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Tuesday, 22 April
Airborne Toxic Events

Eventually, every "comedy" writer finds himself here. It's embarrassing, but it happens to all of us. And here I am, like it or not. It's when, inevitably, you discover that you are writing about farts.

You all remember the Sedaris piece "Sassy Ass Blasts," right? Or Augusten Burroughs' "I Had Gas And Then I Drank Everything"? Even Woody Allen couldn't resist the siren call of flatulence, and that's why he made "Curse of the Jade Scorpion." (I assume that's what the movie is about, given that everyone immediately ran out of the theaters when it began to play.)

The other night, the wife and I were out at the Bar That Shall Not Be Named. Hang in here with me for a little bit while I set the scene.

We were there with some other regulars with whom we have become friendly. Friendly enough to get invited to parties to, you know, but not friendly enough to, say, swap partners. (Although one of them did relate an eye-popping story about taking two barflies home to have a fumbling threesome. Yay!) Anyway. We were all just hanging out shooting the shit, when . . . she came in.

Our bar, our precious bar, has been invaded. Her name is M., and she apparently hails from Baltimore. From what I understand, she comes from serious money. From what is also painfully clear, M. has not used this money to buy a personality, or interesting anecdotes, or a non-torturous mode of social interaction, or an ability to pick up on public cues that signal one's unwelcomeness into a personal conversation.

M. of course takes every chance she gets to intrude into our otherwise wonderfully sense-free bar talk. She also seems to have a crush on poor B., an affectless fellow who likes to drink whiskey with beer chasers and who otherwise resembles nothing so much as Droopy Dawg. On this evening, B. found himself next to M. at the bar, and then spent the next hour or so facing 180 degrees away from M. in a futile attempt to avoid her relentlessly inept advances. "I love olives," went one gambit. Nobody said anything for a while. B. tried valiantly to fold himself into his jacket, but only managed to tweak his sacrum.

M. is fireproof, you see. She is one of those people that you can actually be openly rude to, and she will blithely ignore your every futile attempt to signal your impatience with her inane prattle. More than once, she has interrupted a conversation to say something awesome such as "Say, I have feet!" or "How about magazines, you know?" and I have simply and wordlessly gotten up to go out and have a cigarette. And when I come back, she's still saying something like "And that's how I sucked off Morley Safer!" to a bar full of haunted souls helplessly staring into their drinks, mentally trying to force their way into an alternate M.-free universe.

She's so terrible that even the bartenders have commented on the M. phenomenon. In fact--I'm not making this up--W., tonight's bartender texted me just a few hours ago to tell me that she was there and that her chatter "would make your head explode." E. is another bartender at this place. Recently, he was heard to suggest to W. that he "fall on the grenade" and take her home, drunkenly fuck her, and then prodigiously shit the bed. It's this sort of hard-headed pragmatism that makes America great.

HOW DID WE GET HERE? Wasn't I writing about farts?

Oh, yes.

Back to the other night. We were all sitting around chatting, occasionally with loud, sense-free verbal blares from M., when all of a sudden . . . the odor. It crept into my nose like a clumsy thief coshing in a front door. I looked around the people surrounding me, studying their faces in that stupid way you do whenever you detect a fart, as if somebody would wear their shining fart-face proudly, or give you a gleeful thumbs-up, or could be found busily putting on a pin saying "I Totally Just Farted."

Ugh, I thought. Well, whatever. Nobody else gave any hint that they had noticed, as you do in polite company. I let it go by, and then found myself drawn into a lengthy dissertation about how M. enjoys having Scotch eggs shoved up her ass.

Time passed. And then it happened again. Another ghastly miasma enveloped our small group, and this time it was so woe-filled and dreadful that it was impossible to ignore; a few of us leaned in to one another and hissed, "Jesus fucking Christ, what the fuck is that?" E., for reasons still unclear to me, thrust his face at me and whispered, "Dude, was that you?"

HEY! First of all, are you kidding? I'm a smoker, for Christ's sake. I take all of my horrible smells outside. (Short story on my recent attempt to quit: I failed spectacularly.) Second of all . . . what? I don't have a history of gastrointestinal misbehavior, sir! "You fuck wild pigs," I informed him.

So what did this have to do with M.? Nothing, probably. It occurred to me later that she was as likely a suspect as anyone, but it wasn't as if I had proof.

And that's when I formed a diabolical plan. I don't want to reveal all the details, but I'm going to be eating a lot of sausage and drinking quantities of pickle brine. And I will visit our lovely bar as usual, and let things take their course.

Someone is about to become the bulldog.

Tuesday, 08 April
Theater Of Cruelty

Sometime last year, the wife and I got sucked into something horrible; wriggling fish trapped inside the hideous trawl nets of reality programming. (Note how I just absolved myself of any personal responsibility by adopting a passive pose in this scenario. It is of course complete bullshit, but it makes me feel better to think it so.)

Now, we are not strangers to reality programming, a term that as we all know by now is a laughably hollow euphemism anyway. We have always enjoyed The Amazing Race, for instance, a show whose genius is largely twofold. For one thing, instead of the usual "individuals against each other" format, that show memorably traps teams of two together for hellishly unfun worldwide shriek-treks that combine the best of travel porn with the best of schadenfreude: we the viewers get to enjoy footage of exotic locales combined with the enjoyment of watching exhausted, squabbling dyads routinely fail to have time to enjoy them.

And there's the typical Bravo formula that started with Project: Runway and continued on nearly unchanged with Top Chef: assemble a team of assorted talents and then assail them and berate them and mercilessly whittle them down until, Highlander-like, there remains ONLY ONE! And then everyone goes home and hopes they were somehow memorable enough to merit some small allocation of the public's collective memory so that someday, maybe they can sell some t-shirts on HSN. Or, increasingly, simply make future appearances on these same shows. Our cultural statesman are, more and more, turning out to be grotesquely feckless entities such as Ted Allen and Rocco DiSpirito.

And you know whose fault all this is? Mine. Me and the wife. We're responsible. Because you know: I can live with Project: Runway and Top Chef. Heavily mediated by the producers as these shows are, they do seem to make skeletal, gnomic gestures at seeming to care about the (often ridiculous and mindbending) tasks assigned to the contestants. They've got a nearly charming old-school strain of Americana in them, in that by gosh, these contestants are scrappy and faceless, but if they persevere and just do their darnedest, they could, against the odds, come out on top, just like your fucking grandfather and his stories about his goddamn hat store and how for ten years he ate nothing but felt just to get by! Only, you know, compressed into twelve weeks or so. Imagine the Great Depression divided into heavily edited half-hour chunks and you have the essence of reality TV.

Or so I thought. But there's something else out there. That thing is called Hell's Kitchen, and God fucking help me, but we've been watching. It is difficult to get a handle on or make meaningful comparisons to it without traveling out into the blasted hinterlands of MTV or VH1, where awful, I-thought-they-died rock stars are holding rimjob auditions or shows like "You Can Stick Things In My Eye For $50" are happening, and I'm not prepared for that, so I just have to muddle through. This desperate, awful thing is on network TV, albeit FOX, so . . . yeah, of course it is.

Hell's Kitchen features the usual assortment of goons, trauma junkies, harridans and hairheads and their inevitable debasement at the hands of the Scottish celeb chef Gordon Ramsay, a monstrous shockheaded coprolaliac with a penchant for throwing improperly prepared food at people while also blaring hilariously accented catchphrases such as "YOU FUCKING DUNN-KEY!" and, our favorite, after tasting some ill-executed dish, "IT'S IN-ED-I-BOW!"

Hell's Kitchen is fascinating as pure theater, in some ways. It's a nearly immiscible concoction that tries to mix Grand Guignol together with Commedia dell'Arte and instead winds up being something that Artaud would have tried out had he 1. had access to editing equipment and 2. been even crazier. Like Guignol or Commedia, the show bears virtually no resemblance to reality except in the most caricatured way possible; in fact the show takes great pains to divorce itself from anything remotely reminiscent of reality at all, from the comically profane Ramsay figure to the trudging and catastrophically hopeless contestants to the pitiful put-upon Belgian maitre'd who cannot act at all to the bizarre editorial insistence that the show is actually taking place in a real restaurant. (It is, of course, shot on a soundstage.)

In tonight's episode, Ramsay decides to edumacate his luckless charges about the horrors of wasting food, and so makes them crawl through the trash from the previous episode's dinner and pick out all the rotten food. This is how perverted this show is: it's a restaurant show ostensibly about what good cooking should be, and he's got them scrounging around in spoiled meat. Anyway, after this pointless bit of ritual humiliation is over, Ramsay then continues this demented lesson by demonstrating how to filet a halibut. Then they all have a chance to desecrate a poor fish themselves, and Ramsay evaluates their skills at carving out perfect 6-ounce filets. As he judges each team's effort, and (of course) finds certain specimens wanting, what does he do with the offending filets? He throws them over his shoulder onto the floor.

This is, to me, America. It's another thing we ripped off from the Brits and then hauled over here so we didn't have to listen to them complain about it. It doesn't make any sense, either internally or outwardly. It has stock characters so we don't have to think about it too hard. Plenty of profanity. There are always, of course, a couple of chicks with big tits. It's witless and loud and wasteful and, I guess, it's exactly what we deserve.

Especially me. But I like to think Artaud would have approved.

Monday, 15 October
The Departed

Oh, these are heady times! Our 1/2 month rent check should have been deposited today, so in theory, we should have access to the new apartment after tomorrow. I can't wait to roll around naked on the new Berber carpeting! (I knew it was Berber instantly after my wife told me that's what it was.) I'm going to stick my dick in the dryer! I'm going to take three shits in our three toilets! I'm going to stick a baby into our baby-sized "parcel box!" Hey, can I borrow a baby?

You can imagine how things have been here in to soon-to-be-ex-place. Packing central. By which I mean: we haven't packed one goddamn thing. But I have an explanation. The explanation is, I hate packing, because packing fucking sucks.

I have a closet shelf full of fucking vinyl. These poor records haven't seen the light of day for nearly five years, and I don't really feel like fucking around with them. They're heavy, they're dusty, and they're outdated technology. These albums are basically an M1 Abrams tank sitting in my fucking closet. Fuck you, vinyl.

Here's something else, something I know that more than one of you can cop to: in our "second bedroom"--that is, "room in which we just throw all of our shit in"--contains boxes from the last time we moved and never bothered to unpack. Stacks of the damn things. At some point, we got comfortable, and one day there we were, unpacking, and we opened a box, and the first thing we saw was some old textbook like History of Costume Design, and yelled "UGH!" and then said, "I'm not unpacking this fucking thing." And there they sit today.

I know for sure that I have a box in there with a little Darth Vader action figure in it. He shares space with an off-brand Walkman thing from 1985 and a Fiend Folio that I stole from some genius who was smart enough to get me to take it off his hands. The last time I looked in the box, it had some melted candy in it that got all over everything, including some embarrassing college photos, and I just sealed the fucker up because I couldn't stand to go through it.

I blame our society. America has conditioned me to save things like pipe cleaner sculptures, Christmas stork statuettes and old poems I wrote when I was stoned that say things like "Loneliness/Is like a hole/In my heart . . . "

The poem page also featured, inexplicably, a drawing of mine of a birthday cake that was lettered: "R O U N D." I shivered and tore the horrible thing up.

Anyway, it's time for another purge. I think if I can bear to load all of that goddamn vinyl into the car, I'll just sell that fucking shit off to some greasy Luddites who wail about the cold death of vinyl and weep bitter tears whenever anyone says "MP3." I know that someone will enjoy the vast collection of New Wave dead media. And I suppose it's time to let go of my extensive collection of dreary fiction and non- that I never bother to look at any more--why do I still have Alan Schneider's Entrances? I'm never going to read it again. Kurt Anderson's extremely dated Turn of the Century? Let it go, Skot . . . Spy Magazine isn't coming back. Jonathan Lethem's last novel? It was fucking horrible.

Gilligan's Wake? Unreadable. Look at all these terrible books! They're heavy!

Fuck moving. We can't wait, of course. If only we could get started.

We have this diseased bath mat that looks like Maenads fucked on it, ate it, and then shat it out. The wife has assured me that she is pitching it. We need to embrace this particular line of thought. This bath mat is where hope goes to die, and it is doomed. I must become ruthless about these terrible things that possess us even as we possess them.

I'm looking at you, pestilent houseplant. You're in my sights, dingy hand towels. Sleep lightly, belts I hate.

You're all on notice.

On the other hand, you might all just end up in some fucking boxes that we'll never unpack.

Wednesday, 04 October
I Am Trying To Break Your Toilet

The wife and I have been living in our current residence for two and a half years. Frankly, we love it. It's a condo building, but we do not own the apartment; its owner is, the last time we checked--which was two and a half years ago--a pastry chef at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. I have literally had one conversation with the man, and that was the day we moved in and noticed that the toilet was broken.

(Is there anything more dispiriting than taking a rather satisfying dump and then realizing that the recalcitrant toilet is simply giving you a firm shake of the head? I submit that there is nothing more depressing than taking a crap and finding out that the toilet is malfunctioning. You feel betrayed. Then you have to morosely trudge out of the bathroom and tell people--people you love--that you somehow broke the crapper. There is no good way to pull this off without feeling humiliated.)

Anyway, after a lot of confused phone calls--on moving day--I finally found myself on the end of a phone call with my new landlord, outraged and squawking, wondering why I was demanding a new replacement toilet. Hanh? Things had gotten garbled, and I explained to the man, who was probably staring resentfully at his neglected creme brulees, that no, I'd really just like a plumber to come over and fix my fucking toilet, which was still smirking over in the corner of the bathroom, with my wretched turds still lurking merrily unflushed in its fucking bowl. Please?

You wouldn't think that, after such an inauspicious moving-in, we would still like to buy this place. But we would. And we drop hints about it all the time, such as the sticky notes I attach to our monthly rent checks, which crudely depict me fellating a Bellagio pastry chef. But we get nothing. We love this place; if it has anything wrong with it, it's the horribly in-need-of-replacement-if-not-eradication of the carpet, which some loon decided should be ivory in color. It has since devolved into a sort of nicotine shag (hey, I smoke out on the deck, okay?) that displays every single insulting stain possible, the most egregious from when we had the stove replaced: it looks like a morphine addict was dragged out of our kitchen, leaking fluids from every possible opening.

We'd still very much like to buy this place. The condo members constantly ask us: "Are you guys going to buy it or what?" They love us, and constantly give us helpful building hints. "10A has lung cancer! You guys would be so cute in 10A." Which is sweet.

My friend K. lives only two blocks away from us. And her building has gone condo. K. is emphatically not being courted by the new regime, unlike us, and the results have been . . . startling. She invited us over a couple weeks ago to see how it is when people stop wanting you in their building.

"Welcome to Bosnia!" she chirped as she buzzed us in. The laughter died in our throats as we entered a hallway stripped of its vintage wallpaper. A heat register lay torn out of its socket in the hallway like a set of casually discarded dentures; the hallway carpet had been torn up and left rolled carelessly into corners. We glumly trod across bare cement. I found myself thinking about recovery nuts ripping copper wires out of the walls. It really did look like a crack den, except that nobody here smoked crack. Hell, nobody here smoked.

It wasn't just the interior, which was bad enough. The developers had also made sure to--for some reason--remove every single bush, tree and green thing that surrounded the building, including a particularly fine aspen. They just ripped all that fucking shit out, ostensibly so they could paint.

