Write me:
skot AT izzlepfaff DOT com

Monday, 29 December

Ah, another Christmas come and gone, and another bunch of ancillary, holiday-induced activities to deal with: going out and using those gift cards (or, as we're having it, staying in and ordering shit off the net); dealing with the return of redundant gifts (I forgot to warn the wife off of my incredibly outdated Amazon wishlist, which now really just functions as a sort of depressing chronicle of my past retail crimes); and performing end-of-year surgery on the rest of your crap, which now looks a little wan and sad next to all the new shiny things.

You know: you got two new sweaters, and some of your older, rattier sweaters now seem sort of puny and maybe a little ickier next to the new guys--like parasites, almost, feeding of the newness and good cheer radiating off of the new sweaters. Plus, you're out of room for sweaters. So out they go, and they scream. "You loved us once!" But you're a grim, unflinching surgeon. "Yeah, I loved Def Leppard once, too, but things change."

Then you stop talking to your sweaters, because hey, don't be a fucking weirdo all the time, Skot.

Speaking of being a weirdo, around this time of year, obsessive weirdos sometimes make new year's resolutions; strangely, being an obsessive weirdo, I've never tried this, so I thought I'd give it a shot this year, and wouldn't you know it, the first one involves talking to oneself, or, either more or less dumb--I'm not sure which--talking to inanimate objects, such as sweaters.

Walking home today, I passed a guy who, steps in front of me, stopped dead in his tracks and muttered urgently, "Slice of cheese!" Which made me a little wary, but then he lurched over to his left and entered a pizzeria: so okay, then, muttery nutjob wanted some pizza. But then I realized that I am a muttery nutjob, and I should maybe try and cut it out. For I have been known, for example, to stand in a bookstore, looking at the shelves, and upon seeing a book I hate, hiss to the author's name on the book's spine, "You're a total boner." Which has caused (real, live, in-the-room) people to shuffle rapidly away from me. (Leaving aside the myriad of sad implications that arise when I notice that at my age, I still say things like "total boner.")

So: Try not to be a muttery nutjob who talks to himself.

Pros: People won't think I'm some creepy masher with a boner.
Cons: Does not address disturbing penchant for sixth-grade smuttery.

The holiday season of course brings with it a whole boatload of new Hollywood movie offerings, and I--as I've explained many times--ruthlessly prejudge movies based solely on their advertising. My track record is, I must say, pretty good with this method, and I have been routinely punished when I have deviated from it (I'm looking at you, Mulholland Drive). So I pay a lot of attention to movie ads, and I've come to the conclusion that I shouldn't see any Sean Penn movies where he looks shatteringly sad; or, as a corollary, where he is shot from above, walking dolefully and stolidly down a beautifully empty street; or finally, where he is shown howling in agony to the heavens, and crumples to his knees. Mr. Penn is a talented actor! He can do more than that! Not that you'd know it lately: ads for Mystic River--a film more than a little tainted by the faint (but ghastly) whiff of Mystic Pizza you get from the title--21 Grams, and so on. I'm not sure where this phenomenon started--maybe Dead Man Walking--but come on!

So: No more movies with emotionally devastated Sean Penns.

Pros: More free time to see less psychologically freighted character studies, like the upcoming Torque, which as I understand it, is a touching story about motorcycles and the tiny-penised men who love them.
Cons: May backfire and result in I Am Still Sam.

But of course, TV's endless pleasures don't end with just ads for crummy movies. There's plenty of crumminess, and at least 35% of it is brand new! For example, the hit phenom Queer Eye for the Straight Guy--which always makes me, troublingly, think of gay opticians--debuted an exuberantly embarrassing new MUSIC VIDEO to open its show not too long ago. It's really quite something, even if it is also, at times, extremely puzzling: Ted, the food guy, using a champagne cutlass? I don't think so. First of all, champagne cutlasses are deeply stupid, and pretty much only a ridiculous rich person would ever use one, because two; YOU'RE SPILLING THE FUCKING CHAMPAGNE ALL OVER THE PLACE! Never mind, it gets worse later on when Jai--the adorable, useless one who never has anything to do, and so ends up standing around failing to be witty--hits the dance floor and treats us to some of his more ferocious Jazz Dance 101 moves, looking for all the world like a somehow slightly less talented, slightly less hairy Jennifer Beals. At this point, the camera cuts back to the other guys, wisely seated and drinking, who all point and laugh at Jai. I'm sure it's supposed to look very supportive and all--"Look at Jai tear it up!"--but it really just looks like they're pointing and laughing at Jai--"Somebody make him stop!"

So: Watch even more television.

Pros: I certainly can't get much dumber.
Cons: We'll see about that, as FOX continues to develop shows.

I talked a bit about gifts above, and the wife's very nice parents had some great ones for me: a couple gift certificates, some books, and of course . . . socks. In fact, everyone in the family got socks from them--"They were on sale!" they crowed, which killed me--and they themselves were also wearing these socks. Wife's dad waggled his brightly-hued feet for me as I opened my booty of socks; an apropos phrase, I think, because they are booty socks. Mine appear to have wide racing stripes, and have little nubbies on the soles to prevent linoleum slippage, and remind me of old Gremlins. The wife got a simply remarkable pair that have what are alleged to be cute penguin faces on them, but the stitching is all wrong, and so they look to me exactly like the corpse-heads of Sesame Street's Grover. So now I want to challenge the wife to a race: "My Gremlins versus your dead muppets! Vroom vroom!"

So: Make sure to wear insanity-inducing socks.

Pros: Will make the in-laws very happy.
Cons: Will possibly be haunted by terrifying nightmares involving zombie Grovers.

Finally, today when I stopped at the supermarket to get some dinner stuff, I waited in line to get to the register, and when I got there, something wonderful happened. The guy was ringing me up, and I was fumbling with my wallet for money, and when I looked down, I spotted a $20 bill. Just sitting there on the floor. I remembered the customer before me had used a card, and anyway he was long gone, and nobody else was making a scene, so I picked up the bill. I looked around to see if anyone was digging frantically in their wallets or purses, but nobody was. I thought for a second of saying, "Ah, hey, did anyone lose a twenty?" But that seemed like an invitation to catastrophe, so, well . . . I took it. What was I going to do? Give it to the cashier for Lost and Found? I hadn't found money sitting around unclaimed for a long time, and you know what? I really, really like it!

