Monday, August 30, 2010

Time to Downsize

There is something about a big move that makes you sit back and say "never again will I acquire tangible property." Your joints are sore, your strength is sapped, but at the end of the day it gets done. Then you go back to acquiring more stuff.

Fortunately my move was assisted by a team of solid buddies who gave up their sunny Saturday morning to help load a bunch of stuff and store it, a process that went quickly (over in under 3 hours) due to the many sets of hands and strategic use of dolleys. This despite the building's inability to have a working loading dock gate! But by lunchtime there was pizza and beer, and after a long drive into the city (due to traffic shenanigans, thank you Northern Virginia for being a clogged network of roads!) it was behind me (except for final cleanup this evening). That night we did some rooftop celebrating for our friend Justinian's birthday, and by the wee hours I was down for the count. An exhausting weekend to say the least!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Rom-Com

Now that my acclaimed war film has won the Oscar--but very little in the way of box office cash--it's time to leverage that critical success with some genuine money makers. Hollywood studios love money far more than Oscar statuettes! And judging from the usual output from these sharks, it is clear that quality isn't important. But my ego as an auteur can only be satisfied by creating GREAT films, and so when I make my follow-up to the Oscar winner, I plan to improve on whatever genre I go for. At the same time, I do need to make money, so I'm going to go with the usual Valentines Day bait, and make a Romantic Comedy (or "Rom-com" as they call it in the streets).

How will my Rom-com be an improvement on the genre? Easy:

1) I will avoid using the usual female leads for these types of movies--Sandra Bullock, Katherine Heigl, Kate Hudson, Julia Roberts--and pick an actress who won't command such a high salary. I hear Penelope Ann Miller needs work these days! Just kidding, I think she gave up acting years ago and is now figuring out the finer points of fry cookery (don't mock, I fully plan to work at McDonalds when I'm (a) flat broke, (b) retired, or (c) both. It's a rite of passage). I'll go with Elizabeth Shue. She gets paid in candy these days.

2) For the male lead, I'll go with a tried and true performer, Denzel Washington. When I think "madcap hilarity" and "tender loving ways" I think of one dude--Dog the Bounty Hunter. But Dog can't act, so I'll go with Denzel.

3) The movie will start out with them meeting at work, when the female lead mistakes the male lead for a valet at a fancy restaurant, largely because he chose to wear a red jacket and bowtie due to a mixup at the dry cleaners. He'll of course accuse her of anti-Semitism, because his adoptive parents are Jewish and what, are Jews only good for parking gentiles cars? She'll reply that she had no idea about the Jewish thing, and her best friends are Jewish, though they haven't been good pen pals lately and she planted a tree in Israel even though it died. This line of conversation only serves to piss off the actual valet, who is a Palestinian immigrant, who then and there swears revenge on this tree planting Zionist.

4) The two meet again when she is applying for a job at a fancy new law firm, and guess who is doing the interview! Denzel! Hilarity ensues! Shue looks at a picture of a kid on his desk, and comments what a handsome lad it is, and he points out that that's his daughter. Oops! You're screwed, Shue! They get in a screaming match, he tells her he'll never hire a racist cracker who can't tell boys from girls. She threatens to sue, and just then the Palestinian guy bursts into the office and flings a paperweight at her. Get used to this, that guy is going to be providing comic relief like that throughout the film!

5) That night, Shue is comforted by her female roommate (played by the obese chick from "Precious", since she has proven her comedic chops! And pork chops) and her gay friend because every Rom-Com heroine needs a gay friend to show how accepting she is and because gay people are always hilarious except Rock Hudson wasn't all that funny. The gay friend will be played by Mark Wahlberg since he did such a great gay character in "Planet of the Apes".

6) And you know what? This is where my film will depart from the usual formula. Denzel will realize that maybe his own ex-wife--played by Sienna Miller, who works cheap now--wasn't so bad, because she at least isn't a racist cracker and can tell boys from girls. He'll reconcile with her, while Shue discovers her love for gay Mark Wahlberg. Mark asks "do you really want a sham marriage with a gay man?" and she says yes because he still looks like Mark Wahlberg! And the tax benefits.

7) The film ends with the four of them meeting awkwardly in a restaurant. Cue end music.

Cinematic brilliance.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

My Acclaimed War Film

Once my horror and crime-action film have gotten me well known in Hollywood, it's time for a big-budget war film. But not just any run of the mill war film! The film I'm going to write and direct will be pure Oscar-bait--the kind of thing that will get tearful applause among the industry sleazeballs (who will be wearing tuxes, so they seem extra non-sleazy!) and possibly invites to parties thrown by big stars like Billy Zane and Bill Pullman. Here's how my glorious war film will stand out from the pack:

1) The angry loner with a death wish who "just doesn't care anymore" and plays by his own rules? He gets blown to bits early on, since "playing by his own rules" also means charging across the battlefield during an attack rather than staying in the trenches.

2) The Iowa farm boy who "can't wait to go home" so he can marry his sweetheart? He'll get lucky with an assignment to a desk job well behind the front lines, and make it home safe and sound when the war ends.

3) The heroic captain decides to shoot the enemy prisoners execution style, since he doesn't want to have to feed them. His men accept this happily since they didn't want to share their food either.

4) At one point on a patrol, one of the men says to the other "it's quiet....too quiet." Sure enough, it stays quiet, they finish their shift, and head back to base in time for breakfast.

