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Thursday, 29 December
Auld News

So I noticed that this month marked yet another anniversary for me: three years of writing on this thing. I went back and took another look at my humble origins.

How embarrassing. I won't be doing that again.

Three years! It seems like a long time, but compared to others, it's barely a blip. On the other hand, I seem to jabber a hell of a lot more than, say, Peterme. Peter is all like, "Check out this new app!" and I'm more like, "Who wants an extended snowmobile ride through my psyche as I evaluate 13 Ghosts?"

There's no denying that my readership has gone down. Where I used to attract 2056 readers on any given day, I now only garner 1977. I attribute these dismal numbers to a simple fact: I have become boring and staid. Those seventy or so readers? I lost them to FARK.

I've had my share of criticisms. After all, I have a "contact me!" link right on the page. And it's been lovely hearing from some fans from places like New Zealand, Bulgaria, Skull Island and Belgium (that last one to let me know about current scotch blends.) It's also been lovely hearing from my critics, including the ones who would really rather I stop writing ("Do you know what a tool you are?") to the ones who do not write me at all, but rather slag me on their own blogs (thanks, Technorati! I guess). It's all very weird. I saw one woman swear off my site (this after offering to sell me her car) because my voice was "the message." And she apparently was bummed that I was selling her short. That's funny! I had no idea I had any message at all. In fact, this has been really important to me. "SKOT! You must refrain from having a message! Because you are pretty stupid." I tell myself this all the time.

This isn't going anywhere. I really am content. This is probably the worst condition that any writer could expect: who needs a content editor? Nobody.


I may be losing it. Happy New Year.

Monday, 26 December
Supernatural Presents

Another Jesus Day has come and gone, and again, I find myself that much the richer for having made fun of it. I got some good swag indeed: the wife presented me with delights such as seasons 3 and 4 of The Simpsons as well as a luxurious new robe. I look forward to watching the yellow hilarity over and over while wearing a brand new ratty hole into the seat of my robe. The parents got in on the act too--in return for my anniversary generosity (my parents' anniversary is earlier in the month) consisting of two pounds of jerky, my parents generously sent us . . . two pounds of jerky. Yes, this is true. We're a dried meat kind of family.

My mother also came through in her inimitable way--she bought us yet another completely mystifying Christmas gewgaw. Last year's entry was this . . . thing that sort of hurts the mind. It's this foot-tall green Christmas stork with a Santa hat rakishly pulled down over its eyes, with a festive disco orb hanging from its beak. It is, in its singular way, utterly transfixing. For reasons I do not fully comprehend, it is my wish that one day PJ Harvey drops by and sees it and then writes a song about it. My Christmas stork would have mad cred.

I never thought she'd top that one, but she might have this year with . . . again, words are not enough. Were my horrible cameraphone not on the fritz, I'd take a photo. Okay: what it is, is a dog. The dog is golden yellow, and he wears a hatlike thing that is really a curved wire with a bell on the end of it, so it hangs over his head, ringing cheerily into his dog ears at all times. In his mouth is some sort of holiday basket that contains, as near as I can tell, a pair of eyes, perhaps chewed from the head of a misbehaving child. He is covered in red spots (Christmas Dog! Now with German Measles!) and wears elfin green boots on all four feet. Finally, he sports a truly alarming tail, one that juts out at a 45-degree angle from his ass that is unmistakeably penile in aspect. The overall effect is uniquely horrifying and yet endearing; his face is painted in a sidelong glance that says "You have no idea what I've been chewing or where I can pee." It's like something Heironymus Bosch might have imagined if under commission from the People for the Unimaginable Fetishization of Gay Animals (PUFGA).

Oh, I didn't even mention the weird part yet. In addition to all of the above, I discovered that the poor beast is hinged right at the small of his dogback. Gripping the thing's head and gently lifting up, sure enough, the top half of this curious canine swung up to reveal its true nature: it was a box. And let's not be coy: it's not a large box. It's only a couple inches tall. So we must conclude that, yes . . . it can only be a stash box. Thanks, Mom! Not that I've smoked pot in many years, but should there be a bust, and should I, for some reason, have some pot in the house, I can be reasonably sure that the cops will not try and look inside (or, probably, at) the Blighted Gay Christmas Fetish Dog and His Basket of Eyes.

The wife's parents also got into the act, but not in an overtly weird way like my erratic mother. Their main gift to us was the completely unexpected purchase of two nights stay on . . . a houseboat. Huh? Well, there's apparently this guy an hour or so away from us who maintains four houseboats on the water (good place for them!) and rents them as romantic getaways. Seriously. They accompanied the gift certificates with pajamas for me, a nightie for the wife, and an assortment of wines and snacks for us to take on our hubba-hubba Nite of Luv on the houseboat (it's extra to have Robert DeNiro climb on board in the middle of the night to try and murder us). It is, in seriousness, a pretty cool and creative gift, and in all unseriousness, my favorite part is that included in the snack basket was a jar of pickles, because my mother-in-law knows I'm fond of them. I can't wait to eat a jar of pickles on a mysterious houseboat (in my pajamas) and then attempt to get busy with the wife. "Honey . . . they're koooo-sheeeer . . . " It would have been even better if the wife's nightie was made by Vlasic. "Slip into this . . . then slip a pickle into your mouth."

