Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What New Year's resolutions are we making?

Special extra resolve edition!

15) Locate the gym we joined last January.

14) Watch everything we TiVo’d in 2008 by the end of 2009.

13) Read more book reviews so we’ll seem more well read.

12) Stay in Iraq until the job is done (repeat).

11) Throw off investigators by using pig Latin when discussing the illegal sale of political offices.

10) Reduce butter habit to three sticks a day.

9) Switch to decaf before some other chattering asshole gets his lips stapled shut for talking while we’re trying to get the numbers to accounting before the month end!

8) Remove all art flicks from Netflix queue so that we’ll actually watch what’s in our Netflix queue.

7) Write the first presidential memoir in pop-up book form.

6) Take a drink every time the change we deserve is changed into the compromise we expect.

5) Join Alcoholics Anonymous three days after the inauguration.

4) Vow to stay in soul-crushing dead-end job until market for ditching it all to pursue your dreams improves.

3) Stop Twittering about our boner status.

2) Write more complex, nuanced, intelligent humor instead of falling back on easy dick jokes.

1) Quit lying.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What's being stuffed in our Christmas stockings?

Special 12 days of Christmas therapy edition!

12) The last of the forensic evidence.

11) Pack of smokes and candy-cane shank (prison only).

10) Our own personal “massager”.

9) Invisible lump of clean coal.

8) Deluxe Blu-Ray of Fred Claus: The Director’s Apology Edition.

7) Gift-wrapped subpoena.

6) Something kind of wriggly and bitey.

5) Collectible Santa’s reindeer cockrings.

4) Slightly used cookies.

3) Wad of singles and VIP pass for the Champagne Room.

2) Personal trimmer and copy of It’s Not You, It’s Your Nose Hair.

1) Print-out from some gay country music dancing blog wishing you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year.

Travel safe, stay warm, and drink heavily if it makes the family more bearable.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Favorite 11: 2008

It’s one more critically significant than 10!

Best-of lists are officially supposed to praise the best artistic achievements of the year. In reality, they are designed to cause validation and irritation. The validation comes from being able to positively answer questions such as: Did I buy the “coolest” or “bestest” records? Am I “in the know” culturally? Do I have the same opinions as people who get paid to do provide their opinions?

On the flip side—and where the real entertainment value lies—is the irritation these lists bring: Why did they include The Bestest, when I heard it and thought it sucked The Mostest? How could those eyeglass-wearing hipster doofus elitist cobags not recognize the brilliance of The Overlooked and their tour de force, Too Cool for the Critics to Recognize Because They’re too Busy Sucking off The Bestest? And, perhaps the greatest hit of best-of irritation: I’ve never heard of these groups.

However, I think the Internets have made the best-of list a more useful feature, especially for music, because now you can hear the songs or albums that get selected. I was trolling the Bestest List Evah, as I do every year, and I found some new songs that I had overlooked that I really liked. Even better, I got to hear some other songs that gave the irritation quotient the hat trick: I don’t know who the hell this is, and now that I’ve heard it, I don’t know why the hell they picked them over The Overlooked.

So, with that in mind, what I’m presenting here are my favorite tracks of 2008, in something resembling my favoritest order. I like them, and I like turning people on to music they might like, too.

At the same time, there’s a lot of music I missed this year, and I like when people turn me on to music I might like. Because, at the end of the year, I don’t listen to music to find validation or irritation, but to find more favorites. So lay it on me in the comments: Who were your The Bestest?

11) “Inní Mér Syngur Vitelysingur,” Sigur Rós. The irony with doing a favorite eleven is that I had no problem at all coming up with my ten favorites. Then I got stuck at eleven. I went back and forth between “Lost Verses,” by Sun Kil Moon, “I Will Possess Your Heart,” by Death Cab for Cutie, and this track by Sigur Rós.

I finally decided on Sigur Rós because they are from Iceland. Now, I realize that Iceland is actually quite green, and that Greenland is quite icy, and that this explains why the Vikings died out, because they inadvertently kept travelling to their icy deaths when they thought they were going someplace lush and green for vacation. However, there still is a lot of ice and snow in Iceland...much like there is where I live. And while the winter-inspired song I would write would be called, “Punch Me in the Nuts (So I Can Feel Something Other Than How Cold I Am),” Sigur Rós write beautiful, uplifting songs that feel like snow on Christmas...after you’ve already done all of your travelling.

10) “Oxford Comma,” Vampire Weekend. This one came up in the Random 11 just a short while ago. It’s one of those songs that instantly rooted itself into my brain, being both catchy and memorable. The whole album conveys the feeling of a summer full of longing, love, and loss, interspersed with parties on someone’s deck while grooving to the surprisingly good house band and drinking ice-cold Red Stripe (hoooray, beer!).

9) “Whose Authority,” Nada Surf. There is nothing quite like a great sandwich. I enjoy a night at a fancy restaurant with creative cuisine that paints a Jackson Pollack on my taste buds. But, as enjoyable as that is, there’s something uplifting about a great sandwich, when you have oven-fresh bread, crisp lettuce (that’s real lettuce, not that iceberg shit), cheese that’s just started to melt, mustard that spars with you a little, and meat that’s been cooked just enough to make sure the animal is dead but not enough to make it seem like something other than meat (vegetarians, feel free to substitute the best eggplant ever planted). Nada Surf makes those sandwiches all the time. They won’t surprise you, but then again, you’re not listening to them to be surprised. You’re listening because it’s lunchtime and you want a goddamn awesome sandwich.

8) “Two Daughters and a Beautiful Wife,” Drive-By Truckers. The Lovely Becky really, really hates the book The Lovely Bones, to the point where it became a joke among our friends to ask her if she liked the book. Part of the problem with that book is that the afterlife, and the reaction to being in it, seems completely fake. That’s not surprising, considering that no one knows what an afterlife—if there is one—will feel like.

That’s what makes the Drive-By Truckers so special. They write hi-definition lyrics that paint the most evocative pictures, to the point where you can see the blood-stained tub full of meth, smell the burning of a moonshine still deep in the woods, and even feel the sadness, shock, anger, and eventual hope of a man who just died, looking down from heaven at his two daughters and a beautiful wife.

7) “Hollow Man,” R.E.M. Accelerate was their All That You Can’t Leave Behind, and I love it for the same reason I loved U2’s album: because they managed to summon what made them awesome in the first place without sounding like an R.E.M. cover band. There’s nothing terribly original about this song, but it’s delivered with such energy and conviction that it doesn’t matter. Watching them play on The Colbert Report emphasized the point even more: they looked like they were having fun. Michael Stipe and fun—who would have thunk it?

6) “Death to Los Campesinos!” Los Campesinos. I am not a fan of bands who include their names in songs, but they managed to avoid the triple-Lindy sin of naming a song and an album after themselves (which I believe was pioneered by the thankfully-forgotten Living in a Box, who had a song and album named Living in a Box).

I am, however, a fan of Los Campesinos, because Los Campesinos are fans of fun. Every review I’ve read of them says that they are “fun,” which makes me feel unoriginal for using the same description, but it’s just too apt not to repeat. Much like Vampire Weekend, they had me from the minute I put the CD on for the first time. Even better, they manage to sound young without making me feel old, like they would invite an old guy like me to dance with them out of the goodness of their young hearts and not so they could make fun of me afterward.

5) “Kim and Jessie,” M83. Of course, I am getting older, old enough to not only know that many of the kids today are ripping off the 80s, but also to own the cassettes they’re stealing from. I can name that original chirping Casio riff in three notes.

However, I like a lot of that 80s music. Beneath the slickness and greed, there was a great deal of originality and heart if you knew where to look. “Kim and Jessie” has that heart. It’s a song that doesn’t just sound like the 80s—it is the 80s, from the synths to the drum machine to the breathy lyrics to the outro guitar solo to rock things up just a tad. It’s clearly written by someone who understands what made the great music of that decade great, making it a blast from the past that doesn’t feel retro or kitschy, just really awesome.

4) “White Winter Hymnal,” Fleet Foxes. As much as I make fun of the harsh winters here, I doubt I will ever live in a place more beautiful than the Upper Peninsula. It’s one of the unfortunate rules of life that natural beauty tends to keep to itself in the middle of nowhere. If you want natural splendor, get ready to have no culture. If you want fine dining and theater, get ready to smell urine in the gutters during the summer.

Fleet Foxes could be the soundtrack for the UP and any other place that has fresh air and a million trees and people who can talk about “beaver dams” without snickering. This song in particular is a morning sunrise coming out of your speakers, and the whole album keeps that fresh air blowing into your ears.

