Childhood Ruins Yet Another Innocent Soul

Poor, poor Justin Hippert. I saw him on the street yesterday as I was coming out of PetSmart. You'd think I wouldn't recognize him, since it had been twenty-five years and we were just kids the last time we spoke, but his face was pretty much the same. I summoned up the courage to go up to him. He was sitting on a bench eating a Big Montana from Arby's. I asked him what he had been up to, knowing full well that since he'd been tagged It that day at Marsha Gifford's house and couldn't touch anyone before we counted to thirty, his life had never been the same. He said he'd become a software designer. It sounded impressive, sure, but the agony was there in his eyes, plain to see. It wasn't long before he broke down weeping. I embraced him.

"I got you, you jerk!" he suddenly cried out. "You got touched! I'm not It anymore! You are! I'm free! I'm free!"

"Justin...." I said pityingly, and brought my hand from around my back to show him my crossed fingers. The sight of them made him pour pitiful tears onto my new blue shirt from Target. His Big Montana plopped on the ground.

I told him about some groups I'd seen mention of on Craigslist, people who had also never been able to relinquish their Itness, and we parted. Look, is it my fault or Marsha's or Steve's or Amy's that Justin was the slowest It there ever was or ever could be? Is it my fault that happened to be the last game of TV Tag we ever played, and that when school resumed the next day, we were off to fifth grade where such games just didn't happen much anymore? I really hope I don't get another one of Justin's sad pool party invitations again this year, the ones that promise professional catering, a band, and even an appearance by Joe Mantegna, and then at the very bottom say PARTICIPATION IN SHARKS AND MINNOWS REQUIRED. Of course it's only me and Marsha and Steve and Amy that get them. Pathetic.

Sheesh, that Big Montana was as big as my head. Maybe I could become a software engineer too and afford nice things. ( The dream is to coach youth golf, and I shall not be swayed by material concerns. Focus! Focus!)


I'll Find You, Too, Loch Ness Monster, Ya Bastard

Up till 3 a.m. again last night, when, on the verge of what I thought was a breakthrough, everything went to hell again. Defeat. Abject despair. How many more notebooks can I fill with my observations before I simply give up, too worn out to go on? Yet I will go on. Too much is depending on it.

I had just bought a new tape rewinder the night before, a PictureBaby RW-7, and once again loaded my trusty VHS cassette of eight hours of baseball bloopers, ready for another predictable, unproductive spin. That tape has been through hell and high water; the notebooks bear witness to its hundreds of full-length rewinds and fast forwards. And I swear on my father's name, the great physicist Bjorn Intmuth, that after the tape had snapped to 8:00:00, and then, predictably and meaninglessly, 8:00:02, there was a full half second of further motion inside the deck. My three Sennheiser microphones should have recorded the sound---had I remembered to plug them in. Hours worth of work lost because of my own incompetence.

This is the year, my friends. This is the year my findings bear fruit. They called me mad when I first postulated the existence of videotape beyond the final fast forward point, but I tell you as I sit here now bathed in the dawn light, I am not mad. Helmuttson may mock me at symposium after symposium, but I have a file full of testimonies from people around the globe reporting their first-hand brushes with one, two, sometimes even five seconds of tape where no one has ever dared dream it would be. Who can explain Ripschipp's claim that upon taping half of The Prisoner marathon, he swore he heard the tape stop recording not at the eight hour and two second mark, but at 8:09? Is Ripschipp, with his many degrees and honorary chairs at Princeton and Brown, a drunkard or a hick? Hardly. He never found those extra seven seconds, but I believe he was scared off the trail by his own lack of passion. And is there not an absurdly convenient pattern to the denials of the Maxell Corporation when I confront them with the results of my lab work? Have we not, my friends, become simply too numbed by the rigors of daily living to let our imaginations yearn for what might be?

I shall rest today---six hours of sleep, a shower, a hot meal brought to me by elderly Mrs. Luffstavson, God bless her soul---and then I must return to my efforts anew. I seek nothing less than the Holy Grail of science, and seekers of that prize can know no true pause. The SLP tapes shall be set aside for now and I will go back for a few weeks to my SP collection of Italian zombie movies from the nineteen eighties to re-test certain hypotheses which have become fuzzy in my brain due to overwork and overstress. How I wish Dr. Frankenstein were with me to assist my work. There was an uncritical man. Clean, too!


Remember "B.L. Stryker"? Yeah, That Was Mine Too.

They call me the Hitmaker. Hey---there can be no more accurate nickname. When it comes to getting my network to #1 in the ratings, I was practically born with a magic wand in my hand. So when the stuffed suits came to me last month desperately needing something to kick off their new Sunday night schedule, a show to leap straight into the viewers' hearts and minds after watching the Patriots shellack whoever they happen to face each week in the late afternoon game, I was ready for them.

Picture a private detective, a little rough around the edges, some stuff in his past, a hit with the ladies, and more than acquainted with the bottle.

The twist?

This detective's a six day old kitten on wobbly legs whose eyes aren't quite open yet.

That's right, folks---Sneakers McDade is the gumshoe show America's been waiting for. And wait till you see the kitten we cast for the lead. Adorable? Oh, you bet. A tad shaky when he tries to stand on his adorable furry legs? Sure. And those baby blue eyes? Yeah, they're a good four or five days away from opening fully, more than enough time to shoot a solid ten-episode arc. And attitude---it's there, believe me. I was watching some dailies in my office today, and that kitten's interaction with Laura San Giacomo screams 'top notch talent'. And the scene where he's trying to interrogate Slighty the Punk but all he can get out are these tiny mewling whispers that can't even form into meows yet, and then he tries to walk away but just kind of gently bumps into Slighty's shoe and his teeny head vibrates a little at the sound of the GTO driving away? TV gold. Hello, Emmy? I won't be able to make it to the ceremony this year; how about just dumping five or six of yourself on my veranda and I'll scoop 'em up in the morning, 'kay?

So yeah, I expect this one to hit big in no time flat---hell, I don't like to pat myself on the back, but this one could be bigger than Chief Justice Duck, Puppy With a Scalpel, or even my piece de resistance, The Julie Kavner Show. At this rate, I'll just retire in two years. Um, tropical island paradise, is that you holding on line four? Yeah, I'll be with you in just a second, right after I BUY your ass.