So: Continue to find money sitting around.

Pros: I will have more money.
Cons: It will probably not help to prevent me from talking to my sweaters.

What a total boner.

Wednesday, 24 December
Everything's Gone Green

A little bit ago, the wife and I got done watching Hulk on pay-per-view. It took a while to get going, for sure; waiting 40+ minutes to see Mr. Enormous Mint was kind of tedious. But then we got some nice action sequences featuring [NOTE: I give stuff away here, if you're one of those people] some hilarious CGI gamma-rayed dogs--Fifi the French poodle as interpreted by Rob Zombie--as well as some enjoyable tank-flinging and general artillery abuse. Also, Sam Elliott, whose moustache did not go unremarked upon; the wife commented on its exactitude: "That's a really neat moustache." Probably not a good thing to notice in the middle of what is ostensibly an action movie. "Holy shit! Did you see Hulk's skin get pockmarked with bullet strikes?" "Actually, I was thinking about Sam Elliott's moustache." Uh oh.

But still; those were some fun sequences, and the CGI wasn't horrible, but let's face it: ever since Peter Jackson spent the equivalent of Brunei's GDP on Gollum, everything else is going to look like something off of the shelves of Goodwill. I tried to keep this in mind while He Whose Pants Must Never Burst wreaked all kinds of havoc, and I did okay. In fact, I ended up thinking that everybody who pissed all over the movie were just being twerps.

Then the ending happened. Now, I wasn't a huge Hulk fan when I was in my comic book youth-mania, so maybe I missed something big, but . . . what in the holy fuck was that? It just didn't make any goddamn fucking sense on any level--and this is leaving out the fact that poor old Ang Lee decided not to cast Nick Nolte, but instead the shambling husk of his infamous mug shot. I swear that the Smoking Gun got some casting credit for his role, as poor Nick rattled on through every scene as if he had just wandered onto the set after being maliciously cornholed by LAPD's finest billy clubs. Where was the Nick Nolte from 48 Hours or Q & A? Or even from when he famously sat like a gigantic, angry stone a couple years ago, refusing to give tribute at the Oscars to the tremulous, confused Elia Kazan? He's gone. Now he just makes weirdly discomfiting overtures to Jennifer Connolley and goes back to his trailer, where he naps fitfully and dreams of haircuts.

Anyway. We got done with the terrible thing--that ending! Jesus God!--and tuned into Bravo, where everyone will be stunned to find out that we caught an episode of "The West Wing." We fortunately just missed a repeat of "Celebrity Poker," the show that dares to ask the question, "How can we make generally decent-seeming people like Hank Azaria and Allison Janney somehow seem unappealing?" It's to Bravo's credit that they make their dreams happen.

It's also to Bravo's credit that they are utterly single-minded in their desire to ram every fucking thing they can think of down our throats. I've already mentioned "The West Wing," which they play with a kind of evangelical zeal, and also "Celebrity Poker," the ne plus ultra of shows we never asked for. They are also responsible, as any person with a nervous system knows, for the phenomenon known as "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," whose charms are there, I must admit, but Bravo's fervid dedication for flogging the thing are bordering on the monomaniacal. STOP SHOWING ME ADAM ZALTA! DON'T MAKE ME USE THIS DISPOSABLE RAZOR!

Bravo, however, occasionally proves frisky, perhaps only when they are desperate and exhibiting a taste for the weird and un-figure-out-able. To wit: It seems that, on Christmas Day, they are eschewing a QEftSG marathon, or even a Celebrity Poker Bore-A-Thon, and are instead running, inexplicably, three separate showings of The Terminator.

Whatever. It's a loser's game trying to figure out mysterious entities like network programmers. It's almost as difficult as trying to figure out the ending to Hulk, except to perhaps conclude that Hollywood is run by maniacs and nutbrains and dubious gaseous entities that occupy suit-space. Hollywood is, clearly, a comic book all of its own. It's just one that nobody can read.

Have some good holidays, and I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, 22 December
Christmas Gifts That Have Been Largely Unappreciated

AGE 5: I think this is when I got my first taste of . . . what? Feeling left out of things, I guess. When you're a little kid, your parents of course think it's just cute as hell to sign your name to presents to other people, who then feel obligated to thank little you ostentatiously, while you sit around feeling kind of confused: "I didn't give you dick. I don't have any money! And if I did, I'd probably spend it on, like, jerky. Plus, go away, as I'm trying to decide whether or not I want to nap or pee or both."

But at my age 5 Christmas, I think I must have gotten a little bummed out with people sticking my name on gifts I didn't have any say in, because I ended up taking this terrible little plastic horse--it may have been Pokey--and wadding up a bunch of wrapping paper around it, and then presented it proudly to my grandmother. She of course made a grand show of acting as if it was the greatest gift she had ever received--in fact, I believe she displayed it on her mantle for a while--but of course it was just a wretched little plastic horse.

It took all of two days for me to regret giving up my beloved horse; I soon wanted it back, and whined to my parents about this, and they took a bit too much pleasure in informing me that I had screwed myself: "You gave it to grandma, and she took it home. It's gone!" They watched merrily as I grieved over my fucking horse, probably not suspecting the lesson I was starting to learn: Giving things away is lame.

AGE 6: Trying for another out-of-the-park homer like the previous year, I rather cynically wrapped a crummy kitchen magnet up in paper, planning on yet again delighting my grandmother, but this time with an item that I couldn't care less about. Unfortunately, my father caught me in mid-fumble-wrap. He snarled, "Nobody wants this shit." I was horribly wounded: MY GRANDMA WOULD HAPPILY ACCEPT ANY SHIT I SAW FIT TO GIVE HER! Which was true, but that hardly excused grabbing some random piece of crap and pretending it was a diamond ring. I pouted for a long time, mostly pissed off because my transparent ruse had so easily been seen through.

AGE 18: Is there anything sweeter than a high school girlfriend? And is there anything more utterly soul-crushing than when she dumps you and then takes up romantically with the scuzzy guy who occasionally likes to punch you in the face? I was lucky enough to find out! The gal and I had spent a thrillingly erotic evening in my Chevy Monza once, enthusiastically making out to Depeche Mode's album-length ode to depression, Black Celebration. I honestly don't know what I was thinking: the album is like a 70-minute-long dirge; it's about as romantic as an autopsy. But hey. So for Christmas, I got my gal a copy of the tape, as a sort of memento of our Night of Luv. I got it back soon enough, along with a note that said she was breaking up with me. A note that she left in my car. The tape was sitting there with the note, a sort of unspoken rebuke for subjecting her to such terrible make-out music; and she and scuzzy-guy-who-hit-me were an item mere weeks later.

