Take Me Out to the...Thingy, You Know, the What's-it

Ah, baseball season is here! I know most people will tell you their favorite thing about it is the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, sitting in the bleachers with a Coke on a hot summer day…not me, though. For me, it’s always been about that magical moment exactly thirty minutes after the final pitch of a night game. The sights and sounds of the thirty minute mark after the contest has ended are what renew my interest in the grand old game each and every spring. Ah, rising from my seat when the PA system simply cuts off “Ring of Fire” or "Rock the Casbah" halfway through, the traditional sign that the management appreciates everyone coming and all, but the teams are long gone and they want everyone out of there right now….waving goodnight to a random member of the grounds crew as he stands beside second base with arms crossed, frowning at my gesture of goodwill…..walking into the echoing stillness of the men’s room behind three bloated Hell’s Angels and seeing the haunted face of the sixty-seven year old Mexican janitor as he starts going from stall to stall to see the surprises that await….the skinny, bored teenager counting out his register at the hot dog concession while his balding manager empties the remains of the ketchup dispensers into the master tub, huffing and puffing from sheer obesity as he does so….the confused looks of a pair of skanky redneck twins still wandering through the concourse trying to figure out where their ride went….moving beyond the gates into the chilly night, every fifth step falling squarely on a sticky Coors stain or cotton candy wrapper, and joining eighty-five other people in their zombified shuffle toward Tuesday's last subway run….getting besieged by the plaintive pitches of moon-faced panhandlers anxious to score a few last quarters before disappearing back into the all-too-nearby slums…..the vacant gaze of the short freckled woman with the huge butt selling cheap novelty helmets sporting logos six years out of date, practically molded to her deck chair on the sidewalk and hoping there’s one last kid whiny enough to sucker Dad into coughing up twelve dollars for a fifty cent piece of plastic….seeing a group of drunk college sophomores catcalling a good-looking girl across the parking lot, then switching gears by picking a verbal fight with some dude they spot in a Red Sox cap….cramming myself in the train beside an eight year old kid whose pre-game optimism has turned into boredom, fatigue, and regret that he wore his stupid mitt in the infantile hopes of catching a foul ball….listening to the pathetic stories of past athletic prowess told by some forty year old loser trying to convince his buddy that he could have avoided a life in the public works department and made the pros had it not been for his bum knee (“I wasn’t a singles hitter either, man, I was all about power”)….stepping through my front door at 11:30 and staying up for another half hour to watch the highlights of the game on channel 9---two minutes of free, concise action as opposed to the four hour slog I just paid $35 for….and then putting my head on the pillow knowing that it was just one game of one hundred and sixty-two, about as meaningful as the single chip of salt that fell onto the kitchen floor when I removed a cold hard pretzel from my jacket and couldn’t figure out why I decided to put it there after I realized upon the first bite that it was totally inedible. I like the Brewers’ chances this year, how about you?


Give Us a Name!

Mr. Goldblum, I am going to have one of our aides turn off your microphone for just a moment because there’s something I want to say to you before you go any further. I have let you speak for five uninterrupted minutes and I have allowed you to insult both myself and many of my Senate colleagues who are so graciously dedicating their valuable time and resources to helping this commission achieve its ultimate goal. And I tell you now that I cannot sit here and let you continue to defame our purpose and our very reputations. You might not understand the gravity of what we’re trying to do in this public hearing, but I assure you, sir, that the American people very much do. The Celebs Without Makeup Commission will go on with or without your presence, so I want you to decide here and now whether you want to continue your protests about our so-called irrelevance or help us in our mission. Despite your beliefs, the public has a God-given right to identify which A-list stars still look hot without the aid of appearance-altering cosmetics and which simply do not cut the mustard without their daily morning touchup. I took an oath at the beginning of these hearings to uphold the truth and the integrity of each day’s proceedings, and I am standing by that oath. Do you, sir, likewise have the integrity to come forward and identify the celebs which you know for a fact need the extra layer of gloss that only a Hollywood pro can apply in order to look their sexiest for cameras both cinematic and paparazzi-owned? Or will you and your like dare to obstruct us in our work, as you did when we called you to appear before the Feinstein Commission on Tinseltown’s Hottest Beach Bodies? I for one would like to hear you say openly that you truly do not care what our findings are, so that once and for all America will know just who NOT to turn to for insider information about these delicate and sensitive topics. You have wasted enough of our time, sir. You may be an accomplished actor, but today you are fooling no one about your very dubious loyalties.

