Wednesday, December 23, 2009

On TV This Christmas

For those of us trying to watch TV on Christmas Day, we usually have the same set of choices every year. Each choice works a lot better with plenty of wine.

1) A Christmas Story. A little piece of 1940's small town Americana, where a pellet gun can be the focal point of the holiday for a kid, and the greatest horror is getting your tongue stuck on a cold flagpole. (No, that's not a euphamism!) Ever since the first time I saw this movie, I've been trying to find a lamp shaped like a stripper's leg.

2) The Yule Log. Basically a camera shot of a burning log. That's it. You gotta be pretty drunk to enjoy this.

3) Scrooge. Classic film from the early '50s, based on the Dickens story. A hard working entrepreneur who made wise choices with his money and helped benefit society as a capitalist is villified by evil ghosts that want him to feel guilty because his whining employee "thinks it's too cold in the office" and "wants Christmas off to spend with his family" (with no real concern that maybe Mr. Scrooge wants some company at work and was too busy building the company that pays Cratchett's salary to get a family of his own, thank you very much!). The evil ghosts succeed, and trick Scrooge into giving away his money. What it doesn't show is Cratchett squandering the money on gambling and booze rather than an operation for Tiny Tim, so he can grow into a novelty act and get married on Johnny Carson many years later.

4) Spanish TV. Here you can see buxom, leggy women dancing around wearing Santa hats and very little else.

5) Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. If you ever had a childhood fear of claymation, it comes to life in this horrifying epic about talking deer and snow monsters and drunk mountain climbers. You need more wine.

Merry Christmas to all!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My New Christmas Carol, Part 3

So without further ado, here are the lyrics to what I'm hoping will be a smashing new Christmas hit, to be sung at office parties and door to door for many years to come, bringing me all sorts of song royalties that can be well spent on hookers and blow and copies of transcripts to episodes of Dateline NBC. (In case you want to know how the melody will go, I should inform you now that I don't really know what "melody" means and I have no idea how to write music. But the song will be something like "Ba da DA DA dum dum da da DEE DEE dee" if that makes any sense)

Lyrics to "Brando's Christmas Gloriousness":

As I sit here waiting, brimming with year end hatred;
Thinking about this awful fruitcake, which smells putrid;
I want to get through this awful season
And I don't need a reason
For why I'm turning atheist this year.

Ring your damn bastard bells, you little cretins!
Make me get my shotgun, if I have to!
Because nothing makes me more pissed this season!
Than the sound of your constant screech!
Get me through this awful yule, because I have only one rule!
Let me have my bourbon in peace.

So I tried listening to my radio but all they would play
Is some godawful songs that make me barf on my TV tray
The smell of needles fills me with rage
And holiday-themed stories fill up the paper's front page
Why can't they let me be atheist this year


So when the stocking finally come down
And the lights are no longer strewn about town
I can finally return the awful gifts I've been given
And spend my days ogling posters of Robin Givens
And hope they'll let me be atheist, next year

Chorus x2

My New Christmas Carol, Part Two

It was pointed out to me by my many commenters that in yesterday's post I left out many popular holiday tunes which could still be used at office holiday parties, since they're enjoyable and festive and don't have hateful roots. I'll dismiss these in turn:

1) Holly Jolly Christmas. This song was popularized by Burl Ives, who played "Big Daddy" in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", a movie based on a play by Tennessee Williams. Tennessee, as we know, is the home to Fort Knox, where we keep our gold reserves. Clearly this was the gold standard's answer to Silver Bells. I for one have no interest in currency wars! Take it outside, Greenspan!

2) Jingle Bells. The original version of this song was an ode to Chinese dictator Mao Tse Tung. Okay, just made that up, but it still sucks.

3) Sleigh Ride. This doesn't count because it is not in fact an enjoyable holiday song.

4) Oh, Christmas Tree. Many of you might know that this song was originally called "O Tannenbaum". What you might not know is that Meyer Tannenbaum was a vicious Jewish gangster who created a reign of terror over the Lower East Side, trying to prove that he could be just as ruthless as his Sicilian counterparts. The song's original lyrics were "O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, please stop torturing me, with your spikes, and broken glass, and that thing, you shoved in my ass...." Hardly appropriate for the holidays!

5) Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Sounds like a nice song, until you realize that "Santa Claus" was a code word for the Hungarian Communist Secret Police, and frequently when they "came to town" it meant death and destruction. My kids don't need to lose their innocence with this song!

I think I adequately demonstrated that the current holiday tunes are just not up to snuff. So, in my next post, I bring you--a new holiday song for the ages.

Monday, December 21, 2009

My New Christmas Carol, Part One

Every year I never receive what I really want for Christmas, which is tons of money coming in from music royalties. There seems to be a simple fix--write a holiday song, and get it licensed out at office holiday parties! After all, just a nickel per party and I'll be waist deep in hookers and blow in no time.

The trick is to convince people that my holiday song is much more acceptable than the more popular ones. It shouldn't be hard:

1) Silver Bells is a pointless song sponsored by the silver industry, in an attempt to get us off the gold standard. Hey, send this back to 1896 when people gave a damn!

2) White Christmas is a racist, anti-black rant, meant to celebrate white supremacy and hold back minorities. Sorry, I want no part of that, Hitler!

3) Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer--clearly the red nose is masking Rudolf's alcoholism, and the song is about enabling his drinking problem. No sale, folks!

4) The Little Drummer Boy? This is really about child warriors, which considering recent happenings in Congo and Liberia, is in truly poor taste. Forget that, pal!

5) Silent Night--this song is about the suppression of free speech. Not this time, haters!

So, the holiday standards are clearly no good. What exactly then would be an acceptable song, free from any legacy of hatred and servitude? Stay tuned, as my next post will feature a song that you'll be hearing at many an office holiday party in the coming years....

Goddam Snow

DC rarely gets as much as two feet of snow in one day, but when it does happen the city is about as well prepared for this as Miami would be. A short trip across town to attend a wedding became a long series of fits and starts, as our friends' car could not get traction on the unplowed roads and more than once we needed random strangers to help push from the outside. Ultimately, when the ordeal was over it was time to wait out the blizzard with mint juleps and Conan the Barbarian.

Of course, I had my share of snowstorms in Maine, where the sidewalks are a packed-snow mess for four months out of the year, and they have yet to implement my ideas for dealing with it like heating coils under the roads and sidewalks and building a network of underground tunnels leading to the bars and restaurants. Something about "lack of funding" and "logistically impossible" and "please put down that hammer". I guess snow is just one of those things we have to suffer through.

Friday, December 18, 2009

20 Years of Simpsons

Twenty years ago yesterday--December 17th, 1989--a new TV show debuted on Fox, a network that was only two years old. This show was about a cartoon family, which had been featured in animated shorts on a short-lived sketch show for British commedian Tracey Ullman. This new show was called "The Simpsons".

Now, I took to the show pretty quickly--it was hard not to like the troublemaking kid and the idiot father, not to mention the various side characters who developed over time--Moe, the pathetic lowlife bartender, Barney, the chronic drunk, Mr. Burns, the evil capitalist boss, Chief Wiggum, the corrupt and incompetent police chief--and I watched the show regularly when it aired Thursdays and later on Sunday nights. I quoted Homer Simpson in my high school graduation speech, and in college the gang watched the show together in awed silence so that we wouldn't miss a funny line.

It was a show that started off pretty standard, and found its legs quickly, becoming absolutely hilarious for a several season stretch. Since the glory years of the early and mid-90s, the show has had some weaker episodes--often signs of weakness are gimmicks such as guest stars playing themselves ("hey, R.E.M. just happened to show up in Homer's garage!") or sending the Simpsons to some foreign country for quick sight gags ("hey, the Simpsons are now doing the samba in Brazil!"). "Thoughtful" or "political" episodes are generally weak too--Lisa Simpson should serve as a foil for Bart's troublemaking and Homer's latest bad idea, rather than the focus of an episode, and I don't need to see Marge's sister come out as a lesbian to know how I feel about gay marriage. But on the whole, the show has retained it's charm over the years, staying funny most of the time and frankly, even its weaker episodes are funnier than most of what's on TV now.

The Simpsons will shortly surpass "Gunsmoke" as the longest running prime time non-news show, and I figure by now they must have produced over 400 episodes--this means if you were to have a "Simpsons marathon" and watch every episode back to back, it would take you 200 hours, or over 8 days. Non-stop!

Consider--when the show started, George Bush SENIOR was in the first year of his term, Gorbachev was still heading the USSR, and Michael Jackson was just considered "a bit weird" rather than full-on crazy. No one had heard of Bill Clinton, and the Internet was a primitive form used only by high end techies. Hair metal bands were still the rage, and Johnny Carson and David Letterman were still on NBC. It was the Russians who were getting out of Afghanistan, not us getting further into it. And European countries hadn't developed the "Euro" yet--you'd have to get "francs" and "lire" and "deutchsemarks" when you travelled there. The Simpsons has been something most of us have grown up with.

Here's hoping for more great episodes ahead. It's been a good ride.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest

Thankfully, so far I have yet to contract the flu (knock on fake wood desk; why is this obviously not real wood desk painted to look like wood?). But considering so many people I work with have kids, it's only a matter of time before the dreaded virus makes its way around here. Of course, it won't spread quite so quickly if the people who catch the flu follow the universal tips:

1) When sneezing, sneeze into your elbow. That way if anyone tries to grab you by the elbow they get a handful of snot. They'll soon learn to grab you by the hair instead.

2) When travelling on a train or plane, wear a surgical mask. It not only stops colds, but chicks will think you're a doctor! I smell a love connection!

3) Stick your toothbrush in the dishwasher to sterilize it. Nothing sterilizes a toothbrush better than getting bits of used spaghetti sauce on it. Then go buy a new toothbrush, you cheap bastard.

4) Did you know that people are more likely to get germs from door handles than anywhere else? Make a habit of kicking open the door instead. Your co-workers will thank you!

5) If you really don't like a co-worker, feel free to cough and sneeze all over him. Giving someone the flu is sort of like punching them, except you don't go to jail!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Now D.C.'s Gays Don't Have an Excuse to Avoid Settling Down

Yesterday the D.C. City Council voted to legalize same-sex marriage, by a vote of 11-2. Hopefully this trend will bolster efforts in other states, though similar votes failed recently in Maine, New York and New Jersey. Which brings me to my point.