3) “Ion Square,” Bloc Party. I love the slow build to the loud climax, where a song starts out quiet and ends sounding like it can fill an arena. That structure can always get to at least second base with me. No song followed this structure better this year—in my humble, contacts-wearing hipster doofus elitist cobag opinion—than “Ion Square.” Like the name if the album it comes from, Intimacy, it begins with a quiet, pillow-confessional quality. As the song continues, it builds, yet it never loses that intimacy, even as singer Kele Okereke belts out lines that reach not only the nosebleeds of the arena, but the guys in the parking lot who couldn’t get tickets. The kicker for me, though, is when the song grows on the low end, the bass building from a whispered conversation to a throaty rumble that counters the high vocals. This will never outgrow my car speakers.

2) “Sequestered in Memphis,” The Hold Steady. I played this song more than any other song this year. It’s got a great hook, tells a seedy story, and rocks in the way only The Hold Steady can rock. There’s a line here, She said I know I look tired/but everything’s fried/here in Memphis, that I wish I had thought of. But what really cemented it for me was that it showed some growth from one of my favorite bands.

It’s a difficult thing to figure out how to grow as a band. Too much change confuses the fans. Witness U2, R.E.M., and this year’s WTF band of the year, My Morning Jacket, who made some music that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Cameo record. Staying the same, though, leads to getting stuck in a rut (Weezer is a good recent example.) As much as I love The Hold Steady, they play the kind of music that’s high-risk rut material: guitar-driven, classic rock-influenced tales of beer-soaked woe and high school angst, with the added geographic limitation of songs locked in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.

“Sequestered in Memphis” managed to avoid the rut while staying on The Hold Steady highway. It smells of the same stale smoke and desperation, but tells a new story, in a new locale, with a soundtrack that sounds just a bit more grown up. And that’s why I played this one over and over again, belting out Subpoenaed in Texas/Sequestered in Memphis all summer long...when TLB wasn’t around to make fun of my singing.

1) “Skinny Love,” Bon Iver. The first time I listened to Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, I was floored. I had never heard a record that sounded so naked and bare, yet fully formed and realized. It was also haunting and yet uplifting, like a ghost who scares the shit out of you before telling you he’s just letting you know grandma is okay in heaven and, no, she can’t see what you’re doing in the bathroom.

I had that kind of moment a few years ago when I heard “Naked as We Came” by Iron and Wine, and I had it again this year when I heard “Skinny Love.” The first time I played it, I wound up playing it over and over for probably an hour. The lonely guitar, the plaintive vocals, the chorus that still crushes me, even after all those listens. The whole album is amazing, and this is its most amazing track. It’s not surprising that it was recorded in a cabin in northern Wisconsin during the winter—you can practically feel the wind blowing in and see the snow through the icy windows. If I could only play one song from 2008, it would be this.

So there we go. The Random 11 will be back January 2. I am hoping to use my time off work to finish some posts that I have been dying to write. Have a good weekend, and find some music that warms your soul during this Arctic blast.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What are we being indicted for?

10) Loving too much and way over our credit limit.

9) Double-dipping.

8) Being too sexy for our shirts and especially our pants.

7) Calling "shotgun" when kidnapping someone on our beer run.

6) Executive producing National Lampoon’s Insider Trading.

5) Running the world’s largest Fonzi scheme and illegally selling Henry Winkler to multiple investors.

4) Being a confused old man who has no idea how all those shiny new gifts kept getting into the house. Where’s the crime in that?

3) Shooting first, reloading, shooting again, lobbing a few grenades, making sure no one is still moving, and then asking questions.

2) Being too stupid to live, let alone run a state.

1) Um, which one are we talking about?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

It’s been a sleep-deprived week here at CJSD Enterprises, Ltd. Our little Libby decided last weekend to start waking up 2-3 times during the night again, which would be awesome if she was throwing a rave and providing us with a ton of drugs to help us stay up all night. It’s hit The Lovely Becky the hardest because this new schedule came during finals week, when she’s at her busiest with grading. But it’s certainly made me pretty damn sleepy, which has made my brain rather mushy and unfunny, leaving me with only enough creative energy to think of posts like,“Poop. Heh heh heh.” Which, now that I think about it, would be kind of a funny post.

Anyway, it’s all perfectly normal, or so say all the baby books, but that doesn’t make it any easier, does it? I really wish the authors of said books, when saying you should let your baby cry, would post evidence that they wrote such advice at 3 a.m., while their babies were crying. Like the writing was full of typos or soaked with tears of fatigue or devolved into tangents on the intrinsic humor of the word "poop."

Of course, I know these experts are right, much in the same way people who are thin because they have no taste buds and get Tantric orgasms from doing crunches and step aerobics say I would lose weight if I ate less “bad” foods and worked out more. That doesn’t make it any less annoying or reduce my desire to push down on the bench press bar when they need a spot.

In all honesty, though, parenthood has been grand and Miss Libs has been a very easy baby by most baby-measuring standards. So the real answer, as usual, is that I am a wuss. An accusation I would be more upset by if I wasn’t such a...okay, let’s have some music, shall we?

1) “My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)”, The Ramones. The original title of this classic Ramones track was the parenthetical part, but Johnny “God Bless President Bush” Ramone thought it was offensive to President Reagan. So un-punk.

2) “For No One,” The Beatles. Such a pretty McCartney ditty. And you don’t get a lot of clavichord and French horn in rock. Speaking of which, it’s funny how seemingly insignificant phrases become staples of your linguistic arsenal. I used to read the Letterman Top Ten books pretty religiously (shocking, I know). One of the lists—something about surprising revelations—had this entry: “Mr. T: gayer than a French horn.” That stupid little phrase has stuck with me for nearly 20 years, all because I read it in a silly little book, probably while I was in the bathroom.

3) “Living Loving Maid,” Led Zeppelin. The most lyrically-challenged great band of all time? Don’t get me wrong, I loves to get the Led out in the cheesiest, classic-rock-radio-Zeppelin-rock-block manner. But the other day when I was at the gym, “Misty Mountain Hop” came on. Great song, perfect for working out, but seriously, the lyrics? Not only nonsensical, often unintelligible. “Living Loving Maid” falls into that category, as do probably 80 percent of Zepp’s songs. I just find it kind of funny.

4) “White Mystery,” Minus The Bear. Where I currently live is a bit of a white mystery, in, “why would all these white people choose to live here when all they see is white for six goddamned months out of the year.” No, I’m not bitter like an Alberta Clipper.

5) “Stop Breakin’ Down Blues,” Robert Johnson. Seems like a perfect song for the this week.

6) “Monsters,” Band of Horses. One of the best songs from one of my favorite new bands. They have a penchant for off-kilter melodies that still manage to root into my brain, delivered with an earnestness that never feels forced or melodramatic.

7) “Night of the Living Baseheads,” Public Enemy. The samples really knock my block off. It also sad that so much of what Chuck D sang about then is still true today.

8) “In My Bed,” Amy Winehouse. There’s no way I’m crawling under her covers without a hazmat suit and a scuba tank full of penicillin.

9) “Lola Stars and Stripes,” The Stills. Big, serious, mopey rock that would have sounded more appropriate 20 years ago. It almost annoys me, but I dig the big beat and the jangly bursts of guitars, so I overlook the annoying aspects. I’m so easy.

10) “Sad and Lonely,” Secret Machines. Speaking of big and easy...I get suckered in by the huge, John Bonham beat of this song. As much as I love indie rock and the independent spirit of bands like Guided by Voices, my heart belongs to rock music that sounds huge. Lo-fi is great, and hearing a song that sounds like it was recorded in someone’s bathroom often lends an immediacy to the work you wouldn’t get in a big schmancy studio. But the drums always suffer with those kinds of songs, and there are times when I need my drums to explode out of my speakers. So this song always gets cranked when it comes on.

11) “All This Time,” Sting. My favorite solo song of his, and frankly, one of the best he’s every written. It’s catchy, it’s clever, and it’s impeccably arranged. A shiny, bouncy way to head into the weekend.

Next week: My 11 favorite songs that I heard this year. Every other cobag gets to do a best of, so why not me?

Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What concessions are we making in exchange for our bailout?

10) Manufacturing new Ford Piñata hybrid that explodes with sweets when rear-ended.

9) Allowing new car czar to call “shotgun.”

8) Providing own knee pads and Blistex when reporting to Congress.

7) Designing new CEO engine that purrs like a kitten instead of braying like a jackass.

6) Giving union members dental coverage only for first five years or 50,000 chews.

5) Securing G.O.P. votes by making Jesus fish standard on all new models.

4) Offering a free “lube job” to any citizen presenting a recent tax return in the alley behind local dealership.

3) Agreeing to have every all bailout checks treated with RustBelt-oleum.

2) Replacing benefit-driven workforce with one that runs on chicken-fried sushi.

1) Installing new GPS system that shows precisely where the fuck all of this is heading.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

Yesterday, I was humming along, listening to tunes while I was working (yes, actually working). I have all my music on an external hard drive because my old desktop hard drive isn’t quite big enough for it all. All of a sudden, the music stops, iTunes locks up, and the hard drive starts making a clicking noise.

