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   The State of My Fat Ass                                  November 2005

November 30, 2005

-- I've been watching the first season of Kojak, in association with my good friends at Netflix, and it's amazing to see how nasty New York City was in the 1970's. I'm not talking about the scripts or the stories, just the backdrop of the city itself. Garbage blowing around, boarded-up and burned-out buildings, hookers, pimps, junkies, filth.... Oh, it was quite a heady stew.

I was there in the late '70s, as an ugly teenager, and the way it appears on the show is exactly the way I remember it. One afternoon my parents, my brother, and I were walking through some neighborhood that was overrun by people who, I felt, didn't exactly have our best interests at heart. In my hillbilly estimation, every single one of them were mental patients, heroin addicts, or both. It was terrifying, and that was what I remembered most about the city for a long time.

We also made a quick tour of Times Square that day, and it was full of porn theaters and stores with impossibly large rubber penises in the windows, perched on pedestals as if they were precious stones. Scumbags were on the sidewalks passing out fliers, and they kept shoving them into my hands and my dad's. I don't know what they said, probably something along the lines of: Please step inside, give us some money, and masturbate with abandon. My mother, of course, snatched them away and wadded them up before we knew what hit us.

By the time our little visit was over, I was worried that I might have contracted tuberculosis, hepatitis, or something worse. The place was freakin' gross.

And now it's completely changed. I'm no expert, of course, but we've covered a lot of ground there in the past few years, and it feels safer than downtown Scranton. And that's no exaggeration. It's clean, the people are friendly, and the jack-shacks have been replaced by Banana Republics.

I'm sure there are plenty of people who long for the "good ol' days," back when NYC was "alive" or whatever. But I'll take the Scrote era over the Kojak era, any day. Sweet Maria.

-- Today's my birfday, and here's what the Secrets gave me this morning. Pretty cool, huh? That's Quality Street chocolates, from England, boyee, and it's some good shit. And the Deadwood mug.... Very cool. A perfect gift!

Now I need your help with something. My parents always send me a hundred bucks for my birthday, always have, and I've got a dilemma this year. I considered using the money to get caught up on the Seinfeld, Andy Griffith Show, and Green Acres DVDs. But I've ruled that out, since it wouldn't really be all that unusual for me to buy a metric shitload of DVDs. I'd like for it to be a little more out of the ordinary than that. So I've narrowed it down to two other ideas.

First is this jacket. I'd get the British khaki version, in case you're interested. I rarely buy clothes for myself, and my winter coat is two or three years old and is now starting to bore me. I like the looks of this one. What do you think?

And the other idea is to have some stuff put into frames, for the bunker. I've got quite a collection of crapola I want to have framed (at my age I can no longer hang "artwork" with tape and thumbtacks), and it never seems to get done. I've got an original advertising poster for Mr. Mike's Mondo Video, this one that Shane MacGowan was, um, nice enough to autograph for me, some Jad Fair art, one of Mark's collages, a couple of old Pabst ads from the 1940s, and several other cool items that have been stuck in limbo for a long time. How much could I get done for a hundred bucks? Three or four? Am I fooling myself?

So, what do you say? The jacket or the framing? I need your guidance here, my friends.

-- By the way, Kennedy was president when I was born -- almost exactly one year before he had the granddaddy of all shitty days in Dallas. Who was in the White House when you came on the scene? And who was the first prez you can actually remember? Mine is Nixon. I have no recollection of JFK, or Lyndon Johnson, that purveyor of fine trousers

Anyway.... I'm fucking old. And so is Shawn B., the girl from grade school who was born on the same day as me, and with whom I had to share the "Birthday Chair," for years. So, at least I'm not alone. ...Unless she's dead.

And I'm all out of time again. You guys have a great one, and I'll see ya tomorrow.

November 29, 2005

-- I made a major score over the weekend, via one of the shadowy illegal music download services (based in the remote mountains of Yugoslavia, or aboard a freighter barge in the middle of the Black Sea, or some shit).

For the record (heh), I have a low-grade problem with all that stuff, me being a recovering record weasel and all. But I don't really want to go into it. 

I don't think I can handle all the justifications and emails telling me that it only costs record companies 57 cents (or whatever) to make a CD, and how they're racking up extreme profits, blah blah blah. As if that has anything to do with anything anyway. I think Toyotas are overpriced, but I'm not going to help myself to a 4Runner in the dark of night. Know what I'm sayin'? 

But let's just stay away from that discussion...

Especially since I'm a bit of a hypocrite on the subject. I mean, I buy used CDs like a maniac, off and other places, and nobody's getting paid for any of that -- except for the sweaty guy with the bubble wrap on the other end. 

Plus, I don't really care all that much; it's low-grade, remember. Yeah, it makes me kinda sad to see a vibrant and exciting industry go straight down the ol' porcelain waste-catcher because of shady activities, but I'm not going to go all Eric Rudolph about it. Ya know?

So, for a variety of reasons I don't engage in much music downloading, legal or illegal. In addition to my half-assed objections, I still much prefer real compact discs: the kind you find in your neighborhood patchouli-scented record store with a 38 year old man behind the counter in a Germs t-shirt, sporting a "you may approach the throne" attitude. I'm just not a fan of the CDR; I view it as the modern-day equivalent of the Maxell tape; it's just kinda cheap and shabby.

I do, however, go excavating on Soulseek every once in a while. I search for rare out-of-print stuff -- usually by obscure '80s alternative artists. I plug in bands like Blanket of Secrecy, and nothing ever comes up. Occasionally a message pops into my browser that says, Wotta Magnificent Geeky Douche You Are! It's a little hurtful, if you want the truth.

But on Saturday I scored big-time. I got the entire Holly & the Italians album, The Right To Be Italian, including CD bonus tracks. I'm sure this means little to most of you, but my man-tits are still slightly engorged. 

The thing came out in 1981, was great, then disappeared. I had it on vinyl, and it was an all-time favorite. Apparently a small indie label reissued it in 2002, but I didn't find out about that in time. And now it's out of print again. Way out of print.

But I've got it, baby! It's mine, all mine. "Tell That Girl To Shut Up"... "Rock Against Romance"... "I Wanna Go Home"... It's a criminally forgotten classic of the era. 

Whatever happened to Holly Beth Vincent, anyway? She had the kind of attitude problem that could stir the loins of your average (ahem) Jiffy Pop-haired youngster. Say, roughly my height and weight? What's she doing now, working at Rite-Aid, or something? I probably don't want to know...

I prefer to just listen to her one great album -- that I downloaded from a barge in Romania, thank you very much.

See ya tomorrow.

November 28, 2005

-- I'd rate the long weekend a solid B. It never really took-off into magical territory, but it wasn't bad. I spent time with the younglings, watched some movies, enjoyed lots of foody goodness, drank a considerable amount of distilled spirits, and cleaned my abomination of an office. And that pretty much sums it up.

Speaking of the office, I found, near the bottom of the massive CD pile, a thin layer of Christmas selections. I felt like an archeologist, trying to connect the dots, and finally concluded that the Bunker hadn't been thoroughly cleaned in about a year. The Elvis and Sinatra albums, from the previous Christmas period, tell the tale.

Oh well.... It's clean now. And it feels massive. It's an illusion, of course, but I think we could play a game of Wiffle Ball in this room. It's like that episode of Malcolm In The Middle where they clean out a "closet" and discover that it's actually another bathroom.

Oh, and I bought a wireless router, at Circuit Shitty. It's a Linksys, and cost me just forty bucks on Black Friday, with no pain-in-the-lemons mail-in rebates or anything. It's the model WRT54G, which I've learned is the best-selling router on the planet. The only problem? I need an ethernet connection from my cable modem. Right now I'm hooked-up via USB, so I need to get a new cord. This, of course, led to some radical blood pressure peaks and valleys, and quite a bit of swearing, but I don't want to think about that right now.... I'll just get the cord and deal with it like an adult.

Serenity now!

I watched Cool Hand Luke ("What we've got here... is failure to communicate"), Kelly's Heroes ("I thought I told you to bring me some good-looking kid, not this fat sausage-chewing wino."), and Anchorman ("Why don't you go back to your home on Whore Island!"), and probably a couple of others I can't recall right now. All were entertaining, and well-worth the time invested. Except, maybe, for the ones I can't remember....

It's not quite time yet (but almost), to break out the greatest of all Christmas movies. I'm not being ironic or hipster here, I mean it. There is nothing better. Nothing! I recommend it from the bottom of my beleaguered heart. It's a cult classic in search of a cult, and we need to correct that problem straight away. I promise you, if you watch it you'll be quoting lines from it for days. It'll burrow into your brain, and you won't be able to make it through the holiday season without it.