The gay marriage debate hasn't played out in simple ideological lines, with conservatives opposed and liberals in favor--if that were the case, we wouldn't have seen those defeats in the Northeast where liberals tend to flock and "Republican" has become a dirty word. In fact, Republicans who can win elections in the Northeast like Mitt Romney and Rudy Guiliani were pro-gay rights when they campaigned (though for Mitt at least that changed when he ran for President later). And what about the two votes against gay marriage in the D.C. Council? They came from Yvette Alexander and Marion Barry--not exactly right wingers in other areas. The only explanation is that there's a large subset of liberal voters who just can't abide by the idea that a gay couple could have marital rights. It is especially shameful for Marion Barry's voters, since they've shown that they arent' so judgmental that they'd vote against a guy just for being a crackhead.

Hopefully, though, the anti-gay marriage voters will in time see that living in a community where gays are marrying one another isn't the end of the world. Then maybe they can concern themselves with society's real problems.

Giant rabbit attacks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

End of the Aughts!

With the new year approaching it only recently occurred to me that this is also the end of a decade--for some reason the hype of the end of the last decade (also being the end of a century and millenium, unless you were one of those nerds who pointed out that it really doesn't end until 2001 but then if you were one of those nerds you wouldn't be reading this because you'd be busy doing rocket surgery or something) seemed to overshadow hype for the end of the 2000-2009 span.

In this past decade, we've seen the following:

1) George W Bush went from being Texas Governor to a national disaster.

2) Barack Obama went from unknown community organizer to laughably overrated Nobel winner.

3) New Orleans went from a cesspool of crime and filth to . . . a cesspool of crime and filth.

4) Britney Spears went from underage Lolita-esque strumpet to worn-out mother in need of mental help. And we watch because we can't not watch.

5) Netflix has destroyed Blockbuster. The "video store" will be a relic of the past in a few short years.

6) The economy went to crap.

7) China is now our biggest creditor. Mao is spinning in his grave.

8) The Twin Towers are gone and we now are stuck in two third world countries across the globe. We're a very unpredictable people--so Burma ought to watch its back.

9) Goth has been replaced by emo hipsters. Pabst Blue Ribbon would have been a good investment.

10) Cupcakes are the new mocha lattes, as overpriced gourmet versions of things that used to be cheap and plentiful. The next trend will be high end soups.

11) The Simpsons went from longest running comedy to longest running prime-time series.

12) Family Guy came back on the air, and spawned yet more Seth McFarlane shows (at this trend, he'll occupy all of prime time for the entire week by end of next decade). He's like a fungus!

13) The Big Three automakers are for all practical purposes down to the Big One. Chrysler and GM will go the way of Gimbels and Zima.

14) The cost of going to a ball game is now out of reach for those who don't want to sell their kidneys. And Dan Snyder still can't get a team to win.

15) Airfares are still cheap, but with the exchange rate it's not worth going anywhere that doesn't take the dollar. Puerto Rico will be the new Bahamas.

16) It sucks more than ever for new college grads. Those of us who thought we had it rough before have learned to keep our mouths shut. Something tells me these new grads will be as grumpy as the Depression-era generation, telling everyone that they don't know what suffering is.

17) Gasoline was a buck a gallon at the start of the decade. Although it's nearly three times that now, we're still happy it's not four or five bucks a gallon. Hybrid cars still look lame though.

18) Mel Gibson went from hotshot actor to insane fundamentalist religious whackjob. Ditto for Tom Cruise. I'm betting the same for Robin Williams in the next decade.

It's been a rough time but we all went through it together (except you toddlers, you don't count!). Here's hoping the next one is an improvement!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Up Yours, Winter!

Some people call winter their favorite season. These people are called idiots. Consider the following:

1) The only real period of daylight is while we are at work indoors. Darkness beginning by 5 PM is depressing. They should simply have the day begin and end five hours earlier, so we'd have five hours of daylight after the end of the workday. I wouldn't mind working the first five hours of the day in the darkness. That's why we have lights in our offices!

2) Waking up when it's chilly and you just want to stay in your coccoon all day but know you can't do that. If only I can conduct my daily business from inside my coccoon. But apparently you have to be the president of the United States to get to do that.

3) Road conditions are hazardous. It's dangerous enough with all the brain-dead morons cutting me off and that damn bus that always seems to get in the way. Ice only makes it more of a challenge.

4) If you stand outside long enough your butt cheeks will freeze together.

5) Restaurants have a lot less seating because the outdoor seats can't be used.

6) No backyard barbecues so that limits my cuisine by like 75%.

Granted, summer has its downsides--heat and humidity, bugs--but it's not even a comparison. It's going to be a long few months!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Happy Hannukah!

Hannukah starts today, and I must say the total lack of Hannukah parties and gifts and parades makes me think the local Jews are really dropping the ball here! After all, this holiday has had a couple hundred years' head start on Christmas--that's plenty of time to invent a jolly fictional character to hand out toys, and co-opt some pagan rituals and decorations.

The holiday originates from the days when the Greeks (as remnants of Alexander the Terrific's empire) were running Judaea (in present-day Israel), and lots of Jews assimilated by taking on Greek culture. Presumably, this meant eating gyros and wearing lots of gold chains and colognes and owning diners on the Interstate. After all, gotta do what's popular! But a group of super-religious Jews rejected that, and went by the name "the Maccabes" which is Hebrew for "screw this gyro crap and pass me a bagel". The Maccabes fought the Greeks and the assimilated Jews, and took over the big temple in Jerusalem, then decided to light up some lamp action. Of course they only had oil for one day, but by divine miracle--or failing to measure the oil properly in the first place, either way--the oil burned for eight days. It was such a great time for celebration that the Maccabes said "from this day forth, we shall celebrate Hannukah, and never see it be overshadowed by some upstart religion's big winter-time holiday".

Today, Jews around the world (though let's face it, mostly just the American Jews) celebrate Hannukah tonight and for the next eight nights, by lighting the menorah and spinning the dradle and looking for a good Chinese place to eat on Christmas. Happy Hannukah!

Thursday, December 10, 2009


The better part of this morning was spent at a meeting at Tyson's Corner, and unlike a lot of meetings it was actually useful (and they served breakfast! Beats the hell out of my normal breakfast of granola bars and shame). But I'm not going to post about the meeting itself, rather the morning drive into Tysons.

For those of you not from the DC area, let me tell you that Northern Virginia is a complete mess of poorly planned overdevelopment leading to aesthetic and transportation and lifestyle nightmares. Think North Jersey meets the Los Angeles area, with weather falling somewhere between those two locales. Traffic is a constant snarl, and everything is either a mess of soulless steel-and-glass or ugly strip malls. There's no real grid, as you'd find in the city, so if you get lost you're basically screwed. Since the population of this region is made up mostly of northern transplants, I figured the confusing and irrational planning that went into the road and development system was part of some anti-Yankee revenge for the Civil War. I imagine if the war was fought today, General Sherman's forces would be stuck in traffic somewhere on Chain Bridge Road near the Beltway, wondering if they should eat at this Applebee's or try for the Hooters down the road.

The part of Fairfax County that is called Tyson's Corner is the epitome of everything good and bad about Northern Virginia. Tyson's Corner is likely named after some dude named Tyson who owned a corner of some dirt road. It was probably very charming and rustic back then. Today, it is a crowd of skyscrapers, auto dealerships, chain restaurants (both middle class like Silver Diner and high end, like the Palm), and the noted malls Tyson's Galleria and Tyson's Corner Center. For some reason developers and businesses decided this was a great place to set up shop, although it's not directly on I-66 and has no Metro access yet. Its' as though someone said "let's just build wherever this frisbee lands" and went from there.

Apparently there are going to be changes for Tyson's Corner, including four new Metro stops when they expand the line in a few years, and redevelopment plans intended to make the area more pedestrian friendly and less congested (which should take decades). These are welcome changes, though it'll be expensive and time consuming considering this is an area that could be a decent sized city in its own right. But the area right now is a good cautionary tale for what happens when an area overdevelops without any real long range plan. It would have made a lot more sense to keep this in mind decades ago.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

It's Pagan New Year, Charlie Brown!

Another thing I like about this time of year is the holiday specials that are on TV--the Scrooge story is a good one, advancing an early Marxist message that wealthy and financially sound capitalists should divest their fortunes and give to their labor forces based on need. (After all, if Bob Cratchet was a bachelor happy with a cup of gruel each day, the spirits wouldn't have used threats of violence to force him to give the guy a raise). The first version I ever saw of "A Christmas Carol" was the Mr. Magoo version, and I remember by the end of it thinking "wow, this is pretty deep for Mr. Magoo!"

Then of course there's the claymation Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer special, in which we learn that the other reindeer were a bunch of dicks and Rudolf only became popular when his genetic abnormality proved useful. Keep that in mind, club foot people! We also learned that the elves were enslaved, as when Herbie the Elf wanted to become a dentist he was shunned.

But the best special on TV was the Charlie Brown Christmas special. It's the best of all the Peanuts specials, edging out "Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" and coming way ahead of "It's the Passion of the Christ, Charlie Brown!" and "It's the Cuban Missile Crisis, Charlie Brown!" As you may know, it starts out where Charlie wants to find the true meaning of Christmas, and Lucy (who seems to be an unlicensed psychiatrist) convinces him to be the director for the gang's Christmas play. Of course, it just results in everyone doing their own crazy dance (this was the '60s, after all) and no one listening to Charlie. Because it's clear that Charlie is a drag, man, they send him to get a tree and of course he screws that up by getting a scrawny piece of crap. The other children are correct to mock him, and they sure do, leading him to limp off in sadness, ask what the true meaning of Christmas is, and then his buddy Linus quotes from the Bible to remind the viewing audience that all the pageantry is somehow connected to the birth of Christ. Charlie then tries to put an ornament on his sad tree, and it wilts, much like his spirit. He trods off in sadness, and then Linus and the other kids give the tree a little "love" (which seems to me to consist of simply wrapping Linus' blanket around the base, then putting a bunch of ornaments on it and the tree somehow seems to be more full and healthy).

What's great about the Charlie Brown special is (a) the fact that they use real kids' voices, (b) the catchy jazz score, and (c) the touching aspect of what Linus did for Charlie. When the chips were down and Charlie proved to be a total tool, Linus stuck by the dude and helped him get the lousy tree, and supported him even though Charlie picked out the saddest tree in the lot. He then buoyed the dude's spirits with his religious recital, and saved the tree in the end. Ultimately this is a story about friendship and sticking by people when they're down. And that's what Christmas is all about!

Plus Snoopy being way cooler than his master? Priceless.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Crusades

On a scale of one to John Edwards, some things really suck big time. And one of those things is this constant "war on Christmas" talk that has been making the rounds.