5) During a brief leave, the men get visited by some prostitutes from town. Once the men realize they're prostitutes, they disgustedly send them home with admonitions to find some useful skill besides selling their bodies to strangers.

6) The rich kid who canoodled his way to a plum commanding officer position due to being on the same archery team as the son of the general actually turns out to be a nice guy and a competent leader.

7) The black guys all survive through the end of the movie. They also get along just fine with the commanding officer and their fellow white soldiers, because they learned that crap back in basic training and the battlefield isn't the place for social upheaval.

8) The Jewish guys are the toughest in the whole platoon, because they spent their youth lifting weights and working in delis.

9) The Italian guy abstains from gambling and cigarettes and actually turns out to be a stand-up guy. When one of the other guys in the platoon tries to scam or cheat someone, the Italian guy tells him that's "not cool".

10) The southern guy is pretty cool to the black guys.

11) The visiting general notes that the men all are unshaven, filthy, and with torn uniforms. He's impressed by this, since clearly these guys have been through "real fighting" and shouldn't have time for "looking pretty."

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Police Action Film

Horror movies tend to be successful at the box office, largely because they're cheap to make and promote, and so long as they get a modest take on opening weekend they pay for themselves. So as an acclaimed auteur, it makes sense for me to start with a horror film, and rake up some cash and goodwill in the industry. Next, I shall attempt a blockbuster action film.

Not just any action film though! This one will stand out as a bold and daring step. My film shall feature the following:

1) The hero cops will both be very professional, and get along pretty well since they leave their personal lives behind them when they're on the job. Their boss--the chief--will like them, since he knows they do good police work and do things by the book so that their arrests lead to convictions and no releases on "technicalities". Likewise, they'll have a good rapport with the District Attorney's office. The only time they see any Internal Affairs officers will be at the police cafeteria in line for Jell-o.

2) The hero cops will have wives and kids, or maybe a doting mother, and be on good terms with them as well. These side characters won't really fit into the main plot, because the evil criminal mastermind doesn't believe in kidnapping or murdering family members of his enemies. He's got some scruples!

3) The evil mastermind's girlfriend will try and use sultry come-ons to entice and trap the hero cop, but he'll nervously point out that he's gay (probably due to the doting mother!) and ask if she has a brother. The evil mastermind will later find out about his girlfriend's infidelity and give her a good scolding, and tell her to move out of his apartment because there are plenty of hot chicks in the city and he deserves better.

4) When the evil mastermind captures the hero cop, he'll consider telling him about his fiendishly clever plan to take over the city, but instead will decide the hero cop might get all judgmental so intstead he'll discuss whether the local football team will make the playoffs that year.

5) The older hero cop who has only two weeks until retirement will decide to retire early just so he doesn't push his luck. After decades on the force, no point in getting killed just before retirement.

6) The cops will discover the evil mastermind's big plan by amassing good forensic evidence and obtaining the necessary warrants.

7) The hero cops will be dressed pretty cheaply, drive old beaters, and be armed with standard sidearms since they are on police salaries. They also can't afford city apartments and have to commute in from Yonkers or Purdys or somewhere.

8) When the hero cop chains the bad guy to a car and leaves a time bomb in there, and walks away all cool-like and then the car explodes behind him, he won't be able to help but be startled and look back at the fireball, because how often do you get to see a live explosion?

9) When the evil mastermind is finally cornered and the hero cop has his gun to his head, the mastermind will actually give up--because he has no chance with a gun to his head--and quietly go to jail. He'll mount a great legal defense, but the cops played it by the book so he'll still have to go to prison.

Monday, August 23, 2010

My Horror Film

I'd like to write and direct a horror film that would shock and surprise audiences all over the country, catapulting me into cult status and making me so rich I can finally buy that solid gold car. Here's where my film would throw off audiences and leave their jaws dropping to the floor:

1) No eerie violin music whenever the killer is about to pounce on the heroes. Instead, the suspense buildup and killing will take place to the tune of "Walking on Sunshine".

2) The couple having sex in the graveyard where the killer has been known to stalk? They won't get killed, the killer will just tell them to knock it off and spring for a motel room, the cheap bastards.

3) The local police chief will take all the disturbing evidence very seriously, and through logical and professional police work, will help the killer's former psychiatrist--a man that the police chief will respect immensely due to his Ivy League degrees and clinical experience, even though they just met--track down the killer.

4) During this investigation, the police chief will find to his surprise that the killer had an idyllic home life with great parents that loved him very much. His landlady and neighbors will remark that the killer was a swell guy who was a lot of fun, and it will be a total mystery as to why he decided to get all stabby.

5) The killings will take place on a random day, no holiday or magical anniversary of any significant date. That's because the killer wants to make sure no one will have their guard up.

6) The heroes will find a copy of the Book of the Dead, but figuring it's a pretty creepy thing, will decide not to read it and just leave it where they found it and play X-Box instead.

7) The black guy at the beginning will actually be among the survivors, and he will have his own personality traits and character flaws that add depth and demonstrate that he is in no way a token just to balance out the cast.

8) When chased by the killer, the heroes will band together, stay in one another's sight, arm themselves adequately, and head to the nearest civilized area to get the authorities.

9) The nice virginal girl will be among the earliest victims.

10) Everyone's cell phones will work at all times.