Another thing I crave during the run-up to Christmas every year has no obvious connection to the holiday at all. It's an old Elton John album, called Rock of the Westies. I think somebody gave it to me as a birthday (birfday for those of you in Atlanta) present when I was a youngster, and I must've played the living hell out of it during December that year. And it's reminded me of Christmas ever since. It's also damn good, for what it's worth. I'm listening to it right now.

Do you have anything like that? Is there something that's completely unrelated to the holidays, but has become a part of them for you anyway? What's your personal Rock of the Westies? Tell us about it in the comments, won't you?

Oh, and the Thanksgiving turkey... Toney made a full bird this year, not just a breast or whatever. It was the real deal, the kind you have to fist before cooking. And the shit was good! I don't want to indulge in hyperbole here, but I think it was the best turkey in the history of the world. I guess it contained the perfect combination of growth hormones and antibiotics to create the greatest of all poultry? I just don't know.

And Andy agrees. After we'd stripped that carcass down to a skeleton, I put it, and the big aluminum foil tray it had cooked in, inside a garbage bag and hauled it out to the trash cans in the garage. The next morning it was Trash Day (there was electricity in the air!), and I dragged all that crap to the curb. And apparently some of it leaked out, because we couldn't keep the stupid dog from making a beeline to that spot, and licking the pavement. On Friday and Saturday I was frequently standing on the front porch in my big red hamburger pants, yelling, "Andy, quit lapping up that garbage juice!" ...Another of those sentences you just never could've predicted saying.

And I think that'll do it for today, my friends. You guys have a good one, y'hear? It's now time for me to drive cross-town and place my balls in the vice for money. Yes, I'll be singing like a Bee Gee within the hour, but it's usually just a short-term condition. I'll be back tomorrow.

See ya then.

November 25, 2005

As I was saying....

I really need to zero-out this notebook, and foolishly thought I could do it at work on Wednesday. Isn't that hilarious? Doesn't that just make you giggle like a retard with a pocket full of apples? It sure does me. I'm laughing right now, just thinking about it. What do they say is the definition of insanity, again? Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result? Yeah, I believe that's it.

So, I didn't get my promised evening update done on Wednesday, because I went into the office, got caught up in a powerful whirlpool of cess, and wasn't able to swim out. As usual. My boss sent an email on Tuesday telling us we could sneak away anytime after one o'clock on the day before Thanksgiving, and I finally shut everything down at 6:30. And I felt a little naughty, for leaving so early. (Will somebody please drive up here and shoe me in the nuts?)

Then I went home and it was as crazy as my job. The Secrets were bouncing off the walls, acting like a couple of Cornholios, and, of course, there was the matter of LOST and bourbon.... So that was that.

I got up early on Thursday, feeling guilty. I'd promised a second update, after all. So I plopped down in front of the computer with my trusty coffee mug, and started to tap one out. And Toney said, "On Thanksgiving?!" This led to an argument, and me turning off my computer with a theatrical flair, and proclaiming that "I'll never turn it on again!" Yeah, it sounds a little ball-baby now, but at the time it was quite dramatic. Seriously.

So here we are. And I'd better get to it before I'm driven to theatrics again....

-- Yesterday I decided to "install" the wireless card that came with my newish laptop computer. It was a so-called free upgrade from Dell, but I hadn't messed with it because we don't yet have a wireless network at home, and because the instruction book is really thick. But I decided to throw caution to the wind yesterday afternoon, since I was pacing around like a caged tiger and contemplating smashing my face through plate glass.

Turns out the book is thick because it repeats the directions about fifteen times, in different languages. The English section is just five or six pages. And it only took me about three minutes to complete the process, software installation and all. Huh. Who knew?

So I fired the baby up and asked it to search for available networks, just for fun, and it said there were two. One was Poppa Half-Shirt's, with all sorts of RESTRICTED warnings all over it, and the other was wide-open. I tapped into the open network, and was on the internet within seconds. Sitting on the couch in the living room, using some unknown neighbor's ISP! Extremely cool.

And now I'm all jacked up about it. I want to go out and buy a router today. I want to be able to send emails from the toilet, before the weekend is over. So, what do you think? Linksys or Netgear? I'm leaning toward Linksys, because it appears to be the easiest to set up. Any opinions on this? Oh, I've got the fever.

-- I watched about thirty minutes-worth of the Macy's Parade yesterday morning. Is there anything gayer? Out in the direct sunlight, anyway? I submit that there is not. I remember watching it as a kid, and it seemed OK. But now it's just a lot of sashaying about, and show tunes, and sequins, and jumpsuits.... I don't much care for it. That shit is in desperate need of military weaponry and/or heavy-duty rescue vehicles. The leaping and sprinting cast of Rent just doesn't cut it.

Katie Couric did remind us, over and over again, that a "Hispanic balloon" had been added this year. So, that was pretty interesting. A Hispanic balloon! I thought we weren't even supposed to notice the race of inflated rubber, and here's Katie the Perky going on and on about it. 

Also, it was kinda cool to learn that the M&Ms balloon got away from its handlers and caused honest-to-goodness mayhem in the streets.

But overall... I could do without this particular holiday tradition. At least until they incorporate a few warheads and whatnot. I'm just glad I turned the channel to The Price Is Right when I did, because my brother told me my childhood hero, Johnny Bench, was on one of those floats, amongst flamboyant, warbling divas, and I don't think I could've handled that. I mean, seriously.

-- A reader sends along this photo he snapped inside an upscale toy store earlier in the week. Apparently you're supposed to grasp the knob, crank it repeatedly until everything builds to a fever pitch, and finally the top blows. At least that's what I gather.

-- And my friend Bill recently copied and sent me three CDs by this "comedy legend." It's the first time I've ever heard them via any medium other than 8-track tape, and without a warm 8-pack of Falls City in the floorboard of my car.

Here's a sample of the material included:

A woman walks into a hardware store and tells the man she needs a strap hinge (the hell?). He says, "Do you want a screw for it?" And she says, "No, but I'll blow you for that clock radio over there."

Now that's comedy! The website reports that he's buried in Tampa, Florida in Sunset Memory Gardens -- a cemetery for carnival people. What?? A cemetery for carnival people?! Do any of you know anything about this place? I'd love to know more. It sounds like it's just crying out for a Smoking Fish and a digital camera. Know what I'm saying?

And that doesn't completely zero-out the notebook, but it comes close. I'll finish it up next time. You guys have a great one, y'hear? And if you're doing any holiday shopping, please don't forget our Amazon link at the bottom of the homepage. I'd be much obliged.

See ya on Monday.

November 23, 2005

This is it, my friends. If I can only make it through today without crying and/or punching someone full in the stomach, I'm looking at four full-sized low-stress days away from the office -- in a row. And talk about something to be thankful for! Oh, it's gonna be great. In fact, I'm already in Thanksgiving mode. Without making a conscious decision on the matter, I'm viewing today as little more than a formality; inside my brain the holiday has already started. And yes, I know the danger in this. But I don't care! Fuck 'em. And pass the beer nuts.

This morning I'm going to try to clean out my notebook, so I can make a fresh start of it on Monday. I don't have much time, as usual, but I'm gonna give it my best shot. So let's get to it, shall we?

-- I was watching an episode of Kojak a couple of nights ago, and he wanted to get some information "from the street." So he had one of his associates bring in a man that he thought might be able to help. He was a black guy in a big ol' floppy pimp hat, and was indignant about being hassled by the fuzz, man. But Kojak quickly took the edge off the situation by offering him -- and I swear it's true -- a plate of ribs and an orange drink. The dude was pissed off, then the aluminum foil was lifted off the pork and his mood instantly changed. "Hey ribs!" he said, and proceeded to launch into an eating frenzy, and full-on information download. I couldn't believe it. Ribs! I was waiting for Kojak to slide a cooler out from under his desk, and start waving a slice of watermelon around, but it never got that far. I guess the producers thought that might be a little tasteless? I just don't know.

-- Speaking of being hassled, it reminds me of a sign that used to hang in our favorite Arab-run beer store in Dunbar back in the day, a place called Cold Spot. It was on the wall behind the register for years, and said: We do not mean to hastle you but law require that all I.D. be check. Actually, I think there were a few unnecessary capitalizations mixed in as well.  Wonder if it's still there? I'd love to have it in a frame, on the wall of the bunker. Ahhh... sweet beer nostalgia.

