Aug 30, 2006

Snakes in a Review

There are two parts to this post. The story and the review. I have labeled them as such so that you can read a review if you would like or the story if you prefer.

Story: Last Friday my dog, Cassius (four-toed dog), needed to go to a vet. A fancy vet. A fancy vet many, many miles away in Buffalo Grove. Two years previous he had his ACL replaced with a bit of nylon. His body apparently has been rejecting the nylon and he had developed a bad infection in his knee-knee. The specialist in Buffalo Grove was to fix it. After the initial consultation the vet told me that he would perform the surgery that day. He would open the leg, clean out the infection, remove the nylon, and stitch the old man back up. The surgery would take about 4 hours.

From my house, Buffalo Grove is about an hour and a half. Longer with Friday traffic. It seemed unreasonable to drive home and back for a few moments at my house. I opted to drive around the suburbs instead to kill time. Cranking up my NWA album, I leisurely drove on peaceful streets named after presidents and trees. After a few moments I saw one those thing that seem to be in abundance in the suburbs. A mall. This particular one was called a "strip-mall." I turned into the parking and was saddened to find out that it is not named such for the reasons that I was hoping for.

In the string of shops and restaurants I found two things that grabbed my attention. A movie theater and a large sign that proclaimed, "Large beer, cheap!" I started at the theater. Looking over the selection of films available, I noticed that "Snakes on a Plane" was playing. I figured since I have been chirping about this flick for months I should probably go in and give it a viewing. The movie was to start in an hour so I cruised over to the bar next door to find that although the beer was not particularly large it was cheap and ferociously cold.

This bar was a sports bar which I am familiar with from the city. It had a variety of overly large televisions. Unlike any other sports bar that I had been in however, this bar used its high-definition televisions to play VHS tapes of somebody's favorite games. Bulls, Bears, the World Series of Poker form 1872. The high-definition TV's gloriously showing every nuance of the videotape technology, the field that I worked in throughout the 80's.

After the inch of ice melted off of my beer, I headed next door to enjoy the sure to be cinematic masterpiece. In the theater with me was one other person, an Asian lady in her late twenties that was on of those "screen-talkers." In this theater they played movie previews consistently from the moment you walked in until the start time on the ticket at which point they turned down the lights and switched to the newer movie previews. I like that. None of the be courteous signage, or ridiculous trivia, or tubular meat being enticed into a warm bun who is resistant at first. Nope. Just that movie voice guy. "If you only see one movie this year . . . "

Finally, the movie started. I switched my phone to vibrate in case there was an emergency I would be able to respond and leaned back in the seat.

Review: The movie starts out like an episode of Hawaii Vice. After about ten minutes or so it is time to get on the plane. And a scant five minutes after that it is time to release the snakes. This is why myself and chatty Cathy were here. For snakes. On the plane.

This movie did three things particularly good. The first was the fact that the plane was filled with a VARIETY of snakes. Good move. This allows many types of death. Some snake bites will kill you instantly, some will take time. Some snakes will constrict, some spit venom, some big, some small, some even had teeth. Good variety allows for many types of death. It also allows some people to be able to flee the slower snakes while some, well, not so lucky.

The second move that was above average for this kind of flick was the use of the plane. When I saw Pirahna I knew who was going to die. The person I just met or the person they suddenly cut to who was about to jump in the water. On the plane, sure there some passengers that were sure goners from the get-go (quiet lady in the back I am looking at you) but there were many that were introduced that could be gone at any moment. I don't think I would ruin the movie by letting you know that Sammy makes it but everyone else is pretty much fair game.

Last, and best, plot point that the makers of SoaP made was giving a reason that the snakes were so aggressive. I haven't seen that move since Orca saw his son die on the boat of the Killer Whale hunters. Let's face it Grizzly was just a dick and Jaws: The Revenge just hated that fucking Michael Caine. And who could blame him. Here the snakes are mad because of . . . ready? . . . pheromones. OK, I didn't say it was a good reason but dammit at least they had one.

I found the movie to also be educational. I learned that snakes see things in a fuzzy infrared green popularized by the first Gulf War. I also learned that snakes love to bite private areas of people. I was always under the impression that they would go for moving targets but apparently they like to bite dicks, tits, and asses. The asses being for humor, the breasts for titillation.

Finally, the famous line. As we know from previous posts they added the line, "I want these motherfucking snakes off the motherfucking plane!" by popular demand. It is very obvious in the film that this was added after the fact. Sammy's character is not the kind of guy who says this until all of a sudden and then, back to regular Sam.

None of this is to say that this is a good movie. In fact, I would recommend that you wait for the DVD. I bet the extras on the DVD are more entertaining than most of the film. The method of fear used in this film is a "jump fear." Meaning that snakes pop out of unlikely places suddenly rather than you just wanting the plane to land. In fact, I was hoping that it would take longer so I could see the maximum number of different deaths that the writers could think of.

I also felt that the ending was blah. I won't ruin it but blah.

Out of five stars: ***

Aug 28, 2006

Cosmic Oddity

Sometimes you can see it in the early morning, around sunrise. Other times, you can see it in the evening, near sunset. Probably, you have seen it more times than you can remember. I don't want to insult your intelligence, but it's just possible (I suppose) that you didn't realize what you were looking at.

