Friday, December 29, 2006
Every year, my family gets together at Grandma’s house in northwestern Indiana, or The NWI, as my brother Matt calls it. Grandma has lived in the same house for more than 40 years, and my family are all from The NWI. I was born there and spent many days of my formative years at Grandma’s, horsing around with my aunts and my uncle and promising not to tell on my Grandpa when he would pull out his hidden flask (he was a terrible alcoholic and an even worse hider).
Since then, my parents, my uncle, and one of my aunts have moved away, so Christmas Eve at Grandma’s serves as our yearly family reunion. And it's good Christmas only comes once a year, because that reunion almost kills us every time.
The first challenge is The Noise. Not “noise,” The Noise, a formidable alloy of bellowing, yelling, guffawing, and more bellowing...from children, from adults, and even from Grandma when said adults are acting like children. Having grown up with this, I've built up some immunity to its lethal effects, but poor TLB suffered through a rough acclimation period as we assimilated her into the family. One year, as she sat downstairs in the basement, there were four children standing around her like points on a compass, screaming. Why were they screaming? That would imply that there is a reason for The Noise. It just is.
Part of The Noise is The Dead Horse. Usually, there is some sort of joke that winds up getting brought out of the stable, run around in the yard, shot, dragged off to the Elmer’s factory, and made into paste. A couple years ago, it was this joke, courtesy of my sister, Erin:
Erin (sniffing): Does it...(sniffs again) does it smell like up dog in here?
Me: What’s up dog?
Erin: Nothing, G! (laughs)
That one-hit wonder got played more times than Debbie Boone’s “You Light Up My Life,” to the point where I was ready to cut off my ears so I wouldn’t have to hear it again.
This year’s Dead Horse was, “Ma, meatloaf!” It’s a reference to Will Ferrell in Wedding Crashers, and my Uncle Tim kept yelling it over and over again from the living room as various relatives brought us appetizers from the kitchen. It was funny the first 2.73 times we heard it, but its comedic radiation quickly decayed after we heard it 2.73273 times. It became so unfunny that it circumnavigated back to funny post-Christmas, as TLB now says it randomly to me around the house.
The appetizers that triggered this year's Dead Horse comprise another hallmark of Brando Family Christmas: The Pork. First, there is always ham. Why? Because in the Polish Bible, the Gospel of John starts with, “In the beginning, there was Ham.” It's like The Noise, with us since the beginning.
Then there is the garlic sausage, a gray, snaky meatsack with so much garlic, the next seven generations of my family will be immune to vampirism.
The best dish, however, is what my family calls “Polish Rejects.” I am not sure why they have that name, because they are never, ever, rejected by the Polish people who wolf them down at Grandma’s. Polish Rejects are ground pork sausage on small slices of rye toast, covered with Velveeta and baked in the oven. They look disgusting. They sound disgusting. But they taste so good that I’d trade gold, myrrh, and frankincense for a plate of them. I wish I had brought my camera because I would submit them to Delicious or Disgusting over at Three Bulls.
The Heat is the last and definitely most challenging foe at Grandma’s. Her house is not very big, and we usually have 15-20 people packed inside while the oven and stove are going full blast. No matter how cold it is, the kitchen and living room doors are usually propped open so that an Arctic gale can bring the inside temperature back down to 85 degrees. My siblings and I were even taking over/under bets on how hot it would get. In fact, as TLB and I drove up to the house, we saw my father, wearing a sweater, leaving.
Me: Dad, where are you going?
Dad: To buy a shirt that will let me stay in that house!
After all the Noise, Pork, and Heat comes the crowning climax: Santa. Everyone gathers in the much-cooler basement as adults relay reports of reindeer sightings to the kids. Someone in a Santa suit shows up and hands out presents from all the relatives. In recent years, I’ve usually been Santa. Until this year, I’ve used a suit Grandma has had since the Eisenhower administration, a costume that smelled like The Ghost of Christmas Past after too many Polish Rejects. But we had a new suit this year, one that smelled better but was also 110% hotter. I didn’t get my first ho ho ho out before I felt the sweat building up under the white wig.
We now only have two family members not explicitly in on the Brando-is-Santa secret: my nephew Zachary, whose analytical skills make him like Encyclopedia Brown on CSI; and my cousin Little Matthew (not to be confused with my brother, Big Drunk Matthew). As soon as I came down the stairs this year, Zachary immediately had me pegged. “You’re Uncle Brando!” he said, sitting right next to Little Matthew.
“Ho, ho, ho,” I replied, looking him in the eye. “Maybe Santa should take these toys back to the North Pole.” He clammed up after that, unwilling to trade getting lots of toys for being right. Like I said, he’s a smart cookie.
I passed out all the presents, often having to yell because The Noise doesn’t even stop for Santa. After I finished and changed back into Uncle Brando, we played a guys-vs-gals match of Taboo, with the game's buzzer making a very special contribution to The Noise.
Finally, the gals victorious, TLB and I said our goodbyes as we departed for her parents’ house north of Chicago, our ears still ringing with, “Ma, meatloaf!”
I hope everyone had a great holiday and I wish everyone a Happy New Year.
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
- Find the nearest book (I grabbed the nearest one last night)
- Name the book: The Rough Guide to Heavy Metal (yes, this is on my nightstand, right next to my Book of Mormon and World's Greatest Dick Jokes)
- The author: Essi Berelian, with a foreword by Bruce Dickinson (yes, the Bruce Dickinson)
- Turn to page 123 find the fifth sentence
- Copy the next three sentences:
[From the entry on Fear Factory]: "The early style was was coloured [how British!] with the crushing power of death metal, Herrera's drumming providing a stainless steel framework for Cazares' synapse-frazzling guitars and Bell's deathrattle vocals spitting out tortured sci-fi inflected lyrics which only occasionally ventured into clean and melodic realms. Crucially, the band were also experimenting with electronic flourishes and samples echoing industrial bands such as Nine Inch Nails, Minitstry and Godflesh; it was cold, clinical, and utterly mesmerizing in an all-senses-pummelled kind of way. Cazares handled bass duties in the studio but Andrew Shives was recruited for live work." [whew!]
- Tag three more people: I've seen this one on a lot of blogs I read, so I'm going to stop the buck here. Besides, how can one follow The Rough Guide to Heavy Metal? It's so meme, it's like, how much more meme can it be? And the answer is, "None. None more meme."
12) Won’t know until we read the police report
11) Drove from second stepdad’s house to first stepmom’s apartment to second stepmom’s condo and finally to first stepdad’s strip club
10) Put the “tongue” in “kissing cousins”
9) Shot eye out
8) Contemplated suicide until delusional, effeminate, homeless stranger convinced us our life was at least more wonderful than his.
7) Watched grandma show us her newest tattoo
6) Performed our traditional belched rendition of “O Holy Night”
5) Guarded apple pie from very excitable pubescent nephew
4) Started a pool to guess how long sister’s new boyfriend had been out on parole
3) Drowned brother in gravy boat after he showed up with our ex-wife
2) Still in the closet
1) As always, without pants
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
Happy Holidays! Heh, heh, heh, just kidding. Merry Christmas. As I sit here writing this, I’m sipping some patented Bush Nog. One part eggnog, one quart of Knob Creek. Okay, I’m exaggerating, it doesn’t have any eggnog in it.
To say this year has driven me to drink would be an understatement. No, wait, an overstatement. Or maybe just a statement. I’m a decider, not a writer. Laura usually writes this thing but she’s laid up from her skin melodrama. So I’m taking pen to paper this year. Actually, plastic toothpick thing to this Blueberry gizmo.
What I found this year is that raising a democracy is like raising twin daughters. They can be sweet and loving and perfect to your face, then you turn your back and they get caught using a fake ID or blowing up a mosque. They say it won’t happen again and then blammo, they’re falling down all over the front page of The New York Times. Iraq, I mean. I think. These meta-fours make my head hurt.
The good news is the girls have been out of the news again. Mostly. Barbara got her purse stolen by some Mexicans from Argentina, but that’s much better than her stealing from them. Jenna hasn’t fallen on the floor or stuck her tongue out or gotten busted for coke. Just like the girls, I think Iraq will straighten out when she turns 20. That’s only 17 more years, and let me tell you, they fly by. Especially when you drink Bush Nog.
Speaking of drinking, we recently lost a dear member of the family, our good friend Rummy. I had to let him go the way I had to let booze go. They were both great in moderation. But too much clouded my judgment and made me think that blonde winking at me in the bar was Miss Texas or that an ice cream truck was a bioweapons lab. What I woke up next to didn’t look anything like what I went to bed with, so I had to swear to quit for good. Booze, I mean. No, wait, I mean Rummy. I think.