And paint they did. I . . . I wasn't able to find any images to post to display this paint job, and I fear I don't have the vocabulary to describe it. It's not an attractive building to start with, a boxy thing with no inherent charm. It was just fine sitting there being all beige and all, and at least it had some nice trees around it. But then . . . hoy. Look, the building now stands out on satellite imagery. In some sort of Mondrian-meets-Tristan Tzara spasm, the owners opted for some non-Euclidean geometrical color scheme that features gold, turquoise and cranberry quadrangles that owe absolutely nothing to anything resembling sanity. Especially in this very geen city, this building, denuded of all masking plant growth, simply looks like a demented child's mad arrangement of colored blocks. It is an unequivocal horror.

K. sensibly moved out. The question is, Who on earth is moving in?

This new condo recently put a sign out advertising the newly vacated spaces. It reads:

VERTIGO The city is a game of tag This is your base VERTIGO

Are you joshing me? This whole thing makes my hair fall out. I'm upset that I live within walking distance of something this awful.

I wish I could have saved K. It was a lovely apartment with a lovely view. Now it's a ridiculous joke of a building with an extravagantly embarrassing sign in front of it.

It's too late for K. But maybe I can figure out how to take that one disastrous shit in just one apartment. I will break their shiny new toilets.

I can bring these fools to their knees.

Wednesday, 20 September
In The Mouth Of Madness

Yesterday was yet another dental visit. I go three times a year because . . . apparently, because that's how many times my insane insurance company will pay for me to go without charging me anything. Naturally, Jessica, my hygienist, immediately stuck a car jack in my mouth and started energetically cranking away.

"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!" I screamed as my jawbone snapped like a dry branch. It would have hung loosely, bouncing off my throat but for the incredible tension still being exerted by the car jack. "You're such a wuss," said Jessica, and she punched me playfully in the testicles. Tears streamed down my face as Jessica produced a jar of angry, writhing black larvae. "Uvula leeches," she murmured. "Just what Daddy needs." I sat helplessly, pinioned to the chair in a complicated arrangement of electrified cables as she rechecked the car jack, and judiciously ratcheted it another notch. I saw my reflection in her small glasses as she leaned over me; I looked like Munch's The Scream, and I desperately looked around for art thieves who might, however briefly, steal me away from this horrible tableau, but alas. Fuck you, Interpol.

Jessica, unfazed by my weak thrashings, set about hammering cedar planks into my gums, further incapacitating me. "The leeches like the smell of cedar," she explained, and dumped the jar of invertebrates into my maw. They promptly attached themselves to my palate and the back of my throat and began a frenzy of blood-feeding; this anemone-like feeling activated my gag reflex, and I vomited explosively all over my lap, earning me a stern look from Jessica. "That's not cricket," she said disapprovingly, and promptly stuck crickets in my ears. Where the fuck does she find this stuff? Jessica has a way with symbolic gestures.

Jessica finally had a look inside my mouth, prodding here and there with rusty hooks that she retrieved as needed from a nearby toilet. "Did you burn your mouth recently?" she asked. "YAAHH!" I screamed. "YEEE-YAAA!" I was trying to say, "Yes, pizza!" but the car jack and the blood loss from the feasting parasites mangled my diction. It was as if Jessica hadn't heard me anyway. "I see flaps of flesh. Here and here and here." Each "here" was punctuated by a rough jab to the hard palate with an unbent coat hanger.

I gave myself over to misery with a throat full of bilious bloodworms and fragments of iron. As if reading my thoughts, Jessica calmly remarked, "Amazon is having a sale," and then, startlingly, she pulled up her skirt and defecated into my mouth.

"We're in the home stretch now!" she trilled, and clouted me over the head with a length of re-bar; I fell limply to the floor. "We're almost done." She pulled out a silver coach's whistle and put it in her mouth and produced a shrill, quavering tone. I heard a sound like distant thunder, and then, still lying on the floor, trying to clear my befouled mouth, six hundred Kenyan runners stampeded over my head, trampling my skull with their Nike sneakers.

"IT'S THE NEWEST THING!" I heard Jessica call to me over the din and head trauma. "KENYAN MARATHON RUNNERS HAVE COMPLETELY REVOLUTIONIZED THE DENTAL INDUSTRY!" The Kenyans were very polite, and many of them muttered apologies to me as they stepped on my face. N'Degemendo in particular was kind and threw a mint at my head. It bounced off my brow and landed before my right eye; it smelled like Christmas and freedom. Jessica swiftly picked it up and threw it into the garbage. "That's bad for your teeth," she explained.

Finally, I was all done. Jessica undid the complicated arrangement of now-depowered cables that had been binding me, and then ushered me out of the office. "See you in January!" she sang.

"All right, " I replied glumly. It's a good thing none of this is out of my pocket, I thought blackly. As long as insurance is paying.

"Do you need parking validation?" asked the receptionist politely as I made for the door. "Naw," I said. "I walked."

"All righty, then!" she replied mildly. "Don't forget to get fucked, stupid!"

"Thanks," I said. "See you in a few months."

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. :)

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, 13 September
My Eyes Have Seen

Nothing momentous happened this weekend, I'm sad to say. We did not get, oh, a free car. Nor did we even get a free pizza. We did not get free anything. God curse this unloving universe, where we don't get free stuff all the time! No, we mostly just sat around on our asses.

Please, Skot! Tell us more about this fantasia of a weekend! Well, all right.

You know, there was one remarkable thing we witnessed, something that changed us both forever, the wife and I. It was . . . it was moving and strange and disturbing . . . it was . . . it was . . .

I need to stop here for a second, because the gods of Fake Dramatic Setups are waving brightly colored semaphores at me. Now, I don't speak semaphore, but those flags are really cute as hell, and I'm pretty sure on of them shows a train going off its tracks, so I'm going to derail here for a minute.

Let's talk about Monday Night Football. Now, this show has been--and I stress here that this judgment is by football fan standards--horrible for some time. It has a long, long history of being monumentally intolerable. Don Meredith singing "Turn Out the Lights." Howard Cosell's singular non-epigrammatic style. Dennis Miller's existence. For a long time, MNF has been a complete embarrassment to a sport whose cultural raison was wobbly to begin with.

And now ABC is losing MNF. And it seems we're all going to pay hard.

Tonight I did my usual: I took a long nap for the first half of the game. This is only sensible; prolonged exposure to Al Michaels and John Madden has been linked to goiters. Unfortunately, then I woke up for halftime. Gone was the eternally (though comforting!) Chris Berman and his unbelievably idiotic commentary. What did I get instead?

A music video with Tim McGraw. Awesome. As if the NFL needed further NASCAR-ization.

I like it!
I love it!
I proudly wear a mullet!

This or something like it was tied to a disastrous highlight reel, which fortunately omitted any reference to the abominable Seahawks--presumably Mr. McGraw was unable to find any decent cornpone rhyme for "Hasselbeck." And, in fairness, nor can I. The best I can do is "ghastly fuck," but I might be able to get ten bucks or something by selling that to the Damned as a song title.

But MNF wasn't done. Then--then!--they trotted out Jimmy Kimmel for his sage advice on the state of football. Jimmy Kimmel. Great. Because when you're really in a hole, you should definitely trot out the one guy whose big resume entry reads, "Is marginally funnier than Adam Carolla."

I never thought that I would hunger so viscerally for John Madden to lecture me on "How To Take Care of Your Cankles."

But back to the beginning. I promised you horror and amazement. And so:

We tried to watch M. Night Shyamalanabingbang's The Village. (Alternate names for the auteur: MISTER NIGHT! and M.! The Silent Killer and Mahnahmahnah.)

Nobody should ever try and watch this film. We made it about 45 minutes in before giving up. There are some worthy actors who didn't deserve this kind of shit (Sigourney Weaver, William Hurt), and some who richly did (Joaquin Phoenix, Adrien Brody). Mix and match as you see necessary: In my mind, Phoenix deserves to have this kind of drool-derby etched onto his permanent record (did we not all endure Gladiator?), while perhaps Mr. Brody should get a pass: it is a deeply embarrassing performance, but he's new at this sort of thing.

"Welcome to the Land Without Contractions!" I cried, after hearing the billionth tortured line erupt from some unfortunate mouth. "This movie was written by Yoda," said the wife flatly. After forty minutes of this punishment, we turned on Spider-Man 2.

Can you think of any worse condemnation? I mean, apart from turning on Monday Night Football?

Thursday, 07 July
Grooming

The wife's little brother is getting all MARRIED and stuff this Saturday! Aw! The li'l bastard's all done and got growed up! And by "li'l" I mean "gigantic," because the kid is a big boy and could squeeze me into fettucini if he felt like it. Anyway, he is, fortunately, a great guy, and his ladygal (or, as we said in high school, his "throwdown") is a peach, so this is all a good thing. Unfortunately, I torched my whole savings this month buying comic books, so we're only getting them a couple of soiled dishtowels, so I think we'll sign our gift as "Love, Anonymous."

The wife will be reading a sonnet during the ceremony--"Shall I compare thee to a bale of hay?/ Thou art as scratchy and as rectangular." Something like that. (For some reason, I was not asked to read anything.) Ah, the whole thing makes me tear up. And so, for my young brother-in-law, I have decided to compose some invaluable wedding advice, gleaned from my two-year stint as the acknowledged World Champion of Husbands.

--Remember that "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus." This is very important. When you're in the mood to dig elaborate canals on the surface of the planet to confuse future Earth scientists, remember that maybe she just might want to sit down, kick back and breathe some methanated/ammoniated atmosphere. Compromise is the key.

--Don't be a jerk: Commit your mistresses' phone numbers to memory rather than programming them on speed dial. If you really, really can't keep the damn numbers straight, at least have the decency to use false names in the "Name" field. Examples: "MITSRESS", "BOOBS+++", or "HOT PORKIN' GAL #2."

--Let's face it: doing the dishes sucks. She shouldn't have to do them all the time. Every now and then--say, twice a year--give her the night off and say, "Honey, I've got these tonight. You can go clean the toilet instead." You're suddenly a prince! And while she's scouring out that bowl, take the opportunity to demolish all the dirty dishes. "Oh, honey! I dropped all of our plates and bowls onto the concrete outside!" Then buy new dishes. Winky winky!

--Wives should be made to feel "special." Enroll her in remedial reading courses as soon as possible. Unless she's a total dumb-bomb, she is going to rake in gold stars.

--Sex is always a touchy subject, and so, is best avoided. If the subject comes up, pretend you are having a stroke. When this ruse has run its course of usefulness, and the wife begins to doubt even your most energetic thrashings, I'm afraid that the only solution is to actually have a real stroke. This may sound drastic, but there is an upside: stroke victims are rarely expected to do the dishes or clean the toilet. High five, dude! (Gotcha! You can't raise your arms! Har har!)

--Lots of women do not like smokers. If you smoke, you should quit. (I do this several times a day, and it is a thrill for my wife every time.) If you do not smoke, begin smoking immediately. After a few months, quit. She'll be thrilled! Then begin using chewing tobacco, because you're hooked right through the bag, son.

--Finally--I cannot stress this enough--your days of checking out women on the street are over. It's really rude to be ogling other women, my friend. It's the hard truth. There's only one thing to do: start staring at men. Comment on their physiques. "Gee, honey, look at that guy. The one in biking shorts. Man! That's some penis! It's kind of shaped like Madagascar!" You'll be surprised at her reaction.

"You've changed a lot since you had four strokes in a row," she might say as she pushes you along in your wheelchair. You don't have to say a word. After all, it's a nice day, you're being squired around town by your beautiful wife, and today, what the hell, you're going to buy some fresh chewing tobacco and a nice new set of dishes.

You're going to drool a lot, and ruin many shirts, but it's a good life. You can even clear out the speed dial entries. And before you know it, you've grown old together. It's what marriage is all about.

(All horseshit aside, feel free to raise a glass on Saturday for my brother-in-law I. and his good lady S. I do wish them nothing but hurrahs and confetti and champagne.)

Tuesday, 05 July
Pyrotechnical Fouls

So happy belated Independence Day! Did you barbecue? Did you witlessly fend off an invading alien force? Did you covertly sneeze into a flag, and then feel kinda bad about it? Or did you just drink some beers and watch baseball? Because that's what we did. Well, we watched some baseball, which is to say we caught part of a Mariners game, but then we realized that we were watching the Mariners and switched over to a Food Channel show about hot dogs.

Oh, but there were also the fireworks! Oh, the majesty! Oh, the twinkling! Oh, where's my beer? The wife likes fireworks, but frankly, I find them tremendously boring. Fireworks shows basically remind me of funerals. Everyone shows up dutifully; they all stand or sit motionless for twenty minutes or so staring fixedly at a point angled about 20 degrees upward; and everyone kind of feels like the whole thing goes on for about 15 minutes longer than it really has to. We could actually combine the two. Funeralworks! Where for twenty minutes or so, dozens of corpses are launched by cannons into the air, and everyone can show up and be all like, "There goes Aunt Ro! Whoop, she caught in that tree pretty good."

No? Yeah, okay.

I don't know why I have such a hard-on against fireworks, except, you know, the boring. Maybe it's hearing the same damn things every year when they go off: the oooohs and aaaahs and Yay, Smiley Face! SMILEY FACE? Is this the best they can do? Other favorites are: the heart-shaped one, the cube-shaped one, and the thing that looks like hair growing in the sky. WHAT AMERICA MEANS TO ME: card suits, Platonic solids, and vigorous hair growth.

It is possible that I'm a bit of a crank about this.

What other horrible things did we assault our eyeballs with this weekend, anyway? Oh, right--awful movies! Oh, we had a couple of DOOOOZIES this weekend! Standard warning about possible spoilers apply, yadda yadda.

National Treasure

"Okay, hang with me on this one. There's a treasure map on the back of the Declaration of Independence! It has to do with a bunch of crap about the Knights Templar and the Masons and possibly James Mason! Anyway, we get Nick Cage to STEAL IT and do a bunch of shit to it, like dump crap all over it, shove it down his ass-crack, and bend, fold and mutilate it--we might have him fuck it, with sax music--and then he finds . . . the NATIONAL TREASURE."

As an American, I am proud to have watched a movie on the Fourth of July weekend that basically treats our founding document like you would a matchbook from Thumper's.

National Treasure is a ghastly melange of about nine other vastly superior movies--we spied cops from Indiana Jones, Mission: Impossible, any number of Bond movies, and even, at its most visually ridiculous, Harry Potter--but where the famous Frankenstein monster finally came to life, this movie, at its end, when all the dumb switches were thrown, simply continued to lie on the table, unmoving, just a horrifying unnameable thing, stitched ghoulishly out of catgut by an idiot following a bad dream.

Nick Cage has long ago squandered whatever goodwill he had amongst curmudgeons like myself, and once again turns in the laziest possible performance, offering up allegedly quirky jitterisms as an ersatz substitute for actual acting. As his ostensible E-VILL foil, Sean Bean does what Sean Bean always does: a commendable job in a thankless role. Anyone who has seen the Lord of the Rings movies already knows that he's going to be the nice guy who stabs everyone in the back, and so again in this movie the audience is screaming, "DON'T TRUST SEAN BEAN! DIDN'T YOU SEE THE FIRST RING MOVIE?" However, for economy's sake, National Treasure is at least kind enough to have his betrayal come within the first ten minutes of the film. Truly, he is a magic Bean.

White Noise

You are forgiven if you cannot immediately recall what the hell this movie was; none of our friends that we mentioned it to could until we told them it was a Michael Keaton movie where he can hear the voices of the dead--again, the dead must hassle us--through his MODERN ELECTRONIC RECORDING DEVICES. Thanks a lot for the ceaseless chatter of the dead, Thomas fucking Edison! Now I can't even listen to my old Pebbles CDs without Aunt Ro coming on the line asking when we're going to pull her corpse down from that tree.

