Saturday, July 29, 2006


I'm off to the beaches of North Carolina for the annual Beach Week With TLB's family. We drink beer, grill fish, drink more beer, try and teach people to play Texas Hold 'Em, scour the local sports section to see which Bears are already out for the season, and read a lot of books. And drink beer.

I have my notebook and some sketch ideas, so I shall return ready to dispense teh funny -- assuming the world doesn't end.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


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A MALE and FEMALE FURRY, dressed in chipmunk costumes.

Chipmunks are supposed to be adorable, right? But every time I got out the suit, women would fun screaming from the bedroom...

FEMALE FURRY (hugging him and talking baby talk)
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Two men in very conservative suits with their faces blurred.

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Nightmare on Church Street

Every summer, dozens of hatching Hemingways and budding Brontës come to the Iowa Young Writers’ Studio to learn how much they have to learn about writing. It’s a two-week camp that’s like Meatballs if it had been directed by Todd Solondz.

The Thursday night before the last day of classes, the counselors take the kids to Oakland Cemetery on Church Street, home of Iowa City’s Black Angel.

For those of you who have been to Iowa, you have probably noticed that it is neither a) very black, or b) very creepy. The Black Angel is both. It’s a dark, nine-foot statue of an angel looking down on a grave. It is supposedly cursed—pregnant women will miscarry if they walk under it; lovers will die in six months if they kiss under it during a full moon; and if place your novel next to it, Michiko Kakutani will rip it to shreds in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

The Lovely Becky was teaching at the Studio, and she and our lovely counselor friends and the Studio director, Mr. Lovely, all conspired to bring the children to this cursed spot. TLB asked me to partake in the fun of scaring the kids a bit. The Official Scaring is a two-part process:

1) The children, being all jaded from the videogames and the Scream movies and the rap music, expect the teachers and counselors to try and scare them. So the teachers and counselors prepare The Expected Scare—something a bit cheesy and fun that’s more Sam Raimi than George Romero.

2) After The Expected Scare, the kids are free to wander around Oakland Cemetery, which is pretty large and creepy. Here lies The Unexpected Scare—a second group of actors really try and freak the kids out. For instance, last year someone came out of the bushes and chased the kids with hedge clippers. This scared the insurers of the university, so the counselors had to come up with something else. During the first Studio session this summer, one of our friends, Brad, dressed up like a homeless man and tried to get in a fight with one of the counselors. This actually got the kids pretty nervous.

Brad planned to reprise his role, but the counselors wanted to up the ante. Enter yours truly. TLB asked me to join in—especially since the kids wouldn’t recognize me—and our friends/counselors Vinnie and Kate came up with the idea: I would be a deranged farmer, wandering the cemetery looking for my wife.

We went to the Wardrobe Department. I abstained from shaving for three days (which, with my Slavic genes, is sufficiently scary itself). I grabbed my beat-up black boots, my rattiest jeans, a white T-shirt I use as a shoe polish rag, and my faded Mizzou baseball cap. We ripped up the shirt and rubbed dirt all over the hat, shirt, pants, and my face.

The pièce de résistance was the shovel. I took our garden spade and dragged it, point down, behind me. Utilizing the shambling gate of the undead I know so well from playing Resident Evil, I slowly marched around the backyard. “Perfect,” TLB said.

Of course, any good act requires dialog, and I had few lines to repeat. Keeping my voice low, almost a whisper, I said over and over again:

Have you seen my wife? We’re supposed to be together. She said she would meet me here. I’m looking for her. Have you seen my wife...?

We arrived at Oakland Cemetery at 9:00 p.m. The cemetery was technically closed, but easily accessible after hours. I just hoped no one would call the authorities about a strange, dirty man wandering the grounds with a shovel. Honest, officer, I’m not here to rob graves, I’m waiting for some underaged girls and boys.

After reviewing the battle plan, The Expected Scarers (including TLB) assumed positions behind some nearby trees and headstones. They had wore black, had masks, and also had a small violin and autoharp to make some eerie music.

The three Unexpected Scarers scattered through the cemetery. Brad was back as the homeless guy. Another guy, Mark, was a cross between us: he had the homeless outfit, but also carried a shovel. My trusty shovel and I camped out behind a mausoleum about 30 yards from the Black Angel.