Rummy was even harder to quit than drinking. He understood me. When we had strategeric bombing meetings, he’d always say hard targets, just to make me laugh. Heh, heh, heh, it still works. He did a heck of a job.
I asked Dad how he was able to get in and out of Iraq so easily. He told me, “I learned very early on the severe consequences of pulling out too late. That’s how we ended up with Neil.” Wish he’d have told me that three years ago.
Speaking of unwanted bastards, the Democrats are giving us more trouble than ever. I can’t believe those losers won the election. That sucked. Sucked balls. I shouldn’t write that, but I don’t care. I hate those guys. It’s always illegal this and unconstitutional that. They looove their Constitution. They act like we should do exactly what it says, but I ask them: Do we walk around wearing wigs and those short pants? Do we write with bird feathers? Do we say things like “poppycock”? (I do wish we still said that, heh.) Then why do we pay so much attention to some 200-year old document written on weed? I’ve got to fight terror. I don’t have time to read laws, much less obey them.
That’s not good enough for them. They want me to do both. They say they want me to protect their freedom. I know because I read their NSA transcripts. I tell them, hey, we’re on the same page. When they ask how I know and I tell them, they start in with the unconstitutional mumbo jumbo again. How am I supposed to protect freedom if I don’t limit it? It’s like freedom’s an endangered species. Do you help it by letting it roam all over the damn place, or do you confine it until it’s ready to go back into the wild? I try and keep it safe and contained while the Democrats let out next to the interstate so it can go wherever it wants. Freedom, I mean. I think.
Sorry to be so negative. There were some bright spots this year. Dick (heh) didn’t kill anyone that I know of. Mom managed to go all year without having to talk about poor people. And Laura’s sensors detected her cancer before it reached her circuits. So Jesus was looking out for us.
The best part of all is that I’ve got another bottle of Bush Nog right here in the desk. So have yourself a Merry Christmas. That’s a Presidential Order.
President George W. Bush
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
12) Engagement ring from ex-fiancée with finger still attached.
11) Oranges, coal, and story from grandpa about how they got through the Depression by cooking Drifter a la Orange.
10) Copy of The Ultimate Book of Jewish Jokes with a pink slip bookmark.
9) A dirty Red Hot Chili Pepper.
8) Quote from the prophet Isaiah Thomas: “And a little child shall lead them to a 15-game suspension.”
7) Three pairs of emergency paparazzi panties from Paris.
6) A fake ID that doesn’t show us with our tiara.
5) Craigslist ad reading: “Jolly, mature, adventurous MWM seeks someone very naughty for more than milk and cookies. Must enjoy sleigh rides, bell jingling, and lap-sitting. No elves.”
4) Homemade jerky from Dr. Lecter.
3) Special advance copy of Chinese Democracy CD featuring 76 minutes of Axl refusing to sing.
2) Nintendo Wii that’s been pre-Cheeto stained.
1) A complete set of finished cabinet appointments from dad.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Me: Hey, have you ever noticed that George Bush is like Spalding from Caddyshack? "I want a tax cut. No, I want a Supreme Court justice. No, I want a pro-American Democracy in the Middle East."
TLB: (looks at clock, looks at me, raises pillow, lowers pillow over my face)
Me: (muffled) Hey, what’s the deal with flannel sheets? Do all the other sheets look at them and go, “They’re so grunge”?
TLB: (applies more pressure)
The other night, I had a dream I was playing drums with my friend and Hold Steady compatriot, Bob Hillman. Bob is a musician, and he and I were playing some of his songs in a small club. In the dream, I flailed away, trying to be flashy but making a cacophonic racket that distracted from Bob’s very catchy tunes. Bob stopped playing and made a joke about my ineptitude, something like, “In case you haven’t noticed, he’s new.”
I slowed down and started playing a very simple beat, almost like a metronome. I leaned into my microphone and said, “Don’t worry, I’m just going to Meg White it back here.”
While certainly not my best line, it is the first time I have ever attempted a joke in my sleep. I’m not sure if I should be happy or very concerned. Especially if I start talking in my sleep...they might find me with a pillow over my face and TLB playing back the tape recorder to show it was justified.
Monday, December 11, 2006
9) Taco Bell’s Stuffed Bathroom Burrito
8) Britney Spears’ new perfume, Trashy
7) McTehran Holocaust Whopper with extra Bile
6) Engaging in unprotected shuffleboard
5) Some bad Chile
4) Applying five second rule to Oreo we dropped in the petri dish
3) Kick to the head from Crazy Joe Devola that makes us say, “Yo Yo Macacca.”
2) Christina Aguilera ringtone that gave us syphilis
1) Nothing, according to our HMO
Sunday, December 10, 2006
When I’m sweating to the not-so-oldies, I often play The Hold Steady because they’re the kind of band I think would form. Their lead singer, Craig Finn, doesn’t sing so much as speak his lyrics. Perfect, because I can’t sing! His lyrics tend to obsess on teenage hijinks and Catholicism, as if he’s been reading my diary. And the band takes two of my very schizophrenic loves, 70s punk and 70s classic rock, and blends them into a great big margarita.
One of the disappointing things about Iowa City is that, for a big part of the Big 10, it gets surprising few big bands coming to town. It’s a real downer when Lawrence, Kansas, and Columbia, Missouri, look like indie rock Meccas compared to here. So when I found out The Hold Steady were coming to Iowa City last Thursday, my friend Bob Hillman and I jumped at the chance to see them.
Since the wheels of rock and roll move more smoothly when properly lubricated, Bob and I met up for a pre-show drink. I suggested the Deadwood, a dark lair that sports an “angry hour” each evening. Bob suggested the Dublin Underground because we could play darts, which gave it a strategic entertainment edge over the Deadwood. We downed our tasty pints and played some terrible darts before departing for the really big show.
The band was playing The Picador, a corn-fed CBGBs formerly called Gabe’s Oasis. Bob and I hadn’t been to the Picador since it had been “renovated” and renamed. Gabe’s was infamous for being a grungy shithole, especially for the men’s bathroom that sported only a trough. After casing the joint, we concluded that the renovations included a) putting in actual urinals and a sink in the men’s room and b) putting in a real unisex bathroom with a toilet and everything. The Picador: Now with 33% less piss on the floor!
The place was pretty full—we weren’t the only hipster doofuses to get excited about a real rock and roll band coming to town. We oiled up the wheels with some Miller High Life and assumed the position among the crowd. Then The Hold Steady came out and rocked us like a hurricane.
For starters, they looked and acted like a rock band. Their keyboard player, Franz Nicolay, sported a porkpie hat, red handkerchief in his jacket pocket, and a waxed mustache that said, “I’m classically trained…to rock!” The guitar player, Tad Kubler, swung his guitar around his chest in a move that would make ZZ Top’s beards curl. The bass player smoked while he played. And Craig Finn jumped all over the stage like an Elvis Costello who really needed to go to the can but worried that the Picador trough would give him hepatitis. For good measure, a bottle of Knob Creek made a few laps around the stage to help the band keep their wheels rolling.
Those wheels rolled at full speed almost the whole night. They came out gunning with, “Stuck Between Stations,” the opener from their new album. There are nights when I think Sal Paradise was right, Finn sang. Boys and girls in America have such a sad time together. Not this night, though. The boys and girls of Iowa City were having a hell of a time together, jumping up and down, singing, drinking, and loving every minute of it.
“It’s our first time playing Iowa City,” Finn told us, which elicited some whoops. “Before the show, we were drinking over at the Deadwood.” Doh! I missed my big chance to point across the room and say, “I think that’s The Hold Steady” while debating whether to go up and say hello until they left and I missed my big chance anyway.
The only real sin came from Kubler, the guitar player. He spent the first couple of songs giving instructions to the sound guy: turn up my monitor, add some more flux, wax the bass, sonicify my strumming. Blah, blah, blah. He also delivered some really bland stage banter that was like momentum speed bumps. It seemed like he was dying to write and sing his own songs but never gets the chance.
The Church of Rock forgives much, however, if you continue to rock, and Kubler overflowed the collection basket. At one point, he strapped on a red Gibson double neck, just like what Jimmy Page used to use. “Oh man, all is forgiven,” I said to Bob. “That washes away all his sins.” He continued to do his penance with fat riffs and strategically placed guitar solos. I could almost hear Robert Plant asking, Does anyone remember solos?
Their set flew buy until, with their last number, a crowd of about 20-30 audience members got on stage with them. I couldn’t tell if they were invited or they rushed, but The Hold Steady kept playing despite having no room to play. They thanked us and the PA announcer said ominously, “The show is over!”