There's nothing worth going into about this movie. At the end, the wife asked, "How did this even get made?" I didn't know. Tensionless, unscary, incoherent, brainless, pointless and needless . . . and then I suddenly realized what watching White Noise was actually like: fireworks.

Thursday, 16 June
Horrible Ad Campaigns, Another In An Ongoing Series

Vehix

The Vehix ads recently revamped their whole ad campaign. The old campaign featured a nebbishy middle-aged guy in glasses who wore a giant computer suit. This, we learned, was Vehix! Good old Vehix would visit people at their homes and carry out their every automotive-related wish, and he would do it with the best of humor, despite the fact that Vehix was always rewarded with some sort of naked hostility: one guy gave him a tip for his troubles, but then snatched it back. After another dutiful fact-finding mission for a housewife, Vehix got savagely kicked in the shins by her kid. The ads seemed to be saying: We are here to serve the automotive whims of you, the sociopathic customer.

It was puzzling to say the least to see an entire corporate campaign based on portraying its consumer base as a bunch of dire assholes--almost as puzzling as the idea of buying a car over the internet, but maybe that's just me.

Anyway, it was with great interest that I watched the new Vehix ads. Their overall slogan is now, basically: "Everything you wanted to do in real life? You can do with Vehix." In one spot, for example, I get to fuck Kate Winslet.

No! Of course not. That would not only be laughable, particularly for Ms. Winslet, but it would also veer dangerously towards the idea that a Vehix customer is a normal, healthy member of society. Vehix has yet again opted for the opposite tactic: that the Vehix customer is an unreasonable freak who will explore every opportunity for human cruelty in pursuit of his/her car.

In one spot, an imperious man stands, hands on hips, and barks out orders to two poor bastards who are turning a pickup truck mounted on a rotating platform. "Left. Left. More left. Right. More right." The idea is, he can get a 360-degree view of the vehicle with only the aid to two strong luckless buffoons and a rumbling tenor! That's a lot easier than simply walking around the fucking thing! I've always wanted to do that in real life!

Another thing I've longed to do is to have another put-upon goon spraypaint a car over and over again--while I watch--until I find the right color. Again, this beats the hell out of turning around to view all the other cars right behind me in a lot; it also beats, I don't know, hopelessly asking my atrophied brain to imagine another color. The woman customer in this ad is particularly awful; when the poor bastard has finally completed the paint job, she screws up her face into a ghastly rictus of fake apology and ventures "Can I see it in red again?" The viewer is then rewarded with what I assume is a wholly intentional cut to the painter, whose protective mask is unable to conceal the look of utter loathing that his face wears.

Hell, maybe it was intentional. These ads really do seem to assume that its target audience members are the creepiest bastards on the planet. Another shot shows a woman climbing into the back seat of an SUV, then hunkering down and slowly walking in a circle to get a full panoramic view of the interior. We've all done this, right? It's not enough to poke your fucking head in the car and use the good old occipital condyle to swivel your head around: you have to do a chicken dance instead. Right?

Other spots are just weird and run totally counter to the Vehix premise of offering things that "you always wanted to do." One spot, fixating again on the color of the car (which, as we all know, is the most important feature), has a fellow shot from the back looking at a car; he is also doing something that we can't initally see with his hands. (Oh, be quiet, perverts.) Gradually, we see that what he's been doing is making elaborate little construction paper templates of the car's shape so he can hold them up at a distance to see what different colors would be like. Again, leaving aside the part of you that wants to scream "USE YOUR POOR BRAIN! IT'S THERE TO HELP!", this is of course something that nobody in their right mind would ever do, except for people who at some later point see their names in sentences such as " . . . was used as the inspiration for the movie Se7en."

Which would all be fine and everything--ads like anything else use these sorts of tactics, and I don't expect them to hew to reality or anything. But shouldn't they be grounded in some form of humor, or drama, or tension, or . . . Christ, I don't know . . . rationality? In another spot, a guy climbs into a pickup truck, gets settled, and then presses a red button on a keypad. The truck is then struck in the grill by a gigantic fake sledgehammer that emerges from the ceiling, deploying the airbag. (It should be noted that the fake sledgehammer employs some of the worst CGI ever seen since the movie The Perfect Storm. It would have at least been funny if they just used a great big rubber hammer. [Which is probably what's going to happen when Troma gets the rights to adapt The Might Thor to film.]) Then the guy cheerfully gets out of the pickup, apparently satisfied that he's safe from any life-threatening collisions with fake hammers, a hail of rubber chickens, or common sense.

I think it's telling that no single Vehix ad has ever once shown anyone actually buying a car.

BONUS HORRIBLE AD: Giorgio Armani

Armani has a new perfume called . . . well, it says something that I'm not even sure what its name is, but anyway, it's pretty unremarkable in form and content, and I mean that literally, in that it really has neither. Just some black and white shots of a ember-eyed fellow schnuzzling up to some icy brunette who seems not to be aware of his existence. But what's really thrillingly great and marrow-freezingly awful about the spot is the overheated voiceover, done in the kind of nonspecific Continental accent that is usually found in bad sketch comedy. It sounds like I imagine spoiled pears taste like.

It's not a long ad, but what it lacks in running time, it makes up for in yuks. "Do yoo know ze code?" says ze voice. Noir shot of something glinting in the dark. Some murky shots of the couple who do not evidently enjoy looking at anything, particularly each other. "Ze code of sed-uck-shun?" Suddenly the smoldery guy seems to notice us, the viewer, past she-who-does-not-care's profile. He looks kind of pissed off, and not very seductive. Or -ory. Or whatever. The voice is back to give us the payoff line anyway.

"A new fwagrahnce!" it says with fresh intensity. And then the most fabulously clipped accenting on the final three words: "From CHAWCHAW AHMANI!"

If there was ever an ad I wanted to smell exactly like, it's this one. "Jesus, Skot, what's the reek?" my friends would ask. "CHAWCHAW AHMANI!" I would scream at them.

After that? I don't know. Maybe go kneecap some car salesmen.

Wednesday, 20 April
Dealbreakers

Here follows what may become a regular feature of IP, a catalogue of unacceptable things. I know I call them "dealbreakers," but that's only because in my mind, I imagine these things--which I'm going to categorize by sense--to be things that, should you enjoy them, would cause me to hate you. This of course is not the case. Even I am not that big of an asshole. (Well, I am, but for a lot of other reasons.) At any rate, take these for the subjective opinions that they are.

Or, for your own amusement, use them as an index of how disgusting you are. Either way, I hope that one day we can meet in a conciliatory fashion to discuss these issues, and how you may go about changing your personal habits so as to make the world a slightly less repellent place for me to endure.

TASTE: Sauerkraut

Who doesn't like slimy cabbage? NOT GERMANS! From the same capricious, devil-may-care people who brought us things like obnoxiously expensive luxury cars and Frederich Nietzsche comes this delicious recipe featuring a salad green that almost nobody likes! (Get out of here, Korea.) That people put this stuff on innocent hot dogs somehow makes it worse--and this crime is not mitigated by the fact that people also countenance relish in the same context. Relish is, all on its own, a horrible misdeed. It's just that sauerkraut is infinitely worse. Relish is to sauerkraut as David Caruso is to Carrot Top. There are degrees.

(NOTE: I have German blood. It runs vinegar-thin. And I have cabbage in my bones. This may explain the crackly noises when I stretch.)

TOUCH: Slow shower drains

There are worse things than cleaning hair traps. I mean, it's an icky deal prising out the clumps of jetsam pubes from the catchall, but the smart amongst us do it right before getting in the shower, as you are just about to get clean.

Worse is the shower water that pools around the ankles. I do not know why this is.

It's hardly worse, when you think about it, than taking a bath. Taking a bath is just really making a thin stew of yourself. So why do I get so skeeved out when I feel the shower water collecting around my feet? Why do I uncomfortably dance so; an awkward little two-step where every footplant results in a glum little splash?

And how is this worse than cleaning a hair trap? It shouldn't be. And yet it is. I have often whispered to my sullied feet after such an unrewarding shower: I'm sorry. I will take better care of you.

HEARING: The Offspring

A "friend" of mine recently reminded me of this band's existence, and it was . . . well, completely debilitating. Hoobastank and Sugar Ray at least had the decency, while being completely reprehensible, to just record completely forgettable songs, no matter how much overplay they got. But The Offpring--"Come Out and Play," "Pretty Fly for a White Guy"--manufactured tunes so diabolical that they are all but ineradicable from one's consciousness. One can only hope that they all end up in some Holiday Inn version of hell where they are forced to do covers of Collective Soul songs. (Backing band: Collective Soul.)

OLFACTORY: Office Microwave Chili

Really, this is a tough one. Given my choice, I'd toss the fucking office microwave onto I-5 to be run over by trucks. The smells are unholy: ramen, lasagna, tuna fish . . . it's a Collective Soul of bad odors. It just fucking invades everything. It is the smell of ruin and calamity and everything bad. I someday dream of storing up some quantity of vomit in a jar and then reheating it for all to enjoy. "Don't mind me! Just reheating vomit here! No use wasting partially digested food!"

But I dare not pursue this. We already have "Hot Pockets." Society surely does not need "Hot Vomit."

Maybe.

VISUAL: Hot Vomit.

Don't make me do anything stupid, okay? I'm a man on the edge.

Wednesday, 23 March
You Give A Little, You Get A Little

Tonight our friend K. was getting kicked out of her apartment, as her guy needed to commandeer the place to have some sort of meeting for an upcoming theatricalish event. (Troublingly, he is evidently going to be a DJ-ish persona for some whacked-out late night performance: later in the evening, he showed us his new toy, a terrible Yamaha keyboard thing that was mostly amusing for its ability to, at the press of a button, play awful Casiotone-y genre music. And also, at the press of another button, to shout out a tinny canned voice yelling "Deejay!" There's something really great about hearing artificial banjo music being coughed up by a machine and then hearing it punctuated by a shout of "Deejay!" Then K. would play helicopter noises. It was kind of like listening to a Ross Gellar opus.)

Anyway. K. the non-DJ needed out, and so we decided to meet up for some cheap Mexican food; we grabbed her at her apartment and we made our way up to Broadway. Well, not true--we largely avoided Broadway, as Broadway is the main drag (in so many ways) of our neighborhood, and filled with panhandlers and Save The Annoying Children types, and that sort of thing, so we stayed on the byways in order to avoid being hassled.

It didn't work at all. We eventually had to turn up to Broadway to actually enter the restaurant, and in the intervening half-block, we were accosted by a hurricane of a woman. She was ostensibly chainsawing people on behalf of her daughter (present), raising money for . . . well, I kind of missed it. All I know is, suddenly she was in lockstep with me, and she was unstoppable.

"Hello how you all doin' tonight? I'm gonna do this in sixty seconds, and Lord it may kill me--you should see my feet! Be blessed you can't feel 'em, but here's the thing, my daughter needs to travel to the heart of the sun to fetch herself the Eye of the Crocodile Lord, I swear--I ain't crazy! But listen, all they got is a van and a prayer, so I am out here to help her, because I'm told I have a big mouth and so I'm hopin' you good people will consider buying some candy bars and makin' a donation, 'cause I am telling you that if I don't shoot my daughter into the sun, then what kind of momma am I? I ask you! And you should see this van, it ain't fit for solar travel! No! So listen . . . "

We were paralyzed by this whole verbal barrage, not to mention the daughter, who tagged around in the background shouting hosannas of encouragement: "That's right! We thank you!" We all wore the frozen smiles of the Urban Cornered: "There's no good way to get out of this, is there?" Well, of course there was. We could have easily said, "Not interested, no, get lost, sorry." Or, more coarsely, "Get the fuck out of my face, you yammering hellfinch!"

I decided rather quickly that it was well worth my money to get rid of this woman as soon as possible. I cut her off. "Okay!" I interjected. "How much for a candy bar?"

"Five dollars."

A bargain at a sixth of the price! Rapture! "Fine," I said.

I had only twenties and . . . four ones. I turned to the wife. "Do you have an extra buck?" I asked. This was taking longer than I wanted. The huckster woman set down her box of candy bars on a nearby sidewalk planter, her eyes shifting all around.

"You all only want one candy bar?" Yep. "You can make donations too!" K. shrugged and pulled out a dollar to give her. In the meantime, the wife was failing to find an extra buck. This was getting a little exhausting. I said, "Okay, can you break a twenty?"

"Sure!" she exclaimed, and then this is where things got really dizzying. For one thing, I could tell that she was less than pleased that we were only buying one lousy fucking candy bar--five dollars?!--and for another thing, she had her cash stowed all over her damn coat pockets. Okay, so I had four singles, and I thought the wife had another to make five, but she didn't, and so we ended up handing money back and forth, and since that didn't work, I ended up grabbing a twenty to buy the candy bar, but then the wife did too, and there was some confusion as to who was paying for what (on our end), and in the meantime the aggressive woman was digging out wads of money from her coat to try and give us our change (still kind of upset that we weren't giving her more money than we obviously could, but I'm kind of on the fence about shooting children into the sun), and so it turned into this big horrible mess that always happens when I fail to listen to my impulses about shit like this.

Later on, K. said that she had totally lost the flow of what the hell was going on with the money, and that she was really worried that we were suddenly involved in one of those crappy scams where con artists bewilder you with monetary gymnastics until you're so dazed that you don't even realize that the scammer just walked off with all of your money.

And truth be told, so was I. I have, years ago when working retail, gotten nailed by just this very ruse. So I watched the money like a hawk: at one point, she handed me a roll of cash--"Hold this, would you, honey?"--and I also handed the wife some dough--she was also trying to help me make my five dollar contribution, or something . . . the money all whirled. As I say, I was vigilant. In the end, finally, we got it worked out, and the woman took the twenty and dutifully gave back fifteen in change.

We started away, but then she called us back. "Are you sure I gave you back fifteen? I might have given you sixteen!" Sigh. The wife once again counted the change. No, we got our fifteen back. We had paid our fee for the five-dollar candy bar, which, I noted a bit later, she forgot to give me. Whatever.

But of course, we didn't get it right at all. I was not as hawkeyed as I imagined. You know where this is going.

When we had eaten and the bill came, we all pulled out our wallets. I looked at the contents, and I stared with bad feelings. Something was very wrong. I counted my money three times before I realized what had happened.

In the hurricane of money exchanges, someone had gotten really fucked. And it was the candy bar woman. Somewhere along the line, she had given me, in exchange for my five bucks, exactly twenty-three dollars.

The wife heroically went to look for the woman to see if her and her daughter were still around. They weren't. There was nothing to be done.

Thanks, candy bar woman, for the donation. Sorry about your daughter. Buy sunblock.

Wednesday, 02 March
For The Children

Yesterday the wife came home from her job managing a preschool with a bummer of a tale: one of her young charges, who has nasty allergies, had to be taken to a hospital after she started swelling up like a sausage when introduced to a new room that apparently contained some histological bastardy that her little body wasn't yet accustomed to. (She was fine, and in fact returned later that day to wonder why all her friends had left her and gone home.)

I can relate. When I was a tot, I had some ridiculously severe allergies to contend with--not to mention asthma, and boy did those two play together well. (You can see why I eventually took up smoking. It was the logical thing to do.)

The parents started to wonder, for example, why their third-grader couldn't sleep through the night without sounding like a victim of mustard gas; this was in addition to the fact that I frequently looked like someone had boiled me. Turns out it was my feather pillow: our GP gave me that famously enjoyable scratch-the-kid's-back-with-every-known-allergen test, and a day later I was in agony as practically every fucking thing turned up positive. My back looked like a neglected turnpike on Mars. I was allergic to dogs, cats, animal dander (this for all non-pet sources), pretty much every kind of grass and pollen, hay, wheat, chamomile, Barbra Streisand and, my personal favorite, house dust.