No More Games of Red Light Green Light Either

As if life in this awful bunker weren't stressful enough, what with the Allied bombs coming closer and closer and our inevitable end looming like a blood-red moon, the Fuehrer has now taken the snack box away. A man from NaziDelites came knocking earlier this month with a most wondrous offer: He would leave a full box of tasty snacks in the bunker, more than enough to last the Fuehrer, Goebbels, Ms. Braun and I for two weeks, and all that was required of us was that we place our coin payment in the cardboard slot at the top when we chose a treat from the bounty, which he would refresh each Tuesday in order to make our final days underground as ill-fated servants of the motherland more bearable. I should have known that like the offensive into Stalingrad, it was too good to be true. For though the box's offerings brought us great snacktime pleasure over the fortnight that followed---Milky Ways, Charleston Chews, Utz pretzels, Funyuns, even gum and a Macintosh apple were devoured with aplomb---Herr Hitler became incensed during his morning money counts when he discovered that we kept coming up a few pfennigs short. "Herr Brunschmitt," he kept saying to me, cocking an eyebrow, "are you sure that you paid the box when you took the last Clark bar? Speak the truth now, like a good German." As if the purloiner could have possibly been anyone other than that swine Goebbels, who was to be seen every afternoon ripping into bags of Doritos and Planters Peanuts alike with nary a reach into his purse to pay up. "Good stuff, eh, Brunschmitt?" he would say rhetorically, his slovenly mouth full. Damn his egoism! Damn his short-sightedness! The last straw came yesterday, when the vendor came to collect, and upon totalling the monetary contents of the box gave us all a pitying look that made us glance at each other uncomfortably and shift from foot to foot. "That is enough!" Herr Hitler shouted, pulling at his hair and pounding one fist against the wall map of England. "There is to be no more snacktime fun in my bunker! You are all liars, cheats, and thieves! If it hadn't been for your deceptions, we would have taken western Canada by now!" It was sad to see him so defeated. Now we have little to pin our meager hopes on. Today came and went, and I swear upon the Kaiser that I would have sold my allegiances to the Americans if I could have just had a few bites of one of those goopy cherry pies that's totally iced with sugar and shaped like a sunglasses case and has Snoopy on the front. Damn this war and all the misery it has caused! God forgive us our awful trespasses!


The Best Thing to Happen to Me Since 'The Tony Danza Show'

It all happened so fast. Last night I was writing my review of Catwoman for my friend's super sci-fi 'zine, Paula Muellenhoth's Favorite Sci-Fi Movies and Basic Cable TV Shows, which has already had two full eight-page issues you can get just by sending her $2 in a self-addressed, stamped envelope, when I reached a heartbreaking dead end. I couldn't finish my review because I just couldn't express how much I hated Catwoman through a set number of cows (Paula uses a 1 through 4 cow system instead of a 1 through 4 star system because she just loves cows). I suppose I could have gotten away with giving Catwoman zero cows out of four, but it wouldn't have accurately reflected how bad the movie really was. Oh, how I wished in that moment, at ten past nine, that I could give Catwoman---get this---negative 10 cows! But of course that would have been physically impossible. You can't give something negative cows; mathematics won't let you. Something can only get zero through four cows, and that's just the world we live in.

But then it happened. As if having read my mind, the Lord appeared in the corner of my room with a great cymbal crash, holding his staff and wearing his captain's hat. I almost cried out in disbelief and shock.


And with that, the Lord pointed his staff at the wall and a thousand different numbers appeared spread out over my Baltimore Orioles wallpaper---numbers in all shapes, sizes, and colors, from 1,000 to negative 50! They floated and shifted and bobbed and turned upside down. My eyes nearly popped out of my head!

I thanked the Lord profusely, and then he threw back his head and began to laugh and laugh and laugh with that deep rich throaty laugh he has, and then he snapped his fingers and vanished in a cloud of grey smoke that smelled a little like car exhaust, and the numbers disappeared and I was all alone again, and I turned to my typewriter and after the word Catwoman on the page I typed the words MINUS TWENTY COWS! and with the paper still in the platen I leaned forward and very carefully drew twenty teeny tiny cows beside it which almost took me completely off the page, and then I put the pen down and exhaled and wiped my brow. And the negative twenty cows stayed on the page!

Now I'm wondering, did I push it too far? Did I take advantage of the Lord? Should I have been content to give Catwoman negative ten cows instead of letting my hubris get to me and going for twenty? Was it a test? And even if it wasn't, what if, like, that's the only time I ever get to see the Lord? So now I'm filled with doubt and uncertainty, though at least I can go to sleep knowing I really let Catwoman have it---with a little assist from the Creator.

Actually, there were some parts of Catwoman that were okay.


Orwellian Oppression and Maybe One Other O-Word

Okay, I have to be quick here because there's no way I can tell you about this idiot driver who cut me off in under forty-five seconds if I take any time whatsoever to complain about this stupid new law Congress passed as a direct attack on people who just happen to like to really take their time in telling you a personal anecdote, you know, really fill in the story with details so you get a full picture of what exactly went on, I mean, I'm trying to tell you something interesting that happened to me and all of a sudden the government decides to spend four hundred million dollars to unfairly identify certain people as "boredom risks" or whatever the term is just because we want to share information with you, and the next thing I know I have this beeper sewn into my arm and God forbid I go above forty-five seconds to tell you something that happened to me which is really quite fascinating or they send a signal somewhere and I get some stupid fifteen dollar fine in the mail, so yeah anyway, this moron cut me off, you know that intersection across from Home Depot, right, well, I got in my car this morning, the Subaru because Hilary's using the Volvo this week, not that it matters to the story, and trust me you're gonna love this, it really goes to show you what kind of dimwits are out there driving, and now look I'm almost at the time limit already and I haven't even gotten to the part with the dog owner on his cell phone, so now there's almost no point in me even going on, so great, there's another perfectly fascinating little tidbit from my life I wanted to tell you about but NOW TRY AND TELL ME THAT IS NOT THE MOST ANNOYING BEEPING SOUND YOU'VE EVER HEARD, JUST TRY AND TELL ME YOU'VE EVER HEARD ANYTHING WORSE, I SWEAR, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHY I STILL LIVE IN THIS STUPID COUNTRY, BUT YEAH, I'LL TALK TO YOU LATER, MAYBE TRY TO TELL YOU THE STORY IN LITTLE BITS OVER THE COURSE OF THE DAY.