Often referred to by the misnomers 'morning star' and/or 'evening star,' it is actually the planet Venus. If you go looking for it in the right place at the right time, trust me, you won't have to look very hard: It blazes with the white-hot intensity of a laser, glowering low in the sky. It is the angry, pebble-eyed stare of a one-eyed demon who has chinned himself up over the rim of the world to take a good look around, back-lit by the hearth-glow of hellfire. Gaze upon Venus for too long with a guilty conscience, and you might have to fight the urge to shrink away... or silently confess your worst sin.

Jupiter, too, is fairly easy to spot-- if you know what you're looking for. Although it is not as bright as Venus, it still outshines all but the very brightest stars as it slingshots along through the stick figures of the zodiac. If, some night, you stare at it long enough... well, nothing happens. Nothing at all. Damned good thing, too, or there'd be a whole hell of a lot of people standing around every night, looking slack-jawed up at the sky.

I know of what I speak. A couple of years ago, I saw a moonrise. It was one of the most powerful and majestic things I've ever seen...

It was a winter's night, cold and clear, well after sunset. I was leaning upon a metal railing --forearms on the top rail, one foot resting easily on the bottom rail, the other foot planted firmly on the ground-- staring at nothing at all, for no particular reason. Just killing time. Two or three hundred yards away, a pocked pile of brimstone cliffs thrust up into the night like a dull, serrated knife. I don't know how long I'd been staring at nothing but, suddenly, I realized I was staring at the pale sliver of a glowing, soft-white, cue-ball head with dull grey liver-spots, peeking over the top of the granite pile in front of me: The moon. I felt my eyes widen as I watched the pale sliver grow into a forehead, its brow cut jagged by the sharp outline of the cliffs. Holy shit, I thought, I'm watching a moonrise.

I was transfixed. I was also just a little bit surprised by my own naivete: You see, I had never before considered the possibility that one could actually watch a moonrise. Oh, don't get me wrong: Intellectually, I understood the mechanics of it --I'd certainly read enough books-- but nothing in my real-life experience had ever happened to dispel the vague notion that the moon's existence was rather ubiquitous and ordinary. In other words, I'd always taken it for granted. Modern man doesn't feel the moon down deep in his soul; it's just there, up there, somewhere. Sometimes it's full, or nearly so, like it was that night, and sometimes it's half-full and sometimes it's a crescent. Sometimes it looks bigger than usual and sometimes it's a weird color and sometimes it's over here and sometimes it's over there and sometimes it's beyond the horizon. Sometimes it's playing peek-a-boo behind the clouds. But it's always there, even when it isn't, and you rarely give it much thought.

I stood, still, barely breathing, watching its inexorable climb. A moonrise happens slowly, but you can clearly see motion if you watch carefully enough. And that motion is anything but steady. There is, in fact, a tremor-- a slight, continuous shudder as of some great, inexpressibly powerful quaking, reduced by distance and perception to a mere shiver. I had the feeling that somewhere, far beyond the ability of my pathetic human ears to hear, a tremendous, roiling thunder pealed and echoed across the vast chasms of a forgotten world, as the great gears of the cosmos ground their way through the eons.

Finally, finally, with a last staccato shudder, the moon pulled free of the dark cliffs and clawed its way into the sky. Just then, I heard the soft scrape of a footstep behind me. I'm sure I only imagined, rather than actually smelled, her understated perfume. The girl --uh, sorry-- the woman who worked in the dispatch office had just stepped outside for a smoke. She was tall and slender and auburn-haired, with long, soft, smooth curves... every one of them exactly where it should be. Smart, funny, and --despite all of that-- completely down-to-earth. In other words, she was not of this world. No, some far superior alien race, I'm sure, carefully crafted her and put her here as an experiment, and they greatly enjoy watching men of all ages run around, bumping into each other and falling over themselves for the honor of acting like idiots in her presence.

Mentally, I handcuffed my wrists to the railing and fought a sudden, strong urge to turn and grab her winter-coated sleeve, pull her close and press my palm to the small of her back and my lips against hers. Who knows where idea came from. Maybe witnessing the moonrise had made me feel acutely insignificant and empty, and some part of my psyche sought the companionship of another's warm breath and the press of winter coat against winter coat. Maybe the moonrise had left me loony-- a word that is derived from "lunatic," which in turn is derived from "lunar." Or maybe I just thought she was smokin' hot and that this would be a good time to act like an idiot.

Ah, but I digress... and it's time to get back on track.

Aside from Venus and Jupiter, there are other planets visible to the naked eye, but you have to know where and when to look, and you have to know what you are looking at. Mars glows with the sullen, orangish red of campfire embers. Mercury puts in an appearance for just a few days a year, its very real proximity to the sun always apparent. Saturn is damned tough to spot-- conditions have to be just right.

For untold millenia, stretching back to before the invention of written language, mankind knew only of these six planets: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Then, late in the renaissance --1781, to be exact-- an English astronomer named William Herschel found a seventh planet. The discovery, of course, touched off a firestorm.

There has always been tension between science and religion. The Catholic Church, in particular, doesn't like anybody believing anything the Vatican doesn't tell them to... and astronomers are held in especially low regard. Herschel's discovery of a new planet really rubbed them the wrong way. One prominent bishop of the time even went so far as to declare, "It's preposterous! Frankly, I think you pulled this idea out of your anus!"