-- And since we're on the subject of insensitivity... check out this week's free Phil Hendrie Show clip, from his official site. It's called Shellfish & Ham, and is pretty funny. Remember, Phil is the host and is also doing the voice of his guest. The caller is real. Good stuff. Maybe I'll start linking to these every week, until you're all converted?

-- Toney and I were in the liquor store over the weekend, and she was at the counter going through the motions of replenishing our bourbon supply. And I was just wandering around, checking shit out. I looked at all the Christmas gift sets they have, the ones that come with a "free" martini glass, or cigar case, or whatever. I wouldn't mind getting my hands on one of those silver cigar cases. I don't smoke, but I could probably keep a roll of Sprees in there or something.

After I finished with that stuff I walked over to a section of the store I'd never been in before. All the merchandise was under glass, and very expensive. It felt like I was in a jewelry store at the mall, except it was, you know, booze. There were bottles of scotch priced at $150, and clear tequila at $200, and so on. Ha!

Then I saw something that blew me away. It was a bottle of cognac (I think), and it was lying on a silk pillow inside a box. And the price was $1299! Thirteen hundred bucks!! And this word jumped immediately to mind: who?! Who in God's name would spend that much money on a bottle of hootch? I don't care how good it is... If I were a millionaire with a million dollars in my pocket, I wouldn't buy some shit like that. Who are they catering to?! Assholes? Are they trying to tap into the lucrative asshole market?

Whatever. A case of Yuengling only costs about fifteen dollars. It also comes in a decorative box, and is often displayed behind glass. I bet it tastes better too. I, for one, am sticking with the golden elixir, thank you very much.

And this isn't going as fast as I'd hoped. I'm gonna have to cut bait now, and go to work. But I promise (ahem) that I'll finish today's post tonight, after I get home. I need to zero-out my notebook, and there's still five or six things left in there. Check back in a few hours, OK?

See ya then.

November 22, 2005

-- Yesterday, on the "one o'clock ball-buster," aka the second conference call, there was some sort of technical problem going on, and it made the whole thing bearable for a change.

We were probably ten minutes into it when a voice from nowhere faded in, and said he was calling from a hospital in Utah and wanted to place an order. The hell? The Burbank overlords began shouting, "Hello? Hello?!" But the dude in Utah couldn't hear them. He proceeded to place his order at length, after reciting his account and PO numbers.

We could only hear one side of the conversation, but that was coming in loud and clear. He was saying, "And I need four of item 44452DD, and ten of item 7521XP, and..."

After a minute or so of trying to talk around the guy, somebody suggested we all hang up and call back in. So that's what we did. There's probably thirty of us on the call and we finally all beeped back onto the line, and immediately we heard, "and I'll take seven of item 23345ND...." The guy was still there, and I was now starting to get a kick out of it.

Somebody pushed a series of buttons to summon a conference operator, and she came onto the line at exactly the same time the guy in Utah hung up. She clearly didn't believe what was told to her, but suggested we call back if it happens again. God, this is excellent, I realized.

And as soon as she was gone, we heard, "Yes, I'd like to check on a wire transfer. I want to see if the money is in my account yet." They called the operator back, and the same thing happened. The mystery voice stopped the very moment the operator came onto the line.

The woman now had an unmistakable edge to her, believing we were yanking her chain. And by this point I had my phone on mute, and was laughing my ass off. The shit was like something off a Peter Sellers movie.

The same scenario was repeated several more times, once with an angry man shouting in what sounded like Portuguese. And apparently I was the only person who thought it was funny (or else the whole group had their phones on mute). But I just couldn't stop laughing. The random fragments of conversation... the pissed off operator... I found it all to be hysterical.

Finally it came my time to speak, and I bucked up and made an attempt to fool people into believing I'm a professional. And everything was going well until a very loud female voice came onto the line and said, "Good morning, Sheraton."

I'm sorry, but I'm only flesh and blood here. I know these calls are supposed to be humorless, solemn affairs, but the precise comedic timing of those three words sent me on over the edge. And I felt like it was happening at a funeral. It was as if a relative was all laid-out in a box before me, and I was buckled over in inexplicable laughter.

And it was me and me alone who found it funny.... there was only the sound of crickets on the line -- and the woman at Sheraton taking a reservation.

I came very close to saying, "Oh, come on, people. Get that stick out cha ass!" But I successfully repressed my instincts, and we finally got through it. 

Yes, it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. And I feel fine.

-- And I'm not sure if this is related in any way, but last night I had a dream that a TV reporter wanted to interview me about something. I can't remember what he wanted to talk about, but clearly recall the resulting stress. I was concerned that I'd come across as a dullard or a mumbling asshole or worse, and this took up the bulk of my dream:  the worry. 

Finally I did the interview, and was happy with it. I was pleasantly surprised, and felt like I'd handled myself very well indeed. And when I watched it that night on the six o'clock news I saw that I had a booger lodged in my left nostril that was roughly the size of a Tic Tac.

Do you think there's any relation between these two things? Could that be possible? ...Man, Thanksgiving couldn't be coming at a better time. 

And I didn't mean for this to be the whole update, but sometimes things just work out that way.

See ya tomorrow.    

November 21, 2005

-- I'm not feeling very optimistic today. My inner-dumplin' child is a little gloomy this morning, for reasons unknown, and it's beginning to take its toll. So far not even the Eight O'Clock Bean Coffee has been able to break the spell. (It must be serious.) I usually do some of my best thinking in the shower, but this morning it was a full-on Oprah episode in there, 'neath the gay-ass coconut lather. I was pondering Big Questions, and God knows nothing good can come from that. Oh, it might be fine for some people, but I'm usually contemplating stuff like: why does a person always have to fart when they lie on their side? Big questions are not really my department. But I'll snap out of it; I always do. No cause for alarm.

-- This is supposed to be a short three-day week at work, and that's a good thing. And even better is the resulting four days off on the back-end. Usually we try to get down to my parent's house for Thanksgiving, but we're not going anywhere this year. And, as unlikely as it seems, nobody's coming here either. We'll be all alone for the holiday, and that sounded pretty good to me a few days ago. Now I'm not so sure. Thanksgiving is supposed to be about families coming together and re-establishing old bonds through high gluttony. It's going to feel a little weird not having anyone around.

Oh well. It can't be as bad as my first Thanksgiving in Greensboro; at least I'll always have that to cling to. That year I'd just moved out of my parent's house, literally two or three weeks prior, and couldn't get enough time-off at my new job to make the trek home. So I was homesick and confused and panicked, and had Thanksgiving dinner alone at Shoney's. And it doesn't get much more pathetic than that. I think they were serving the traditional turkey and stuffing, and that made it even worse. I wanted my Mom to be asking if I was ready for pie, not Kitty from Gunsmoke. Ya know?

This holiday won't be anything like that, of course. We'll cook up a big feast, and make the best of it. It'll be fun, I'm sure. And my parents will be here for Christmas, followed closely by Nancy and her brood of li'l translucents, so there'll be no shortage of family in the long-run.

But if you have any Bad Thanksgiving Stories, please share 'em. I need a little propping up today, my friends, and other people's misery usually does the trick. I appreciate it.

-- My big project for the long weekend is to finally clean up the bunker. Sweet Maria, it's a full-on sty in here. I'd show you a picture of it, but I'm too embarrassed. The room is roughly seven foot by seven foot, and is piled up with all manner of crapola. I believe there are more compact discs packed into this little space than they have at the local Best Buy store. And magazines and crumpled pieces of paper and shoes and a thousand of those flaps you tear off the Netflix envelopes.... And for some inexplicable reason, there's a fourth grade picture, circa 1974, of a kid I went to school with named Danny Jones, lying in the floor over by the refrigerator.

Oh, it's a sight. I'm going to spend a whole day (it'll take that long), and get it whipped into shape. Then I'm going to use the long, gray winter to work on my "book" -- inside my tidy underground puke-green chamber. So, you see, I'll get to feel like I'm making progress with a writing project, without actually doing any writing. Yes, I've become a master at such things, thank you very much.

-- Toney and I took the Secrets to see the new Harry Potter movie on Saturday. It was the first one I'd ever seen, and thought it was pretty entertaining. I was worried that I might not be able to follow it, because I didn't know the characters and their histories. But there was no problem. I guess the big revelation is that we finally get to see the evil villain, Baltimore or Van Heflin, or whatever. It didn't mean much to me, but I could tell that the geeks in the audience, in their wispy moustaches and trench coats, were almost in a state of sexual arousal. Whatever. The dude looks like the lead singer of Midnight Oil. I was apparently supposed to be scared, but found myself humming "Beds Are Burning" instead. Anyway, it was a reaaally long flick, but I didn't notice. And that's a good sign, right?