Requiem for a Middle Reliever

Zibby called me into his office after tonight's game and made it official: I've been sent down. Well, I told Zib I didn't want any part of going back to double-A, I was done with baseball forever. He said that was "probably for the best". What does he know? Sure, to the naked eye untrained in what makes a good major league pitcher, my career stat line doesn't look very impressive: eighteen batters faced, eighteen batters hit in the head or upper neck by the first pitch. But unless you were inside my mind, you can't understand the circumstances that led to me plunking every hitter I ever threw to, thus setting a professional record which they say will go unchallenged for "as long as there are stars in the night sky". So I'm writing it down for posterity:

Batters 1 through 3: I was nervous. Jitters. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's had them in Yankee Stadium, you know what I mean?
Batters 4 through 9: The ball was wet or something, it was weird.
Batter 10: Nobody saw it, but the dude gave me this rude look, like "Hey, loser, you're not gonna hit me too, are ya?" So, yeah, I put him down.
Batter 11: Considering I'd just put the previous hitter into a life-threatening coma by delivering a fastball to his forehead, I was understandably upset. Duh.
Batter 12: Okay, the guy had the biggest head I've ever seen on a person. I know this sounds like hyperbole, but no pitch could possibly avoid beaning that big old melon. I could have rolled the ball to the catcher and that freakish cranium would have gotten partially tapped. So that one was on him.
Batter 13: I actually don't think the pitch really hit the guy. I read in a book once that there's a way you can make it seem like your eye has popped out of its socket, and I bet he knew how to do it and make a sound like a ball hitting a helmet at the same time.
Batters 14 and 15: Concentration a little off; ex-girlfriend in stands.
Batter 16: Concentration a little off; fifth grade teacher in stands.
Batters 17 and 18: Just regular people in stands, but all of them chanting, "For the love of God, stop striking and seriously injuring those who play in our league!" You try concentrating through that.

My one regret about my career is that I kept forgetting to score some of those free sunflower seeds they have in the dugout. I honestly can think of no other circumstance or occupation in which I'll ever find myself with access to vast quantities of free sunflower seeds. Damn.


Drama at 1208 Industrial Plaza

As I write this, I'm bathed in a cold sweat. My mother always warned me this day would come, and I just scoffed. Oh, how I scoffed! "Ma," I chided her every time, "just keep the presents comin' on my birthday and the mittens snapped to my jacket and stay out of my damn face."

The reckoning came just minutes ago. I was sitting here in my spacious office enjoying my favorite lunch, a large pizza with extra cheese and three grilled pork chops on top and a side of salisbury steak with onion fingers and a bowl of Frosted Mini Wheats with strawberries in them. For dessert I was looking forward to a nice half a pie---triple cherry marshmallow with chunk-o-chocolate specks, from Bakey McOven's down the block. But I got full just a little quicker than I thought I would. Hey, it happens. No court in the world would convict me. So I stiffened my right arm, jutted it outwards, and used it to sweep all the uneaten goop off my desk and into the trash, like I normally do---like I've done a thousand times before, and the world always kept spinning with nary a bump. But this time, Madgie buzzed me.

"Sir," she said, "are you there?"

"Yeah," I said, already feeling something was amiss. I swear I have a sixth sense.

"Sir," Madgie said, "starving children in Africa on line four."

I froze. "Are you sure?" I asked her.

"Yes sir," she said.

"How many does it seem like there are?" I asked.

"Many," came her bored reply.

"Many like five, ten, or many like a hundred?" I demanded to know.

"A couple hundred," she said.

Crap. Double crap! Now I'm sitting here in the office staring at that damn blinking green button. What am I gonna do? Why couldn't Madgie have thought a little quicker and told them I was out for the day? God, she's useless!

I mean, how much time can I let pass before they know I'm avoiding them? God, look at that button blink! They would have hung up by now if they were going to. Even my wife gets the message that I'm not in the mood to hear her whine about the cat's diaper after forty-five seconds or so.

Still blinking.

You know what, maybe I'll answer, but I'll do my Spanish voice. That worked with those relentless bastards from Netflix. "No late fees". Yeah, right.

Oh, come on, hang up already!

Man, you live your life a certain way for years and years and you never even come close to getting busted for throwing food away and then one fine day out of the blue the starving African children catch on and want some answers. Could I be any unluckier?

You know what I could do, I could go out the window. Just go right out the window. I'm not proud. I'll get right up on the ledge and push myself out. It's maybe a twelve foot drop. What's gonna happen, the casts on my left leg and wrist are gonna get dirty? Big deal.

Oh oh oh oh oh, it stopped! They hung up! Whooo-hoooooooooo! I win! I win! Nobody works The Stall like I do! Nobody! I gotta hand it to 'em, they really stuck around. Nine minutes and twelve seconds. Dedication. Good skill to learn. There's probably just the one phone over there and maybe somebody else needed to use it. The fates have smiled.

I'm unplugging the fax machine just in case. Just in case, you know, their wee little fingers figure something out.

The day's looking up. Gettin' a little peckish for a snack, if I do say so myself. Feels like a Baskin Robbins afternoon. Think I'll spin me the fabled wheel o' thirty-one and see what Santa brings me.

You can use the computer while I'm gone, but do not open the folder called "Stuff". Seriously.


Did Russ Meyer Face Such Hostilities?

I just want to apologize today to all the people who might have been looking forward to buying my straight-to-DVD documentary and perhaps expecting a polished, professional product. Despite my best intentions, I was unable to afford further studio access to re-record the director's commentary track, so unfortunately you can hear an insulting amount of acerbic giggling in the background as I speak. This giggling was perpetrated by the studio technicians who were running the board at the time and I was not aware of their incredibly rude interference until it was much too late. As if it weren't bad enough that the entire American festival circuit was afraid to show One Shirt, Two Sleeves, containing as it does the most devastating testimonial evidence of eyeglasses theft in our nation's assisted living facilities ever recorded, now the DVD has been ruined. It's still a taut, gripping, and emotional thirteen minutes, but going behind the scenes with me via the commentary track is now all but pointless, as the constant snickers and cynical comments of unprofessional buffoons color the whole thing. The good news is that I have lowered the price of the DVD from $39.95 to $31.95 to make up for the inconvenience of it only being available through my AOL Hometown web site. Here's looking forward to more exciting documentary projects which I hope will be more gratefully received by the public and the filmmaking community which is supposedly supportive of all who dare seek the truth of the world we live in through the creation of timely and powerful videos. And I assure you, my audience, that I will never again employ the services of Z-Best Recording of Struggs, Maryland for any reason, and neither should any other serious artisan.