Herschel, for his part, grinned and made that "that's it" pointing gesture and exclaimed, "That's it! We'll call the new planet 'Uranus!'" Then he grinned some more and made an entirely different one-fingered gesture. This was, after all, late in the renaissance, and most people were finally beginning to realize that most bishops were a little bit nuts.

Oh, you find it hard to believe that the bishop in question would actually use the words "out of your anus"? Well, stop and consider a couple of points. One: The word "anus" is Latin, and you know how those bishops and cardinals just love to show off their fluency in Latin. Two: The word "ass," to a bishop, means "donkey," not "derriere." I rest my case.

At any rate, the name stuck. For a couple of centuries, everybody called the seventh planet "Uranus." Then, about 15 years ago, a bunch of media types got together and decided that they didn't feel comfortable saying "Yer-ANUS" on the air. Instead, they chose to call it "URINE-us," because that's a lot better.

Anyway... Naturally, the discovery of a seventh planet sparked a tidal wave of interest. Every astronomer in the world grabbed the best telescope he could lay his hands on and studied the new planet, night after night, for years on end. They charted its progress through the night sky and plotted its speculated position for those time when it wasn't visible. Eventually, the more, uh, anal types among them began noticing that the new planet wasn't behaving the way they thought it should. Some --with either way too much time on their hands or, perhaps, an overbearing wife and six screaming kids at home-- sequestered themselves in a quiet room somewhere and began to painstakingly scratch their way through some inherently painstaking Newtonian math. Eventually, they concluded that the only thing that could account for the strange orbital behavior of the seventh planet was... an eighth planet!

The eighth planet was discovered in 1846. They named it Neptune, after the Roman god of the sea. Nobody really knows why they named a planet after a god of the sea, but I'm sure it made perfect sense at the time.

In the words of the celebrated philosopher Yogi Berra, it was deja vu all over again. Astronomers the world over jumped on the Neptune bandwagon: Studying, observing, charting, plotting, and the same thing as had happened with Uranus happened again: Neptune wasn't acting they way they thought it should. Numbers were crunched, and a similar conclusion was reached: There must be a ninth planet out there somewhere.

On a cold February night in 1930, an astronomer named Clyde Tombaugh was hard at work at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Arizona. His job, on this night, was to compare photographs that had been taken about a month earlier of a portion of the sky where all the calculations said a ninth planet should be. The photos showed millions of pinpoints of light-- stars of every size and magnitude from across half the far-flung galaxy. After many, many hours of back-stiffening work, Tombaugh realized that he had one little pinpoint of light that he couldn't account for...

He had found the ninth planet.

After several months of deliberation, it was given the name "Pluto." But even before the name had been settled upon, the controversy over its nature had started. Pluto wasn't at all what anyone had expected. The mathematics they had used to predict its location indicated that it should be another so-called "gas giant," about the same size as Uranus and Neptune. Instead, Pluto was tiny-- smaller than Mercury, even. And it was definitely marching out of step with the rest of the band. Whereas the other eight planets all orbited in the same relative plane, Pluto's orbit was canted, like a beret pulled rakishly to one side. Moreover, it's orbit wasn't circular.

Okay, technically, of course, none of the planets orbit the sun in a perfect circle. Instead, their paths through space --at least, their paths relative to the sun-- describe slightly flattened circles, with the sun almost exactly in the middle of each. But Pluto's orbit was a discernible oval, and a lopsided one at that-- almost an egg-shape, with the sun off-center.

Eccentricities aside, schoolteachers began telling their students that there were nine planets in the solar system, and everybody pretty much accepted it. Within the scientific community, however, there was much head-scratching and quiet mumbling. Something, dammit, was amiss.

When they realized what it was, it only added to their confusion. All of that fancy math that they had used to find Pluto in the first place, y'see, all of that fancy math was wrong.

Actually, it's unfair to say all of the math was wrong. The incredibly ponderous and complicated equations themselves were sound enough --Isaac Newton was no schmuck-- but some of the numbers that the astronomers had been plugging into those equations were way off. It turns out that if the right numbers had been used, the equations would never have suggested a ninth planet at all. The fact that they ever did, and that Pluto happened to be exactly where Clyde Tombaugh went a-looking for it, was --quite literally-- a cosmic accident.

By now, I'm sure you've already heard that Pluto's status as a planet has been downgraded. Just last week, the International Astronomical Union decided --by a process that seems eerily Congress-like-- that Pluto doesn't quite fit their newly-drafted definition of "planet." I have heard some folks in the media characterize it by saying that Pluto has been "kicked out of the solar system." Obviously, that's not quite accurate. Pluto --like the asteroid Ceres and Halley's Comet and a million other objects whipping and zipping around ol' Sol as it makes its grand swoop through space-- is still in the solar system... It's just that it's platinum card has been rejected. It has been blackballed from that exclusive club called "The Planets" and shunned by high society.

Hopefully for NASA, Pluto will be back in vogue by the summer of 2015. That's when their New Horizons spacecraft will arrive at Pluto for the most extensive ever look-see at the, uh, not-planet. It's too late to cancel the mission, y'see: The probe was launched seven months ago. The program's projected cost is seven hundred million dollars, which means it will actually cost about a billion and a half.
Your tax dollars, hard at work.