-- Do you think it's time to get rid of this clock? It's in the Secrets' bedroom, and yesterday morning the thing was telling us the current time was 1:91. When I took this picture I believe it had lapsed over into Russian or something. I just don't know. I unplugged it, but haven't actually tossed it in the garbage yet. I can't decide what to do. I'm afraid it might be a fire hazard but, at the same time, like the idea of having a really fucked-up clock on-hand. Know what I mean? There's value, I think, in a timepiece that one minute says it's 16:83 am, then goes all Greek on ya. Should I keep it?

And I think that'll do it for today, boys and girls. I'm going to go to work now, and try not to get noticed. But before I go: why does a person always have to fart when they lie on their side? Is there a doctor in the house? What's up with that? ...Hey, I think the coffee's working!

See ya tomorrow.

November 18, 2005

-- Judging from yesterday's comments, there are quite a few of us possum people out there. I'm glad to know I'm not alone. I was thinking... maybe I can have some Surf Report coffee mugs made up, with the fish on one side and Possum People Unite! on the other? Or something along those lines? What do you think? I'm kinda excited about it; I believe there's at least a germ of a good idea in there somewhere. Or is it just the Eight O'Clock talking? Let me know your opinion. And if you can think of a better slogan, pass that along as well. Heck yeah.

-- I'm officially burned-out on horror movies. A few weeks before Halloween I moved a bunch of them to the top of my Netflix queue, and I think I overdid it. The Brood was the last straw. Have you seen this deal? It concerns a woman who's growing murderous mutant "children" in skin sacs protruding from her torso. The resulting gang of l'il freaks in snowsuits(?!) is, of course, the brood. And when their "mother" becomes angry with someone they sense it, and promptly kill the person, brutally and generally with hammers.

There's a scene near the end when the woman is shown ripping open one of the bags with her teeth, and then licking the "child" clean. And that was the exact moment when I made a decision to rearrange my queue. Enough is, as they say, enough. I moved Columbo and Kojak to the top. Screw it. There's only so much sac-chewing that one man can endure.

-- A couple of things happened at work yesterday that are worth noting...

First of all, I almost choked to death while listening to Phil Hendrie. He was doing a segment with one of his regular guests, Chris Norton (a guy who pronounces the word "sexy" as "sessy.") He was talking to a caller, and the ridiculousness just kept escalating, as it always does. Then I made the mistake of taking a big drink at the exact moment the call reached its comedic zenith, and I nearly went down for the count.

It felt like a whole mouthful of water went straight into my sinuses. I leaped from my chair, in some sort of mysterious instinctual move, and tried to stop something from shooting out somewhere. I was laughing, choking, crying, gasping, and clenching, all at once. It took a good five minutes for me to regain my composure, and my sinuses ached for the rest of the day.

Some woman walked past my door while all this was going on, and I was standing in the middle of the floor with tears streaming down my face. She just kept on moving.

And the second item is a true classic. I was on a Ball Busting Conference Call(tm), listening in and trying to lay-low, as normal. Somebody was droning on about something exceedingly dull when all of a sudden there was a really loud voice on the line that said, "What a stupid fuck!" It was a VP in California, and he apparently thought his phone was set to mute! Is that not excellent?

It sounded like he'd put his face right up to the speaker box and screamed the words, because it was so loud there was distortion. Somebody somewhere said, "Um, we can hear you," there was a smattering of nervous laughter, and then they all just went on and acted like nothing had happened.

Needless to say, this did nothing for the state of my sinuses.

-- The oldest Secret has been telling me about one of his classmates for several years, a person that he claims is "the laziest person alive." I think she's been in his class since kindergarten, so this is their fifth year together. He either really likes her or really dislikes her, it's hard to tell at their age. But he's always telling me stories about her deep-dish laziness, about how she has a backpack with wheels on it, and eats potato chips all the time, and on and on and on. He says she sits on her spine, all slumped down at her desk, and is too lazy to sharpen her pencil -- she reportedly just picks away the wood with her fingers when it's time.

This stuff usually goes in one ear and out the other, because the Secrets never stop talking and it's impossible to process it all. But the other day he cracked me up. He said they were supposed to write a poem about spring. The teacher suggested they talk about the flowers and birds, and whatnot. And almost as soon as they started writing, this girl supposedly raised her hand and said, "Does anyone know of a word that rhymes with Pringles?"

Can this possibly be true? Hilarious.

And I think I'll stop right there, my friends. I have a few more things left in the notebook, but they'll have to keep until Monday.

Have yourselves a great weekend.

November 17, 2005

-- Yesterday morning I woke up and the clock said it was 7:25. The heck?! Did it malfunction or something? Did the power go off in the middle of the night, and throw everything into disarray? Because there was no way it could actually be 7:25. That just wouldn't make any sense. But then I stumbled into the bathroom, and the clock in there said the same thing. What in the handmade hell??

"Why'd you let me sleep so late?!" I asked nicely (ahem) as I thundered down the stairs. And that set the tone for the first half of the day.

I was informed that it's not Toney's responsibility to make sure I get up in the morning. She said the alarm went off, she'd sent up one of the Secrets to try to rouse me a few minutes later, and then she'd washed her hands of the situation. So there you go: she was making a point.

For some reason it irritates my wife that I'm not a morning person like her. When her alarm goes off she sits bolt upright in the bed, like something off an old Dracula movie, and she's instantly wide awake. She also sleeps very lightly. If some old man farts in his kitchen down the block, it wakes her up and she's downstairs watching Headline News in the middle of the night.

I, on the other hand, am as nocturnal as a freaking possum. I only go to bed reluctantly, and because society has rigged the system to require us to do our work in the daytime. (The pricks.) And when I sleep, I sleep. The roof could come off the fucker and it would probably only cause me to roll over, and assume a new position. Then when morning arrives, I have to eeeaase into the day. I need to sit in a chair silently, nurse a mug or two of coffee, and eventually I know my name again, and date of birth.

So Toney and I are exact opposites, when it comes to the raised dormancy platform. I can't wake up in the morning, and she can't stay awake at night. After we get the kids to bed, flop down on the couch and turn on the TV, she's usually nodding off before Scrote can even work up a good glib. 

Is that much different from me in the mornings? I submit that it is not. Maybe I should be irritated on the back-end, the same way she's irritated up-front? Ha! That's another of those one-way streets a person occasionally encounters in their travels.

In any case, we were fighting about it all morning yesterday. I couldn't do my update, and she kept insisting that it was my fault and not hers. Sadly, Toney just doesn't understand the plight of the possum people....

So now the alarm clock has been moved, making it necessary for me to actually get out of bed to shut it up. No longer can I just swing my arm in a high arc to switch it off, without even approaching consciousness. Maybe that will help? I have my doubts, but we'll see. I'm pretty good at incorporating repetitive actions into my sleep. The thing could be hanging on a rope outside the window, and I'd adapt after two or three nights. Before long I'd be reeling it in, without even knowing it.

I don't know.... If you have a suggestion, I'm all ears. Because Toney has apparently drawn a line in the sand, and will no longer trudge upstairs five or six times to wake me up. What am I going to do??

And I know this is a tad abbreviated, but I really need to get to work. Yesterday was hell on the half-shell, and I have no reason to believe that today will be any better. I've gotta get in there and try to wrestle it into submission before it gains too much power.

I'll see ya tomorrow.

November 15, 2005

-- On Friday Toney asked me to pick up a couple of pizzas after work, and so I did. We have a system, you see. On most Fridays she calls in a standard order, I pick it up on my way home, then the family goes wild like a pack of dingoes, sometimes doing hand-springs and turning back-flips down the hall. It's a ritual that seems to work for us.

And as I was standing at the counter of our favorite kick-ass mom 'n' pop pie house, things suddenly got a little confusing. The girl asked my name, I said Jeff, and then she asked the guy standing to my left, and he said he was Jeff too. We both laughed, and immediately launched into a half-baked Monty Python routine: "Glad to meet you, Jeff" "No Jeff, the pleasure's all mine." Yuk yuk yuk.

Then the girl (and I do mean girl -- she looks to be about twelve) came out of the kitchen carrying a stack of pizzas, and tried to sort them out. It was like something out of an Abbott and Costello movie. She had two greasy slips of paper, both with Jeff scribbled at the bottom, and this led to "comedy."