Ruh-row. Houston, we have a problem.

I restarted and re-connected and ran diagnostics and swore oaths, all to no avail. My drive of less than a year appears to have bitten the digital bullet.

This is precisely why I will never fully embrace the digital age. I am definitely an electronics geek, and I love being able to have all my music on a device smaller than the calculators I used in high school science class. But still, it’s frightening how gigabytes of data can just go poof because Gigabyt, the Norse god of data storage, wakes up on the wrong side of Asgard one morning and takes it out on you. I want the soothing reassurance of having rows of CDs and books and game boxes on my shelves, knowing they are there for me if I have a digital meltdown.

I luckily have said music collection on my iPod, and most of the other stuff on the hard drive is on other hard drives or flash drives or CDs or those IBM data cards with the holes in them. I just hate the backup pyramid scheme we have to go through. I need to back up my hard drive and then back up that back up and before I know it, I’m in a hall of mirrors where I see myself stretching out in 20 directions toward infinity, not knowing which image is the original one.

So today’s list goes back to my pre-home office days of using my actual iPod instead iTunes to do the Random 11. Hopefully the iPod won’t go belly up before I can get a replacement hard drive and download the hack I need to move files from the iPod to said hard drive, because Apple omitted that convenient feature at the behest of the RIAA to combat piracy, which would be fine if we lived in the Unicornverse where everything was perfect and your hard drive never died a sudden, horrible death.

1) “More Than This,” Roxy Music. So 80s in its sound, yet it still sounds timeless because of Bryan Ferry’s voice.

2) “Oxford Comma,” Vampire Weekend. Features not only a grammatically themed title, it uses the word “diction” in the lyrics. This debut album was one of the best summer CDs I’ve bought in a while. I really like the video, very Wes Anderson.

3) “The Wizard,” Black Sabbath. VH1 Classic, my new go-to channel for all things music, ran a pretty entertaining series of documentaries on heavy metal called, of course, Heavy. The series showed Sabbath in their prime, including Ozzy being Ozzy. Watching that footage, it’s hard to believe that he went from singing about sorcerers and black magic and iron men to pitching cell phones for Samsung. That has to be weirder than some of the acid flashbacks he’s had.

4) “Lazy Susan,” Oakley Hall. I saw them open for Calexico a couple years ago, and they were just very unremarkable. They were enthusiastic, they put a lot of energy into their show, and they weren’t bad. It’s just that you could hear better versions of this heavy Americana music from a lot of other bands. It’s like the ingredients are there but something goes wrong in the baking.

5) “Go! Go! Go!” The Blasters. See, then you have a group like The Blasters. Their 80s take on rockabilly wasn’t that much different than the original rockabilly, but they managed to turn up the energy and tweak it just enough to be really good, even if it wasn’t very original. Such a fine line between stupid and clever.

6) “Mary Anne With the Shaky Hand,” The Who. Too much flower power for my taste here. It reminds me of “Listen to the Flower People.” And, of course, here I am ripping off two jokes from another movie to use as my own. Ah, hypocrisy. It’s a shame they can’t make a combustion engine that runs on that, because we could make a car that could drive to moon and back on one tank.

7) “2007, The Year Punk Broke (My Heart),” Los Campesinos! A recent Song of the Day entry at Three Bulls. A record that just oozes charisma, like that person in high school who was so nice and fun, she could navigate multiple cliques and be friends with various groups of people who would normally despise each other.

8) “Tenderness,” General Public. Speaking of high school...This was one of those songs I wouldn’t let myself like when I was a little metal head (see also: Duran, Duran) because, you know, I was 15 and a fucking idiot about not wanting to seem soft. But it’s truly a great single. It doesn’t have the timelessness of something like Roxy Music. Instead, it’s like a little gem locked in a time capsule, making you happy you found it because it’s truly of its time.

9) “Optimistic,” Radiohead. I like Kid A, the polarizing Radiohead album, a lot. It was the first album of theirs that I ever heard all the way through, and I loved it for being so cold and robotic—unusual for a man who hates Pink Floyd for the same reasons. Like I said, I’m a hypocrite. In fact, “Optimistic” is the least enjoyable song for me because it’s like Radiohead chickened out and threw in something that sounded like an Ok Computer b-side, so the fans wouldn’t completely flip out.

10) “Catch Me Now I’m Falling,” The Kinks. Old Kinks songs that talk about how fucked up things were in the late 70s really are perfect for our current economic climate. Which is unfortunate for us.

11) “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” Jay-Z. I can’t help but think of Chappelle’s Show because of a sketch where he keeps yelling for someone to “turn my headphones up” while recording his new rap song. This one still gets the booty muscles grooving, though.

Have a good weekend, and hug your digital media tonight, while you still can.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Skanktity of Marriage

In a very large and expensive-looking kitchen, DICK, a 50-ish man, sits at the table, reading the paper. His wife, FAITH, about 20 years his junior, sets the table.

It’ll be nice to have all the kids home for Thanksgiving, don’t you think, hon?

It’ll be better when Consuela shows up with the turkey and gets all this cooking done. I swear, supervising the help is so stressful.

DICK (grabbing her hand)
Don’t you worry your pretty blonde head, sweetheart. You manage the help much better than my other wives did.

They give each other air kisses without actually kissing. Dick turns back to the paper.

I can’t believe these homosexuals are getting so upset about this Prop 8 stuff. Thank God we voted against it.

I know. Marriage is sacred. If they started getting married, it’s like all marriages would be meaningless.

Exactly. And I don’t want our marriage to be meaningless.

There’s a knock at the back door. At the same time, the kitchen phone rings.

FAITH (walking to the back door)
I’ll get the door. It’s probably Consuela.

DICK (answering the phone)
Thanks, hon. (into the phone) Hello?

Faith opens the door. A strapping young man, DIEGO, stands in the doorway.

FAITH (startled)
Diego? (harshly whispering) What the hell are you doing here?

Mira, I cannot be away from you, señora. Te amo, Mrs. Faith.

DICK (looking over his shoulder as he whispers into the phone)
Barbara, why are you calling me on my home phone? What if Faith picked up? (pauses) Well, I sure as hell care if she finds out about us.

He sees Diego in the doorway. He waves.

DIEGO (waving back as he whispers to Faith)
Mira, run away with me. We can get married.

FAITH (speaking loudly)
Why, Diego, I thought I told you the pool didn’t need to be cleaned today. (To Dick) Who is that, honey?

Um, Bob Johnson. Boring work stuff. You know that Bob, never takes a day off.

They both give each other cute smiles, wrinkling their noses at each other, before turning back to their conversations.

DICK (into the phone)
Of course I care for you, Barbara. But I told you when we started this affair that I care about my marriage.

FAITH (to Diego)
Are you out of your fucking mind? Run away with you? To where, the pool house?

DICK (loudly)
Look, Bob, you’re going to have to work this out on your own. I have to go now. You have a Happy Thanksgiving.

As he hangs up the phone, a woman's voice yells through the receiver:

BARBARA (yelling through the phone)
Go to hell you son of a—

FAITH (loudly)
Now, Diego, I don’t need you to come back until Monday. Just remember, you come to work on the days Dick goes to work, comprende? You have a nice Thanksgiving.

Faith closes the door as Diego protests. She locks it and turns to Dick. They smile and cross the room to embrace.

I love you.

I love you, too.

A young man, CHASE, enters. His face is stubbly, his clothes wrinkled, and he looks like he hasn’t slept in a couple of days. On his arm is CANDY, a tan, thin woman with a giant chest and a bad red-haired dye-job. Dick and Faith turn to see him.


Hi, dad. Hi, Faith.

Who’s this?

Candy, this is my dad and my stepmom. (to Dick and Faith) Dad, Faith, this is Candy...my wife!

What? You were only in Vegas for two days?

I know it’s crazy.

CANDY (chewing gum as she talks)
What can I say? I saw him while I was dancing and when he slipped a dollar into my....

CHASE (interrupting)
I saw Candy at her, um, place of employment, and after watching her in action, I fell for her. Over the next 22 hours, I realized I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her.

It was fate.

Yeah, we didn’t know if we should do this, so we let the roulette wheel decide. I told Candy to pick a number...

I picked red 21 ’cause I’m 21 and my hair’s, you know, red.

FAITH (aside)
Yeah, the bottle is red.

And red 21 came up! We drove through the wedding chapel and here we are!

DICK (waits a beat with his arms crossed sternly before breaking into a smile)
Congratulations, son! (He hugs Chase.)

Dick, don’t you think this is a little sudden?

Nonsense. That’s what they said about us, honey bunny, and look how happy we are. Welcome to the family, Candy.

Thanks...Dad! (They hug.)