P.S... Coincidentally enough, Bud Selig is Major League Baseball's ninth commissioner... and should be "Plutoed." DuH

Friday night at the ball-yard formerly known as Pacific Bell Park...
With two outs and the bases empty in the top of the first inning, Cincinnati's Ken "Porcelain" Griffey (Junior) jumped all over a Matt Morris fastball and sent it rocketing deep into the San Francisco twilight, clearing the 24'-high wall in right-center field. It was the 536th home run of Griffey's career, tying him with Mickey Mantle for twelfth on the all-time list.

But that isn't the story.
Matt Morris --all eight wins and eleven losses of him-- shook it off and, sporting nearly two weeks' worth of facial hair, proceeded to hang goose egg after goose egg on the scoreboard, mixing his pitches and mowing down Cincinnati batters with frightening regularity. By the time he'd finished the eighth inning, Griffey's blast represented the only Reds run.

Cincinnati starter Aaron Harang wasn't as sharp as Morris, but he gutted his way through seven shaky innings and somehow managed to allow only two runs before giving way to reliever Ryan Franklin.

The score stood at 2-1 when Steve Finley reached base in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Giants manager Felipe Alou went looking for some insurance and called for a hit-and-run. Ray Durham swung and missed, but backup catcher Javier Valentin's throw to second sailed high and wide, and Finley scampered safely to third base on the error. Durham then popped up on the infield for the second out.

Giants catcher Eleazar Alfonzo, batting eighth in the lineup, stepped into the batters' box. Morris, of course, was due to bat after Alfonzo. Alou told Mike Sweeney to grab a bat and a helmet and occupy the on-deck circle. It was a ruse: Alou actually had no intention of pulling Morris out of the game, but he didn't want Reds manager Jerry Narron to know that. Obviously, if Narron knew that Morris was going bat, he would simply walk Alfonzo intentionally and take his chances with pitching to the Giants' starter. Alou didn't want that; he wanted to give Alfonzo a chance to push the run across. Unfortunately, Alou failed to carry his ruse far enough: He never called the bullpen to have somebody go through the motions of warming up. It was a bad bluff, and Narron quickly saw through it: He had Ryan Franklin walk Alfonzo.

So, with two men out and two men on in a one run game, Alou called Sweeney back to the bench, and the San Francisco crowd burst into spirited applause as Matt Morris trotted up the dugout steps and onto the field, bat in hand. Hitting .176 for the season, Morris stepped to the plate and assumed that gawky, self-conscious, I'm-just-a-pitcher-and-I-can't-dance batting stance.

Franklin's first pitch was a fastball. He immediately wished he had it back, because Morris smacked it past the diving left-fielder for a stand-up, two-run double, giving himself a three-run cushion to work with in the ninth. The final score was Giants 4, Reds 1.

Dee-aitch? We don't need no stinkin' dee-aitch.

P.S... Bud "DuH" Selig must go.

Aug 23, 2006

Angry George

Heh Heh. If I put together my lips like this, I can make fart noises!! Pfffffffft! Heh Heh Heh Heh Heh

If something bad happened during H's presidency, it was because of Carter.

If something good happened during Clinton's presidency, it was set in motion by Bush and Reagan.

If something bad happens during W's presidency, it's Clinton's fault.

If Clinton nods off during a Mets game, he's responsible for 9/11.

Aug 17, 2006

Howard come home!

I am sure you have all heard the news. Looks like it is illegal to wiretap without a warrant. Here is the decision for you lawyering types. Here is the main section (at least to me).
"The wiretapping program here in litigation has undisputably been continued for at least five years, it has undisputably been implemented without regard to FISA . . . and obviously in violation of the Fourth Amendment."
Correct me if I am wrong but should thw word be "indisputably?"

I know there are many questions from the Blasphemes community (from the comments I assume that means me, Killre, and Cap'n). Well, we are in negotiations with Howard to continue working with us. He is unsure if he would like to keep this gig or move to Iran to plant some "nuclear seeds" so that this country will not be as embarrassed this time. He also has an offer from the Lieberman campaign helping to "keep the vote in." The picture on the right is Howard discussing opportunities with Mr. 34.

I am in agreement with Howard that the government should be able to eavesdrop on any citizen of the US it wants without a warrant or even a reason. What court will allow you to tap into your opponents phone line and listen to their campaign strategies? Next they will try to tell us that it is illegal to break into opponents headquarters and place wiretaps and photograph documents. Sheesh, how are we supposed to keep this country safe from people with differing opinions?

I think each president should announce which Constitutional Amendments they will and will not follow when they enter office. Then we all know what rules (or lack of them) we are following. Republicans can take away those annoying 19th and 15th and the entire Bill of Rights (except 2nd amendment, of course). The Democrats (assuming they can win without 19th and 15th amendments) could remove the 2nd and 22nd and we would all be happy. At least they would tell us we are happy. And that should be enough. You don't hate America, do you?

'Bout to be an Uncle

Sister in the hospital. Excitement!

Aug 16, 2006

GWB's Greatest Miffs

Joe Scarborough, we all know, was a Congressman in (for?) Florida who wanted the U.S. to get out of the U.N. He has also won many awards from various cover groups. Let's take a look:

A shout out for anyone that finds a non-Republican in any of those groups. I gave you the links. Anyway, his career in politics came to an end when an intern of his was found dead in his office with many suspicious circumstances surrounding her death. You may not have heard about it. That was the summer of Chandra Levy.

