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Tuesday, 31 January
Don't Look Now

Some kindly friends of mine sent me a copy of Stephen Fry's memoir recently, presumably reasoning that I could get a reminder of what it's like to actually be clever rather than just stab blindly at the concept. It is titled Moab is My Washpot, in that typically puckish British way. He's probably bummed out that Beyond the Fringe got to "But my brother Esau is an hairy man" first.

Anyway, I'm quite enjoying it. I've only just started, so he's still regaling me with tales of horror from going to prep schools as a kid, where he's stuck commingling with dozens and dozens of boys, all boys, for months on end.

"They fuck you up, your mum and dad," wrote Philip Larkin famously. And sure. Boy howdy, do they ever. But I don't think Larkin went far enough. (Or maybe his parents really were extraordinarily hideous.) As I read, I thought, Really, what didn't fuck me up? And if I am honest, I have to answer: nothing. Everything fucked me up. This is what's great about living in the modern age: there is always something somewhere to attach blame to, even if it's lodged securely in the past, beyond any scrutiny.

But if I'm really honest, what really fucked me up was other children. Where Larkin was a little myopic--your parents? That's the best you can do? You're not looking hard enough!--Sartre (to haul another unwilling victim into this bunch of claptrap) overreached in a lovably Gallic fashion: "Hell is other people." Dude! Even Catherine Keener? Because I think she's swell.

No, hell is, to me, other children. Particularly other children that you are forced to shower with at an earlyish age.

Here follows some tales from having to take showers with a bunch of guys over the years. Fry hasn't gotten there yet in his autobiography, but I'm sure he will. Because what happens there is . . . well, it's damaging. I was lucky enough never to have experienced anything quite as mind-wrecking as, say, Carrie White, but then again . . . I don't know. I fear I'm ruining whatever point it is that I don't have, so let's just go.

---

Junior high is around when young American males are first forced to endure the horrid experience of public showers with other young males, hopefully after P.E. (If you were taking showers after band, uh . . . you may have a future in the priesthood.) There's a whole panoply of nasty things going on with this situation, and I'm not sure they're avoidable. Among these are various warring mental dilemmas, such as: Don't Look At Dicks! vs. I Wonder If Mine Is Tiny. And: If I Was First In Line Can I Get The Next Shower? vs. The Guy Behind Me Is A Senior, And Mean. Or: Am I Really Cleaning Myself With This Soap When I Just Watched Another Guy Clean His Balls With It, Or Am I Just Rubbing His Dick Skin All Over Me?

Look, I'm not trying to be the homophobe clearinghouse over here. I'm just saying, you get thrown into this fucking situation without any guidance or rules or anything, and it's freaky. You deal with ALL THIS STUFF.

Like this new kid, S. S. was endomorphic and shy and wore glasses, so of course he was doomed from the beginning. Once he started attending my P.E. class, word mysteriously spread: "Check it out! S. has only one ball!" I don't even remember who clued me into this, nor did I think to wonder, "Say! How the fuck does anyone even know?" However, for a few weeks, I would be in the showers with S. and would try and take a surreptitious look. BUT ALWAYS MINDFUL OF NOT STARING AT SOMEONE'S DICK. Well, you see the problem right off.

How was I supposed to stare not even at his dick, but somehow under his dick? The whole thing gave me a headache. What evil bastard had started this terrible bit of brain-eating slander, and how come he didn't get vilified for dick-looking when he ostensibly confessed this observation?

It will soothe exactly nobody to learn that I eventually gave up trying to solve this unitesticular conundrum in favor of retaining my own tenuous sanity. And it would please Mr. Sartre to learn that this particularly unSkotlike bit of Letting It Go did not prevent S. from being referred to as "One-Ball" until we graduated.

---

After a few years or so of getting inured to the psychological harm of showering with other males, it's nice to sort of get numb to the whole situation. So when I got to college and had to do the dorm thing, showering with a bunch of other dudes no longer wore on me so much. I had, after all, endured such spectacles as one junior high kid tormented another kid, who was basically borderline retarded by asking him devilishly mean circular questions: "Hey, D. Do you wash your nuts?'' (Thought.) "Yeah." "Oh, man! You wash your nuts? (Worried thought.) "Uh . . . no." "Are you serious? You don't wash your nuts?" (Thought, and purest anguish.) "I do! I do!" "Are you telling me . . . that you wash your nuts?" "I . . . " (Pained silence, then the laughter of boys.)

That's never going to leave me.

Anyway. So by the time I got to college, yeah, whatever. Here's the group showers, and here are the weird, anonymous penises that I'm not supposed to look at. Not that I wanted to look at penises, see, but on the other hand . . . how can you not look at penises? They're hilarious. But it's all just impossible (and I may be losing all my friends as I write this). Who doesn't cast a jaundiced eye upon someone who happens to be standing around naked right in front of you? How do you not give a glance over to some strange member, maybe if only to catch some ill-placed mole or an unexpected thickness or bend? What if the guy has, like, three scorpion-tailed penises? It could happen!

(Yeah, I'm losing all my friends.)