House dust? Great! I can solve that problem easily! I'll just . . . not be in a house! I'll go live with the . . . animals! Oh. House dust. Look, I didn't grow up in a dungheap or anything, but let's just say that my parents are about as enthusiastic about dusting as I am. I am more than content to let gray fur collect on my home electronics until performance is impeded.

It was a helluva thing to deal with as a kid. More than once, when visiting friends with cats, my eyes would swell shut, and I would wheeze horribly. I spent more than one night at the hospital (with my mom, who was an RN) not really understanding why I couldn't have anything to drink (something to do with the medication, I guess), and so I would gnaw on a damp washcloth for moisture. (Sometimes I would get ice chips.) For a period of time, I would receive weekly shots to help me out (steroids, I assume, maybe prednisone).

Springtime rapidly became my least favorite season; in Idaho, where we lived, that's when the cottonwood trees would bloom, and I'd stare at them with hate. Their awful rain of pollen carried on those fat white tufts would generally mean that I couldn't even climb the one story of stairs to my room without pausing halfway up to catch my breath.

I got lucky. I outgrew nearly every one of those allergies (and, to a degree, the crippling asthma--thanks, Big Tobacco!). Sometimes I can feel myself tightening up when assaulted by cats, but for the most part, it's dealable-with, especialy if someone has a Claritin handy. The last time I really had a reaction was when I was in a room with baby rabbits, and I found myself turning into Jonathan Winters: it wasn't enough that I had to leave the room, I had to leave the house.

Really. I couldn't go back in. (And since the hosts in question were some really astoundingly boring people, this didn't necessarily bum me out.) I stood outside for a while until my body decided to stop attacking itself and calmed down. (It would have been better to wash up and get the fucking dander off me, but I wasn't going anywhere near the place again.) Eventually my breathing regulated, and I felt better. I experimentally lit a cigarette. Things were fine again. You don't need to draw me a map.

I think it's obvious that I'll need to visit the wife's preschool to explain that taking up smoking is the best possible thing those kids can do. The sooner the better. I don't want them to suffer.

Wednesday, 23 February
The Dead Pool

So far 2005 has been a sprightly affair! For death! A brief skim yields a croak-count featuring a writer I will miss, a playwright I never much liked, an actress I was largely unfamiliar with, another actress I never met, a bartender I will very much miss, and an NFL punter I barely heard of. Way to spread the field, death!

I think it's time for my predictions for the Hot Death List of 2005, where I anticipate the coming years' trendiest new ways to die.

Cougar Attack

No, not "cougar" in the MILF sense, you dirty dogs! (Although getting fucked to death by sexually predatory older women barely got edged out at #11.) I'm talking about mountain lions! These sporty carnivores are starting to make a real arterial splash, especially in the Western states, and are redoubling their attacks on deer, pets and . . . humans! When it comes to the Hot Death List, cougars are poised to claw their way to fabulousness! Predicted victim: Haley Joel Osment. You'll see dead people . . . all the time!

New Age

This one is a real comer, and will supplant the longtime champion "old age." Hippies, vegans and other societal punchlines will soon start to succumb to such hilarious mistakes as Tinctures of Potassium Cyanide, uric acid poisoning, and Chronic Meat Deprivation. Worse will be when the Crystalline Entity shows up again and takes over their quartz necklaces. Will these people never learn from the lessons of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Predicted victim: Shirley MacLaine. Unfortunately, only Woody Harrelson will notice.

Overflossing

This is less a problem about people maniacally sawing away at their gums for hours and hours and hours and hours until they shear off a portion of their skull, only to watch it slide glumly down to the bathroom porcelain and land with a dull thud as all their neurons misfire and they collapse into a bloody stew that is going to be hell for housekeeping to tidy up. No. The problem is the dental industry's tragically underthought new product line of monomolecular-filament dental floss that will have people unintentionally doing this in seconds. Predicted victim: Dr. Phil. "Hey, my severed fingers! Hey, my bisected skull! Hey, I had a hateful life! Buuuulllgghhh . . . "

Terrorist Pranks

Terrorist attacks are obviously pretty passe. Get ready for a new terrorist paradigm . . . of hilarity! Well, deadly hilarity. But they meant well. It was just too bad (and too funny!) when that guy slipped on the flaming sack of poo and broke his neck! Or when they sent that Photoshop image of Diane Sawyer's ripped corpse where the dogs were eating her heart? Oh, man. That just killed. Literally millions, actually, since Teheran was bombed as a result, but you should have seen the look on your face! Predicted victim: It hardly matters. Let's say Gary Busey.

Bezoars

These are essentially large balls of hair that sit, undigestible, in the stomach. They are found in mentally blitzed-out people that, well, eat large quantities of their own hair, and they can kill you. If you eat enough hair. For myself, I'm just about ready to eat hair for the next ten years just out of gibbering despair. Won't you join me? I'm developing some really ritzy hair recipes! Hair-icots verts? It's beans and hair! Or Angel Hair Pasta? Boiled hair! (Disclaimer: May Not Contain Angels.) Predicted victim: Too many to name. I imagine that a good portion of the US population will be gnawing fretfully on their own hair as this year progresses.

Don't let me down, folks!

Thursday, 17 February
Odorono

I just got done watching The Daily Show, which started out with a piece on that hot new topic, bloggers in the news--or, rather, reporting the news. Shoutouts were given to Daily Kos and Atrios, among others (the supremely annoying Wonkette was even given a screen shot of her home page), cementing the notion that the dweebs have basically taken over. What is Nick Denton, after all, if not some hideous amalgam of Queer Eye, Real Sex and the New York Post?

I await the rise of the Mecha-Dweebs, whose nascence is already in evidence with the advent of Fucking Machines. (Look it up if you don't know, just not at work. [Summary for the lazy: fucking machines.])

Later on the program, for the usually lame interview segment, Stewart gabbed with Alan Cumming, who was ostensibly there to flog the obviously unwatchable movie Son of the Mask, but, happily, didn't. Instead, he and Jon spent some giggle-time discussing his new fragrance cleverly entitled "Cumming." I admit I laughed (better was the body lotion he plans to market called "Cumming All Over"), but a running spunk joke is only going to have limited mileage.

But I did think of several terrible jokes on my own! I present here some other celebrity fragrance suggestions.

Tom Smelleck

Magnum P.U.! Oh, lighten up, you goose! This scent will appeal to every hot-blooded mustachioed Republican who at heart just wants to capture the essence of a sweaty Hawaiian private investigator. Enlivened by high notes of salt spray, Corvette seat leather and John Hillerman.

Ashley Judd Hirsch--Shrew 'N Jew

This enticing concoction will have you wondering, "Am I on the private set of a horrible direct-to-rental movie?" These two relentlessly unbankable stars have teamed up to bring you an astonishingly pungent odor reminiscent of the unholy reek of Hollywood failure! Famed director Sidney Lumet says: "DIRECT yourself to the fragrance aisle and buy this stuff! Can I do another picture now?"

Alan Greenspan-Tasy

Fiscal miscalculation has never smelled so great! Take an olfactory journey with Alan as the hot sweat from your cleavage while you watch your IRA crater mixes with the undeniable scent of mishandled interest rates! (This product is not available for members of the EU, and besides they all smell bad anyway.)

Tom Shales' Unremitting Funk

T.V. party tonight, indeed! Black Flag's own Henry Rollins has proclaimed this new scent as "What the fuck are you talking about? Get that shit away from me. It smells like old hair." Mr. Shales' new fragrance will have everybody talking about you, possibly in a good way, though litigation suggests otherwise! Are you man enough to try this new fragrance before the FDA pulls it from the shelves?

Sterling Hayden's Purity Of Essence

Alan Cumming can market all he wants, but a real Man knows where to get his cologne. This product dries to a hard, scaly crust on the skin, just like a real man would expect, and shuns the fruitiness of the competitors; P.O.E. smells like Clorox and tastes like the Junior Prom, soldiers. Grab it and yank out a few drops, men; you won't regret it. Show those other fairy perfumes what real men like, and leave the spunk jokes out of it.

Wednesday, 22 December
Interlude (Present Day)

O Holiday Season! Or, as I like to think of it, GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY WAY Season, when I am annually moved to push people down, and would happily do so, were I not a meek little pussy who is easily beaten up.

It's not just me. Tonight we took a van ride with some friends-of-friends for a nice 'n dorky tour of the local neighborhoods that go crazy with the holiday decorations (including, horribly, "Candy Cane Lane," at which one house featured a fence with a charming Santa-figure outline done in lights. "Look!" I shouted, "That's where they shot Santa!").

Anyway, my friend K. was sitting in front of me, and I realized I had not yet bought him a gift. In fact, I hadn't the slightest idea of what to get him. So I leaned forward. "Look," I said, "what do you want for Christmas? Just tell me so I can go buy it." "Nothing," he replied. "Don't waste your money. I'm not getting you anything." He says this every year because he's a real pain in the ass, which is why I imagine we get along.

"Fuck you," I told him, getting into the holiday spirit. "I'm getting you something anyway." He snarled back, "Anything you get me I'm going to throw at you." I wondered briefly how much Kate Winslet would cost and how I would properly catch her, but then K. continued: "You know what? I'm serious. I don't want anything. Save the money and go volunteer somewhere good. That would be a cool thing." But I'm no sucker. "No," I said firmly. "I don't believe in that shit."

Yes, we really had this conversation. The holiday season is really a boon to assholes like me and K. because frankly, there's a lot of ammunition out there to play with.

Case in point, earlier today: On the way home from work I wandered up to Broadway to grab some stocking stuffers for the wife, which I found in a nice little store advertising a big 40% sale of all their shit, and grabbed a few things. Then I waited at the counter as the oaf before me hassled the shopkeeper about the startlingly ugly plant-thing he was buying for his presumably suicidal significant other ("Do you have a box? No? How about a bag? With tissue? Does it need watering? What if she wants to return it?" Dude. It's a stumpy little palm that will be dead in a month. You'll be lucky if you don't find it wedged up your ass in January). I waited patiently (by which I mean impatiently), and presently a woman came up to me bearing gloves.

"I'm getting these for my brother. He wants gloves, he said." (He was lying. Nobody wants gloves.) "What do you think?" She waved them at me. I stared at them; they were black and green suede. Gloves? Who is this broad? It was, of course, horrible.

"They're fine," I said lamely, and did not say, "But the point is, they're 40 percent off, right? Oh, and for God's sake, don't touch me."

"You think so?" she persisted, and then whapped me playfully with the gloves, touching me. I flinched. "He said he wanted gloves! I think they're nice." This was hopeless. I stood rigidly, deciding not to say anything else. She then found some votive candles. They were marked at fifty cents apiece.

"You think these are forty percent off?" she asked. There were signs all over the store saying "40% OFF ALL STOCK." "I assume so," I mumbled, managing to forget not to say anything else. My mind screamed at me. They're fifty fucking cents apiece! You could probably put a box of them in your coat and nobody would care! Please stop talking to me!

She kept talking to me. Soon she found this odious little keychain toy called "Mr. Wonderful." When you pressed Mr. Wonderful's ribcage, Mr. Wonderful said allegedly hilarious things like "Whatever you say, honey!" and "No, I don't mind doing the dishes!" and "I promise I won't come in your mouth like I do with those gutter whores!" She was delighted. "Have you seen this?" Did I have a choice? "You've got it right in your hand there, dontcha!" I nervously half-screamed.

Finally, I reached the counter and was rung up; the woman blithely edged next to me and began stacking her votive candles and Mr. Wonderfuls next to my stuff. I edged my crap away from hers, really wanting to leave. At that moment, the store's sound system began playing "Go Tell It On The Mountain." And the woman exclaimed, "This will get us in the spirit!" She began singing along, God help me, and doing a little hootchie dance.

Creeped out beyond all reason, I grabbed my shit and left. When I am an old man, old enough where people will say, "Aw, let the old duffer be, he's crazy, and shits his pants all the time" and all that, I do now swear: I will push people like her over. I might be a total pussy now, but when I get old and un-beat-up-able . . . that woman is going down.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, 06 August
Hold, Please

I'm sorry for the lack of posts; you see, it's been long night after long night in the park, sometimes until 11:00, trying to get this bitch of a show ready. Everyone's been killing themselves with 5-6 hour rehearsals, and frankly, everyone is exhausted. Lots of ghastly tech issues, dance steps to nail (or, in my case, to definitively not nail), last minute costume additions, final props, etc. It's been a real bear.

But it all comes down to this evening--Opening Night! The most exciting night for a new show! Theater in the park, vaudeville in the open air, patrons sitting on the clean grass! IT'S CLOBBERIN' COMEDY TIME!

It is raining heavily today, for the first time in a month.

Friday, 11 June
Nobody Remembers Eating Corn

Tonight as the wife and I watched The Daily Show, we were ostensibly treated to footage from the recent Tony Awards: it showed, incredibly, LL Cool J rapping onstage with the deathless, eerie, corn-joke-that-will-live-forever Carol Channing. (If you don't know the corn joke, the handy internet can probably help you out.) It was seriously "HOLY SHIT!" footage, and I literally--literally! (certain friends will appreciate this)--clutched my skull in horrified wonder. There was Commodore Ladies Love Cool James, spinning some rhymes and pretending like he never heard the word "Rollerball," and right next to him was this emaciated chicken neck clad in tinfoil doing a rather alarming kind of Frug.

The Tony Awards. Baffling. To tell the truth, I didn't even know when it ran. And, as far as I know, neither did any of my actor friends; that, or nobody was going to admit to it. The Tony Awards quite simply blow mangy dogs, and are of no relevance to anyone with a lick of sense. Hey, let's honor the BEST OF AMERICAN THEATER! And wouldn't you know it? Every year, it's to be found in New York City! What a strange phenomenon! Musicals? They're really GREAT! Especially piles of shit like "Wicked," which is a (by all reports) utterly mundane belt-fest based on a novel that is, in itself, a pile of shit. WHOOPEE! It is really a testament to the utter hubris of NYC/Broadway that these dreary awards can even pretend to have a whiff of credibility or gravitas. Winning a Tony is a lot like being the Great Neck Pork Queen--sure, you get a nice trophy; unfortunately, someday, others are bound to see it.

"Hugh Jackman! I remember you! You took off your shirt in some horrible play I saw!"

"Yeah, it's me. Listen, give yourself a break and go rent X-Men."

"What about Swordfish?"

"You're not listening. Rent X-Men."

In unrelated news, last Christmas (note that this is June, here), the wife received some gift cards, one of them from JC Penney's. So she did a little online shopping, and bought some clothes. This was horribly unwise, as it turned out. (I got a card myself, but I spent it on failsafe things like a spice rack and a DVD.) When she got her merchandise, it was rather gruffly shoved into plastic bags, which were then also gruffly shoved into plastic shipping bags, so the whole process of liberation of said clothes was sort of like peeling away thick sheets of dead skin cells in order to get at a tumor.

At the time--months ago--I remember her unveiling the goods. One horrible garment appeared to be built by angry, retarded gnomes; it was allegedly a blouse, but seemed to be constructed of the same sort of thin paper that bar coasters are made of. The gaily-colored print that seemed nice in the catalog looked, in reality, like a cheap shroud for a disliked florist. A pair of pants that she had found attractive had the texture of tent canvas. It was possibly the most dispiriting package of merchandise ever to be countenanced by humans. If someone put this crap into a space module, and it was found by aliens, they would probably think, "Holy Baltoods, Meat Unit BARL 4! We must endeavor to avoid these beings. Did you see these bras? They're made out of bark."