As we left and headed out into the cold night, I thought about what Craig Finn said between one of the songs. “It’s a joy to do what we do and share it with you.” That’s probably what I liked about them the most. They drank and played and talked to the crowd and looked like they didn’t want to be anyplace else, not even a place with a great men’s room.
Now when I am trying to imagine I’m not having a heart attack at the gym, I’ve got a mental prototype for what my fantasy self should be doing.
(If you like the rock, you owe it to yourself to check out The Hold Steady, especially the new CD, Boys and Girls in America.)
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
9) Approving takeover of security in Iraq by the ARVN.
8) Helping the Iraqi government stand on its own two feet by nailing it to its perch.
7) Repelling insurgent attacks with video montages of Britney Spears’ crotch set to K-Fed’s rap album.
6) Adding trans fats to hummus until terrorists are too fat to fight.
5) Creating terrifying clone army of flesh-eating John Bolton mustaches.
4) Asking, “TomTom, what's the best route out of this hellish quagmire?”
3) Encouraging Iraq to make peace with its neighbors by focusing on their common hatred of Israel.
2) Accelerating timetable for withdrawal from Iraq by calculating it in dog years.
1) Hiring O.J. to show us how he would end the war, if he'd started it.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
9) Fashioning noose out of garland.
8) Exchanging gift of democracy for Old Navy Kevlar Vests.
7) Running over mother’s Manheim Steamroller CDs with a steamroller.
6) Giving political opponents this year’s hottest radioactive isotopes.
5) Watching A Charlie Brown Christmas while playing Dark Side of the Moon.
4) Finishing Ph.D. dissertation, Bows of Folly: The Struggle for Economic and Social Equality Among Reindeer and Elves at Santa’s Workshop.
3) Regifting the Taliban.
2) Going on Maury to determine if virgin girlfriend is pregnant with the Son of God or the son of Jesus, the pool boy.
1) Asking Santa for new White House clue phone.
1) I have a catalog of death fears, a list of gruesome demises that I worry about more than sane people should. Number one is being sucked out into space. While admittedly unlikely to happen, the dream sequence in Apollo 13 where Tom Hanks is blown out of the hatch helped vault this one to the top spot. Plane crashes are #2, being eaten by something #3 (climbing after seeing a shark in the wild a couple years ago), burning to death #4, and drowning rounds out the top 5. There are many others—that thing that happens to William Wallace at the end of Braveheart is definitely in the top 10. In fact, here are probably the only ways of dying that don’t freak me out:
- Freezing to death
- Suffocating in a bank vault (this is from an old Batman and Robin episode)
- Being shot (unpleasant and painful, but for some reason doesn’t scare me)
- Suffering a heart attack while having sex with Selma Hayek and/or Scarlett Johansson
- Being taken into heaven Elijah-style (even less likely than being sucked into space, especially with my Catholic list of priors [such as thinking about having a heart attack during a Hayek/Johansson sandwich])
2) In my 36 years, I have lived in 22 different residences in 9 states. I went to 7 schools between grades 1-12, and two colleges to boot (three if you count grad school). Until I moved to Iowa in 2001, I had never gone more than four years without moving over state lines. Much of this was because my dad was in the navy, but my itinerant ways continued long after I became an adult.
3) When I met TLB at the tender age of 17, we immediately disliked each other. This may seem unbelievable considering TLB’s assertion in her post that we never fight (which is true).
The dislike revolved around my petulant status of having just moved to Illinois. I spent my first three years of high school in San Diego, a place I really fell in love with. My father then got transferred right before my senior year to Great Lakes Naval Base, in the Chicago suburbs. I was not happy about leaving my friends and spending my last year of high school at a new school and trading the sunny skies of So Cal for the frozen tundra of Chicagoland.
A contributing factor was that, like a boy raised by wolves who incorrectly thinks he is a wolf, I thought I was a Californian. Not formally, but in all my manners. I had a serious “dudespeak” problem that took me years to shake. This led me to conclude, quite incorrectly, that I was too cool for Illinois.
At the time I met TLB, I was dating her best friend, L—. I agreed to give TLB a lift, and after introductions, we made small talk, including her asking where I was from. I replied that I had moved from California. This led to me griping about where I currently lived, and how much better San Diego was than Chicago. TLB began to take issue with me and commented that while California may be great, it wasn’t any better than Chicago.
We went back and forth until she asked, “Are you from California?”
Uh-oh. I couldn’t lie because L— knew the answer. “No.”
“Well where are you from?”
“Indiana?!” A sarcastic laugh that I would later grow to love ripped through my ego like a hollow-point bullet. “The whole state closes at nine o’clock!”
Who does she think she is? I asked in sulky silence. But two months later I was no longer seeing L— and going out with the woman who knocked my cocky, poseur ass down a peg. (That's a story for another day.)
4) I published a book of graduation speeches that I co-edited with a friend of mine. It was a series of commencement addresses by celebrities. During the process of putting this together, I
a) got screwed over by Oprah’s people, who all but assured me they were going to grant permission to use a speech from her and then gave me a lame denial at the 11th hour
b) had Oprah’s people threaten to sue because they thought we were going to use said speech without permission (we did not)
c) was told by the first contributor I talked to, columnist Russell Baker, that the concept was “an abominable idea”
d) convinced John Grisham (or, more specifically, John Grisham’s people) to reverse his initial denial ruling and be in the book
The other odd thing is earlier this year, long after the book was out of print, a Japanese publisher contacted us out of the blue to reprint it. It was like Spinal Tap finding out “Sex Farm” was on the Japanese charts. It should be out there next year.
5) I have no way of knowing for sure because there is no world championship for it like there is for air guitar, but I may be the world’s best air drummer. Not only can I reproduce nearly every Rush percussion bit with cyberdork precision, I also do a bit called “The Midwestern Drum Solo," where I mimic through motion and sound of a typical classic rock drum solo. I sit in a chair and do a sort of Keith-Moon-meets-Bobby-McFerrin drum solo, making sounds for all the drum parts as I flail at the air. I run the whole gamut: double-bass thumping, excessive cymbal hitting, slowing down, speeding up, and so on.
I first got the idea from the late, competent Chuck Panozzo, the drummer for Styx. He did a really, really terrible drum solo in the middle of the Caught in the Act Live concert video. Watching this with TLB and our friend Cynthia, I started imitating his performance. Cynthia liked it so much that she requested repeat performances at parties for some of our other friends.
Flash forward about 10 years. TLB and I are at Cynthia's wedding, and Cynthia requests the Midwestern Drum Solo to be performed, in front of guests with a microphone. I was rusty and hadn't done the bit in years. I was actually nervous, because I wasn't sure it would be funny to anyone outside of the handful of folks who had seen it before. But I sat down, hit my air toms, worked the high-hat, and ended (naturally) with the banging of a gong behind me.
I got some laughs, and as everyone who knows me already knows, I'll do almost anything for a laugh.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
12) Heard our rap album.
11) Watched our reality show.
10) Found our IM log.
9) Gave her the thing that burns in addition to the thing that itches.
8) Showed her how we would kill her, if we were a killer.
7) Refused to take Viagra.
6) Took too much Viagra.
5) Couldn’t tell with all the screaming about how could we with her sister.
4) Tried to stuff her in a marriage sack.
3) Let it slip to the media that she really isn't legally blonde.
2) Lost her in a card game with James Caan.
1) Discovered our explicit love letters to Ringo.
Friday, November 17, 2006
“The Sony PlayStation 3 sports a 3.3 gigahertz Cell processor capable of running millions of complex equations at once,” said Dr. I. M. Mario of the Center for Arousal and Neuron Technology (CANT). “Yet it is unable to compute the phone number of a girl who might be interested.”
The system also delivers true high-definition video, producing lifelike pictures in a stunning 1080p resolution. “However,” Dr. Mario noted, “it offers no resolution to being home alone on Saturday at 3 a.m. playing video games, and in fact contributes greatly to that outcome.”
Dr. Mario and his colleagues have released a study documenting the effects of the machine on relationships and sexuality, Long-Term Effects of Interactive Gaming on Coital Probabilities.
Officials at Sony dismissed the study and said that the machine could actually promote relationship skills. Noting how the cutting-edge technology of the PlayStation 3 will blur the line between fantasy and reality, Sony Director of Media Relations Angela Grips said, “When you rescue that princess and interact with her, she's going to seem very real. You’re going to feel like you know her.”
“That’s precisely the problem,” said Dr. Mario. “Sony proclaims a new era of interactivity, but when these men are with real women, they don’t know how to interact. They think they're going to conquer their virginity by pressing nipple, nipple, buttock, nipple, up, down, up, down, clitoris.”