It was a good weekend, all told. We had a potluck gathering at our place on Jesus Eve, and many weary, half-drunk people showed up bearing things in bottles and trays; the wife cooked a turkey; complicated desserts were consumed; the Chartreuse, lamentably, went undrunk, so there it still sits. And after the pre-Jesusness, the wife and I were not much into doing much for the actual Jesus Day--spent, happily, on our own with only the NFL to keep us company--and so we kept it simple. In fact, we kept it simpler than simple. We had Christmas Simplex.

For Christmas dinner, we feasted on chili, beet salad and Li'l Smokies. No joke. "Wot? The Li'l Smokie as big as me?" God bless us, every one.

Thursday, 22 December
MEHHHY KHHHISMHHHS!

It's just about that time! One more day of work tomorrow, and then I'm off for my three days of feverishly anointing people's feet. And tomorrow barely even counts, since it'll be a skeleton crew at work. And I mean that. So many people are taking tomorrow off that we had to bring in mystically animated skelton warriors to help fill in. They're going to wear jaunty santa hats! And it should be really awesome watching them answer the phones.

"Hi, I have a question about a lymphoma study."

"HHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" (Clatter.) "WHhhhhhhHHHHHHAAAA." (Clicking of teeth.)

I love you, animated skeleton temps! Also, the skeleton temps don't care if I sit in my office all day and drink whiskey. Skeleton temps are my kind of people. That is to say, dead.

Oh, be quiet! I am FULL TO THE GILLS of love for my fellow man! And since I don't fucking have gills, that should tell you how utterly bereft of love I am for my fellow man. Which is a great attitude to have when throwing a Christmas party!

Yeah, Saturday night, we've invited people over to drink themselves into oblivion after they've endured some quality time with dreaded FAMILY on Christmas Eve. It's always funny to me the commonality of response to the invite: "God, that sounds great. I'm going to need a drink or two after hanging out with my FAMILY." You people are suckers! You know who you need to be hanging out with for Christmas? Skeleton temps.

A booze-up at our place, of course, means hiding all the liquor I don't want anyone knowing I have. A couple years ago, I watched in horror as one of my guests dumped very expensive vodka into Bloody Mary mix. (People who make Bloody Marys with expensive vodka are, to my mind, completely insane. And, apparently, my friends.) Another time, I saw someone take a long, loving gulp of $50 scotch right from the bottleneck. Having seen the horrors, I will tuck those liquors away somewhere safe, like say Yemen, and let the teeming horde have at it at the awful stuff, such as the mysterious, haunting bottle of butterscotch liqueur. And worse. "Hey! J. is taking pulls off our bottle of Chartreuse!" "Jesus, who cares?"

And then of course there's the main event, Jesus Day, when the wife and I will exchange gifts. I will feel tears spring to my eyes when I open whatever incredibly thoughtful and unexpected present she has bought me, and her eyes will similarly well up, for entirely different reasons, when she opens my gift and lays eyes on her new kitchen fire extinguisher. "It puts out grease fires and chemical fires, honey!" I'll squeal. And she'll reply, "First the irregular shoelaces in my stocking and now this?" Later in the day, just to add to the Christmas fun, I'll light a small fire in the kitchen to let her take that mother for a test drive.

See you on the other side of the weekend, people! Have yourself a non-meh bunch of Jesusy time off or whatever. And for God's sake--literally, I guess--if you're one of those people who gets really depressed and suicidal and all around the holidays . . . just don't do it. It's honestly not worth it.

I mean that seriously. We only pay our skeleton temps nine bucks an hour. And you have to buy your own santa hat.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, 20 December
The Island Of Costly Toys

I tried, I really did. I tried to do all my Jesus Day shopping online this year again, thinking, This year will be the year that I do not actually have to enter a real store. Once again, I failed. There are simply things that are good for online shopping ("What a handsome Prada purse!") and things that are just . . . not. ("What a handsome prostitute! . . . Ewww.") And then there are friends who are easy to shop for, like most actors I know ("When all else fails, buy booze"); and then there are those who are not, like most parents I know ("I don't fucking care. Let's get them a sex pinata filled with erotic tacos. I can't even think of this any more").

What all this means is that, yet again, I found myself trudging downtown today after work to enter the perfect Gehenna that is downtown Seattle shopping.

One thing you should know about downtown Seattle is that, while it has a lovely skyline, the place itself is devoid of anything resembling soul or character or fun. All these things, along with troublesome homeless people, have either been chased out to other neighborhoods--like mine--or have been simply dumped into some large municipal burr grinder, so that all that remain are edificial horrors like the Cheesecake Factory, Banana Republic and horrid corporatized bars with names like Hello, Cactus Fuck or Bonny Al O'Pecia's Genuine Irish Publick House, where the prices will make your hair fall out! Guinness served ice cold!

