ball!

A couple of months back, I wrote about a new pizza place that opened up a few blocks from us; how much hope I'd had for it and how those hopes were so very cruelly dashed.

Well, it seems like everyone else in town felt the same way, as the pizza place has quickly been shuttered, replaced by an Italian restaurant, with "Under New Management" signs in neon orange and everything.

Now, given the relative lack of good delivery options around these parts, and the fact that my wife and I have long grown incredibly sick of all our standard options, we're probably going to give this place the benefit of the doubt and order some pasta at some point.

But I am given a moment or two of concern by the fact that the first item on their sandwich list is "Sausage with Broccoli Rape".

My wife and I just had a debate about whether the vegetable in question is the aggressor or the villain in this scenario. I suppose the obvious situation would be that the broccoli is being raped by the sausage, but I don't want to make assumptions. Whatever the situation, it makes me ill. I just feel like sexual assault has no place in the sandwich community.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


For Massive Comic Geeks Only

99% of the folks who occasionally read Hairshirt can go ahead and skip this post. Seriously, just stop reading. What the fuck are you still doing here? Go pretend to read Huffington Post or something.

Okay, I'm going to assume those of you still with me here are geeks like myself, so I've got a geek question for you. No, really, this question is about as geeky as "What's the Klingon word for 'love-child'?"

The New York Comic-Con was last weekend and, while I resisted the mild urge to just give in and embrace my destiny as a Hulk vs Solomon Grundy-debating fanboy and actually attend the goddamned thing, I did follow the convention-related news on the various comic sites I frequent.

One bit of news coming out of the convention was that an artist whose work I've been enjoying at DC has signed an exclusive contract with Marvel. (For any non-geeks who didn't heed the above warning, an exclusive contract generally means that the artist/writer in question can't work for the other of the two majors for a given term, usually a couple of years, which actually goes by pretty quickly in comic book years.)

My question comes from an article I read today in which the artist talks about the switch. He cites his slavering love for the characters and his deep, deep roots with the company, stemming from his days as a fetus, when his mother would insert issues of Uncanny X-Men into the womb for his reading enjoyment.

This article started me thinking about all the very many similar articles I've read in the past. Whenever someone signs an exclusive with one of the two majors, they invariably talk about how superior the new company is, how the new company's characters are the ones nearest and dearest to their hearts, how the assignment they've been given is the one they've been waiting for all their professional lives. Then, in a few years, they're doing work at the other company again, which I suppose must be absolute torture for them and their spirit must be entirely broken.

Why do none of these guys ever say, "Yeah, Joe Quesada offered me an assload of money, so I'm over there for awhile" or "The reason is that Dan DiDio pissed on my shoes at the DC Christmas party"?

I'd just like a more honest explanation once in a goddamn while, which I know might be a lot to expect from people who draw giant-breasted women who fight crime in bikinis and high-heels.


Yackity Back

After an insanely long hiatus, we are proud to announce the return of the greatest podcast in the history of the on-line world, The Conversation with Bob Felcher and Karl Baloneypants!

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Should I have fish for lunch?" But after you've made that important decision, you might find time to wonder just where the hell the podcast has been for the last nine months.

For the answer to this and all the other important questions of life, give a listen to the latest episode of...The Conversation.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


Le Jour de L'amour

I came to a realization this week that made me quite happy, indeed.

As a super-special bonus of taking this time off for paternity leave, I also get to be gone from school when our students will be celebrating Valentine's Day!

Now, I've got nothing against the day in and of itself. I love getting all romantic and putting on my snazziest thong to entice my wife. It's a wonderful thing to have a special day set aside to celebrate love. (My apologies to the single folk out there who have to schedule special things to do with friends and alcohol to escape the ubiquity of the happy--or faux-happy--couples.)

The thing is, middle school love is not the same as real love. It's real love in the way that Taco Bell is real Mexican cuisine: it's a cheap knock-off that leaves you with diarrhea.

Middle schoolers don't tend to do subtlety. They like to give their Valentines big, ugly, pulsatingly red gifts. They do this during class. They do this during my class, 'cause it's one class about which they don't give a shit, so they can feel free to just go ahead and let their social lives move to the fore. So I'm often dealing with thirteen-year-olds handing their "loved" ones giant fuzzy apes in heart-covered boxers or plastic-wrapped boxes of cheap, shitty chocolates that they bought from the guy on the corner who'll be selling leprecahn hats in a few weeks' time.