Just after dark, the other counselors brought the kids to the Angel. There was some poetry reading and picture taking for about 10 minutes, while the Expected Scarers moved in. I could see TLB’s silhouette creeping from grave to grave, and then heard the tinkling notes of the violin and autoharp. The kids, expecting this, had a good laugh. After some clowning around from the Expected Scarers, the students gathered for the stroll through the cemetery. I grabbed the shovel, took a breath, and started shambling and muttering.

I followed a meandering pattern through the graves, repeating my lines: Have you seen my wife? We’re supposed to be together. She said she would meet me here. After a couple of minutes, I could see some kids approaching out of the corner of my eye. “Who is that guy?” I heard one say. A few girls came within about 20 feet of me, not necessarily scared, but not sure what was up. I worried that I wouldn’t be scary enough.

TLB came over and grabbed the girls by the arms. “Come on, don’t go near him,” she said, sounding convincingly nervous. A brilliant bit of acting by the missus. The girls hurried away.

I followed them for a bit. When I reached one of the paved walkways of the cemetery, I dragged the shovel across it. The ringing, grating noise echoed through the cemetery, and I saw all the kids turn to look. A few approached, and some laughed, but no one got near me. Mr. Lovely walked over and told me I needed to leave the students alone. I kept repeating my lines and walking, ignoring him. He grabbed me, and I started shouting: NO! I’M LOOKING FOR MY WIFE! SHE SAID SHE WOULD BE HERE!

He let go and I continued meandering and went back to whispering. I would cross the walkways and let the shovel scrape against the pavement, and the noise seemed to be doing a good job of getting the kids riled up.

After some traipsing around the cemetery, the counselors gathered the students so they could return to the dorm. I changed course and headed for the whole group. When I got within 10 feet or so, I looked at one of the girls and raised my non-shovel arm. You, I said, trying my best creepy face, It’s you. You are here. Come with me.

She hustled away, and my friend Vinnie blocked my way. When he touched me, I started shouting again: THAT’S HER! LET ME GO! THAT’S HER! WE’RE SUPPOSED TO BE TOGETHER!!! All the kids started walking away from me, looking over their shoulders.

As they left, I started following them out of the cemetery, staying just far enough away so they could see me. I kept drifting onto the walkway to let the shovel scrape for a few seconds, which triggered some swiveled heads and hurried steps. When I reached the edge of the cemetery, I stopped as if I couldn’t go further, standing and staring at the kids as they walked away.

Once they were gone, I doubled back met the other conspirators. Brad and Mark had not had as much luck as I had, especially since a couple kids had recognized Mark. “I think I scared them a little,” I said. “But I’m not sure.”

I waited for TLB to come back to the rendezvous point. When she arrived, she said, “You scared the crap out of those kids. One of the girls started crying.”

“Really?” I said. While I was proud of my effectiveness, I felt bad.

“Yeah, I was going to come back and tell you to quit with the shovel dragging,” she said. She smiled, “You really freaked them out.”

The next day, there was much buzz about the Shovel Guy (as I became known). Some claimed I was 6’4”, 250 lbs (off by four inches and a few dumbbells). Others thought it was an act. Others thought I might have been a bona fide weirdo.

The last night of the Studio, there is a talent show where the kids all gather and perform skits, read high school poetry, sing, etc. At one point, the Black Angel gang all come to the show, in costume and character, to reveal their identities on the stage.

During the talent show that Friday, I appeared in the back of the room, dragging my shovel and repeating my lines. The kids were now not nervous, but still curious. I marched toward the stage, up the steps, and stopped. Finally, TLB, also onstage and in costume, came over and planted a kiss on my stubbly lips. The spell was broken.

After the show, as TLB and I walked to our car, we saw some Studio students sitting outside across the street. I turned the shovel and dragged it across the road for a second. Their heads snapped toward the sound. We smiled. “You’re an asshole,” one of the boys said. Although he was kidding, I could hear an undercurrent of uneasiness in his voice.