11) When the surviving heroes smash the killer over the head with a 2x4, the hard blow to the head will crush his skull and kill him instantly. Then when the heroes rest, turning their head from the killer's body, he's going to stay dead because seriously, 2x4 to the head! After that you don't need extra stabbing/shooting/dismembering.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Things I Wonder Today

1) How come when we try to spell names from languages with foreign alphabets, such as "Nguyen" or "Kyrgystan", we spell it in our alphabet in a way that renders it unpronounceable in our alphabet?

2) What is the point of a gift registry? The recipient has already picked out the gifts, so it doesn't require much if any thought to pick the gift you're giving them off of the registry. Isn't it the equivalent of just paying them cash so they can buy the gift they picked?

3) Fresh cut flowers are pretty and all, but isn't there something a bit morbid about shearing off the top of some living thing to display it until all life is extinguished from it? (And yes, I never got that job at Hallmark...)

4) When common languages first began to develop into foreign languages (such as Latin getting split into French and Italian, etc.) did neighbors on each side of the language divide at first just think the other guys were using some lame new slang?

5) How is it that jackboots became associated with totalitarian militaries (the Nazis, the Soviets, etc.) but not democracies? Is there something inherently undemocratic about jackboots?

6) Why do they call it "Lake Michigan" rather than "Michigan Lake"?

7) What percentage of people that you see on the street talking into their cell phone are actually just talking to themselves?

8) Before cell phones, how were people able to be rude to one another in social situations? Did they just pick up a book during a conversation?

9) With fees for checked baggage and carryons and snack boxes and drinks, what new indignities can the airline industry invent in the next decade? I predict bathroom charges.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You're not easily embarrassed if you...

1) Don't mind calling the same number twice using different voices when you forgot to ask a key piece of info so they don't think you're the same person who just called.

2) Discovered year-old butter in your fridge and only give your guest a half-hearted warning about using it. Partly out of scientific curiosity.

3) Frequently refer to your car's trunk as having that "dead hooker smell that never really goes away."

4) Have no problem asking the waiter to pick the "second cheapest wine" from the menu, since it's a special celebration.

5) Have had to lay on your back on a restaurant floor during lunch rush because of blood sugar drops. When that happens once, your shame is long gone.

6) Ever put only one gallon of gas in your tank because you only had $1.35 in your car in change (it was the '90s).

The Worst Stretches of Road in Northern Virginia

Northern Virginia has the distinction of Los Angeles area traffic without the palm trees or nice weather. There are miles of suburban hell (strip malls, big box stores, gas stations) interlaced with highways that always seem clogged with traffic, and stop lights that can slow even the shortest drive. This is a result of steady growth during the automobile age with no regulation, and we now have an area that was once rustic farmland and now has most of the disadvantages of a big city without the conveniences.

Of course, there are some nice suburbs and built up areas here as well, but it seems the main connecting roads offer a view of the worst we have to offer (sort of like how the final stretch of New Jersey just before you reach Manhattan is one of the ugliest views of that state). Here's a list of my personal least favorites:

1) Fairfax Circle. This is a needlessly complicated crossroads, where Lee Highway meets Rte. 50. Instead of a simple two way traffic light, we have the benefits of both the lights and a weird circle that makes it so that taking a left can require going through two lights, stopping twice. Because of this weird configuration (having to be in the right lane in order to make a left by going around the "circle") there's often an idiot in a minivan who is utterly confused and comes to an abrupt stop in front of you. Thanks, local leaders!

2) I-66 in West Falls Church. It seems this stretch is always backed up in both directions, since there's a merge and then it goes from three to two lanes. Clearly this could be fixed by widening the highway to three lanes the whole way through, but the local authorities in Arlington are full of unnatural hate for their brethren to the west.

3) I-395 bridge over the Potomac. This is often backed up due to endless construction and the fact that too many merges exist on this short stretch, causing drivers new to the area to slow down in confusion about where they have to merge. My own drive over this bridge often requires several lane changes to get to my exit, and while this can be seamless since I know my route, I can imagine the chaos it causes someone the first time they take it. Muliply that by the large volume and you have a bridge that's a real mess.

4) Seven Corners. That part of Falls Church/Arlington where Rte. 7, Rte. 50, and a bunch of other roads meet contains a lovely view of suburban decay, and you get a good chance to look at it because you'll be stuck in constant stop and go traffic. And for some reason it doesn't matter what time of day or time of year it is--the guy next to me has a Honda coupe with a ridiculous bolted-on spoiler, his windows wide open, and a willingness to share his awful taste of music with the whole community of drivers.

5) I-495 near Tysons Corner. Partly due to incessant construction, partly due to the fact that both Rte. 123 and Rte. 7 cross the Beltway here, this stretch is both a constant merging hazard and a source of backup. I don't know how daily commuters deal with this knot without purchasing a flamethrower and going all slow-roaster on their fellow citizens. Driving through there just once during rush hour made me believe in a very evil God. I call him Trafficor!