Another young woman, HOPE, walks into the kitchen.


Hi Mom. Hi Dick. Hi Chase. Hi...woman with Chase.

Candy, this is my stepsister, Hope. Hope, this is my wife!

Get out! I’m getting married too!

FAITH (excited)
You are?

DICK (concerned)
Who’s the guy?

HOPE (reaches into her purse)
You mean, who’s the daddy? (She pulls out a pregnancy test.)

You’re pregnant, too!

Yep. And he’s a lawyer!

Faith and Hope shriek in happiness and hug.

I don’t know, Hope, is this a good idea?

It’s fine, honey. It just like what happened with my first marriage.

DICK (relaxing)
You’re right. And you're doing the right thing by getting married. (He hugs Hope.)

Someone slams into the back door. Dick walks over and unlocks it. CHAZ, Chase’s older brother, enters.

Hi Dad, hi everyone.

The family gives Chase a series of half-hearted hellos. They don’t appear happy to see him.

I hope you don’t mind, but I brought someone with me.

DANIEL enters.

This is Daniel. My...husband.

Spouse, dear, we said we weren’t going to conform to these sexist hetero naming conventions. (To the family) Happy Thanksgiving!

The family stares with their jaws open.

Your husband?!


Yes, we just got back from Massachusetts.

The family erupts in a series of protests.

Oh my god, could you show less reverence for marriage?

Yeah, you’re making a mockery of it.

And it’s so immoral.

Chaz, how could you? I told you not to bring your...friends...here, and you bring your...whatever he is? I will not have the institution of marriage insulted under my own roof during Thanksgiving.

Chaz gets upset. He turns to Daniel.

I told you they wouldn’t understand. Come on, Daniel, I think Denny’s is open.

Wow, they really are just like you said.

They depart.

So appalling. Thank goodness California isn’t Massachusetts.

I know, and I’m sorry all of you had to see that. Let’s gather ’round and say a prayer, so that God will show Chaz the path to good, wholesome, committed love.

They gather around the table and bow their heads in prayer. The phone rings.

I’ll get it.

Dick leaps from the table.


Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: How are we reacting to the stock market?

Special extra volatility edition!

15) Sell! Sell!

14) Buy! Buy!

13) Fuck! Fuck!

12) Turning stock options into a papier mâché noose.

11) Telling the kids they won’t be going to Harvard.

10) Telling the kids they’ll be paying their own way for community college.

9) Converting to lesbianism and making Suze Orman our sugar mama.

8) Using 401k statements as rolling papers.

7) Officially un-retiring by turning in Wal-Mart employment application.

6) Conducting insider trading so we’ll get arrested and have some place to live until the market rebounds.

5) Exchanging stocks for more stable commodities like anthrax, mustard gas, and weapons-grade uranium.

4) Popping Wall Street into the DVD player and masturbating to our wildest free market fantasies.

3) Taking down our Alan Greenspan Fathead.

2) Switching client dinners from steak tartar and coke to McRibs and crack.

1) Rubbing Henry Paulson’s head for good luck.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What anti-piracy measures are we establishing?

Special extra plunder edition!

12) Profiling all eye-patch wearers.

11) Posting “No booty in hull” stickers on ships.

10) Switching their rum with Folger’s Crystals.

9) Requiring all peg legs to have tracking devices.

8) Sending Johnny Depp undercover.

7) Requiring background checks on anyone spending more than $10,000 in doubloons.

6) Threatening to send all captured pirates to Dick Cheney’s Locker.

5) Putting "The Club" on ship wheels.

4) Setting up sting operations at Mediterranean Long John Silver’s restaurants.

3) Suing anyone who ever imitates the speech of, dresses like, reads books about, or watches movies with pirates, thereby endorsing and conspiring to commit piracy (this solution sponsored by the Recording Industry Association of America).

2) Starting neighbaaarrrhood watch programs in the harbors.*

1) Waterboarding suspected parrots.

*Obligatory aaarrr joke posted in compliance with the Pirate Comedy Act of 2002.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Random 11

It's one more random than 10!

I swear this isn’t going to become Circle Jerk at the Weather Channel (although that would spice up meteorology a bit), but I have a bit more to say about the climate here at the End of the World.

Yesterday, we had something called a “snow squall.” I have never been in a “snow squall” before. Take all the fun of a driving, howling, swirling rain storm, and—at no additional charge—add the fun of snow. That’s what it was like all day yesterday. I cleared some snow last night and the weather was so ridiculous, it seemed fake, like I was on a Hollywood set where they blow fake flakes with an industrial wind turbine.

I’ve decided that I really don’t want to run into any more weather that I’ve never experienced before. I think I’ve seen all the good stuff at this point. Whatever type of weather still out there waiting for me is the bad kind. Because, while you can only dress up a nice day so many ways, shit weather takes many, many forms.

This morning, as I cleared the remaining snow from the driveway, the clouds finally parted and bright blue sky and warm yellow light beamed down. It hit me: now I understand why people worship the sun.

But now I’m warm and inside and enjoying the following....

1) “Rollers Show,” Nick Lowe. Nick Lowe completely skewers The Bay City Rollers and the sugar pop they represented by making a sugar pop song with a razor blade hidden inside of it. Pop music needs more songs like this.

2) “Yours and Mine,” Calexico. A calm blue ocean in the middle of a blinding white snow squall.

3) “Hitsville U.K.,” The Clash. They are in my top five bands, and The Clash, Give ‘Em Enough Rope, and London Calling are three of the best albums I own. But I just can’t get into Sandinista. It’s one of those albums I appreciate—they showed more range an ambition on one album than most bands do in an entire career—but I don’t really enjoy it.

4) “I Walk Away,” Crowded House. I started listening to NPR’s All Songs Considered podcasts, including a debate on whether the 80s actually sucked for music. The panel—three guys I’d never heard of and the awesome Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney—generally landed on the “suck” square. And while there was a lot of awful, awful, music, a decade that produced Crowded House cannot be considered a loss. The first album is just chock full of poppy goodness like this tune. Couldn't find the Crowded House version, but the Split Enz one is equally good.

5) “Mr. Brightside,” The Killers. I fucking love this song, from the 1980s influence larceny to The O.C. lyrics to the melodramatic vocals. It takes real talent to take those ingredients and make a song as good and catchy as this.

6) “Mirror in the Bathroom,” The English Beat. One of the most underrated albums of the maligned Eighties. The sound here takes an already killer song and pushes it into the stratosphere. The way the rhythm section slithers around in the background, the Ginsu-sharp guitar, the reverbed sax that feels like it’s right on your tail yet shrouded by fog—just a great, great song.

7) “Praise You,” Fatboy Slim. I used to play around with a computer program called Acid. It’s a music program that allows you to take samples and create your own compositions. I was pretty addicted to it for a while, and I probably made about three dozen “songs” or so. I had one...ONE...out of all those that didn’t completely suck. I either had parts that didn’t go together, or made stuff that sounded completely generic. I couldn’t really infuse those pieces with any personality. So I am kind of amazed when someone like Fatboy Slim can make a pretty flawless, original song out of other people’s parts, and make it sound completely cohesive not just from start to finish, but with the other songs on the album.

8) “Hollywood Babylon,” The Misfits. What once seemed intimidating now sounds like Rob Zombie’s house band.

9) “Don’t Let Him Go,” REO Speedwagon. What is it about arena rock that warms my heart so? My favorite REO song, probably because it is so arena: thumping beat, cornball synth solo, flashy guitar solos, and big dumb chorus. It deserves the goofy YouTube video that I linked to.

10) “I’d Do Anything for You,” The Mr. T Experience. With a real producer and real publicity, these guys would have been huge. The best lovelorn lyrics ever produced by a punk band.

11) “Baba O’Riley,” The Who. It’s been played to death, yet it cannot be killed. Good enough to make me forget all about snow squalls.

Have a good, and hopefully warm, weekend.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The CJSD Winter Survival Guide

Above: artist's representation of the worst November day ever.

Snow, ice, hypothermia, frozen pipes, frostbite, falling through the ice, slipped vertebrae from shoveling, impaling from falling icicles...these are all the exciting signs that winter is here! Unlike those other wussy seasons, winter is the only one you have to prepare for. And, with a little forethought and planning, you can turn those cold temperatures and the hot bile in your gut into a positive experience for everyone! Here are a few tips to put the "wonderful" in "winter wonderland."

  • Colder temperatures means it’s time to change your clothing. But it does not give you a license to be unfashionable. Bulky, insulating coats are a big no-no. Stick with thinner, more slimming jackets. Don’t worry—your body will shiver to compensate for the heat loss.

  • Avoid hats, as these often look unflattering and do a real number on your hair. Whatever you do, do not wear earmuffs, no matter what the wind chill is. Do you want to be warm or do you want to look good? Remember, that burning frostbite on your ears means you’re in style!