Downtown Seattle is to enjoyable municipal space as Patch Adams is to heartwarming comedy.

It was with this sort of attitude that I entered the completely intolerable Pacific Place mall, an airbrushed gleam of a thing that features little annoying shops with little annoying names like TWIST! and, horribly, UNIK! right alongside such big names as Pottery Barn (who keeps their pottery in the barn? I guess it beats calling it "Shit in a Shed") and Restoration Hardware (which I always see at first as "Resurrection Hardware," for some reason--"Get your Lazarus shovels here! He's not going to dig himself up, you know!"). My first stop was the odious Barnes & Noble.

B&N always fills me with conflicting emotions, mainly because of my undying fondness for mom-and-pop bookstores, whose inventories always reflect the owners' personalities, and for the clean, simple pleasure of jawing about good books. (Once I had a book shoved into my hands by a local bookseller who said, "You'll love this. Just bring it back when you're done.") On the other hand, it sure is convenient to have every book ever published right there ready to buy if you want it. You can even read it if you want! Right here in our cafe! Want some melon? No thanks, I'm reading Henry James.

I found what I needed and bullied my way to the cashier line, and plopped my crap down, ready to buy. The cashier gave me my total and said, "Do you have a membership card?" I told him no, don't worry about it. He pursed his lips, as if I had really let him down.

I don't even know when this membership card thing all started. I have one now for my fucking supermarket, since I don't want to get boned on all those great deals on olives--though they bone me nicely anyway by overpricing every other item I could possibly need--but that's about it. Are there really people who have membership cards tucked away in their exploding wallets for every fucking conceivable shopping experience? "Oh, honey, look--two dollars off margaritas at Hello, Cactus Fuck! Should we?" "Well, I'm driving, but . . . I can't pass that up! What do you say, kids?" "Daddy, but what if you drive drunk and kill us?" "Oh, children! Don't worry! You're insured! Daddy has a double-points card with Geico!"

I'm a pretty efficient shopper, particularly when I have incentive to get the fuck out of anywhere that has more than ten people in it. I soon left Pacific Place and caught a cab back home. I glared at my GIANT BIG FANCY SACKS full of shit and stewed in the cab. Despite the fact that nothing I had purchased was really all that huge, the store staffspeople had nonetheless dropped everything into these ridiculously enormous bags, as if to say, "Hey, this guy bought some seriously gigantic shit! Shouldn't YOU stop by and torch your credit card for a Mary Magdalene RealDoll? You can get it, right here at Resurrection Hardware!"

Fully functional. Dishwasher safe--she is super bendy. No, sir, the historical record is kind of unclear as to the actual color of her pubic hair. I recommend auburn. Anyway. Do you have your membership card?

Thursday, 15 December
Turn Around, Stand In Place

In these holiday times, it's always nice to take a moment and think of home. And why you left. And why it was so great to leave.

I mostly grew up in a small town in Idaho, with a population just over 3000. It sits on the prairie just sort of where the panhandle starts, so it's kind of like where it would be pretty hot to hold on to if, say, you were frying an egg on Boise, which really, I wish would happen, because there isn't much other use for Boise.

(People in other states I'm sure would agree with me, but they probably wouldn't care or even notice if the entirety of Idaho were to be used as a giant omelette project. Once, visiting my grandparents in Los Angeles as a kid, I was asked by another kid where I was from. "Idaho," I said. "Oh yeah!" she replied. "That's over by Torrance.")

My hometown is not really remarkable in any way, least of all for anyone who has done some time in small towns. Everybody knows everybody, which can be good sometimes ("I heard you like apricots, so I brought you some from our tree!") and of course sometimes really horrible. ("That hooker you fucked and then stiffed for fifty bucks was my cousin. She called me from the car wash.") It is, in fact, so unremarkable and so blandly iconic in its small-town ways that one wonders how on earth my parents--who met in L.A.--ever decided upon it out of the thousands of identical little towns dotting our country. My best guess is that it's where they ran out of gas.

As I mentioned before, it's a place where everyone knows everyone. Or, at least, everyone who wasn't me. Being the callous little asshole I was--and remain--I never really bothered to imprint but a few people permanently onto my mind. The people I did remember were: 1. my close friends (sparse) and 2. the people who wanted to beat me up (many). And I still remember them clearly! Hey, Bill! You still a metalhead? Hey, Clay! Why did you punch me at that dance?

This horrible mass-deletion of all of these people kind of bit me on the ass when I idiotically went to my ten-year reuinion a few years ago. I failed to recognize an old crush of mine after she had gained some weight and stared at her blankly, and I actually did say, "Who are you now?" Classy! To make it all up to everyone, I drank too much at the horrible dinner and kissed the former homecoming queen passionately (quite surprising her) before I stumbled out into the night, cackling on my way home. I made a tremendous effort for the rest of the visit not to see anyone, and I'm thinking I'll give the twentieth a miss.