A quick survey of the Anaheim Best Buy—where dozens of men between the ages of 18 and 32 camped out in tents and sleeping bags—revealed that none of them were currently in any kind of committed relationship. All of them readily admitted to not being virgins, but not one could describe with accuracy the tactile sensation of a woman’s breast or the emotional release of two human bodies joined as one.
“[Sexual intercourse] feels kind of like that time I beat all the songs on Guitar Hero on expert,” said Myron Blauser.
His friend and line companion, Kenneth G., who did not wish to give his last name, immediately refuted Mr. Blauser’s claim. “Don’t listen to this nerdlinger, he’s never gotten out of the batter’s box with a girl.”
“You said ‘box,’” snorted Mr. Blauser.
When asked if she would be willing to talk to the men in line, Ms. Grips laughed, then asked, “Are you serious?” She then mentioned she could not talk to the customers in line because she had plans with her boyfriend, who is not interested in purchasing a PlayStation 3.
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
9) Accepting that global warming is occurring but voting to not give a crap.
8) Promising not to filibuster any Supreme Court nominees for two whole years.
7) Offering to roll back tax cuts on George Soros.
6) Agreeing to put Rummy on the wagon.
5) Mandating that all pages and interns must be totally unattractive prudes.
4) Suggesting that illegal campaign contributions be shared equally with both parties.
3) Voting to keep abortion legal for all registered Democrats.
2) Promoting condom distribution in schools as long as the wrappers have abstinence prayers printed on them.
1) Tugging together on Bush’s shoulders until he can see daylight.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
When The Lovely Becky and I went to vote last night, there was a strong whiff of pig smell in the air (one of the downsides of living in hog country). It seemed pretty appropriate for election night.
I was so against voting Republican that I wrote myself in against the Republican county auditor, who was running unopposed. TLB and our friend MSF, who was voting at the same time, said they were sorry I hadn't announced my candidacy because they would have voted for me. Maybe I should have campaigned harder. Although with my sordid past, I wouldn't be in office long.
Congratulations to the Democrats. Please don't screw this opportunity up the way the GOP (literally) did.
And congrats to everyone who voted, regardless of how you voted. People are dying around the world just so they can one day feel apathetic about democracy.
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Prop. THX-1138: Prohibits George Lucas from ever getting behind a camera again.
Prop. 2112: Authorizes an international force to deliver an extreme makeover on Geddy Lee.
Prop. 8675309: Prohibits overuse of one-hit-wonder ring tones, punishable by decapitation with a Now That’s What I Call Music! disc.
Prop. WD-40: Requires husband or butch partner to get off lazy good for nothin’ ass and fix that door with squeaky goddamned hinge.
Prop 21-JS: Authorizes Johnny Depp to go undercover and teach our kids some very special lessons.
Prop. 666: Outlaws any attempts to bring Satan back to the material plane and thus trigger the end of the world.
Prop. 777: Outlaws any attempts to bring Stryper back to the musical plane and thus trigger the end of rock.
Prop. .08: Allocates tax dollars for the development of talking Trans Ams so they can drive us back from the bar and order us some White Castles on the way home.
Prop. 24: Requires all U.S. national security crises to be solved in one day.
Prop. 2006: Changes current voting laws so that P. Diddy dies if you vote!*
*Who needs more reason than that? Get out there and get yer fingers purple!
Monday, November 06, 2006
COLORADO SPRINGS - A leading evangelical minister has resigned today over allegations that he is a covert agent of the devil.
Reverend Y. Goodman Brown headed the New Original First Church of Christ, a sprawling megachurch with a congregation of more than 25,000 worshipers. Charming, charismatic, and possessing a keen talent for speaking in tongues, Brown took over the church after the previous pastor, Arnold Friend, died in a mysterious impaling accident. Now, after confirming allegations that he serves the Lord of Darkness, he has left his position in disgrace.
At first, Reverend Brown appeared like many other evangelical pastors. He led marches against abortion clinics, crusaded against gay marriage, and especially preached against the evils of Satan. “You do not, under no circumstances, want to stand in a pentagram chanting the name of Beelzebub three times,” Brown once warned. “That especially goes for you young people during sleepovers. Even though you will probably see something really cool, don’t do it.”
Brown also gave “fire and brimstone” sermons that had a visceral, first-hand feeling reminiscent of Dante. “You will be whipped, stung, devoured, regurgitated, whipped again, audited by the IRS, and then devoured once more,” Brown warned, his eyes burning with passion and, some now say, excitement.
Clues began to surface that, privately, Brown was not who he said he was. Church member and gun store owner Fred Lyons recalled Reverend Brown inviting several other members over to his house to use a Ouija board.
“He wanted to demonstrate how evil it was and how it could be used to transfer demons into unwitting human vessels,” Lyons said. “But the really odd thing was his dog, a little yapping Chihuahua he called ‘Lucifer.’ The reverend explained it was a joke, but I swear that dog was a yapping, ankle-biting hound of hell.”
Another member, Linda Fargas, the daughter of a preacher, said she found a number of questionable rock and roll CDs in Brown’s car. “He gave me a ride home once, and I noticed he had Black Sabbath’s We Sold Our Souls to Rock and Roll in the CD player. I used to listen to that all the time as a teenager, so I know what's on that record.” When asked about the curious collection, Reverend Brown told her, “You have to know evil to fight evil.”
Fargas’ son, Jeffrey, made another musical connection with Reverend Brown. Sneaking out of his home to see Slayer, a metal act known for its occult and Satantic imagery, Jeffrey Fargas literally bumped into Reverend Brown in the mosh pit. “He looked surprised to see me, but then said he was trying to save these wayward souls. He asked if I wanted to help him with his work at next week’s Slipknot show.”
When Ms. Fargas caught Jeffrey sneaking back into the house, he confessed what happened. Ms. Fargas then suspected her pastor was under the unwitting influence of Satan. Thinking she would be saving him, she instead found out he was a willing accomplice.
Recording the next week’s sermon, Ms. Fargas played the tape backward. She was astonished at what possessed her speakers. “I heard, ‘You are our Lord, Satan,’ and ‘I’m hotter than the ninth circle for you, Satan,’” Ms. Fargas said. “I thought I was maybe imagining it, but the last message said, ‘You’re not dreaming, I really love Satan, and soon you will too, muhahahaha.’”
Ms. Fargas took the tapes to others the New Original First Church of Jesus Christ board, which confronted Reverend Brown. Reverend Brown said that it was mere coincidence and denied being a Satanist. The board accepted his denial. However, Ms. Fargas covertly taped this meeting, and playing the tape backward revealed another message. “I can't believe they're buying it,” the backward message said, “I'll have these gullible souls delivered to Satan in no time. Muhahahaha!”
Confronted again, Reverend Brown confessed. “You got me,” said Brown, meekly adding, “Hail Satan?” None of the others joined him.
It was a bittersweet moment for the reverend. “Even though I infiltrated this church with the express purpose of turning the congregation toward evil, I grew to like them,” Brown said. “The bake sales, the picnics, the targeting of abortion doctors...we had some glorious times.” Wiping away a tear, he barely finished his next sentence. “I can thing of no finer group I would have liked to have tortured for all eternity.”
Many in the congregation were shocked and shaken. “I can’t believe it,” said Melissa Van Camp, mother of thirteen. “Just the other day, on a particularly humid day, I said, ‘It’s hotter than blazes, Reverend.’ And he said, ‘No, blazes is more of a dry heat.’ I thought he was just joking.”
James Killmeister, a member of the Church board who also services lethal injection equipment, said, “Satan takes many forms. I just didn’t think he’d take the form of the best pastor we ever had. When he damned things, he really damned them...it’s a shame to lose that.”
At least one member of the church looked on the bright side. “It could have been worse,” said Conrad Baines, going through his third divorce, “He could have been gay.”
Tuesday, October 31, 2006
12) Slutty Congressman (with optional built-in excuse)
11) Zombie Bush Supporter (requires more brains than Standard Bush Supporter)
10) Reanimated Spine of Media (with optional spineless Fox)
9) Bloody National Guardsman on Extend Deployment (requires same costume as last year)
8) Severed Purple Finger (with optional democracy)
7) Shrieking Conservative Blogger (requires chickenhawk mask)
6) Ghost of Elections Past (with optional eye of Newt)
5) Mutilated Geneva Conventions (requires board and water bucket)
4) Curious Macaca (with optional Man in the Yellow Hood)
3) Invisible Weapons of Mass Destruction (requires imagination)
2) Skeleton (with optional Republican closet)
1) Vice President Cheney (requires horns and pitchfork)
Thursday, October 26, 2006
It's also the most cancerous tavern in the United States. The smoke in the Foxhead is like the home crowd at a football game, a 12th man than can turn ordinarily healthy lungs in to black sponges darker than a West Virginia coal mine. But for $2 pints of Anchor Steam, I sacrificed my health and accompanied The Lovely Becky there on many a night, listening to the morbid tales of short stories disembowled by fiendish criticism.