  • Since you’re often locked indoors during the winter, plan a series of activities to help pass the time and keep your spirits up. Host your own Ingmar Bergman film festival. Dig out all your old Cure albums. Or take your favorite novel, like The Shining, and type your favorite line over and over again, all day long. The winter months will just fly by for you and your family.

  • Winter is always easier if you’re excited about Christmas. So get through the winter by making the 25th of January, February, and March Christmas too. Take your mind off the weather by shopping for presents non-stop for four months. Be sure to use the other eight months of the year to restore your crippled credit rating.

  • Create your own winter support network. Call all of your family friends and ask them if it is cold and snowing where they live. If they say no, say, “Well fuck you anyway, you warm-weather-loving bastard. I hope you get skin cancer by the pool.” Soon you’ll be in contact only with people sympathetic to your plight.

  • Children love snow and will often beg to go out and play in it. Gently remind them that it’s cold out and unsafe. If they whine, let them know that the reason it is snowing in the first place is because their disobedience makes Baby Jesus cry and that his tears freeze because God is giving them the cold shoulder.

  • Saving on heating is easy if you plan ahead. First, stock up on plenty of alcohol, preferably any type of brown liquor. Then turn your thermostat off and begin drinking. Stop when you feel warm or everything goes black. The amount you save in heating costs should pay for most of your liquor bills.

  • Commuting in the winter is difficult and hazardous. Reduce your commute time by luring your boss into a sexual or racial harassment suit, then offer to settle out of court for enough money to last until you start a new job in April.

  • Prevent your pipes from freezing by replacing your water supply with anti-freeze. This step is easier to follow if you replace your drinking water with liquor as indicated above, and shower in protective clothing.

  • Snow eventually melts, so shoveling is really unnecessary if you are patient.

  • Winter storms can cause power outages that leave you without any means of entertaining yourself. Invest in a portable generator so you can still access your “special” pictures on your computer or power your “personal massager.”

  • Wind chill can make cold temperatures into real killers. Try to reduce winter winds by offering a sacrifice to the wind god of your choice. Remember: the more evolved the sacrifice is, the more likely your prayers will be heard.

  • If you plan to travel with a group through an isolated, snowy mountain pass or in a charted flight, try to lose as much weight as possible before the journey. In fact, give your fellow travelers as many caloric sweets as possible. A little deprivation today could pay a life-saving, stomach-filling dividend tomorrow.

  • When confronted with a cold so bitter, it freezes your very soul, look around you. If you see the three-headed figure of Satan devouring Brutus, Cassius, and Judas Iscariot, you are actually in the Ninth Circle of Hell and the above strategies will not necessarily apply.

  • If all else fails, migrate south. The more Spanish you hear, the closer you are to warmth.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: Why are we refusing to bail out the auto industry?

Special extra cargo space for the cash edition!

12) Failure to make cup holders large enough for Super Big Gulp.

11) Union’s insistence on doughnuts-for-life program.

10) Republican Congressmen could give a fuck about your problems.

9) This is not your father's auto industry lobby.

8) Need to focus on promoting the Chinese auto industry so China can keep lending us money to bail out our auto industry.

7) Auto side won't negotiate around the clock without getting time-and-a-half.

6) Industry leaders were scheduled to meet with Congress, but their cars broke down on the way.

5) Fuel prices finally igniting American interest in the Yugo.

4) Refuse to follow Japanese auto manufactures’ example and offer a happy ending after government bailout.

3) Still seeking compensation for atrocities inflicted through John Mellencamp abuse.

2) $25 billion only fills up an eighth of the industry’s tank.

1) Don't want to throw more money into a lemon.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Brandom 11

It's one more Brandom than 10!

I saw a disturbing bit of news this week. It’s not the economy or the Obama transition or Sarah Palin buying as much TV time as possible to prove she’s not an idiot (good luck with all that). It was this:

Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing” has become the first digital back-catalog song to sell more than two million digital downloads.

Now, as I have mentioned when they have popped up on Fridays, I have a soft spot for Journey. If “Don’t Stop Believing” comes on the radio or in my iTunes, you can bet I’m going full-throttle karaoke. They are cheesy, sure, but who doesn’t love a grilled cheese sandwich (except maybe some lactose-intolerant readers)?

However, as much as I love a grilled cheese sandwich, I know it’s also not filet mignon (vegetarian readers, insert whatever is the filet mignon of non-meat). There are some notable artists missing from the digital domain, but still, there are a lot of great tunes out there to add to one’s collection, and yet this is what the people clamored for. Now I understand a little bit better how Barabbas went free.

What really confuses me is that, given the gazoodles of records Journey sold, two million people decided to rush out and pay to download “Don’t Stop Believing.” I am sure that 95 percent of the people who did this already had a copy of this song in their domiciles, either on a cassette rumbling around under the car seats, stuck behind the CDs they publicly display, in the box of stuff from the ex- including the mix tape you made to let him/her know you were going to forgive her/him for cheating just one more time. Not that I would encourage anyone to steal music, but let’s face it, if you’re going to give your money to artists, give it to some who need it.

Here's the true kicker: I literally just realized, as I came to the end of this rant, that the copy of “Don’t Stop Believing” on my hard drive was legally downloaded from iTunes. I am not making this up. I can even tell you where my copy of Journey’s Greatest Hits is: in my graveyard of cassettes (aka one of those big, black, vinyl cassette carriers) in the attic. I will now punch myself in the balls.

1) “The Loudest Sound,” The Cure. I caught a bit of a recent concert on TV last week. Robert Smith looks as if he took all his sorrows, baked them into a large and very caloric pie, and ate it all in one sitting. But beyond that, the man is in need of a serious makeover. I loves me some Cure, but it’s difficult for me to watch someone who looks older then me trying to look like he did when I first started listening to him. It would be like me walking around in tight-rolled white cargo pants, a neon green Gotcha T-shirt, and an acid-washed jean jacket with the collar turned up. Funny, but for all the wrong reasons.

2) “Blindman’s Bend,” Dave Dobbyn. A New Zealand musical legend I would never have known about were it not for the legendary husband of this New Zealand literary legend. Dobbyn is a terrific singer-songwriter, someone who, had he been born here or in the UK, would have been huge. Worth seeking out. In fact, there's no YouTube of this song, but here's the excellent “Loyal.”

Seriously, I had this song on a mix CD from my friend TMiddy called “Kiwi Music,” which included a very awesome bit of cover art of a Kiwi. The mix tape/CD is really an art that’s becoming lost in the digital age, so I cherish when I get a great one from someone.

3) “Pacific Theme,” Broken Social Scene. A little bit like Steely Dan’s rhythm section playing with New Order’s Bernard Sumner on guitar. And that’s before the horns kick in.

4) “Does This Bus Stop at 82nd St.?” Bruce Springsteen. I moved to New York when TLB and I got married. She was already working in magazine publishing, and I decided to try and get into publishing myself. My very first day in Manhattan, after a day of interviews, I was walking back to the Port Authority with TLB after she finished work (we were living with a friend in Jersey while we got settled). I saw these two old, haggard guys arguing, right in the middle of the sidewalk on Seventh Avenue as we got near 42nd Street. One had a handful of money, and as we got closer, I heard him say to the other old guy, in an accent that sounded like Poppie from Seinfeld, “Oh yeah, well I fucked your mother!” The other man, without saying a word, hauled off and delivered an uppercut that lifted the money man off both his feet. It was like one of those exaggerated, slo-mo movie knockouts. The guy who was punched fell on his back and hit this head against the pavement so hard, I felt it in my feet.

And that was my first day in New York.

5) “Dudley,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I don’t like these guys (or, more specifically, guys and a gal) as much as I thought I would, mostly because I think they try to hard to sound hard by cocking up their melodic sensibilities with noise. Here they succesfully let their pop flag fly, with a nice vocal and some understated but energetic guitar playing.

6) “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” The Beatles. The most polarizing Beatles tune after “Revolution 9?” Personally, I’ve always thought it was one of the silly-yet-good entries in the Beatles canon, like “Yellow Submarine” or “Octopus’s Garden.” But over the years I’ve read or heard lots of people rant about this song, especially big Beatles fans who find it a fluffy piece of dung.

7) “Picture Book,” The Kinks. While commercials using classic rock songs can often been cringeworthy, I dug the Hewlett-Packard commercial that used this one. And hey, Ray Davies deserves all the money he can get, much more so than anyone from Journey.

8) “Hungry Like the Wolf,” Duran Duran. “Rio” is by far my favorite song of theirs, but damn if I don’t like this one. It’s a great song that manages to personify the good side of Eighties pop without overdosing on the bad stuff. Oh, and they new how to make videos then!

9) “Space and Time,” The Verve. Urban Hymns is in my top ten of 90s albums, and this is one of the best songs off it. The guitars wash over you while Richard Ashcroft’s voice finds a sweet spot between crooning and droning the complements the music perfectly.