She asked each of us what we'd ordered, but it didn't help. She attempted to give me a medium pizza (medium? ha!) covered with all manner of nastiness. I opened the lid, because I wasn't confident of what was happening before me, and it was topped with just about every ingredient I dislike. Like black olives and mushrooms, and whatnot. I'm just not down with the fungus, and handed it back. Then she gave me one of my pizzas, the other Jeff one of mine and one of his, and put the disc o' gross right back on top of my stack.

It was funny for the first five seconds or so, but after that... not so much. I was convinced I was going to end up paying these people $22, and taking home something that would lead to disappointment and tears. What's with this Jeff, anyway, ordering shit like that? He's not a real Jeff, he's the anti-Jeff! And I was starting to suspect that he was confusing matters on purpose, in an attempt to flirt with the pizza chick.

But we finally got it straightened out, and I snatched up my two pizzas and turned to leave. "Have a great evening, Jeff!" I heard the guy yell across the restaurant. "Yeah, blow it out your ass, you olive-eating douchebag," I muttered, and kept walking.

I wish there was a way to revoke his Jeffness.

-- And now a few quick things....

Over the weekend I took a half-hour out of my busy schedule (ahem) and updated the search engine page. The new entries are at the top of the list, and are exactly as they appear in my webstats. Ya gotta love it.

Here's a picture of my old California boss. He's the first one on the left. The dude was a rock star back in the day, tooling around Boston in a Jaguar, and appearing on American Bandstand, and the whole nine yards. His band opened for the Rolling Stones on their 1965 US tour (no shit), and he told me that Brian Jones was really cool, but Mick and Keith were a bit assholish. And when I was twenty-two I was stocking the canned food aisle at a terrible little grocery store in Dunbar, WV. ...We all choose our own paths.

This is a woman on CNN talking about French African-Americans. Or something.

And this is a new box set that I was recently able to procure through my vast network of liars and backstabbers. I am simply giddy, giddy I tell ya! This shit is the holy grail.

-- And I think that'll do it for today, boys and girls. I'm going to turn it over to our good buddy Buck now, and drag my heft into work.

Oh, one more thing.... Speaking of webstats, I've noticed that we're attracting quite a few international readers these days, and I'd like to know more. So, if you're somewhere other than the United States or Canada, tell us about it in the comments section. I'd love to know where you're reading from, how you originally stumbled across TheWVSR, and whatever else you'd like to share. And thanks in advance.

See ya tomorrow.

November 14, 2005

-- We had a birthday party for the youngest Secret on Saturday, and by the time it was over I was completely spent. It was at a massive indoor sports complex, where they have about ten soccer fields, and five or six basketball courts, all underneath one huge warehouse-style roof. Oh, it was quite the shindig.

Apparently you can't just have kids over to your house for cake and ice cream anymore, you have to turn it into an event. At least that's what I'm told. And how did this happen? When I was seven we'd all just pile into somebody's kitchen, drink tumblers of Faygo and scarf down a big hunk of some lard-based dessert from the Kroger deli. And everybody was perfectly happy. Now there seems to be a birthday party industry.

Whatever. They played soccer for the first hour, and that was fairly low-maintenance. It was all supervised, so we just stood on the sidelines and chit-chatted with other parents. Most had dropped their kids off (one barely even slowed down to let their hooligan out of the vehicle), but there's always a few who can't allow their kids out of their sight. So I hid behind Toney, and she made small-talk with them. I'm not very good at, you know, having conversations.

Then the real fun began. The second half of the event took place inside one of the "party rooms." Incredibly, it was located at the top of a steep flight of metal stairs, in a loft area overlooking two basketball courts. 

Immediately I began imagining kids cascading down those steps and landing at the bottom in a lifeless heap, or going over the railing and plunging to the hardwood floor below. Whose idea was it to put a shitload of wild first graders in an open-face skybox?? I was a nervous wreck before it even got started.

And the kids were running wide-open. One little boy, who resembled a miniature Shane MacGowan, was throwing stuff and grinding potato chips into the table cloth and generally causing mayhem. I gave him a menacing stare and warned him to take it down about three notches. It's a technique that works with my own kids, but this one basically laughed at me. "My bad," he said, with high sarcasm. I'm not a fan of the miniature Shane MacGowan.

Then there was the rosy-cheeked dumplin' child who told Toney, roughly a hundred times, "I only want ice cream. I don't like cake." Over and over and over he repeated those nine words. OK, Toney said through gritted teeth, it's been noted. Another little boy walked around with a perpetual fart cloud surrounding him, like a force field of funk. I'm not sure what was going on there, and there wasn't much time to contemplate it.

It was like a roomful of wild animals. We tried to keep it under control, but quickly realized we were in over our heads. They were running from one end of the loft to the other, pile-driving each other into the walls, spilling cups of soda at a consistent and sustained pace, and making an incredible noise. Within the first ten minutes I concluded that the best we could hope for would be to get through it without anyone being taken away in an ambulance. That would constitute a success, I decided. So I began playing goalie by the stairs.

And we made it. There was no massive head trauma, and I think they all had a good time -- in a primate house sorta way. One kid's gift was a ten dollar bill, and that made me laugh. Dad was obviously put in charge of that deal, and handled it the way I would. A little Indian boy gave the Secret a pair of pants. Is that unusual? Are pants a standard birthday gift from one first-grader to another? Because I just don't know.

As we were leaving, my nerves completely destroyed, I stopped by the bathroom to take a quick whizz for the road, and thought I'd get a moment of peace. But they were playing Christmas music in there, at full concert volume. It was "Jingle Bell Rock," I think, and it was blaring. It might have been my imagination, but I believe the loudness actually caused a disturbance in the stream. What the hell, man?! It was November 12. Were they trying to push me over the edge?

All I can say is, thank God for bourbon season, and for the fine folks at D.G. Yuengling and Sons.

November 11, 2005

-- This refrigerator nearly caused a full-on civil war at my job. Apparently a department (a mysterious group of people whose job duties I've never understood) had adopted it as their own, way back when, and kept it inside a locked room for their personal use. I haven't been paying too close attention, since I don't give a crap, but believe it's been that way since I started there in 2000. They'd put their lunches inside, and sodas or whatnot, and all was right with the world.

Then, recently, a new department was created. And they're in close proximity to The Refrigerator People. They came in and tore down walls and put up new walls in places where no walls had been before, sealed off doorways, and created their own little world. Now it's a beehive of activity, and is largely staffed by people who look to me like high school students.

My new office, as it happens, is situated right between these two groups. Right there in the freakin' middle.

A couple of weeks ago the new department decided to set up a coffee station out in the hall. You can see it in the picture; nothing fancy, just coffee and hot water for tea, and sometimes a battered, horribly stained box of donuts. 

And somebody thought it would be a good idea to have a fridge there too. They're in a start-up frenzy, you see, and are attempting to make their environment as homey as possible. Whatever.

Of course there's no room in the budget for the purchase of a new fridge (are you kiddin'?), so they began talking about the one behind the locked door. Why is it just for the use of certain people? Just because they say so? Did it become their personal property simply because nobody ever challenged them on it? Well, maybe it's time for a challenge! Buzz buzz, whisper whisper.

And during the dark of night last week somebody went into the locked room, and rolled the refrigerator out into the hall. I believe there are only three different locks in that building, and if you have a key there's a 33.33% chance that it'll work on any other door under the roof. So, somebody got in there on second shift, and moved the fridge.

And that's when the monkey-shit started to fly.

Over the next three or four days the refrigerator kept getting moved back and forth. I'd come in one day and it would be out in the hall, and the next morning it would be gone again. People that I don't even know were stopping by my office and venting about "the situation." They seemed fully invested, and willing to risk their life for the cause.

It's worth noting that I'm almost certain they weren't actually talking to each other, just bitching in private (and to me), and moving that appliance around between the hours of 3 and 12.

Oh, it wasn't good. There was a sustained tension in the air, and brothers were fighting brothers. And somehow I was Switzerland, the neutral party, and it became the goal of several of the players to woo me to their side. Needless to say, that was a fruitless exercise. It's hard to woo a man who couldn't give one tiny seahorse-shaped pooplet about any of it. At least that's been my experience.

And so it continued for nearly a week. Finally the heads of the two departments were forced to address the matter, and sit down to hammer out an agreement. I'm not completely sure, but I think I saw Jimmy Carter walk out of the room after the meeting adjourned. And he looked troubled.