Mission accomplished.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Top Ten Tuesdays: What are we doing during the blackouts?

Special extended outage edition!

15) Stealing items that require electricity.

14) Playing “let’s pretend we’re in Lebanon” with the kids.

13) Getting out the candles and back issues of Penthouse.

12) Continuing to be Amish.

11) Going to garage to sleep in running car so we’ll have AC.

10) Knocking back 40s until we black out.

9) Attempting to pick up women by donning a hardhat, orange vest, fake mustache, and air of authority.

8) Generating light by overturning cars and setting them on fire.

7) Double-fisting pints of Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia before they melt.

6) Wishing we had batteries for the Hitachi Magic Wand.

5) Making Freon martinis.

4) Pulling the plug on our chances for reelection.

3) Exchanging Jesus for our new savior, the Sun God.

2) Thinking about reading a book.

1) Sitting in front of dark TV, sobbing uncontrollably.

Monday, July 24, 2006

I love Jesus's parables, but not his politics

Via TBogg, we find out that Ann Althouse is once again to the left of the Bell Curve:

"Don’t you see that the wars we are fighting now are for resources? It’s just going to get worse; it’s utterly tragic and I have no solution. I’ve been writing about this for a long time."

I want to like novelists. Really, I do. For example, T.C. Boyle. I read him sometimes. That is to say: I subordinate my mind to his and let his thoughts become my thoughts. But then I read quotes like this, and it sets me to wondering all over again about this practice of reading novels. They're written by novelists, you know.

For those of you who don’t know, Ann Althouse is a somewhat popular and extraordinarily shitty blogger. She treats logic like her own little Abu Gharib, working it over until every argument is a swollen, pulpy mess. She’s fought with Pinko Punko, who was only trying to help her avoid suffocation by removing her head from her butt. She opted for suffocation.

Anyway, you get the idea.

So Ann has already come out against movies not being true, now she gets her bloomers in a bunch over novelists acting all novelly. So I can just imagine her reaction to the Bible:

“I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”

I want to like parablists. I really do. For example, I love Jesus. I subordinate my mind to him and want to hear about whether the prodigal son will return or whether the Samaritan gives the beat-up guy CPR in time. But then I read quotes like this and it gets me wondering all over again about this practice of reading the Bible. It was written by a bleeding-heart Messiah, you know.


If the rules in Iraq were applied to softball...

The visitors only get 8 players.

All pitches are underhanded.

There are unlimited strikes.

There are no balls, but plenty of nuts.

Errors are not recorded.

For the visitors, there is no foul territory—everything is considered fair and in play.

Home players may only walk toward bases. If they run toward them, they will be taken out by defenders from the visiting team.

Even when you’re on base, you’re not necessarily safe.

Catchers only have some of the protective gear they need.

Lefties are not allowed unless they play as righties.

Every time a home player makes contact with the ball, the press box must cheer.

Home players may be stuffed into the equipment bag until they tell the visitors their signs.

There is no draft, but once players sign up, they cannot quit playing until the game is finished.

The visitors inform the home team when the game is over.

These rules may be changed as necessary.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Moral Lines for Dummies

A Reference for the Left Behind of Us!

When President Bush issued his first veto against Congress’s stem cell research bill, he said that the legislation crossed his “moral line.” But how can you tell where morality ends and Democracy begins? This handy guide will help you stay on the good side of good and take the theory of relativity out of your moral authority.

Moral: Endangering children for strategic bombing purposes
Immoral: Endangering embryos for scientific research purposes

Moral: Rejecting evolution
Immoral: Accepting global warming

Moral: Welfare cuts
Immoral: Tax hikes

Moral: Eliminating the estate tax
Immoral: Maintaining Social Security

Moral: Unilateral action
Immoral: Universal health care

Moral: Conducting illegal wiretapping
Immoral: Running legal exposés over the wire

Moral: Smearing a decorated veteran
Immoral: Smearing black ink over parts of your service records

Moral: Supporting the troops
Immoral: Recruiting your children

Moral: OxyContin addicts
Immoral: Crack whores

Moral: Unchecked deficits
Immoral: Checks and balances

Moral: Blowing the cover of an uncooperative CIA agent
Immoral: Blowing

Moral: Procreation
Immoral: Orgasm

Moral: Viagra
Immoral: Morning after

Moral: Condeming any discussion of the sexual orientation of the Vice President's daughter
Immoral: Discussing the marriage prospects of the Vice President's daughter

Moral: Backdoor drafts
Immoral: Backdoor buddies

Moral: Invasion plans
Immoral: Exit strategies

Moral: Tending to our lawns, bathrooms, and children
Immoral: Granting citizenship to our gardeners, maids, and nannies.