6) The Mixing Bowl. Fortunately I almost never have to pass through the area where I-395, I-95 and I-495 (and don't forget Rte. 1!) meet below Alexandria. The architectural marvel of so many ramps and loops twisting in and out would be a neat sight to behold if you weren't always clinging to your steering wheel and hoping the semi next to you isn't going to try its aggressive last second merge until it has passed you first. I understand this interchange was designed by the winner of a contest. Unfortunately the contest was given to the inmates of an Institution for the Hopelessly Insane.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Radio personality Dr. Laura Schlessinger has now resigned her radio show due to having dropped the "N-bomb" repeatedly on air and inspiring a firestorm of criticism. Apparently, the context was in telling a black caller that she was being too sensitive about the use of the word, during which Dr. Laura for some reason needed to use the term on air about 11 times. Having not heard the broadcast, I won't comment on Dr. Laura's situation--at a time when unemployment has been over 9% for over a year it's hard to gin up too much sympathy for a multimillionaire celebrity voluntarily deciding not to renew her contract--but the issue does raise some thoughts:

1) What is it that makes the "N-bomb" offensive? Interestingly, TV censors have allowed the word on broadcast TV for many years (Chevy Chase calling Richard Pryor a "N*gger" on SNL in the '70s, to which Pryor replied "Dead Honkey") while even the F-bomb has been banned during that time. But the N-bomb is widely considered far more offensive in social situations and workplaces, even if used in a benign context. The only explanation I have for its "taboo" status is that it has been used for so long as an offensive term and loaded with hate that the term itself, in any context, carries the offensiveness with it.

2) Can the word ever be disarmed of its power? This is the idea argued by black rappers and comedians, that "taking the word back" by calling oneself and ones' friends by the word will make it benign. Word meanings do change over time--for example, "moron" used to mean a specific mental condition, while now anyone who rear ends your car or donates money to Sarah Palin can earn that term. However, as long as most people continue to shun a word--and certainly most whites do, unless they are careless or trying to offend--it will maintain its power to offend and hurt.

3) Does it depend on the context in which the word is used? Generally yes--if used in telling a joke or because the teller doesn't know better (say, if English isn't their first language) we wouldn't put that in the same category of a Klansman hollering it at the black family that moved in next door. But if we've decided to "retire" the word (as the NAACP suggested a few years back) it would have to be discouraged even in those contexts.

4) Does it depend on who uses the word? Can blacks use it, but not whites? To that I'd say no, since (a) if the word itself is bad and should be discouraged in ALL contexts, then it shouldn't matter who uses it, whether it's a well meaning white or black person, and (b) if the word can be "taken back" then it still can't be taboo for any group of people. Either context matters, or the word itself is taboo.

That said, what I've discussed above is really a matter of societal norms--legally of course people can't be prevented from using the N-bomb, though a private business (such as a radio station, or a sponsor for a radio station) can fire away any host using it. So before you (or Dr. Laura) goes off on the First Amendment giving you the right to use the N-bomb without consequences, it would be a good idea to read it first.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Horror....The Horror....of a Move...

Moving is one of those things that both strenghthens and strains your friendships at the same time. On the one hand, it requires you to ask for time and effort from your friends on a day that they'd naturally prefer to sleep in and watch TV or toss bottles at passing motorists. On the other hand, a "moving party" can also be a great bonding experience, as a group gets to understand one another's tics and motivations and organizational skills. On the third hand (or foot, I guess, since I'm out of hands), there's also beer and pizza when it's all done. Ultimately the whole thing makes me wish I had less stuff, but then it's once you get rid of your furniture that you begin to realize how much you need it.

My moving party is set for a week from this Saturday, and each day until that point is being spent tossing out stuff and packing the rest. Storage space has been lined up, plans are being made to arrange a maid service (my landlady was nice enough to refuse a deposit, and she's a friend so I'd feel bad leaving the place messy since I can't just say to take it off the deposit), and the truck will be arranged. But most importantly, my moving team has been assembled--a crack force of highly specialized movers who have nothing but contempt for boxes and couches. They laugh in the face of piles, and mock the very existence of UHaul.

They are up for this task.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ethiopian Foodness

Washington, D.C. isn't really known as a "cuisine" town, like San Fran, NYC, or New Orleans, but one type of ethnic food the city really excels at is Ethiopian. I warn you all that this is not a food for the timid and meek! Which is probably why Ethiopians are such hale and hearty people and gave the Italians such a hard time back in the day. (Had the Italians been successful, all of D.C.'s fine Ethiopian restaurants would be serving spaghetti and meatballs).

First, you know those snobby elite popinjays that you go out for Chinese food with and they insist everyone use chopsticks even though forks are easier? The sort of bilious bloviators who aren't even Chinese, but just love to pretend they're authentic even though in Soviet China they'd be the first intellectual snobs to be sent off to a reeducation camp? Well, with Ethiopian you don't have to worry about utensils at all--you eat everything with your bare hands, using this spongy bread to pick up bits of food.

Second, that spongy bread has a way of expanding in your stomach after you've eaten, so that the rest of the evening you are waddling around like that fat kid from "Stand By Me" who somehow grew up to marry the model Rebecca Romijn. But no marrying models for you! You'll be far too stuffed to even think about models, or movies that took place in the 1950s. Such is the price one pays for Ethiopian.

All in all though, it's a great food experience that can't be found to this extent in other cities. There are some rules to this:

1) Wash your hands before you eat. Your hands go right on the spongy bread which then goes into your mouth. Yes, this is true of hamburgers too, but hamburgers are known disinfectants.

2) Don't order beer or anything else filling to drink. You need to save room for the spongy bread.

3) Don't taunt the spongy bread.

4) Try a sampler platter with a bit of everything. If the people at the next table ask you what you ordered you can pretend you don't speak English even though they clearly heard you speaking English earlier.

5) Don't cut eyeholes in the spongy bread and try to wear it like a mask. Your dining companion will not be amused.