My hometown is, in many ways, completely unchanged. It does seem to be going through this dreary sort of urban-migration woe, which afflicts so many rural areas as people gradually fall into the gravity wells of larger and larger cities, but the folks there endure. There are, I understand, just as many racial groups as when I left so long ago: One. Just white people. And in terms of spiritual diversity, as spicy as we got were the Mormons and the Jehovah's Witnesses. I spent a good portion of my youth really, really confused about these mythical "Jews" I would hear about every now and then. In rural Idaho, I think you had to go to a ski resort to see one of these cryptozoological specimens. "Daddy! Is that a Jew?" "Yes, son. He's practicing one of his people's rituals called 'telemarking.' " "You mean he's calling you at dinner to sell you something?" "I think so.")

Off-color jokes are still bandied about freely in these places, as they always have been. A company that I used to work for had (and maybe still does) an employee that was half-Arab. His inevitable nickname was "Sand Nigger." Understand that he was definitely not ostracized or beaten with sacks full of oranges: that was just his nickname. The jokes and epithets you learn as a kid are the ones that, at least for me, stick. I have an inexhaustible store of hideous jokes that I can never, ever tell. I clearly remember in fifth grade calling a female kickball competitor a "fag." She responded, "Oh, yeah? Well, you're a fag-get!" Really hitting that second syllable. I of course had no idea what she was talking about (or what I was talking about), but it really bummed me out at the time, as I was sure there was some important distinction I was missing about these terms.

For my senior year in high school, in 1987, the school play was, inexplicably, M*A*S*H. I played Duke, the little-remembered character from the movie played by Tom Skerritt. Anyway, remember the Spearchucker Jones character? He was the black guy of the movie, basically. We didn't have any black kids in my town. So how did we handle it? We sent out the quarterback of the football team done up in blackface.

1987. (The only uproar about the show--which was abominable, of course, as all high school plays surely are--was when the Radar character upstaged everyone by picking up a Playboy magazine.)

It's coming time again to go back. My folks are due for a visit, and I'm guessing it'll be perhaps next Christmas, or possibly the following 4th of July, when the town literally explodes in a cowboy orgy known as Border Days, one of the oldest rodeo events in the west. "You can get together with your old friends!" my mother importunes, probably not knowing that I don't really care about most of those people. I barely remember their names. I still burn with shame when I think of not recognizing the old crush who got fat. "You can go to the rodeo!" she also says. Which isn't as weird as those of you who've never been sounds: Rodeos are kind of unreal. Maybe you don't really want to see a guy stomped into paste by an angry, nut-twisted bull, but it's pretty good theater, really. And I once watched one of those crazy fuckers leap a ten-foot-tall fence and run amok in the surrounding neighborhood. One year, a horse broke its leg in a bronco-riding competition, and had to be shot in the head just outside the arena. Everyone heard the shot. The announcer stoically said, "You hate to hear that." It beats the shit out of the WWF.

"Home" is a funny thing. You can't wait to leave it, and you sort of dread it when you go back. And then, when you're all done with your return visit, you feel strange and lonely about going back--back to whatever you've replaced the original with as "home."

Neither are bad places, in the end. For me, it's just hard to leave them, and to come back again.

Tuesday, 13 December
Do You Smell What I Smell?

This weekend, of course, I had to do the show, so I found myself once again down at good old Open Circle theater's decrepit space, preparing. That's when I heard the cry go up from J., who is also in the show.

"I found the rat!"

There's nothing that says Get ready for comedy! like that phrase, I've found. J.'s voiced called out again. "Aw, man. There's maggots." A pause. "And I'm the one who's been puking all day!" Someone else's voice joined this hellish chorus. "Oh no! Are you sick?" Pause. "Naw. Hung over."

I don't want you to get the idea, now, that this is in any way emblematic of pre-show activities at your local fringe theater company. I want to hammer this into you as forcefully as possible: this is entirely in keeping with your average night getting ready for a show in a converted loading dock with exposed nails everywhere and a thriving C.H.U.D. population living in the unseen basement, feeding from leaky sewage pipes and mutant rats.

The smell from one particular backstage area had been horrific for a few days. "Rat!" was the unquestioned opinion of all. Not in any surprised way. Nobody was really shocked that a rat had croaked somewhere in this dismal edifice. "Dead rat," people exclaimed, holding their stomachs. Nobody was spending a lot of time looking for it, either, which made some sense: you could either 1. deal with dead rat smell and maybe even walk away from it, or 2. you could go hunting for the dead rat, and find a dead rat. Let me again point out that fringe theater actors--well, the ones I hang out with anyway--find that smelling decomposing animals is sort of par for the course, or at least a bizarre form of penance to be exacted by the gods for choosing such an idiotic vocation in the first place. "Act! With passion!" I imagine Bacchus declaiming. "And also! Smell dead rats!"

But I guess J. couldn't stand it. He tracked down the rat, which I don't suppose was any kind of saga . . . Br'er Rat certainly wasn't running off, except in the sense that I suppose he was gradually liquefying. I happened to be onstage at the time, checking my setup, when J. appeared, wearing elbow-length powder blue kitchen gloves, and holding a plastic bag with an alarmingly large oblong object in it, shaped roughly like a loaf of peasant bread. He held it up, and it swayed hypnotically.