With all that said, it was a real pleasure to find someone--my best friend, actually--with whom it was an uncomplicated riot to take a shower with, there in those awful tiled dorm bathrooms. J. was a nice fellow, and we would take these showers (under separate faucets, you bastards!) for like an hour, and we would do things like craft shampoo-aided mohawks. My hair was longer than his at the time, so my mohawks always won. J. was the one, however, who introduced the art of pretending to be shot to death on film. This was a fairly brainless game of filling one's mouth with water, and then juddering violently, as if being riddled with machine-gun fire, slumping to the floor, and letting the water leak out of one's mouth, Hollywood style.

J. and I did this a number of times, and that guy could die with some serious style. Also, his penis was bigger than mine (WE PEEK, OKAY?), which I tried several times to console myself about, given my shampoo mohawk superiority, but that never really made me feel any better either.

---

One more from the college dorms. There was this guy, and to be honest, I don't even remember his name. I'm calling him "Plankton." (The reason for this is just stupid. 1. I remember his dull blonde hair, and that he was lanky. So, "Lanky." 2. But then my brain dubbed him "Lankton," for really no good reason. 3. "Lankton" became "Plankton." Great.

Anyway, Plankton lived a few doors down from me, and we obviously had similar schedules, because we were always in the damn shower together. Whatever. (Oh, all right: he was bigger than me too.)

Plankton was actually always a decent guy, but he had the weirdest habit: he cleaned his fucking asshole more than . . . more than I know how to finish this sentence.

Plankton washed his asshole as if it had a wasp's nest lodged in it. I mean, he scrubbed the hell out of it. Ostentatiously. He would lift one leg and brace his hand against the wall and just scour it. scrub scrub scrub I didn't know what to do about this. (What can you do?) I became consumed with self-doubt: Am I not cleaning my asshole rigorously enough? Consultation with close friends confirmed that I was not alone in my disquiet. "That guy really scrubs the hell out of his asshole," was the assessment of my friend D.

Somehow, what was worse was, he toweled the living hell out of his nether regions as well. After giving his asshole a good, soapy attack, he would apply his towel in the most abusive fashion possible--dry dry dry--all the while, as with his ablutions, with a distant, unconcerned look on his face. What the fuck is up with that guy's asshole? We all wondered. I confess even this: I squinted at this towel, wondering if I would find shit stains. Of course I didn't. The guy had spent several minutes ratting at it with soap and water and sheer determination.

We all declined to really spend much time with Plankton after we shared our shower gossip. Too fucking creepy. I myself was pleased; another example of being delighted with exclusionary male politics: Plankton's ass weirdness was enough to get him dibarred from our group, and so he would not be welcome into our group antics, such as taking acid and playing frisbee (and pretending to be X-Men).

Just as well. Fucker's dick was bigger than mine.

Thursday, 26 January
Letters Of Recommendation

To whom it may concern:

I am writing in regard to Elmer Snick, as fine a man and worker as it has been my pleasure to know in this continuum (and many others). In his thirty years of life on this damp, unremarkable orb, Mr. Snick has been tireless in his capacity as my personal mouthpiece and cheerleader, and would heartily recommend him to any employer.

A man of devout faith, Mr. Snick has been a minister his flock for ten years, and is tirelessly in church every Sunday, excluding Super Bowl Sundays, which is puzzling, as he is a Browns fan, but that is neither here nor there. Mr. Snick is punctual, efficient and, I cannot help but notice as is my station, that he regularly and correctly employs the missionary position in sexual congress with his lovely wife.

Six years ago, after killing a hooker in a fit of psychosexual rage and disposing of the body in a steel drum, Mr. Snick dutifully confessed his sins to another of his brethren, and was absolved in the eyes of Me, which I think speaks volumes to his moral character. He really felt terrible, and as such, We're cool.

In short, any employer would be lucky to have Mr. Snick on its staff, and I am pleased to give him My fullest recommendation.

Sincerely,

God

---

Dear Sir or Madame,

I am Davey Hinchcliff and Tommy Snotface Boniface is making me write this letter of recomendation for him as your new bully. He is really good at it, the bullying, and he has been my tormenter for three long years here at Puke-anan Middle School and boy is he good.

This one time I brought in my Stretch Armstrong and Tommy took it away and streched the crap out of it and it busted and then he made me drink the red stuff inside of Stretch Armstrong and said now we were married by the laws of the Congo. Mom wouldn't buy me another one because she just cries all the time now thanks to Randy. I hate Randy and his stupid mustash.

Another time Tommy and me played marbles and I totally won, but Tommy laughed and took all my steelies anyway. I called him a big fuck and he hit me and we both got into trouble but I got the most in trouble for saying fuck, but then I told the principle that Randy taught me how to say it! But Randy just hit me and my mom for it so that was sucko.

Anyway Tommy Tommy Snotface is a big fuck and I guess he's going to be youre bully now for a while so ha ha ha! Now maybe I can ride the bus and he can throw youre hat out the window this time. Im glad Im not the new kid anymore, you are!