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Five Words You Can't Write Out

On the topic of Internet etiquette, one guideline I try to follow is to avoid writing out whole swear words because many of my friends have workplace filters that would end up blocking my posts and emails. For a while I tried writing in code, such as "For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge that dude!" and "CU Next Tuesday" but that detracts from the flow of my words. At the same time, it gets me wondering--how do certain words become taboo?

1) The "C-bomb". This reference to female anatomy always puzzled me, since heterosexual men seem to enjoy it, so why use a slang word for it as an insult? I suspect it has something to do with the blunt coarseness of the word itself--it sort of sounds like the noise you'd hear if your car rammed into a bridge abutment.

2) The "M-F bomb". Why is this somehow an insult? It implies that the target has F-ed someone's M. Whose M? Why is F-ing that M an insult to the target?

3) The "F-bomb". This one is all about context. There's a world of difference between "Ah, F, I just stepped on my priceless Faberge egg" and "F you, dude!" I find the use of the word directed at a person to have more punch and therefore be less appropriate for everyday use.

4) The "S-bomb". When not used literally, this really isn't a bad word and should be brought into regular use!

5) The "B-bomb" (b-tch, not b-stard. B-stard isn't really an insult since Hollywood celebrities taught us that marriage is not necessary before having kids). The word "b-tch" is interesting, because when used to describe a woman, it's generally because that woman is mean or abrasive, but by no means weak or docile. On the other hand, when a guy is called a "b-tch" it usually means he's weak and dominated. I don't really have anything to point out about that though.

So how did these words get offensive over time? Were they once acceptable, and then corrupted? Are terms only troublesome when we treat them like taboos?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A New Standard of Measuring Disasters

There are a number of films that are "so bad they're good", as in their awfulness makes them enjoyable to watch: "Roadhouse", "Barbarian Queen", "Xanadu", "Flash Gordon", and of course, "The Room". But then there are those films that are awful without any redeeming value. And here is where I'd include 1979's "Roller Boogie". (A bunch of teen roller skaters band together to keep their roller rink open! Save a seat for me!)

"Roller Boogie" is so bad that I have decided to make it the new official yardstick (meter stick, for those of you across the pond or in that glorified iceberg known as "Canada") for determining disasters. See how easily it's done:

1) Waterloo was Napoleon's "Roller Boogie".

2) Sarah Palin is Alaska's "Roller Boogie".

3) That chilli that you fed me which contained no beans or tomato? Let's just say the rest of that evening was a real "Roller Boogie".

4) Italy's performance in this year's World Cup was a complete "Roller Boogie".

5) The Carter years were one long "Roller Boogie".

6) Remember my prison pen-pal? Well that didn't work out the way I'd hoped, and now it's just a big "Roller Boogie".

Who Would Play You in the Movie About Your Life?

If you're like me, you often wonder if a movie were made about your life, who would be cast to play you. (And before you say "hey your life isn't that interesting!" let me point out that ever since Hollywood produced "Roller Boogie" it has been clear that "interesting" is not a requirement). Which actor they get to play your role depends on your personality type:

1) Mel Gibson. If Mel is playing you, that means you have a dead wife, a strong Messianic complex, and are given to random bouts of honor-based violence. Oh, and you hate Jews.

2) Nicholas Cage. If Nick is playing you, this means you're a homely everyman, but you can do unhinged like few others. Also, your life better be profitable, since Mr. Cage owes a great deal on his castles and will take any role that pays the bills.

3) Jeff Bridges. This means you're a laid back, rambling sort of man, likely with your head shoved in a toilet from time to time and being attacked by a marmot in the bath. You love bowling, but no one ever sees you do it.

4) Ashley Judd. If she's playing you, that means you've been a wronged woman. Your husband fake his death to frame you? Your boss try and kill you with a stapler? Ashley will be on that!

5) Matthew McConnaughy. If you spend 95% of your day with your shirt off, Matthew will be studying for your part.

6) Robin Williams. Robin is likely to play you in the movie if you can't go ten minutes without pretending to be a flamboyant homosexual, John Wayne, or an almost offensively stereotypical black man.

7) Gary Busey. If Gary Busey is playing you, look out! You'll die a violent death before the film is over.

8) Keanu Reeves. Do you have a problem showing emotions or acting like a normal human being in any believable way? If so, Keanu can totally nail that role!

9) Al Pacino. Picture you're having a normal conversation. Perhaps, a conversation about the upkeep of your pet goldfish. Do you suddently FEEL THE URGE TO HOLLER AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS??? Then Al can play you in the film!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

You know you're in moving mode when....

1) You're sort of hoping someone will come buy and steal your stuff so you don't have to move it.

2) You'd just as soon eat that months-old rice and chocolate syrup rather than buy new groceries that would have to be moved.

3) You're using little travel-toothpastes on a daily basis now.

4) You're now asking the secretaries at work to save paper shipping boxes for you to take home.

5) You've discovered dozens or shirts, etc., that you haven't worn in over a year but will still pack anyway because who knows you just might decide to wear them in the future.

6) You find yourself drinking coffee from a pint glass--or beer from a coffee mug--because it's easier than trying to find where you already packed the appropriate drinking vessel.

7) You're just looking forward to it being over so you and your moving buddies can enjoy pizza and beer.....before the unpacking begins.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010


Yesterday I was taking my evening constitutional, acclimating myself to the deep heat and humidity while enjoying music from the Rolling Stones' "Sticky Fingers" album on the ole music module. As I strolled along a suburban sidewalk--minding my own business, incidentally--I feel this windy "whoosh" force pushing against the back of my head. It felt as though a football had been thrown at me and only missed my noggin by inches.