It's not entirely about gaudy gifts, though. There also needs to be the requesite amount of drama in a middle school Valentine's Day. Because it's not Franken-love unless there's some kind of problem that needs to be dealt with, loudly. Invariably, on Valentine's Day, someone has broken up with someone else or someone has stolen someone else's boyfriend or some other great fucking tragedy that will allow the kids to feel like they're living life inside a Twilight novel.

This year, someone else gets to deal with all that crap. Huzzah!

I also get to miss April Fool's Day, but that's an entirely different set of annoyances.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


In the Name of Science!

I'm conducting an experiment of sorts on my son. It may not be entirely ethical, I realize, but I'm doing it in the name of science, dammit.

Since I've been off, I've been working my way through the first four seasons of The Office on Roku. I do my best to contain it mostly to times when the Kid is sleeping, because I really do want to focus on him as much as possible.

But when, say, I'm feeding him or he's dozing in the living room, I'll watch a couple of episodes.

In addition to enjoying the development of the secondary characters, there's something else going on every time I hit play. I'm hoping that the show's theme will embed itself in the Kid's psyche. I'm hoping that, years from now, when the show's been off the air forever, he'll randomly hear the theme song someplace and think, "I know that song. How do I know that song? That's so weird..."

Science is not pretty, my friends.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


A Place for Our Stuff...All of It

We live in New York. Living here, specifically in Manhattan, you need to accept certain facts about your day-to-day existence. There will be odors you will find unpleasant. Drug stores will invariably have long, long lines and the clerks will be disinterested in customer service, at best. You will have to deal with all the fucking Yankee fans (*shudder*). And, unless you make an assload of money, your apartment will be small.

Our apartment is small. For this town, its size is not bad. It's not as utterly shoeboxish as other places I've seen, especially considering what we pay for it. I don't have any real complaints about the apartment in and of itself, which explains, in part, why I've now lived here longer than I've lived anyplace in my entire life, ever.

The problem, you see, is that darned baby. Oh, he doesn't take up all that much room himself. Yet. But there's all this other crap that comes with him. The strollers and the playmats and the swings and the Shetland pony.

We had, to be honest, way too much stuff even before the baby. But it was manageable. When someone came for a visit, we could throw all the excess crap in our bedroom and close the door. Now, though, there's no space in there. If we tried to throw all the excess crap in our bedroom, the door would not close. It is exceedingly difficult for me to even walk through the apartment without stepping on/tripping over something.

Let me pause here for a moment to put my aggravation over this situation into perspective. When I worked in nursing homes while living in Seattle, I had numerous occasions to take residents back to their apartments to pick up this or that item they'd left behind when they were rushed in the ambulence to the hospital.

It was almost always a depressing experience. (Who likes to be reminded that we can be living independently, in the style to which we've become accustomed, one day and the next day we'll find pureed yams on the menu, fed to us by someone making slightly over minimum wage?) But one apartment stands out in particular.

There was this woman who'd lived on her own in an apartment downtown for a long, long time. I was asked to take her to her place for some reason or another. (Let's go ahead and say it was because she needed her Pan flute.) I drove her downtown, walked her up to her door and, when she opened it, I got a whole new respect for rat warrens.

The woman's place was utterly filled with stuff. Piles of paper that came up to my chin. Stacks of magazines dating, I can guess with some assurance, from the Eisenhower administration. Her kitchen cabinets were overflowing with cans. The overflow completely covered her countertops. Towers of crap filled the entire place. She'd literally left narrow passageways to walk through and the rest of the apartment was jammed with stuff.

I'm not claustrophobic by any means. But this just creeped me out. I need space in which to move. I don't mind a little clutter. In fact, I find it homey. I don't require a stark, barely-furnished cavern in which my voice can echo off artless walls. But I can't stand not being able to walk a straight line through a room; stepping on something every time I put my foot down; having to move five things out of my way before I can even get in the goddamn front door.

And so, my wife and I came to the same, sad two-word conclusion this week: storage unit. God help us. Seriously, it'd be great if God could help us find a cheap storage unit.

*NOTE: Randomly Googled picture. Not my family. Seriously not my family.


Who Knows What Evil Lurks in the Hearts of Men?

It was inevitable, I guess. And so, now it's happened. I inadvertently made my kid cry by doing a scary laugh.