But that is not what I am showing you. I would like you to see this segment from his show last night. This is a great piece. The first two minutes are a greatest hits of our fearless leader's verbal prowess. This is eventually followed by the Daily Show's in-depth report on Bush's food obsession. I thought it was a can't miss so . . .

Aug 14, 2006

Rockabye Baby!

It's been a while. I am a new father.

I now understand the secret parental code.
When a parent says to you, 'the baby was up all night' directly translates to: 'She was screaming at the highest pitch known to man… all night'. Great if you’re a bachelor trying to impress the neighbors. Not so much for just about any other reason.

So in my travels as a new father, I was given this website today - the Rockabye Baby! Albums.

At first glance, I thought, 'how cute'. However, a much more disturbing thoughts and image began to surround my clouded brain. Yes, that's the Beatles and also the Beach Boys. Uh, Nirvana? Metallica?? Pixies?!

Led Zeppelin?

Queens of the Stone Age? Hold on a tick here!

Okay, fine, you had me at the Cure. Some would say the Disintegration album could be used as a substitute for Ambien. But Misty Mountain Hop as a lullaby? And of course there is no sample track of this one. I recommend you try the other ones. The link is provided on the post.

There are many sample tracks to discover – and marvel at the simple ease in which Brain Damage by Pink Floyd transforms into cooing baby music box tunes.

I will be buying all of these soon.

And my hope is that when my daughter experiences these albums and artists out of my collection – by either laughing at the large format Compact Disk, or the dusty old iPod – she’ll first sit and wonder. She’ll recognize these tunes, and perhaps transport back to her earlier days. Her days of simple comforts; simple needs. She will be mesmerized by the tunes that she cannot quite remember, but are on the tip of her brain.

That’s when her old man will smile calmly. A bonding moment will exist between the two of us, that she might never understand…

…or I’ll swipe that Doolittle album out of her grubby hands and shoo her off of my dusty old college collection!

“Get away from there! Don’t you have any idea what that’s worth?"

Sit down, it's comedy

One of the most frequent comments that gets slung my way while I am yapping away semi-coherently on the weekends is something along the lines of "you should be a comedian." This happened again over this weekend and I would like to publicly and finally announce that this is a bad idea. Why? I tried it once. {funky flashback music}

In 1987 or so my friends thought it would be a great idea for me to hit the stage with a little humor. Some comedy for unsuspecting Connecticutians. See, they thought I had been especially funny over the past few weeks because they had just discovered marijuana. Sometimes when one is high, not being funny is hysterical.

At the time I had this monster doll-type thing that my friend had left in my Oldsmobile. When you squeezed the belly it made a fart noise. I think it was supposed to growl or something but nope, to the delight of the passengers of my car it farted. I was riffing on the fact that this was supposed to be a gift for my friend's niece on her first birthday. Granted kids love fart noises. In fact, most adults love fart noises. But to really enjoy a fart noise one should be sentient. Y'know be able to understand that this was a fart noise. This child probably would think it just shat itself whenever it heard the noise. And would it be able to even squeeze it? Maybe the parents could potty train the child with the doll. Not funny now but you are not high in an Oldsmobile.

Anyway, they stroked my ego to the point that when they signed me up for open mic night I didn't resist. In fact, I told way too many people about it. When the time came and I was announced, I panicked. I realized that I had not actually prepared anything or had anything particularly witty to say. My friend told me that I should just ask the audience if they've done something or gone somewhere and "riff." Below is my best recollection of my first and only stand-up routine:

Hey, everybody, how are you? {crowds awkwardly shifts in there seats} Uh-huh, I assume that's not too good . . . {One friend chuckles slightly} So, uh, how many of you have ever been to the dentist? {silence} Round of applause, been to the dentist? {Four guys clap, friend starts giggling like a school girl} Yea, I have been to the dentist. {Silence except for my friend who is now slapping his hand against the table and yelling, "Oh no, oh no."} Uh, how many of you have ever been on an airplane? Airplanes anyone? {Two members of the audience clap while my friend falls to the floor} Yea, airplanes . . . {My friend is now coughing up a lung and rolling around on the beer-stained floor} Uh, so anyone go to the beach? {Friend completely loses it everyone else stares} Beach? Sand? Sun? No one, huh? Uh . . . {Friend knock over the round of Shirley Temples I had order for the table} So what sound does a one year old love? . . . {I pick up the doll and squeeze making the fart noise. My friend twitches on the ground. Everyone else cocks their heads like a dog who hears a whistle} Uh, OK, then, goodnight. {My friend clap politely, everyone else discusses my suckiness}

That was my only stand-up time. Feel free to use any material that you may want from it. I don't have the doll but I do have one really stoned friend you could have.

Aug 11, 2006

Blacksmoke and The Slave

Whoa! This article reminds me of a story from college. We were in an intramural basketball league where once a year our fraternity would play a friendly game against the black fraternity's basketball team. It had a very high turnout of both houses to watch the game and then we would go drinking until some awkward incident would happen then we would all go home until the following year.

In our house there was an elected position called "House Manager." If you won an election you were basically the fix-it bitch to 22 drunk, loud, and violent students. When something broke (which was always an "accident") we would yell for the HM to fix it. It was a bad job to have (although the HM proper never thought so.

One year we had a repeater. A House Manager that was good and calm and able to fix things himself. Dave would actually fix things within a week of them being broken. After a while we started calling him "Slave." Y'know as in "Slave, the hot water went out!" or "Slave, there are firework marks on the roof."