As I instinctively turned, I realized what this missile was--a small bird that whooshed past, just before soaring up to perch on the telephone wires above the road. Thinking "hey, that was a bit odd that the bird came so close to hitting me" I continued along the way, listening to Keith Richards and Company belt out a riff.

Not five seconds later another "whoosh" goes by the back of my head, and I turn to see another bird had done the exact same maneuver! This fist-sized avian hellions were trying to muscle me out of their territory! In fact, it was just like Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds", had it been done on a Roger Corman budget and featured only two birds.


Online Language

The downside of online communications is the inability to convey tone, so it's not easy to make clear that what you just wrote was in jest or meant to be ironic. Everything written will be read deadpan, so unless you want to add "(In case you can't tell, I don't REALLY think your mother pleasures truckers)", you'll need quick little signals. Unfortunately, it's very un-manly to use most of these signals. I'll explain:

1) Emoticons. Yes, adding a smiley face can indicate that no hard feelings are met, such as "Hey, I didn't really need that kidney. : ) " A sad face can indicate that you feel someone's pain: "Sorry about what I did to your kidney. : ( " A winky face can be flirtatious! "Be stalkin' you! ;)" A shocked face can indicate surprise: "Imagine how I felt when I realized you were my stalker! :o " But any emoticon use by a man signals to the reader that deep down you need a good cry and like to eat iced cream out of the box while wearing curlers and going shopping after.

2) Shorthand. Yeah, we've all seen "LOLZ!" and "ROFL" even though the person writing it is likely not "Laughing Out Loud" or having trouble typing because they're so busy "Rolling On the Floor Laughing". More importantly, such shorthand indicates that you are in touch with your feminine side, and you like to enjoy putting little bows in your hair and skipping through the park with a parasol and giving fancy haircuts to your dog.

3) Fancy fonts. Yes, using a tiny font can give the impression you're speaking quietly, and of course a huge font, or bold, or italics, can manage tone, but it's a known fact that the only people who switch fonts while typing are angry loners with too much time on their hands.

So what do I propose if you're a guy and you want to get points across while typing online, without coming across as a girly man? I am inventing "online grunting". Here's how it works:

Happy: "Grunt grunt aaah."

Upset: "Grunt grunt concern!"

Sympathy: "Grunt, there there."

Flirtatious: "G---runt."

Sarcastic: "Grunt.....grunt-unt."

Sometimes I'm Just a Clown on the Outside But I Carry a Lot of Personal Pain: "G-g-g-grunt....Grunt-gruntle."

Monday, August 9, 2010

The "Che" Stands for "DouCHEbag"

One rather sickening sight is the image of Ernesto "Che" Guevara on "hip" apparel worn in trendy urban and college areas by kids who sadly aren't even being ironic. (Interestingly, I'd be less offended if they were wearing Mussolini's image, since at least then I'd know they were trying to be funny) Apparently a lot of these hipster dolts think of Che as some sort of "fight the power" rebel, to be compared with Martin Luther King or Gandhi, if those guys had at least had the stones to use violence.

But there's no excuse for that now, in the computer age, when a simple Google search can give you the background on this murderous thug who was thankfully snuffed out at an early age before he could do further harm. Basically, Che was Fidel Castro's executioner, responsible for the deaths of thousands of people whose only crime was being politically undesirable. With history being chock full of genuine political dissidents and opponents to repressive regimes, it'd be nice if the "politically conscious" hipster could at least refrain from elevating some two-bit thug.

So it's nice to see images like this.

Friday, August 6, 2010

If you're like me, you can recall...

1) That time you tried to conserve energy by talking super slow and pissing off your roommate as a result.

2) Driving that same roommate nuts by moving exactly one of his perfectly aligned textbooks out of place by one inch.

3) That time you convinced yourself that you could lose weight by eating a lot of gross fast food, under the theory that it would force you to exercise to make up for it.

4) That time you tried to improve your math skills by downgrading your English skills. It didn't go goodly.

5) That time you told your friend that we could barbecue in his apartment during a rainstorm by covering the vents and under the door, and keeping the grill up next to the window and disabling the smoke alarm. And your friend actually went along with it.

6) Being in that tricky halfway spot where you're wondering whether to hold the door for someone who is too far behind you to hold the door for without being weird, yet not so far behind you that it wouldn't feel rude to let the door slam.

7) Having a windshield leak in your car that created a puddle of water on the floor and froze in th winter and needed to be chipped away because otherwise the brake and gas pedals couldn't be pressed all the way.

8) Eating an entire baguette by yourself because there's no one to share it with and it seems a shame to throw away half a fresh baguette.

9) Laying awake in bed waiting for your houseguests to stir, or the hosts when you're the houseguest, and wondering if they're also waiting for you to stir before getting up, and wondering if this is going to last all day.

10) Wondering if the President and his family have arguments that end with "well, you're not the President of this kitchen!" or "well, you're the First Lady...of jerks!"

First Ladies Need Staffs?

Another anti-Obama flap ensues over the First Lady taking an expensive trip to Spain at a time when the country's in its longest recession since WWII and we're seeing record budget deficits. Granted, most of this is pure partisan crap--Republicans didn't seem to complain so much when Republican First Ladies or Presidents took expensive leisure jaunts, and Democrats don't seem to mind vacations when they're taken by one of their own. But here's a serious non-partisan question for all these morons to answer:

Why on earth do we have a massive staff for the First Lady of the United States?