Time for a Pizza Party the Likes of Which No One Has Ever Seen

After three exhausting years of seemingly endless research, it's finally over. The quest to uncover the funniest thing ever has been completed, and the results are in. My personal thanks go out to my staff at the Walburgh Psychiatric Clinic for their long hours and incredible dedication, to the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Ford Foundation for their generous financial support, and as always, to my mentor, Dr. Lupisch Nipps of Oxford University, for his inexhaustible supply of constructive criticism. The detailed findings of our study will be published this August in the Journal of Investigatory Studies of Reflexive Laughter, Volume 9, Issue 13. Thanks also to the nine hundred and forty-eight test subjects who were kind enough to donate their time and energies to view almost twelve thousand hours of videotaped humorous phenomena, both real and staged, to isolate and define the funniest thing ever, which, we have now established within one and a half percentage points of absolute certainty, is a blind guy getting totally ripped on Heineken and then stealing some kid's bicycle and riding it through a busy intersection where he slams head-on into another blind guy who's just trying to walk home from work. Hopefully our 336-page article will completely obviate the obviously errant Dutch findings of 1998 that the funniest thing ever is two rival gangsters walking along in the rain and one gangster telling the other that he's going to send him straight to hell with a bullet to the eye if he doesn't get his money by noon tomorrow and at the exact moment he says this, a strong gust of wind causes his umbrella to spontaneously invert right in his face, and I believe that at the very least the statistics we accumulated will throw serious doubts on the results of several Croatian universities which purported to prove the so-called "ultimate humor quotient" of a small kitten leaping from one ping pong table to another only to find that ping pong table #2 has been thoroughly greased, resulting in frantic, pathetic skidding and an inevitable descent to the floor beyond, the animal falling just out of camera range before contact with the tile. I urge everyone to attend the Johns Hopkins Symposium on Giggle Theory in Easton, Maryland this weekend, where I will speak on our study at length. It is not yet known whether the symposium will feature snack fare, but free soda is almost certainly a given. (Note that I said almost, Dr. Rand.)


Next Week, We Take a Look at the Subtleties of 'Family Circus'




The Life of a Shadows Lurker is Not Easy, Babe

Man oh man, why is it that virtually everyone I rob, beat, and leave for dead has such a great run of success and fortune right afterwards? This is really beginning to bother me. I mean literally, it's like if I rob, beat, and leave someone for dead, it's a guaranteed magic wand that launches them to fame and happiness. Take that guy two weeks ago. He was walking through the dark past some pharmacy and I sprang into action. First I robbed him, then I beat him, and then, as is my custom, I left him for dead. I open up today's paper and it turns out that two days after he got out of the hospital, he was named vice president of some major international computer company. Or that actor dude back in March. I was having a slow night, not really knowing what to do to pass the time since there was absolutely zilcho on the tube, so when he came out of the side of some little regional theater I robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead. Not a week went by before he was mentioned in Variety as "the next hot Canadian action hero". He got discovered by a casting agent a measly forty-eight hours after I robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead!

Look, I didn't get into this business to do favors for people. One of the things I like about it is the finality of it. Three simple steps and I never have to hear from the person again, I just make off with their wallet and get away scot free. The last thing I need is to be reminded that all these people are doing better in life than I am. On Wednesday night I thought I really had it made, because I saw Jakey Vernshaw from high school walking his dachsund down the street (the same one he had in high school, for God's sake; how long do dogs live, anyway?), and this guy was one of the biggest losers you'd ever want to meet. Still lives with his grandmother. Well, to make a long story short, I did what I thought I do best: I robbed him, beat him, and left him for dead. Bam---I get a message on my machine this morning that Jakey's leaving town as soon as he can walk with a cane because his Colgate stock just went through the roof after some sudden merger with Aquafresh. So again, I have the Midas touch. It's getting to the point where it would be almost inconsiderate of me not to rob, beat, and leave someone for dead if I see them out alone at an ATM or something. This makes me feel totally inadequate, like I can't even master the one relatively simple chore which I depend on for my livelihood.

Reviewing all the robbings and beatings in my mind, I can't figure out which step I'm screwing up on. I do remember that when I took down that diplomat in the park, I was all over the place with my body blows, really throwing way too many punches, quite taken aback by my own inefficiency, so maybe that had something to do with why the guy was wheeled out of St. Jude's six days later, bandaged up like a mummy and $244 lighter than he was before he met me, only to be soon hailed by the world as a visionary peacemaker for brokering a spontaneous midnight hour treaty between Israel and Palestine. How much cash is that guy going to haul in on the lecture circuit now? Like a gazillion dollars? Meanwhile I'm back to the drawing board to try to figure out where I'm slipping. Not to sound like a defeatist or anything, but if you see me coming after you now, why fight back? Why even shriek in terror to ward off my inevitable assault? What, you don't want a huge promotion at work?

Sorry to sound bitter. It's just....well, I've got some other things going on too. Let's just say that if you're going to bet on a World Cup match, an aggregate score of 19 just isn't gonna happen all that often. I'm an idiot.


Do You Feel Depressed?

Have you, in the past week, experienced several of the following symptoms?
1) trouble sleeping
2) moodiness
3) disinterest at work
4) feelings of despair

If so, I am looking for several volunteers for a lengthy clinical study on depression. During this four week study, you will, in a hospital environment, be posed a series of questions about your current mental state, such as "What are you, depressed?" and "Can't you lighten up?" and "Any chance of you getting over it already?" You will also answer several written queries on the topics of what gives, what is going on with you with the whole sadness act, and why you can't just think more positively for a change. (A control group will do nothing but sit in a separate room and color in pictures of recreational vehicles.)

During the study, you can expect the questions about your depression to become more persistent and increase in both volume and intensity, ranging from inquiries as mild as "So, what, you're all in the dumps again today?" and as involved as "Would it kill you to just put on a smile and move past it?" Participants in the study may even be asked to respond to the occasional "Shape up or ship out" or "Crying about every damn thing isn't going to get you anywhere in this life, you big goddamned baby".