So the wife sent the horrible crap back. Months ago. (Remember, this is JUNE!) She simply asked for a refund, if possible, knowing that they might get snitty about a refund, as it was a gift card purchase from a third party. But hey, no problem, JC Penney--some time later--sent a refund check. Cool! No more canvas pants!

The check bounced. From JC Penney.

I'm in contact with Sondheim. He's all over writing some tunes for my notional show, such as "Itchy Ass" and "How To Stuff A Mild Bikini." We're going to rake the Tonys, I predict. All I need are Hugh Jackman and Carol Channing.

I wonder if we can work in a bit about corn.

Tuesday, 25 May
Down On The Corner

As I often do, I stopped on my way home from work at the corner store to pick up my usual bag o' health: beer, cigarettes, potato chips. (Sometimes jerky! People have told me for years that someday my metabolism would crap out, and I'd bloat up into something horrid, but I still hover at 150 pounds. Yay, my body is too poisoned and torpid to change!) The owner is a ridiculously garrulous man who has taken to greeting me loudly: "HELLO!" he screamed a while ago. "IT IS ABOUT TIME!" Hey, he loves me! I think, He counts the minutes between visits! Then someone else walked in. "HELLO!" he screamed again. "YOU ARE LIKE A ROBOT EVERY DAY!" Okay, he doesn't love me, I thought. He's just hilarious. Which is also great. He either really loves his job or merely puts up a really convincing front of enjoying the living shit out of greeting people into his ramshackle shop.

You know these places. They're sort of a hybrid of a normal grocery store and a flea market. Next to a couple lonely cans of Cream of Mushroom soup, you might find, say, a tin of shoe polish and some playing cards. Just in case, you know, a hungry grifter wandered in with scuffed loafers and a desperate need to round out a casserole recipe. Places like this have four dollar bottles of off-brand Italian dressing right next to a bin of incredibly cheap tube socks. And inevitably up front is a Lucite display case filled with complicated lighters, cigar guillotines, and butterfly knives.

Today I picked up my bunch of crap, and went to the counter, and I knew I was in trouble. There was a middle-aged lady in front of me, and she was buying lottery tickets. Lots of lottery tickets, some of the light cardboard stock ones under the counter, and some of the other ones that require keyboard entry on the giant machine by the register. Not knowing the strange incantations of all things lottery, I was instantly bored and also instantly wishing a bowel obstruction upon the woman. But she was fireproof in the way of people who do not care that they are making others wait, and she delivered a simply incredible stream of gibberish at My Great Counter Guy, who I must say handled everything with speed and aplomb. Even better, he recited her every request back to her in a harried voice, and in his haste, his accent became utterly impenetrable. So I bowed my head a little and just let the sound collage wash over me. While I had no idea what the fuck she was saying, his repetitions achieved a sort of tone poem feel.

"Okay, and now give me a dollar Lotto." (This was the only phrase I recognized from her.)

"DOLL LARDO!" the counterman sang. I shuffled my feet happily at the euphony of this.

She then examined the scratch tickets. "Three of the [unintelligible], two of the [unintelligible], and . . . one [unintelligible]."

"DIAZEPAM FUNGO BLOT WINDOW CREAM!" he howled ecstatically. He threw me an "I'm sorry, but what can I do?" glance over her shoulder, and I grinned. I could stand there for days listening to this performance.

This went on for some time, and the woman finally seemed to wrap things up. "Okay, and one of those poodle naps," she said, or something. Counterman confirmed: "BOODLEPAPS!" I desperately wanted to see what either "poodle naps" or "boodlepaps" could possibly translate to, but the sad ticket was lost in the wild sheaf of paper that had accumulated in front of the woman. She began clawing the tickets into no discernable order, and the shop guy tallied her damage: Fifty bucks.

She slid him a crisp fifty. I stared at this. Fifty bucks. Now, I'm all for people wasting their money on whatever the fuck they want--I did, after all, just get back from Vegas--but Jesus Christ. Fifty bucks on goddamn lottery tickets. I know for a good fact that my chances at the blackjack tables are a sight better than hers; hell, I know that the wife's chances at the roulette table are better than the lottery. It all of a sudden bummed me out, the whole spectacle.

She began to leave, still wrestling with the wad of unruly tickets, and the counterman said--a line I've heard before--"NO SMOKES?" He pointed amiably at the cigarette display behind him. The woman looked pained. "I don't smoke," she coldly replied, and went out the door.

I walked up to the counter, and the fellow rang up my items. "LARDO? MAYBE ICE CREEP?" He pointed to the Lotto machine and a freezer case, happily trying to upsell me. "No thanks," I said, "but I could use some Camel Lights." He plucked them out of the display case. "YEAH!" he screamed.

"Yeah," I said, "hit me."

Monday, 17 May
Other Circles Of Hell

THE CIRCLE OF PEOPLE WHOSE ELEVATOR STOPS ARE BEFORE MINE

Working on the 20th floor, there are a lot of these doomed souls. But wait! they cry, We can't help where we work any more than you can! While this is true, you could refrain from getting on the elevator when I'm using it, not to mention the time I waste waiting for you bastards to get done using it before the car finally wheezes its way up to me.

Listen, I'm not without sympathy. Some of you are smokers too, like you, Too Much Perfume, and you, Farty, and don't think I have forgotten you, Smokes So Impassively It's Kind Of Creepy. I understand that you probably meant me no trouble.

Unfortunately, this is my Hell, and I get to be all capricious and shit. You will spend eternity doing Theater 101 exercises. All righty! Get started playing Soundball. Then after about fifty years, I'll come back and teach you Mirror Exercises. Get to it!

Oh, and every now and then, harpies will rend your flesh. Later!

THE CIRCLE OF UNDERPERFORMING FANTASY BASEBALL PLAYERS

In the interest of being inclusive, I am defining "underperforming" as "for whatever reason, not living up to what Skot expected, no matter how ignorant his expectations, and consequently making him look stupid yet again in front of the other fantasy players." Yes, that includes the injured, Mr. Garret Anderson. I hear you. My back! My mystifyingly painful back that nobody can fix! I am deaf to your excuses. Take some laudanum. Threaten an osteopath. Rap a skull at midnight with an elf-bone. I need offense!

What's that, Mr. Barry Bonds? But nobody will pitch to me because I'm a freaky mutant who destroys baseballs! Tough. You should do what you have to do to get a hit, and if that means going out to the mound and beating it out of the fucking pitcher's hand while he stands there dumbly, you do it.

Do I hear indignant, haughty bleating? It can only be Mr. Derek Jeter! But I am not unlike Hermes when I run! And am I not a Dervish in the field? And like Narcissus, well . . . let's face it, I am fucking hot. You can't do this to me! Ah, but I can, Derek, and I will enjoy it, for you are such a tool. A really disappointing tool, like, say a keyhole saw. Who wants a keyhole saw? Nobody.

And that, Derek, is why your punishment will be worst of all. Mr. Anderson and Mr. Bonds will simply be forced to stare at photographs of Dick Cheney's lower teeth for all of eternity. Nothing but those horrible, gray little tombstones to keep them company while their minds slowly get eaten. But you! No, Derek, it will be far worse for you. You will simply spend every day, over and over into forever, losing your shortstop job to Alex Rodriguez. We'll be starting that soon.

Oh, I forgot. Gentlemen, periodically you will be visited by giant flying viruses that will flit into your ears, eat your eyes, and cause your innards to liquefy and then sluice out your anuses. Later!

THE CIRCLE OF ROADIES

I almost left roadies off the list, reasoning that it simply wasn't possible that these lurching vermin were actually human, but a scientist friend of mine showed me some illuminating MRIs and convinced me. Okay, they're human . . . after a fashion. But you can't tell me they're not hellbound.

Wait, dude, I hear the roadies cry--the ones who have dimly figured out what's going on--who's gonna unload these speakers? We have electrician's tape! Doesn't that count for anything? The roadies are weeping now, their greasy tears spilling onto their grimy t-shirts advertising bands nobody has ever heard of. It was all about the music, man!

Indeed. And so shall it forever be about music. Until the end of time, you will sit in a room smoking naught but girly menthol cigarettes, receiving no sweet blow-jobs, and will manufacture banjos. Then each night you will serenade the Hosts of Hell with soothing concertos by Philip Glass.

Whoops! Oh, and every now and then savage, fiery gorillas will pounce on you, eat your skin, and then shit foully into your mouths. Later!

THE CIRCLE OF EXPRESS LANE ABUSERS

Oh, dear. It wasn't enough that you dumped your basket full of SO MANY FUCKING THINGS in front of the express line cashier, was it? You know, the cashier who glared at you for failing to notice the 10 items or less sign? That one? You remember.

I know you remember, because that was the same time you took out your checkbook. In the express line. Now, I know that technically you're allowed to write a check . . . in the express line . . . but the point is, I hate you for writing a check in the express line, because it takes so fucking long, and have I mentioned that it's the express line? Denoting speed? So there you were, writing a check and then pausing to carefully note the purchase in your ledger and then calculating your remaining checking balance right there at the counter! Can't wait to get home to do that shit, because this is some strange Bizarro-store where receipts are routinely not given out! Surely you remember this.

I know you do, because it was right then, after you got done with your checkbook, as the cashier was handing you that mythical receipt, that you suddenly said, "Oh, and can I get five dollars in quarters?" Because you had suddenly noticed that this was a bank rather than a supermarket express lane. And not that you needed ten dollars in quarters! No! That would require the cashier to simply reach down and grab a roll. You needed five, requiring the cashier to count it all out. Now you must remember all this--I sure do--because when you got out your purse to get the five dollars, it was full of cash. I was right there; I saw! Which led me to wonder: Why the fuck were you writing a goddam check?

Oh, dear again. So many misdeeds. For your crimes, your vast amounts of self-absorption, I sentence you to an eternity of purest drear. You will only see the films of Sondra Locke and Ted McGinley. You will read only the novels of Piers Anthony and later Thomas Pynchon. You will listen only to smooth jazz and Metal Machine Music. You will smell only patchouli and Vick's Vap-o-Rub. And you will wonder how time, of which you once took little notice, ever got so long. That's when the mimes show up.

Oh, silly me. Almost forgot. Occasionally, you will be assailed by cactus demons who will shred your skin like fine lace, then roll your thrashing body around in kosher salt and cider vinegar.

Later!

Friday, 26 March
OXY! For fuck's sake!

[Television on. A mustachioed, blocky man runs onstage excitedly; he appears to be made entirely of solid meat, without any internal structure at all. He screams all the time, and is in no way appealing or enjoyable, much like Colin Quinn. He, in fact, is very nearly worse than Colin Quinn, but not quite, because that is impossible.]

THE POWER OF OXY! HAVE YOU HARNESSED THE POWER OF OXY?

[Studio silence.]

YOU ROTTEN FUCKS!

[Pause. He mops his meat-brow.]

I'm sorry. That was uncalled for. I have pituitary issues. Let's talk about oxygen--the power of OXY!

It's everywhere these days, isn't it? You've seen my detergent ads? The power of Oxy gang-rapes the fuck out of those wine stains, huh? It practically tapes their mouths shut and violates those stains! And those stains were asking for it. You know they were. And don't even get me started on the carpet cleaners! Oxy makes those carpet stains its prison bitches! Ground-in dirt? Let me tell you something: ground-in dirt sucks Oxy's cleaning power off whenever Oxy is bored.

And Oxy isn't stopping here! Fuck no! Oxy won't rest until Oxy is like fucking Galactus! [The yammering asshole presses his terrible face against the camera lens ominously.] Oxy won't be happy until it eats your living asshole. YOU. THE CONSUMER.

[Suddenly gratingly breezy again.] For example! We've got Oxy Arch Supports! Using--you know it!--the power of oxygen! Let me demonstrate! [Cut to a sobbing, gagged man strapped down on to a gurney.] This man suffers from fallen arches. But with these new Oxy Arch Supports--[cut to the man's shuddering feet, which are clad in ugly sneakers]--no more podiatry! [The yammering asshole suddenly smashes the bound man's feet with a sledge hammer. The victim screams piteously, and thrashes like a flounder.] See? See how I introduce the oxygen? [After a few more enthusiastic blows with the sledge, we mercifully move away.]

But that's not all. The POWER OF OXY is too potent for just housecleaning and hobbling! No, not at all! Oxy has now been introduced into our new line of home cooking. May I introduce . . . Oxy Pizza! [A stacked woman nervously brings out a frozen pizza, holding it as if it were radioactive.] This thing is . . . thanks, Stella . . . well, it's fucking crazy awesome. I wish I could fuck this pizza! I WANT TO OXY-FUCK THIS PIZZA! [The yammering asshole awkwardly mounts the frozen pizza and makes disturbing pelvic gestures. He screams like a wounded animal.] OXY-COCK! OXY-COCK! [Offstage directors wave frantically. The yammering asshole regains his composure and continues, climbing down from the counter.]

But the POWER OF OXY is not limited to cleaning aids, foot repair, or kitchen seasonings. Not at all. Oxy is also making inroads with the medical community. [The yammering asshole suddenly becomes grave.] Many Americans suffer from hemmorhoids. Maybe you--or a loved one--are one of these people. Well, Oxy is here to help. Do you want the power of oxygen to help you? Because our new OxySuppositories can do just that. Let me demonstrate. I have piles like you wouldn't believe. They look like Halloween in Detroit. [Camera shot of the yammering asshole removing his pants and inserting a suppository. Screams of terror are heard from the studio audience.]

Yes, it IS exciting! Never before has the power of oxygen been harnessed for rectal care! [He proudly waves his ass.] Can you at home hear that? It sounds like a pound of bacon in a skillet! [Awful popping noises are heard via enhanced audio.] It's literally cooking away the damaged tissue! I wish you could smell this, folks. It smells like . . . home. [The yammering asshole adopts a dreamy expression.]

So, you've seen the power of OXY. It cleans garments. It relieves terrible foot pain. It will enhance your pizza experience. At it will ream out your diseased ass like nobody's business with God's own wildfire.

Can you afford not to buy OXY? CAN YOU? My bubbling ass says . . . you can't.

Friday, 06 February
The Elderly Go Out On The Town

This evening, in a rare instance of non-hermitage (hermitude? hermitization? hermitesse?), the wife and I ventured out to attend a birthday celebration for our friend E. E. turned 29 today.

29. That horrible little bastard. I resent the young. Which is why I offered to buy him a drink. "Jack and coke!" he said, happily accepting the offer. So I bought him poison. Yep. The bartender said, "What can I get you?" I replied, "Poison. What do you have in the way of excruciating poison?" He stared at me for a moment, and then said, "Someone's still under 30, huh?" "Yeah." I started to cry. "Hey, hey," said the bartender, suddenly solicitous. "Don't be like that. You want poison? I understand. You want me to pour him a shot of Jaegermeister?" I thought about it, but in the end, I couldn't do it. It was just too cruel. "No," I snuffled, "just give me a damn Jack and coke." The bartender smiled sympathetically. "You got it." I waited while he made the drink, and then finally said, "Listen. Would you mind spitting in it?"

The place E. had chosen was a genial enough dive up on Phinney Ridge (neighborhood motto: Come For the Torturous Hills, Stay For the Blandness!) called The Tin Hat. Yeah, I don't know either, but I of course immediately mentally renamed it The Tinfoil Hat, and hoped that the patrons inside would be complaining about the influence of the Orbital Mind Control Lasers. No such luck; instead--even better--they had pinball, and seats with duct tape on them, and dubious whore-lighting, and a DJ who spun (according to the posters) "classic country" on Thursdays. Which was only slightly mystifying for those of us who didn't happen to know that the Beastie Boys' "Intergalactic" was classic country. I'm glad to see that our nations's staunchest rednecks are finding their roots again with Jewish white-boy hip-hop, where it all began.