Yours truely

Davey Hinchcliff

PS. Swirlies are a total joke, they don't really happen, but you prolly will have to lick a urnal cake. Sorry

---

Dear Sir:

It is my pleasure to write this letter of recommendation for Rita Feeney for any prospective interested parties. I have worked on Ms. Feeney for the last year and a half, and she is the full package.

Ms. Feeney is not your average mistress, let me assure you. Rita is a former Idaho rodeo queen (1994), an accomplished amateur jazz dancer, and really loves children . . . when they're mowing her lawn! I kid.

In my working relationship with Ms. Feeney, I found her to be very flexible and adaptable to change. For instance, her dance training allows a virtually unfettered access to her astounding poon. To illustrate the latter quality, I once had to change the location of an assignation from Motel 6 to the Albacore Inn off on Aurora. Ms. Feeney promptly texted me back upon notification, responding, "LOL OK C U THERE." Past mistresses have been known to complain about such last-minute scheduling adjustments, but Rita was always accomodating.

To sum up, I cannot recommend Ms. Feeney highly enough as your next mistress. Her husband Herb presents no real barrier to the arrangement, as he is a model train enthusiast whose job is painting the hair onto Weeble-Wobbles. I strongly encourage Rita to anybody seeking out such a skilled woman, and would also recommend that, should you get the chance to nail her from behind, you sign her back.

Sincerely,

Andy Mitchell (nom de back: Simon Le Bone. :)

Tuesday, 24 January
Football Gums (Not To Be Confused With Cowboy Mouth)

And so! I survived a long weekend of hole-in-face, more or less intact. On Friday morning, I awoke to discover that the gum had re-swollen up again, and ached alarmingly, and so with diligent speed, I immediately went back to bed. I sure hope that's normal! Zzzzzz. As it turns out, there wasn't much to worry about, as over the course of the rest of the day, the swelling went back down and the tenderness receded somewhat.

And what a day it was! When I finally did get up from bed, it was to wander into the living room and settle into my easy chair and watch SportsCenter for half an hour before falling asleep again. And thus was my Friday. I woke up about every hour or so--a particularly haunting moment was waking up to the crazy bull-throated screamers on that "Pardon the Interruption" fuck-circus--and then realizing that I could easily sleep for another hour or so. I guess my body was still reeling from the horrible misdeeds I had subjected it to the day before, because I just slept the whole damn time.

Well, most of the time. Every now and then I'd rouse myself from the chair to go out onto the deck for--yes, of course--a cigarette. Being mindful, still, of the very fresh BLOOD CLOT THAT MUST NOT BE SUCKED OUT lurking back somewhere in my gumline. Which made smoking a real logistical nightmare, since smoking is sort of predicated on creating suction.

Frankly, I must have looked just pathetic. For one thing, I hadn't bothered showering, and was still in my bathrobe and slippers, and I'm sure my hair looked like grease-slathered kelp. So I'm standing outside, shivering against the cold, trying desperately to take the tiniest possible gulps on my smoke while still obtaining some nicotine delivery from the process. Using only one side of my mouth, naturally, so the overall effect was something like a homeless stroke victim making a halfhearted first attempt at the act of fellatio.

A friend of mine later witnessed this most unappealing, desperation-inspired smoking method and wondered when I could stop "smoking like a Nazi." Not having any idea what he was talking about, I ignored this, but now I wonder. Did the Nazis suck gingerly on their cigarettes and then snap-turtle at the smoke dribbling out the sides of their mouths? I'm terrible at history.

I was feeling a lot better on Sunday, though; well enough to have some of the boys over for FOOTBALL! Now, it has been commented before that I really don't know shit about football. And this is completely true. When people say things to me like, "The Seahawks are going to get buried by the Steelers' O-line," I generally argue back, "But I want my team to win." See, while I enjoy sports (well, a couple of them), I am honestly far too lazy to be a bona fide fan, because . . . I don't want to work that hard. See, when someone says something about a team's offensive line--a team that they're not even a fan of--well, I'm not willing to go that extra mile. Some fans do things like research and they pay attention. Fuck that.

That's what announcers are for! So when Phil Simms says something ingenious, such as, "The Broncos need to put some points on the board here," I pay attention. Because that kind of insight is pretty on target. I usually wait a few minutes after digesting this kind of information before regurgitating it as if it were my own thoughts. So later, I'll say, "The Broncos need a score here, because if they do not score more points than their opponents, they will lose." In this way, I do not actually have to know anything about the game! It's kind of brilliant. Check this one out: "Jake DelHomme should not have thrown that mystifying pass right to three Seahawk defenders!" I said that! And I was lauded for it by my friends, who agreed with me while they ate their jalapeno poppers, pizza rolls, jojos and other things I couldn't put into my mouth. But I really cribbed it from Joe Buck, who said something very similar like, "A bad choice by Jake DelHomme." If it weren't for Joe Buck, I would not have known that an interception was a bad choice.

So to all you "fans" out there who are counting out my Seahawks, who are pointing out things like the effectiveness of the Bus, or the relative dominance of the Steelers' offensive line, or the merits of Hines Ward, or whatever other baffling shit you have "researched" or "learned," I have just ONE THING to say to you:

But I want my team to win. So nyah.