If you meet the psychological criteria for this study and can give up to six hours a week for a full month, you will be given $400 and a promotional water bottle with the Virgin Airlines logo on it. Those who do not respond to treatment will be cryogenically frozen for a different study to be thought up later.


Blamed for Everything, I Soldier On

We at Amalgamated Salmon had our annual office party on Friday. I have no idea what I said to offend everybody, but as usual, I'm on everyone's enemies list again.

It was weird. We were all just sitting around enjoying our punch, and Reggie from Accounts Payable was talking about how depressing it was that soon it was going to get really hot and muggy again, and Blanche from Receiving/Intake said it was depressing that all the good TV shows were going into re-runs, and I just happened to mention something I sort of found depressing, which was that when you die, the last people to touch you in your home will be two total strangers: the guys who come and put your body into the body bag. These people who never knew you will lift you up, one guy at the head, the other at the feet, and place you inside the bag. And then you're gone, with their fingerprints still warm on your skin. You'll never even see them, these strangers who will touch you in that way.

Well, after I said this, there was a weird moment of quiet and everyone looked at me real funny. Soon Maury from Late Debits got the talk going in another direction. He started saying how he was sort of bummed out that the Nationals were such a bad team this year, and Cecile from Maintenance said she found it sad that games were so expensive to go to nowadays. Just trying to help out the conversation, I mentioned that what I found even worse was how a person slowly going blind due to illness probably experiences a little less sight each day. This probably goes on and on for months, even years, with the final outcome being irrevocable. Then, one day, that person must wake up and realize that the last little bit of light is finally gone. And that's it. Their vision is lost forever. What a morning that must be, I told the office gang, when their eyes open and they realize that there's simply nothing there.

And wow, did that innocent little comment rub them the wrong way. They actually said I should just clock out and go home! Touchy people! On the subject of clocking in and clocking out, Dave said it was a little sad because we never had to do that as kids, and Susan mentioned how all her favorite old toys weren't being made anymore, which got her in the dumps sometimes, and just to be a team player I threw in something I found a little bit sad, which was that if you multiply three by three, and then multiply that result by three, and then do it again, and again, and again, you can go on forever multiplying by three until the results become numbers of four digits, eight digits, sixteen digits, fifty digits; you could be given as many reams of paper as there are in the world, but if you kept multiplying, you could never stop getting new, bigger numbers. Meanwhile, though, your human lifespan would eventually draw to a close as the numbers took longer and longer to transcribe. In your later years, you would barely finish writing down a new result when another birthday would have passed. And finally, you would pass on, but the crude, cold numbers would again be waiting to be multiplied by three, producing a new number bigger than any human had ever transcribed. I just kind of pointed out how this shows that it's simply impossible for humankind to ever put a finite stamp on even the simplest knowledge we ourselves created, and that even something as insignificant as a string of numbers on a piece of paper has an immortal life, which we brought to it with our natural sense of invention; we, meanwhile, can only extend our own life spans by a few years, perhaps maybe even meaningless decades. It was kind of a spirit-crusher, if you thought about it.

My so-called office buddies just gawked at me when I explained this. Then, one by one, they fell over dead from catastrophic depression, "because of you" they said as the dropped to the floor. With their dying breaths they wished aloud that their cold corpses would serve "as a testament to your lousy attitude", they said. Well, fine. I went home even before Mr. Von Board came over the loudspeaker to dismiss me. I took the sheetcake with me.

I am all about sheetcake.


Television Is Nice Because It Likes Me

There was a particularly good episode of Miracle Lays on yesterday. I'm not crazy about the new hosts they have---do they need a guy and a girl to introduce these segments?---but the show is still really inspiring. This one was mostly about a guy who worked for an insurance company for twenty-two years and was suddenly let go for no reason other than downsizing. Well, the very day this happened, he came home to find his house in ruins. His cousin, who had been staying with him, had accidentally left the toaster oven on and the next thing he knew, whooosh, the curtains caught on fire and the whole place was lost! Can you believe such awful luck? So this insurance company guy was in terrible shape. He started drinking a little too much, couldn't find another was pretty dour, like all the stories on Miracle Lays. But then one night, in his darkest hour, the guy was sitting alone in a motel room, drunk, thinking about ending his life, when he opened up the drawer of the night-table beside him. And inside was a local phone book, and beside that, a Bible. So he started flipping through the book, looking for something that would inspire him, and he found the number of an old high school crush who still lived in the area. He called her up on a hunch, and she answered, and she agreed to drive out to have a drink with him in the motel bar! Talk about a sign from above! So the woman showed up and even at forty-five she was still hot, and one thing led to another, and wham, the guy got totally laid, one for the ages. He woke up the next morning with a renewed sense of purpose, and on the show he looked about ten years younger than his photos from before that night. The studio audience really liked him, you could tell. So now he's working for Merrill Lynch and he's doing super, all because he found the faith that had always been dormant inside him, and in his hour of crisis, he was rewarded with great sex out of the blue. (Okay, the re-enactment they did of the whole story was kind of cheesy, just like always, but the human drama was completely there. Now if they'd just stop shuffling Miracle Lays all around the damn schedule, I'd consider it one of my favorites, right up there with I Inherited How Much? and Amazing Jury Reversals.)


If It Weren't For Citizens Like Me, I Swear to God....