Apparently, it goes like this:

1) Baby born in a barn and his mom believes her husband isn't the father. While this is typical in Maine, it became the subject of one of the world's biggest religions and countless movies that Mel Gibson could tun into some Jew-baiting.

2) At some point, the Catholic Church noticed that when converting European pagans, it was hard to convince them to stop celebrating Winter Solstice with fir trees and decorations and egg nog and fruitcake. So the Church decided to appropriate these traditions into Christianity, arguing that late December was when Jesus was born and that decorating trees and getting the new Mr. T doll is the way to celebrate this.

3) Fast forward a couple thousand years, and Americans have effectively commercialized the holiday to now include reindeer, Santas, snowmen that come to life but don't murder children, and some pretty awful holiday songs by Bono and Elton John and Paul McCartney. Not to mention office parties where you can photocopy your butt.

4) Some major retailers notice that Jews and Muslims like to spend money too, so they make a strategic decision to refer to sales as "Holiday Sales" rather than "Christmas Sales" and tell their overworked and underpaid smock-wearing staffers to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas".

5) Some chip on the shoulder Christians get pissed at the idea that anyone would acknowledge any other religion besides their own, and decide that the real assault on their holiday comes from this rather than the overcommercialization and appropriation of pagan rituals. They promptly call Fox News.

6) Fox News takes a break from covering ACORN and showing former beauty queens reading the news, and adds serious coverage to this War on Christmas.

7) Meantime, I'm the only kid in 1st grade who didn't get a toy replica of the General Lee from Dukes of Hazard.

Frankly, we'd all do well to appreciate the important things about the holidays. Getting boozed up and wearing awful sweaters while watching Snoopy save Christmas!

Holiday Decorations

It seems that this time of year almost everyone's living room (or that bit of space near the window, if you're in an efficiency) has some sort of decoration up for the holidays, whether we're talking about a Christmas tree, a Hannukah menorah, a Festivus pole, or a Buddha-Day bag of sand. And this also means that political busybodies are busy (with their bodies) complaining that the trees are bad for the environment, the menorahs are just a sop to the wax candle industry, and the bag of sand is just retarded. There isn't much complaint about the atheists putting their traditional nothing up, but that's only because complaining about putting up nothing gets a bit too existentialist.

I don't put anything up myself, since I'm stockpiling my holiday spirit for when I have little monsters of my own. But you better believe when the time comes, the menorah will be plastic and electric and the Christmas tree will be a white tabletop model. And every year when Santa doesn't actually bring them anything? I'll tell them that maybe they should have been better kids! And when the neighbors find out about this I'll say "hey don't blame me, it's Santa that screwed them over" and let them think that I still believe in Santa so that they won't want to ruin my childlike beliefs.

I imagine they're going to put me in the worst old-age home available when it's all said and done.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Say it Ain't So, Tiger!

Just in case you spent the past week living without electricity in order to earn some carbon credits (which will totally be worth something some FANTASY WORLD!), golfing star Tiger Woods was apparently cheating on his very hot wife and this very hot wife proceeded to beat the crap out of him. This got a lot of laughs out of late night comedians, which is kind of sad because we're still talking about domestic violence (and before you say he deserved to be beaten up because he cheated on his wife, ask yourself if that would be your reaction if it was Tiger beating up an unfaithful wife), but it also provoked some conversation with my co-workers.

Namely, why? After all, Woods seems like a pretty outstanding guy, especially in a day of athletes being thugs and trash. (Yes, I'm thinking of you, Steffi "Bulldozer" Graff-Agassi!) And here he was married to some Nordic valkyrie Viking woman who he probably could get to wear fur loin cloths and a horned helmet while yodelling in their opulent mansion. (Or am I the only one who would have done that?) The question we had was why does it seem that just about every celebrity athlete, performer or politician seems to cheat on their spouse? It certainly doesn't seem to mirror the general population.

The gang at work basically concluded that Tiger cheated because he has so many opportunities what with the fame and groupies and such, that it was only a matter of time before he gave in to temptation. This is a depressing conclusion--it sort of implies that if you're with someone who is faithful, it's not because you're so great or they're so morally upstanding--rather, their faithfulness is only due to a lack of opportunities!

I'd prefer to be an optimist and say that Tiger cheated because he got sick of the yodelling.

Blasted Snow

Snow sucks. I know a lot of people who disagree, since they love skiing, but skiing sucks because words in English shouldn't have a double "i". (It's also why I'm wary of Hawaiians). Besides, snow in the mountains is fine--what sucks is when we have it on roads and sidewalks.

I didn't always feel this way, since as a kid snow often meant a day off from school and maybe some sledding or building a fort. But now when I build a fort it just looks pathetic! It's all "hey are you homeless or something?" and then I spend too much time explaining myself. And sledding's tricky what with mankind's natural enemy, the Tree.

Instead, this is the time of year it's best to prepare hot drinks and gather with friends around the fireplace and play Trivial Pursuit (the only board game where you can participate without having to see the board). And try to forget that warm weather is months away.

Friday, December 4, 2009


My friends and I drink too much. Of course, we also do too many other things too much (eat, make sarcastic remarks, toss batteries at one another) but it occurred to me that it's time we did something for the community after taking so very much from it. This is why we're doing the First Annual Drink-a-Thon For the Kids.

The Drink-A-Thon (or DAT for those of you who can't get enough of acronyms) goes like this--participants begin at 8 AM and have to have one drink per hour; that drink can be a 12 oz beer or glass of wine (we're going to avoid hard liquor for this as we don't want a bunch of tequila-fueled mayhem marring this charitable event). The more hours each participant can go, the more money they can raise, since sponsors will sponsor a certain amount of cash per drink. (Say, a buck a drink for your participant--if they make it 20 hours, then you pledge $20). During this period the participants can eat, drink and do anything--they just have to stick by the drink-per-hour rule.

To keep up stamina, there will be plenty of eating and group activities (ping pong, arm wrestling, strolling through town) and ideally we can get some bars to sponsor the players by providing discounted beer for this cause. Participants of course will have to try and line up sponsors for this charity. Donations can also be made in the form of food and drink. We also want to get T-shirts made, partly to help spread awareness for our cause.

The date we have set for this is January 9th (Saturday). The only thing we need to do now is decide on a charity for which we can send the proceeds from this fundraiser. So far I've got:

1) American Cancer Society
3) Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Elves

Any other thoughts?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Random Thursday Thoughts

1) If someone keeps referring to the sex they just had as "consensual sex" it's sort of creepy.

2) An ever increasing amount of my day is spent trying to not seem stupid. I'm not sure what to make of that.

3) I feel a bit guilty when a restaurant's chef went through all the trouble of making a nice presentation of the food and all I want to do is break it apart and eat it and wonder why it's not a bigger portion.

4) I can't stand fake cheese and yet I'm at peace with Doritos. I'm complicated like that.

5) For every ten people you hear talking into their hands-free cell phones, at least one of them does not actually have a hands-free cell phone and is in fact nuts.

6) To take advantage of better products and lower prices, you're better off living technologically ten years behind everyone else. You can do it--after all everyone ten years ago was able to live like that. Just don't be upset when your friends ask you weird things like whether you got their text.

7) I like to say I drink beer and wine for the crisp refreshing taste. But if someone offered me nonalcoholic beer or wine I'd probably laugh at them.

Is Pathetisad a Word?

Every now and again you come upon something that is both unintentionally hilarious but also really sad at the same time. Case in point--this political cartoon, which was made for a local election in Oklahoma a few years ago for a candidate named Brent Rinehart. Rinehart, judging from the cartoon, is a die-hard Conservative Republican and apparently thinks the biggest problem facing Oklahoma County is rampant homosexuality. Apparently, Oklahoma has tons of gay people and only Brent Rinehart could stop them! I hope Mr. Rinehart doesn't take any sightseeing trips to the Castro District in San Francisco or New York's West Village--he'd go bonkers!

The cartoon itsels is pretty hilarious--the drawings of homosexuals make them look like Roman gods, and the "good ole boys" on the City Council have ridiculously large thumbs. Plus, the typos--oh, the many many typos! Why hire someone with a sixth grade education to proof-read when you can just assume the cartoon is good enough? Granted, the homespun nature of the cartoon was charming enough to get me to read it--unlike a lot of more flashy campaign literature--but the lack of attention to detail sends a message that I'm sure the candidate didn't want to send.

Now, on to this man's candidacy--I imagine that even if I opposed homosexuality (I favor it, since it leads to fewer unwanted children, less repression, and better home decoration) it wouldn't be enough of a big issue to occupy three quarters of a campaign brochure/comic. I mean, a county commissioner has to deal with things like fixing roads, making the schools work efficiently, utilities and property taxes. So some gay couples move into the area--is that really the sort of thing that makes even a traditionalist say "forget the fact that there's a sanitation workers' strike and tornadoes wiped out our power lines--we gotta stop this gay crap"? As it turns out, even the conservative voters didn't find the gays to be that big a deal--Rinehart came in last in the Republican primary.

While I hope his loss discourages gay-bashing in campaigns, I hope it doesn't prevent candidates from making amateurish cartoons to promote their candidacies--we need the unintentional laughter.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Holiday Poem Strategy!

So, holidays are approaching and you have to lay out hard earned cash for gifts--what do you do? After all, if you add up co-workers, friends, fambly, and tips for servicepeople, you can be talking about some big bucks!

When we were little kids, it was fine--just ask dad for some money and use it to go buy him a tie, or make something really neat out of popsicle sticks. (Note--if my kids ever give me something made of popsicle sticks? Then I'll get them back next year by making some shoddy piece of crap out of straws. Two can play at that game, kids!) But once we're earning our own money we're expected to do better. (Just try giving your boss a painting made with glued bits of macaroni for Christmas this year. You might find your office being relocated to a broom closet!)

This is where Brando Poems come in handy. See, people are going to get toys, bottles of wine, gift baskets and ties every year, and will soon grow tired of this stuff (except maybe the wine, which they will drink and then need more of next year, unless you're giving the wine to a recovering alcoholic and you should really stop doing that you insensitive cretin!). But a Brando Poem provides a new batch of happiness every time the recipient gets one. Plus, by giving the recipient fully copyrights to the poem, this can be an investment! Here's this year's special holiday poem:

Ring around the yuletide tree,
Or Hannukah bush, if your last name is Lev-y,
Make sure to drink less egg nog, since it's quite full of fats,
And be sure to find a sitter, to watch your little brats,
Don't deep fry your turkey, unless you watch it close,
And sit back and enjoy the films of actress Glen Close,
Enjoy the colored lights as they twinkle,
Have plenty of cider, even if it makes you tinkle,
Wish specialness and light on all those you see,
But not that guy down the street because he's a dick.

