Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Public Service Announcement for the Fucking Clowns

TLB and I have, as we have alluded to before, become enthusiastic poker players. I started playing Texas Hold 'Em a few years ago with my brothers, but only those couple times of year that we saw each other. TLB learned how to play when we started going to a weekly game at our friend MSF's house. A half dozen or so of us would get together, throw in $5, and play a little tournament once a week.

Our mentor was a great guy named Phil, a tall, goateed, long-haired man who is like Gandalf the Gray crossed with Chris "Jesus" Ferguson. His son Erik and Erik's wife Kate also played with us, and the three of them were light years ahead of us when TLB and I started playing. They took us under their wings in our weekly matches and helped transform our games from joker poker to somewhat more respectable amateur status.

One of the best parts of the weekly game was Phil and Erik's banter. Calling it trash talking would be like calling Raymond Chandler's novels detective stories. They would jab and spar with each other with enthusiasm and creativity that only a father-son team coule bring. One time, they were heads up against each other, and Erik won the hand in a manner Phil found, shall we say, dubious.

"You fucking clown!" Phil yelled with good natured annoyance.

That phrase has stuck with TLB and I, and we almost always use it when we see poker moves of a dubious nature. Like tonight.

I had, until recently, avoided the siren song of online poker. But having read Dan Harrington's Harrington on Hold 'Em over vacation, I've been eager to practice my lessons in cheapo $1 and $5 tournaments. I also am, most of the time, a gracious poker loser. Luck is part of the game. Sometimes you do the right thing and lose. I realize I have a lot to learn and try to take each loss as a learning experience.

What I can't stand is when someone does something abyssmally stupid and gets away with it -- the poker equivalent of Bush getting elected twice. Tonight, I was playing in a tourney and trying out some new betting strategies. Mostly I was playing tight, waiting for good hands, looking for key moments to beef up my stack and maybe win a little more than my $5 buy in.

At one point, we had a new person come to our table who had twice as many chips as I did. Right away, I got pocket queens -- a very good hand, and in late position, meaning I got to see what everyone was doing before I had to act. A lot of people just called, and I raised like I should. Everyone folded except Mr. Big Stack. This concerned me, because he had enough chips to seem competent and there were a couple hands (aces and kings) that could kill me.

The flop came a seven and two tens, all mixed, meaning the flush was not a real threat. Mr. BS checked, which I thought meant he either had the third 10 and was trapping me, or he didn't hit his cards. I bet about 1/3 of the pot. If he just called, chances are my queens and tens were better than his hand, and I might get more chips out of him.

He re-raised.


The thrill of Hold 'Em tournaments comes from these moments. If I just called, I'd be hurting badly and likely get knocked out of the tournament anyway. If I re-reaised again, all in, he might fold a lot of chips to me, or lose a lot if I had a better hand. At this point, given his chips and the ballsy re-raise, I figured he had another ten. But queens and tens seemed pretty good to me, too. Like Leslie Nielson once said, "This is our hill, and these are our beans." I was going to defend my beans. Besides, I wanted to see if I was right.

I re-raised all in. Mr. BS called and turned over...ace nine.

Ace nine! He was, in a word, fucked. He needed an ace to beat me, three possible cards out of the forty-five unaccounted for. I was shocked. What the hell was he doing? How did he get all those chips making dumb moves like that? It was like invading a country that's not making nukes right next to the one that is. Finally, I thought, my studies would pay off.

The next card was an eight. A big smile crept across my face. The last card, the river card, surfaced. An ace.

The agony of Hold 'Em tournaments is watching someone play Russian roulette, get the chamber with the bullet, pull the trigger, and have the bullet bounce off the metal plate in their skull and ricochet into yours.

I sat there, speechless for a moment, as my virtual chips slid over to his table, and my virtual chair went dark. Then I felt it welling up inside me, pulsing, vibrating, ripping my insides apart.


Taking a moment to gain my composure, I thought back on the lessons of poker -- what Phil, Erik, Kate, MSF, and Dan Harrington had taught me. That sometimes, the fucking clowns will have their days. They will dance their little clown dances and pull aces out of their butts like the tail end of a trick handkerchief. But most times, they will be trapped inside a VW bug with the other fucking clowns, heading toward a cliff where they will plunge to their deaths because no one can reach the brake.