The hubris of our government is always a shocking thing to behold. It's almost as if they think they can get away with anything at all. But they just don't realize that some of us are not totally asleep and that we see more than they think we do. This time they really screwed up. Obviously everyone knows that the feds have been putting secret messages on our paper currency to keep track of our whereabouts and get us to buy more stuff and keep the pointless cycle of spending going and going and going. I mean, what do you think all those seemingly meaningless strings of digits are? You think those are an accident? They have no purpose other than to 1) isolate your geographical location down to the square inch and 2) embed themselves in your brain in order to cue the neurons that cause you to run out and buy whatever the government wants you to buy that week. And all the designs in the artwork are meant to put other kinds of messages into our brains---stuff to keep us docile and tranquil while the government goes about its nasty business of dominating the world. But yesterday, I paid for a Twix bar with a five, and one of the singles I got back blew their cover completely. It was such a bad slip on their part, I almost thought I was being set up. Right there on the front of the one dollar bill, in big red letters, were the words HAPPY FOURTH BIRTHDAY, GORDY! Not even typewritten, but in longhand. Whoa! Now when the CIA (or those working behind the CIA) screw up that bad, you know things are in disarray. Obviously what happened was that someone in the labs they have underground at Langley was supposed to shrink that message to submicroscopic size before it was printed on the bill, and that someone forgot to hit the switch---so that I was the recipient of a subliminal message gone awry. I'm sure that HAPPY FOURTH BIRTHDAY, GORDY!, when cross-referenced with the digits on the other dollar bills I got back as change, was intended to put me right to sleep while the government invades Antarctica or quadruples the tax rate---or maybe it was even meant to freeze the rotation of my brain and turn me into a zombified assassin whose only purpose is to kill anyone who objects to anything the president says. (I think this is what happened to Frank Feazy from tenth grade.) But I caught it, and I don't have to tell you I'm going straight to the Falls Church Weekly Beacon for some serious front-page lid-blowing. If I should disappear between now and the time I get to their office over on Pear Street, launch an investigation! But not an official one---Jesus, that's just giving Big Brother the means to silence the facts forever! No, I want the investigation to be done by the bloggers, who are the only ones who dare to speak the truth. They won't let 'research' or 'objectivity' or 'having some personal experience with the issues at hand' get in the way of finding out exactly which dumpster behind a Linens 'N' Things in Landover my body has been tossed into, and which state comptroller gave the order for my disposal between afternoon rounds of golf with his other cyborg legislators! (If the bloggers aren't interested in my story, get the psychics. And if they won't take it, call Tony Kornheiser.)


You Know What Else is Lame? Arc de Triomphe 2.

Man, how incredibly depressing it was yesterday to stand with a bunch of other people and watch them tear Jack's beanstalk down. It really felt like the end of an era. Oh, I know the new beanstalk they're going to put up is supposedly going to be ten times nicer, but a sixteen-screen movie theater with stadium seating, forty shops, a food court, and underground parking don't make a great giant beanstalk. What makes a great giant beanstalk is the history of the thing. The old one might have been creaky, it might have smelled weird when it rained, and you couldn't fit more than a couple of hundred people in it, but it was the first one, and it's where it all happened. No one had any naming rights to it, there wasn't some big fight in the city council over it, it didn't provide any jobs. No, the magic beans just dropped one day and up it went, and the next thing you knew, a legend was born. There's something nice and simple about that. I'll bet you in ten years that the kids who watched them demolish the beanstalk yesterday won't even know there even was a first one. If Jack were alive today, if he hadn't gotten mauled by that gay polar bear (and you can send me all the links to the video you want, I am not going to watch it, you sickos), he'd be really sad today to see that big empty crater beside J.C. Penney's. Well, I guess we'll see in the fall of 2009 if the new beanstalk is worth spending $319 million in taxpayer money. For that kind of cash, the Ruby Tuesday in this thing had better have a dog wash in the back and a working waterfall behind the salad bar.


My Desires Exposed, So There

You know what I’d love to do? You know what I’d really love to do?

I’d love to kill a man.

Yeah. You read that right. Man, that’s gotta be sweet.

To take a man, an ordinary man, and just, you know, KILL him until he’s dead, just take my bare hands and kill, kill, KILL!! Tell me that wouldn’t be the best thing in the world.

Man, if I wasn’t a pacifist!

Then you know what I’d love to do? Do you? Well, I'll tell you. I’d love to take that man I just killed with my bare hands and I’d love to bury him, just bury him in the ground till he’s all gone!

(Let’s call him Jim.)

Goodbye, sucker! Goodbye, Jim! Oh man, oh man, to kill Jim and bury him---I am itching for this, man!

Then, check this out, I’d love to invite Jim’s family to stand over the grave and say to them, "Hey, grieving losers, it was me who killed Jim! Right here! Me! What was the reason, you ask? Why, none at all! He was just standing there in Ben and Jerry’s! I took Jim and I killed him just to show it could be done, baby. Put THAT on your Crispix and eat it!"

Then you know what I’d love to do? Yeah, you guessed it, man. I’d love to build a serene and tasteful monument to Jim, just build it right there over the grave I put him in---or perhaps hire a reputable contractor to do the job, so as to ensure there would be no problems with zoning or seepage.

(I suppose a scholarship in Jim’s name would also be a nice gesture. Perhaps through a local school that teaches the handicapped or something. Though of course Jim himself was not necessarily enfeebled.)

And I’d just laugh, baby, because I killed that man!

Then I’d love to endure incredibly intense feelings of guilt over my part in Jim’s death. You know, total Bergmanesque self-doubt stuff, maybe followed by a public breakdown in the cafeteria of the Air and Space Museum or something, the whole kit and caboodle. That would be so cash, man, that would make. And even sweeter would be when I’d spend a blustery winter's twilight visiting a Unitarian clergyman in my area and confessing on my knees what I’d done, only to have him refuse to forgive me in a shocking act of uncharacteristic cold-heartedness brought on by his own recent personal tragedy. And the best part of all, man, the best part of all would be when, finding myself in abject solitude and in gnawing fear for my immortal soul over my failure to make peace with my God, I’d just take my own life by eating too many grapes.

Can you imagine how intense that would be? Hot damn!

Anyway, I forgot why I started writing this. I just wanted to mention that I started taking this new anti-depressant, Cerebrumel. Works great. Really, really good stuff. Recommended.


It's Not a Defeat, It's a Re-Structuring

It is with real regret that I report to you all the demise of my men's magazine, which will publish its final issue in July. I want to thank all of you for your support of the magazine, your comments, and all your hard work. It was my goal to present to the world a men's periodical which always featured the most beautiful models imaginable, garbed in the most eye-opening lingerie, and I think I can safely say that indeed, that goal was invariably achieved.

I assure you that the magazine has met its untimely end due to a changing marketplace and not because of issues with its title, which I know many of you didn't care for. I stand by the title, and as always, my view is that since I was the one who conceived the magazine and paid the professional photographers and breathtaking models, I had a right to call it anything I pleased.

You should receive the final issue of Yeah, Scrub That Porsche, Bitch in the mail shortly. I look forward to prospering with many new publishing projects in the near future. Thanks again.