(Silly addendum: I was really crushed over her dumping me for, like, months. Then, out of the blue, she got a frighteningly terrible haircut and perm . . . I mean, it was bad like nothing you've ever seen. It was the Weekend At Bernie's of haircuts. And when I saw it, it was like a switch had been thrown: I was magically, instantly over her. It was amazing. If only every ruined relationship were that easy.)

AGE 33: Two-fer this year. Lovely.

First off, our friend and downstairs neighbor, R., always gives us great gifts, usually very thoughtful and unexpected and cool. So that's kind of a pain in the ass to live up to, you know? I mean, there's only so many years that you can lamely just say, "Look, I just got you booze again." So last year, I was scouring around for good ideas, thinking about what a cool gift would be, when I stumbled upon it: I spied in my local music store a box set of AL GREEN! AL FUCKING GREEN! Everyone loves Al Green, and it surely stood to reason that our neighbor, a 40-ish music-loving gay man, would be thrilled to have such a gift.

Later, I watched happily as he unwrapped it, and then turned it over in his hands, like he had tripped over a meteor, or a dinosaur bone. I was certain he was kind of awed by the UNEXPECTED COOLNESS of this marvelous gift. "Wow," he said. "Who is Al Green?"

I shit you not.

The second instance of fucking it all up was with the wife's younger brother, who is 24. Naturally, I wanted to be the cool older brother-in-law, and bestow upon him some cred-building thing that would make him think, "Wow, what a mensch!" (Note that this is already Mission: Hopeless due to my pathetic usage of "mensch.") Knowing that he's a movie freak, I began patrolling the DVD racks, searching for that perfect movie that would say, "You'll smack yourself for not thinking of this terribly cool movie!" And then I found it. I stared at the box for a moment, siezed with glee--he's going to be poleaxed by the coolness of this fucking movie and will worship me as his utterly hip brother-in-law!

And that's how I ended up giving him a copy of An American Werewolf in London, saying, as I handed it to him, "I thought of you immediately when I saw this." I pressed the wrapped DVD into his hands like I was handing him a baby son. Bring on the coolness! He'll tell all of his college pals what a boss guy I am. 23 skiddoo!

A week later, on the voice mail: "Hey, guys! Hope you had a good Christmas. Give me a call sometime, and thanks for all the stuff! I . . . uh . . . hey, Skot, I'm not sure why you thought of me when you saw that DVD . . . but thanks, man . . . uh, it's pretty cool."

Later he told me he thought I was maybe "trying to tell him something" by buying him the movie--always a wonderful impression to make on your in-laws during the holidays. "Merry Christmas! I suspect you are a lycanthrope!"

This year he's getting a gift certificate to Best Buy. I'm guessing he'll race down there and buy a fresh copy of How To Deal With Your Awful Putz of a Brother-In-Law.

Fuck this. Next year, everyone's getting a refrigerator magnet.

Friday, 19 December

Well, that was fun, at least for me, anyway. Thanks to all who played. The big winner is a frightening lunatic named J. Rogers, who actually responded with an answer for all 25.

Some things became clear almost immediately: for one, I should never have used "silver spoon," as it is a pretty stock phrase, and shows up in multiple songs, like "Gold Dust Woman" and Everlast's "What It's Like." Second, NOBODY got my original reference for the phrase "stand naked," which was Bob Dylan's "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)," but even worse, our winner made me feel plank-stupid by noticing that the same phrase is used in The Who's "Bargain." The most common trip-up was thinking of "Your Momma Don't Dance and Your Daddy Don't Rock and Roll" for "don't dance," but I specifically said I wouldn't use phrases that were completely used in titles. I was actually thinking of "Safety Dance" when I wrote it, but I could have picked a better one that that, I think.

Anyway! Here are the complete answers. And to those of you who responded with challenges of your own: I thank you for making me realize how much I suck for doing this in the first place. What a pain in the ass these are.

1. choking smokers--The Beatles, "I Am the Walrus"
2. devil too--XTC, "Dear God"
3. grey eyes--New Order, "Temptation"
4. fruit cage--Peter Gabriel "Sledgehammer"
5. supple wrist--The Who, "Pinball Wizard"
6. silver spoon--Harry Chapin, "Cat's in the Cradle"
7. sixty-five degrees--Talking Heads, "Burning Down the House"
8. watch dynasty--Prince, "Kiss"
9. needs sweeping--The Beatles, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"
10. halfway there--Bon Jovi, "Livin' On A Prayer"
11. done died--Aerosmith, "Sweet Emotion"
12. god money--Nine Inch Nails, "Head Like A Hole"
13. don't dance--Men Without Hats, "Safety Dance"
14. face north--REM, "Stand"
15. stand naked--Bob Dylan, "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)"
16. baggage carousel--Squeeze, "Tempted"
17. city walls--U2, "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
18. slicing up--Pixies, "Debaser"
19. loves horses--Tom Petty, "Free Fallin'"
20. hickory stump--Charlie Daniels, "Devil Went Down to Georgia"
21. 'til touchdown--Elton John, "Rocket Man"
22. be double--The Clash, "Should I Stay or Should I Go?"
23. lost myself--Radiohead, "Karma Police"
24. late September--Rod Stewart, "Maggie May"
25. be abused--Eurythmics, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)"

Congratulations to J. "Mr." Rogers! Send me your address, and I'll send you something crappy, like a box of lizards!

Thursday, 18 December
T Minus Two Words

As I was walking home today from work, a familiar set of sensations came over me: I listen to music in my head a lot, and my internal jukebox likes to mix up songs without much regard as to how they fit together. Sometimes someone--a coworker, a friend--will say something that sets off a song in my brain (say, for example, someone says, "roped and tied," and I'll have Elton John's "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" in my head for hours), and as my loony head spun, I began to wonder: Is it possible that there are certain irreducible phrases that can conjure up whole pop songs? Could only two words, say, bring up a whole song? And would it be so for other, possibly non-loony people?