10) “Even the Losers,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Classic singalong material. Petty has that great voice to imitate, with that nasally twang. Years ago, I read an interview with him about the difficulties musicians have remaining faithful to their spouses on the road. He said something like, “Yeah, it’s not that hard if you don’t fuck a lot of women.” Good point. It also helps if you look like Tom Petty.

11) “Dark Center of the Universe,” Modest Mouse. For all the hope and change floating around the airwaves—and I’m one of the people who voted that way—this song has captured my mood a little better these days. It’s angry and kind of chaotic, but catchy enough that I want to play it again and tap my foot along. Because even though the people I voted for won, they’ve been handed the keys to Delta House after the Deltas lived there for four years—with all the vandalism and destruction, but without any of the fun and humor. I’m glad they have the house, but pissed and, frankly, depressed, about how much shit they have to clean up. It helps if you have a song you can hum that doesn’t diminish the anger that keeps you going.

Have an awesome weekend. And thanks to Rotten McDonald and my own ham-fisted typing for inspiring this week's title change. I'm not sure if I'll keep it, but it made me laugh a little.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What executive orders will we be rescinding?

10) Dropping “g’s” From Words Ending in “ing” so as Make the Executive Branch Sound More Neighborly and Such.

9) Preserving Stem Cells as Caviar for the Vice President’s Office.

8) Enabling the Federal Emergency Management Agency to Relocate Disaster Victims by Catapult.

7) Requiring Transportation Security Administration to Perform Full Body Cavity Searches on Anyone Who Looks a Little Dark.

6) Mandating That All Books Must Have Cliffs Notes or a Movie Adaptation That Bypasses Actual Reading.

5) Allowing the Drilling of Baby Seals for Oil.

4) Permitting National Security Agency Employees to Interrupt Phone Calls to Ask People to Speak More Clearly.

3) Renaming the Phrase “Global Warming” in All Government Documents to “Freedom Heat.”

2) Altering American Foreign Policy to Comply With the “Suck It” Doctrine.

1) Establishing Federally Protected Status for Caucasian Males.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Candy Man

A CJSD Analog Short

It all started with the damn candy.

Last year, Loretta didn’t buy enough. I told her to get a few bags worth, what with all the yuppies and their kids moving into the neighborhood now. “Make sure you get enough,” I told her. So what did she do? She bought two bags of those little Snickers bars. Two. “‘That should be plenty,’” she told me. Hmph. We ran out by 8:30 and the next morning, who’s outside scraping dried egg yolks off the Plymouth? Not Loretta, let me tell you.

So this year, I tell her to make sure we had enough candy. Specifically, I said, “Buy enough goddamned candy to feed a Vietnamese village.” Now you see, I was exaggerating in order to make a point. But Loretta, she’s not so good at picking up on little subtleties and what not. She comes home from the Super Shopper with enough candy to feed the entire Viet Cong. Jawbreakers, Milky Ways, Milk Duds...and three bags of Candy Corn. Fifty bucks worth of candy. I imagine my face was red as an apple. But when I look at Loretta and she’s smiling and proud of herself for getting so much candy like I asked her, well, I can’t really yell at her now, can I?

Halloween night comes around, and the inside of my porch looks like Willy Wonka’s factory. There’s candy everywhere. And I’m throwing handfuls of the stuff in the kids’ bags, not even waiting for them to ask for it. They’re saying “...treat” and I’m already onto the next kid. But we had a lot less kids coming around on account of last year’s incident with Mr. Johnson’s popcorn balls. So even though I’m like the Santa Claus of Halloween, I’ve got more than half of the candy left at the end of the night.

Luckily Loretta’s like a pack rat and saves every damn bit of paper that she can. Normally I yell at her for keeping all that junk, but this time, she’s got the receipt for the candy. I figure I’ll just take it back to the store, end of problem.

I throw all the stuff in the back of the Chuck Wagon—that’s my nickname for my cargo van—and drive off to the Super Saver. I come to the customer counter and talk to this kid. I tell him what happened and show him the receipt.

“I’m sorry, sir, but there are no returns on Halloween candy,” he says.

“But I didn’t open it, and I’ve got my receipt right here,” I tell him.

“Yes, I understood you the first time,” he says, “but the store policy is that there are no returns on Halloween candy.” And he says it in this real condescending voice, too, like I’m an idiot or something.

“Look here,” I tell him, “I heard you the first time, too, okay? And I want you to hear this...I want to speak to the manager.”

“I am the manager,” he says.

Manager! This kids looks like he’s not ready to start shaving yet. Well, to make a long story short, I use some language I normally save for poker night with the guys and wind up being escorted out of the store—candy still in hand. Super Shopper. More like the Super Sucker.

I’m driving in the van, just mad as a tick. I know rules are rules, but when a customer comes in with perfectly good merchandise and a receipt, that should be the end of the story, right? You got a receipt and unopened candy, you should get your money back. This isn’t Russia. I’m turning all this over in my head and trying to figure out what to do with all the candy when I damn near hit some kid who comes flying out of nowhere. He’s chasing after a football his friend threw into the street. I slam on the breaks and honk the horn and roll down my window, ready to give this kid a lecture on looking both ways, when it dawns on me: kids...candy.

“Hey, little boy,” I say to him out of the window. “You want some candy.”

The kid just looks at me like I’ve got two heads. “Hey,” I say, louder, “You want some candy? I’ve got some for you.”

His little friend—the little quarterback—comes over and grabs his arm. He says something to him I can’t hear and they just take off running. “Wait,” I yell out to them, but they take off faster than Loretta’s waistline did after she turned 30.

I get back home and decide I’ve had enough hooplah over a bunch of stupid candy for one day. I leave it out in the van and go inside.

Next day, Loretta gives me a grocery list and a bunch of Super Shopper coupons from the Sunday paper. I don’t want to tell her that I’m banned from the one over on Hawthorne, so I take the coupons, hop in the van and drive to the one way the hell over on Jackson Street. They’re having a sale on winter salt, so I figure I might as well load up and get a fifty pound bag. But while I’m throwing it in the van, I’m not paying attention and almost throw it on top of the candy. I catch myself and twist my damn back just like I did the last day at the plant. It wrenches up like a vice grip, enough that I had to ask some girl bagger to help me get it in the van.

On my way back home, I see a bunch of kids playing in a yard. They look happy and normal, not like the two dim bulbs I saw the day before. I pull up to the curb and roll down the window. “Hey kids,” I say, friendly as I can be. “How would you like some candy.”

“You’ve got candy?” they ask, excited.

“Whole bunch of it,” I tell them.

“Oh, please mister, can we have some of your candy? Please please please.” Cute kids, they are. And normal.

“Sure thing,” I tell them. I get ready to get out, and my back locks up. “Say, why don’t you guys come around and get it out of the van yourself?” I tell them.

They smile and giggle and run around to the back. They get door open when I hear this scream. I look out the window and see this woman running toward the van. “Kyle! Joseph! Get away from there! NOW!” I mean, she’s acting like the kids are getting into a burning building.

“Ma’am, they’re fine, they’re just getting some candy out of my van.”

“You leave them alone!” she screams, her voice dropping to this growl. And she comes around the side and yanks the kids away from the van. They start crying and whining about the candy, but she just pulls them to the house, looking back at me and giving me the evil eye. And not only did the kids not take any of the God-forsaken candy, but they left the door wide open. I get out and lurch over to the side door and slam it shut. For the second night in a row, I’m sitting at home with a bunch of candy I don’t need.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: why don’t I just keep the candy? Well, it’s Loretta. With her blood sugar and obsessive compulsive disorder, it’d be Easter Sunday in the hospital all over again. In fact, I told her I already returned it so she wouldn’t go snooping around in the Chuck Wagon.

So why don’t I just throw it out? Let me tell you what’s wrong with this country, other than baby-faced store managers who get to tell you what you can and can't return: throwing stuff out when it’s perfectly good. That’s not how my dad raised me. My mother once made meat loaf that was packed with onions. My father, rest his soul, he loved onions. “Honey,” he’d tell my mother, “you never put enough onions in the meat loaf.” So one night she puts two whole onions in the meat loaf, just so my father will stop talking about there not being enough onions. It was a wonder that she could even bake it. I know he hated every bite, but he’d rather swallow every mouthful of onion-soaked meat than throw it out. I hate onions, so I pushed the plate away. What’d my father do? He stuck that plate in the refrigerator. For the next three nights, he’d go in the refrigerator and set that cold, slimy plate of meat loaf in front of me. I didn’t get any other dinner except that, “You finish what your mother made you, boy,” he said each night. I don’t know how I did it, but I choked it down. And even though I went up to my room and called him every name in the book, I learned a big lesson that night. So that’s why I couldn’t just throw that candy away.