Of course, losing a $5 poker tourney is not the end of the world. There are much worse things that could happen. And next time, when Mr. BS tries that again, odds are I'll be the one scooping up the virtual chips.

Not to get allegorical or anything, but I thought how this situation resembled the current state of political affairs. The jokers in charge keep going all in, daring anyone to challenge them, even when they're holding nothing. They've gotten away with it for a long time, but now people are starting to call and even raise against them, chipping away at their seemingly insurmountable leads. I bet that in two of the next three Novembers, the more solid hands will hold up, and the get tears painted on their smiling, smirking, ridiculous faces. When it happens, all I'll say is cry me an ace on the river, you fucking clowns.

The Stephen Colbert "On Notice Board" Generator

I think this has been around for a while, but I just found the On Notice Board Generator over at almostinfamous's place. Here's my current board:

And I'm not kidding about the last one. Time for me to reverse the last few months of pork snorkeling and XBox playing and get back to sweatin' to the oldies (which in my case, means Bon Scott era AC/DC).

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Top Ten Tuesdays: Why are our SAT scores down?

Special lengthier edition!

SAT scores are the lowest they’ve been in 31 years. What’s the cause for the drop?

13) Preparation strategy to toke up while watching Old School over and over was not as effective as planned.

12) Kept having concentration broken by urgent text messages.

11) Had morning sickness during test.

10) Used writing portion to write essay for “Pimp My Ride.”

9) Were completely unfamiliar with SAT as there’s no reference to it in the Bible.

8) Harvard:legacy::fuck:this

7) Wanted to try for a higher score but couldn't find reset button.

6) Turned tests off and used computers to surf for porn.

5) Unable to call a lifeline or ask the audience.

4) teh kritical reeding sextion wuz 2 hard (heh heh)

3) Didn’t want to make the President look dumb.

2) Scores are actually up, we just did the math wrong.

1) Who cares, we just added 60 new MySpace friends!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Anyway you want it, that’s the way I need it

A couple of weeks ago, Blue Girl put up a post about her first concert: going to see Peter Frampton. It’s a wonderful post that really conveys the good things about seeing a really big rock show in the heyday of really big rock shows.

Around the same time, I started reading Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. There’s a scene (in the book and movie) where Rob sees the singer Marie LaSalle doing a cover of Peter Frampton’s, “Baby, I Love Your Way.” After a paragraph where Rob rants and raves about how terrible Frampton Comes Alive was (“bought, presumably, by every brain-dead, coke-addled airhead in L.A.!”), Marie has this aside:

“I know I’m not supposed to like that song, but I do.”

That's a feeling I have a lot. Because before I became a good little indie-rock-loving hipster doofus, I was a fist-pumping, air-drumming, hello-Cleveland arena rock fan. Big hair, long solos, and Marshall stacks that went to 11 were my mainstay. This was particularly unfashionable at the trendy San Diego high school I attended. My friends teased me about it all the time—especially my Rush fandom, which needs to be its own post—but I refused to trade Ozzy for Oingo Boingo or Dokken for Depeche Mode.

As I grew older, I broadened my range of rock tastes. I branched out, even started liking some of the bands I made fun of. But the arena rock fan in me never died. I still do things like buy Iron Maiden’s The Essential Iron Maiden, which caused TLB last week to give me the eye roll that says, “Are you ever going to grow up?” (My answer: I run a blog with Circle Jerk in the title.)

So reading about Frampton, about music you’re not supposed to like but do, reminded me of my own, a band that stood for everything the critics stood against when I was growing up: Journey.

I am not a huge Journey fan. Never bought an album, although I had a taped copy of their greatest hits. But there are Journey songs I absolutely love, songs I refuse to apologize to the Robs of the world for. Yeah, they were corporate and unoriginal and very schmaltzy, but they wrote some damn good tunes.

On one of our recent casino road trips, I discussed this with TLB and our friend MSF, trying to determine if it was just me. They both agreed with me that they have Journey songs they really like, even though neither has much interest in arena rock in general or Journey in particular.

We also decided that most people, deep down, like at least one Journey song. Here were the three I named:

1) “Anyway You Want It”
For starters, it reminds me of the hilarious scene in Caddyshack where Rodney Dangerfield starts blasting the song out of his golf bag. But it’s much more than that. I love the propulsive riff beat, Steve Perry’s singing, and the Neil Schon solo at the end, which I always wind up air-guitaring with.