Sic Semper Tyrannis, Yo

There's a big ugly bruise above my left eye today----but I wear it with pride. This bruise is a testament to my commitment to a cause I truly believe in. This past Sunday I marched with thousands of other patriots to preserve our palindrome rights not just today, but for generations to come. I will not stand idly by and watch the oppressive Bush regime claim openly that the use of palindromes erodes the traditions of English word usage and thus must be constitutionally banned. I don't think it's too much to demand to be able to use time-honored palindromes in the privacy of my own home without Big Brother legislating my choice. "A man, a plan, a canal---Panama!" we all cried on Sunday with arms linked as we marched down Pennsylvania Avenue, baking in the heat but united in our cause. I regret that things became less than peaceful, and that policeman whose foot I broke with a crowbar has my sympathies---I was aiming for his punk-ass partner, who was all attitude from the first moment I and my brothers in protest took to the street. I can't believe he got out of my chokehold and clocked me in the eye with his baton, and I'm actually surprised by my own fury, which led to me to respond by jamming a hypodermic into his back as I screamed in the name of freedom from linguistic tyranny. I never saw the other two pigs coming, and Eddie was frankly lucky to put them both down with one swing of his aluminum bat, incapacitating them just long enough for me to get off one good grenade throw into the nearest patrol car. Civil disobedience sometimes isn't pretty, and there was certainly nothing attractive about the way the riot cops descended on us after that, leaving us no choice but to launch our acid-filled Molotov cocktails toward anything that moved as Lisa and Brett opened up with round after round of shotgun blasts. How many dead---thirty? Forty? It's just a number etched on some tombstone to be soon forgotten as we fight on in our belief that there's nothing 'unwholesome' or 'unnatural' about the simple human desire to spell out words and whole sentences that are the same forward as they are backward. Won't you join us? We're all going over to Brittany and Kevin's next week to plan our next march and barbecue some ribs.

Mmmmmmm, baked beans.


I Shall Dazzle You With Knowledge, Commoner

I spent about nine hours in the library yesterday researching some fun facts for you. Did you know that.....

Not only can advanced computer technology pit the greatest baseball teams of all time against each other in simulated World Series, it can also now tell us with 88.6 percent certainty who would win if Ernie and Bert ever got into a shiv fight.

In his darker moods, popular children's musician Raffi has recorded such unfriendly works as "Pillow Covers Mouth", "The Shutup Song", and "Not One More Word Out of You, You Changeling Midget, I Swear to God, Not One More".

Geologists at the University of Washington have found that ashes from the 1980 Mount St. Helens explosion taste just fine on a cracker.

Most scientists feel that cats can fly if they really, really have to.

The spoken language of the primitive Shuriyan Indian tribe of the Yikiaya Forest has no word for "fandango".

The phrase "grand funk" is found twice in the Declaration of Independence.

The original American flag showed Betsy Ross in a tube top underneath the slogan "Ooh yeah, who wants pancakes?"

Purists can rest easy: The chances are only 1 in 15,500,000 that our current National Anthem will ever be replaced by the theme from Saved By the Bell.

When such factors as foreign ancillaries, tertiary market royalties, and distribution residuals are factored in, the highest grossing motion picture of all time is Baby Geniuses.

A fully deconstructed atom bears an almost perfect resemblance to screen actor Danny Aiello.


What, You Can't Just Tivo the Damn "Night Court" Marathon?

I'm not really sure why nobody ever comes to my Tick Check meetup group. I spent so much time writing the description for it, and I hardly think a five dollar participation fee is anything that should keep people away. (It's simple---without that five bucks from everybody, don't expect Tostitos and grape soda to magically make its own way to my living room!) Looking at the calendar, there's one thing every one of us who lives within three miles of woods, thickets, or even isolated tall trees should be concerned about, and that's ticks. Now I know from experience that a Friday night combing through your own scalp has only limited charms, so I just figured people from various walks of life would enjoy getting together, engaging in fun conversation, and making sure that, through a detailed scanning of each other's bodies with penlights and tweezers, none of us falls prey to any of the sinister viruses that our little woodland friends are known to carry. But I guess I was wrong. The last time I posted one of these events, I even offered to move the tick check to the bar at the Hard Rock Cafe, but a different ambiance didn't do the trick of getting anyone there either. So go ahead and file this along with my other internet meetup failures. The one girl who showed up for my Let's Make Belts meetup isn't even talking to me anymore because I called her a whore, and Fans Of All The Van Halen Iterations Except The Original One ended, I'm ashamed to say, with me curled up in the corner of the 14th Street Starbucks and crying. I give up. Sometimes I wonder why I'm even bothering to shell out $2.95 a month for AOL's Barely Connected service. (It's pretty good, actually, you get thirty free minutes of online time, and all you have to do is make sure all your e-mails to people are wildly complimentary about the specific kind of watch battery Best Buy has on sale that week.)


Thirty-Two Monopoly Strategies That Simply Do Not Work

1) buying both utilities
2) buying Oriental Avenue
3) feeling sorry for the purple ones
4) staying in jail through the whole game
5) hiding your money in your mouth
6) hiding the dice in your mouth
7) spending upwards of $150 at a print shop to perfectly duplicate the property cards and then sneaking them one by one out of your pants
8) announcing at the beginning that a player is only out of the game if his heart actually stops
9) being the shoe
10) saying that whoever lands on Free Parking has to drink expired cold medicine
11) playing with so many people that no one starts out with more than ten dollars
12) threatening to quit after claiming that Community Chest heavily favors white people
13) psyching yourself up by pretending that every time you're forced to pay rent, a baby duck dies somewhere
14) requiring that all players, upon rolling doubles, shout "I am the great god Pan!" and urinate into a hollowed-out pineapple
15) waiting until you're down to your last eight bucks with everyone else's houses and hotels covering the entire board and then deciding to really put your foot down and start kicking some serious butt
16) ignoring the world's oil addiction problems rather than researching alternative fuels
17) breaking up with the girl by becoming cold and distant rather than speaking openly and honestly about your relationship concerns
18) picking at it
19) violating laboratory protocol by weighing the monkey's brain after the saline has been injected into the cortex
20) is that twenty yet? can i go home now?


Now With Concentrated Niacic Flavorithin #47!