I get up the next morning and Loretta’s got another list for me. She’s out of yarn and needs me to go to Needle in a Haystack. I hate having to go there—I’m always the only man in the place. But she can’t drive on account of her deformed big toe, so I have to go.

Unfortunately, Loretta’s a little behind on her laundry, so all I have to wear are my “fat pants.” I had a bit of weight problem after the accident at the plant, and finally lost it by going on that shake diet. I put them on and they practically fall off. I grab my one good belt, but while I’m tightening it, the damn buckle hole rips. I tell you another thing wrong with this country, they don’t make belts like they used to. My father had one belt that lasted him 47 years. I can’t get one to last 17. I could wait for my pants, except you don’t want to come between Loretta and her yarn. I figure what the hey, I’m just running out for some thread.

In the van, I pass by three of the cutest little girls you ever did see. Triplets, all dressed alike, laughing and jumping in a big pile of leaves. It’s like a sign, like God’s telling me, “give these girls your candy.”

I pull over to the curb and get out of the van, holding my pants up with one hand. “Hey girls, how are you?” I ask them.

“Fine,” they say, all together like a choir.

“Do you girls like candy?” I ask.

“Candy?!” they yell. “You have candy?”

“A whole lot of it,” I say. I open up the back and pull out two fistfuls of bags. I toss them to the girls and they’re squealing, “candy, candy, CANDY!” I get all the candy out except for two bags that are just out of my reach. The little girls are hopping up and down around me, and just as I get the last bags in my hands, I feel a bit of a breeze. That’s when I hear the siren. I turn around and see two cops. I hold up the two last candy bags just before my fat pants fall to my knees.

So that’s how I wound up here. Try to do something nice and look where it gets me. No good deed goes unpunished, my dad used to say. I’ll tell you, that’s what’s really wrong with this country. And whoo boy, you’re lucky you didn’t have to hear Loretta when I told her I was in the pokey. It’s gonna be a long ride home. As soon as someone can drive her over here, of course.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Friday Randon 11

I started this blog in 2005 for two reasons. One was to have an outlet for the ideas for short humorous pieces that I had. Outside of The New Yorker or McSweeny’s, there really aren’t many places to publish short humor. A blog seemed like the perfect format, and it would keep me from bombarding The Lovely Becky with what she calls “my act.”

The other reason was George W. Bush. I began the Shrub presidency with disappointment and ambivalence at how the election went down, but I also accepted it. We live in a democracy, and sometimes the other side wins, and I resigned myself to four years of Fool Rule.

By the time the 2004 election rolled around, I had become a different political beast. I hated this administration. Iraq, the manipulation that led to the war, detainee torture, the deregulation of just about everything that needed to be regulated, the regulation of just about everything that needed to remain private...well, you know the song. Most of all, though, I hated the goddamned smugness. There’s a quality to the Bush Administration, a quality exhibited by nearly every member that had anything to do with national policy, that they were in charge and if you didn’t like it, you could (as Cheney would say) go fuck yourself. They acted like democracy was this big burden and that things would be so much easier if they could just disband the Congress and suspend elections until the War on Terra was over.

That anger fueled the majority of things I’ve written in the last three years. The desire to shove a satirical pie in that smirking face got my creative juices going. I have to hand it to the Chimp, he provided a lot of great material. And Sarah Palin looked more than capable of picking up that mantle.

Of course, I voted for Obama, and I am excited that he won. But it certainly changes the game for me in terms of the blog. Not that I can’t make fun of Democrats. It’s a little harder, sure, but Biden alone will probably provide some good material. And watching the GOP eat its own tail is amusing and should continue to provide fodder.

So, I plan to still write and post and lambast. I have entirely too many issues to let one positive election erase my muse. I just am not completely sure what’s going to come out from this point. I think I’m going to enjoy finding that out.

Enough of my yackin', time for some tunes.

1) “Freak Scene,” Dinosaur Jr. I tell you what was a freak scene: watching Anderson Cooper talking to a hologram on election night. I am a pretty big tech nerd, but even I wasn’t quite ready for that. Although the possibilities are interesting.

2) “I’m the Man Who Loves You,” Wilco. Jeff Tweedy made a nice appearance on Colbert a couple weeks ago, at which point TLB reminded me of how she got to see Uncle Tupelo in their prime when she was in college. Why? Because she knows it tortures me because I never saw them. That’s really the secret to a happy marriage—being able to annoy your spouse without actually angering them. That and hot lovin’. If you have those two things, you’ll cruise to at least the silver anniversary.

3) “Waterfall,” The Stone Roses. Their debut album is one of those albums that I went from liking to loving to taking with me on a desert island.

4) “Time Bomb,” Rancid. One of my favorite 90s albums. There are plenty of old classic albums that I love from start to finish. Once CDs started expanding the length of albums from 30-45 minutes to 60-80, even my favorite CDs usually had a track or two that would get the skip treatment. ...And Out Come the Wolves is one of the rare ones that gets played from start to finish.

5) “Happyman,” Less Than Jake. Another entry from the 90s ska punk revival, although not as classic as Rancid. I still enjoy the occasional revved up ska tune, but ska punk is like swing dancing, one of those sub-trends from the 90s that somehow seems more outdated than the synth-pop of the 80s that all the kids are copying these days.

6) “Heroes,” David Bowie. This rivals “Ziggy Stardust” as my favorite Bowie track. When he switches from the controlled singing to the shouted vocals, it sends a little tingle up my spine every time.

7) “Landslide (Live),” Fleetwood Mac. Oh Jesus, it’s getting dusty in here. Talk amongst yourselves for a moment.

8) “Fling,” Built to Spill. I mentioned a few weeks ago that I’d been playing a lot of Built to Spill, especially There’s Nothing Wrong With Love. Maybe it’s because they’re from another snowy hinterland (Idaho) that it resonates so much with me lately. There’s a combination of beauty and isolation that reflects what I see outside of my office window on a daily basis.

9) “Too Much Sex (Too Little Jesus),” Drive-By Truckers. The GOP anthem. From the awesomely titled Pizza Deliverance.

10) “Little Fluffy Clouds,” The Orb. I think this was used in a commercial once. Hey, remember raves? Yeah, the people who went to them don’t either. Also, while this double-album is a monumental bit of electronica, it is every bit as pretentious as Yes ever dreamed of being.

11) “Big Bad Moon,” Joe Satriani. After eight years of monkey-faced, self-aggrandizing, Constitution humping, anti-democratic, hypocritical dickheadery, you know what we need? A little shredding. And no one shreds like Joe Satriani.

Hidden Bonus Track:
“Homeland Security,” Lewis Black. I had to laugh when this came on as I was wrapping the list up. I know for a fact Lewis won’t have a problem adjusting his act for a Democratic administration.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008


As much as I expected what happened to happened, it's still hard to believe it actually happened. My biggest hope is that the people I entrusted with this country's future will govern like a party that just kicked the other one to the curb.

Sadly, my comedy dream of Senator Al Franken seems to be coming to an end. This led to the following conversation last night:

Me: Looks like Al Franken is just barely losing. Oh well, I'm not really sure he would have been a good Senator. It would be like if I was running for the Senate.

The Lovely Becky: Yeah, exactly. No offense, sweetie.

Me: None taken. I would last about three days on the campaign trail. Some reporter would ask me, "Mr. Brando, what do you think about your opponent's accusations?" and I would say something like, "I think he should gargle my balls," and then it would all be over.

Speaking of The Lovely Becky, she has some serious election day cute over at her place.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What propositions are we voting for?

Prop. U2: Prohibits Bono from buggin’ ya without your consent.

Prop. EH-69: Mandates that all e-Harmony customers list their kinks.

Prop. PR-6: Establishes more stringent whininess emissions requirements for all Project Runway contestants.

Prop. OU812: Requires waterboarding with Cabo Wabo tequilla for any musician guilty of excessive punning on album titles (aka the REO Speedwagon You Can't Tune a Piano but You Can Tuna Fish law)*

Prop. 81: Permits placing of tape over Chad Johnson’s mouth (aka The Ocho Cinco law).

Prop.401K: Allows people to crash at the houses of the fund managers who lost all their retirement savings.

Prop. 50-PS: Closes numerous loopholes that allow people to leave their lovers.

Prop. 300: Makes it a misdemeanor to masturbate to war porn in public theaters.

Prop. 12-BSG: Requires all multiply-born children to be tested for Cylon heritage.

Prop. 2009: Removes George W. Bush from office and places him a public dunking tank until the proposition is repealed.

*Hat tip to Churlita for suggesting this the last time.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Piemold Election Solutions

Inside a room labeled “Campaign Headquarters,” and OLD MAN sits with his FEMALE RUNNING MATE, looking at an electoral map covered in blue. The CAMPAIGN MANAGER reviews the results with the Old Man.