Well, the Foxhead is popular and sentinent enough to have its own MySpace page. There are a number of quotes about the bar on the page, but this one is my favorite:
"The only changes made at the Foxhead through the decades have been to occasionally paint over the extensive bathroom graffiti, which by all accounts is surprisingly bad for a writers' bar."Sadly, speaking as someone who has read the bathroom walls, it's true. But only because those writers have used up everything in workshop.
God doesn’t make mistakes. We know this because He says so.
The Republican Party is God’s party. We know this because we say so. And therefore, the Republican Party doesn’t make mistakes.
However, mistakes do happen around Republicans. Godless, crack-smoking, bath house-visiting liberals often try to assign these mistakes to our colleagues, “blaming” them for their actions.
The following quiz will help you calibrate your ability to assign blame properly, no matter what hits the fan. Answer these questions, tally up your score, and see how well you can splatter responsibility on the correct party...and not the right party.
1) You get caught taking illegal campaign contributions from a Republican fundraiser.
Who is to blame?
a) The fundraiser, for carelessly leaving behind a large sum of money that you were only trying to return to its rightful owner.
b) Laws, for making what should be perfectly legal contributions illegal.
c) George Soros, because he has more money than God, which is an affront to God and leaves God’s party no choice but to take money from the Devil.
2) You make a racially insensitive remark about a
Who is to blame?
a) The person of color, for not being non-colored and therefore calling attention to himself at your rally.
b) The media, for only reporting the remark you said about the colored boy and not reporting that you referred to the ignorant white trash that support you as your “Cracker Jacks.”
c) The Civil Rights Movement, for making the coloreds all sensitive about primate-based nicknames.
3) Your ex-wife accuses you of forcing her to go to sex clubs.
Who is to blame?
a) Your ex-wife, for not obeying the words of St. Paul about wives obeying their husbands.
b) St. Paul, for not being more specific about whether taking your wife to sex clubs is wrong. If you had only known that this sort of behavior was frowned upon, you never would have done it.
c) Clinton’s penis, for creating a gravitational rift in the sex-time continuum that pulled you, against your will, into the front row next to the stage.
4) An underage Congressional page accuses you of sending lewd instant messages and e-mails.
Who is to blame?
a) The page, for getting you all horny with his smooth, hairless skin, firm, defined abs, and...uh, the page.
b) Alcohol, for messing up your motor skills and causing you to drop the “Y” from your intended message, “R U HARDY?”
c) The Catholic Church, for giving you the how-to manual.
5) As Speaker of the House, you find out one of your party members is getting hot and heavy with an underage page...and do nothing until the media finds out years later.
Who is to blame?
a) The media, for always trying to find things out that should be handled privately and after general elections.
b) The gays, for pretending to hate the poor, minorities, Muslims, women, and other gays so they could sneak in as Republicans and schtup the party from inside.
c) Democrats, for saying it’s legal for two consensual adults to have an affair, but not a man and a boy, even though NAMBLA are Nancy Pelosi’s constituents and that means she supports man-on-boy relationships. Talk about a bait and switch!
6) You ignore warnings about an impending terrorist attack until after the terrorists attack.
Who is to blame?
a) The terrorists, for not being more specific about when and how they would attack.
b) Brush, for always growing and needing to be cleared right before terrorists love to launch major operations.
c) The Pet Goat, for being so darn interesting that you couldn’t put it down no matter what.
7) On a hunting trip, you shoot an old man in the face.
Who is to blame?
a) The senile old fool, for not watching where he was going, duh!
b) The Matrix, for making you think that people could dodge bullets if they really try.
c) Your freshman English teacher, for brainwashing you into thinking hunting men was dangerous and exciting.
8) You launch a major invasion of a country because you suspect it of having weapons of mass destruction, only to find only a few old, outdated shells.
Who is to blame?
a) The weapons, for not being more massive or destructive.
b) The CIA, for not planting newer weapons like they were supposed to.
c) The U.N. weapons inspectors, for not acting more competent so that we would believe them when they said there were no weapons.
9) You try to sell the idea of the invasion by saying our troops will be greeted as liberators. They are instead greeted as invaders.
Who do you blame?
a) The country’s citizens, for mistaking 200,000 heavily armed troops and a major air campaign as an “invasion.”
b) Our country's liberals, for making the same mistake.
c) The media, for failing to capitalize the “l” in “Liberators,” which would have preserved the original meaning that our troops would be greeted as heavy-duty bombers.
10) You and your party just got swept out of office.
Who is to blame?
a) The media, for exercising freedom of the press.
b) The Democrats, for hating freedom.
c) Democracy, for getting in the way of your freedom to do what you want.
You’ve done a heck of a job...of convincing us you're responsible. Your efforts to shift blame are as obvious as the sag in your seat, which will weigh down your chances of keeping your seat.
You’ve cleaned up nicely, but with a little digging, we can still see some remnants of the blame game. Don’t forget to bleach thoroughly with a snow job.
Not only are you clean as a whistle, you’ve managed to fling your feces at others and make it stick. Say, are you free around November 2008?
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
9) Not knowing what we did last summer. Seriously, what happened, and why is it all scabby?
8) Being locked inside our house on Halloween and forced to pray with our born-again parents.
7) Terrorists could attack our ports with massive all-in bets.
6) Guy at the gym who transforms into a werewolf when he takes off his shirt.
5) The man-eating ogre that lives in the Washington swamp.
4) The recurring dream where we're trapped in a maze with no way out and surrounded by monsters who keep coming no matter how much we shoot and then waking up in time to go on patrol in Baghdad.
3) The Korean version of “99 Luftballoons.”
2) The IMs we’re getting from the Congressman are coming from inside the House!
Monday, October 23, 2006
"I laughed, I cried, I got my brains blown out!"
There are so many brains splattered in this movie, even zombies would say, "no thanks, I'm all full." You know it's bad when, during the climax of the film, people are laughing at the excessive head shots.
All in all, a very good movie that could have been great had it used its last red herring to cut down the largest tree in the forest instead of slapping me in the face with it. I don't want to give anything away but I felt a bit cheated at the end.
One fun note: some idiotic parent who clearly possessed no brains brought her toddler to the movie. I was sitting on the aisle when she brought the kid in, and I heard the slow Doppler effect of "what the fuck?" from other moviegoers behind me as she walked past. For good forming-language-skills measure, Nicholson drops the N-word about 15 seconds into the movie and there's carpet f-bombing all over the place. Thankfully, the 417th bullet to the head caused mom to come to her senses and take the kid outside.
Anyway, this seemed like a good idea to recycle my Manifesto on the Criminality of Bringing Small Children to Movies Where They Do not Belong nor Are Wanted.
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
9) Took too long to cover our tracks before the race.
8) Got slowed down carrying huge bags of coins through Ohio.
7) Failed to evolve our gameplan against scientific evidence.
6) Burned out our clutch hitting due to a faulty A-Rod.
5) Chased the wrong nut in the Axis of Evil shell game.
4) Lost our balance while taunting the guys behind us about our fairness.
3) Gambled with our moral authority and got called by a pair of middle fingers.
2) Slipped on some macaca while running.
1) Looked down and saw we were wearing Arizona Cardinals jerseys.
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
While you're over there, I recommend checking out his other tunes, especially "Valentine's Day" and "My Satanic Friends." He's a terrific songwriter who combines great pop/folk melodies with very clever lyrics. If you like what you hear, hop over to Bob's home page where you can buy his CDs. I am particularly partial to Welcome to My Century, which is just a stellar collection of catchy, witty tunes.
A quick story tangentially related to Bob: When The Lovely Becky and I attended the lovely wedding of Bob and the lovely SER, they had karaoke at the party the night before the wedding. TLB, who is a huge Aimee Mann fan, wanted to do a duet of Til Tuesday's "Voices Carry." My wife can actually sing. I actually cannot. But we had a routine for this song where she would sing most of the song and I would play the part of the psychotic boyfriend. We thought this would be an entertaining change of pace from the other karaoke performances.
The song began, and Becky started singing very well. I stood very still until the chorus, when I grabbed the mic and screamed "HUSH HUSH! KEEP IT DOWN NOW! VOICES CARRY!"
This boomed out of the sound system. Prior to our act, many of the folks singing had not been singing very loudly, so the karaoke DJ had turned up the mic. As soon as I started screaming, I saw him lunge for the volume control.
We kept up the call-and-excessive-response rhythm for the whole song, until we got to the last part before it faded out:
TLB: He said...
Me: SHUT UP!
TLB: He said...