It was a nice evening. I played a few games of pinball, and was horribly reamed by both the vicious magnets inside the board as well as my simply hopeless play; I remember once being pretty good at pinball, but now, at the advanced age of 34, my moaning nervous system is no longer as agile as it once was, so I could only fitfully pound the flippers, erratically beating them in 7/8 time. No longer a good pinball player, I comforted myself with the thought that I could still be a drummer for Primus.

Later, after giving up the pinball debacle, I had a nice discussion with friends L. and P., and we discussed non-actorish people and the silly things they say. I maintained that the worst possible conversational gambit that we normally encounter is: "Hey, you're an actor? That's cool! You know, I did some acting in high school!" Then said person might horribly go on to describe the vertiginous joys of flogging the hell out of their nonspeaking role in The Star Spangled Girl.

Wow! That's fucking great! You know, I did some algebra in high school. It was really rewarding; in fact . . . don't tell anyone, but I can still recite the quadratic equation! Tell me, do architects have to suffer people who say things like, "Architecture? RAD! Man, I once threw rocks at a beaver dam when I was a freshman. You know?"

Maybe they do. I hope so, anyway. Me, I just throw rocks at 29-year-olds and serve them bespittled drinks. It's not much, but I'm content.

Thursday, 22 January
You're Lost, Little Boys

You're going to hate yourself if you don't check out my friend Johnny talking about how he used to torture his siblings.

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.

Anyway.

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, 29 August
Men II Boyz

Conversation with my barista this morning (he kills me; he's also in a band whose name escapes me, but it's like "The Throw-Ups" or something):

He: Went to a bachelor party last night.

Me: Oh, yeah? [Note sparkling banter on my part throughout.]

He: Yeah. Bunch of guys sitting around watching porn. So me and my buddy left to go to the Lusty Lady. We were like, "Come on, let's go see real girls!"

Me: Oh, yeah? [Yes. I am The Man.]

He: Yeah! Sticky floors, man. [This isn't really what I want to hear from the guy making my coffee.]

Me: I've never been to the Lusty Lady.

He: You've only got six months, man.

Me: Oh, yeah? [I hate me.]

He: Yeah. The one in San Francisco is already down, and I guess they're losing their lease here too.

Me: Oh, wow. I, uh, I guess I should go soon.

He: You've got to, man! [He gives me my coffee, and I turn to go.]

Me: Maybe I will.

He: Sticky floors, man!

Me: Yeah. [And at this point, for no coherent reason, I raise my fist in a kind of Black Panther/solidarity gesture. Right: We straight white males have to stick together for porn! As I exit the door, I hear again:]

He: STICKY FLOORS!

So basically my life is a Noel Coward play rewritten by Larry Flynt.

Thursday, 14 August
Captive Audience

(Phone rings.)

"H-hello?"

"Hello, may I speak to the person who makes decisions in your household?"

"Uh . . . I . . . (muffled sobs) . . . hold on a second . . . "

"Oh, I . . . ah, okay . . . "

(fervent whispers, muffled)

"I . . . I'm being held hostage. He, uh, the guy holding me . . . he says he's in charge. So I guess you want him, but he's busy."

"You . . . you . . . what?"

"I'm being held hostage, so you have to talk to him. What's this about? He says he'll kill me."

"God, I . . . look . . . God. I was . . . I was just calling about your long distance plan, but--"

"Hold on."

(more fervent whispers)

"Okay, he's interested, so hold on. He's just hanging up with the negotiators."

"No! I can . . . oh, God . . . "

"Hi, this is Tom. I don't have much time here, but talk to me about your international rates. Like, Honduras or maybe Cuba."

"Ah . . . ah . . . sir, I . . . ah . . . "

"Oh, hell, you're going to have to call back, I've got tear gas to worry about here."

(Click.)

Tuesday, 01 July
The Magical Elevator Where Everybody Told The Truth

20th floor. Skot enters.

Skot: I just spent two hours doing no work at all.

19th floor. Former Frat Guy enters.

FFG: Hey.

Skot: Hey.

FFG: I've been looking at porn.

Skot: I'm going to the smoking gulag for a time-wasting cigarette.

FFG: I detest smokers.

Skot: You look like Abercrombie and Fitch threw up on you.

17th Floor. Pinched Middle-Aged Woman enters.

FFG: Hello. You wear so much perfume that I wonder if you will be carried off by bees.

PMAW: I'm sorry, I don't recognize other people's status as actual human beings.

Skot: I'm afraid I just farted.

FFG: It cuts the perfume.

PMAW: I need to make a call on my cell phone that could easily wait until I'm off this elevator.

14th Floor. Cheap Suit enters.

Skot: Hi. You have a cheap suit.

PMAW: I will tell you uninteresting things about my cats.

CS: The odd odors in this elevator are suppressing my urge to engage in frottage.

FFG: On more than one occasion, I have used the term "homo."

8th Floor. Acquaintance Girl enters.

AG: When we get to the smoking gulag, I will bother you with awkward banter that will only emphasize the tenuousness of our threadbare friendship.

Skot: I understand. I will feign interest in your awkward banter while manufacturing elaborate fantasies that involve your spectacular death.

FFG: I rarely have any real use for my pickup truck other than commuting.

PMAW: I am raising my voice on my cell phone conversation to indicate irritation with the other riders.

CS: I give nothing to charity, ever.

Garage Level.

PMAW: Goodbye. I wear too much pink.

CS: Goodbye. I'm going to drive in the carpool lane.

AG: On the way to the smoker's gulag, I will inquire about the one person we have in common, much like every other day.

Skot: I will make a dramatic show of being engrossed in my book in the vain hope that you will somehow take a hint.

FFG: Goodbye. I have a genuine interest in watching Everybody Loves Raymond.

Skot: I hate that I have to be civil to any of you, because I'm kind of a misanthropic asshole who imagines terrible things about people I doesn't know.

FFG: I think you're a homo.

(Exeunt.)

Thursday, 26 June
Bad Acts

Tomorrow night I'll be performing at Seattle's own Union Garage theater (the venue for bipolars! It's either blazing hot or colder than Neptune!) doing a little thing called XTL: eXtreme Theater League. It's a one-night event that I've done before; basically, the idea is a sketch comedy beatdown night a la the WWF, where sketches or performers are pitted against one another to the audience's pitiless boos or riotous accolades, sometimes in the same sketch, and the point of most of the sketches is that they be wretched. Deliberately wretched, so the contest is: who can suck the most the fastest and the funniest? It's all in good fun, and since the thing starts at eleven, you're basically guaranteed actors who have been drinking, adding to the general atmosphere of teetering mayhem. Sort of like Guy Fawkes directing Paul Lynde in Star Spangled Girl: unthinkably terrible, but certainly mesmerizing.

I (and the wife) are teamed up with my friend V. (the same V. who routinely perpetrates shattering horrors on innocent karaoke songs); she has gamely dug up a 10-minute show she wrote in college about her sexual issues, and if that doesn't already have you reaching for the Vicodin, let me just tell you: you have no idea. It's simply incredible, and it's a testament to V.'s good sense of humor that she is allowing this horror to be unleashed, because when I say it is bad, I mean it is Bad; Badness permeates its every line, its every page; it is End of Days Bad; it is apocalyptically bad. What I'm trying to say is, it's pretty bad.

(In the unlikely event that some of my tens of readers are XTL participants, you might want to read this later, but I'm not really spoiling anything. I just couldn't wait to get this down.)

Like I said, it was V. "working through" some sexual issues at the time--that hazy-dazy college time where boys discovered Better Falling Down Through Chemistry and girls discovered that they Had Issues. Hence, it has no less than 4 (four) gratuitous menstrual references. It has Barbie Allegories. It has Horrible Windy Monologues. And, my favorite, it has a character named Skeeter.

But there's no way I can do it justice by just describing it . . . for one thing, the thing possesses a kind of multivariate badness: it is bad on so many levels and in so many different ways . . . Christ, I don't know. It's like a colony of badness, all living there desolately on the page.

Hopeless woman-bonding-with-her-body prose?

Ow ow ow cramp! Bad cramp. Bad! Ea-sy . . . easy does it. Ahhh, good cramp. I will end the desire to make a [booty] run with a period. It will flow out of me by way of vagina.

Check! Incomprehensible purple imagery?

I am lying with an android. I will peel off his flesh-colored fake mechanical arm and slink back home.

Check! Hilariously clanking "natural" dialogue?

Kyle: Wanda, I hope you don't mind that I am indulging in some of your Apple Jacks.

Wanda: That's fine. So how are they?

Kyle: These Apple Jacks are crunchy and delicious.

Holy fuck you better say Check!

And honestly, this is only the merest of sips from these brackish waters, and those waters run very, very deep, and tomorrow night, I'll be drowning in it.

Should be fun.

Friday, 13 June
I Love You, Bruce Willis

Now that the DVD of Tears of the Sun are out, commercials have once again started running, cajoling me to buy this film that nobody wanted to see in the first place. At one point in the commercial, Bruce Willis screams out to his soldiers, "HOLD THE LINE!" And, of course, because of my appalling and apparently unkillable fascination with all things Toto, I have to scream right back at Bruce, "LOVE ISN'T ALWAYS ON TIME!"

Whoa whoa whoa.

Tuesday, 03 June
I've Unfortunately Got Mail

I collected the mail when I got home today like normal, and also like normal, it was a bunch of crap. One item was one of those free weekly circulars or whatever, you know: YourFocus or Spotlight! or The Weekly Whack-Off, something like that, filled with dull celebrity blowjobs and "Know Your Town Parks!" puffery. As I was mirthlessly adding it to the pile of future recyclo-corpses, my eyes skimmed over the back page, and I saw the very odd headline:

Q & A: Roller Blades

What the fuck? I looked again: duh. It of course really said "Q & A: Ruben Blades," and my brain had just gone wobbly for a moment. But then I got to thinking that it would be kind of funny to read what I had originally imagined, so I'm taking a stab at it.

Q & A: Roller Blades

Skot: So, Roller Blades, how's life treating you these days?

Roller Blades: This is the single worst idea you have ever had in your life, and you should stop now.

Skot: Yeah, I'm going to go fall in a crevasse now.

The End.

Thursday, 29 May
Holy War

O iMac! Flawless iMac!
How your graces have
Been trumpeted while I
Have owned you! You

Were given to me by
My father, who declared,
"Swounds! My son,
This is a mighty machine
That gives no plaint, nor

Argument, nor anything of
Discolor. It shall serve you well,
And displays much porne." It was
This that I thought on, as I
Composed a post, just now.

Moments ago, it lay on my
Screen, a lovely thing,
A swan of uncommon beauty,
But unfortunately swimming,
Unbeknownst to me, on a pond
Of sentient, deceitful shit.

My swan is, I mourn, dead and ugly.
Gone. Eaten by the angry, traitorous
Shit that lives and lives not, for
The iMac is alive and not alive,
Canny and mechanical, and,
Finally, an abrasive on my tender cock.

Fuck you, gentle iMac, you kicker
Of slight balls, thou eggbeater of
My goddamn fucking nuts. You siezed
Up like a chilly epileptic when I asked
For nothing but internet access,

And my thousand-word post died
Like the career of Eddie Murphy.
Fuck you, shitpond of computers,
Whose vaunted uncrashability
Is belied by your feculent malevolence.

Soon I will consign you to the grave.
You will inhabit a landfill somewhere
Close to Bothell, and I will don an ebon
Cloak; and mourn the shit-consumed
Post that fed your angry stomach.

(Dedicated to A Very Fine Post, forever lost, and which I will try and resurrect tomorrow. While the post remains dead and gone, however, it may soothe its troubled soul to know that, upon its death, I kicked the ridiculous shit out of an innocent kitchen drawer as a gesture of grief and honor.)

Friday, 18 April
Being And Somethingness

Tomorrow the fiancee gets the whole bridal shower treatment, only I know that it's not going to be the usual deal, knowing my friends. She'll be gone the whole day, which leaves me more or less on my own for entertainment. I'm merely speculating, but let's visualize the two days:

11:00

FIANCEE and fearsome bunch of wild-eyed girls head out for mimosa-fueled brunch. There is much squealing.

SKOT remains in bed. There is hopefully no squealing of any kind.

1:00

FIANCEE and entourage sack an unsuspecting glamor-y place and loudly demand mud baths, manicures and "some fucking red wine wouldn't killya." They wave twenties around until the staff snaps to.

SKOT, finally unable to ignore the activity of the rest of the fucking world, gets out of bed.

3:00

FIANCEE et al. head to the waterfront and commandeer a boat. They spend the next few hours chasing terrorized seals around Puget Sound while shrieking "Cute! Cute!" By now tequila might have materialized.

SKOT, wearing ratty bathrobe, stares emptily at a baseball game, casually noting the deathly performances of his fantasy league players.

5:00

FIANCEE and her roving band of madness descend on an innocent restaurant for much-needed nourishment. They look like a band of deranged, but adorable, harpies.

SKOT, wearing ratty bathrobe, stares emptily at a baseball game, clutching a Bloody Mary, coming to enjoy his fatalism.

8:00

FIANCEE and the rest whoop it up at a male strip joint, and howl madly at all the dancing sausages. The dancers twitch nervously at the group of maenads, and caution each other backstage, "Watch out, man, those crazy bitches are fast."

SKOT, noticing that his body has started devouring its own tissue to live, reluctantly showers and goes to find fast food. Tragically, he finds it, and ruminates on the depressive qualities of the phrase "Taco Bell."

10:00

FIANCEE, possibly half-crocked, wanders home and begs for a glass of water. She sprawls limply on the couch and tosses a tattered, purloined g-string on to the floor. "What a great day," she sighs.

SKOT, having just finished up around nine hours of sedentary inactivity sprinkled here and there with cocktail breaks, says, "Same here."

Tuesday, 15 April
Now More Worthless Than Ever!

Listed on BlogShares

I was anxious about posting this before, because it made me feel kind of icky, but now that my "stock" has rocketed straight into a toilet near you, I could hardly resist.

INVEST IN ME! I'M A FIDUCIARY VAMPIRE!

I have no idea why it tickles me so that my valuation suddenly went all shit-eaty. I haven't seen this kind of shocking ghastliness since my last three fantasy league teams.

Wednesday, 02 April
Naked Women I Have Not Known

As the wedding day approaches, I get asked one question quite frequently, and rightly so, because it is, of course, the most important issue surrounding a man about to embark upon the great adventure of marriage: Are you going to have strippers at your bachelor's party? I've discussed this many times with my best man, and I can assure you that the answer is, Christ, no. For a lot of reasons.

There's two ways to go about the whole stripper thing, of course. One is to hole up with your buddies at one of their houses and then hire one to come over. This, while workable in theory, is utterly impossible to even countenance in practice, because, you see, I would die. There we would be, gripping our beers and smoking our cigars, because hey, you need to max out on the oinkery on these solemn occasions, and then the stripper would come in and start doing her thing, peeling off her cop costume or French maid's costume or Freemason costume or whatever, and then she'd come over to me and look me right in the eye while I looked her right in the anything else and then with a noise not unlike that of a bursting champagne cork, my head would blast right off my neck as the backpressure of shame and embarrassment sent it through the roof and into a graceful parabola over the Seattle night before plunging unceremoniously through the windshield of some innocent traveler. Story at eleven: Stripper incident kills two. So that's out.