So I set about a totally nonscientific, totally bullshit endeavor: I tried to imagine mere two-word phrases or phraselets that could possibly evoke an entire pop song. I of course avoided titles: How hard would it be to figure out something like "California Girls"? I also avoided pop chorus phrases that were terribly obvious or clearly rhymed with the titles, like say "graveyard smash."

So what I tried to do was to think of unique two-word phrases that could only refer to one specific pop song. And then I wondered how people would deal with it, given that I was by definition working out of context (though I altered no grammar, syntax or anything; I also did not obfuscate things, I hope, by ramming together words that didn't belong with one another). I just tried to think of certain two-word phrases (and hopefully without many articles) that seemed to embody, typify, or just clearly identify certain well-known songs.

I've probably fucked it all up, but hey. And if I had any clue how to make radio buttons, or text fields, this would all be cleaner, but I don't, so you're stuck with me: If it moves you to do so, take the quiz, and email me your guesses/comments at Skot(AT) The winner will receive . . . uh . . . something weird from me! In the (unfortunately very likely) case that there are multiple candidates for my two-word hints, I will award points once I verify the correct lyrics via Google. In any case, these songs were either hits, or have become more or less ubiquitously classic. Wording is important. But sorry, I get to be the final arbiter.

Final pointers: I tried very hard to make these unique, two-word lyrical singularities, but I probably failed. But if you can make the case that there was another popular song that used the EXACT same words, I'll cough up a point (Different cases or alternate plurals or altered wordings aren't going to fly). But just know that, for the most part, these are all pretty commonly known songs from the past 30 years, and except for a couple entries, aren't that sneaky--though I wonder at what I'll be seeing. Bear it in mind that a crabby argument about how Desmond Choad and His Angry Toads once sang similar lyrics to what I list are unlikely to carry much weight.

And finally: This is kind of a "hey, shiny thing!" for me. I don't intend it to be a real biggie. If I fuck it all up, I'm all to blame. I'm just kind of interested in seeing what comes of it. Again, everything from here on out is on me. Here's the list. I'm not worrying about punctuation or capitalization, and since for deviousness' sake, I don't want to clue anyone in as to where in a given lyric's place the snippet came, but do know this: I did not string together any misleading words or fuck with the word order. I may have messed with the timing of the flow, but these words all go together in their songs. And to those of you who might Google your brains out: I can't stop you, but you suck.

Here they are. Like I said, these are two-word phrases from well-recognized pop songs. Show me what you got. Some of these are (I think) easy. Some of them are totally diabolical (or, ah, I'm just a dumbass). At least that's what I say now. I had a good time with this. Let's see what happens. I'm really most excited to see how many people write, "WHAT? Not THAT song! That's from ANOTHER SONG!"

1. choking smokers
2. devil too
3. grey eyes
4. fruit cage
5. supple wrist
6. silver spoon
7. sixty-five degrees
8. watch dynasty
9. needs sweeping
10. halfway there
11. done died
12. god money
13. don't dance
14. face north
15. stand naked
16. baggage carousel
17. city walls
18. slicing up
19. loves horses
20. hickory stump
21. 'til touchdown
22. be double
23. lost myself
24. late September
25. be abused

P.S.--I thought I had caught the typo last night, but apparently it didn't stick. #4 is now corrected. It's one of the easy ones, I think.

Wednesday, 17 December

Arby's Oven Mitt: Welcome, everyone. Thanks for coming. My first question is . . . what are you eating?

Hair: Vitamin E. It keeps me lustrous.

Joe Theismann: Broccoli makes my ankles stronger. HA! No, seriously, what makes your ankles stronger? I'm scared to cross the street.

Jude Law: I eat mostly hummus.

Arby's Oven Mitt: Not roast beef sandwiches?

Jude Law: No. That would give me gas, and you don't want that in a scene with Natalie Portman. She hates farting. She's kind of a scag.

Free Jazz: (Interrupting) SKRONK! BLAT! BLEEEEEEN!

Jude Law: I have to agree with Free Jazz. Natalie Portman sounds exactly like that.

FARK: Boobies!

The Corpse of Joe McCarthy: Let's try and keep things decent here. This is America. Muhhhhh. I hate being a corpse.

FARK: Boobies! Duke sucks.

Joe Theismann: You can't write off Duke so soon.

Laurie Anderson: The Duke. The Thin White Duke. Ducats for Duke. The politics of puke. The tiny black buttons on the barroom juke.

Arby's Oven Mitt: We have salads with cuke!

Jude Law: (Unzipping pants) Did somebody say cuke?

The Corpse of Joe McCarthy: Urrrrrr.

Hair: I grow luxuriantly. Not like those creeps down at fingernails. Those guys are freaks.

Joe Theismann: You have to see my shinbones. They look like they were crafted by autistics.


Arby's Oven Mitt: We have all kinds of cheese.

Laurie Anderson: I'll put it on a frieze.

The Corpse of Joe McCarthy: I'll denounce it as sleaze.

Hair: I'm dying for a tease.

Jude Law: Rescue my career! Jeez!

Joe Theismann: My ruined knees!



Izzle Pfaff Readers: Oh, God. Please.

Tuesday, 16 December
All Yesterday's Parties

The weekend has been, ah, full.

I've been doing the Christmas show, of course, to surprisingly good houses; I guess there's a big hunger out there for nontreacly holiday fare, moving at least one set of parents to ask themselves: "Should I take my pre-teen children to see a coal-black comedy about whether or not Santa Claus raped one of his reindeer and molested Rudolph into catatonia?" The clear answer: You betcha! I hope the parents got a good laugh for their efforts, because their kids are probably going to be sleeping with the lights on for a few months. (In the very first monologue, a story is told of one former reindeer who lands badly on a roof and shatters his leg, killing him. Santa leaves him there, dead on the roof, citing a busy schedule. I imagine these children are going to nervously tiptoe out on Christmas morning to scan the top of their house for castoff reindeer corpses, which is a pretty festive state of mind for young children.)

In addition to the show, there also began the inevitable landslide of parties. Friday marked the annual moral debacle that happens to be the shared birthday of three female friends who have, over time, dubbed themselves the "Vagitarians." They are all three of them despicable, amoral sluts who every year take the opportunity to infect all of their friends with whatever blinding, reprehensible soul-disease they possess, and then everyone takes turns acting out Lost Weekend as if set in a low-gravity environment. Of course we love them for this: so after the show on Friday, the booze was brought forth; insectile friends of questionable provenance invaded the proceedings ("Jesus, I thought that guy was dead!"); musical instruments were abused; and I imagine that at some point someone got sticky with someone else, possibly in the rafters--or maybe the roof, atop the cooling remains of an abandoned reindeer.