A large part of the expense for the vacation is because we need Secret Service protection and a sizeable entourage of staffers, assistants, etc., to accompany the First Lady. I get the protection aspect--obviously if the First Lady was taken hostage the President would be in a tough position (unless our President was totally badass, and told the terrorists "go ahead, I call your bluff!" The last time we had a president who would actually do that was Teddy Freaking Roosevelt). But staff? What exact "official duties" should the First Lady have? Not to be sexist, but it's a complete bullsh-t job. It's like being First Son or First Dog--you're just there to make the President look normal ("he has fambly just like me!") even though Presidents by their nature are not normal. (Our current President got a Nobel Prize for Not Being George Bush. Guess what? 6 billion people ar Not George Bush. He's not like regular folk! No Presidents are!)

I know, they come up with a bunch of "projects" for the First Lady to do, so they seem "engaged" with current affairs. Nancy Reagan, as we know, won the War on Drugs which is why we never hear of crack or heroin any more. But how about just once having a first lady who says "screw this crap, I'm just going to watch a lot of TV for the next four years"? That would be a breath of fresh air!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Goddam Spiders

While summertime has brought out the shark fears among the populace, there's still the more potent menace of big spiders to contend with. Note to self--if some hijacker on any plane I'm on tries to get us to be taken to Brazil, rush the cockpit! A face full of hot lead would be preferable to having a kitten-sized monster crawling after me.

Now, where is the rational basis for a spider fear? Let's start with the overall creepiness of an eight-legged creature. Or better, let's start with the fact that many species of spider are deadly to humans. And let's also remember that these lil' bastards tend to hide in the dark and stalk and look at you with those dead eyes waiting for a moment of vulnerability. Every one of them--even the "non-deadly" ones--would kill you if it could. Those eyes breed pure hate, folks!

When I was little, my dad would make absurd arguments that were "pro-spider" such as "do you know how many bugs they kill every year?" Pshaw! That's why God invented bug-zappers. And DDT, except until bird-loving swampies outlawed it and decided millions of deaths every year due to malaria is a fair price to pay to save some bird eggs. Now, tiny spiders with their webs are fine, I barely notice them. I'm talking about the hand-sized jobbies that lurk and prey. They probably don't even kill as many bugs, since they're spending their time plotting.

Worse, my dad would leave the car windows down when he parked in the garage during the summer. Why would a humane person do such a thing, knowing that spiders love not having to find other ways into the car? And also knowing that when I borrow the car, if I'm navigating a windy road and a big freaking thing crawls onto my leg I'm likely to end up in union with a bridge abutment? Only one reason folks--my dad is a sociopath. As for me, I'll keep my car windows up when it's parked, knowing that in these 90+ degree days it's baking whatever creepy crawlies made the mistake of hanging out in there.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

They're All On My Damn Lawn

Ah, kids today--when they're not busy being on my lawn or playing with the Google, they're trying to cross oceans in small boats. Clearly they're not facing the serious hardships that my generation had to face, and as a result they need their little thrills anywhere they can get them.

What harsh things did we have to deal with when I was a kid?

1) Until high school, we had a living room TV set that did not have a remote control. This meant if you didn't like what was on TV at that moment, you had to walk across the room to change the channel. WHICH WAS DONE USING A DIAL. That's right, you couldn't even punch in the channel number for instant gratification. You had to scroll through each channel to get to the one you wanted.

2) Laptops? Nope! If you had a computer, you needed a whole desk to put it on. And forget about the Internets--the few homes with modems had very little to connect to. And if you were a curious lad who wanted to look at porn, you had to go to the newsstand and pretend you were old enough to buy Playboy. Undignified!

3) We didn't have cell phones either. If you were out of the house and wanted to call someone, you needed a quarter and a pay phone. Or, if you didn't have a quarter, you had to call "collect" which meant charging the call to the person you're calling--though you'd usually just yell "come pick me up I'm downtown on Main and Maple!" really quick before anyone would accept the charges. (Because cell phones weren't in competition with the phone companies at the time, the cost of a collect call was several times what a normal call would have been)

4) If you wanted to listen to music, you couldn't fit all your hundreds of favorite songs into a small device the size of a pack of cards, nope! You had to buy cassette tapes, and listen through a number of songs on a crappy album just to get to the song you wanted (and fast forwarding was very imprecise--it'd take a lot of hunting to find your song). And those albums cost up to $10 back in those days, which is like $4,000.00 in today's money.

5) Want to drive a car? Well, okay cars were pretty much the same as the ones we have now. Power windows, A/C, all that stuff. But we didn't have as many Korean models back then.

I see that all my hardships were about technology--truth be told, when I was growing up we had a growing economy and low unemployment rate, and it was pretty much accepted that if you went to college you'd be set. Today's kids don't have that certainty anymore, as millions of college kids are wondering if they'll find a job that will pay off their loans and it's pretty much accepted that none of them will see a dime of social security. So I guess if some crazy teenage girl wants to sail the ocean for a thrill, maybe she needs the escapism.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

More on the Ground Zero Mosque

It seems one of the recurring arguments against the "Ground Zero Mosque" is that allowing the mosque to be built so near to where the 9/11 attacks took place would embolden our enemies and be seen as a victory by the Al Quaedists and their supporters. Newt Gingrich even curiously implies that we should be taking religious intolerance lessons from Saudi Arabia. I will ignore Newt's argument because it was clearly written on a drunken dare. But the "embolden our enemies" argument is a worthwhile one, since a certain amount of propoganda and marketing does influence the conduct of world affairs. After all, if photos were leaked of Winston Churchill wearing his wife's wedding dress, it likely would have emboldened the Nazis--no small matter, that!