"Found the rat!" he said again. "Want to see it?" He shook the bag playfully.

"Get the fuck away from me!" I snarled.

"There were maggots," he said. I wondered if the horror of the situation had reduced his ruined mind to reciting the only salient facts about the past few minutes. I made violent warding gestures, and he walked towards the hall leading outside to where the dumpsters are; he then evidently encountered someone else, as I partially heard the exchange:

"Found the rat! Want to see it?"

(Inaudible, but unmistakeably horror-tinged reply.)

"Okay." (Pause.) "There were maggots!"

After some shaky laughter re: dead rat disposal, another member of the cast had a bit of a confession. One actress let it drop that she had figured that the incredible stench had been emanating not from a decomposing animal, but rather from a fellow actress. This was met with much hilarity, even from the offended party, to her credit, I suppose. I'm not sure I'd be so sanguine in her situation. "Oh ho ho! You just figured I smell like putrescine!" On the other hand, the mistaken party has to be credited as well. She sat there for at least one weekend, silent, yet thinking, "Oh, great. So I get to sit next to the person who smells like Love Canal. Or Courtney Love. Or Courtney's Love Canal."

There then followed a predictable number of douche jokes. Because theater is a serious art, people, practiced by serious people. Get ready for comedy!

So come on down to Open Circle Theater! We've been rat-free for . . . a few days! Well, dead rat-free. As far as we know. And those other fringe theaters? The ones who proudly trumpet their "zero tolerance" policies on dead rats? They're a bunch of lying sacks. I once did a show at Theater Schmeater, and they served a deli plate piled high with rat meat. And don't get me started on Book-It Theater. The reason they sell so much Dr Pepper? They dip a dead rat into each soda. It's their "flavor secret." Open Circle at least owns up to it. It's in their mission statement. "Fantastical theater for a daring audience that isn't afraid of some dead fucking rats." Plus, we can drink all those other nerds under the table. In fact, we drink before every show. We have to. Why?

We're still working on the maggots. Get ready for comedy!

Friday, 09 December
Drink Me

There is a television ad that's been running for some time now that has become a real staple of the Pfaff household here. For one thing, we can't get enough of it. For another thing, it is possibly the creepiest ad I've ever seen; the wife and I can't quite believe it hasn't been laughed off the screen. But it hasn't. I just saw it again tonight.

The ad is for Disaronno. Disaronno, despite sounding like the name of some noxious laxative, is actually, according to the website, an "Italian liqueur flavored with herbs and fruits soaked in apricot kernel oil." So, my bad! It is a noxious laxative! And, apparently, a really sophisticated way to spend your evening getting loaded. And you know? I really think we don't soak enough stuff in apricot kernel oil.

(Incidentally, one of the first page of Google hits on "Disaronno" is this: "Amazon.com: So You'd Like to... Enjoy a Disaronno Margarita." I imagined that the extended body text on that page read: "Unfortunately, actually enjoying this is totally impossible. Instead, consider drinking a regular fucking margarita, you freak." I know that tonight I will sleep uneasily, dreaming of Disaronno margaritas.)

The ad is simplicity itself. As the spot begins, it's LIGHTS UP on an upscaley bar, where beautiful young people cluster about (but not claustrophobically! They're socially bunched, but warmly so), celebrating their youth, their beauty, and their utterly improbable diversity. "We have a black friend!" A gaunt bartender is serving drinks. "Disaronno sour," he intones (I don't really remember what drink he actually says), setting down a glass. "Disaronno martini," he says, putting down another.

(Let's leave aside my sort of hard-line martini stance, which is that martinis are made with GIN and ONLY GIN as the base. Drink your vodka martinis if you must, but really: must you? Anyway, needless to say that this "Disaronno martini"-purveying whey-faced ghoul is already my enemy when he lays the drink down.)

And then a lovely lady sidles up to the bar and fixes the ghoul with a provocative look. Her hair is immaculately glued to her aerodynamic skull, and she smirks at ghoul provocatively as she says, "Disaronno on the rocks." Cut to ghoul, who is transfixed. The corners of his mouth jerk up uncomfortably, as if he were thinking, I can tell to the pound how much you would weigh as carved-up meat. "Disaronno on the rocks it is," he gurgles.

Then there's some meaningless voiceover horseshit extolling the WARM LAXATIVE taste of Disaronno as the guy turns to pour her drink. Oh, and by the way? Behind the bar are liquor shelves with nothing but bottles of Disaronno. Hey, what a great bar! It's like being at an airport bar, but with fewer choices! Say, what's on draft? Disaronno! Okay, what's your special? Disaronno! Hey, why is this floor sticky? Hopefully . . . Disaronno!

Finally, the hot chick--honestly, though, she's really kind of a stick, but if you like that sort of Kate Mossean clatterbones thing, go nuts--gets her drink. She gives ghoul another smoldering stare, as if to say, "You sure can pour liquid over ice, buster!" and then ecstatically takes a quaff before returning to ostentatiously laughing with her friends, including the black one. Good for him! We've come a long way.