I highly advise you to get the copyright registered before other readers get the same idea.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Gift Giving Dilemmas

The history of holiday gift giving begins with the first Christmas, when Baby Jesus was given gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh by his visitors in the manger--the Three Kings of the Orient. Of course, Jesus felt a bit awkward since he didn't have gifts for the Kings, and had to pretend that his gifts for them were still in the mail. The uncomfortable silence ended when the owner of the manger told the Kings to scram since they weren't paying customers, but the tradition remains--gift giving has become a regular part of the Christmas holidays.

Later on, in Germany, a guy named Santa Claus started breaking into homes to leave presents for the kids in exchange for milk and cookies (milk and cookies being valid currency in medieval Germany) as well as some food for his reindeer. When the demand for presents became too pressing, he'd hire a gang of elves to work in his toy factory (elves being very cheap labor at the time, since they hadn't unionized and really didn't need much in the way of food) and before long had a massive worldwide operation that netted billions worth of cookies. Santa had a policy of only doing business with kids who were "good" that year, which explained why incidents of juvenile delinqency dropped markedly during the September through December quarter. Until his sleigh was short down by Soviet pilots in the 1980s for violating their airspace, Santa had a good thing going. But the gift tradition continued--with parents handing out presents instead of red-suited strangers.

Jews had for a number of years avoided this tradition, as they dont' celebrate Christmas (though if I were Jewish? I'd totally still celebrate it! Colored lights and food and stuff--can't give that up!) and instead celebrate a holiday that rejoices in having found energy savings that one time a while back. Understandably, though, Jewish parents found their kids' cries of "why do my goy friends get presents this time of year and all I get to do is play dreidel and eat chocolate coins?" rather unbearable. So it was then decided that each night of Hannukah the Jews would give their kids presents too.

So this is why this time of year we find ourselves in the holiday stress of determining who to buy gifts for, and it has become a Machiavellian task--do I get something for my co-workers? What do I get for the guy/girl I have been dating for only a few weeks? Is it wrong to get someone a $30 gift certificate when they got me a $40 gift certificate? Fortunately I have a solution . . . stay tuned for the next post!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Black Friday, Bah Humbug!

The Thanksgiving hangover has hardly subsided before millions of extremely cheap and undignified people descended on the nation's retailers at 4 in the morning Friday to get good deals on electronics and appliances. These items would be often hoarded and resold at a markup, or given as holiday presents, or in some cases actually used by the buyers. But one thing is for certain--the bottom-feeders who camp out for these amazing deals are completely classless!

My vitriol for the Black Fridayers stems mostly from last year's incident where the hordes of cheap retards crushed a worker to death and the paramedics couldn't get to him because the people in the crowd didn't want to risk losing their spot in line and not getting the wonderful deals on flat screen TVs or whatever other nonsense they were trying to buy. While I can be influenced by a sale on an item I want just as much as the next guy, I'd like to think that even saving hundreds on an appliance isn't worth waiting outside a store for hours to get the item, let alone endanger another person over it.

While a "Black Fridayer" probably thinks that they're getting one over on the world by getting a Wii for half price, I can mathematically prove that they are not taking into account the true cost of what they're doing. Consider:

Cost of Item Sold on Black Friday = Discounted Price + Time + Human Dignity + Eternal Soul + Cost of Getting Lunch at Olive Garden Near Mall

As you can see, when you add up everything in this formula, that brings you way higher than the full original price of the item. Sorry, Black Fridayers--you'd be better off spending your day off eating leftovers and playing with the strange cat that wandered onto your property.

Another Birthday!

Ah, birthdays--they just aren't as special after you've passed the "big ones". Like, when you hit 13, you can call yourself a teenager; when you hit 16, you can drive; when you hit 18, you can vote and be tried as an adult (not as much to celebrate there!); when you hit 21 you can drink. Then it starts to go downhill until you're able to collect Social Security (and tell the young bastards who won't stay off your lawn that you plan to milk the system until they're taxed to oblivion).

Today I turn 35--the only thing special about that number is I can serve as President of the United States now. Weak! How about something more to look forward to? Like, legalize pot for everyone over 32, so you can look forward to that birthday. Legalize gambling for everyone over 35, so that birthday becomes a milestone. Pay no taxes for the year you're 37, so you can celebrate that. One free murder when you hit 40.

Of course, those other milestone birthdays are arbitrary anyway--what about being 16 makes you more able to drive than a 15 or 14 year old? (In some states the driving age is lower, and in other places like New Jersey it's actually 17, but this is because Jersey drivers are already awful). Why is a 21 year old able to drink responsibly but not a 19 year old? (Especially since we decided that 19 year old can vote, marry, go to grown-up prison, and fight in our wars. I guess downing a beer is a much more serious thing than starting a family, dodging Taliban bullets or helping decide the future of our country).

Still, I see 35 as a triumph--halfway to 70 when I can finally be a crazy old man!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


As I steel myself for a drive up the East Coast for Thanksgiving, I should take this time to think of all the things I'm thankful for this year:

1) I'm thankful to have a good income at a time when more than one in ten people can't find work (and a larger number have given up trying).

2) I'm thankful to have good friends and fambly who tolerate my constant airing of the grievances.

3) I'm thankful to be healthy despite a constant potato chip and beer diet. Oh, sweet sweet carbs why do you abuse me when it's so clear how devoted I am???

4) I'm thankful that Sarah Palin will always amuse us but never be in a real position to cause any harm.

5) I'm thankful that we live in a time of great television, where I can look forward to new episodes of It's Always Sunny and get great new ideas like filling a soda can with wine so it doesn't spill when I make violent hand gestures.

6) I'm thankful that I enjoy the simple things in life, like writing, painting, and filling Faberge eggs with gold flakes and tossing them from a yacht.

7) I'm thankful that New Jersey is not a longer state than it is. And that Delaware is even shorter. Horrible, horrible Delaware.

8) I'm thankful that the Redskins still suck and stupid Dan Snyder can cry in his little girly arms like the big doofus baby he is. Up yours, Snyder!

9) I'm thankful that women of today are much better looking than they were thirty years ago (what with their high waisted poofy pants and oversized fake eyelashes and ironed hair), though I'm sure men of thirty years from now will say the same thing about our women. Watch it, you young whippersnappers! Get off my lawn!

10) I'm thankful for Coke and McDonalds. Yes, I admitted it! Coke is like crack for me. By which I mean I buy it in secret on street corners and drink it in solitary shame.

11) I'm thankful for my thankfulness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keep the Tip, Said the Leper to the Hooker

Tipping is a sore subject for a lot of people who worked in restaurants, since anyone who had to depend on the voluntary tippage from a customer has at least once been stiffed, and then of course we see the other extreme where the service was nonexistent but a mandatory service charge was added to the bill, like in this case. Comments on such stories often get heated, with the two camps forming:

1) The "I wait tables for a living and if you don't pay at least 20% for your food you're scum and you'll get extra saliva in your drinks!" camp.

2) The "I'm tired of crappy service, you should consider yourself lucky if I leave change for a buck on the table when I'm done! And if you don't like it, get a new skill set!" camp.

3) The "I'm European and we don't tip in Europe so I'm not going to tip in the U.S., even though we Europeans like to mock Americans for not learning other people's cultures when we visit. By the way, so what if you saved us from the Nazis? What have you done for us lately?" camp.

4) The "Maybe tipping shouldn't be voluntary, but fixed into the prices and give servers higher salaries" camp.

5) The "What is this tipping you speak of? Should I have been leaving extra money on the table?" camp.

6) The "You're all idiots, you can get great food right out of the dumpsters." camp.

Regardless of the merits of dumpster cheese, it's good to run over the basic rules--tipping about 20% is normal, more for good service, less for poor service, and if the service is so bad you don't want to tip at all (say, if the server basically bites your arm) then you'll want to talk with management about it. 20% isn't hard to figure out--a buck for every $5, two for every $10--and when you're paying ask yourself whether you'd be happy receiving that amount of money for providing the amount of service provided (extra refills on drinks, adequate attention, carrying heavy steaming plates). After all, if it bothers you that the tip makes a $10 burger come out to $12 and tax, then there's always fast food. It ain't rocket surgery!


Last Friday, a few of us got together for a Guy's Night (yes, I know one of the first rules of Guy's Night is to not speak of Guy's Night but as we know rules were made to be broken). A couple of the guys there were single so of course that meant the rest of us were more than willing to dole out advice on how to pick up women because of course who knows better than the guys who don't pick up women anymore? It's sort of like asking a Quaker how to kick someone's ass or asking a Muslim what to do with the crate of beer-soaked bacon that someone left at your house. Your house in Tel Aviv, that is.

Of course, most of my own advice had to do with "dropping that sensitive guy crap" and "never, ever wear knee socks" and especially "never ever listen to the advice of your female friends". I have had a number of female friends for a number of years, and never once heard any bit of advice regarding women that wasn't completely the opposite of correct, with the exception of something my friend Jen said once and I'm pretty sure she said it by accident. And that got me thinking.

Why is it that women will tell you stuff that if you actually did it you'd find yourself completely undate-able? Surely because these women are our friends, one would assume they have our best interests in mind! But then think of this--if we DID listen to their counterproductive advice (ranging from "share your feelings" and "be yourself" to "pink is a good color for you" and "there's nothing wrong with being a vegan even if you're a guy")--if we DID take it to heart, we'd end up growing old alone and have to move in with these female friends' families and living in the small apartment above their garages so we can babysit for their kids and help their husbands (who you better believe never shared their feelings, wore pink, or ate tofu!) fix the family sedan.

I'm on to you, ladies!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Holiday Tips

As I like to give back to the community after taking so, so very much, I figured it's time for some more holiday tips--what with Thanksgiving coming up in a few days! After all, what should normally be a day of mirth and togetherness often devolves into a fit of screeching, screeching and more screeching. But some of it can be avoided by following some basic rules:

1) Avoid driving during peak hours. Yes, even during a recession you'll find yourself in a traffic jam saying "I figured the recession would make everyone stay home". Remember when gas was $4 a gallon a few years ago? There were still bad jams! And you marvel at the fact that so many people chose to drive at a time when they knew the roads would be crowded, until you remembered that you're one of those people.