Friday, 20 January
Thursday, I'm In Pain

It started innocently enough yesterday. I went to get my teeth cleaned, as I do three times a year, since I am a smoker with a frankly kickass dental plan. (Lisa needs braces! Sorry, reflex.) No big deal, although I wondered if the gal cleaning my teeth was a little wobbly that day. At one point, she was attacking an incisor with particular rigor, and then muttered, "Hold on. I've got to turn this up!" She abruptly left the office. When she returned, Billy Joel's "Allentown" was noticably louder on the speakers, and she remarked, "Now I can get this stain."

I just want to note right now that nothing in this post is made up.

Later that evening, I noticed that my lower left gum was a little inflamed. Nothing too bad, but it was tender. I still have all my wisdom teeth, and the left lower one is only partially emerged, so this has happened a couple times before. It usually fades soon. (Why do I still have all my wisdom teeth? Because I'm a big fucking chicken. And honestly, most of the time, they don't bother me at all.) I didn't worry about it much, and gave myself a salt gargle before going to bed.

Then this morning I woke up in some previously uncharted circle of oropharyngeal hell. My gum was hideously inflamed and tender, and even the mere act of swallowing triggered all sorts of awful pain waves. (Smoking did too, but somehow less so . . . gosh, I wonder why?) Despite all this, I went in to work--it'll wear off! Right? Right?--and made it all of about an hour before calling it quits. I rang up my dentist office and explained what was going on.

The receptionist listened to my situation and asked, "On a scale of one to ten, how bad is the pain?" I'll bet there's a reason that so many medical receptionists are female. The tiny sliver of male non-wussiness in me rose up at the question. "Three or four," I muttered. Three or four? Yeah, three or four hundred. But I sure wasn't going to tell that to . . . some woman I've never met before! I'M ALL MAN! But of course I am not all man, since I'm pretty sure my pain tolerance is pretty pathetic. I mean, I can't even handle getting hiccups.

ANYWAY. They agreed that I should be looked at, and so I bailed out of work for a 10:00 appointment. Dr. J. (yeah!) took a look at my ruined mouth. At first he didn't see it . . . which didn't make me very confident. But he had been looking in the wrong place, because then he made this "UH!" noise, like someone who has just discovered a dead cat in his easy chair. "I see what you mean," he said neutrally. "That was either one hell of an aggressive infection, or your cleaning yesterday really aggravated something."

WHO FUCKING CARES? My mind screamed. But I had a bunch of other people's fingers in my mouth, so I could only go, "Yuh."

He explained to me that my left bottom wisdom tooth was partially emerged (which we all knew), and that he could either 1. slice away the creeping gum that kept occluding the tooth, which would almost certainly grow back; or 2. right then and there rip the fucking molar right out of my skull. "You could go back to work today if you felt up to it."

Gee, can I?

Well, one of two horrible things was going to happen this day. And one of those horrible things would probably just happen again later, for, you know, more horror. So . . . I told him to pull the fucking tooth.

We talked about the details. "You won't feel anything but pressure, like this." He pushed down on my shoulder. "We'll give you a local." Needles in my mouth! Just like I planned when I woke up! "That's it?" I said weakly. He looked at me for a moment. "We could also give you laughing gas. It's--" I cut him off. "I totally want gas." He looked at me again and gave a nearly invisible sigh. "You seem nervous," he said. I stared at him. It was like he had said, "You seem to have skin." Nervous? He wanted to remove bony structures from my mouth!

He read my face. "Jenny, can we get a gas hookup?"

Good old Jenny really got a lot of balls rolling then as we moved into Phase II of Operation: Ruin Skot's Week. She dollied in a tank of NO2, and then gave me a delightful swab of topical anaesthetic to gnaw on. Presently, Dr. J. returned to fit me with my NO2 nosepiece and waited for me to be acceptably peaceful about the needle he held in his hand. All at once it hit me, and my extremities became exceedingly tingly. "Can you box some of this up for me to take home?" I asked.

"Ha ha ha," he said mirthlessly, and then propped my jaw open with a big rubber chock block, and dove in. I dimly felt him stab me way down in the back of my jaw, and then the entire left side of my face slid away. He got some plier-looking implement and went to work. I studied the ceiling with a monkish intensity while he worked. The thing about laughing gas is not that it's a euphoric . . . it's more like a distancing drug. I knew what was going on, but really . . . there were more interesting things to think about. Like, for example, the fact that I felt like Kid Flash. (Again: seriously.) I thought, "I'm totally like Kid Flash right now!" (BZZZZZ! GRIND.) "I'm definitely Kid Flash."

Later, when the gas wore off, this was . . . well, humiliating. Kid Flash? Not only does it make no sense, but it's just stupid. I can't even fantasize about being the legitimate Flash? I have to be Kid Flash?