But now the refrigerator is out in the hall, beside the new coffee station, and it hasn't moved in days. It seems that everyone has accepted the deal. I don't know the terms, but everybody appears satisfied. It was a mighty impressive display of statesmanship, I'm here to tell ya.

And tonight before I go home, I'm seriously considering rolling that bitch into my office and filling it up with Mountain Dews. Fuck 'em.

-- Before I wish you folks a nice weekend....

Will, the keeper of the Blanket, has submitted a few more entries to his ongoing "project." And you can check them at the bottom of the page here.

And, to set a proper Friday tone, here's a very cool Australian TV commercial. Don't skip this one, kiddies, it's worth the effort.

Now, have a nice weekend. See ya on Monday.

November 10, 2005

-- Yesterday, in a fit of desperation, I bought an unfamiliar candy bar from the vending machine at work. When it comes to such matters, I generally stick with the classics, and view any bar that was introduced after World War II with high skepticism. I usually go with Snickers, Milky Way, or 3 Musketeers, and occasionally a Baby Ruth. I mean, if they were good enough for Fatty Arbuckle, they're good enough for me.

But yesterday I bought something called a Take 5. I wanted chocolate, and that was my only option. And, to my surprise, it was pretty good. I had to make an adjustment to my eating method, because there are bullet-hard pretzels in there -- the first bite nearly caused one of my teeth to turn to dust. But after that, it was smooth sailing. And I might even get another one today. I liked the combination of salty and sweet, and was shocked to realize that it was just so darn tasty.

It's been my experience that all "new" candy bars are terrible. Admittedly, I try to steer clear of the things, but there comes a time when it's new or nothing. A few weeks ago I found myself in one of these gut-wrenching situations, and purchased something in a tan wrapper. I can't remember the name, but the packaging has been permanently stored in my memory bank under: avoid. I bit into this length of horrible, a chunk broke off, then proceeded to collapse on my tongue. I think it was chocolate-covered spackling, and that's no joke.

But this Take 5 thing has thrown my theories into disarray. Are there other new candy bars out there that my deep, deep prejudices have caused me to miss? Help me out, people. I don't want to have to trudge through twenty more grout bars to get to the next good one. Thank you.

-- As I was driving to work yesterday something popped into my head out of nowhere, and I started laughing like a mental patient; it's really bizarre how little random fragments from the past just suddenly appear. Ya know?

But, when we lived in Atlanta I liked to listen to a radio morning show hosted by a guy who called himself Christopher Rude. I thought he was really funny, in a wiener-joke sorta way. In fact, Toney once said these exact words to me: "You're being ruined by the Jerky Boys, Beavis and Butthead, and Christopher Rude." So, you can probably guess his "style."

I once even went out and forked over actual money to buy a CD of Christopher Rude's best bits. Oh, I was a fan. A few months ago I happened across this disc, and popped it into the player. And while a lot of the material is dated (tons of Jeffrey Dahmer stuff, for instance), I still found myself enjoying the hell out of it.

There's one skit, about U2 being pulled over in Alabama by a hick sheriff, that just never gets old. Here's how it starts:

Sheriff: What's your name, boy?
Driver: Bono.
Sheriff: Homo? Yeah, that's what I thought.

Oh, those were the days... But the thing that jumped into my head yesterday was a game they used to play on the show, called Mind Melt. People would call in and have ten seconds to answer a question along the lines of "Name four actors who've portrayed James Bond." You get the idea.

One morning he had some guy on there who sounded like he'd spent the previous night huffing gas with Jesco White; the dude was straight out of Deliverance. And the question they asked him was, "Name four famous places that don't really exist."

There was a long pause on the phone, then the guy said, "Uhhhhhh... Bumfuck?" I'm not kidding, I nearly crashed my car. Ten years ago, then again yesterday.

-- And finally, what do you make of this? It's supposedly a Belgian talk show, and the host is interviewing people with various handicaps. When he gets to a man with a throat problem, well, just watch what happens... Any ideas or insights into this deal? 'Cause I just don't know.

More tomorrow.

November 9, 2005

-- Yesterday Clive Bull was talking about tipping, and I think I'm going to Steal His Topic(tm).

Apparently in England it's customary to leave next to nothing at restaurants, and he was going on about how Americans take things too far. He told a story about being in New York City and leaving a "very generous" ten percent tip at a cafe, and the waiter came busting out onto the sidewalk, chased him and his family down, and demanded to know what he'd done to offend them.

Heh. Remember when that happened on the Sopranos? Christopher (or was it Paulie?) gave the guy a little something extra, right through the skull.

But, I guess I'm one of those Americans who "take it too far." My method is to automatically allocate twenty percent to the tip, and then deduct from that, based on performance. 

One thing that irritates me, and gets five percent knocked right off the top, is to allow my iced tea to go empty. I don't know why, but that gets my blood to boiling. Down South it doesn't happen very often, they recognize the importance (and sometimes even leave the whole pitcher at your table), but Up Here it happens all the time. It offends me, both as a fat man and a hillbilly.

Also, Toney doesn't like ketchup (catsup?), and always asks for a side of honey mustard for her fries. Yeah, I don't get it either, but that's not the point. She always makes this request of the waitron, and it's a 50/50 proposition as to whether the honey mustard ever actually makes it to our table. And that shit'll get you docked five percent, as well.

But I don't go looking for things. I believe I'm exceedingly fair, and even tip on the original amount instead of the final check. For instance, if we have a coupon for buy-one-entree-get-one-half-price, or it's kids-eat-free night, or whatever, I tip on the total before the deduction was made. I figure the waiter or waitress shouldn't be penalized just because we have a coupon. And I rarely go below ten percent, regardless of how shitty the service is. It makes me feel too guilty.

Nancy, that bastion of compassion and caring, is cheap as all hell when it comes to tipping. She'll run those poor bastards ragged with her crazy demands, then begrudgingly leave 'em a buck for their efforts.

Years ago, before Toney and I were married, we were all at Manuel's Tavern in Atlanta, and I was buying. Nancy didn't have anything in it, but was aghast, simply aghast, that I was leaving such a large tip, and wouldn't let it drop. I'm sure it was twenty percent, I can't remember. And I have no doubt that she'd sent the guy hoofing it through the joint ten or fifteen times. So I left him the full allocation.

And as we were leaving she said she needed to go to the restroom. Toney and I waited on the sidewalk, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Nancy through the window -- back at our table removing part of the tip I'd left!

If I didn't suffer a catastrophic stroke that night, I'm confident I never will. I believe a mushroom cloud actually came out of the top of my head, like on Bugs Bunny. And even though it happened thirteen of fourteen years ago, it's pissing me off right now just thinking about it.

I also remember being in a Pizza Hut with my friend Bill years ago, and the service was beyond terrible. It seems like we were in some foreign town, away from our usual stomping grounds, for some reason. And Bill left the woman a nickel tip. She'd been rude and inattentive the whole time, and he gave her five cents for her efforts.

As we were standing at the cash register paying, the waitress came storming over waving the nickel in the air. "You guys left something behind!" she sneered. And Bill, in one of the greatest performances I've ever witnessed, turned to her and said in a soothing tone, "Oh honey, that's for you."

I just about hyper-crapped my pants laughing at that one; I was buckled over in the parking lot for a good five minutes -- then promptly began feeling guilty about it all. And so it goes.

One of the callers to Clive's show said he used to be Bing Crosby's London driver back in the '70s. Whenever Bing would come to town, this guy supposedly drove him around. And he talked about how stingy he was with the tips, and how grouchy he was in general. This turned the conversation to cheap celebrities, and that was kind of fun too, I guess.

If you have any interesting tipping stories to tell, use the comments section below. We'd all like to hear 'em.

And that'll do it for today, boys and girls. Just one more thing before I go... I want to publicly wish Toney a happy birthday. She turns forty today, and has been putting up with my ridiculous shit for a good thirty-five percent of her life. But let's just keep that little stat to ourselves, OK? She deserves to have a pleasant day today.

See ya tomorrow.

November 8, 2005

-- Occasionally Toney and I watch a show on ABC called Supernanny. God knows why, but we do. It's a reality program about a British nanny -- a super nanny -- who apparently rides around the country in her black cab (accompanied by a film crew), helping families with unruly children. The first few installments that we saw were pretty interesting and fun, but it didn't take long to realize that every episode is almost exactly alike.