I think we all see where this is going. The drunk 30 or so spectators at the game did not. When Dave hit a big three pointer to bring us within 15 at half we all went crazy. After all, that was the closest we had ever been at half. We were on our feet chanting, "Slave! Slave! Slave!" Suddenly, one of the members of our house, probably a non-drinker, informed us that the "awkward moment" had come early this year. There was silence. The second half saw about 10 spectators from our side all pretending that we were yelling "Dave!"

Our teams were never good. We specifically had one team named "Blacksmoke" that was especially inept. We were so bad we stopped trying to win. In fact, we prided ourselves not on the game so much as the ability to pull off a play or two a game. Our big play had a name I cannot recall. It consisted of three of us doing a weave drill from the back court. Then Bubba (poster Raging Bulls) would attempt a between the legs pass to Killre who would promptly (if we were lucky) lob the ball at the basket from half court. No one could (or wanted to) defend it.

In the penultimate game of the season we found ourselves within two points with about a minute left. We called a timeout. On the sidelines there was a Blacksmoke vote. Should we try to win a game? It was a close vote so it was decided that we would try to win it but we would do so with our big play. "Killre," we spoke very sternly to him, "give us your word that you will try your hardest to sink the half court shot." He did.

The play was on! One member gave a little behind-the-back pass during the weave that was successful. We were getting cocky. After an amazing jump pass between the legs from Bubba, Killre got the ball at half court. Then Killre threw us for a loop. He grandma-shot the ball. You know when you shoot the ball underhand from between your legs? Yea, one of those. In teardropped in a perfect arc towards the hoop. So beautiful was the shot that the rest of the team watched the ball instead of rebounding or boxing out or well, playing. It bounced off the rim straight up. It came back down on the rim and went up, off the backboard, back on the the front rim and away from the basket. Missed.

At the opponents free throw line, our defensive specialist (he got winded running to play offense and we figured we were fine without him) lit up a cigarette and stared at Killre, "I thought you were going to try."

Two unrelated notes: you may remember a few weeks ago I did a little number on drinking games. Well check this one out. I would like to add: "Remembering the rules: 2 seconds."

Finally, I gotta enter the World Series of Poker. Just sit, fold weak hands, and take pictures.

Aug 9, 2006

Task at hand

After three music filled days at Lollapalooza, I come back to this:


My mind and body were lost in crowds enjoying the Flaming Lips, rev. Horton Heat, Ween, Manu Chao, Raconteurs, Ryan Adams, Femmes, Nickle Creek, Be Your Own Pet, Mates of State, and many others my cohort in blasphemy feels the need to give me a job. BLASPHEMOUS! My review of Lolla later now to the task at hand.

[1] The statute of limitations has run out on that one. Buster Keaton originally used that phrase in the 40's film "Don't Shiite Where You Eat, My Friend." I don't know why you would use it, however, Ruhollah Khomeini has been dead since June of 1989.

[2] Bush calls him "Wiki-wiki" in reference to al-Maliki being a spring creak away from him in each leaders respective polls. The Iraqis refer to him as "Bush's little squirt" but something might be lost in the translation.

[3] Dane Cook says it's a "Country, you're being kind of a bitch" policy but you can use what you want.

[4] So sit back and relax. You'll laugh till you collapse. We're . . . I'm sorry, what?

[5] Just for fun we run around the Warner movie lot. They lock us in the tower whenever we get caught. But we break loose and then vamoose and now you know the plot! Whoa! Sorry again, what?

[6] I think his slogan says it all. "Juice the vote in '08" The real question is what would be a funny 40/40 joke here? I am stumped and must move on.

[7] You mean there are six more of these!

[8] No, he has just been busy on the Lieberman campaign. Something about "de-hacking" the internets.

[9] Howard says no. He also just announced that we were the most read blog on these here internet tubes.

[10] The kind filled with whiskey.

[11] Neither. He will irrelevant to both of you by December.

[12] They had a choice. German or French. They figured at least the Germans fight. And they love Beethoven in the Middle East.

[13] Who?

Aug 7, 2006

An Open Letter To One-F

My darling little Doodlebug,

Greetings, oh great and grand wizard of the cult Blaspheme. I come seeking council. Advice. A ruling or two, if you will. I have a few questions rattling around in this slow-witted, rancid piece of meat that I call a brain...

[1] Would I be in the clear, copyright-wise, if I were to call Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei "The Holy Shiite," or does somebody like Steve Colbert already have dibs on that?

[2] Tell me, which do you think is a better nickname for Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki: "The Mayor of the Green Zone," or "the Large Kurd Cottage Cheese"?

[3] What do you think is the best way to describe our foreign policy? Should I call it the "How Dare You Believe Your Own Superstitions Instead of Ours Now You Must Die" Doctrine? Or should I simply characterize it thus: "Look, you're either going to learn to love having western ideology shoved down your throat, dammit, or you're going to choke on it. Frankly, I don't care which one it is..."?

[4] If I were to give Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney the nickname "It's Time For Animaniacs and We're Zany To the Max," do you think our readers --victims of media conditioning that they are-- would stop reading right then and there and just start singing to themselves (all the while noting which lyrics apply best)?

[5] Umm... Do you, uh, do you think it would be okay if I called our readers "victims of media conditioning"?

[6] How long do you think it'll be before Jose "The Mad Hatter" Canseco decides to run for governor of Florida?