At some point, Dr. J. asked how I was doing. I reflected for a moment, or perhaps centuries. Dr. J. waited patiently. When no answer was forthcoming, he experimentally wiggled the damn tooth with his evil pliers. I clawed the base of my jaw frantically. I FELT THAT! "We can take care of that," said Dr. J. I felt him jab me way the fuck down in my mouth again, and now my neck was gone. "We sure have sedated the hell out of you," he muttered, and my whole Kid Flash thing was gone. Now I was Beast Boy or something. "Pain Lad! Who cannot tolerate pain!" Fortunately, the gas still acted as a deterrent towards caring.

When all was said and done, I was able to leave Dr. J.'s office under my own power, minus one tooth. I crawled into a cab and moaned, "Gemme da Bemon an Erger!" My jaw-hole was packed with gauze, but I guess cabbies have heard worse, and he drove me home. I deliriously overtipped him and wandered into my apartment; I then called the wife to report that I was home and needed SOUP, STAT! Then I passed out on the couch, presumably from the sedation, but I also figured my entire body was just fucking disgusted with me.

"What, he can't even get through this lousy day without some asshole drugging him and stealing some of our bones? Jesus Christ. Put him to sleep while we work on repairing this goddamn hole in his face."

And so I slept most of the day while my body fretted about the awful insult that it had received. I woke up only a couple times to 1. gingerly chew on some nicotine gum to relieve the smoke fits; 2. marvel at the incredible oozing grossness of my gauze pack ("It's like Elmo got run over by a tank!"); and 3. of course, fret about dry socket infections.

I bet Kid Flash never has to worry about this shit.

Tuesday, 17 January
Three Days In January

I have been accused before--fairly, I think--of being a little prolix on ye olde weblog here. So, in the spirit of laziness, I present my weekend in thumbnail form.

Mr. & Mrs. Smith

Meh.

The Island

Meh.

Primer

What?

WHAT I LEARNED:

1. Shooting two guns in a Jesus Christ pose is the optimal way to destroy one's kitchen. It is unfortunately a horrible way to kill one's black ops enemies, who sensibly use only one gun to, you know, aim at things. (NOTE: If you are completely gorgeous, these rules may not apply.)

2. Lawbreaking corporations who operate clone farms as organ banks should not build rickety ladders leading to loose floor tiles allowing access to the operating theaters. Additionally, Sean Bean is responsible for ninety percent of the world's cinematic evil.

3. Garage geeks somehow manage to make time travel even more confusing than Star Trek: TNG, which in itself seems to be some sort of paradox, as Star Trek: TNG created garage geeks in the first place with the epochal episode "Quantum Muffler." (This movie was a real ripoff, frankly. Where was Q?)

Washington Redskins 10, Seattle Seahawks 20

Yay!

New England Patriots 13, Denver Broncos 27

Yay!

Indianapolis Colts 18, Pittsburgh Steelers 21

Yay!

Carolina Panthers 29, Chicago Bears 21

Meh.

THINGS I LEARNED:

1. Nothing. For God's sake, it's football.

2. On the other hand: Tom Brady? Peyton Manning? HA HA HA HA HA HA

3. Before every postseason game, the referees are carefully but forcefully hit in the head with a boat oar. The resultant blindness and confusion only add to the "anything can happen" atmosphere usually reserved for Warner Brothers cartoons. I'm guessing that next week, Troy Polamalu gets his face blown off with a shotgun.

This blog entry

1. It took only about a half hour to write.

Yay!

2. It is largely devoid of humor.

Meh.

3. I'll probably return to form in a couple of days.

What?

Thursday, 12 January
Sometimes It Grows Back

Today I got a haircut.

Oh my God, Skot! Tell us more! Yeah, this is all I've got any more.

I do not really know how anyone else decides when to go to the damn barber. All I know is that I do not go nearly enough. Usually around a month and a half after a typical haircut, I notice my hair in the mirror and think, "Whoop! Time for a trim!" And then I wait another month and a half before actually making the appointment, so by that time, it just looks like there's a dead okapi stapled to my head. Look, it's just not one of those things that I think about on a daily basis--I have to wait until I've achieved deceased mammal status. Part of this is, I don't really like to look in the mirror that much, because I'm kind of funny looking without being cool funny looking. I mean, I don't even have any interesting scars. Which is actually also all right with me, because scars mean physical damage, and in addition to being kind of funny looking, I'm also sort of a pussy. You see my dilemma.

Anyway. I showed up at the salon--yeah, I know--a good fifteen minutes early. But H. was ready for me. He showed me to the chair. I like H. He doesn't fuck up my hair--then again, how much damage could he do to a guy with middling self-esteem?--and best of all, he's not a talker. I have been known in the past, when making hair appointments, to request the least chattiest employee. Call me a misanthrope, but making small talk while a guy whips razor-sharp blades around my ears just isn't in my repertoire. H. is a brutally efficient hair assassin. I like that.

(The guy to the left of me was getting his hair done by a drag queen. The drag queen was discoursing loudly about, I shit you not, "the Di-vine Miss M." It may have been my imagination, but more than once I felt a certain urgency creep into H.'s snipping, as if he were suppressing a deep desire to murder the drag queen.)