2) Have an aunt who's convinced that the president is a secret Muslim, or an uncle who is still ranting about George Bush? Avoid political arguments with a sure fire all-purpose response: "You have interesting opinions and I'm sure they'll make it into some academic journal before long. But if I hear one more word about something you heard on Glenn Beck/Rachel Maddow, I will do something with this turkey leg that you never thought physically possible."

3) If you're one of those kind families that invites a lonely homeless war veteran to your home for the Thanksgiving dinner, make sure you give him a full psychiatric evaluation before you let him near any carving knives. A flashback from the Battle of Khe San could turn a pleasant meal into a test to see if the male relatives are capable of restraining a knife-wielding berzerker.

4) If asked to say "grace" try and leave out any references to our Dark Lord and whether there are any virgins at the table.

5) Do not show up with a bunch of tupperware and say "can't stay long, but you can put my share in these".

Friday, November 20, 2009

Twilight? More like Twi-wrong!

I've been pretty much insulated from the "Twilight" movie and book craze, largely because I'm a guy and I'm not 14 years old. So I can't criticize the films/books (or ideas behind the films/books) from any experience, but from the buzz around it it seems the idea is that vampires are brooding emo goth hipsters with moused hair and sparkly skin who fall in love against their will.

In other words, vampires are totally lame.

This is a terrible trend--the best vampires were the ghoulish, Nosferatu style tall white freakish blood suckers that glide through the dark and haunt our dreams. The sort of things that you'd lose your shit over if you saw them in your closet or basement. Why turn them all lame and mopey?

Some theories exist that the vampire legend is based on observing people reacting to having rabies--the legends apparently spread in the same times and places as major rabies outbreaks. Rabies symptoms--aversion to water and light, insatiable thirst, aversion to pungent smells (like garlic?), crazy behavior and a need to attack and bite people--are not unlike the symptoms attributed to vampires, and rabies, like vampirism, is spread through the blood. What does rabies NOT do to you? Turn you into a sullen teenager who wears black and has moussed hair and doesn't want to fall in love!

TV's The Office

I'm as big a fan of the TV show "The Office" as anyone--both the British and the American versions--and have found that the various characters seem to get better and better as the season runs on. The Jim and Pam romance has actually been touching and amusing, while normally on shows such a pairing would be a sign of sure shark-jumping crapulence (see, Friends). The Dwight character has become multi-layered, as he has proven gullible, evil, insane and deviously charming all at once. The addition of Andy "The Nard-dog" Bernard has been nothing short of excellent--from his insecure name-dropping of his alma mater ("Cornell--ever heard of it?") to his absolute hangdoggedness around women and his sad attempts to get the nickname "Tuna" to catch on. His battles with Dwight are a regular highlight of the show. The side characters--Stanley, Kevin, Oscar, Toby and Meredith in particular--have provided great comedic support. And Creed? That old rascal is one of the best on there. That's not to leave out Kelly, Ryan, Daryl or Phillys either--there's just so much comedic gold there.

However, I've been getting to a point where the main character--Michael Scott, the boss--has crossed the line from funny to cartoonishly stupid and rotten. It has gotten to the point where I'd like to strangle him, from when he tried to deny Jim a deserved promotion (and ended up also denying himself a promotion--instead they both had to share a "co-manager" position) to when he dated Pam's mom and dumped her on her birthday in front of her daughter. (Simply because she was "too old" as though he was some real catch). For example:

1) The time his GPS told him to turn right and he saw there was no road and just a lake ahead, and he drives into the lake anyway because the GPS told him to. Really?

2) When he tries his "magic ticket" promotion, and it fails at first, he snivellingly tells his boss that it was Dwight's idea. When his boss tells him it turned out to be a success, and praises Dwight, Michael turns around and says it was his own idea all along--as though the boss would give him credit after seeing him disown the idea and try to pass blame onto a flunky? Really?

3) When he's in a deposition, and the attorney says something that could be taken as an innuendo, he can't stop himself from saying "that's what she said!"--like some dude with Tourette's Syndrome--and even sticks by his childishly stupid comment when it is read back to him. In a legal proceeding. Really?

4) Company picnic when during his stupid skit he mentions that the Buffalo branch is going to be closed down--which was information his boss told him in confidence. This is of course revealed right in front of the employees of the Buffalo branch, who naturally cause an uproar. Really?

5) Last night's episode--the shareholders meeting--when despite Michael's history of saying stupid things and being a wild card, the management invites him up on the dais, giving him the chance to speak out of turn and promise the shareholders something that the management couldn't deliver (that they'd have a plan to save the company in the next hour). Really?

The problem isn't just that the show makes Steve Carrell--the great comic actor playing Michael--overplay his part as a stupid and insensitive "boss from hell". Making him a bit less obvious would help, of course. But at a certain point it makes little sense that management would tolerate the things he does--after he betrayed his boss's confidence about closing the Buffalo branch, why would he trust him to be on the stand at the shareholder meeting? We're made to understand that Michael is actually a good salesman, and this may explain why his branch (Scranton) has been profitable. But clearly he can't manage--anyone watching even one episode would see that--and it'd make more sense to bump him down to salesman and let him rake in the commissions.

Am I overthinking a TV show? Yep. Favorite moment though? The awkward dinner party Michael and Jan hosted. The meter stick by which all dinner parties should be judged!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Morning Thoughts

1) Why is it that when someone says "no offense, but..." they're about to offend you?

2) Why is "dyslexic" not spelled the same frontwords and backwords? (Or the word "palindrome" for that matter?)

3) Why is "abbreviate" such a long word?

4) Why does Rush Limbaugh say that Sarah Palin's new book is the "best policy book" he's ever read? Has he read no other books before?

5) Why do people say "what goes around, comes around"? That's only really true for things that travel in circles. If I toss a rock into a field it's not like I'm going to find that rock on my pillow the next day. Or will I...?

6) Why did they call it "twitter" when a better word for it is "e-stalker"?

7) And on that note, is it really stalking if the "victim" wants to be stalked? By twittering?

8) How did all sitcoms go from having laugh tracks to having the actors just awkwardly pause where the laughter used to be?

9) How did laugh tracks come about in the first place? Did someone say "maybe people will now know it's okay to laugh here"? They don't use them for movies, just television. Should someone have invented a "cheering track" for musical studio recordings?

10) How come once we get used to an Internet browser or word processing application they have to upgrade and change it to something we have to re-learn? Did anyone actually complain to Microsoft that the current versions were too easy to figure out?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You and Your Rules!

You know what really boils my potatoes? Stupid expressions. Like "rules were made to be broken". Er, no they weren't! They were made to be followed. Just try using that argument in court: "Your honor, I know it's against the law to do an eight ball of cocaine off the naked back of a dead hooker, but you know what they say--rules are made to be broken!"

Now, let's explore the context behind the saying "rules were made to be broken." Whenever someone says it, what they're really trying to point out is that it's okay to break a rule every now and again. This of course I agree with--perhaps the rule itself is stupid, like 18 year olds being allowed to go fight for their country, be tried as adults, marry and have kids, pay taxes--but not have a beer legally. A terribly stupid rule, as well as grossly offensive to anyone with the ability to fire off a few neurons in their brain (and of course this wouldn't include Congress because they have the collective brainpower of primordial ooze).

Or, the rule isn't stupid, but the application of it to a particular case is unjust or useless. It's against the rules to run a red light, because of the obvious dangers of collisions (which is something I wish my fellow drivers on my morning commute could understand, but of course this is Fairfax). However, in some situations--late at night on an empty road and you're trying to drive your wife to a hospital, and you can see clearly that there is no other driver or pedestrian at the intersection--there's nothing wrong with going through the light while it's red. Sure, a cop spotting that might pull you over, but on learning the situation would more likely give you an escort to the hospital and let you off. (Unless the cop is a jerkface).

So yes, there are situations in which it should be okay to violate a rule. Perhaps it would make more sense to say "rules can be broken when unjust or unreasonable in certain circumstances" but I guess that's not as catchy as "rules are made to be broken".

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Agree to Disagree

My new thing now is backing up any outrageous opinion I have by simply saying "let's agree to disagree". It really works anywhere! Watch:

1) "Brando, I really don't think they can kick New Jersey out of the union just because you find it to be an embarrassment to the country." "Well, let's agree to disagree."

2) "Brando, you took my last Coke from the fridge! I was saving that!" "We can discuss all day who took whose Coke, but let's just agree to disagree."

3) "You borrowed my car and returned it without a windshield or wheels. You bastard!" "Look, whether or not the car had wheels and a windshield to begin with is a question for the ages. We'll just have to agree to disagree."

4) "I ordered a ham sandwich and you clearly brought me a bowl of soup instead. This is not a ham sandwich." "Maybe it's a ham sandwich, maybe you're hallucinating, maybe they make ham sandwiches in this restaurant which look a lot like soup. I'm not here to argue, let's just agree to disagree."

5) "I trust you to mow my lawn and now I walk in and see you sleeping with my wife. You are a terrible friend!" "Maybe this is your wife, maybe this is her clone that you never met before and your wife lent us your bedroom for the day. I'm not a scientist. Let's agree to disagree!"

6) "You said in your email that you're a trim 132 pounds and yet you're six feet tall and at least that wide. You're a liar!" "You see a morbidly obese man, and maybe you have a vision problem. We'll have to agree to disagree."

Look Who Made it Into the Times

Well, it finally happened--fellow blogger Disaffected Scanner Jockey made it into the NY Times Style Section, apparently because the writer of the article had Googled the words "etiquette vigilante" and voila! All I can say is look out Miss Manners, you've got some competition! Of course the DSJ's rules of proper etiquette are well known in these parts, and the constant faux pas of the many people in our gang are always giving her new material. It was only a matter of time before the national media would pick up on it.

DSJ of course has pointed out that some of her quotes were out of context, as the article tends to make her seem less conciliatory and tactful in cases where dealing with someone's breach of etiquette. As someone who regularly uses the wrong fork when stabbing a fellow rider on Metro, I can't relate. But I can say that it's nice to have a celebrity in the gang!

We're all eagerly awaiting the coffee table book on etiquette, DSJ...

Monday, November 16, 2009

Things Learned Over the Weekend

1) Bubblegum vodka tastes like Debbie Gibson's vomit. So if you had a really weird fetish in the late '80s, look no further!

2) Grasshopper tacos are the answer to all of your questions, so long as your only questions involve how to get more delicious grasshopper into your diet.

3) Sweet tea vodka is the perfect thing for that Southern Dandy who has everything. Everything but a liver problem and a sweet dose of diabetes.