Yes, I’m going to be 36 in a couple of weeks.

2) “Don’t Stop Believing”
The smell of wine and CHEEP PER-FUME! Okay, so it won’t win any lyric contests. It’s got a small-town-girl-leaves-for-the-big-city theme that’s been done to death. Again, though, I get pulled in with the guitar bit at the beginning and by the time Steve Perry hits that “in the N-I-I-I-I-GHT” note right before the solo, I’m singing right there with him.

3) “Faithfully”
No, I don’t carry a lighter. Yes, my testicles are still attached. This is definitely the hardest one to ‘fess up to. The background:

TLB and I went through a long period of a long-distance relationship when we went our separate ways (ha!) to college. This slice of vinyl cheese always got me a little verklempft, much in the same way Hornby's Rob starts balling when he hears “Baby, I Love Your Way.”

A couple days ago, I was talking about this with TLB. She started humming the do-do-do-dododo guitar parts. “Wait, I’ll do the drums,” I said.







So what’s your Journey song? Don’t be scared to admit it. I just said that I stopped my wife in the middle of “Faithfully” so I could add the drum parts, so clearly I have won the embarrassment limbo. Share yours in the comments, and have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Republicans demand assessment of when monkeys will fly out of Iran’s butt

GOP leaders believe current intelligence timetable of "when pigs fly" too unrealistic.

WASHINGTON - In the debate over Iran's nuclear ambitions and potential development of nuclear weapons, some Republican leaders have criticized the intelligence community for not taking another threat more seriously: the potential for monkeys to fly out of Iran's butt.

Republican Peter Hoekstra of Michigan, head of the House Intelligence Committee, stated, "This issue isn't even on the CIA's radar, and I find that very disturbing."

The concern stems from a classified CIA report—based on raw, uncorroborated intelligence sources—that concludes: "Iran may be trying to as the pull something out of its ass. We are not sure what it is, but it could be something significant and unprecedented."

Hoekstra and several other Republicans, after reading the report, immediately reached the conclusion of flying monkeys. "Think about it,” said Hoekstra. "'Significant' and 'unprecedented.' Well, flying monkeys are significant. Anyone who's watched the Wizard of Oz knows exactly what a well-trained army of flying monkeys can do. And such a feat would be unprecedented." Hoekstra added that North Korea was rumored to have developed monkeys that could be lodged in the rectum, but had not been able to get them to fly.

Hoekstra was not alone in his concern. Vice President Cheney has long suspected Iran of harboring anally-delivered flying monkeys and has made this his pet project. "Imagine the chaos that could cause," the Vice President said the cable-television show Hardball.

"Let's say Iran develops this monkey technology and decides to give it to a terrorist organization," said Vice President Cheney. "The terrorists implant these monkeys into their butts, sneak into New York, and boom, next thing you know, you've got a cloud of flying monkeys over Manhattan. Now, in the best-case scenario, those monkeys only fling feces. But that alone could cause catastrophic economic disruptions on Wall Street. In the worst-case scenario...they’re flinging thermonuclear weapons."

The stock market has since dropped 350 points on rumors of the flying monkey threat.

Under this intense pressure from the White House, the CIA upgraded its assessment of this Iranian airborne monkey threat from “never in a million years,” to "when pigs fly," completely skipping one classification level, "when hell freezes over."

Intelligence analysts criticized Republicans for jumping to conclusions “For starters, we're not even sure that these monkeys are harmful," said a senior intelligence official who wished to remain invisible. "They could be peaceful helper monkeys. Honestly, we need more analysis from sources inserted in Iran before we dump a report on the president's desk. But people in the administration are stove-piping this raw data directly into the back door of the White House.”

Still, others called the CIA assessment too cautious. "The intelligence community says that Iran will have flying butt-monkeys when pigs fly," said Newt Gingrich, former Republican speaker of the House of Representatives, "I ask: 'What if North Korea were to put those monkeys in Iran's butt tomorrow? How close would they be then?' We can't just close our eyes and hope for the fairy tale ending."

But one intelligence veteran who has ample experience with flying butt-monkey proliferation remained skeptical. "Iran will have monkeys flying out of their butts? Chyah, right! It'll happen right after Heather Locklear gets in a sandwich with me and Garth."

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Top Ten Tuesdays: What else is straining our psyches?

President Bush said in a recent news conference that the Iraq war was "straining the psyche of our country." What else is troubling our minds?