Me: SHUT UP!
Together: Oh God can't you, keep it down...VOICES CARRY!
I really don't know how much of the room was with us. I do know that the table full of our Writer's Workshop friends and associates were laughing pretty hard. Probably at me more than with, but since I am a chuckle whore, I take them any way I can get them.
Shortly after we finished, I found Bob. Bob gave me a look that I call the "there he goes again," a slight head shake and eye roll he uses whenever I make a particularly bad joke or blatant attempt to do my "act."
"What did you think?" I asked him.
He paused for a moment before replying, "That was surprisingly aggressive."
That was good enough for me.
Back tomorrow with the Top Ten Tuesday I should have written today.
This may not seem like a big deal to those of you with local populations in the six figures, but here in the IC, celebrity* sightings are rare. They tend to happen only if Ashton Kutcher is home to buy a new trucker hat or Tom Arnold is opening another loose meat restuarant.
I wanted to say something to JK but couldn't think of anything. I thought about saying, "Wish you had won," but thought that might make him think, "Thanks for reminding me I couldn't beat a talking chimp, buttmunch."
*There are famous writers in town all the time, but I'm referring to actual celebrities. You know, people in Us magazine.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
Walking from the stage toward the press area, McCain asked, "Do you remember that little thing we had about 50 years ago called the Korean conflict? And how we failed to achieve victory?"
As McCain approached Charles Babington, the Washington Post reporter who had posed the question, Babington asked, "What does that have to do with the Bush administration's handling of North Korea for the past five years?"
"Imagine how things would have been different today if we had crossed the thirty-eighth parallel," McCain said, his voice shifting into a rising shout, "and pushed those rice eaters back to the Great Wall of China!"
He picked up one of the reporters' chairs and ripped it apart, his voice rising to a thunderous scream as he continued, "Then take the fucking wall apart brick by brick and nuke them back to the fucking Stone Age forever? Wouldn't that have prevented this week's tests? So why didn't we do it when we had the chance? Why? Say it! Say it!"
Babington, recoiling, yelled, "I don’t know!"
McCain answered, his face inches from Babington's, "Because Truman was too much of a pussy to let MacArthur go in there and blow those Commie bastards out! Oh! Oooohhhhh!"
In mid-scream, the senator stopped and stood up sharply, whispering, "Oh." He ran back up the stage and disappeared. After a few moments of confusion, a spokesperson for McCain said the press conference was over.
An anonymous source later revealed that the exertion had caused the 70-year-old senator to soil his Depends undergarments. McCain's office did not return calls on the matter.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
8) See, it’s complicated.
7) We invaded a country that didn’t have nukes to send a message to countries that did.
5) Because we don’t negotiate with negotiators.
4) So now, we’re, um...
3) Trying to negotiate.
2) Because we don’t have any more, uh, troops to send...
1) Um...it’s all Clinton’s fault?
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
Frist: Taliban Should Be in Afghan Government
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist said Monday that the Afghan war against Taliban guerrillas can never be won militarily and urged support for efforts to bring "people who call themselves Taliban" and their allies into the government.So a major Republican politician and potential 2008 presidential candidate calls for smoking a peace pipe with the people who harbored the terrorists that attacked the United States.
The Tennessee Republican said he learned from briefings that Taliban fighters were too numerous and had too much popular support to be defeated on the battlefield.
The irony drips thicker than in an Alanis Morissette song. The decision to attack the Taliban was, for nearly everyone in America, a very black-and-white issue, so clear cut, it was almost cinematic in its starkness. Which got me thinking about what some famous movies would be like if they starred Bill Frist...
Darth Vader confronts Princess Frist.
I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you!
They’re in R2D2! (points to droid)
Minutes later, the ship is destroyed.
I will offer you lands in Scotland and Wales for your fealty. What say you?
Sir William Frist looks over the enormous English army.
SIR WILLIAM FRIST
Deal. Say, do you have something by a loch?
Dr. William Frist puts his arm around the terrified Laurie.
Laurie, I’m not offering you as a sacrifice, I’m just saying that maybe he’ll stop killing everyone if you just go out on a date with him. Trust me, I've looked into his eyeholes, and he is no killer.
Saving Private Ryan
The front of the landing craft splashes down. Gunfire erupts as the men charge out. All the occupants of the boat fall, except for Private Frist.
PRIVATE FRIST (looking up at German gun placements, makes Curly Howard noise)
He turns and runs into the sea.
Colonel William Frist, on horseback in front of the 54th Massachusetts regiment, looks through the telescope at the formidable fortifications of Fort Wagner.
Men, it is my professional observation that our only option is to return you to slavery. After all, you get three hots and cot, how bad could it be? Major Lott, prepare to surrender.
Morpheus sits in a chair talking with Frist.
This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill—
Frist grabs the blue pill and swallows it.
Sleepless in Seattle
Bill Frist, holding a letter from Annie, talks with his son Jonah.
You know, Jonah, New York's such a long ways away, and it's full of criminals, and I don't even know this woman, she might be one of those transsexuals...I think I'm just going to stay here and masturbate.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time!
Right, come along, Patsy! (rides away)
The train arrives in town. Frank Miller steps off and joins his gang of thugs. They stand ready, looking around the train station. Miller checks his watch. A close up of the hands shows noon. The watch hands spin to 5:00 p.m. Miller and his gang are still at the same spot.
Guess Marshal Frist’s not coming. So, uh...rape and loot, then a bite to eat?
The men all nod and murmur agreements and they head into town.
Regan’s head spins around in a 360 degree circle before she throws up on Father Frist.
FATHER FRIST (wiping face as he packs up Bible and starts to leave)
You know, she’ll probably grow out of it. If she’s still masturbating with crucifixes in six months, call me.
Game over, man, game over!
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
12) Crashing the party of family values, having sex in the closest, and then throwing up on the host.
11) Auditioning for a part on Lost.
10) Making new MySpace friends.
9) Making new TV show about MySpace friends.
8) Threatening to kill ourselves because, even though we make $25 million catching footballs, no one will throw us a hug.
7) Putting $1000 on the Cubs to win it all next year (again).
6) Drawing little hearts with “G.W.B. + C.R.” in the margins of CIA terror briefing.
5) Accepting chat-room invitation to meet an underage girl who calls herself D8Lyin’.
4) Saying we approve of the job Bush is doing.
3) Getting our bills mixed up by making waterboarding legal and royal flushes illegal.
2) Hosting The O'Reilly Factor.
1) Providing a convenient excuse for the kinds of behaviors we’d engage in even if we were sober.
Monday, October 02, 2006
Inside the Oval Office, the President's cabinet sat around a large map of Iraq. A PowerPoint presentation projected a slide that simply read, "Iraq Post-Invasion Scenarios and Challenges."
Secretary of State Colin Powell had just finished going through the PowerPoint, explaining all of the difficulties that the United States expeceted to face. "Mr. President, those are the top 100 issues we expect to face after the invasion of Iraq," he said, "Given all of these scenarios, I think that the number of troops we will need will be approximately 350 to 450 thousand."
Bush tapped his fingers thoughtfully. He stood up and approached a white dry-erase board. Grabbing a marker, he began drawing a stick figure with an exaggerated head.
"Colin, here's how I see it," Bush said. "Iraq is like this figure. Saddam is like this head. If you cut the head off... "
Bush grabbed the eraser and rubbed the board. The head would not come off.
Vice President Cheney leaned toward him and whispered, "Sir, you used the permanent marker."
The president sniffed the marker. "'Course I did," he said hastily. "I meant to do that," he added in a Pee Wee Hermanish voice.
Instead of erasing, he drew a large "X" through the head, then an arrow showing it falling off the body. "Anyway, as I was saying, if you cut the head off, the body's no good. Can't really do much without a head, can you?" He let out a series of heh heh hehs. "Plus, when you cut the head off..."
The president drew lines spurting out from the neck, making a pshoo pshoo noise as he did so. "Democracy will just come gushing out. So why would we need 400,000 troops just to make democracy spurt out of Iraq's neck?"
Cheney stood up and let out a loud "Harrumph!" The other cabinet members, following his lead, also let out their harrumphs, except for Powell.
Bush pointed to Powell. "I didn't get a harrumph out of that guy!"
Cheney growled, "Give the president a harrumph."
Instead, Powell sighed and rubbed his eyes. "Mr. President, with all due respect, do you have any experience planning a major military invasion, occupation, and nationbuilding?"
Bush paused as the room fell quiet. "No. But I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night."
The cabinet exploded in laughter. Bush, looking at his cabinent for a moment, also started to laugh. After a few minutes, he asked, "What's so funny? I really did come up with this at the Holiday Inn Express."