You've got your upper-middle class family, who live in the 'burbs in a house that makes you think: how could those doucheketeers afford that? They usually have three kids for some reason, and at least one needs his/her ass kicked, and right away. The dad is almost always detached and distant, working all the time or perpetually kicked back in his recliner with the TV remote. The mom is frantic, running the show with no help, and the whole place is in a constant state of chaos.

Enter Supernanny. She rolls into town and immediately starts making changes. She forces mom, who has probably read so many child-rearing books as to completely void-out what little common sense she ever had, to be tougher with the kids. This, of course, leads to guilty feelings and late-night crying and hand-wringing sessions, because she was made to put her foot down and not allow little Ashley to set fire to the living room drapes again, or to crash her younger brother's skull right through the fucking television set.

Then dad starts getting pissy and resentful, because of "this stranger" who's come into their home, telling them how to raise their children. Never mind that they undoubtedly filmed and mailed an audition tape, begging a television network for "help." And how pathetic is that? Anyway... there's usually friction between Dad and the nanny. This adds drama, you see. And by the time she tells him to get up off his lazy riffled ass and contribute, sparks really start to fly.

One slight variation to the formula is Pussy Dad. He's the one who seems afraid of everything, and cries at least once during the episode. He helps out with the household chores, but offers no gonadial back-up. He doesn't have the stomach to discipline the kids, and just kinda minces about in the background. I've noticed that they've started going this way more and more in recent shows, perhaps to ratchet up the sensitivity and tap into Oprah Nation. The producers probably see all the success hugging and crying has brought Extreme Makeover Home Edition, and figure they should give it a try. It's only a matter of time before they start incorporating exotic handicaps and bizarre diseases into the mix. Just watch.

For the record, I'm not a fan of Pussy Dad. As my spiritual advisor, Mix-A-Lot, says: "Too much emotion/Somebody rub that sissy-boy down with lotion." I'm much more at home with Detached Dad. For some reason.

During every episode that we've seen, and it's probably ten or twelve by now, either Toney or I have turned to the other during a commercial break and said, "How could anyone allow things to get so far out of control?" It's unbelievable. They show kids calling their mothers a "bitch," plunging screwdrivers into sofas, dumping juice and crap into the kitchen floor because they didn't get their way... Oh, man. One little girl actually flew into a rage, went over the dining room table and physically attacked the Supernanny. It was like something out of the Omen movies.

By the twenty-minute mark I'm generally muttering, "One week, just give me one week with these little shits." And it's funny, because that's exactly what I do when Nancy and the gang visits. Go figure.

But the Nanny always gets them straightened out. In the end they're always one big happy family. She teaches them various "techniques" that I suspect she's just making up as she goes along. This, she says, is the eating a handful of crackers technique, and this is the scratching your fleshy forearm technique. Whatever. By the time she's finished, the house is much calmer, and Dad has admitted that he was wrong and she was right.

Then, as final punctuation, they usually prop up the worst demon child of the bunch, and require him/her to say something like, "Thank you Jo Jo for making our family more functional and pleasant." Yeah, eight year old boys talk this way, sure they do. And what's with the Jo Jo business? It's almost enough to make me want to plunge a screwdriver into some upholstery.

And as the credits roll, and the Men At Work theme song plays, I always think to myself: never again. Then, when the next Friday night rolls around, I start the process all over again.

And I have no idea what in the hell I'm doing here today.... Shit. I believe this is what's commonly known as "the sad decline." 

See ya tomorrow. Maybe.

November 7, 2005

-- Wotta lazy weekend. I can't even remember what we did on Saturday. I'm not joking, I can't recall anything about the day; I'm fairly certain, however, that it didn't add up to much.

On Sunday we were going to work in the yard and clean up some of the leaves. But, for reasons unknown, the lawnmower wouldn't start. I yanked and cranked that thing fifty times or more, and it was deader than Natalee Hollaway. I thought I might've flooded it, because I could smell gas and all, and decided to let it sit in the sun for a while. I was pretty sure I'd seen or heard about actual men doing this, and decided to give it a try myself. I even tilted it a few times, attempting to create the illusion that I knew what I was doing. Then I'd wander out there every half-hour or so, and give it a few more yanks.

By the third try I was feeling like a real asshole, and stringing together obscenities in highly-illogical combinations. Eventually I just shoved the thing into the garage with malice, kicked off my nasty-ass mowing shoes, and defiantly hit the down button on the door. Then I stormed back into the house, waving my hands in the air and screaming, "A freakin' prop! Nothing but a freakin' prop!!" The one-quarter Italian in me was raging.

Poppa Half-Shirt was, of course, in his yard working so fast it resembled old footage of Babe Ruth running the bases, and I saw him shake his head in disgust again as I cascaded through the front door. I've just about had it with that man, I really have; all that head shaking is starting to get on my nerves. Toney said that later in the day, as the sun was going down, she saw him raking his backyard in something that may have been a Half-Windbreaker. I guess it's a sign of the season?

And that was pretty much the extent of my weekend accomplishments. As you can imagine, I'm pretty much wiped out today. Whew!

-- I've started a new tradition here at the compound. On weekends I'm always the last person to roll out of bed in the morning, sometimes by a long-shot. And when my feet finally hit the floor, I've taken to making an announcement at the top of my lungs: "FAT MAN WALKING!" Information is power, they say.

-- Here's the punch line of one of my favorite dirty jokes, circa 1980, or so: "Turn her over, Luke! Turn her over!!" Heh. Now that's comedy.

-- I watched an old episode of Columbo on Sunday that included one of the greatest prancing dandies of them all, Jack Cassidy. The sexually ambiguous father of David and Shaun, now that dude was one creepy-ass bad guy. Of course Columbo eventually proved that the Cassidy character was the killer of "Pete Malloy" from Adam-12, but it sure was fun getting there. And when it was over I saw that the episode was written by Steven Bochco, and directed by Steven Speilberg. Holy crap! Columbo was bringing the heat in 1971. How could Mannix and Cannon compete with that shit?!

-- Over the weekend Toney sent me to Subway to pick up lunch, and she handed me a quarter-sized piece of paper that she'd ripped from the flap of an envelope. On this she'd written the details of the sandwich she wanted, and all the desired fixins. And I'm not kidding, I've never in all my life seen such extreme abbreviation. It said something like this: tu, ac, my, o, bo, ov, sp. That might not be exactly right, but it's close. I asked her to explain each entry, and still wasn't completely confident I'd get it right. I mean, what the hell's ac? I guess the final product was in the ballpark, because she didn't complain about it. But why such radical shortening of words?? Why not just go wild and tear off the entire flap, and stretch out a bit? She does the same with grocery lists; when she goes to Wegman's for the week's food order, it's like she's carrying a classified Cold War document. I'll try to scan one in the near future. Oh, they're a sight to behold.

-- I was certain I'd receive at least one CD in Saturday's mail, possibly two. But I didn't get anything. And man, I hate that. You're all conditioned for new music, and the mailman brings nothing but a stack of campaign materials, for offices like Tax Collector and County Clerk. I don't know who any of those people are, and couldn't give one tiny butt ball about any of it. Just bring me my compact discs! What the hell, man?!

You see, I have my various internet wish lists that I monitor closely. Half dotcom is the gold standard, but secondspin dotcom ain't too shabby, and neither is Amazon. I probably scroll through my selections three times per day, checking for deals. Sometimes an entire month passes between orders, and then three or four might kick in all at once. And that's what happened early last week. I ordered a two-disc Fall anthology, a long out-of-print two-disc ELO compilation (that sells for as much as $90 on eBay, but cost me $10.99), Lyle Lovett's Pontiac, a classic from the Peaches era that I picked up for a mere $2.88. All were a friggin' steal, but so far none have actually made it to my trembling sausage fingers.

And I don't like that.

-- Finally, and since we're on the subject, did you know that Chris Elliott just published a novel? Apparently it's true. Over the weekend I was trying to find information on Get A Life. I wanted to see if there are any plans to release the first season on DVD, and ended up here. And that led me here, then here. It was a highly satisfying journey. Not only is the first season coming, and Chris did some commentary tracks, but he's also writing books filled with high ridiculousness. Ya gotta love it.

See ya tomorrow.

November 4, 2005

It's finally Friday, and here's what's left in my notebook:

-- The other day I mentioned ATMs that talk. I especially like the mechanized British female bank machines, and the way they ask me to wait while my transaction is prrro-cessing. I love that, and actually seek them out.

Wonder if they have ATMs in England that speak in an American accent? I don't really even know what the term "American accent" means, but I hear people talking about it on Clive Bull's show all the time. I mean, Dog Balls, Alabama and Chicago, Illinois are both in America, but the people who live in those places don't talk anything alike. Ya know? I guess they mean the generic Ross and Chandler style of talking? The way white Californians speak? That's my guess, anyway.