10) Having a Vice President who acts just like his first name sounds.

9) Wishing we were still talking about Oval Office blow jobs instead of Middle Eastern mushroom clouds.

8) Being prohibited from carrying our snake repellant on the plane.

7) Betting kids' college fund on the Cubs to win it all.

6) Losing autographed photo of us, Jack Abramoff, and Tom DeLay rolling around naked on a bed of money.

5) Reciting an abstainence pledge while maintaining a raging erection.

4) Figuring out how intelligent design supporters could support the idea that a Supreme Being made them so surpremely ignorant of scientific evidence.

3) Watching new dorm roommate bring in his Dungeons and Dragons stuff.

2) (Tie) Wondering who we're going to take first in our fantasy football draft/where our wives are going this time of night.

1) Seeing the emperor not only wearing no clothes, but also riding the giant elephant in the room.

Monday, August 21, 2006

What wingnuts see when they read the New York Times

almostinfamous has a great link to a flashy right-wing-thinking emulator. Here I was thinking there were a bunch of hypocritical, mean-spirited, illiterate cobags. Instead, they are hypocritical, mean-spirited, dyslexic cobags.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wasps in an Office

The following is based on a true story. With the exception of one cobag, the names have been changed to protect the innocent.

(And no, I haven't seen the movie yet.)

Inside a row of cubicles in a typical office. BRANDO stands at the wall, talking to his coworker, MARY.

I know, I was like, what’s up with that skirt she’s wearing? Are they remaking Desperately Seeking Susan? I swear they’ll let anybody onto Project Runway.

Hey, there’s a wasp by your head.

Brando ducks and swats at it. The wasp buzzes around his head.

Agh! If he lands on my head, I’ll never get him out with all the product in my hair. You have to kill him.

Mary grabs a three-ring binder.

I swear to God, how does your wife put up with you?

I could tell you but it would violate the company HR policy. Just kill this fucking thing.

Mary swats at the wasp. She misses and hits Brando in the head.


MARY (looking at the binder)
Here's a tip: try not using all the gel at once.

She looks down at the desk and sees the wasp. She slams the binder down on it.


Look, up at the lights!

In the florescent lights above the cubicle, several wasps buzz around. More appear from the ceiling. They immediately head for Brando and Mary. Brando runs around frantically swatting at them while Mary dispatches two more with her binder.

Don’t just stand there, get help!

Alright, keep your panties on. (Dials phone)

The company parking lot.

“Mary Mary” by Run DMC

A white van pulls up, coming close until we see the license plate: BUGGIN.

A man gets out wearing a white jumpsuit uniform. He pulls on white gloves, straps on a white exterminator’s tank, sprays some applicator in his jheri curl, and dons a pair of dark sunglasses. It’s SAMUEL JACKSON.

Inside the office. Brando sits with a sandwich while shooing wasps with a flyswatter. Jackson strolls up the cubicle

Are you the bug man?

Bug man? Lady, do I look like fucking Tom DeLay? I’m an exterminator, and I've been sent back in time to kill some motherfucking insects. Now, let me guess. You must be Brando, right?


What you eating for lunch there, Brando?


Panera! That’s the bread place, right? See, my girlfriend’s a Subway manager, so she don’t like it when I cheat on her and go to Panera. I’ve eaten so much Subway my name should be fucking Jared. What kind of sandwich is that?

Asiago roast beef.

JACKSON (raising eyebrows)
Asiago roast beef! Would you mind if I had a bite of your Asiago roast beef?


Jackson takes a bite.

Mmm, mmm! That is a tasty sandwich. (Points to a plastic cup) What’s in this?

Iced chai tea.

Jackson casts a knowing glance to Mary

I know, I know, but he swears he’s married. To a woman.

JACKSON (to Brando)
Do you mind if I wash this Asiago roast beef down with your tasty beverage?


Jackson sips the straw until the iced tea is gone.

Listen, I’m sorry, are you going to, what did you say, kill these motherfucking insects?

JACKSON (leaning in menacingly)
Let me ask the questions, Brando. Now, what does a wasp look like?


What ain’t no bug! What does a wasp look like?


JACKSON (Aiming the spray nozzle at Brando)
Say what one more time, motherfucker? What does a wasp look like?

It’s black!

Go on!

It’s winged.

JACKSON (yelling)
Does it look like a fly?