Anyway, SL generously dropped off some treats, which we much appreciated, and I was very glad to finally make her acquaintence.
Her visit also reminded me of a funny post, especially in light of our recent difficulties, about her daughter's birthday party. As all the cool, popular bloggers say, just go read it.
Saturday, September 30, 2006
We will be returning to our regularly scheduled satire soon.
Friday, September 29, 2006
I use jokes to deflect further Questions About Kids (QAK). Because in our case, the QAK is not a happy tale. It’s a long, sad, frustrating story. And today, after our last-second buzzer beater seemed improbably headed toward the hoop, we watched the last ball swirl in and out of the basket. It appears we will not be having kids of our own.
We started about nine years ago. We left our swinging (in the figurative sense) New York lifestyle to return to the Chicago area, primarily to start a family. New York was amazing and, despite our impoverished time there, it treated us well. But as a couple of suburban Chicago kids, we doubted our ability to raise kids in the Big Apple (worrying that ours would turn out like Harmony Korine’s very unharmonious Kids). Plus, with so much family around Chicago, we’d have instant babysitting. We packed, we moved, and we were ready to start begetting.
My Catholic education led me to believe that getting pregnant was very, very easy, so easy that if my thingy was even in the same zip code as her whatsit, I’d have a you-know-what on my hands. So I was surprised when our initial trips to the orchard didn’t bear any fruit.
We entered the first phase of infertility, the Planned Interlude, or Reverse Rhythm Method. There are measurements taken, charts consulted, briefs discarded, boxers purchased, and readings analyzed. You enter a realm where the need to have sex right fucking now is greater than any 15-year-old boy could ever imagine. Even if I was in the middle of scarfing some mac and cheese during the Bears game, the minute I saw three lanterns in the tower, I dropped what I was doing and rushed in to announce that the British were indeed coming (and going and going and coming and always too soon!).
That phase lasted for about a year and half with nary second blue line in sight. We reached the point where we had to Diagnose the Problem.
That meant diagnosing me first, because all the man has to do is an activity he’s been doing since he first noticed Mary Jane was cootie free. At the hospital, I was handed a cup by a small, goateed Russian Doctor, who seemed slightly too eager to examine my sample. He ushered me into a small white room which had a black faux leather chair, a TV/VCR unit, one adult video, and a few periodicals of varying degrees of smutitude. “Take as much time as you need,” the Russian Doctor told me, “and try not to spill any.”
My lab results delivered one of the first of many shocks and disappointments. I had azoospermia—a complete lack of troops to launch an invasion. The thought of being infertile hadn’t even crossed my mind. I figured my boys were just like me, lazy and not very good swimmers. This was much more serious.
All hope was not lost. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, the doctors could go in and search for any isolated swimmers doing the male reproductive version of Castaway. If they found any takers, they could inject them right into an egg and get things going through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). In order to find this out, they would have to break into my vault and take a long, hard look at the family jewels. Thank God for anesthetic.
When I came to in the recovery room, TLB was standing beside me. I muttered a groggy hello. She looked sad, and I asked how it went. Surprised, she asked if I remembered talking to the doctor. Apparently he and I had an involved chat where we discussed the results of my testicular foray.
“No,” I said.
“They didn’t find anything,” TLB said. “You don’t have any sperm.”
The diagnosis was Sertoli-cell only syndrome, kind of the straight flush of male infertility. I had no ability to make sperm. This condition isn’t always hopeless, but according to the doctor, they searched for a long time and found nothing to work with.
The news took a long time to sink in. I remember being disappointed but also matter-of-fact about it. Okay, Monty, I’ll take what’s in the box—is it a sperm donor? While I thought, pre-biopsy, that I’d be fine, I still had considered the possibility of infertility and had made up my mind to green light a donor. The real disappointment was more of a slow burn, one of those things that hangs around like fog that won’t melt away. It was sad, but at the same time, I figured if this was the cross I had to carry, it wasn’t as bad as what many people had to bear. TLB and I would have our kids, we’d just have them a little differently.
We shopped around for a donor. This was definitely the most entertaining part of the whole infertility treatment. We logged on to sperm bank Web sites and read profiles of potential pops. We read medical histories, educational backgrounds, physical descriptions, and in some cases could even hear voice samples. We’d play Gay or Straight? as we reviewed our potential donors (loves travel, good food, and musical theater...helllooo!). I joked with TLB that I knew more about these guys than I knew about myself.
We settled on a man of Swedish background, whom I called “The Swede Seed.” By this time, we were in Iowa, so we headed to the UI Hospital for an Inter-Uterine Injection (IUI) — AKA the turkey baster. We went to a hospital room, and a nurse injected our future Big Daddy into my wife. Then, in a fit of jealous rage, I beat the shit out of the catheter.
The first try worked.
We couldn’t believe our luck. Yes, we’d had a bumpy road, and my condition sucked, but we were going to have a baby and at this point, I didn’t care how. Everything was great, and we waltzed into our first ultrasound ready to see the little chef. I imagined baby's first words would be bort-bort-bort.
The nurse fiddled around with the ultrasound and found him or her. We could see the embryo. It was beautiful. It didn’t last long. Almost immediately, the nurse told us the heartbeat and size were low. The pregnancy was likely to end. A couple weeks later, it did.
What the fuck? I asked the cosmos. Why? I could accept my lot in life, but why put TLB through this? What had we done?
After we went through the wailing and gnashing of teeth, we settled down. So the first didn’t take. That was common. At least it had worked. We tried again. And again. And again. We used up all the Swede Seed, and got not so much as a blue line. We made a call to the bullpen for a fresh, er, arm. That didn’t help. Years went by, and we eventually went through 15 IUIs. It was time for an IVF.
The IVF is the fertility cocktail. The mixing is done outside, stirred and not shaken, and then placed back. With IVF, you get actual pictures of the blastocysts, which would allow us to have the earliest baby pictures ever of our future children.
I was lucky that my insurance would pay for four procedures. IVFs run about $15,000, and while you can’t put a price on having kids, you can put a price on bankruptcy. The good news: IVF has a much higher success rate than IUI. Certainly after one or two, we’d be in business.
The game was different but the results the same. Our first attempt went bust. We tried a second attempt. It, too, went bust. Getting a little nervous, we tried a third attempt. That burned down, fell over, sank into the swamp, and then went bust. We were down to the last one insurance would pay for.
And it worked.
A couple weeks ago, TLB got a faint positive on her home test. Then she tested positive at the hospital. Her betas more than doubled. Even when she had some spotting and went in for a panicked test this past Monday, her beta levels were great. We were scheduled to go in for our first ultrasound in five years on Friday. We kept using the phrase cautiously optimistic, because we both remembered all too well what happened last time. But fuck it, I knew this was it. Of course it would be a dramatic Tin Cup kind of moment, where we hit a dozen balls before the last one in our bag goes in. After all, we’re writers, it’s what we would have come up with!
Alas, it was not to be. TLB started bleeding today, enough that we know what tomorrow’s news will be. We couldn't even make it to the fucking ultrasound without disappointment.
I feel terrible for my wife. I’ve had six years to get used to the idea that the children I have will not be mine biologically. As depressing as that is, I’ve made my peace with it. At least she could have a baby and we could share that experience.
Now, though, she has to deal with that, because it looks like another IVF will not be in the cards. We still have options: embryo adoption, which is more affordable and still lets us go through the process of having a baby. Regular adoption, which while expensive, is more or less guaranteed to produce a child. Either way, we’ll have our kids, and we’ll be happy. I know that.
I just wish, for once, that the nuns at school had been right, that it had been as easy as they said it would be.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
11) Classified President’s Daily Brief entitled, “Shit Determined to Strike Fan”
10) Original Star Wars movies that haven’t been fucked with by the guy who thought Jar-Jar was a good idea.
9) Paris Hilton’s health records (please hurry, it really burns!)
8) Spine of Democrats.
7) Government geophysical survey revealing increase in global warming caused by Bush’s excessive flatulence.
6) Genitals (guys in raincoats only).
5) Bloopers and outtakes from Abu Ghraib (with narration by Dick Cheney)
4) K-Fed (into space).
3) George Allen’s novel manuscript, The Bigot’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing.
2) The Tribulation (Christians only).
1) Common sense.
Friday, September 22, 2006
Stinky is the opposite. He's the feline version of Murdock from The A-Team -- crazy but charismatic, always getting himself into scrapes without ever getting scraped up. He doesn't worry about anything except getting yelled at when he's on the goddamned dining room table again. His baptismal name is Bugsy, and he was called that because he loved to chase bugs or any spec of material that resembled bugs. That says everything you need to know about him.