Coke, Pepsi, Coke, Pepsi, Coke, Pepsi. This is too much pressure for me, all right? These people want me to make a commitment, and I just don't have enough information. I'm sorry.

All right, all right....Madonna and Jessica Simpson were Pepsi, right? And Coke was....I want to say George Michael and Harry Dean Stanton. Let's face it, both sodas have that zesty summertime tang that cries "Hey life....I can't drive fifty-five!" (For our younger readers, that's a reference to an old Bing Crosby song.)

Whatever happened to that soda from the nineties, it was and green I think, and it had the can with the map of Egypt on the front....they sponsored a lot of coed volleyball....they had that commercial during the Super Bowl that the National Coalition for the Blind sued them over....

Buzzer's! That's right, Buzzer's. You don't remember Buzzer's? Buzzer's, "the cola with the great oregano taste"?

Remember little Bippy Buzzer, that little hornet with the artificial hip, and he was always cheating on his wife? And that whole thing where the CEO of the company hired somebody to firebomb the WNBA finals?

Yeah. Buzzer's. Good times.

Oh man, you're nodding but I can tell you're lying. You don't remember Buzzer's at all, do you. You lousy liar.

Buzzer's! Come on! Remember, all those kindergartners lost the use of their feet because the blue dye #4 mixed with the chemicals in their stomachs and became mercury? And the union blew up the plant with all those workers in it rather than file for bankruptcy?

Man, I can't believe Buzzer's has been forgotten. How sad. You know what? There should be buildings in this country, either publicly or privately funded, where we preserve artifacts of historical value, for people to walk through and look at them, with little cards that tell us their significance so that much can be learned of the objects' past and place in our culture. Yeah. We need something like that. That way Buzzer's wouldn't just rot in some museum somewhere.

Actually, there's a chance I might be thinking of Tab.


Shanties, Oh How There Used to be Shanties

Although the ghost of the cantankerous and wizened old sea captain who lives in my attic has given me years of friendship and hijinks (how can I ever forget the nutty time he stole Mrs. Potterworth's sun hat right from the top of her head?), I'm frankly getting a little tired of him now. Captain Housted was undoubtedly a brilliant helmsman in his day, circumnavigating the globe and trading spices and getting into all sorts of grand misadventures, but he has kind of a blind spot in his thinking sometimes.

"Captain Housted," I said to him the other day when he had materialized on the sofa, lighting his treasured pipe, "what is this note from you about how you need to borrow another three hundred dollars?"

"Aye," came his gruff response, "some landlubbing swab swindled me out of my doubloons again, damn his eyes."

I let out a heavy sigh. "Captain Housted," I said, "did you click on another pop-up ad that told you that your eBay account had been broken into and you went to some site that looked like eBay and you gave them your credit card information and it turned out to be a scam?"

"Aye," he confirmed, crossing his legs and eyeing me saltily. "'Twas much like a month ago, but these clever dogs told me my AOL account was about to be closed and I had to proffer my Visa number and expiration date. Good riddance to these lowly thieves, says I."

I tried to be patient, I really did. "Are you sure there's nothing else you need money for?" I asked him. "Is it really just three hundred?"

"Now that you mention it, young'un," he said, puffing away and tilting his captain's hat jauntily over his brow, "I was duped into responding to an electro-mail the other day from one Prince Allyapad. He offered me a deal sweeter than the one I made with the voodoomen of Tahiti in '09, the one that won me the stewardship of the biggest vessel I had yet befriended. Aye, on that day these fingers touched rubies and riches the likes of which you can only dream of, boy. Anyway, this Prince told me that if I just conveyed to him my checking account number, he would venture to deposit---"

"Oh, for Christ's sake," I said to the Captain. "Can you just stick to telling ribald tales of the sea and dispensing life advice from the perspective of a lively spirit and stop getting suckered by every freaking internet scam there is?!"

"Now you listen to me, bucky," the Captain said crossly, "I've killed sharks with my bare fingers and taken more than one sheepshank from the neck of a mate who stumbled upon the wrong kind of high seas villainy, and I don't have to take any bilge from your whippersnapper ways. Now, if you'll just advance me six hundred or so, a friend from my Alias chat room has clued me in to a bounding little caper which should set us both on Easy Street. It seems this fella has a plan to send ten dollars to a chain of associates, through which---"

I just stopped him there. Yes, I'm not proud of it, but I've taken away Captain Housted's internet privileges. I hated to do it and he threw a massive hissy fit, sputtering and stuttering and telling me that if any one of his bosuns had ever had the infernal cheek to utter a mutinous word aboard his ship, they would have been hogtied and sent astern to meet a thorough scabbardlash, but honestly, it seems like we never get into any mischief or use his invisibility to play delightful pranks anymore, and as far as having him guide me through the rocky waters of loving a woman, you can forget about it. All we ever do now is figure out ways I'm going to bail his ass out of financial trouble because he says Yes to every scammer and identity thief on land or water. I've talked to my friends, and none of them have this kind of trouble with their ghosts of cantankerous and wizened old sea captains. Do you?


Next, I Attack the Metric System

I write this in a seething rage at our complacency as a nation.

Why is it that we've allowed the dude who designed the alphabet to get off so easy? This cruddy alphabet has the word SLACKER written all over it.

I was looking at the alphabet the other day in a motel room as I sat alone practicing my block capitals, and I had started to draw an F when I realized something. I realized I'd just made this stupid letter. IT WAS CALLED E.

Then about an hour later, I was drawing a J with my big oversized pencil, and I said to myself, "By Samson's molars, I recognize this little bastard from when it was called an I!!" And then in all the excitement, it seemed to my disbelieving eyes that the letter W was just a freaking V that someone forgot to yell "Cut" to! Who invented this half-assed assortment? And what about O? Are you seriously telling me that we paid some alphabet creator millions of dollars so he could pass off zero as a letter too? What kind of job pride is that?

I guess he still did a better job than the scam artist who invented Hebrew, or as I refer to it, aimless doodling.

I miss the old alphabet. You know the one I'm talking about, the one we had when we were kids. We had a real alphabet. No one really knows it anymore, which is why we have words like "dillweed" sneaking into our language. For those of you too young to remember our alphabet when it had a little dignity and class to it, here it was:

F 2.0
upside down H
lemon symbol
N again
P senior
P junior
the symbol for absolute value