I mused happily as I sat in the chair and explained to H. what I wanted. "Uh . . . make it shorter!" And it really is always a relief to get my hair cut, as I like to have my skull as aerodynamic as possible. Anything that reduces the drag on my hair as I run to the store for cigarettes is appreciated. H. got to work.

Unexpectedly, he did not immediately escort me to the sink to wash my nasty hair. Hey, what the fuck? Do I not merit a shampoo? H. coldly appraised my okapi and then grabbed the clippers. I sat glumly during the damning assessment, and then H. deployed the comb, and started shaving giant hunks of hair off of my noggin. He said nothing during the procedure, which I usually like. Then I started to feel awful. Oh my God, I thought. I'm such an asshole that the chatty queeny hairdressers won't talk to me. They won't even wash my hair! I sat in existential hair despair as H. deftly disposed of months of ratty growth. Then he bonked me on the ears and neck a few times with some sort of secret barber brush.

"Let's go give you a wash," he said. Purest relief flooded through me. He didn't hate me! He just realized that there wasn't any point in tackling my hidelicious mop without some advance demolition. It just made sense. I bet Brazilian waxers do some brute push-mowing before getting down to the detail work.

In due course, H. was all done. He then squeeze-bottled my head with some crap and professionally ruffled my hair. I never know what to do at this stage; the hair people always seem to try something funky with my uniquely uncooperative follicles, and it usually ends up looking like some sort of spectacularly ruined noodle dish. H. put a bunch of hair crap on his hands finally, and smoothed it into my skull, creating a lustrous blond helmet that sat uneasily on my bean, like a vervet monkey nervously perched on a pale basketball.

"How's that?" H. asked.

"Perfect!" I screamed, desperate to leave. Why do even good hairdressers inevitably fail horribly right at the end? It's like a wedding cake designer who tops every gorgeous confection with a tiny dollop of his own feces. "I really love it!"

I do have to say that my hair was extremely skull-fitting. Aerodynamic. He must have known I needed to buy some cigarettes.

Tuesday, 10 January
Baddington Station

Here in Seattle, as we enter the ninety fucking billionth day of rain, it seems proper to reflect on how we coped over another rainy weekend.

We stayed home and watched TV. Yay!

More specifically, I watched football while the wife watched . . . anything else on her shiny new portable DVD player. The secret to a happy message? Separate media delivery systems. But in the evenings, it might gladden your heart to learn that we came together in the spirit of no more football being on and watched us some movies.

Standard warning for the spoiler-sensitive: if you don't want these bad movies ruined, don't read on.

War of the Worlds

It's sort of unfair to lay the "bad movie" blanket on WotW, honestly. I was talking earlier today about this thing with some online friends--yeah, shut up--and it's true that I described Spielberg as "the worst kind of hack," backing this out-of-ass observation with the opinion that he isn't a hack because he lacks talent. To the contrary, the guy is a dazzling filmmaker and brimming with talent. It's that he constantly betrays his gifts--and his audiences--by routinely crapping all over them with his weird, nannyish tendencies.

His filmography is a gruesome thing to behold, really, if only for all the depressing lost promises lying around like corpses on a battlefield. To just use recent examples, he runs from films I like, such as Minority Report--which was marred by its idiotic ending, whose tone seemed schizophrenically opposed to, I don't know, the rest of the movie--to films I hated right down to my DNA, such as A.I.--whose jaw-droppingly idiotic, insulting, sanity-testing ending seemed to be at odds with rational thought.

I guess WotW falls into the former camp for me, despite--what do you think?--its credulity? schmedulity! ending. (Hey, here's the big spoiler! Everyone "important" lives, even the wayward son who is apparently immune to cataclysmic explosions! Also, the aliens were tasteful enough not to level a perfectly lovely Boston brownstone.)

Spielberg, when the aliens start to play their Alien Games, makes for some good, tense watchin'. And when they're not . . . well, then you've got Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning a'grimacin' and a'screamin'. I leave it to you to figure out who does what, but I did turn to the wife after one particularly filling-loosening shriek, "Why couldn't the little girl have run off instead of the dopey kid?"

At one point, the movie does turn deeply bent, when Cruise and Fanning find some shelter in a farmhouse . . . somewhere. Hey, farmhouse! All right. Anyway, the owner of the farmhouse is--hey, it's Tim Robbins! What's up, Tim? Tim doesn't respond, probably out of confusion, because he doesn't appear to be in the same movie as anyone else; in fact, he appears to believe that he's in a remake of Deliverance. Tim crazies it up as best he can while Tom and Dakota stand warily back, waiting for him to bark something alarming about dropping his pants. Then Tom Cruise slaughters him, and everyone relaxes.

Really! And to be honest, it really was a lot more relaxing once he got killed.

The Fantastic Four

Obviously, this movie was nothing at all like WotW. It didn't have a crappy, idiotized ending. It had a crappy, idiotized beginning, middle AND ending! I'm pretty sure even the craft services on this movie were crappy. "Who wants nut loaf?"

TFF literally has nothing even remotely redeeming about it; not as a movie, not as a comic book movie, not as a shiny disc to cut people with. This movie is a failure on a cellular level; my bones still ache from watching it. It is a cataclysmic embarrassment for everyone involved, and should only be shown to violent inmates who seem to exhibit any remote glimmer of hope or optimism about our race. It is a chillingly irrefutable document of the nonexistence of God.