Stinky entered our marriage in 1996. We were living in Brooklyn (New York, not Iowa) and had just moved into a two-bedroom place that gave us the most precious commodity in NYC: space. I told TLB after we moved that she could get another kitty since we had a second bedroom.
At the same time, I had my mind on a pet of my own. It was gray and plastic and played all kinds of cool games. It didn't barf or poop in a box or scratch the furniture. TLB, however, was reluctant to bring it into our house for fear I would love it too much.
One day, while I was at work on a Saturday, TLB called me. I don't remember the exact conversation but it went something like this:
I know I give off the cool, manly, stoic exterior of a Delta Force commando, but deep down inside, I am a softie. I was moved by my lovely wife's desire for another animal that would enjoy leaping on my crotch while I slept at night. I was about to say yes, when a little voice went off in my head: quid pro quo, Clarise.
"If I say yes, can I get a PlayStation?"
Check and mate. She got Stinky, and I got a tool that began my long, slow road toward not finishing a novel.
Flash forward to the present. TLB and her sister were at the mall and saw a cat at the pet store, a cat who was also a rescue. History repeated itself. Again, I was moved. Initially, there was quid pro quo. But I realized, this is the woman who puts up with my jokes, my neuroses, and who gave me my Holy Grail after she sold her novel. She deserved another kitty. So we brought home Jonesy. Currently he has only two settings:
Now we just need to get Bubba and Stinky to stop doing their Heathers routine with him.
I have talked about this for years. I really hate Mickey D's food, but I am a Sausage McMuffin Gimp, powerless to disobey my eggy, porky master. The idea that I could stroll into a Golden Arches and get a McMuffin with a McGriddle chaser at 11 p.m. makes me warm and fuzzy inside.
Would you like a side of pancakes with that burger? Could be an option, some day. McDonald's has an eye on selling the likes of Egg McMuffins and McGriddle pancake-flavored sandwiches morning to night.
Now it really may happen...and I'm scared to death that I'll be dead of heart disease by the time I'm 40. It reminds me of this classic example of getting what you wish for:
GEORGE: So what happened?On a side note, TLB and I saw this report while watching the Today show. At the end of this electrifying news, they ended the segment by mentioning that it may be two years before this happens.
JERRY: She's into it.
JERRY: The ménage. And not only that. She just called me and
said she talked to the roommate and the roomate's into the ménage too.
GEORGE: That's unbelievable.
JERRY: Oh, it's a scene, man.
GEORGE: Do you ever just get down on your knees and thank God that you know me and have access to my dementia?
JERRY: What are you talking about? I'm not going to do it.
GEORGE: You're not goin to do it? What do you mean, You're not going to do it?
JERRY: I can't. I'm not an orgy guy.
GEORGE: Are you crazy? This is like discovering Plutonium ... by accident.
JERRY: Don't you know what it means to become an orgy guy? It changes everything. I'd have to dress different. I'd have to act different. I'd have to grow a mustache and get all kinds of robes and lotions and I'd need a new bedspread and new curtains I'd have to get thick carpeting and weirdo lighting. I'd have to get new friends. I'd have to get orgy friends...Naw, I'm not ready for it.
Me: Two years? (transforming into Lewis Black) What the...why the...why are they telling us this now?! Why?! Why on earth would they fucking tease me like that?!!
TLB: I know, what a joke.
Me: I'm going to go to one of their counters and start playing with myself for two years until they serve me breakfast.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
9) Replaced Joementum with less electorally-efficient Blowmentum.
8) Got photographed reading The Origin of Species while on campaign stop in Kansas.
7) Remarked that inflation had hurt purchasing power of illegal campaign contributions.
6) Failed to convince voters that alleged infidelity was simply a case of slipping on a banana peel and falling penis-first into intern.
5) Tried to reach out to Hispanics with “Vote for me and receive a free trip to Mexico” platform.
4) Offered to compromise on detainee rights by allowing them to be tortured 3/5 of the time.
3) Attended ethnic voter rally in white sheet and hood.
2) Lost key soccer mom and gay votes after coming up short in Playgirl campaign pictorial.
1) Ran while wearing a very large lame duck around neck.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
A CJSD Special Report
The common belief of Christianity is that Jesus Christ rejected worldly possessions and eschewed wealth. After all, Christ warned that it would be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven.
But, as other media sources have recently reported, a growing number of American Christian leaders say that just isn’t true, and that while Christians do need to take up their crosses, there is no reason those crosses cannot be made of gold.
Reverend Austin Tayshus, chairman and CEO of In the Black Ministries and author of the runaway bestseller, The Devil Bears Nada: How to Get More R-O-I Out of G-O-D, claims that God is neither the angry, vengeful God of Evangelical preachers nor the benevolent watchmaker of the deist Founding Fathers. Instead, he is rather like an omnipotent hedge fund manager.
“Look at the world around us,” says Tayshus as he drives his golden Hosea Hummer, a custom-built SUV complete with holy water wiper fluid and rear seat kneelers. “What do you notice? Diversification. God didn’t put all his eggs in one basket. He spread life around, building on each investment over seven days, until man emerged to offer the best returns. That’s the exact advice I offer my clients...I mean flock.
“Plus, think about it: who are His chosen people?” Tayshus asks. “People who can be trusted with money.”
Reverend Tayshus is not alone. Other ministries—such as Wealth Is God’s Welfare International, The Church of the Heavenly Interest, and the Catholic 401 Kyrie Club—preach a gospel where the greatest command is to treat one’s brother as you would treat yourself.
The “Gospel of Wealth” movement, as it is called, received a tremendous infusion of intellectual capital with the remarkable discovery of the Spread Sheet Scrolls. Unearthed from an ancient board room, these works offer a rare look into the financial dealings of early Christians, and expand on many of Christ’s teachings about wealth. For instance, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells one young man, “Sell what you have and give it to the poor.” The traditional Gospel says that the man goes away disappointed because he has many possessions. But the Spread Sheet Scrolls continue the story:
“Some weeks later, the young man returned to Jesus. ‘Master, master, you were so right,’ the young man exclaimed. ‘By giving away my possessions, I was able to take so many tax write-offs, I made more money than earned last year! Now I have enough to buy that new chariot I have had my eye upon.’
The Spread Sheet Scrolls also offer the controversial Ninth Beatitude from Jesus, stricken from earlier editions of The New Testament: “Blessed are the rich, beyotch!”
Other texts show early Christians carrying out incredible acts of frugality. Archeologists recently uncovered two sequels to “The Acts of the Apostles”: “More Acts of the Apostles,” and “Even More Acts of the Apostles.”
“What we’re learning is that original Acts was just volume one of a three-volume system,” says Professor Mercedes Beamer, a Biblical and international finance scholar at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “In volume one, we see the apostles taking Jesus’s message to the unconverted. It talks about giving things to the needy. The last two volumes then show what the needy should be doing with those donations—sheltering them from Caesar’s renderings, purchasing real estate built on solid rock instead of sand, investing in commodities like fatted calves and mustard seeds. Really, it’s a system for putting God’s word to work for us.”
But the latest scriptural discovery that Gospel of Wealth advocates cite the most is a newly discovered epistle, “Paul’s First Letter to the Shareholders”:
My Dear Brothers and Their Profit-Sharing Administrative Assistants in Christ,
The day of accounting is near! Woe to those with unbillable expenses, for they shall be awash in the red ink of Satan. Beware those who submerge their debt and inflate their profits, for the Holy Spirit shall conduct an audit. But for those who follow the Lord, they shall be paid a hefty dividend. Now is not the time to merely hold your faith, my brothers and assistants, for Christianity is increasing in productivity and poised to outperform all expectations. So I say unto you, buy, buy, buy!
“The beauty of these discoveries, of God’s desire for us to have wealth,” says Reverend Tayshus, “is that God doesn’t care whether you’re white or black, male or female, Protestant or Catholic. He just wants you to be solvent.”
Such a radical reinterpretation of the Bible has some Christians up in arms. “This whole idea that God doesn’t care who you are as long as you’re wealthy can be summed up in one word: hogwash,” says Rick Warren, pastor and author of The Purpose-Driven Life. “Wealth is not nearly as important as being white, male, and Protestant. And I should know, because that message has resonated with the millions upon millions of people who have bought my book.”
But in the end, proponents of the Gospel of Wealth see no contradictions. “Look at the life of Jesus,” says Pastor Richard Pfund, host of the popular religioeconomic television program Hour of Powerful Finances. “He starts out getting gold, frankincense, and myrrh. He goes to work at an early age preaching in the temple. He insists on drinking wine instead of water at parties. He shows tax collectors the errors of their ways. And he has a group of twelve vice presidents, if you will.
“Let's face it: Jesus is our CEO, and if we don't imitate him, he's going to give us our pink slips.”