My dad did it, too. I remember. Halloween, had to have been 1975 or '76. Dad helped my sister and I carve a jack o'lantern and then turned off the kitchen lights so we could admire it. While the lights were off--in the spirit of the season--Dad let loose with a sinister laugh. Utterly appropriate and most definitely not bad parenting. But I was a little, shall we say, overly sensitive. And it scared the shit out of me. So, I remember, I started bawling.

Dad ran to the light switch and lit the kitchen up again, so I could see there was nothing to be scared about. The only thing I had to fear, I'd say, was the fact that I was such a total pussy.

My kid is just a baby. I should know better.

I was sitting beside him as he visited with Mr. Lion in the swing. I was cutting my fingernails and thinking that his nails needed some attention as well. So I told him. I looked at him and said, "And next, we'll take!" and let loose with the laugh I'd perfected years earlier when I played The Shadow. (I make that statement because I want you to be aware of how the laugh sounded. And because I wanted to brag that I got to play The Shadow once. I'm a sad little man.)

Anyway, as soon as the laugh left my throat, I knew it was a mistake. Sure enough, his little lip started quivering and his eyes narrowed and reddened and then he was full-on crying. I left the nails on my right hand undone, grabbed him out of the swing and promised to never do that laugh again.

A promise I'll probably forget as soon as we carve our first jack o'lantern.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Moron of the Month (and It's Only the Third)

Seriously, what the fuck is so hard about paying your taxes? If the math is too difficult for you to figure out because you're "...really more of a word person," then hire a goddamn accountant.

I realize it gets trickier when you make a whole lot of money, but you know what you should do when that becomes the case? Pay your accountant more!

You're in politics, where people who don't like you are going to be looking for turds to throw at your head. Why would you want to just hand them a Hefty bag full of leavings?

Tom Daschle, you're a dumbshit and try not to leave any residual Loser in the room on the way out.

Sunday, February 01, 2009



Just like that, my last tiny little shred of respect for Saturday Night Live has been flushed down the toilet and I will never, ever--fucking ever--watch the show again.

I chuckled mildly at the first three or four dozen "MacGruber" sketches. I think Will Forte can be fairly funny. Not the majority of the time, but occasionally. It should have been retired about two years ago, but whatever. It's SNL.

This morning, I'm watching last night's god-awful episode with Steve Martin--who truly deserves the Pink Panther remakes--and they bring back MacGruber. They've got Richard Dean Anderson, which isn't exactly funny, but it's nice to know he's not dead.

And then, in the middle of the sketch, Will Forte pulls out a can of Pepsi. I'm thinking, "Wow. What lame fucking product placement. Just not well done at all." I fast-forward through about three-quarters of the rest of the episode and promptly forget I'd watched it.

Ten minutes ago, I'm doing dishes and watching, from the kitchen, what's shockingly turned into a kind of interesting Super Bowl and I hear the MacGruber theme. "No," I'm thinking. "They wouldn't do that...would they?"

They did. They re-ran the lame-ass sketch from last night, in its entirety.

So now, SNL is dead to me. Actually, I'm pretty sure it's been dead for a long, long time and I'm just now noticing the corpse's stench, but whatever the case may be, I'll no longer be a part of it. Lorne Michaels, you belong in the foulest depths of Hell. Where you'll no doubt have plenty of Pepsi to drink, you prick.


Balls, Grow Some

I don't hate Republicans. You can't paint that large of a group with the same brush. But there's a giant mess of them that are just massive fucking doucheknuckles. They're kind of like Biff from Back to the Future. The first one. They're horrible bullies and, let's just go ahead and say they're rapists, too. We'll take it that far if you say that our economy is being played by Lea Thompson.

And the Democrats are most definitely George McFly here. They're in charge. They have the power. But they're more than happy to let the Republicans borrow (and wreck) the car.

To a certain degree, I understand that the Democrats don't have a 60 seat majority in the Senate, and so they can't just do whatever they want. I understand as well that it's better to be inclusive and not to wave your junk in the opposition's face and that the Democrats should not just continue to do things the way they've been done for the last eight years.

But come on.

I sat listening to Senator Jim DeMint on This Week this morning, whining about the stimulus package and arguing that we should just let Free Market Economics take care of things. DeMint and the ideas he stands for are what got us into this situation. Letting business do whatever the fuck it wants leads to a handful of greedy assmunchers fucking the general public over so they can own another three vacation homes.

Obama and the rest of the Democrats won in November because the country doesn't want things done the way they were under Bush, so this is the time for them to take charge. Do things your way and if the other party doesn't like it, tough shit.

They need to be the George McFly, the successful novelist, not George McFly, the office drone.