Now then, let us go back to the facts I was trying to establish before your needless interruption. Going back to January nineteenth….you said you were “unable to exactly recall” at which angle you were standing to Ms. Locklear at the backstage party for the People’s Choice Award winners. Can you please, using the pointer before you, clarify your entrance point into the room, and tell us precisely when you first heard Mr. Romano make the comment that Ms. Locklear seemed “tired” and looked like “she’d had some work done recently”?


Conference Room 3B Is Occupied

Gentlemen, first let me say welcome to you all, and thank you for coming from all over the fifty states to participate in our annual roundtable discussion. Let me jump right into the heart of matter, if I may: in the year 2007, our organization spent four hundred and twelve thousand dollars on designing and enacting plans to assassinate Eli Wallach. Nevertheless, Mr. Wallach continues to live and even thrive, appearing in such recent films as Mystic River and The Holiday. From June to December alone, we carried out three separate assassination plans, all failures, causing upwards of one million dollars in property damage and two minor injuries to neighborhood cats. This organization's membership has grown from seven to nineteen individuals, all focused on the sole task of eliminating Eli Wallach from the human population, and as this PowerPoint slide displays so damningly, our pursuit of our goal is simply not financially scalable. So what I propose, gentlemen, is simply this: given the fact that Mr. Wallach is, like, ninety, why don't we adopt for the first quarter of this year a different, less aggressive approach, and just sort of let things run their course, if you know what I mean. What I'm saying is, and I don't mean to be indelicate, is that, you know, he's kind of old. So basically, if we just stand down and re-distribute our resources a little and keep an eye on the situation, time might just...ah, how do I put this....time might take care of what we have not. Am I being terrible with this suggestion? I'm sorry if it sounds crass. Really what it comes down to is, either we can downsize and create a lot of ill will, or we, step back and see if the natural physical processes which dictate a man's lifespan bring about the results we desire sooner rather than later.

Oh God, I can see you all totally hate me. I'm sorry, I know I'm overly blunt sometimes. I know I lack tact. I'll sit down now. Forget I ever said anything. Let me just squeeze one last thing in here: if we shaved just thirty dollars from the budget, we could afford the new edition of Scene It for use during break time at these all-day meetings. It's really cool, it comes with a DVD that you play along with, and the more you know about movies, the more---okay, yes, let's move on and let someone else speak. You're right, you're right, maybe we just need to borrow some more money, get a few more investors in here and pitch an all-out assault on Mr. Wallach for 2008. I was just thinking out loud, like I always do. Bagels and muffins are in the back of the room, by the way, so don't be shy, don't be shy. That means you too, Mr. Asner---just eat all you take, if you don't mind.


Still, the Savings, the Savings!