Or so we heard. We're old and married now, so we left before the Drunky-fever consumed the masses. Everyone looks at us rather pityingly now, when we do things like leave the party early; it's the sort of look that says, "Soon you will vote Republican." Which is fine. Especially if it means sparing myself from, say, fumbling around myopically in the middle of some awful hyena gangbang while the speakers blare old Fixx tunes. Listen, you don't know some of these theater parties.

Saturday night was a Christmas party proper at the house of our friends J. and S. They are good eggs, and it's another annual deal, and J. also happens to be a bit of a cook, so he always puts out ridiculously good, opulent spreads. We showed up after I was done with the play, and as we walked in, we beheld: Nobody We Knew. The place was filled to the gills with what I'm sure are very lovely people, but we knew none of them, save for the hosts, and all the conversations seemed pretty hermetically sealed in that intimate way that you can spot a mile off and now what do we do? And then! We spotted our friends K. and K.--FRIENDS! We leapt at them like rats leap at unwary junkies. "Jesus God," I whispered hoarsely at one of the K.s, "I don't know any of these fuckers." "Neither do we," he replied. "You have to eat some of this cheese."

So we ate cheese, and sausage, and ham, and other great stuff, and admired their pet rabbit, who surveyed the entire proceedings with an odd mixture of benignity and fear. Rabbits have, it seems, two conscious states: Abject Holy Terror, and Fuck Off, I'm Eating. Which is, I note, not unlike the two conscious states of your average partygoer who has no idea who anyone else in the room is.

Eventually, a couple of other friends of ours showed up, J. and P., but we left shortly after that, leaving another wake of "They Need Their Gout Medicine" faces.

Sunday is easily summarized: Sleep in. Football. Flap hands disgustedly at the floppy, wan Seahawks. Go do the show. Home.

And then tonight, the wife had a bit of a girls' night out, so I had a couple of fellows over to watch Monday Night Football and drink beer and eat pizza and--of course--be dicks to each other. This is what boys do, after all--yes, you gay boys too, you know it--you piss all over each other just for the sheer fun of it. Why? Well . . . I think that science has shown us over and over again that boys are just kind of stupid and mean. You can look it up.

So we just hung out, crucifying each other as much as possible, in between bouts of mocking the dumb brutes crashing into one another on the screen. As it was my home turf--my married home turf that I neglected to screen for possible mockery-targets--I got my share. My wife has, for murky reasons I don't wish to examine, a certain book called The "Friends" Cookbook. Yes, as in the TV show. D. noticed it. "Skot? So . . . you're gay then." (Sorry. This is what dumb boys do.) Later on, they both noticed the wife's little jar of hand lotion that I stupidly did not think to move to somewhere safe, like Greenland. "Lotion! Hand lotion. So . . . you're gay then." I should have told them that, yes, I enthusiastically jerk off in my living room, preferably to the stimulating images found in The "Friends" Cookbook. But then we were back to the game, and we discussed--again, very boy thing--football players with terribly amusing names, like Algie Crumpler and the woeful Brian Griese (pronounced: "greasy"), whose terribly amusing name in no way mitigates against the fact that he is also a very terrible quarterback.

The game ended, finally--with the losing Miami listlessly half-attempting a very sad, funereal non-attempt at a late comeback; they looked like poorly re-animated corpses who had been unceremoniously dumped out of their coffins and made to run bone-clattering wind sprints while their coach chewed blackly and hopelessly on his dire moustache--and the boys left, farting defeatedly into the night, thinking of Tuesday, that deuce of spades of weekdays.

But hey. The wife is home; the evening was fun; the pizza was good; there is no actual evidence of gout or creeping Republicanism; and there are no dead reindeers on the roof. Welcome to this very John Irving ending. Good night.

Friday, 12 December
Look! Up In The Air! It's A Shithead!

I had this hilarious delusion at the start of this month: that I would somehow make it through the month (with gifts purchased and all!) without having to dip into my sad little savings. With this in mind ("I've been doing great!"), I meekly checked my bank balance today.

I stared at my laughable, Burkina Faso-esque funds for a small while. And nothing on Burkina Faso. It's a small country with lots of problems, but then again, so is my financial state. In fact, they are terribly similar. Burkina Faso and I have some cash--not a lot--but some; and then some reckless nutfuck gets a hold of it and buys a bunch of booze and comic books. That's what happened to me, and I'm betting something similar happened in Northern Africa. Somewhere on the veldt, there's an irresponsible schmuck sitting around going, "Well, I guess I could use this money to . . . crap, I don't know, do good or something. Or, on the other hand, I could just buy some whisky and see what Wolverine is up to."

So basically, I suck. I go shopping for slinky bras or something (because who doesn't want his wife to wear slinky bras?), and then I get sidetracked.

"Sir? What size does your wife wear?"

"Uh . . . I don't know. They're really great, though. Her breasts. Do they make 'great?' "


"Hmmm. Well. They're certainly bigger than yours. These bras all look depressing. How do you make tits depressing? It's kind of incredible."

"Yes. Well. I'm on break now."

And that's when I suddenly find myself in the comic book section, spending utterly ridiculous amounts of money on unspeakable comics like "The Unbelievable Panty-Hose Man" and "The Corn Dog Eater." Square-jawed men who battle crime! They seem to meet busty women every third page! It's so weird how these comics appeal to dorky men! I spend all my money on them.

Comics are going to ruin Christmas. I can just tell.

Wednesday, 10 December
This Is A "No Rush" Zone

Tonight the wife and I began our Long Sojourn Through Multiple Holiday Get-Togethers by attending (for a bit) a party thrown by a sketch comedy group with whom we are good pals with, Bald Faced Lie. These are some of the most freakishly talented people I've had the alarming pleasure to hang out with, and they decided to give a little year's-end thank-you party for all their friends, replete with those strange wind-up sandwiches bathed in tahini, free pool tables, free beer. Naturally, actors came from every edge of reality to attend; announcing to actors that booze and food are being given out gratis is basically like setting out free meat for C.H.U.D.s. Eventually they all shamble up and gorge.