The other obvious method for stripper-viewing is, duh, going to a strip club. Well, that's not going to happen either, because I live in the dumb State of dumb Washington, whose state law ridiculously prohibits the presence of alcohol in its strip clubs. A strip club with no alcohol. That makes a lot of fucking sense; it's like building a church and then prohibiting the presence of bibles. Look, morons, guys who are willingly paying money to go watch naked girls that they cannot touch don't want to be lucid. Lucidity spoils everything! We know we don't get to fuck these girls, so all we are now is just mopey assholes sitting dolefully with $7 soda pops and the creeping, unblottable realization that you're actually just a bunch of guys all sitting around waiting to masturbate later. Neat!

It wasn't this way in Oregon, where I attended college. They have sensible strip clubs in Oregon, and since I was in college, I of course went to many. Some of the most horrible things happened to me in these places, and you know what? They were fun! You know why? Mostly, booze! Booze simply allows you to dull that part of your rational mind that, unimpaired, keeps reminding you of the fundamentally weird and perverse fact that you are in a room with a bunch of beautiful, naked women, some of whom are doing some very odd things indeed. For example, my friend N. and I were in some charmless boob-hole one night, watching a fetching lass do her thing. The dance floor was ringed by a raised bar, where N. and I sat drinking our beers and watching, and for some reason, the fetching lass caught my eye. I put my beer down and put a tented dollar in front of me--yes, ma'am, here is my money. She ambled over. "Kitty looks thirsty. Thirsty kitty?" I jauntily replied, "Ah heh heh heh. Ah ha." "Thirsty kitty! Here, kitty kitty kitty!" And then she swiftly leaned down towards me, her face six inches from mine, and casually dunked her right breast right into my lager glass. Straightening up just as quickly, she then flicked the beer foam off of her nipple into my face. "Thirsty kitty!" she squealed once more before grabbing my buck and moving on. The bar roared while I sat, shocked into stillness for a moment, before joining in the laughter and audibly, and unsuccessfully, wondering if perhaps I could get a new beer.

If this whole episode had happened with, say, 7-Up, I probably just would have shot myself in the head outside the bar, with a note pinned to my chest reading, "TOO LUCID TO DEAL."

Another episode on a different night will back me up on this. It was the night I simultaneously jeopardized and saved my own life. And it was in a strip club. I was with N. again--he was my roommate--and we were just hanging out watching the flesh. Next to us were some easily identified frat apes, decked out in their Greeky sweatshirts and ball caps, howling like hell and living it up. Whatever. But then I noticed that the guy sitting right next to me was keeping his wallet on the bar. His attention, of course, was on the dancers, but mine wasn't, at least not all of it. I drained one beer and started another. The wallet was still there. I drank. I watched.

Then I simply took the wallet and put it in under my coat. Easy as pie. I drank another beer. I was cool as a cucumber; I could have walked out any time, but I just sat there and watched the strippers and waited. At one point, N. finally noticed me smirking and raised an eyebrow at me, so I head-jerked towards the guy sitting next to me and then flashed N. the wallet. He stared for a minute and then said in a low tone, "Jesus Christ. Are you fucking nuts?" I laughed and shook my head, while N. developed a startling case of knuckle-whiteness as he clutched the bar. "We've got to get the fuck out of here!" he hissed. Probably not a bad idea, I thought.

"HEY! MY WALLET'S GONE!"

Too late. N. looked like he'd just swallowed a mouthful of spinal fluid. I remained serene, the false calm of the pickled, that ethereal bonelessness that comes with just the right number of beers, and swiveled over as if concerned for the young man's plight. He was steadily careening down the Purple-Faced Path of Pissed-Offedness, and making a good ruckus. "My WALLET was RIGHT HERE! SOMEBODY grabbed my WALLET!" Fortunately, the din of the place was monstrous, so the scene he was making was pretty much inaudible to anyone not within about eight feet of us, but it wouldn't be long before someone was summoned, searches would be made, etc., so something had to be done. I stood up. And tossed his wallet back onto the bar in front of him.

He shut up, stared at the wallet, and then looked up at me, clearly Not Getting What The Fuck Just Happened. I could feel N.'s body temperature drop several degrees behind me. The other frat guys were kind of doing a complicated basketball game-watcher's head routine, their eyes going from wallet to other guy to me and back again, cycling. This only lasted a second or so.

Then I put on a huge easy grin and, not quite believing it myself, clapped him on the back with hideous bonhomie. "HAW HAW HAW!" I laughed, "You should see your face! Sorry about that, man, I couldn't resist! You gotta keep an eye on your wallet, you know? Didn't mean to freak you out, I was just playing around." Friendliness and hail-fellow-well-met good cheer all over the fucking place, and I swear to God that for all that was happening, I was calm as hell. The guy had his fists bunched up, but I think that was residual from the loss of his wallet. He was still staring at me. "You took my wallet?" he said, with the tone of a child asking if unicorns were real. "I was just playin', man. I didn't go anywhere with it!" Big grin. "C'mon, I'll buy you a drink!" N. was still asphyxiating behind me, for good reason: there were five of them and two of us, and we were total wusses to boot. The guy stared a tiny bit longer and then said, almost truculently, but not quite, "You shouldn't grab a man's wallet, dude." He sat down. "I know," I bellowed, "it was just kind of funny!" "I guess," he said, his attention rapidly returning to the dancers. He put his wallet in his back pocket. I bought him a beer. And then N. and I left.

We got in the car and sat for a pallid moment. N. said, "I can't believe you just did that." I said, "I know." He started the car. "You're fucking stupid," N. said, "but that was pretty cool."

Try that with 7-Up.

Monday, 24 March
Prance! Prance For Me, Celebrities!

Yesterday the fiancee and I did the big obvious thing and watched the Oscars; a couple friends of ours have a large annual party, so a couple dozen of mostly theater people got together for an old-fashioned evening of unwise pre-Monday drinking and outraged howling at the television set. We also participated in the usual voting pool, where we both naturally lost. E., the little bastard who won, had set the tone of the evening earlier by showing up with his "theme dish:" a half-case of "About Schmidts."

J. and S., our hosts, were of course also enabling our profligate behavior; unfortunately, so was I. The house drink of the night was Manhattans, and I had brought along a couple quarts of Bloody Mary mix and a jug of vodka; there was also lots of beer, not to mention certain people other than myself making stealthy trips out to the balcony clutching lighters and sinister pipes. (Of course, by "stealthy" I mean "publicly;" a la, "I'm gonna go get high. Anyone want to come?")

The food was also good. There was fondue, and cheese and sausages, and at one point my friend C.--who had proudly started drinking as early as possible--hauled out a homemade deep-dish pizza that looked like a fucking geological core sample of the Umbrian countryside. In addition, our host J. is an aspiring pastry chef, so he kept rolling out various fiendish tarts and choco-whatsits and all sorts of addling sweets. So we weren't hurting for food and drink, unless one was in search of something remotely healthy, in which case that someone would have been laughed at raucously and then dragged out onto the balcony, and then probably would have had a belladonna suppository forced on them, or something equally deranged.

So the Oscars eventually started, and with it of course came the real sport: viciously mocking everything about them. C. got the ball rolling early on when he spotted the very pregnant Catherine Zeta-Jones (like you could avoid the photographer's loving downshots of her rollicking uberbreasts), and shouted, "Hey, she's not thin! Lose some weight, fattie!" On the other side of the equation, I noticed a certain cooling-off of my longstanding crush on Renee Zelwegger (which originated with Bridget Jones' Diary), because she now looks like a piece of utility grade flank steak with a smile-shaped klieg light mounted on it, blasting out THIN-RAYS all over fucking creation, because Christ knows that a dry, desiccated woman is the only kind of tolerable woman. Sigh.

Anyway, things proceeded apace, and we were having a good time; we enjoyed Steve Martin's calculated viciousness, for the most part, and suffered through all the contest categories that we had utterly no idea how to vote for: short form animation, sound editing, most enthusiastic fluffer, etc. And also the no-brainers, such as visual effects, where even on the small screen it was obvious that The Two Towers made Spider-Man look like it was made by hydrocephalic, piebald donkeys. Foreign films? None of us had seen any of them, of course, not because we wouldn't enjoy them, but because when you do a bunch of shows it makes it hard to get out and see any fucking movies in the first place, and when it comes to choosing between Chicago and, say, Klimt et Pjuk der Gotterdammerung, what do you suppose your average actor is going to pick? Unless you're my friends K. and E., who delight in getting stoned and going to see horrors like Dude, Where's My Car?, an experience that in my opinion still counts as seeing a foreign film.

Then, as everyone now knows, including people trapped alive under miles of glacial ice, the Michael Moore Thing happened. It was another no-brainer vote for Best Documentary, and we waited suspenselessly for his name to be called, and plus nobody in the fucking world saw any of the other films anyway, so it was, and here came good old professionally pugnacious Mike, jowling up to the mic and wasting no time in unleashing his barbless screed to a suddenly booing audience. My friends, lefties all--as am I, mostly--loved it and cheered him on, but it made me sad and angry and despairing. Is this guy the best we can do? He's just a carping, bloviating sack of crap, a tiresome pedagogue loudmouthing his way into the public arena with hoary nonjokes and toothless nips at our Prez about "fictitious elections" and duct tape references. Fresh, tough stuff, Mike! It really raises the level of discourse! The man is our very own fucking David Horowitz or Rush Limbaugh, a bomb-throwing little paper tiger whose own blast shielding of arrogance and attention-whoring provides the only protection against burning up from his own heat--though of course, precious, precious little light. If we're taking wan cheer in this guy and his cock-waggling, I'm just going to go to bed for the next few administrations.

Anyway. Sorry, I've been doing that all day, and I think it's out of my system.

So the evening went on, and with a bit more pizzazz than usual in the WHAFUCK? department. For example, Adrien Brody: WHAFUCK? This one knocked pretty much everyone right in the gut, including him, as his face seemed to register about as much hope as Diane Lane had alloted herself for the evening: none. It sure blew me away; I didn't see The Pianist, natch, but I had pretty much written off the entire field anyway after I saw Daniel Day Lewis in Gangs of New York, which was one of the most ferocious performances I'd ever seen. But Mr. Brody seems like a nice chap, and it was kind of endearing when he absentmindedly swatted away the annoying flybuzz of the orchestra's "You're done now" swelling with an annoyed, "Cut it out!" and then placidly continued on with his say, while the conductor stood around wondering who the fuck this anemic little shoe-pisser was.

And then of course the final WHAFUCK? was the Roman Polanski nod for Best Director, which brought a massive standing O, led by Marty Scorcese, who apparently doesn't mind the decades-long cornholing he's been receiving from these bastards, but never mind, POLANSKI! And poor Rob Marshall sat there with Harvey Weinstein lurking behind him whispering things like "I'll eat your head if you show emotion," and everyone else wondering who the fuck Rob Marshall was and where he came from, and secretly knowing, "Back to oblivion for you, you poor bastard. Harvey's done with you and now he's going to push you off the ice floe." He'll show up in a couple years on IMDB with credits like L.A. Doughnut Girls and Beckett's Revenge with Tom Sizemore.

Finally, it was all over, and we sat around the living room like catatonics for a bit before people started realizing that it was 9:00 or so, and that we'd been drinking for hours, and we had to get to fucking work in the morning. The aftermath to an event like the Oscars or the Super Bowl is a lot like what I imagine the end of a porn shoot is like: people are shuffling around with their heads down, reality seeping back in to addled brains, mumbling about cleaning up and needing to get home to feed the dog. And then in the morning, America's productivity takes a massive plunge as millions of muzzy-headed people listlessly fuck up their daily routines and gingerly sip coffee. That massive hit the stock market took today? That was our fault. That's right. Me and my couple dozen friends. Who says a few people can't make a difference?

Thursday, 20 March
I'm Hungry. Let's Eat The Young.

"Reality TV" will of course burn itself out, but it will probably get worse before it gets better, if that's at all conceivable. I think I'm right on this; I know, right now we're beseiged with ghastly things, from "Fear Factor: The Wonder Years," which shows Fred Savage rolling around in a room full of thumbtacks to "Who Wants To Marry That Guy From Picket Fences?", which features a haggard-looking Darva Conger steadfastly refusing to indulge "whodat?" actor Costas Mandylor's penchant for cleansing enemas. And yet, all of these shudderingly awful spectacles are still more appealing than watching network war coverage. "And now, more blurry things turn bright orange and smoke. Brought to you by Colgate."

Here's what has to go first though: the fucking kids. Ever since "American Idol" hit the U.S. (ripped off from the identically suicide-pact-inducing Brit hit "Pop Idol;" I'd like to say it's another example of America ruining another country's fun idea, a la "Changing Rooms" or "Iron Chef" but this show was imported more or less intact and pre-ruined), we've seen a sudden disturbing ancillary phenomenon that can be classified as Those Cute Fucking Leather-Lunged Kids! Since it's never too early to start destroying the lives of our children, first "Star Search" was exhumed, fortunately without the shambling corpse of Ed McMahon, who nonetheless remains conveniently brined should we ever need him. Then I started seeing ads for "America's Most Talented Kid," or whatever it's called. And thus the sudden infestation of our TV screens of tiny, ostensibly cute little fucking buggers screaming Whitney Houston tributes until their platelet counts drop into the low ten thousands and the weaker ones discreetly expire offstage due to massive thrombocytopenia as their unclotting blood seeps out of their throats. Guess you just didn't WANT IT ENOUGH, little Chantalle! Let's hear it for Deron, the world's only four-year-old chainsaw juggler! Ouch, Deron! Watch your femoral! Cleanup on soundstage four!

As hateable as these kids are (and let's not pretend they're unhateable just because of their youth; think Mary Kate and Ashley), they are almost certainly victims. But so what? America hates victims all the time. Sacco and Vanzetti. The Rosenbergs. Nancy Kerrigan. We hated the fuck out of all of them, not out of any provable rational ideology or reasoning, but more out of the gut notion that these people, no matter what the circumstance, were really just kind of fucking irritating. Anarchists? Commies? Figure skaters? Fuck those whiners. It's easy to understand. But I think I might have a solution.

It's a TV concept: "World's Most Awful Stage Parents." It's got it all: reality TV, incredibly awful people, child abuse, psychological trauma, venality, self-delusion, Hollywood. This can't fucking miss. Imagine the footage: you don't see the poor, miserable children hoofing it around the stage as if hypnotized by a Coney Island magician, just the parents, before and after. "Corey," the mother's tone full of venemous sibilants, "you have to nail the glissando." "Listen to your mother, Corey," says the wispy-moustached dad, thinking only of long strings of zeroes written down on watermarked paper, "you don't want to sleep in the woods again, do you, tiger?" And the child, terrorized beyond lucidity, goes out and belts a feverish version of "Sugar Walls," hitting every other note perfectly and jerking like a damaged robot. The parents look on, razor-lipped, and when the beaten child comes backstage, Damocles' sword falls. Loving Mom says, "Failed again. You knew what would happen. We're shipping you off to study with nice Mr. Polanski."

I think this could fly, big time. What else are you going to watch, footage of the war? Fuck that. Think of the children.

Monday, 03 March
Creating An Extended Rant Out of Nothing

Since I have been sitting here for an hour wondering what the fuck to write about, and have been failing to actually write, I have decided--mostly out of frustration, but also hunger, because, well, Christ in clam sauce, an hour?--to simply write about the stuff that I considered writing about, started to, failed, deleted, and am now going to write about anyway. Clear?

First failed idea: Wedding stuff.