He sprays pesticide in Brando’s face. Brando screams.


Then why’d you try and treat it like a fly? (knocks flyswatter out of Brando’s hand)

MARY (yelps and grabs arm)
Ow! I just got stung.

Jackson turns around to see a wasp buzzing. He raises his nozzle and fires. He sees another on the desk and shoots pesticide. He sees three on the window and fires three quick bursts.

Ever see A Bug’s Life? Well I’m directing the sequel, A Bug’s Death!

He lets loose a flurry of shots, dropping two dozen wasps. He pauses after a moment. The room is silent except for Brando’s sniffling. Faintly, a buzzing begins. It grows louder. Brando wipes his eyes and stands.

What’s that buzzing?

It’s your mama’s vibrator, what do you think it is?

But...but how? You killed all those wasps.

Correction, I killed some of those wasps.

The buzzing gets louder.

They sound like they’re right in the cubicle.

That’s impossible, I don’t see them.

Well maybe they’re invisible wasps, genius!

Jackson looks up at the ceiling tiles.

Do those come off?

He balances himself on a chair, flips on a flashlight attached to his glasses, and slowly raises one of the ceiling tiles. He looks left to right, until he sees a huge swarm of wasps coming down the airshaft toward him. He cries out and falls backward, shooting pesticide at the ceiling.

Run, motherfuckers!

The three sprint for the supply closet as the wasps come at them. Jackson pulls something from his pocket and pulls at it with his teeth.

What’s that?

A bug bomb!

You can’t use that in here!

Tell that to them! Now run, white boy!

The three sprint as Jackson drops the bug bomb. They dive into the supply closet as the bug bomb explodes. A cloud of white poofs in, causing all of them to cough. When they stop, it’s dead quiet outside. They step back out.

The office is covered in white powder. Glass and debris cover the floor as well. There are dead wasps everywhere.

Oh my God!

My weekly reports, my spreadsheets...

My Asiago roast beef!

Well, it’s like I said...

Jackson, in a different pose and slightly different office, with no sunglasses and a beard.

We’ve got to do something about these motherfucking wasps in this motherfucking office!

The original Jackson in the original office.

Now if you’ll excuse me, my work here is AAAGGGH!

Jackson screams as a giant wasp, easily 30 feet long, grabs him. His canister falls off his back, and Brando grabs it as the giant wasp flies away. Mary and he climb to the top of a cubicle wall.

JACKSON (writing in agony)
It's the mother of all motherfucking wasps! AAGGHHH! First Deep Blue Sea, now this!

The wasp flies up and chomps Jackson in two.

Look out, he’s coming around again.

The wasp drops Jackson’s body and opens its maw to grab Brando. Mary grabs the canister and throws it in the wasp's mouth. The wasp takes it and flies away.

Grab those staplers.

Mary and Brando grab a stapler and swing them open. As the wasp circles back, they fire staples.

Come on and smile you sign of a...

One staple hits the canister and it erupts, spraying the wasp with pesticide. It flies up in the air, smashing through the roof, before plunging again to the ground.

BRANDO (jumping up and down)
We did it! We did it!

THE BOSS, an older white gentleman in a three piece suit who looks like Judge Smails, comes in and sees the damage. He points the Brando and Mary.

My word, what on earth happened here? I said to call an exterminator, not destroy the office! (sees Brando and Mary) You! You are going to be fired, and what’s more, you’re going to pay for this mess! Do you hear me, hmm, hmm?

Mary looks at Brando, then at The Boss, and raises her stapler.

Looks like we’ve got one more WASP to take care of.

“LOVE Machine” by WASP


Thursday, August 17, 2006

There are only two things I hate in this world: friends moving away and the Dutch

Five years ago, as we sat in our Rome hotel room and TLB found out she got into the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, I thought that I’d go to Iowa City, spend two years doing my Green Acres imitation, and return back to Chicago.

That changed when I actually arrived in this peaceful, friendly, fun town. Until I moved here in 2001, I had never gone more than four years without moving across state borders. Years as a Navy brat and my itinerant twenties kept me on the move. Goodbyes have always come with that territory, and one of the ways I’ve dealt with many great people coming in and out of my daily life was appreciating that I had known them all. I tell myself, If I hadn’t moved here, I wouldn’t have known them at all.