It was held at the venerable Seattle bar-cum-performance space-cum-disease vector Re-bar, a legendary institution famed mostly for its prodigious talent at making you feel like you might possibly die at any moment. It's one of those places that you can sort of feel where your DNA is being damaged just by proximity. Naturally, I like it a lot: the last time I was working on a show there, someone found a little coke vial on the bathroom floor. A couple of us cheerfully gave the contents a tongue-test: "It's crystal," I declared, being one of the us. My friend B. merrily pocketed the rest. "I'll save this for later." He later confirmed my analysis, which made me happy. I swelled with the sort of pride that one can only achieve by tasting things that are found discarded on ghastly bathroom floors.

After hobnobbing for a while, a band came on, if it can really be called a band, which it cannot, since it consists of three sketch people who--by their own admission--"rehearsed about twice." Calling themselves The Diamond People, the trio mounted the stage, decked out in ridiculous wigs that made them look rather like members of EMF after being beaten up by Lynyrd Skynrd roadies. I. was the stolid singer and twitchy guitarist, a vertical bench of a man; B. was the bassist with sunglasses who strangely evoked uncomfortable associations with NAMBLA; and K. rounded out the three by being the "drummer" who sat on a stool with a mysteriously unlit cigarette, not manning a drum kit, but instead a tiny Casiotone thingy that looked for all the world like an old Brother typewriter. He coaxed trembly, sterile beatlets from the device while bobbing his head, occasionally fooling nobody by mimicking cowbell beats that foghorned sadly from the wee plastic slab.

And they played, starting out with a kind of "Chrissie Hynde stubbed her toe" little punker called "Leather Balloon." Isn't a leather balloon basically a football? Whatever. It was worth it to hear lead singer I. wail, "I wanna pop you!" It is endlessly heartening to me that practically every rock song ever written, apart from perhaps Yo La Tengo's "Moby Octopad," can be interpreted as an exhortation to fuck. Dispiritingly, however, nobody fucked, but one in-the-spirit-of-the-thing gal did end up throwing some unidentifiable undergarment onstage, possibly a truss. It was hard to say.

They did a few other songs, one of which was a strangely REM-like bit of midtempo pop, which I think was called "Oh Glamor," mainly because I remember that they rhymed it with "clamor," and I spent some dumb Skot-time helplessly thinking of other things that rhymed with "glamor." I came up with "spammer," "hammer," "jammer," "slammer" before I got stuck with the assonance of "Bruce Banner," and had to quit, because by then I was imagining The Incredible Hulk as a Mod, riding angrily around on a Vespa, thanks to the original "glamor" association.


The final song we endured was the strangest (and I have no idea what the title was), and I suspect that part of the strangeness came from K.'s earlier trembing vibe from hearing Rush play over the sound system. Nobody should ever hear Rush, much less be able to function after hearing Rush. Rush is basically ear poison, and Geddy Lee is the guy who goes around trying to pour it into our ears. Neal Peart is the drumming Ophelia, forever drowning behind his thousand of toms, and Alex Lifesworth (is that his name?) just sits behind heavy, brocaded curtains, waiting to be stabbed by an errant drumstick.

I'm sorry, what were we talking about?

Never mind me. I did have a good time, and despite the dick-twisting I give my friends, I appreciate the party. And if I say something stupid like the Diamond People occasionally sounded like Pere Ubu being attacked by wasps, it's because I love them, and they've occasionally said worse about me.

God knows I deserved it.

Monday, 08 December
Petula Clark Can Shove It

As Jesusmas approaches, I've been trying diligently to do all my shopping online, for obvious reasons: mainly, I hate people. More to the point, I hate crowds, and shopping crowds are to be assiduously avoided, like poison clouds, or eggplant. So online shopping has been a real boon for misanthropes like me everywhere.

Except for this one fucking thing I've been looking for--for the wife--that I obviously can't go into here. Suffice it to say that while I could find this particular thing available online, I didn't feel good about actually buying one, and if there is a drawback to online purchases, it's the squidginess of returning shit. Do I want to have to write an email, wait for a return tag, box the fucking thing back up and wait (maybe) for a replacement? No, I do not. What I want to do is to drive like a mad bastard downtown and fling the offending object at some clerk-ape and snarl, "I need this in the correct size for my pissed-off wife! She thinks I don't know what size she wears!" (She is correct, of course.) Then I expect the clerk-ape to lope into the back room and return with the fucking thing I should have bought in the first place. That's what I want, not all this fuckery with the boxes and the mail and tap tap tap where's my shit?

(I worked in retail for five years, so I am not actually cruel to the luckless bonesacks who work there, but I am fond of thinking about torturing them. But then I remember that there is no worse torture than retail.)

So, with a heavy heart, today after work I trudged downtown. And it wasn't long before I got my first little heartwarming holidaytime vignette. I was strolling down Olive St., vengefully smoking, when all of a sudden, BIP! BIP! BIP! Some asshole honking his puny, Lilliputian horn, over and over. I looked down the street, and I saw that a little, gray-haired, stooped old lady was trying to cross the street, and she was clearly having trouble walking, BECAUSE SHE'S A LITTLE OLD LADY FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, and she hadn't quite made it to the other side of the street before the light changed. AND THIS ASSHOLE IS HONKING AT HER. I craned my neck to get a better look at the offending vehicle, and . . . you're going to love this. It was a parking enforcement vehicle. A goddamn meter-ghoul was honking at an old, tiny person who was having trouble getting across the street because she was holding up the delivery of his next really important officious $44 holiday wedgiegram to some fool who might have parked too close to the poisonous yellow curb-paint.

Then something kind of great happened. The little old lady stopped, dead in the street, still right in front of the meter-ghoul, and turned her head to look at the bastard. BIP! BIP! BIP! continued the stupid little widget-car, snotty little blasts on the hornlet, sounding like an imperious little microwave with outsized dreams of world domination. The old lady stood there for a moment, and then waggled her finger at the meter-ghoul! This was so great, I did a little hornpipe on the sidewalk in impromptu celebration of such a display of righteousness. Fuck you, chowderhead! You're a parking drone, what are you going to do, ticket her cane? The ridiculous little tent on wheels responded with tinny blats of impotent rage: BIP! BIP! BIP!

Finally, the lady gave one of those classic hand-waves of disgusted dismissal--go suck it, parking cop!--and then finally trudged unhurriedly to the curb. The sad little parking car lurched angrily ahead, giving a final, sad BIP! on the horn in a futile attempt at retaining any kind of dignity at all.