There is then a cut to her glass, basically empty. Ghoul reaches for it . . . and . . . she stops him, laying her alabaster hand over his! He's surprised! He's touching her! Holy shit! Cut to her face. She impishly shakes her head at him in a flirtatious reprimand. She fishes out one ice cube from her glass and slowly, oh, so slowly, reaches up and puts it sensuously into her mouth, much like any gal would do with a booze-covered ice cube, or, geez, I don't know, an erect penis. Maybe I'm just projecting here.

Anyway, she closes her eyes as she sucks on the phallocube. And here's where the commercial truly knocks it out of the park. Because right then they cut back to ghoul, who is again totally rooted to the spot watching this wanton display of oral gratification. He's stunned! He can't believe this chick! And then he smiles the most alarming, simian smile ever caught on video. The smile slowly starts at the corners of his mouth and crawl horribly up towards his terrible face. It really is impossible to describe; in overall effect, imagine how the Tall Man from the Phantasm movies would look if he were very slowly getting an erection. It's the kind of face that says, "I sure would like to date-rape you . . . but I don't think I can wait that long!"

That's the whole ad. But that indelible face made by ghoul will stay with you forever, I promise. It is kind of a ritual that after the wife and I see that ad, I will inevitably turn to her and try to replicate that nightmarish leer. I cannot do it, of course--I came close one time when I imagined two leeches clamped onto the sides of my mouth, both trying their best to slowly crawl into my nostrils, dragging my lips up into an unwilling rictus. "Ew, God!" said the wife. But I can't bear to try that mental feat again.

Anyway. DISARONNO! Order it in your favorite bar! Or, even better, go to a bar that doesn't have anything else! Get loaded! And don't forget, when you're pinned against your car by that knife-wielding bar ghoul that you've been cruelly teasing all night: Hey, at least you'll be regular in the morning. It's the apricot kernel oil.

Wednesday, 07 December
Oh, Hell, Let's Prejudge Some Movies

The holidays! It's that special time of year when Hollywood encourages parents to punish their families by taking them to see holiday-themed movies, usually over the loud, keening wails of everyone else who wants to see stuff like King Kong. It's not that every single holiday movie is horrible--The Ref was appealingly misanthropic for a little while, and the legendary Bad Santa cheerfully served up child abuse and anal sex for the season's merriments.

But most of the time, you know, it's going to be things like Christmas With the Kranks. Which simultaneously failed to feature the sodomization of Jamie Lee Curtis AND the vicious face-punching of Tim Allen. (I might have watched it then.)

Let's see what's coming up for this year!

Yours, Mine and Ours

You know, I really do love IMDB. They do all my work for me. This horror, directed by the immortal Raja Gosnell, is a remake of some 1968 film that I've never seen, and don't really care to, and features Dennis Quaid and Rene Russo as a couple of frighteningly fertile parents who marry and then have to contend with their respective immiscible broods of horrible children. (It kind of cracks me up how many holiday family films feature as a centerpiece the fact that children are horrible little fuckfeet who should all be put down immediately.)

Anyway, let's go to IMDB and see what they have to say!

Trivia: The party band in the movie is a Christian alternative rock band called Hawk Nelson.

This sounds like text from a surgeon general's label. CAUTION! This product contains Christian alternative rock music.

Quotes:
[from trailer]
Frank Beardsley: Let's go! Let's go! Let's go! Move it! Move it! Move it!
Ethan: Move it! Move it! Move it!

I like to think that in whatever scene this is quoted from, Frank and Ethan are either 1. being caught in a raid on a gay bathhouse or 2. really enjoying themselves in a gay bathhouse.

Cheaper by the Dozen 2

It's strangely wonderful watching Steve Martin completely whore himself out for this clearly ghastly sequel to the utterly unloved first film, especially after his bid for teenage poon in Shopgirl, where he seemed to be saying, "Bill Murray gets to fuck these girls? Why not me?"

The ads for this film are beyond comprehension, and seem to emphasize the director's fundamental loathing of Martin, who suffers more than the usual amount of genital abuse even for a movie of this ilk. Once due to the efforts of Eugene Levy, which is kind of like being kicked in the nuts twice. Bonnie Hunt, who plays Martin's wife, evidently, seems to be doing her best to hide behind trees while Martin mugs it up and gets his nads eaten by angry dogs.

Quotes:
[from trailer]
Tom Baker: That's not gonna fit in your tent, Lorraine.
Lorraine Baker: Oh, I'm gonna make it fit, Dad!

Hilary Duff's career has taken a supremely disturbing turn with just this one line. I also enjoy this threadline from the IMDB message boards: "Hilary looks so ugly now!"

The cast also features Piper Perabo and Carmen Electra. Line forms to the left, folks!

The Family Stone

Seriously, again, thanks to IMDB, no heavy lifting is necessary here.

Tagline: Feel The Love.