[7] How many people do you suppose have already skipped down to #13?

[8] A few weeks ago, I asked Howard what the Iraqi prime minister's name was, and he gave me the wrong answer. I know I'm really going out on a limb, here, but do you think it's possible that Howard is a double agent?

[9] Our government wouldn't engage in disinformation like that, would it?

[10] Is life really like a box of chocolates?

[11] Does the fact that I didn't already know the Iraqi prime minister's name say more about me... or him?

[12] Well, well. I hear that the United Nations is trying to call "time out" in the Israel-Hezbollah game. Moving with their usual lightening speed, they are seriously considering thinking about mulling over the possibility of cogitating upon (*yawn*) yet another resolution. This one would call for the deployment of a German-led peace-keeping force. Um, excuse me, but isn't this scenario already listed in the Israeli dictionary, under the entry "worst nightmare"-- thousands of uniformed Germans with guns, telling the Israelis that they can't use their guns?

[13] Why do you suppose it is that Bud "Must Go" Selig has to read the Hall of Fame inscriptions directly from the plaques themselves... when everybody else has a separate, printed copy of the texts that they carry around with them?
Do I smell a metaphor?

Aug 3, 2006

Three Days of Lollapalooza

Here are some of the bands I am looking forward to. Couldn't find a Pepper video or there would be one of them too.


Manu Chaou:

Flaming Lips:

Aug 2, 2006


In March of 2003 Rob Ney (R-OH) spearheaded a move to show all countries that were not among the "coalition of willing" the seriousness in which he took their lack of cooperation on the War in Iraq (currently known as the "oops-a-daisy"). In a "small, but symbolic effort to show the strong displeasure of many on Capitol Hill with the actions of our so-called ally, France" he changed the name of cafeteria food. French fries* were to be known as "freedom fries." The tasty treat french toast would therefore be called "Freedom Toast."

The idea originally stemmed from Walter Jones (R-NC) who circulated a letter around Congress. After the deed was done, the Tarheel spoke to a Washington Post reporter in diplomatic tones that have made the war such a success, "This isn't a political or publicity stunt. We feel sincere as to what we've done. This isn't going to change the debate or course of the world. It's a gesture just to say to the French, 'Up yours!'"

Well, after three years the Congress can once again eat french fries and french toast. The name has been switched back by the new chair of the House Administration Committee Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) who proudly stated, "Officially the committee has no comment on the matter. I really don't see how this is a story." Well, OK, not quite the same fanfare but we may be able to keep the Statue of Liberty after all.

With the change came a plethora of quotes. The first a snarky, yet accurate, rebuke from Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) camp, "Now that they've changed the name of the french fries back, maybe they will admit their other foreign policy mistakes were wrong, too." And my favorite which will get it's own paragraph in honor:

"Our relations are definitely much more important than potatoes," Agnes Vondermuhll, French embassy spokeswoman said. "French fries are back in the Capitol, back on the presidential dinner menu and our relations are back on track."

Well, that was easy. We are all friends again. Can I get an amen?

*French Fries are actually a culinary invention of Belgium

Aug 1, 2006

Hell's a-Poppin'

The phone rang.
I frowned at it, because I wasn't expecting a call. Besides, I was very, very busy: I was sitting on the couch, watching television and drinking a bourbon & Coke.

It rang again. Persistent little cuss.

I'm not sure why I answered it the way I did-- maybe it was the bourbon. I picked up the receiver, touched the appropriate button and slapped it lightly to my ear. I inhaled a little more deeply than usual and made an indefinable number of subtle, almost unthinking changes to the shape of my throat. What came out was sort of a cross between Shadoe Stevens and Rod Roddy: "KLLR, All Bluegrass Weekend!"


Then I did that thing that everybody does when their phone connection is unexpectedly broken: I held the receiver out away from me --about fifteen inches, I'd guess-- and stared at it, with a mixture of confusion and frustration, for approximately three heartbeats. Why do we do that, anyway? Oh, sure, sure, I know... Most phones these days have a little LED display that actually tells you that the line really is dead, but I don't think that's why we do it. Phone manufacturers have put that little display there because they know that everybody, everywhere, for decades on end, has stared at precisely that spot every time one of their calls gets cut short.

I think it's a deep-seated, almost instinctive bit of body language. It may very well go all the way back to Alexander Graham Bell himself, staring intently and frowning at a primitive earpiece. What do you suppose his thoughts were at that moment? Was it, "Oh, now what the hell is wrong with this damned thing?" Or was it something more along these lines: "Watson, you little prig, how dare you hang up on me!" Probably, it was a little bit of both.

Of course, the gesture could be just another innocuous product of a media-intensive culture. We may just be acting out. I think it's entirely possible that we have all been trained and conditioned by countless characters in countless movies and TV shows who gaze quizzically at countless prop receivers. In this way, we have all become psychologically unable to put the phone down without giving it a strange look.

I gave the phone a strange look, then I put it down.

It rang again. I picked it up. This time, I used my normal voice. Well, almost normal: I infused it with a healthy hint of solicitation: "Uh, yeah... Is, uh, is Suzy there?"

Wouldn't you know, the person on the other end was actually named Susan. She was calling "on behalf of (my) credit card account." Whomever had written her script had a very shaky sense of grammar.

"What's wrong?" I asked, stopping just short of "What's wrong, now?"