By this point, I was only about ten feet away from her as she stoically continued down the sidewalk, so I quickened my pace a little bit to catch up with her, which I soon did. I gave her a sidelong smile as I passed, and then said, "I really liked how you handled that jerk back there."

And she looked at me and yelled, with surprising force, "Get away from me! I don't got nothing!" I started a little bit, and then, deciding that nothing more was to be gained by pursuing this line of conversation, obliged her, and stepped lively down the street, away from her, kind of unnerved and feeling like a dope. A few seconds later, I heard her scream, "Fucking maniacs!"

This is what I miss by doing all of my shopping online, I thought, rubbing shoulders with other people just like me.

Friday, 05 December
Ho, Ho, Holy Shit I'm Tired

Nothing like back-to-back shows! Oy. No wonder I'm taking so long to get well. Tonight I open up The Eight: Reindeer Monologues and run it for three weekends. You're all invited, particularly those of you in other countries. Tickets are a mere $12, a figure so astonishingly cheap you can't afford not to spend $500 on plane tickets to take advantage of it.

Thursday, 04 December
I Was Born For Advertising

A staple of car advertising is the old "I surprised my honey with the gift of a new car!" ad. You've seen them: one spouse figures out a cute way to sneak a car key into the hands of his/her mate (I'm really hoping for one that features someone stuffing it into a pork chop or perhaps a "SO YOU'VE GOT CANCER!" flyer), and the momentarily perplexed giftee quickly adopts an expression of holy shit-ness and then spastically whips his/her neck around to the window to behold the iconic shiny new car reposing in the thoroughly upper-middle-class driveway, usually with a big fucking ribbon on top, leaving the reader to wonder exactly how the giftee managed to enter the home without noticing that an enormous piece of mysterious machinery was quietly squatting just off the lawn like some weird magical toad waiting for the kiss of his appropriately-keyed princess.

It doesn't make much sense. So, fuck it, I wrote one of my own.

(Spot begins with shot of upper-middle-class home, aggressively clapboarded. The WIFE enters the house and encounters her not-quite-but-almost paunchy HUSBAND. He's fucking adorable, and knows it.)

WIFE: Hi, honey!

HUSBAND: Hi, sweetie! I've got a surprise for you!

W: Oh? What's that?

(The HUSBAND produces a tray of oysters.)

H: Oysters! Just for you! Because I love you.

W: Oh my God! You're so sweet! That's so romantic.

(The WIFE reaches for an oyster, but is stopped by the HUSBAND.)

H: Not that one. I ruined that one. Actually, I ruined all of them. These fucking things don't keep at all. I don't get it. It was only a week in the guest bathtub. These are totally pussy oysters. Anyway! Take this one.

(The HUSBAND points out one startling oyster. It has been duct-taped shut.)

W: What's this? God, this is . . . yick.

H: Just open it! Little fuckers don't like to close back up after they goddamn die. Stubborn goddamn crappy oysters.

W: Uh . . . boy. Okay.

(The WIFE opens the oyster. Inside is a LEXUS car key sitting atop a dispiriting grey mass of former oyster meat. The WIFE squeals.)

W: What? Wha--? Is this . . .?

H: (Beaming) That's right. It's a gorilla-cock huge Lexus, my darling. Merry Christmas!

W: AAAAAHHH! Oh my God! This is . . . I love you! I love you! I . . . ah . . . hold on. Aren't these things around fifty thousand dollars?

H: Oh yeah.

W: But . . . my God . . . where did you get the money? I mean, where did you get our money? We both have to pay for this, right? What the fuck, Jake?

H: Now, now, calm down. It's okay. I . . . I handled it. I cut some expenses. Because I wanted this for you. I don't want to get into all this, I just . . . oh, gosh. Look. Don't make a big deal out of this, but I . . . I'll just say it. I gave up my mistress.

W: You WHAT?

H: I gave her up. I wanted you to have this. I really did.


H: Yeah. You know Inez. She's in billing? Christ, she's cost me a fortune. Jesus, I spent thousands just on cab fare.

W: I . . . I don't know what to say . . . Why? Why, Jake, why? WHY DID YOU DO THIS?

H: Well, the horrible little scag got knocked up. I'm not boning any pregnant broads. Gross.

W: This is . . . this is . . . amazing. You did that for me? Oh, God, Jake, you're the best.

H: Oh, you're welcome, baby.

W: You know what we should do? Right now?

H: What's that?

W: We should fire Inez.

H: I'll tell you what. You drive.

W: And you can call INS.

H: Word to yo mutha! (HUSBAND makes upsettingly inept rapper gestures.) Or, rather, word to the mutha of my illegitimate child, who is going to be deported back to Cuba tomorrow!


BUTTERY PROFESSIONAL VOICEOVER: Lexus. Everyone else can go fuck themselves.

Wednesday, 03 December
More Notes From The Diseased

Okay, I am well and truly sick now--yesterday I stayed home from work, and yet somehow felt the rotten urge to check work email remotely, which I did; I answered two questions from panicky Canadian doctors, shivering sweatily in my cotton robe, which felt decidedly weird, because I was foggy and all, and I truly hope I didn't lapse into some febrile kind of fugue state and tell them something baffling, e.g.:

"Skot, blah blah bone marrow aspirate blah blah inconclusive dibble wingnut is this patient eligible for the trial?

"Dear Canuck doctor. Feed the patient bacon. You should also get a dog. Dogs are so nice. P.S. I need rigid discipline at all times. Call me, lover."

Also, feeling crappy all the time isn't really conducive to bringing the funny much, unless it's in a very Krusty-ish vein: "Hey hey! I coughed so hard today I almost vomited! Mhoohoohoohahaha!" Which really did happen, charmingly; it's one of those wonderful things about being a smoker: despite the fact that you know that it will make you wheeze and cough (even more than usual) and that it will really taste like freshly grated ass, your brain inexorably snarls at you to smoke anyway, maggot! And so you do, and so you cough, and so you nearly vomit, and so your brain goes, "Well, that's what you get for being such a total dong. Drop and give me twenty, maggot!" I am of course only drill instructor-level tough in my head. Actual dropping and giving of said twenty probably would make me vomit, if only out of sheerest disgust that I was actually doing exercise.