Naturally, I loved it.

I was telling my friend K. about this nauseating little bit of digitized claptrap, and he said, "Doesn't Jessica Alba take off her clothes in it? That's not bad. She's hot."

Yeah. Fucking great. You know what qualities I want in all the hot chicks I look at? Invisibility. Hey, that incredibly pneumatic babe is taking off all of her clothes! Oh my God! This is . . . HEY, WHAT THE FUCK? This is why Braille Hustler is really burning up the sales tallies. PEOPLE! She is INVISIBLE GIRL. INVISIBLE NAKED GIRL. Woo woo! This is like going to the carnival to see the ping-pong ball woman only to discover that they're not ping-pong balls, it's popcorn, and it's being served by your Aunt Doris, and she's wearing Osh Kosh B'Gosh coveralls.

Jesus, people, go rent Sin City, for Christ's sake.

TFF honestly has nothing going for it, nothing at all. Poor Michael Chiklis as the Thing looks like an animate sack of nectarines and his voice has been digitized so that it sounds like he's been resequenced through a chorus of digeridoos. Actually, my favorite moment of the film involves good old Ben Grimm, the poor soul who has irrevocably (THOUGH NOT IN THIS FUCKING MOVIE) been shorn of his humanity: he discovers that he is too heavy to be carried by an elevator. He gets off and fixes the Unfantastic Other Three with a soulful hearbreaking look of a man who has not only become The Other, but also has to take the fucking stairs all the time.

Why even go on? This film manages something I hadn't really thought possible: it is genuinely dumber than an actual comic book. I should know. I read them. (For this I thank those fucking online friends who got me hooked on them again. Turds.) Even the stupid really mainstream ones, sometimes. (Hint: if the phrase "The Ultimates" is even remotely familiar to you, go seek the help that I am too weak to find.) And this movie betrays even its source material, which, considering its fan base is suicidal in the extreme. There is nothing to recommend about it whatsoever.

Naturally, I recommend it highly. In fact, I'm rooting for a sequel. I'll go so far as to suggest a plotline!

Jessica Alba loses her powers! Come on. Do it, Marvel. Bring on Visible Girl.

Friday, 06 January
Shove Off

Abramoff Abandoned On Ice Floe

BAFFIN ISLAND, CANADA--Beleagured and disgraced political lobbyist Jack Abramoff was forced at gunpoint today by armed GOP officials to enter onto a loose ice floe in northern Canada. The ice floe was then kicked free by Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) over the agonized screams of Mr. Abramoff as he drifted into the icy Arctic waters of Baffin Bay. "Have a good trip, you son of a bitch," Sen. Stevens was heard to say as Abramoff gabbled manically around the floating ice shelf. "You can rub noses with God when you see him."

Stevens then gave a brief press conference where he explained that the GOP's unexpected action in the Abramoff case was inspired by the indigenous "Renuzit" people of the region. Reporters who attempted to correct Mr. Stevens by suggesting that it was actually an Inuit tradition were angrily shouted down with hideous imprecations and vague threats against their families. Crossbow attacks were mentioned more than once by Mr. Stevens, who unnerved many in the crowd by drawing a bead on certain reporters in attendance with his fingers and making "FFFT! FFFFT! AAAAH, TED STEVENS SHOT ME WITH A CROSSBOW!" noises.

Prominent Republican figures have been distancing themselves from Abramoff ever since the scandal broke over the disgraced lobbyist's financial shenanigans. President George W. Bush donated an allegedly Abramoff-related sum of money to charity after the story broke, saying, "To be honest, we didn't know this money was tainted. We believed at the time that it was legitimate profit from baby meat." And Senate majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), when interviewed in a cooling pool of urine, commented, "It's disgraceful what happened here. Just disgraceful. I can only hope the American people see this for what it is: a rogue lobbyist acting in a manner that was really difficult to help but admire, and, subsequently, take advantage of. However, I have faith that the American public will see these actions for what they are--cheap Democratic theatrics designed to ensure that I share a cell with someone named Thick Dick Rick." Mr. DeLay added tearily, "Please don't make me share his cell. He's going to fuck me right into the wall."

Nothing is certain in Washington now with these developments, except perhaps for the lingering death that awaits Mr. Abramoff. As hypothermia sets in--almost immediately, according to health experts--he is likely to lose consciousness and then be eaten by hungry polar bears.

Coca-Cola is reportedly in contact with Abramoff's family about future Christmas-themed ads where Mr. Abramoff is eaten by the corporation's familiar polar bear icons for next Christmas season. "We think [the eating-of-Abramoff ads] could be big," said one Coke executive who preferred to remain unnamed. "Who doesn't want to see partially frozen lobbyists devoured by angry bears?"

"The only problem is finding the guy's corpse," continued the Coke executive. "The Arctic Sea is kind of big. Maybe if we stuck a GPS up his ass. Is he already gone?"