Rejected because everything's been going really well, actually, and how interesting is that? We picked out a cake from a really nice old guy who has been making them since the Hoover administration, and we got a plain old white three-tier cake with incredibly baroque icing on it that is going to look fucking smashing right up until we destroy the shit out of it, and there goes two hundred and fifty dollars right down all of our friends' gullets, and I think I'll remind them of that as they are eating it, just to be a jerk: "You're eating four of my dollars, so enjoy it, you bastard. You better not have bought us towels." What else? Oh, the invitations are done and are going out, after a bit more judicious weeding from the invitation list to get it down into a number we can express without resorting to scientific notation. Included in this tally was at least one dead person, who could have really livened things up. It would have been kind of neat to rig up the corpse of my dead great-aunt so that right in the middle of the ceremony, she could be hoisted up by wires and jerk around crazily, while a hidden recording blared out "UNCLEAN! UNHOLY UNION! THE DEAD RISE UP IN OPPOSITION!"

Second rejected idea: The secret conversations of my houseplants.

Oh, doesn't that sound ducky? I only have four houseplants and one little snippet of a houseplant that was given to me in the hopes that I would one day put it in soil, which of course will never happen. So it will die in the little specimen jar thingy I got it in, but the thing is, it's been not-dying for like six months now. Not so for his big brother, who is doing nothing but dying despite being in a very nice sunny spot and getting lots of water. I tried the other route: no sun and little water, but the little fucker hated that even more, and drooped and paled so aggressively, it looked like a vegetative wraith. I think it might be the soil, which looks like stony earth from Nosferatu's coffin; it holds no water and just looks redolent of evil, and pretty clearly betrays its arid Eastern European peasant past, and probably has fond memories of breaking poor Romanian hoes while peasant tears rained down upon it, and it heard their lamentations because there would be no potatoes this year, or any other. It's having a harder time with my houseplant, but it's getting there.

I also have two cactuses and an irradiated rubber tree. The cactuses are just as useless as all cactuses except for those cool big bastards that sometimes fall on desert rubes, and the irradiated rubber tree grows like something out of a fucking fifties movie like Them! and would someday make for a terribly cool retro-fifties horror movie if it could just grow some legs and eat fear-blighted townspeople, which at this point, it might, but then again I could always stave off that bit of nastiness by repotting it in the Romanian Soil of Morbidity.

Third rejected idea: The Arquette family.

This seemed initially most attractive, because look at them! What the fuck happened with this family? One started out in a Toto video, then paraded moistly through a few interesting oddities, like After Hours and by God, Pulp Fiction (albeit briefly) and then flamed out with terrible, soul-manglers like the impossible The Big Blue or the unwatchable Hope Floats. Last time she was seen, she was swallowing poison on the set of Joe Dirt.

Then the other one, the sheened pneumo-babe with the pickled brain, started out all va-va-voom in the slick, veneered True Romance, but then some similar malady took hold and then she found herself crying wetly through unspeakable horrors like Stigmata and Beyond Rangoon, that latter being a precise description of where all extant copies of that movie were quietly buried under a cairn piled high with dingo skulls and discarded babies.

And of course the most offensively afflicted of these sufferers of Arquette's Syndrome is unquestionably the vile, shambling idiot-mass known as David, whose turn in Scream seemed to verge on the not-horrible, but of course we all know what happened then: ghastly, flaming wreckage. Ready to Rumble, 3000 Miles to Graceland, and, worst of all, the AT&T commercials, where he proceeded to actually make you wish for Carrot Top, or if not Carrot Top, then perhaps a cold shotgun to suck on as you cursed the shabby little capering demigods that exist solely to invent the likes of David Arquette, whom at this point you aren't even capable of thanking for his one good deed, which was to gradually suck all the marrow out of Courtney Cox until she resembled a rattling scarecrow hung with tattered leather.

That's what I didn't write about tonight. Tomorrow: On the usage of frightening run-on sentences.

Friday, 28 February
Thar She Blows! And How.

You know, I was feeling kind of uninspired tonight, and I wasn't going to write anything, so I plopped down in front of the TV (the fiancee is out watching a play that I couldn't muster any energy to see) and thought, "Eh, fuck it." Of course, since it is Friday night, there isn't anything good on. For some reason, I found myself watching Volcano, a profoundly terrible movie, and I'm only 45 minutes into it. It's so numbingly bad in such a circumspect way, it's kind of remarkable; it's such an earnest, profligate waste of talent and money, it could only come from Hollywood.

It's got Tommy Lee Jones, looking like the family bulldog when he's been wrongly accused of farting. "Blame me if you want," his haggard eyes seem to say, "but it won't make the smell go away." Don Cheadle periodically talks to him on the phone, and isn't that just hellzapoppin' adrenalized action? That's all he gets to do: talk on the phone. Anne Heche is wandering around somewhere too, and because she is a woman, she is of course totally unheroic when called upon to save her partner: her partner dies; she cries. Poor actresses. Sorry, Anne, too bad Tommy Lee wasn't there to manfully help you: he was on the phone with Don.

Tommy Lee is running around with his hopeless daughter (poor actresses), when all of a sudden, the tar pits erupt into flames, and lava is roiling about everywhere, and ash is falling from the sky in sheets, and everyone keeps wondering: What in the fuck is going on? Is it a hurricane? Is it Godzilla? Meanwhile, the poor viewer is sitting there innocently, feeling his neck veins pulse, trying not to scream, "IT'S A VOLCANO! VOLCANO! YOU STUPID FUCKS! THE NAME OF THE FUCKING MOVIE IS VOLCANO!"

The problem with a volcano as a driving narrative force is, it doesn't really do much except sit there and . . . volcane. It's not like a tornado or a forest fire; it isn't really too hard to figure out, really: run away from the really slow moving magma until you can no longer see it. So instead they contrive ridiculous shit, like the hopeless daughter standing six feet away from the menacing, really slow magma flow, screaming "DADDY!" Tommy Lee looks over at her like "You're kidding, right?" Then he remembers the stupid script and his paycheck, and gamely wanders over to her and picks her up. By this time, of course, the magma is now a mere four feet away, and their access is blocked off, I guess, because Tommy jumps up onto the hood of his pickup while the tires blow up and the hopeless daughter screams, unfathomably, "DADDY! YOUR FEET!" (Poor, poor actresses.) Tommy sensibly ignores his hopeless daughter's plangent podiacal quacking, because it's his BIG SUSPENSEFUL MOMENT: the music swells! The film goes slo-mo! And Tommy Lee . . . jumps down off the hood onto the street.

Wow.

Meanwhile, back to Anne, who is back at her pickup, sobbing over her dead friend that she totally failed to save, because she is a puny woman who should leave the hero business to men. Thanks, Hollywood! Meanwhile, all around her, the rest of the people in the city, having noticed that magma was rolling around everywhere, shit was blowing up all over the place, and ash was falling on their heads have begun doing the smart thing: evacuating, right? Nah. They're looting. You know, that would be my first plan. "Holy shit, Mt. Rainier is erupting! (Thoughtful pause.) I'm going to go find a free blender!" Anne has stripped off her silvery all-purpose weird suit o' science and has plopped it on the hood of her pickup. Immediately afterwards, someone runs by and loots it. This, I suppose, is some screenwriter's limp stab at irony or . . . something. But it's really just hilarious. "Check it out! I got a DVD player!" "Oh yeah? Well, I got the top half of some weird silver suit!"

Actually, what the fuck am I doing wasting time telling you this? I've got to see how this turns out! So I can make fun of it!

Suddenly, I'm enjoying myself.

Friday, 31 January
Worker Productivity Takes A Palpable Hit Courtesy of Us

Ah, Friday. Here at work, the office is abuzz with anything other than work. I just took a leisurely stroll around to casually violate people's privacy. This is a report on my suck-ass goldbricking coworkers who make me feel better about my own flagrant nonwork. Names have been changed to mean-spirited denigrations to protect their privacy and to amuse me.

Bosslady: Eating candy, staring at pictures of cute dogs on the net. Okay.

Nearly Life-Sized Administrative Girl and Flailing New Guy: Improbably, they are having a lively discussion about square roots. I'm not kidding. This creeps me the fuck out, so I hurry along before I can hear more.

She Who Is Why We Cannot Cure Cancer: The less said here the better. She and Caftan Guy (see earlier entry) fight a pitched battle on some nameless astral plane for possession of the One True Tarnished Tin Crown of Celestial Idiocy. Anyway, she's doing a crossword puzzle on the web. Well, sort of. She has two entries completed, and looks haggard from the effort.

Former Bosslady: Actually working. This is intolerable. So I perform one of my favorite office stunts and pretend to pass out in her office. I simply walk in and then roll my eyes up in my head and collapse bonelessly on the floor. She giggles, but ignores me, as she's seen this trick before. I lie there for two whole fucking minutes waiting for a better reaction, which I finally get from Hippie Throwback Gal, who is passing by. "Is Skot okay?" she asks Former Bosslady. "He's an asshole," replies FB.

Hippie Throwback Gal: When not busy inquiring about my medical condition with what I must say was a rather mild unconcern, HTG was visiting Former Bosslady to ask if she had seen some "adorable" dog pictures on the net. Yes, the same site that Bosslady was looking at. I feel like there is invisible machinery all around.

Sleepy Gay Fellow: I admire people who don't even pretend to work. His monitor is off and his feet are on his desk; this is the defining Jesus Christ Pose of the modern office worker. He's on the phone with a friend; this is the only snippet of conversation I heard: " . . . just get plowed tonight . . . "

Caftan Guy: Depressingly, but totally unsurprisingly, not at his desk. So, of course, not working, for which cancer patients everywhere should breathe a prayer of thanks. He is almost certainly in the bathroom loudly delivering a fresh payload of gut-bombs. I shudder, and hurry past his cubicle, feeling like a kid walking past Crazy Mrs. MacNutter's haunted mansion.

Tall Girl Who Likes Horses, And That Is My Sum Total Knowledge of Her: Leaving. Me: "Have a good weekend, Jenny!" Her: "Jeannie." Well done, Skot.

Nice Girl Whose Last Name Has An Onomatopoeic Ring Not Unlike A Rubber Boot Sinking Into A Mudbank: She's instant messengering mash notes to someone (I see the phrases "thats so hot" and "mmm"), hopefully her husband of one month. If so, Awwwwwww! If not, Ewwwwwww.

Bosslady of Other People: Staring at an email and idly fingering a brightly-colored frog toy. I briefly think, "I work with a bunch of goddamn nutfucks!" but then recall that I enjoy pretending to faint in other peoples' offices. Move on.

Woman Reminiscent of Elsa Lanchester: Internet dogs. What the fuck? Flee.

Caftan Guy update! He's back at his desk. Whoop, to get his coat. No, he's leaving. I guess the bathroom has been sufficiently napalmed. He flashes me a peace sign and I bare my canines.

Girl Who Is Constructed of Only Elbows: Just returning from getting coffee, and I almost run into her. She backs up, waving her elbows and apologizing. I pass by, and she returns to her cubicle and sits down on her elbows, vibrating in some vague way. She kills me.

Newish Woman: Actually working. She's new, and wants to make a good impression. She'll learn the ropes.

Me: Typing up this crap. Learned the ropes long ago. Clearly: not working. Happy Friday.

Thursday, 30 January
Self-Mutilation As Scotch-Delivery Strategy

When cooking chicken, as with anything, presentation is important. When removing the skillet from the oven, place it carefully on the stove top.

Then remove the chicken breasts to a platter to rest while you prepare the pan sauce. Tent the chicken lightly with some foil, and then turn around to the skillet on the stove. Grip its 450-degree handle with your bare hand. This is important, and it's a step sadly neglected by many chefs.

With the skillet now firmly in hand, take a millisecond to realize what a goddam moron you are. You can do it! Then simply drop the radioactive goddam fucking skillet onto the kitchen floor; when done properly, white-hot beads of chicken fat should fly onto the floor, the cupboards, your pants, and maybe your small child. Scream.

I want to emphasize this. Your scream is very important; it should reflect your basic personality. What are you going to scream? Is it "FUCK!"? Is it "FUCKING FUCK!"? Own your scream. Personally, mine is the very evocative syllable "GAAAAAA!"

The scream serves many functions. One is to alert the neighborhood that you are a moron who grabs incredibly hot objects. Now they know. Another function is to scare your significant other witless and then cause her to run about distractedly bringing you wet towels, Advil, scotch, ice, Neosporin, scotch, more ice, and panicky medical advice. Take a moment to appreciate your significant other and her concern for you, and remember for the future that if you're ever feeling too lazy to go pour yourself a scotch, you could always just burn yourself severely, and she will come running. Good to know.

Later, after dinner (during which your tireless significant other was pressed into service to cut up your chicken, which made you feel five years old), mewl softly into successive scotches and melt thirty-six bags of ice in your hand. It's all part of the process.

Tomorrow, the real fun begins. In the shower. After you've kind of forgotten that you'd burned your hand. Make sure the water is extra-hot. And oh, you're going to need that scream again.

Thursday, 26 December
Bruce Hornsby Requires Elaborate Hooks and A Stenographer

Perhaps you noticed Christmas happening all day yesterday. My fiancee (note continued lack of interest in adding accent mark) and I celebrated the birth of The Bearded One in a traditional way: by attending a screening of a blockbuster epic movie. And that movie was, of course, Drumline. It was better than I expected, especially when the orcs stormed the football field and tore the livers out of everyone in the marching band. Then the band members, now slavering revenants, bopped right back up and executed an inspiring, nonthreatening hip-hop rendition of "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," during which they somersaulted and did splits and just in every way looked really cool and impressive, given their liverless, undead state. SPOILER: Gandalf is back, and he's got some mad rhymes, like "Balrog" with "ball hog." Also, we were drunk.

Then, having symbolically given the finger to the J-man, we went home for a genuinely traditional Christmas activity: playing with all our cool new shit. Here's an abbreviated list of my crap:

1 bottle Laphroaig (that's scotch). This is for the sweet drinking and hello floor.

1 bottle of some highfalutin' cognac. It's so highfalutin', I cannot determine the actual brand name. After a couple glasses, I call it "Pwim!" As in the construction, "Gibbe mena gassa pwim! Gibba gibba!" And then I am gently informed that I've had enough pwim.

1 Spider-Man game for the Game Cube. I am praying that, as seen in the TV commercial, there is a game option that lets me be an enthusiastic heavyset black man who chases Spider-Man around hassling him verbally.

1 All-Clad 16-Qt. Stockpot. This costs more than my apartment, so it's only fitting that we have to live in it now. Finally, the world can know the answer to the vexing question, "What does Skot-flavored broth tastes like?" The result will most likely be, it seems, "Well, booze."

2 kitchen mandolines. This due to poor communications skills amongst friends. I have big plans for these babies, not unironically involving Bruce Hornsby: I'm going to kidnap him and swiftly slice all his fingers into neat little piles of medallions while he screams along to the strains of his old hit "Mandolin Rain." Christ, I'm a fucking cutie!

2 DVDs of Bull Durham. See above re: my friends are all closed-mouthed hermits. Also, they drink. I must find a hiding place in my stockpot for all this goddamn booze. Hmmm. Easier still just not to invite them over any more. It's not like I don't have an excuse. "Sorry. I live in a stockpot."

And then there's a bunch of other crap, but I . . . well, I can't talk any more. It is time. If you hear the metal-on-metal rustle of, oh, a stockpot lid being stealthily lifted? Picture a shadowy figure emerging, cautiously, because the figure appears to be listing slightly. The figure is clutching an empty booze bottle. From inside the stockpot, you perhaps can hear muffled . . . are they screams? Is that MOR piano music too? You can't tell. The figure is on the move; a staggering, halting move. Then--then! He takes to the skies! He's unspooled some webbing from his wrist, and is brachiating uncertainly into the night. You can just make out some mysterious words: "Spiddama! Spiddama! Wait up! Youwanna watcha Budderam! 'Sfunny movie! Spiddama, wait up! I gotsa lotsa pwim!"

With great power comesh gribba baltoods.

Monday, 02 December
On The Merits of Fucking Up









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