Moral: Slanting evidence to support a war
Immoral: Liberal bias

Moral: Harsh torture
Immoral: Seymour Hersh

Moral: Poisoned judges
Immoral: Activist judges

Moral: The Ten Commandments
Immoral: The Eight Beatitudes

Moral: Stretch Hummers
Immoral: Compact hybrids

Moral: Drilling the Alaskan snow
Immoral: Grilling Tony Snow

Moral: Reporting good news
Immoral: Catching bad guys

Moral: Maintaining unbridled arrogance and complete stubborness in the face of contradictory evidence
Immoral: Evidence

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NOW she takes my advice

Dining* with TLB last night, I tell her that she should just do stuff like make fun of me on her blog.

Which she immediately does.

Of course, when I tell her she should start watching football and drinking beer with me, it's in one ear and out the other.

Also, with regard to the nickname my lovely wife used for me, I have never been in a circle jerk.** I square danced once, but it was in Catholic school P.E. and the nuns would rain blows upon us with plastic rulers if we refused.

*Said dining was at a chain restaurant which Adorable Girlfriend will no doubt give me shit about. However, not all of us can go on a Godzilla-esque Bay Area snorkel rampage the way Pinko and his merry band of Bulls can.

Yes, I am much jealous.

**Okay, that's not totally true. After all, I did work in publishing for three years.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Top Ten Tuesdays: What are we doing about the crisis in the Middle East?

10) Squinting with steely resolve until the problem looks smaller.

9) Violating German borders.

8) Praying for peace.

7) Preparing for the Tribulation.

6) Filling every canister, container, and orifice with gas before it’s $5.00 a gallon.

5) Launching preemptive invasion of Venezuela to prevent OPEC from using economic terrorism.

4) Continuing to not look for bin Laden.

3) Grinning like a fool who thinks Beirut is something you find in the spice aisle.

2) Getting something done by dispatching a special envoy, Larry the Cable Guy.

1) Hoping everything comes out kosher in the end.

Transcript of Comments from President Bush at the G8 Summit

Speaking at the Group of Eight summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, President Bush came under fire for some of the comments he made. Here are some things overheard from the President.

BRITISH PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR: The Lebanon situation appears to be quite perilous.

BUSH (chewing): Well, what are you going to do? It’s the asshole of the world, so no wonder it’s going down the shitter.

BLAIR: But surely you must have an assessment of the situation?

BUSH: Yeah, they’re totally fucked. (belches)

BLAIR: If we don’t do something, though, the conflict could spread.

BUSH: You’re right, Blair, ol’ chap. Here’s my final solution—let’s kill them all and let God sort them out.

BLAIR: Good Lord!

BUSH: Exactly! (emits series of three "hehs"). No, seriously, we should probably just convert them to Christianity. Are you going finish your roll?

BUSH: So you have a long flight, eh?

CHINESE PRESIDENT HU JINTAO: Yes, about eight hours.

BUSH: Me, too. I’ve got to get home, it’s almost brush-clearing season. Do you have brush in Japan?

HU JINTAO: I’m from China.

BUSH: Oh, right, sorry, you people all look...I mean, ah, nevermind. Hey, you know what I love about China? General Tso’s Chicken. No wonder the Japanese were successful when they invaded, your generals were in the kitchen whipping up recipes.

HU JINTAO: Forgive me for asking, but I am confused. You were elected, yes? By voters?

BUSH: Putin! Dos veranda!

RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN: Why are you lifting your shirt?

BUSH: I thought you Ruskies were into that. Come on, give me a French kiss right on the ol’ bellybutton.