"Oh, nothing!" she gushed. "I just called to tell you about our Payment Protection Program."


"Oh, good! Then you already know..." and she launched into Phase One of the Main Script.

Yes, Susan, I already know about it. It only cost $9.99 a month, and it is marketed as 'Less than ten dollars!' It doesn't seem too unreasonable until you remember that the basic cost gets compounded by an interest rate so mathematically aberrant that post-grads at MIT are still trying to come up with a Greek symbol for it. It appears on your bill in small print and you hardly ever notice it until, one day, you discover that you owe somebody a kidney.

"Uh, listen," I said, "do we have to do this right now? You kinda caught me at a bad time... I mean, do you realize what's going on? Listen to this!" Then I held the phone out in front of me, toward the television, which was tuned to CNN. I waited. Five seconds... ten... twenty. I sipped my drink. The ice was melting too fast. God, it's been hot, lately, hasn't it? Would-be bourbon connoisseurs take note: The best bang for your buck is Jim Beam, black label. It is (a) pretty good stuff, (b) relatively inexpensive and (c) not too hard to find. Of course, you don't mix something that good with Coke. Any ol' cheap, run-of-the-mill bourbon will do, if you're just going to mix it. Don't fall into the Jack Daniel's trap, though. First of all, Jack isn't a bourbon --it's a Tennessee Whiskey-- but that isn't my point. Jack Daniel's costs way too much and, besides, any subtlety it might have is buried under twenty feet of charcoal flavor.

And just in case you want charcoal flavor: Buy Evan Williams.

Now, then... where was I? Oh, right, I was on the phone. I put the receiver to my ear again and asked, "Did you hear that?"

"Actually," she said, "all I heard was that kind of 'wah-wah, wah-wah-huh, wah-wah' voice from the Charlie Brown cartoons. You know-- whenever the teacher talks."

"Really?" I asked. "Huh. You know, there's probably a metaphor in that, but I don't have time to look for it, right now. I'm watching CNN. They're covering the Big Game."

"Oh, really? Which game?" she asked brightly-- much more brightly than anything she'd said so far. Much too brightly, for my tastes.

"I'm watching the first few innings of World War Three," I said. "The scrappy, underdog Hezbollah squad pushed across a run on a suicide squeeze and then turned a nifty little double play to get out of the first; but those big, Israeli 'roid freaks have the bases loaded again in their half of the second and they have the top of the order coming up."

There was a pause. Then she said, "Well, I'd really like to send you some literature about our Payment Protection Program..."


"Oh, wait!" she said quickly. "I need to verify your address."

She needn't have bothered. I had checked my address that very morning and, sure enough, it was still there. But I didn't say that. Instead I said, "You guys send me a bill every month. I think you already have my address."

"It's just something we need to do," she said in one of those 'you know how it is' tones.

I sighed. In fact, I made a point of it: I sighed loudly; I sighed heavily; I practically sighed the words out as I said, "Okay... shoot." I'm not exactly sure why I used the word "shoot." Maybe it was TV. Or maybe it was the bourbon.

I heard a staccato series of keystrokes over the phone line. Then she told me my address. I said, "Yep, that's me. Bingo! Why-don't-you-drop-it-in-the-mail-thank-you-good-bye."

"Oh, wait!" she said. "First-I-need-to-make-sure-you-understand..." and she began to recite Phase Two of the Script. It was at this point that she dropped any last, remaining veneer of salesmanship. The words came fast and slurred and jammed together and totally lacking even a hint of sincerity.

Carefully, quietly, I laid the phone on the couch beside me. I took a sip of my drink. I picked up the TV remote and switched over to the Fox News Channel. You know-- for the home team call. They almost managed to hide their smirks as they intoned their slogan, "Fair and balanced," then spent several minutes openly rooting for Israel to blow the game wide open.

I flipped over to MSNBC. They were interviewing some American Idol also-ran from two years ago. Go figure.

I picked up the phone again. She was still talking. I cleared my throat and said, "I know where you live, Susan."

Pause. Then she said, "I beg your pardon?"

"Sorry. I just said that to get your attention. I don't actually know where you live, personally, but I do know where [the credit card company's] western collection center is, and I don't mean the anonymous P.O. box they have in Salt Lake City, either. They're actually housed in a big, low, white building with a kind of an off-brown trim, just off of [a particular street] in [a suburb of Salt Lake City]. You see, I'm in Utah all the time, and I know where their building is. In fact, I mail my check to them, every month, from the mailbox out by the street... about a hundred yards from their south entrance. I've been hoping somebody in the mail room or somewhere would notice some obscure code imbedded in the postmark and put two and two together. I like knowing that they know that I know that they know that I know exactly where they're at."

Another pause. Then she stammered, "I... uh... I'm-I'm not sure..."

I said: "Listen. Suzy. If you want to send me a brochure or a pamphlet or something about the Payment Protection Program, that's fine. Go ahead and drop it in the mail. You have my address. Frankly, I think it's a waste of paper and time and postage, because as soon as I get it, I'm going to take a heavy-duty pair of scissors and cut it up into little pieces. Then I'm going to put those into a little baggie and take them out on the road with me and scatter them on some lonely stretch of interstate where no one will ever find them. But, hey, if it makes you feel better, then you go right ahead and drop it in the mail, anyway. Okay?" I paused. Then I said, "Oh, and Susan? Just one more thing..."