Holy crap. SERIOUSLY? That's all they could come up with? Fuck, man, I can do better than that! Here: The Family Stone: Holy Crap. See?

But wait! Check out the ensemble! (Partial list.)

Claire Danes
Diane Keaton
Rachel McAdams
Dermot Mulroney
Craig T. Nelson
Sarah Jessica Parker
Luke Wilson

Hey, it's the Improbable Nose Brigade, and they're all in one film! All they need is Fran Tarkington to round out this existentially proboscicized group. This is the most bizarre group of actors I've ever seen since Caligula Goes to Amarillo! featuring Malcolm McDowell, Roddy McDowall and Andie MacDowell.

Whatever. It's no crazier than any other holiday movie season. I mean, I guess it could be worse. It's not like anyone made a Jesus movie with Liam Neeson or anything.

Whew.

Tuesday, 06 December
Hawks And Doves

Tonight my friends K. and D. came over to watch a little Monday Night Football, which featured our formerly hapless--now upgraded to "hapful"--Seattle Seahawks playing in Philadelphia against the formerly daunting--since downgraded to "hilarious"--Eagles. It promised to be a good time, even if K. and D. had basically invited themselves over (D. made a half-assed gesture towards offering his place, and then immediately scuttled any possiblity of us taking him up on it by dropping cryptic comments hinting at the presence of rats) and threatening to make me pay for the pizza.

We settled in for what promised to be an interesting game: the Seahawks are leading their division with an excellent record, but are unable to rid themselves of the lingering stink of thirty years worth of horrid-to-middling teams; and the Eagles, an NFC contender for the last number of years, now hobbled by internal strife and a truly Boschian panoply of injuries, including star quarterback Donovan McNabb, who is out for the season after frenzied surgical attempts to repair the damage suffered from a meteor strike on his genitals.

The Seahawks' first drive--which is the wrong word, really. Let's say: the Seahawks' first desultory amble down the field went about 65 yards or so and took nearly eight minutes of clock time, leading to a what-the-fuck sort of touchdown throw to Bobby Engram, whose powerful stench evidently forced the Eagle defenders to maintain a fifteen-foot distance from him as he stood, alone and unguarded in the end zone.

It was going to be that sort of night. I won't give you a blow-by-blow; suffice it to say that the end result was a horrifying 42-0 rout, the worst shutout in MNF history. Philly's receivers seemed to have lost anything resembling motor control, and scampered madly on their routes like poisoned mailmen, dropping anything that happened to hit, oh, their hands (or neatly deflecting the passes directly to Seahawk defenders). The second half of the game was hopelessly dull, as Seattle promptly sat down all their starters and simply grinded away on the clock. K. farted dolefully into my couch while D. provided color commentary. "Detmer just called for a time out!" "But the refs didn't give it to him." "They want to go home too."

There was one moment in the second half, however, that was kind of exciting. Near the end of the third quarter, the phone rang. "Hello?" I answered. "Skot? Skot Kurruk? This is Mike Holmgren, the bizarrely overrated head coach of the Seahawks. I also used to butcher hogs!"

"Uh . . . hi!" I yelped. I wasn't expecting this.

"Listen, Skot, are you busy? I've benched Alexander, and Mack Strong kind of wants to play pinball. You feel like coming over here and running a few plays? You can smoke if you want to."

"You're in Philadelphia," I said weakly. Holmgren snorted. "Big fucking deal. We'll have you over here and on the field before these boobs realize that we've been giving them like eight downs on every possession, just because it's so funny. Come on! It's fun! We've got Devendra Banhart in at QB! He lights incense at every huddle. You can't miss this!"

"It sounds great," I said mournfully as K. foghorned again into my sofa cushion. "But I better not. I've got work in the morning."

"Your loss," replied Mike. "Listen, I gotta go. I'm issuing a challenge." I looked at the screen. "What?" I said. "What are you challenging?"

"Andy Reid's penis," he hooted. "I'm challenging its physical existence. I can't wait to see his face."

"And his penis," I replied.

"Don't be gross, man. Talk to you later." He hung up. I went back to my chair just in time to see the Philly third-string quarterback throw a pass to somebody in Scarsdale.

"Who was that?" asked D.

"Telemarketer," I said. D. nodded as ABC cameramen zoomed in on Eagles fans booing the special teams as they came out for their hundredth punt. John Madden was telling Al Michaels about his trouble buying "good, honest shoes." K. defiled my couch one more time and grunted. I sat silently with my rushing thoughts.

God, that was amazing! I thought. I could have been there on the field!

I'm going to carry that with me, privately and warmly, right up until we get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. And nobody can take it away from me.

Thursday, 01 December
An Affable Neutron Star Made Entirely Of Beans

Oh, one final entry about Chicago, then. I've been hesitant to write about this, for a few reasons, but I guess I'll just dive in and see what happens.