PUTIN: I can’t believe we lost the Cold War to you (inaudible).

BUSH: Hey, Putty, check out the rack on Olga over there. She looks like she could melt Siberia.

PUTIN: That’s my daughter!

BUSH: Sorry, sorry. If it’s any consolation, I get that all the time with Jenna, too.


BUSH: Sieg heil, Chancellor.

MERKEL: What on earth are you doing?

BUSH: Just saying hello, you know, more formal-like, since you used my title and everything.

MERKEL: Then just say hello, and for God’s sake, put your arm down.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Top Ten Tuesdays: What did we say to Zidane?

Special extra time edition!

In his last professional game during the World Cup championship, French midfielder Zinedine Zidane headbutted his way out of the match against Italy. What did we say to get Zidane so riled up?

14) Your mother wears combat boots. Unless the Germans are invading, then she changes into her running shoes

13) Dean Martin is the only reason Jerry Lewis ever had a career.

12) We fixed this match faster than your father had himself fixed after seeing you in the delivery room.

11) The only thing golden you deserve is a golden shower.

10) I heard you’re President Bush’s favorite player.

9) Maybe your wife would like some extra-thick Genoa salami to go with her French mini-baguette?

8) No, you got your peanut butter in my chocolate.

7) What part of Quebec are you from again?

6) The French fans? Let them eat urinal cakes.

5) When you watch The Battle of Algiers, do you kick your own ass?

4) After you retire, maybe you can get a greeter job at Le Wal-Mart.

3) Biggie could rap circles around Tupac.

2) I can’t quit you.

1) Now go away or I shall taunt you a second time.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Secrets to a happy marriage

This past weekend, The Lovely Becky had to get up before the ass crack of dawn to shuttle her teenage summer writing students back to the When Pigs Fly Eastern Iowa airport. I did my husbandly duty of waving goodbye with one bloodshot eye before falling back asleep.

Hours after she departed, I awoke to a glorious smell. I cracked my eyes open and saw a sausage, cheese, and egg McGriddle before me. Being held, unwrapped in the most perfect culinary come-hither pose, by my amazing wife, seflessly serving it to me in bed.

(If McDonald's served McBreakfast 24/7, I would weigh 400 lbs. I am powerless before teh egg, sausage, and muffin/pancake thingies.)

I took a bite and smiled the smile of a man who wakes from a blissful dream and finds out his dreams have come true. "Oh my God, I can't believe you picked this up for me and are serving it to me in bed."

"Is it the best thing ever?"


"It would only be better if you were also having sex right now?" she asked.

I thought for a moment. "Yes," I replied, "and if the TV was on and the Bears were playing in the Super Bowl."

Despite such sexy pillow talk, I wound up just eating the McGriddle. But a third of a dream is still better than making breakfast.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Freedom baby, yeah!

It's Tuesday, and because a bunch of guys braver than me decided to give England the quill, I got to celebrate American freedom in a very Irish fashion last night, sleep in past the time I would have started work, and watch the exciting Germany-Italy match (aka Clash of the Fascist Titans) in sparkling ESPN hi-definition.

Plus I saw that we apparently don't need to worry about catching bin Laden anymore, so pretty much everything's coming up Milhouse.

Thinking that the rest of the day can't possibly get any better, that the grain can't be more amber or wavy or the sea more shiny if the USS Johnson's Baby Oil ran aground, what did I see a commercial for?

Snakes on a Motherf***ing Plane!

God bless America!

Happy Fourth, everyone.

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we celebrating our independence?

10) Choosing which hand to blow off with an M-80

9) Shoving as many wieners in our mouth as we like, as long as we don’t marry one of them

8) Lighting the White House grill with the Bill of Rights

7) Showing our support for the troops without actually becoming one of the troops

6) Watching the World Cup from the Land of the Free to Go Home instead of the Home of the Still Playing

5) Taking out a home equity loan to fill up the Hummer

4) Adding the National Security Agency to our Friends and Family phone plan

3) Blogging from outside of mom’s basement

2) Paying 21.9% interest on the new American flag leather jacket we charged

1) Changing Declaration of Independence to read “life, liberty, and the pursuit of pre-approved happiness.”