Okay, here it is, right here….pretty much the last stop on the employee tour, I guess you’d call it. Probably not as impressive as you thought, right? Certainly not much to look at, but trust me, you want to keep the customers away from here if you ever want them to come back to Target. Basically the area of the aisle that’s haunted is this part right here, the shelves from the handtowels endcap down to where the lotion dispensers end. So it’s basically just the five feet, and the haunting is definitely localized to this part, but the last thing I want to do is give you the impression that this is anything but serious business. A customer coming down the aisle looking at the shower curtains and Epsom salts will be fine, but if they turn to their right and reach for, say, this soap dish---I’m not going to touch it, God no; just look where my finger is pointing---they could be in for a lifetime of nightmares, let me tell you. We thought about putting up a sign, but I figured it would just create a panic. Our strategy now is to just re-stock the shelves here with low-turnover merchandise so the profit bite won’t be too bad. Important tip: if you ever need a cleanup or a price check in this part of the aisle, always ask Conchita. For some reason she’s the only one here who just doesn’t care about the horrible specter that lies within the haunted shelves. She’ll reach right over and pick up that toothbrush holder or that decorative bathroom switchplate and when the ghost suddenly materializes and starts ranting and raving about killing us all, she’ll just shake her head and cuss under her breath in Spanish and keep on mopping. The customers, though---no matter how steely or unflappable they seem, do your damnedest to steer them clear, okay? Even people who have no particular knowledge of Walter Payton’s storied career in professional football claim they just can’t get the awful image of his vengeful ghost’s cruelly laughing face out of their minds. The last thing this store needs is a lawsuit, what with the Sears in Forestville Plaza getting re-modeled and a Kohl’s coming in not four miles away.

So that’s pretty much it in a nutshell. Any questions about the break room? I saw you admiring the vending machine. If you think you only imagined the Oreo Cakesters that are in there, well, believe your eyes, pal. Just one of the little perks you can expect with perfect attendance and a refusal to entertain any ridiculous union talk. Those Cakesters, man, I swear, they’re like the Godfather II of snack foods. No, wait----I guess Double Stufs were Godfather II. The Cakesters would be Godfather III without the retarded parts where the women were on the screen.


Hard Law

From: Jim Rhodes, Assistant District Attorney, State of New York
To: Arthur Bloomsbury, Chief Prosecutor, State of New York

Hi Arthur,

The ballistics results came back this morning, and the fact that they’re so damn convincing makes what we have to face all the more aggravating. The rounds perfectly match up with the weapon recovered from the crime scene, and our CSI man in Atlanta says that the pattern of the blood spray on the sofa even suggests that your theory of the distance the perps stood from the victims is correct. Plus we have two more witnesses ready to come forward about how the victims were involved for years in two separate crime rings involved in illegal media distribution and widespread copyright violations---the rumors of a music piracy “mill” are more than just rumors after all. When all these things are taken into consideration, it’s a total slam dunk case against the defendants….but we’re left with the incontrovertible fact that although they had a strong motive to kill and there’s a mountain of crime scene evidence and eyewitness testimony stacked against them, the Monkees have repeatedly stated in their theme song that they are simply too busy singing to bring anybody down. This takes away opportunity and establishes too strong an alibi to go up against; those lyrics are sung before each and every episode of the show, so a jury will simply never believe otherwise. The long and the short of it is, they may be monkeying around, but in the face of their repeated insistence that they just couldn’t possibly have time to commit these heinous murders, I see no choice but to recommend we drop the case against them. I'm sorry.

The good news is, I hear that the new thing in law enforcement is to charge some impoverished black dude with any unsolved crime on the books, so how about we give that a whirl?

See you Monday!


Getting Better With Age

The 2008 Outer Limits Award for Most Outer-Limits-ish Final Speech By a Character On an Old Outer Limits Episode have been announced! The runners-up were:

“It was our own hubris, Jim, our own hubris as human beings, that led us to make that terrible choice---and we shall never forget the consequences!” by Military Guy #1 in The Thing With the Big Finger, 12/20/1962

“Could it be, Jim, that we were deceiving ourselves all along by looking for solutions in technology instead of mankind’s heart---that dark but yearning machine which runs not on batteries, but memories and love?” by Cliff Roberston-looking Man in Suit in Scream, My Darling, For the Earth Shall Soon Blow Up

“We thought what we were doing would make things better and bring peace to Earth---and instead we must realize that there are no shortcuts to understanding the mysterious, inscrutable ways of mankind!” by Scientist Dude #3 in The Auto-Pilot That Cared, 3/17/63

“Who among us believed that what was done could lead to such horror, when it was only beauty that we desired---but perhaps we should have realized that there were no shortcuts to understanding the mysterious, inscrutable ways of the aliens!” by Woman with Really Sixties Hair in An Eye No Alien Could Gouge, 4/21/60

And the winner is:

“It was we as humans---yes, we---who should have been responsible for hitting button A7 at the right moment. All along, it was we, not they, who held the answer. And it was not they, but we, who are ultimately liable in unlocking the keys to the ways of the unknowable. But we blew it---blew it with our damnable searching for shortcuts!” by Eight Year Old Kid on Bicycle in Going, Going, Going….Robot! 10/30/61

Thanks to all who participated---every one of you is a winner!