So, unless we find another 105 electoral votes, we don’t have a prayer.

Oh, hey, we always have prayer! Look: “Dear Jesus, please let us win instead of that awful socialist Muslim.”

Prayer’s not going to make those levers magically pull themselves, sweet cheeks. We need a miracle.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

Friday Random 11

It’s Halloween. Do you know where your costume is?

I wasn’t much in the Halloween spirit this week—Libby’s too young to really trick or treat, and I don’t need to eat eight pounds of fun-size Snickers. That changed when we watched an excellent episode of Paranormal State this week. For those of you who haven’t seen it, Paranormal State is like The Real World meets Poltergeist. Find out what happens when the dead stop being polite and start being real scary. It’s cheesy, but really good cheese, like the kind they sell over by the deli department instead of in the cheese case. There's also just enough freaky stuff to keep me hooked week after did-you-hear-something week.

Anyway, they had a special hour-long episode this week involving a woman possessed by a demon. The episode progressed in standard fashion: the girl was experiencing weird, violent episodes, including writing on her flesh. The Paranormal State team suspected demonic activity, so they called in a priest. An Episcopal priest.

“Way to bring a knife to a gun fight,” I said to TLB.

They performed the exorcism and the woman eventually seemed fine. Except, at the end when they show an update of how a client is doing, it said she had another possession episode a couple weeks later.

Well, duh! The lesson, kids, is when you suspect you have the black soul of one of Lucifer’s minions nestled between your heart and what’s left of the Taco Bell meal you ate, call a Catholic priest. Because if there's one thing Catholic priests know, it's how to use their hands to expunge inner demons.

1) “Sara’s Angel,” Steve Earle. A nice bit of old-timey instrumental work that wouldn’t sound out of place during a montage from O Brother, Where Art Thou? Even funnier considering the GOP Republican candidate likely believes she has an angel watching over her.

Which brings up a conversation I had a while ago with my oldest friend. He was on the fence about who to vote for: he’s one of those economic/foreign policy conservatives who’s also pretty liberal on social policy. I suspect he was probably leaning toward McCain until the Palin announcement. We talked about her, and we discussed how we really don’t want Tribulation believers near nukes. (BTW, welcome to a special religious bigotry edition of the Random 11!) It’s not hard for me to picture Palin believing, as Bush does, that God speaks to her, and that her meteoric rise is part of God’s plan. And then, should the awful happen and she assume the presidency, that God “tells” her to start a war that ends with nukes going off. Although, since I’ve been playing Fallout 3 this week, I at least feel more prepared if that does happens.

2) “Thick as Thieves,” The Jam. I believe this was the theme song at the last AIG sales meeting.

3) “Are We the Waiting,” Green Day. It’s odd how dated I find American Idiot. I loved it in 2004. It was perfect for the election that year, and one of the first major-label albums to take a direct shot at the political chicanery gripping the country. However, it sounds completely out of step with this election. Maybe it’s because things feel like they are finally going to change, at least a little. Dare I say it: I have a little bit of hope during an election season.

4) “Ain’t No Fun (Waiting Round to Be a Millionaire),” AC/DC. I’ll bet Joe the Plumber likes him some AC/DC. This song has a line I’ve always loved: I’ve got patches on the patches of my old blue jeans / Well they used to be blue, when they used to be new, when they used to be clean. Bon Scott wasn’t all sex and Satanism, ladies and gentlemen.

One funny AC/DC tidbit: I heard a song from their new album, Black Ice, on the radio the other day. When the song ended, the DJ came on and said, “That’s a track from AC/DC’s new album, Black Ice, and one of four songs on the album with the word ‘rock’ in the title.” No hint of irony in his voice, as if it should be no surprise that AC/DC would have an album featuring four songs with “rock” in the title. I cracked up. In fact, I wish they had put “rock” in the title of every song on the album.

5) “Blues Before and After,” The Smithereens. I was in college when they were in their heyday, driving a beat-up Datsun (!) that looked like it had survived a Sarah Palin apocalypse. This is the car that, the first time I drove it, the glass on the passenger side mirror fell off as I pulled away from the curb. It also broke down the day I had to take the GRE. It was, in short, a metallic pile of dog shit. But, it had the most kicking set of factory speakers ever. Big, booming speakers that probably were responsible for shaking loose all the moving parts on the car.

I loved when The Smithereens would come on the radio when I was in that car. I worked as a pizza delivery guy at the time, so I was in my car a lot, and I would crank this song and every other Smithereens song I heard. So, despite that car giving me about 18 months of pure grief, I enjoyed driving it because of those speakers and the kind of music that got played on the radio. Sadly, no video for this rocking tune on the YouTubes.

Funny ending: this was the easiest car I ever sold. My father and I dropped it off at a vacant lot where a lot of people put their cars up for sale. My dad put a sign up in the window: $500 OBO. Why walk? We went home to have lunch, and we had a call within 30 minutes. We went back to the lot and sold it to a woman for $427—she literally gave us every dollar she had on her. So I guess every burned-out clutch has a silver lining.

6) “One Little Victory,” Rush. My favorite music moment of the last ten years was the first time I heard this song. I’ve obviously been completely unabashed in my Rush fandom. At the start of the 2000s, though, that fandom had waned quite a bit. The band had been rather hit-or-miss during the 90s, and on top of that, the double-tragedy suffered by drummer Neil Peart (losing his only daughter in a car accident and his wife to cancer within one year) made it seem like they were probably done. Finally, after a five-year gap, they released Vapor Trails. I heard this song on my way home one night and felt completely kicked in the ass (in the good way). I know it’s geeky to be that much of a fan, but I was so happy to see them not only back, but rocking like every song on their album should have "rock" in the title.

7) “My Dirty Life and Times,” Warren Zevon. I am a death baby. I’m somebody that will need to go quickly and obliviously, because if I have time to think about it, it’s not going to be pretty. At the same time, I have always loved the artistic epitaph—the work where the artist knows he or she is producing the last thing they will ever produce. Zevon’s The Wind is one of those, a sad yet uplifting album of a man knowing he’s going to soon, so he wants to make one final lasting impression.

8) “A Nigga Witta Gun,” Dr. Dre. The new Chris Rock HBO special was just okay, but he had a very funny routine about listening to rap songs with his white friend. He talked about how, if the white friends were with him, they always skipped over the n-word in rap songs, mumbling something or just saying nothing. Yet he knows when they are by themselves, they not only sing it, they shout it. Like a smart man once said, it’s funny cause it’s true. Also: funny cat video set to this song.

9) “Don’t Steal Our Sun,” The Thrills. No kidding. It snowed her Monday, enough to put a pretty decent dusting on the surrounding rooftops for a few hours. I went into season-affective disorder mode (also known as “being a baby”). Well, lo and behold, it was almost 60 here yesterday, warm enough that we took Libby for a walk after work for the first time in probably a month. So I’m hanging onto that sun as long as I can. This is also a great, great song.

10) “Don’t Get Me Wrong,” The Pretenders. Bouncy. Seriously, it’s impossible for me to not tap a toe or finger to this song. This also gives me a chance to link to the pretty sweet MTV video site. You can find lots of actual--gasp!--videos on it.

11) “Royal Gregory,” Holy Fuck. What better group to lead into an election weekend where a young black senator looks poised to beat an established white war veteran for the presidency than one named “Holy Fuck”?

And it’s catchy, too.

Happy Halloween, and get out and vote if you haven’t already. Although I know it’s tempting to abstain from the process in the hope that not voting will kill P-Diddy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Top Ten Tuesdays: What robo calls are we receiving?

10) I’m Joe Biden, and I’d like to take just a few hours of your time....

9) This is former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. I’m not calling to endorse anyone, I’m just wondering if I can crash on your couch.

8) I’m John McCain, and I’m here to tell you that I’m...I’m...sorry, my memory isn’t what it used to be...where are my goddamned glasses so I can read this script?

7) Hello, I’m William Shatner. Did you know that you can now cast your vote on Priceline.com—with no poll taxes?

6) This is Cindy McCain. Please stay on the line while one of my servants tells you why John McCain is the best choice for average Americans.

5) [Handel’s “Messiah” plays] Good day, this is Barack Obama.

4) Shalom, my friends. I’m Joe Lieberman. I urge you to get out and vote for a real mensch, John McCain, and for Sarah Palin—what a shiksa!

3) This is the Coalition for Undecided Voters. We’re calling to tell you that we have no idea why we’re calling you.

2) Good evening. This is the Republican Party. We’re going to tell you why Barack Obama will destroy America. If you hang up before we’re finished, you acknowledge that you are a terrorist and will be placed on a watchlist.

1) Hi ya, this is Sarah Palin...no, don’t hang up, it’s actually me. They wanted to give me something useful to do before the election. So, how’s it goin’?