Still, I always hoped to find that place to settle down—especially since I was lucky enough to find someone to settle down with. If my future self arrived Back-to-the-Future style to tell my New York or Chicago self that Eastern Iowa would be that place, I would given Future Brando a drug test. But lo and behold, this little corner of the Big Ten is a place TLB and I have come to adore.

The people we’ve met have played the biggest role in that feeling. The Writer’s Workshop is (in)famous for being a place where egos are shredded and no quarter is given. We expected vicious critics and potential backstabbers. Instead, we found a community of cool folks, people like us who had left behind professions and more diverse metropolitan areas for the chance to improve their writing (or help their significant others improve their writing).

It’s hard to describe how much the experience invigorated us. I was happy in New York and Chicago. I left people who I still miss. Here, though, we turned back the clock. We went to parties, stayed up late talking with friends, drove out to corn mazes, went to readings, went to casinos, and—maybe best of all—just bumped into people we were always happy to see. It was like being an undergraduate again, only while having a clue.

The size of Iowa City works against people staying. Most people in the Workshop do depart after those two years. Most need to, frankly, because Iowa City is not for everyone. It’s small, it’s quiet, and it’s not always easy to get a job here. I was very sad when our dear friends Paula and Tom left, but we expected it. It gave us time to prepare for it, even if that didn’t make it any easier.

We were also lucky that, for a while, the rule of leaving took a back seat to the exception of staying. Many of our closest friends decided to stay put, at least for while. Some bought houses, and eventually we bought ours, forming a nucleus of dazzling urbanites who had settled in their new rustic environment. Even though my mind told me it couldn’t last, I hoped it would.

Sadly, my mind was right.

We’ve suffered a couple of losses these last weeks, people who have been with us since we first turned off I-80 and wondered if we were nuts for chucking everything to come to a town with four interstate exits.

First, El Gordo and Kerry took off for Massachusetts, where El Gordo landed a sweet job in academia. El Gordo, as I have written before, is Old School in the Will Ferrell sense, but with a brain: a man who can discuss subtext and point of view just before he drains a beer bong. Our defining moment was pogoing at the final Guided by Voices show in Iowa City, singing ourselves hoarse and damn near going deaf from being next to the stage monitors.

Kerry was the Mentos to El Gordo’s Diet Coke. Sweet, funny, one of those people who always seemed to take a genuine interest in what you were saying. They were the first of us to buy a house, and the last ones we expected to leave.

Our friends, Eathgoat founder Grendel and his lovely wife, Traca de Broon, followed El Gordo and Kerry out east, and after a few month stint in Mass., they will keep heading east to the Netherlands. Grendel and Traca were our first couple friends here. We were all about the same age, had come to the IC with many of the same reservations, and breathed the same sigh of relief when we discovered that this literary toga party wasn’t going to be an orgy.

They were our comrades at our first Workshop Prom, an occasion where everyone dresses up, drinks like fish, and reminisces about the previous year. Traca and TLB drank enough Cosmos to put the cast of Sex and the City to shame, while Grendel and I pounded Newcastle like it had abducted two of our soldiers. The next day, we were supposed to get together, but amusingly found our 30-year old bodies couldn’t handle 21-year old excesses so well. A hangover had never been such a bonding moment.

Grendel and Traca always had more of the wanderlust than we did, but when they bought a house, we thought they would be here for a while, just a couple of blocks away from us. They were the first people we went to after the tornado struck. Today, however, they’re blowing town, and I hate the Dutch a little for luring them away.

And then Kate, Becky’s first friend at the Workshop, has finally decided to leave. Her departure is not as surprising, but just as sad. Another person who is so nice, you can’t help but smile when you see her. She once threw a wig party that may have been the highlight of my time here, with all of us donning strange hairpieces (I wore a mullet) and drinking and joking until the wee hours. She leaves with Vinnie, another Workshop grad who already sadly left us but came back for the summer writing program (and helped me scare the bejesus out of some teenagers).

We are truly fortunate that we still have so many good friends here. As sad as we are, we’ve got people we love still just a few blocks away.

Losing these folks, though, people who were with us right from the beginning of our Iowa City experience, is hard to take. I still love it here. I still am happy we are staying. It’s just not going to be quite the same.

I just have to tell myself that if I hadn’t moved here, I wouldn’t have known them at all. That thought is much sadder than them leaving.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we getting the kids ready for school?