Are there regional accents in England? Do people there make fun of different areas of their country the way we do? Or is it all about class over there? Are they just as confused by the term "British accent" as I am "American accent?" I'd like to know, I really would.

Anyway... my favorite mechanized voice, even better than the British ATM, is inside the trains at the Atlanta airport. It sounds like a robot, but it has a southern accent -- at least it did when I lived there. And you just don't run across too many robots with a southern twang.

I can't remember exactly what it would say, but it was something along these lines: "Stop! Do not cross the white line!! Train is leaving the station, and you're fixin' to get your pecker sliced off, son."

Something like that.

-- Speaking of the way people talk... For some reason it irritates me when people pronounce the word either as if the e at the beginning wasn't there at all. It's a blatant disregard for the e, a letter that's stood by us and served as loyally for centuries. But lots of people are now saying I-ther, and it just feels kinda pretentious to me. It's one step away from pronouncing again as a-gane. What are we, all suddenly Maya Angelou?

-- My mother recently mentioned, once again, that she was going to name me Lisa if I'd been born a girl. And I remembered the picture I posted a year or so ago, of what I might look like if things had actually worked out that way. This morning I also added a pic of what I think I'll look like at the age of 70, if my organs hold out. And here it is. What do you think?

-- A reader named David sends along a plea for help. Here's his note:


I hiked to some petroglyphs near my house in Sedona, AZ, and took this picture. I'm not schooled in interpreting prehistoric rock art so maybe you or your readers could help me out.

Thanks, David

And here's the pic. If anyone can help him decipher what it all might mean, please post it in the comments. And if anyone can tell me what in the hell a petroglyph is, I'd be much obliged as well.

-- I keep seeing a TV commercial that features two guys passing a football in the middle of the street. The first guy tells the second guy to "go deep," he flings the ball, and the dude ends up rolling across the hood of a car. I'm sure I've seen this thing a dozen times, and have no idea what product they're trying to sell me. 

There's another one that features some douche in a suit standing in the middle of a highway, and he's holding a sign that says, Honk If You Don't Like Getting Ripped Off. No idea what it's all about either (eeee-ther), none. 

What's the point of all this?! Aren't those commercials kind of expensive?

And that'll do it for today, children. Have a great weekend, and I'll see ya Monday.

November 3, 2005

I don't have much time this morning, but can't be missing two days in a row again. So I'm gonna wing it and hope for the best. I've got Lloyd Cole on the stereo, my Weaver D's "Automatic!" mug loaded down with Eight O'Clock Bean Coffee, and am sporting my massive and comfy cheeseburger sleeping pants -- so all the required ingredients are in place. Let's see how it goes...

-- Last night after work I ingested two outsize bowls of what my grandmother called "white beans," and topped it off later in the evening with three bottles of the golden elixir. Needless to say, there's an unpleasant wind a-blowin' this morning.

But I love the white beans. My granny made them all the time when I was a kid, and they're pretty much the ultimate comfort food, as far as I'm concerned. Of course, it's not easy to duplicate the third-degree black belt bean-mastery of my grandmother, but over the years we've gotten mighty close.

The secret, it seems, is to soak the beans overnight, then cook them at a low heat for hours and hours, with a big hunk of some sort of farm animal floating in there. If you don't rush the process, and don't skimp on the flesh, they'll turn out almost like my granny's. And that's paradise in a bowl, my friends.

When I got home yesterday and opened the front door, a wave of beaniness washed over me and I felt like Andy on spaghetti night. Man, I was ready to get at 'em. For a couple of seconds I thought that Yankee Candle should maybe start offering a White Bean scent. But that would be crueler than cruel, to have your house smelling of beans without any actual beans on-hand. Ya know? Who would want that? It would be like an armless man renting porn. Or something.

Anyway, I lifted the lid on the pot and there was what appeared to be an entire pig head in there, amongst the bubbling goodness. And that shit was excellent. I had two big bowls, a tasty ham sandwich, and three Yuenglings after the younglings went to bed. Toney and I watched Sunday's episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm (hilarious!), and all my job stress just evaporated like magic. Oh, the power of the bean should not be underestimated.

What does it for you? What are your favorite comfort foods? It feels like we might've done this one before, but so what? Let's do it again.

-- I wore my "gay blues" to work yesterday, and nobody kicked my ass. So, I'm thinking about working them into the lineup. What do I care? A few snickering security guards (who may or may not be Korean war veterans), in exchange for high comfort? It's a deal I'm prepared to accept, thank you very much. Pass the candied beer nuts.

-- And finally, I saw this linked on Drudge last night, and three people forwarded it to me, as well. So you've probably already seen it. But just in case.... It's a classic. I'm picturing the poor bastard running down the road all hunched over with his schlong glued to his stomach, and his ass sealed off, and it just makes me happy. I can't explain why, but it makes me feel happy.

And that's all I can muster today, kiddies. Kinda short, I know, but it's more than nothing. ...Hey, maybe that could be a new slogan for the site? The West Virginia Surf Report: A Little More Than Nothing. What do you think?

See ya tomorrow.

November 1, 2005

-- I just had a Bit-O-Honey from the Secrets' Halloween stash, and almost vomited. I can't remember ever eating one before (instincts are a beautiful thing), and decided to cross something else off my Big List of Life Experiences. Nasty. It had sort of a musky, assy taste, and just wouldn't go away. I kept chewing and chewing, and it felt like it was actually increasing in size. Finally I stood over the kitchen trash, opened my mouth, and let it fall out. Shit! Whose idea of candy is that? It's the kind of "treat" I imagine they have in eastern Europe, or Norway, or someplace. It's the worst Halloween candy since the maple log.

-- I missed all of the festivities last night. While Trick or Treat was going on, and Bourbon Season was officially kicking off, I was still at work running my hands through my hair and holding back tears. I missed all the little kids in their costumes, Andy going ass-over-tits, and the "older children" that come to the door way past the cut-off time wearing "costumes" consisting of a derby hat or a magic marker moustache, and who sometimes keep the candy they collect inside their bras. I missed all of that, because of my stupid job.

And when I got home I didn't even feel like partaking of the traditional three fingers of Maker's Mark. I had a warm on the outside/cold on the inside microwaved something or other, sat silently in a chair like Putty, and was in bed asleep by 10:00. Oh, it was quite the party atmosphere.

All in all, it was a highly unsatisfying beginning to the new Season, and a full-blown sad state of affairs.

-- The Secrets have been ingesting great amounts of candy all morning, and are fast approaching the point of no return. I need to cut them off, before we have a situation on our hands.

Man, I'd sure hate to be an elementary school teacher today. Know what I mean? ...Hey, maybe that's why all mine were drunks and/or mental patients?

-- I used to be able to do a really good Butthead imitation, but when I tried it this morning I noticed that it's been corrupted by Napoleon Dynamite -- Napoleon is now bleeding over into my Butthead. And I don't like that.

-- Arlye sends along this pic of a flyer spotted on a telephone booth in NYC. As I've said so many times before: the hell?

-- And I'm thinking about calling the local newspaper and asking them to go back to Parade magazine. There's only so much a person can handle before the first mug of coffee is drained. Ya know?

-- I stopped at an ATM yesterday on my way to work, and was hollering at the top of my lungs before the day even started. Is it just me, or are those things getting more and more involved? Far too many buttons to push, and questions to answer; it seems like it takes forever to get a freakin' twenty dollar bill. Type in your PIN and press enter... would you like a receipt?... do you mind if we take two bucks out of your account, seeing how we have you by the balls and all?... do you want the money to come out of checking 1, checking 2, or checking 3? (??)... do you want your bills face-up or face-down, sharp or crinkly?... would you like to give one dollar for Lupus research, you self-centered prick?

And now they've even started asking questions after the money comes out, and hold your card hostage until you answer them. I try to stay calm but it's the postage stamps that does it to me. I can usually maintain until they start trying to sell me stamps, and then I lose it. That's just one step over the line.

The things need to take your password, say, in a soothing female voice with a British accent, "Welcome back, Jeff. Another twenty for ale?" All that other stuff is unnecessary. And it wouldn't surprise me to learn that Big Bank is heavily invested in pharmaceutical companies, especially the ones who sell blood pressure medication.

-- And now I'm going to turn it over to Buck, drive across town, and have myself a good cry.

See ya tomorrow.

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