See, I hang out online at this bizarre web-chat-fuckaround site that a couple of lunatics created a few years ago as a place to . . . well, basically, bitch about work, get into heated arguments about terrible movies, and, most of all, geek the fuck out as much as possible. A lot of this involves me sitting at my computer wondering what in the hell they could possibly be talking about, especially when talk turns to things like Perl, or SQL language, or whatever "Ruby on Rails" is. (Though I do like the last one, if only because, for reasons I leave to you to figure out, every time I see the phrase "Ruby on Rails," I imagine Kenny Rogers strapped down on a train track moments away from being obliterated by an oncoming locomotive.)

So anyway. When these mutants learned of my upcoming trip to Chicago, plans suddenly started to hatch, mostly thanks to the abrupt offer from J., a Chicago resident, to open up his unsuspecting home for a dinner event open to anyone who cared to come join in. And so, on our final Saturday, we went to J.'s house and had what he had dubbed . . . Skotsgiving.

This was a generous and kind and thoughtful and insane thing to do. You see, most of us on this website that we fuck around on in order to avoid work have never met in real life. (This is also, you can imagine, a lot of fun to explain to normals who immediately think that you're living out some sort of "You've Got Mail" fantasy, or just assume that it's a lame excuse to cover for the fact that you're actually going to the annual Toto fan club meeting or something.)

When J. announced the event, I figured maybe a few folks from the Chicago area would show up and we'd awkwardly eat some pizza together or something, overcome by the realization that without a mediating website between each of us, we were all just hopeless dweebs with nothing to say to one another. I am accustomed to being wrong . . . but I was really wrong.

People came from Missouri, Michigan, Minnesota (OH WHERE WERE YOU, MONTANA?), Canada, and one demented soul flew out from California to join this . . . event. (She also came loaded down with scotch, so she was warmly greeted.) In the end, all told, there were around seventeen people at the gathering, including nervous spouses ("We're going where to meet who now? Those people who talk about that comic book? Mutt Vs. Pine?" "Never mind, honey, it'll be fine.") and a couple of rugrats to boot.

J. had even tacked up a homemade "HAPPY SKOTSGIVING" banner across the windows. It was all very strange, and yet very sweet and nice. J. and his wife had laid out a magnificent spread of turkey and the usual T-day assortments, and we all tucked into dinner with gusto, making sure to drink a lot as well to numb us to the idea that we were all actually in the same physical space together, and that in itself was KINDA WEIRD!

I have no intention of giving a blow-by-blow of the entire evening, though; for one thing, it was a marvelously normal evening of a bunch of people hanging out and enjoying themselves. For another, I would no doubt really offend someone, probably, by making some stupid well-intentioned but ill-considered joke at his or her expense, and fuck that. These were lovely people.

I will mention a couple highlights. The wife (who herself had developed mounting trepidation about this evening as the head count of attendees rose, and she continued to contemplate having to make conversation with these . . . people? She couldn't be sure. For all she knew, I was dragging her to, well, a Toto fan club meeting.) spent some time with J.'s lovely toddler daughter F., who, unbeknownst to the wife, had been learning sign language from her parents. The wife was dandling little F. in the crook of her arm while she refreshed her scotch, when the little tyke suddenly made the sign for "more." More scotch for the baby, stat! The wife was really amused by this, probably more so than J., who will no doubt look back on that dark day as the launchpoint for baby F.'s remarkable thirst for liquor. (F., I must point out here as well, is incredibly adorable: she looks to me like a model for the Cabbage Patch Powder Puff Linebacker doll.)

At another point, J. showed off his remote-controlled secret door that conceals a staircase leading to the attic. We cooed like pigeons. "That is so COOL!" we sighed. We stared at it for another moment. "We are such dorks," I said. But I ask you. Is there anything MORE AWESOME than a remote-controlled staircase-concealing door? I posit that there is not.

Another moment of unintentional hilarity occurred when a good number of us were in the back yard, drinking and smoking before a wood fire, and I was indulging myself in a predictable and dull litany about how I Am Not A Real Adult and I Cannot Manage Money and crap like that when M. asked me, in all seriousness, "Have you ever seen a financial advisor?"

And the whole group cracked up, because M. had unwittingly asked me the most hilariously improbable question possible. After I reset my laughter-inflicted dislodged ribs, I told her that it was entirely possible that at some point I had inadvertantly seen a financial advisor, but it would have been in the capacity of noticing his coat as he passed me on the street. Or I might have seen one in a dream, perhaps. Anything's possible. Once I dreamed of J. Edgar Hoover in a bikini made out of popcorn, so hey.

But what I remember most clearly (well, apart from the harrowing, primitive, 80s-era sex toy video ads that J. delighted in screening for us--look, don't ask) was sitting down for dinner. This was early in the evening. I was seated across from J. and his lovely wife, and she was fretting about the relative doneness of the green beans. J. speared a bean with his fork and popped it into his mouth, chewing contemplatively.

"This bean is of agreeable density," he said.

I relaxed immediately. When you hear a sentence like that, spoken casually, how can you feel anything but comforted? Nothing bad can happen on a night when you hear that sort of phrase.

To all of the beans who came to Skotsgiving: You are each and every one of you of agreeable density.










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