4) Ray's Hell Burger in Arlington puts together a pretty mean burger, though I'd still have to give the edge to a homemade burger with soup mix in the patty. Parking in North Arlington? Still sucks.

5) You know you're no longer in Maine when you can get blunch on November 15th and request an outside seat so you can enjoy the 73 degree weather.

6) Drinking wine from a decanter won't make you any less drunk.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy Birthday LadyBrett

This weekend marks the birthday of fellow blogger, part time business manager and all around gal-about-town, LadyBrett. If you are out on the streets and you hear that there's a run on sweet tea vodka, there's a good chance LadyBrett was there before you. If you see a kitten wearing mittens, it's a good chance that you are following in the path of LadyBrett's destruction.

LadyBrett is part of a dedicated group of party VIPs, who show up early and stay until the bacon is fried the next day. She'll put together a daiquiri concoction that is more rum than ice or strawberry, and she'll make a "French Boilermaker"--Chardonnay with a shot of vodka as a chaser--without thinking twice. LadyBrett has made it into the annals of party legend.

LadyBrett is also a fellow Westchesterite, backing up my stories of Fudgie the Whale and good bagels when they were questioned by DC locals. She is also our group's authority on all things Jewish, which is very useful when I'm misquoting the Talmud as I often do when several sheets ot the wind.

Here's to a happy birthday for LadyBrett, and many more!

Man's Best Friend

It's no secret that I like dogs. Well, maybe it is a secret--I don't go around owning a dog or petting dogs or going to restaurants that serve dog--but whenever people ask I say "yep, dogs rule". And I'm not alone in that thinking--consider this: you see an action movie and the hero goes running through the enemy's headquarters machine-gunning everything and everyone in sight. In this process he kills several men--men who likely have wives and children, or at least a mother who loves them very much because they send nice cards on holidays. Men who have hopes and dreams, a favorite food, perhaps even an art project they were working on. Men whose only mistake was working for the head bad guy, probably because of a good health plan.

In this scenario, the hero may also kill some women--but of course because the movie industry automatically assumes that women working in a bad guy headquarters would be administrative staff or otherwise innocent of wrongdoing, the only women to be killed would have to be ones who've proven themselves evil already (like Famke Jansen's character in Goldeneye, or Katherine Heigl's character in every romantic comedy she's been in). (Yes, I realize it's paternalistic and sexist for the movie industry to assume that the viewer can't imagine that anonymous women could be random "bad guys" but dont' complain to me, write to Paramount).

But one thing you'll never see is the hero killing a dog--even if it's the head bad guy's dog. Even if the dog is attacking the hero! Because you and I know that the minute we see him pump some lead into a pooch, we'll be like "whoa, that was uncalled for!" See, we assume that dogs are all good on the inside and that even if they've gone bad, it's because of something we humans did to it.

It is my admiration of dogs that I have in mind when I read this story--a dog that was missing in Afghanistan being returned. A dog that has been helping our troops (or our allies' troops, to be accurate) sniff out bombs that were placed there by nutjobs. So not only do they bring us companionship and loyalty, here they are saving lives and helping us fight the nutjobs.

Try getting a parakeet to do that!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Beer Stronger than Whiskey? Sign this guy up!

There's something to be said for having a "can do" attitude about everything. That, I think, is the main reason we don't live in caves and forage for berries all day unless of course we're hippies who are into that. Is that how you get your kicks, hippie? Berries and caves? Well, at some point in history someone must have said "why not" and invented all the great things there were to invent.

One example is beer. When you consider how it's actually made, it makes you wonder how anyone could have even come up with that. Someone must have boiled grain, added sugar, and let it all sit for a while and then figured "hell, might as well taste it" and then suddenly noticed that the hairy cavewoman sitting next to him looked a lot like Sienna Miller and he was like "okay, I shall call my new friend--'beer'" and the rest was history.

Likewise, my friend Don Marco is a noted home brewer, and is always looking for new directions to take this personal problem that is disguised as a hobby. We were reading about how in some states they're allowing higher alchohol content beer to be sold, as of course once you pass a certain mark you're getting into gangster territory. It was then that we decided "why not produce a home brew that is as powerful as whiskey?" Imagine what this would mean--you could nurse one beer all night and that would be enough for you. We could charge the same for one bottle as we would a six pack or ordinary beer--and it'd still be a good deal for the consumer. But we'd save tons on storage and shipping costs, which is essential since this would be made at his rustic country estate in New Gloucester, Maine (by real Mainers!).

We may be going through the looking glass here, people.

Veterans Day Remembered

Yesterday was Veterans Day, which was a day off for most of us (except those who work for America-hating companies that would prefer to force people to toil away rather than celebrate our Veterans, though keep doing that, foul companies! Just wait and see if Stalin gives you any days off when he invades because we don't have any veterans around to stop him because they're too busy working for you to make you a few measly extra bucks! Rot in hell, money grubbing haters of America!).

For me it was also a reminder that there are still guys and ladies much younger than me--people born in the '90s, even!--who are out there in the mountains and deserts shooting and getting shot at by vile nutjobs, and for very little pay. It's more than I can say I've done at that age--when I was 18 I was muddling through college in preparation for what I do now. That was during the Clinton years, when we didn't think much about the dangers faced by our troops, since there hadn't been a protracted armed struggle since Vietnam. And of course our leaders all learned the lessons of Vietnam, right?

Here's a thanks to all those who served and still serve, and hopes they make it back in once piece.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Road Warrirors

There are some morning commute issues that have forced me to invent a new word--"dilsh". (Dildo + douche) As you may know, my drive is short in terms of distance--about two or three miles--but still offers many opportunities for absolutely horrible drivers to test just how awake I am.

1) When you decide to pull in front of someone, at least speed up so they don't have to drastically reduce their own speed.

2) Your car has working signals for a reason. You're not trying to outwit me here--you're trying to warn me so I don't ram you.

3) You drive a bus full of people. It would be a good idea for you to not shoot across three lanes of oncoming traffic just assuming we're all doing less than 15 mph.

4) You, the guy driving the truck packed with sand and gardening equipment. Since you didn't think to put shock absorbers in your vehicle, it would be nice it you'd tie down a tarp over your load so anyone unlucky enough to be stuck behind you doesn't get bits of gravel and mulch tossed on them every time you hit a pothole.

I miss the days when I didn't have a car.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Xanadu Review

Terrible films come out all the time--just look at anything with Sandra Bullock or Katherine Heigl in it, and you can find groan-inducing tedia that makes you feel sorry for anyone who got stuck seeing it in the theater and never getting their $8 back. But then some movies cross the line of awfulness, and unintentionally create what we call "so bad it's good". For this, see anything made by Russ Meyer, Roger Corman or Al Adamson--or come into the modern era with Road House or Flash Gordon (okay, maybe not so modern era). And one of my personal favorites, Barbarian Queen starring none other than Lana Clarkson, who would later be the murder victim of creative genius but certified psychopath Phil Spector. These films are cheaply made, but done in all earnestness by the tortured souls who wrote, directed or acted in them. These films cross the line to glorious awfulness.

But rarely are any of these films so awful that they cause actual destruction. (Sure, "Heaven's Gate" bankrupted United Artists and killed both the career of Kris Kristofferson who until that time had been riding high, and director Michael Cimino, who'd come off the Oscar sweeping Deer Hunter--but that film was actually good if overlong) During the dark days of the late Carter Administration--I'm talking 1980 to be exact--this country was suffering malaise, energy shortages, gas lines, polyester, terrible disco music, and shag carpeting. And a film called Xanadu.

Now, Xanadu has the distinction of killing everything it touched. It destroyed the careers of Olivia Newton John and Michael Beck, it killed Gene Kelly, it marked the end of the great '70s band The Electric Light Orchestra, it killed disco and it killed the roller derby craze. It was said that the '60s ended on that day in 1970 when the students were shot at Kent State. But the '70s surely ended with the release of Xanadu.

The plot--if you could call it that--was that Olivia Newton John (ONJ) is a "muse", a magical being from hated Greek Mythology who falls in love with a feather-haired artist (played by Beck) who has a job painting album covers onto murals for marketing purposes. (This is because in the Hollywood that is imagined in this film, no one thought to simply enlarge the album cover photos to wall poster size. If you find this lack of logic unbearable you might want to never go near this film. In fact, if you see a DVD copy of Xanadu you might want to kill it with fire). I should also point out that Beck's character--Sonny Malone--is considered quite the hunk, despite the feathered hair and vests he wears. Girls flirt with him on the street, and let him "borrow" their motorcycles when he needs a quick jaunt across the park and off of a fishing pier. But he only has eyes for ONJ! He has spotted her in the park and becomes obsessed with tracking her down. While this is technically stalking, it doesn't count as stalking if you have hunky feathered hair and a vest. Stalkers, take note!

Now, in his search he also runs into Gene Kelly, who is a clarinet playing old man who is apparently quite rich from his days in big bands but chooses to sit at the beach with his instrument. (I"m referring to the clarinet! Get your mind out of the gutter). Kelly prattles on about what a "good eye" Malone has, even though he has seen no evidence to demonstrate that Malone is anything other than a weirdo who steals motorcycles and drops them into the ocean while trying to stalk a blonde Australian on roller skates. (Now is the time to mention that way too much of this movie involves people rollerskating all over the place) If anything, Malone seems a bit irresponsible! But no matter--the two become fast friends. Malone has in the meantime followed ONJ to a dilipidated building that looks like it had better days back when Coolidge was president, and sees her roller skating around in a dark room that's cluttered with storage boxes. This would be creepy to anyone with sense, but not Sonny Malone! His feathered hair will protect him. His lack of foresight pays off though, as ONJ disappears without stealing his soul.

Malone and Gene Kelly are now BFFs, for some reason (maybe because Malone shared some popcorn with him earlier?). Kelly, believing that things like references, credentials or basic motor skills are just superfluous frills when picking a business partner, decides to open up a club on the run down site where Malone spotted ONJ skating around in the dark. They have a bit of a disagreement as to whether the club should play "rock and roll" or stick to a big band format, and I have to agree with Feathered Hair on this one--if you open a big band club in 1980 the only people showing up will be geriatrics who undertip and smell all mediciney. Not to mention causing a commotion because the club isn't racially segregated like in the old days! The weird part was during their argument, we get a visualization of what "rock and roll" and "big band" would be like, as the two imagined bands duke it out and dancers go flying everywhere. It's not really clear what they agreed on, but since later in the movie it's basically ONJ singing disco-fied music in campy and skimpy outfits, it seems that there was a loser in the argument, and that loser was "good taste".