But let's consider this--how much should it matter that something we do or don't do gets seen by our enemies as a victory? Pulling out of Vietnam in the '70s was surely seen by Commies as a victory for their cause--but the decision to stay or go should still have been considered on its own merits; otherwise, we'd be forcing ourselves to keep that war going indefinitely so as not to give our enemies the morale boost. (Of course, there were other arguments for staying in Vietnam--such as preserving a fledgling country with tens of millions of people from falling to a bloodthirsty dictatorship, as well as its effects on neighboring countries) Likewise, many voters believed a potential loss by George W. Bush in 2004 would be seen as a victory for Ossama Bin Ladin. But giving too much weight to what Bin Ladin wants would effectively allow him to influence our elections.

Likewise, do we want to allow the Islamist nutjobs to determine whether we allow our own citizens to build a house of worship on their land? As this has become a question of religious tolerance, property rights and economic rights, should any of those matters be given even the slightest weight by our enemies? If we care at all what the Islamists think, let them think this--we are a country that has withstood an attack by 19 of your douchiest fucktards, and we're still enough of a decent country with decent values that we can allow our Muslim countrymen to worship freely in walking distance from the attack site. And that's something our enemies will never be capable of because they're too busy fondling goats and seething in their own vitriol.

Gigantic Wasps' Nest!

I have long been a tireless fighter in our war against stinging insects. I'd probably be perfectly fine with them if they avoided humans, but the little bastards seem to get a thrill out of ruining our picnics and barbecues. During this summer, I twice had to eliminate a bees' nest under the table on the balcony--one would think after having the next destroyed, other bees wouldn't decide to build there. Clearly the bees are no better than Americans who insist on living in flood zones. Either that, or they have some sort of bee-home insurance that helps them rebuild each time.

Was it unwise for me to go to battle with the balcony bees wearing only shorts and flip flops, and armed with only a broom and a pitcher of water? Maybe so. But I haven't been stung, so consider the lesson as yet unlearned!

Then I saw this article and saw the photo--in the attic of a pub they found a wasps' nest the size of a small car. EEK! I think I'd need a bigger broom!

And wasps suck worse than bees--unlike bees, the wasps don't disembowel themselves when they sting you so they just go and have at it. Also unlike bees, they create no honey or no terrible, terrible films like 1979's "The Swarm" which ensured that Katharine Ross would never act again. As it turns out, this particular nest contained a half a million wasps so they had to call in professionals. Good thinking! But just remember that next time you're drinking a beer in your favorite bar--anything could be lurking just upstairs from you!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Weekend Wrap Up

The term "drunken mayhem" gets thrown around a lot, but this past weekend's trip to Maine managed to earn the prize. In all, it was a good time, flying up to celebrate the wedding of my friends Allie and Jake and spend some quality time with Don Marco and Chole who I hadn't seen in over a year. This was also Shan's first trip to the state since college.

We started with a nice outdoor lunch--I should point out that the entire weekend was perfect weather, in true Maine summery form--followed by rooftop drinks with my pals, at which point we learn that my friends Chris and Brendan--whom I'd known in Maine but were now living in NYC--were up visiting and wanted to hang out at one of the dockside bars. On we went, catching up with them and some other friends before heading back out to the country for some grilling and beer-ing. A relatively healthy evening.

Saturday, the day of the wedding itself, someone gets the idea to start drinking beer at noon because he hadn't had Maine microbrews in over a year and was in withdrawal. This was before we left the house. From there, we pre-gamed with more of our friends (one of whom was wearing a kilt in case the English invaded) at a nice microbrewery in Saco, then it was on to the ceremony. The ceremony was very nice--held outside by a pond on Jake's fambly's property--and then the reception began.

Six kegs of high quality beer and several additional cases later, I decided that playing volleyball would be a good idea in my slacks and loafers. It went about as well as I expected, and my knee is still sore. Shan of course is pocket-sized and was somehow convinced to take shots of "floor tequila"--not sure what that really means, but okay--and suffered immensely as a result! Somehow in the middle of this and a very nice fireworks display, I managed to catch up with a number of old friends and express my congratulations to the couple and their families, but was feeling the effects of the fine beer by nightfall and was ready to hit the sack.

As it turns out, the "sack" was the floor of the condo tent, and the way everyone was spread out I was sleeping in a crouched position with only half my body covered in blanket. Did I mention that Maine gets very cold in the evenings, even in July? Because it does! This resulted in about four minutes of sleep the whole evening, even an ill-fated attempt to sleep in the backseat of Mark and Chole's car which I only discovered in the morning light had the window slightly open. Rats! So by morning, I am feeling far worse than normal. Eek!

On the drive back, my stomach decided to punish me for my sins, and we pulled over to a vacant stretch on Route 1 where I refunded my meal from the previous night. Delicious lobster, clams, corn--yep, it was much tastier going down than coming up. But this did help my stomach somewhat.

We took a well advised mid-day nap before heading to Freeport for a nice relaxing dinner and iced creams before heading back. While my drinking and sleep plans were ill-advised, it was a great trip and a good touch of nostalgia. Good times!