Special expanded they-grow-up-so-soon edition!

12) Having them walk through metal detectors before entering the sandbox.

11) Ripping out the chapters on evolution.

10) Replacing their crystal meth with Folger’s Crystals.

9) Transferring them from Catholic to public school so they’ll be safe from sexual predators.

8) Reminding them gently that if they don’t get into Harvard, mommy will start drinking again.

7) Practicing their gang signs flash cards.

6) Cutting practice short to introduce them to the kids who will take their tests.

5) Making sure they have a fresh box of Kraft Munchables, the tasty lunch-and-dental dam snack.

4) Pinning their chastity pledges to the crotches of their pants.

3) Helping them revise their rumors about the head cheerleader having crabs.

2) Searching their rooms for the drugs they’ve been taking from us all summer.

1) Hiring Karl Rove, Jr., to run their campaign for class president.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Boob Watch, or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Featuring the first-ever blog picture of yours truly!

Every year, The Lovely Becky, the TLB family, and I head to the sunny, deep-fried beaches of Sunset Beach, North Carolina. Located just above its secession-loving sister state and 40 minutes north of Myrtle Beach (aka Branson with sand), Sunset is the anti-Myrtle—relaxing, non-commercial, and free of strip clubs (okay, so it’s not all win-win).

We’ve been going to SB for a few years. TLB’s parents rent a beach house and we freeload (now that’s a win-win). We spend the week lounging on the beach, reading, drinking, grilling, and boogie boarding. This year, we had the added pleasure of The Gs, TLB’s funny, friendly, and very Canadian relatives.

One fine afternoon, as we sat under our tent, a family of four set up camp in front of us: Dad, a big former-football-player-cum-Shoney’s-buffet-jock; two kids; and Mommy Boobiest, who filled the top of her teeni-weeni white bikini. She looked to be in her thirties, but if you only looked at her mid-chest, you’d probably card her for alcohol.

Nancy G, the Canadian mom, and Bill, her husband, engaged in a heated but friendly debate. I leaned over and said, “What are you guys talking about?”

Nancy nodded her head toward Mommy Boobiest. “Do you think those are real or fake?”

I gave MB my best peripheral-vision gaze. “Fake.”

“No way,” Bill said. “Those are real.”

Chad and Tim G, their 20-something sons, sided with Bill. Kelly, TLB’s sister, jumped into the fake camp. We were split 3-3.

“Why do you think those are fake, Nancy?” Bill asked.

“They don’t move when she moves.”

Bill nodded to Nancy and smiled. “But yours don’t move either. Are they fake, eh?”

Nancy shot him a wicked grin. “What do you think, Billy, that I paid for these? Yeah, I went to the ninety-nine cent special at Wal-Mart.”

“We need TLB,” I said. “She’s never wrong about fake boobs.” This is no exaggeration. My wife knows how to write a great novel, bake the best cookies in the universe, and spot a pair of fakes faster than an art insurance appraiser.

No sooner had I mentioned her name, TLB appeared at the tent. I explained the situation and the current voting. Like the Vice President in a deadlocked Senate, she weighed in.

“Those are real,” TLB said. “She's got a halter top bikini holding them in place. That’s why they’re not moving.”

Nancy and Kelly continued to grumble about silicone this and flotation devices that. “Look,” TLB said, “Just because you want them to be fake doesn’t mean they are fake.” Spotting another woman walking down the beach with what appeared to be plunger tops stuck to her chest, TLB found her control group. “Those are fake.”

With the Real or Fake? game decided, I needed a new way to amuse myself. Now, even if you removed the Confederate Flag beach towels and Krispy-Kreme fueled waistlines, Sunset Beach will never be confused with the North Shore. The waves rarely top more than a few feet, and this year especially, the sea was flatter than a pre-op breast augmentation patient. Bodyboarding appeared pointless.

Instead, I grabbed Chad's skimboard, a small, thin, wooden board that you use to skim the tide near the beach. I saw teenage boys using them all week: taking a running start, throwing the board in front of them, and jumping on. They slid along the water’s edge, doing turns, twists, and maybe hopping an incoming wave or two.

The first couple of experiments did not go well for me. I was tentative and my timing was off, leading to some one-footed, groin-stretching failures. “These damn things are defective,” I said.

Tim G, who is younger and much lighter than I am, took the board. After two failed tries, he got both feet on and glided a bit. A few more tries and he was sliding along the beach. I had my Brave Sir Robin moment: “That’s easy!”