Of course, the movie had other things going for it--an overlong shopping montage with mannequins come to life, and a cartoon sequence where ONJ and Malone turn into fish and birds, and Malone having an argument with Zeus about how he was in love with ONJ the muse. (If only they could have gotten the voice of John Travolta as Zeus, the film might have been saved!) Zeus does agree to let his muse have "one night" with Sonny Malone, and though I can think of many things I would have done with Olivia Newton John back in her prime, as it turns out her one night is spent singing and dancing at the opening of the club (which is called Xanadu, hence the title!). While the song and dance finale is an affront to humanity, it also seems that there were no real bona fide customers at the club (everyone present seemed to be part of her song and dance troupe). Is this a deeper lesson? That sometimes poorly thought out business ideas between irresponsible painters and geriatric clarinet players can actually fail?

Ache. Oh, the Ache.

After a night of daiquiris, beer and a delicious concoction called "bourbon slush" there was of course the inevitable hangover--the sort that has you waking saying "this isn't good" and "I can't imagine how it'll feel when I try and raise my head up". So I stagger slowly into the kitchen, with enough presence of mind to make sure I'm wearing a shirt and shorts since the guests passed out in the living room might be stirring and unwilling to see that much Brando at this hour.

Of course, the kitchen looks like Dresden after the firebombing, or a typical hotel after Guns n' Roses showed up--dishes, glasses and slop piled everywhere. Unbowed, I begin the bacon frying and egg-scramblin', and the making of milkshakes. For some reason I refuse Aspirin, figuring my kidneys are busy enough fighting off the bourbon.

The gang stirs, and informs me of things said and done of which I have no recollection--yes there was Karaoke, but I recall my silken voice crooning out tunes to much cheers and awe rather than the stumbling performance they're describing now. After some food and rest, and a hearty walk around town in the 70-degree weather, I return for more sleep and a viewing of perhaps the best-worst film I've seen since Barbarian Queen--Xanadu. Yes, the film that destroyed more careers and trends than any other. I shall review it in due time.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Baseball Wrapup

The other night the New York Yankees won the World Series, giving that team a grand total of 27 world championships. While my New York friends are elated, the majority of my friends back in Maine--Red Sock fans, every one--are bummed because the only thing they like better than seeing their own team win is seeing the Yankees lose. (Never mind that as New England "yankees" they are rooting against the team of that name. This rivalry goes back a long time)

Though a sports fan, I never really got into the raw emotions behind rooting for a team. I'd pick a team I liked--usually based on liking some players or coaches--and clap when they won, and if they lost, no big deal. I was never one of those people who could let it affect my mood in any real way. Some friends of mine suggested this was because I wasn't really a fan, or didn't "get" football/baseball (I don't count basketball since it's an annoying game to watch with the constant fouling and faking falling down and shoes squeaking. Hockey I like but find it hard to watch on TV. Soccer's fun but I don't get foreign sports channels). This is hogwash, of course--I find football and baseball quite enjoyable, both to play and to watch. But I'll agree that I don't have the emotional investment in a given team--part of this is due to the constant trading of players and coaches, and part of this is a detachment from those teams.

But I do understand those who get really into it--often it has more to do with a feeling of community with other fans--whether they're locals (Pirates fans, say, tend to have their Pittsburgh connections binding them) or there's a more personality-related reason (many non-New Englander Red Sock fans simply like the underdog, and that team had a notorious 86 year drought from World Series wins and some crushing near-wins). One friend of mine picked the teams he roots for based on his dad's favorite teams, and finds a connection with his father through this fandom. None of this really happened to me, as I wasn't raised in a sports-loving household, and upon leaving New York moved to DC where the teams suck so regularly that it's hard to develop an affinity to the players or rotten owners like Dan Snyder who totally sucks.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Happy Birthday Disaffected Scanner Jockey

Today is the birthday of the Disaffected Scanner Jockey, whose blog has been rolling for years and has inspired us all towards heroic acts. Well, not so much heroic as EPIC BEYOND ALL PROPORTION. By way of an example:

1) Before reading that blog, I used to think that the Internet was a giant net that spanned across international waters to catch speedboats.

2) Before reading that blog, I used to sit around staring at my browser's home page, not realizing that you can get other pages to come up by clicking on bits of text or icons that lit up when your mouse went over them. It greatly enhanced my electronic experiences.

3) Before reading that blog, I used to get actual work done while at work.

Here's hoping for a happy birthday for the DSJ, and some glorious weekend celebrations!

It is also my friend Allie's birthday, and she coincidentally just got engaged to my friend Jake--congratulations to you both!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Political Recap

The voting results are in from this year's off-year election--for VA Governor, NJ Governor, NYC Mayor and a special election in NY's 23rd Congressional District. The Republicans won in VA and NJ, looks like the Democrat won in NY-23, and Mayor Bloomberg seems to be ahead in NYC. While both parties' various hacks will try and spin the results in their own idiotic way, you come here for some reasonable analysis that you can only get at Not Enough Tequila in the World.

1) VA Governor--Republican Bob McDonnell pulled a big-margin victory here, in the Old Dominion, a state that generally trends Republican but did elect Democrats for Governor in the last two cycles, and went for Barack Obama in the 2008 election--the first time it went to the Democrats for the presidency since LBJ. McDonnell had run as a moderate, stressing his Northern VA roots and transportation plans and bipartisanship. His opponent, Creigh Deeds, made some big errors--namely, his ad campaign almost solely focused on painting McDonnell as socially extremist, which at a time when voters are more concerned about quality of life and pocketbook issues, doesn't resonate much (and besides, voters who would be turned off by such concerns? They'd be pulling all levers for the "D"s anyway.). Moderates broke heavily for McDonnell here.

2) NJ Governor--Republican Chris Christie beat incumbent governor Jon Corzine by about five points, in a state that has been solidly Democratic for quite a while--the last time a Republican won the governorship was 1994, and the GOP hadn't claimed it in a presidential election since 1988 when the first Bush was running. It didn't help that Corzine is a major douchebag. He put out ads making fun of Christie's weight (seriously, are we in third grade?), and I never liked the guy because after making his fortune at Goldman Sachs (the Freemasons of our era who control everything) he spent over 60 million bucks of his own personal fortune to run for NJ Senate (prior to running for Governor). Seriously, if a man thinks a job paying about $150K is worth blowing $60 million of his own money on, then he is either (a) a moron or (b) so corrupt and power hungry that he has no business being in power. Christie, a former prosecutor, had run as a moderate--beating a more conservative opponent in the GOP primary.

3) NYC Mayor--let's face it, Bloomberg is richer than God and is willing to--like Corzine--spend it to retain power. He is also genuinely independent of any party--a onetime Democrat, then Republican (since their nomination was easier to get), then who knows, Bloomberg has managed to hold on largely because of the force of his personality and the weakness of his opposition. The interesting thing here is that in this very liberal city that the Democrats used to have iron control over, that party has not been able to elect a mayor since 1989.

4) NY-23rd--this district has been in Republican hands since that party was called the Whigs, but last night Democrat Bill Owens won. Apparently, the original GOP nominee was considered too moderate for the likes of conservative activists around the country, including notorious idiot Sarah Palin who is really too dangerously stupid to allow anywhere near anyone who might catch her stupidity secondhand. The Palinites poured tons of out of state money and media attention on an out-of-district man named Doug Hoffman, who might be a smart man but it makes you wonder when he kisses up to Glenn Beck without realizing that Beck is actually a satire and not a real pundit. Hoffman, who had lost the GOP primary but ran on the Conservative line, was as of last week leading the GOP nominee, who dropped out over the weekend and endorsed the Democrat (which puzzled me--if she wanted Owens to win, wouldn't she stay in the race to split the GOP vote?). So it came down to Conservative Hoffman, or Democrat Owens--and Owens has won.

What to make of all of this? If there's a consistent theme, it's that the party in power in the two big states--VA and NJ--is being punished at the polls due to a bad economy and sense of despair over the direction the country is headed. The voters aren't necessarily embracing hard-right conservatism, or explicitly rejecting the left and Obama--after all, Christie and McDonnell made very little mention of Obama and ran as moderates. The NY-23 election may have had more to do with Hoffman's lack of connection to a district that is very provincial, and while the voters there are largely conservative they may have been turned off by the "teabagger" activism of Palin and Beck. (Upstate NYers do trend conservative, but they're a more subdued kind). As for NYC, let's face it--Bloomberg's money talks, and the Democratic machine in that city has been rotting for quite some time.

So what does this trend mean? Not much!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Support the 25 Hour Day

After the initial fun of end of Daylight Savings Time--basically, that extra hour of sleep--it occurs to me that I could use that extra hour of sleep every day. Why are we stuck in this 24 hour cage? Unleash us with a 25 hour day! Workaholics can put in an extra hour at work, the rest of us can get extra sleep or free time.

Now, some people will complain that adding an extra hour to each day will gradually shift it until the sun sets at noon and the sun rises when we're trying to go to sleep. I'm way ahead of you on that. We shift our work schedules by an hour each day--get in an hour later, and work an hour later, each day. It's basic math, people!

Of course, as Americans we should take the lead on this--it'll confound the Chinese as they scratch their heads and try to figure out why we're so much better rested, happier, and more productive than them. They'll soon discover--through their elaborate network of spies and CNN--that we have a 25 hour day, and of course they'll have to "keep up with the Joneses" and add an extra hour to their own day. But by that point, we'll have implemented my other idea--the 8 day week! Like the extra hour, the extra day can be used any way we want--more leisure, more work, or just sitting around reflecting on how clever we were. By the time the Chinese catch up to us and add "Saturednesday" to their week, we'll be so far ahead of them at everything they won't know what to do.

Some people might suggest we go ahead and add two extra hours to the day, but that'd just be pushing it.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Weekend Wrapup

The weekend was a whirlwind of activity, none of it having anything to do with Halloween. Friday I worked from home, since I was getting over a cold and had been told UNDER NO UNCERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES BRING YOUR SWINE FLU TO WORK AND INFECT EVERYONE, TYPHOID MARY! Now, it clearly wasn't swine flu--I passed the fever quickly and using bedrest, chicken soup and tea drove it out by Friday evening--but having a day to work at my couch with the computer was somewhat relaxing. And I would need the rest, because the gang had a MOVING PARTY the next day.