But I did manage to crawl unhappily to work this morning. I stopped at my usual coffee joint, but coffee sounded just dreadful, so I pondered the tea menu. I don't generally do tea--actually, it occurs to me, I only drink it when I'm sick--so staring at the menu was really just an exercise in futility. But you do it anyway, kind of like when people stare at the Rosetta Stone, patiently waiting for it to somehow make sense, when what it actually is is just a meaningless jumble of incomprehensible bullshit.

And here is where I get to blame Star Trek: TNG for a little problem that I've always have. See, as I said, I don't know jack about tea. But I have, over the course of my indefensible life, watched every single episode of that fucking show multiple times, even the shatteringly boring ones that are all about Worf. So here is the sum total of my knowledge regarding tea: "Uhl Grey! HAWT!" I am incapable of thinking about Earl Grey, in fact, without mentally adopting Patrick Stewart's RADA-perfected intonation. And so, inevitably (I honestly realized this just this morning) whenever, in the past, that I have become sick, and ordered tea, I have always ordered Earl Grey.

And, it hit me again this morning, as I sipped my freshly brewed tea: I fucking hate Earl Grey. It tastes like boiled despair. But since I never order tea, and I go so long between drinks of it, I manage to forget, every time, that I find the stuff thoroughly dreadful. And mark my words, in a year, year and a half, whatever, the next time I get sick, you'll be able to find me staring beetle-browed at a tea menu, only to finally rasp out, "Earl Grey, please."

I might be proof that Darwin was a babbling wombat. If I were Early Man, I'd probably cheerfully try several times to domesticate hungry cougars. Kitty cat! I will hold him and pet him and love him and OH GOD BAD KITTY EATS MY HEAD!

Anyway. When I did get into work, I ran into bosslady, who gave me the once-over. "You look foul," she said, quite accurately. "Are you sure you want to be here?" I stared whitely at her, measuring my response. "I rarely want to be here," I didn't say. She continued on: "If you need to take off, you go ahead, all right?" (She's actually a pretty good egg.) "Ogay," I croaked.

And then--you can almost see it coming if you squint--she said: "You should have some tea!"

No thanks, bosslady, but that's sweet. Instead, I went downstairs to smoke and cough and nearly vomit. It beat the shit out of Earl Grey.

Monday, 01 December
The Fevered Brain Seeks Release

Hello hello party people! Did you wake up this morning--after not misbehaving the night before--feeling as if jackals had gnawed on your bones in the night? As if perhaps Morpheus shat in your ears while you slept? As if your throat was under Panzer attack? No? Then, sadly for you, you did not wake up in the grips of a delightful cold. I welcome colds. They make me feel . . . pretty. Which is to say, pretty fucking awful. Which makes for good character work; this way, if I ever have to play some terrible role, like for instance Willy Loman, I can use my "sense memory" to recall this sensation, and bring it to life onstage thusly: Playing Willy Loman is exactly like coming down with a dreadful cold, in that I thoroughly despise the work of Arthur Miller. And then I will get reviews like, "Skot Kurruk's performance as Willy Loman is as appealing a spectacle as Bea Arthur's moldy truss." And that's how you grow.

I'm sure you can't tell that I'm a little foggy. Plus, I can't really sleep, so here I am, talking about Bea Arthur's notional truss, which is troubling on so many levels, that I'm going to just move on.

The wife and I had a nice Thanksgiving, as we just had a few friends over who had nothing better to do; in other words, we cooked turkey for our loser friends. Dish up, losers! It's either this or Taco Bell!

Oh, not really. They're not losers; they're just nice people whose families hate them and don't want them stealing their jewelry. Although one of our guests did, in fact, steal some jewelry. This friend, whom we'll call C., showed up with some ugly lesions under his lip. I could have handled this two ways: One, ignore them and pass the evening; or Two, get it out of the way immediately. Because I'm a schmuck, I went with the latter.

"Hey, C."


"So . . . what's with the face?"

"Staph infection."

(Brief pause while Skot summons all reserves of classlessness.)



"I thought maybe you'd gotten into a fistfight."

"Yeah. That would have been cooler, huh?"

"Oh, well."

"So. I've been admiring your wife's jewelry!"

I brought that all on myself, I guess. C. made off with my whole dowry, except for the milk cow that we keep in the garage.

Later during the weekend--I think it was Saturday--the wife and I found ourselves watching something truly terrible on TV. We (read: I) discovered this wretched program on MTV2 called, ominously, "The 22 Greatest CDs Ever." I unfortunately immediately decided that it was impossible not to watch this horrible spectacle that was about to unfold: What unearthly kind of list was this going to be?

It turned out to be the Ragnarok of "best of" lists. What followed was something that could only have been conceived of by The Situationists after a long cough syrup bender. It combined staggeringly obvious choices (Nevermind) with purely surreal choices (Crazysexycool, Rhythm Nation) with . . . choices so strange and left-field that one suspects that they were derived from the sacrifice of animals (Born in the USA, easily the oldest album on the list, but where did that come from?, to say nothing of, say, The Foo Fighters. THE FOO FIGHTERS? I defy anyone to tell me that they have listened to a Foo Fighters album at any point after six months of its release. It simply can't be done.)

There were some hi-larious nods to the barely-fringe: Pretty Hate Machine was in there somewhere, which was adorable; I'm always glad to see Nine Inch Trent beat out The Who or The Beatles. Also making a showing was the obligatory, cred-establishing Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique, whose enduring legacy is that only fourteen people ever listened to it when it was released, a wretchedly small number that has now in 2003 been increased to nineteen people.

But the number one pick was the real deal, the supremely unstable isotope in the entire baffling pop periodic chart that was being mapped out: Jagged Little Pill.

Number One.

Babies in the Sudan wept precious tears. Sultans in Brunei penitently shopped at Wal-Mart. Welsh people suddenly became comprehensible. Nothing made sense any more (and somewhere in Seattle, Skot morosely stared at his CD collection and noted two Morrissette CDs, prompting a sudden urge to recklessly drink denatured alcohol).

It's been a weird weekend. I'm trying to blame everything on the worrisome cold. Or maybe C., when I wasn't looking, maliciously rubbed his staph-infected face on my turkey. Or maybe . . . maybe . . . maybe Garbage really is one of the best 22 CDs ever made. I'm so confused.

I'll just store this up until, inevitably, I find myself playing Willy Loman.

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