Additional reporting for this story was provided by S. Claus, D. Halberstam and H. Mandel.

Tuesday, 03 January
Pop Goes The Weasel

You know, I don't want to wear out any one beat, really; I know I recently took the lash to that horrifying Disaronno ad, but I saw . . . something today that I cannot chase from my mind. In fact, for a few minutes, I thought I dreamed it. But I did not. So yes, this is another post about a truly mind-destroying advertisement.

Unlike the Disaronno horror, this one isn't national. It's local-ish--Washington and Oregon only, I believe. Now, local ads have long been great sources of wonderful entertainment everywhere. ("If you wanna buy a car, go see Cal . . . ") And the fellow in question here is no exception. His name is Vern Fonk, and he really wants to sell you insurance. And he's not afraid to look like a frightening buffoon in order to do it. It doesn't hurt that his name is Vern Fonk, which sounds right up there, plausibility-wise, with, say, the concept of the Cleveland Steamer. (I'm telling you right now, don't Google that.) In fact, why not go the distance? CLEVELAND STEAMER INSURANCE, LTD.! "We truly give a shit."

Vern Fonk commercials are a part of life here in the Pacific Northwest, just like walking pneumonia and . . . uh . . . non-walking pneumonia. We've got it all! The formula, if such a term can even be applied to such an elegantly psychotic body of work, usually goes as such: Vern finds some sort of meme-y thing going on, and then creates a demonstrably damaging insurance ad to make fun of said phenomenon, usually featuring the thrillingly bald Mr. Fonk himself in some hellaciously embarrassing role that requires him to scream into the camera. Just who you want holding coverage on your car: the adenoidal bugfuck who spends too much time at AdTunes when he's not too busy Away From Keyboarding to sport-trap some wild lizards.

Okay, here's the ad I saw today. The whole thing consists of our Mr. Fonk in an insurance office with some oily insurance guy. Oh, the meta! Vern wants auto insurance. Vern also has--I can still see it--an extremely prominent fake pimple right in the center of his forehead. It is about the size of a quarter; a giant phony whitehead, like a target. And Mr. Unctious Insurance Person is explaining to Our Hero why he can't get car insurance. But of course--he is distracted by this titanic zit.

Vern blinks with uncomprehension as the Insurance Guy tells him they won't cover him. But the joke--the joke!--is . . . Insurance Guy keeps staring at his incredible carbuncle! He's getting flustered! "You have too many zit-heads . . . uh, I mean tickets . . . " Vern furrows his gleaming, befestered brow. "What I mean is, Mr. Pimple . . . " It goes on like this for agonizing seconds. You simply cannot believe what is being presented to you, the viewer. It strains credulity to believe that bona fide humans not only cleared this idea, but that they went ahead and filmed it, and that somewhere else, TV execs decided that they should run it. It's like someone greenlighted a very special episode of Romper Room filmed on location at Jonestown. "Who wants juice, kids?"

Towards the end of the commercial, I had merely given up all hope for our species. This is, to be sure, normal. Car insurance ad aaaaand . . . big zit joke. Hey hey, our civilization is in decline! Whatever. Next! But it wasn't done.

At the end of the ad, the Insurance Guy finally can't stand it, and leans in to Mr. Fonk's personal space. "I'm sorry," he says. "I can't help it." AND HE REACHES OVER TO FONK'S ZIT. Oh my God! Who made this commercial? Dario Argento? I sat rooted to my chair; I think my chilly ass nerves laid down rhizomes to nourish me and my agony. They can't possibly film this guy popping that fucking zit. Right?

The camera cut away. I relaxed slightly. Good God. That was close.

Unfortunately, what they cut away to was a shot of Insurance Guy wincing as his face was blasted by a jet of pearlescent liquid. Yes. He popped the zit.

(You know, it's difficult to ignore the not-very-ignorable secondary suggestion of this image here, so I won't even try. It looks an awful lot like someone is blowing a huge load onto Insurance Guy's face, but here we enter into some psychosexual territory that I confess I am too terrified to follow into. I am sorry. But I will not venture into the alien terrain where Vern Fonk prowls here, erect insurance penis in hand, defying any chickenshit agents to defy his ejaculatory prowess.)

I'd like to say the ad ends there, but it does not. There is one more cutover, back to Vern himself, babbling to the camera. He still wears the fake exploded zit on his forehead, leaking some leftover goo. This is an insurance ad. He smiles into the camera. I cannot--will not--remember his exact words, but they are to the effect of: "Don't worry about blemishes on your record." There is a toothpaste-sized gob of fake pus on his brow as he grins this.

Remember to honk when you drive by Vern Fonk!

(Postscript: I have been accused--fairly--of sometimes making stuff up. I am not doing so here. You may view many of Vern Fonk's legendary ads at the following URL, including the one I write about above, if you have the guts. As a pre-test, see if you can even endure the tiny thumbnail screenshots. I think you'll particularly enjoy the one of him pretending to be Osama Bin Laden. If you're up to it, go ahead and click on the one I've been talking about. It is, of course, called "The Zit.")

http://www.vernfonk.com/asp/videos.asp










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