Now, a moving party is like any other party, except you have a certain amount of stuff to transport in a short period. Though, I noticed that despite bringing a case of beer for the movers, no one really drank--I certainly didn't because of my getting out of the cold stage, but I figured the others would have cracked a few. This may of course be due to our being done with the move before noon. One guest did manage to find and open a bottle of Proseco, though, and then decided to try on the hostess' wedding dress, giving us a chance to snap some pictures of her drinking with the dress on so she could forward the photos to her mother. When her mother called to ask what was going on, I had to pretend to be the new husband--an immigrant carpenter named "Beppo" who mispronounced the new bride's first and last names and asked if I could call her mother "mom" as well--and my new "in-laws" were remarkably unflapped by this. Though I think now I have to visit them for Passover!

That evening was low key, with some sushi, beer and sweet tea vodka which did some damage to the drinkers of our crew, but not so much that we weren't able to make a furniture run the next day. By Sunday night, we were running on fumes, but were invited to a nice dinner at Clydes with the aid of the wedding dress girl's gift certificates. (Said gift certificates were awarded last weekend, apparently, during a near soy-allergy poisoning!)

Now, I could use a weekend of rest.

Friday, October 30, 2009

World Series is On!

Well, the World Series is under way--and the Yankees and Phillies are tied at one game apiece. Will it be Cheesesteaks or Pizza that carries the day? Let's look at comparison of the cities:

1) Yankees have Steinbrenner and Donald Trump. Point goes to Philly.

2) Philly has Joey Lawrence and rock star Pink. Point goes to NY.

3) Philly has lower cost of living. Point goes to Philly.

4) New York gets a view of New Jersey. Point goes to Philly.

5) Philly gets a view of New Jersey. Point goes to NY.

6) New York had Billy Joel sing a song about it ("New York State of Mind"). Point goes to NY.

7) Philly had Elton John--the British Billy Joel--sing a song about it ("Philadelphia Freedom"). Point goes to Philly.

Looks like a push! Now, why do they call it the World Series when only American teams (okay, maybe one Canadian team) can compete? After all, if the Yankees and Phillies won their respective League championships, and say Germany were to say "whoa, if you want to win the WORLD SERIES, you're going to have to play our top team, the Munich Reichstaggers!", they'd be laughed off the field. Why then do we call it "World Series" instead of a more accurate "North American Series" or "New World Series" or "Big Baseball Game Thing"?

According to my friend who goes by the handle "Desert Fox", and is quite the Yankee fan (attending a game this weekend), "the World Series was originally intended to be a championship tournament among various nations, sort of like the Olympics or World Cup--the idea back in the day was that baseball would take off on a worldwide basis, with Major League teams around the world. Although teams haven't expanded beyond the U.S. and Canada--the game is in fact popular in Japan and Latin America, but it hasn't led to Major League franchises there--the name 'World Series' was catchy, and it stuck."

Well, I for one hope some day the Japanese League and the Caribbean League and the Mexican League are soon fielding teams of a sort that can compete for the World Series. But I doubt fans in Mexico will be happy to pay five bucks for a hot dog.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good Grief, Great Pumpkin!

One of the few moments in my childhood when the cacophony of yelling and hyperactive activity would die down and everyone would shut up for a short while was when a Charlie Brown special would come on TV. This time of year it would be "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!" which would help overcome the misery of the beginning of the school year. As an adult, I still try to catch it every now and then. Sort of a reminder of childhood that didn't involve my brother throwing things into the fireplace or my sister getting milk poured on her head. Ah, to be a kid again!

For those of you who were too poor to own a TV, or those of you who just hate America so much that you're unfamiliar with the Peanuts gang, I'll summarize--the "Great Pumpkin" special involved a group of cartoon schoolchildren who couldn't wait to put on their white sheets and go around the neighborhood demanding candy from adults who had voices that sounded like trumpets being tuned. (Of course, it's not advisable to go around town in a group that is ALL wearing white sheets, lest the neighbors think it's a Ku Klux Klan rally and you end up on Jerry Springer). Lucy, who was sort of ahead of her time as a feminist and psychiatrist (she'd offer psychiatric help for 5 cents, and tell Charlie Brown things like "direct a school play" when he comes to her with serious concerns about his crippling depression), would dress as a witch. Pigpen, who represented the urban proletariat what with his clouds of dust, was recognizable for his filthy sheet. Charlie Brown, the hapless loser, had cut his sheet full of holes and would have been better off pretending to be Swiss Cheese. The trumpet-sounding adults would torment Charlie by giving him rocks instead of candy. (It is a wonder he didn't later star in "Put the Gun Down, Charlie Brown!")

Snoopy, who was Charlie's pet beagle, would in the meantime fly his doghouse into a WWI air battle (this was created in the mid-60s around the time LSD became popular) and then ended up crashing the kids' Halloween party. When Lucy bobs for apples, she'd inadvertently end up smooching with the dog. Despite her histrionics after discovering she was kissing Snoopy, I think the lady doth protest too much!

But the main focus of the special is Linus, who is Charlie Brown's loyal sidekick. He decides to forgo trick-or-treating and wait in a pumpkin patch for some monster called "The Great Pumpkin" who apparently shows up for kids of faith, and gives them all sorts of riches and rewards. This may be a religious allegory, but in the end--SPOILERS!--the Great Pumpkin never shows up. Is this the creator--Charles Shultz--telling us that there is no God? Or did the Great Pumpkin simply never appear because Linus wanted tangible benefits like riches and candy? Was this Shultz's way of telling us to live our lives well and enjoy it, because we find God in our everyday happenings? Had Linus gone with the other kids he would have still gotten candy, and perhaps the Great Pumpkin would have shown up when needed. Maybe to smite Lucy for her Wiccan beliefs!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Puerto Rico Trip Recap

This past weekend I took a "guys trip" to Puerto Rico to celebrate the impending fatherhood of an old friend of mine, Nick. Most of our usual "guys night out" crowd bailed on the trip, due to budget reasons, work conflicts, or in some cases extreme lame weak sauce "look at me I can't do anything fun so everyone treat me like a martyr"-itis. But Nick and I and his friend from New York (who also went to law school with us, though I didn't know him too well then) were able to make it. Let's call this friend "Death Wish" because it is quite clear that he lives by the motto "Safety Last".

DW is evidently a very intelligent person--former Fullbright scholar, Wharton and Georgetown Law grad, and has devoted his career to public interest projects. What makes him different is this hard charging devotion to experiencing what it's like to live in poverty. He has lived in the shanties of Nigeria, and evidently spent a year of law school living in a van. Ever read the book "Into the Wild" about that kid who graduated Emory, gave up all his stuff and went roughing it in the deserts and finally Alaska without adequate equipment? That's sort of like DW.

We meet at the San Juan airport and learn that DW very nearly missed his flight out of JFK (Idlewild Airport for those of you who refuse to accept the hard-on that society seems to have for the Kennedys). What could it be that caused the delay? Traffic tie-up? Bomb scare? Trying to bring a bag of switchblades on the flight?

Nope--it turns out there was a dispute with the cab driver over the proper fare to the airport. The cabbie insisted that the flight would cost $45 flat fee, DW argued that it is supposed to be on the meter--which would have run about $32. They called the police to resolve this dispute.

The policeman agreed with DW, but apparently the delay over a $13 difference was enough to cut it very close. However, he did catch his flight and we were soon checked into the hotel and hitting the beach.

And what a beach it was! The weather was solid--90 degrees and sunny each day; the waves were high and the water was as warm as a bath. Unlike a lot of beaches, drinking was allowed on these so we stocked up on Medalla beer and did what we do best--drunken swimming. Did I find myself wiping out in many of the waves? Indeed! Did I get massive sunburn? And how!

DW for his part tried on a few occasions to use the offer of beer to strike up a conversation with some local girls, and by "girls" I mean he really should have asked for ID because they didn't look old enough to buy cigarettes. Still, nothing came of it and I don't think Puerto Rico has a law against attempted statutory rape. After all, they don't give out Nobel Prizes for Attempted Chemistry, do they? (Granted, they just gave out a Nobel Prize for Attempted Peace....)

The real fun began when some guy walked by with about six dogs on leashes. The biggest dog decided to start using the smallest dog as a chew toy, and the owner was having a go of it smacking the big dog to make it stop. DW, being a man who can't stand to see an oppressed beagle, had to run across the beach and insert himself between the two dogs. Or more accurately, insert his hand between the jaws of the big dog.

So now he had to run back to the hotel to get his hand disinfected and bandaged, while Nick and I asked the owner whether his dogs had been vaccinated. Because frankly, there's a very good chance the dogs could catch rabies from biting DW. I mean, this guy lived in Nigeria and had just gotten back from Thailand!

Fortunately, he was mended quick, and drinking beer on the beach with us in no time. At night we managed to find some nice local cuisine--Mafongos at a Puerto Rican place one night, and some Italian the next. During this time DW told us of his trip to Thailand and expressed surprise that neither Nick or I had ever used a prostitute, pretty much the same way I'd have reacted if someone told me they'd never drank a soda. But after hearing some of what went down in Bangkok I'm more sure than ever that I will never use a prostitute!

We also made it into Old San Juan, which is a neighborhood of restored old-style buildings and cobblestone, more European-seeming than Latin American. This is also where a number of bars and clubs were, and we visited a few. One thing they all have in common is they're much louder than bars back in the States--music blares well into the streets. Another thing? Every single woman on the streets had very high stiletto heels on. And mind you these were cobblestone streets. Impressivo!

Our third night we tried to find a Mexican place that was recommended by our hotel, but we got a bit lost. Lost in a rather ghetto-ized section of San Juan! At this point, I was ready to turn back, regroup and maybe hit one of the restaurants we'd been to the night before or at least find a McDonalds so we might get the quick energy calories to survive the walk back. But then, DW was in his element! (I mentioned he has a thing for poverty?) He saw an over the counter chicken joint, and made his case for why we should eat there. This rather greasy chicken joint was "authentic" and "what the Puerto Ricans eat". I tried to point out that real Puerto Ricans are different from us in that if they have the money to not eat in places like this they wouldn't. Nick tried to point out that there wasn't adequate seating, but DW was having none of it--he asked the joint owner for an extra chair and we were soon sitting down. He also picked out some generic soda that was a cross between toothpaste and death. Thirsty as I was from the chicken, I couldn't get more than a couple sips down. But some good came out of it--DW got his poverty fix! I suppose from having his hand maimed by the dogs earlier he had earned it.

All in all, though, it was a fun trip--Nick keeping us in stitches and some eclectic characters and stories throughout. Now as I nurse my peeling sunburn, I can say I can't wait to make it back to that island. But this time no greasy chicken shacks!