A Mentor Speaks

Is it expensive, this thing I do? Of course it’s expensive. Excellence doesn’t come cheap in this world, and business excellence is especially costly. I figure I drop thirty grand a year on this maneuver, easy, but let me tell you, you can’t put a price on the effect. Five years ago I was just like you, clinging sadly to hopelessly outdated business tips like the one I just watched you put into practice down on the third floor. Don’t get me wrong, you aced the first part of it---that bit of insight about the #7 green streamers being no better than the #3 reds was top-flight smack talk---and you left them impressed all right, walking off like that without another word, letting them watch you go in admiration. A near-perfect execution of the classic leave-‘em-wanting-more ploy. But until you’ve walked off into a shroud of mist, you haven’t really walked off, and I don’t care how much money I have to dole out, the staff of Lidmarket Party Paper Limited is going to watch me walk off into a shroud of mist after every single meeting, hallway exchange, and water cooler encounter until the day they bury my bones beneath the Toshiba printer in the conference room. Did you see the way I walked off into a shroud of mist after I delivered those sales figures during the Zang's Confetti Zone conference call? Darla’s mouth may have been absolutely agape at my silent, confident exit, but without that wet, almost sensual mist enveloping me, I would have been just another shlump who happened to get off one good line and was only headed down the hall toward the can like everyone else. It was the mist, man, the mist. I’ve been spending Tuesday nights tinkering with the new machine I leased, trying to make it a little quieter---I’ll grant you that the whirring and clanking of the gears lessens the effect a little, and losers like Dibbit Moyes are apt to laugh if you give the slightest indication you've heard the noise. There’s also an English Moors setting on this thing which I’ve been dying to try out; I’ve had it set on Morning in San Francisco since the Pembleford Ribbons ‘n’ Bows meeting---you know, the one where Davis asked me if I was bringing the Easter collage project under budget and I totally devastated him with that Excel spreadsheet and then just turned and walked away. I could have used a little more mist that time, maybe, but people got the point and the awe factor definitely kicked in before the mist dispersed and it just got kind of moist in here. I swear to God, you haven’t disappeared with an impressive air of mystery until you’ve disappeared with an impressive air of mystery generated by the sweet, reliable engine core of the Enswirler 650. That’s right, pal, it’s the same machine they used to generate the mist for the night scenes in Troll 2. So do yourself a favor, man, throw away that Dale Carnegie book and your copy of The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People and scrape together $800 for a down payment on one of these babies. You start disappearing into, say, two shrouds of medium-density mist a week in this office, you’re looking at a VP slot within three years. Oh, I know, I know, Effective Exits Monthly claims that for the middle manager, disappearing into the strobe-lit blaring of techno music packs more business punch for the buck, but to me, that’s pure overkill. I go classy everywhere I work, man. Ask me sometime about some of the image stuff I pulled off at Arthur Treacher's. They’re still talking about me back there. Used to call me The Rubber Inferno for reasons I never quite understood, but I was known, dude. And that’s what the crazy game of business is all about.

Hey, have you heard about this NetFlix thing? What is that, anyway? They send you a movie and you have to take it to a recycling center when you’re done, right? Yeah, like I have time to drive all around Wisconsin trying to find a recycling center. God, these tree huggers tick me off. But I really do want to see season six of Falcon Crest at some point. It’s been a while, but I seem to recall some scene where some chick throws something at some dude and he has to duck. How crazy is that?