I grabbed the board, took off running, threw the board down, and jumped on with both feet. For 1.5 seconds, I was alive! At second 1.6, I almost became paralyzed. I flew, I fell, I flailed. I went knee-first into the wet sand, which is surprisingly hard, especially when all of your weight comes crashing down on your left kneecap. Luckily, like a Reuters photographer, Nancy was where the action was. I dub this:

Portrait of the Blogger as a Dumb Ass

I lay in the surf for a few moments, my knee bloodied, my pride wounded, and my sense of mortality more alive than ever. I had attempted a Youth Augmentation, to turn back the clock and seem younger and more vibrant to onlookers. Instead, the result looked ridiculous, cartoonish, and downright ugly.

I noticed a ringing in my ears—the Clue Phone. I picked it up and heard the message: if you’re 20 years older and 20 stone heavier than the kids gliding along on these Paralysis Planks, just walk away while you still can. Because most of the time, you're not going to fool anybody into thinking you're 18 again.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Top Ten Tuesdays: What are we saying while under the influence?

10) I, Pamela, take you, Kid...

9) Officer, I can totally get you a discount at any Hilton hotel.

8) Wait, wait, check it out...after we invade Iraq, let’s convert it to a Western-style democracy!

7) Maybe I should make a sequel to Clerks.

6) The Cubs could still make the wildcard.

5) Let’s get the Coreys back together again.

4) I will run in Connecticut as an independent.

3) You know what this movie needs? More Jar Jar.

2) What do you mean the margarita mix already had tequila in it?*

1) Becky, pull the car over.*

*Actual Brando quotes.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Mel Gibson Cancels Film Production of “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”

Gibson nailed to the cross for anti-Jewish comments; claims he is not a Hollywood denier

HOLLYWOOD - Mel Gibson announced he was cancelling production of a movie version of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, after the actor/director received harsh criticism for allegedly anti-Semitic remarks.

During an Access Hollywood interview, Gibson was asked about the controversial project and whether it was anti-Semitic. An incoherent and apparently intoxicated Gibson appeared let loose an expletive-ridden tirade.

“See, it’s okay for (expletive) Jewey McJew of Jewimax Pictures to greenlight a movie that says Catholics are conspiring with Albinos to make Jesus a whoremonger. But if I say Jews are bent on world domination, somehow I’m the bad guy. Well, listen here, sugar tits: I'm going to slap some Gibson pork in the smug face of Hymiewood and out-Da Vinci Code those (expletive) Christ-killers.”

The outburst created a firestorm of criticism. “What a schmuck,” said Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.

Actor Billy Crystal said, “I haven't been this angry since I paid full price to see Lethal Weapon 4.”

Gibson received criticism when he announced the project last year. Created in the late nineteenth century, "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" is a document that portrays a worldwide Zionist conspiracy. Passed off as legitimate, it has been used to justify anti-Semitism worldwide, but has been proven to be a fabrication and hoax.

In Gibson’s movie version, a researcher discovers that the Protocols are real and that the hoax is actually part of the Zionist conspiracy, aided and abetted by Jewish figures in the United Nations, the White House, the media, financial industries, universities, carnival workers, Jiffy Lube, Krispy Kreme, the Boston Red Sox, and the Vatican. Gibson wrote the screenplay based on a story treatment by his father, Hutton Gibson.

The film was to star Richard Dreyfuss, Albert Brooks, Natalie Portman, Fran Drescher, Adam Goldberg, and Abe Vigoda.

After the public outcry, Gibson immediately checked into the Betty Ford clinic. The actor released a statement of apology. “I wish to apologize for my actions. Taken out of context, my words appear to condemn Jews for killing our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ—which, I might add, they did.

“But the truth is, I have long been suffering from whip-it addiction that has severely altered my judgment. The day of the interview, I had sucked the nitrous out of two dozen Redi-Whip cans. I was completely high and my mind was spinning like one of those Jew tops.”

To prove his sincerity “to the ticket-buying public and the Hebrew studio heads,” Gibson announced that he was canceling the Protocols production and starting a new production: Turner and Hymen, a buddy action film about two FBI agents, a Vatican-denying Catholic and a pro-Israel Jew. The two men struggle with the differences of their faiths until they learn to unite toward a common cause: killing Muslims.