October 2005 Archives

great moments in poseurism

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Now if you're the woman who was getting baptized, this is a real test of resolve.

more incompetant reader mail

Is there a sweeter irony than someone misspelling an accusation of stupidity and incompetence? Extra special bonus points for "drogatorys." It's the plural form of the noun "drogatory," don't you know. It's your progative to go to the liberry and look it up.

I knew I was in trouble as soon as I beheld this gifted Port Angeles reader's first sentence: "I am the chick that posted earlier that uses her hairbrush for a dildo. I've been reading more... "

zero tolerance

I'm flattened by cold meds today. Thus incapacitated, I need to quote something so inept that no further derision is necessary. I need a layup. I leave you with a favorite piece of reader mail, which a little research shows was written by a student at Trinity Baptist College about the president of the Christian Law Association, several months after the Schiavo coroner's report. Enjoy.

Hey there John- sorry to bother you again, just wanted to drop a note. First I'll appologize for my spelling, I've discovered through reading a bit of you mind on your site here that you despire poor spelling! I was intrigued by your words on the Teri Schiavo case. I recently listened to Dr. David Gibbs III, who was the head of the defense team on the case. (He came through town.) I was actually quite suprised by what he expounded. He said that the problem with the Schiavo case was not a simple "pulling of the plug" but that, as we all are aware, it was a matter of removing her feeding tube. Teri could do everything for herself- she could walk around the room, breathe on her own, and even communicate with those present. She simply didn't have the ability to palce the food in her own mouth because her hands were unable to be used. If you placed food to her mouth she could eat it! They resorted to a feeding tube because it was at the request of her spouse. 9Who then requested they remove it and allow her to die of dehydration.) Infact, the day that she died, and the last time that Teri's mother visited her, she told her mom that she loved her. It was rough, and sounded like that of a handicapped child, but it was clear and unmistakeable. Dr. Gibbs was present to see and hear this. He had a three hour discussion with Larry King about this entire Schiavo drama that unfolded in front of the world. After learning the details of the case that the media didn't light upon too much, it really made me stop and think. Take care John, hope all is well!

big round baby

I'm not one for gender generalizations. I don't think much of our behavior is actually hard-wired biologically. There are exceptions, though. Research shows us that men are more visually attuned, and anecdotal evidence of that abounds. I'm personally fascinated, too, by how just-injured kids seem to seek out their mother, no matter who was the primary care-giver. For that matter, when I'm around a pregnant woman, I could swear that some super-protective hormone kicks in, a hormone that makes every driver look drunk and every passer-by look like a felon. But all that pales compared to one immutable law of nature.

Sick men are big, fat babies.

What is it about having achy joints and a stuffy nose that makes men want, nay, crave a woman's pity? Any woman will do. You know women—those people who could put a tourniquet on their thigh and hacksaw off their own gangrenous leg without whining? Yeah, them. I want their pity. It's pretty much all I've thought about for the last 24 hours of cold and flu season. Did our mothers do this to us? My own mother was far from nurturing—if I heard the "you are the stupidest kid on the face of the Earth" speech en route to the emergency room once, I heard it a thousand times—so I know that's not it with me. Which brings us back to biology.

I have sniffles. Pony up the pity.


• • •


Allie: "Hello?"

Me: "I'm sick."

Allie (rotely, sighing): "No one in all of human history has suffered as much as you are, right now, nor bore the burden as bravely."

Me: "Thank you."

(click)


• • •


International readers: I'm interested in whether this is true in your cultures, too. Email me (top right).



"What the Fucking Fuck?" awards 

  trent lott & bobby jon

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Warm and fuzzy Senator Trent Lott sees the still-open Supreme Court vacancy as a GOP outreach opportunity:

"I want the president to look across the country and find the best man, woman, or minority that he can find."

• • •

bobbyjodrinkard.jpg

TV Survivor Bobby Jon Drinkard, 27, on his goal of reaching the five-year old show's "jury:"

"It's my life-long dream."

stuff that apparently only i hate

Sweet potatoes. The only food that actually trips my gag reflex. You could offer me $1000 cash, and I couldn't keep them down.

The Lord of the Rings movies. Okay, "hate" is too strong, but I was desperately bored. I still maintain that any line of dialogue could come out of any character's mouth, and that scenes could be shown in almost any order, and the movies would be utterly unaffected. This assessment is based on the films alone, mind you. I never read the books, and friends who have read them see in the films far more developed characters and story than I do.

kari byronKari Byron, Mythbusters twinkie. The show used to be about two guys testing urban legends, but then fanboys started drooling over background prop Kari, who for the fanboys' convenience plainly labeled her breasts. Within a year, she was in a bikini, and I was fast-forwarding.

Tom's natural deodorant. I don't exactly relish smearing aluminum into my pores, but Jesus H., the alternative! Who thinks this gunk actually works? By the time I get to the office, I smell like a Frenchman dunked in chamomile tea.

Pro football cheerleaders. I'll take my sex and my violence separately, thanks. If I want to see teenage girls simulate masturbation, I know where to go, and ain't Qwest Field. Worse, though, is seeing the stupid, skeevy men who watch the girls. Me, I'm there to watch a game. The game is more than enough entertainment for me, and it's the uncontested focus of my attention. Except when I'm watching stupid, skeevy men leer at teenage girls. This, for my money, is not fandom. Write it down: the day the Steelers get cheerleaders, I'll disavow them.

Tivo. Oh, I pay for this boat anchor, but I ain't happy about it. I used to have UltimateTV, the Betamax of DVR formats. Going from UTV to Tivo is like going from a Rolls to three-wheeled Radio Flyer. The delay between when I click a button on the remote and when something happens on the screen is so great, I routinely become interested in whatever's on after I've clicked a button to make it go away. Twice, I've fallen asleep during the delay. Truly, a marvel of engineering. A comparison:

Task UltimateTV Tivo
Stopping a recording session Clicks: Press Stop button
Time elapsed: none
Clicks: 10
Time elapsed: 24 seconds
Deleting 60 recorded shows Clicks: 3
Time elapsed: 2 seconds
Clicks: 300
Time elapsed: 22 minutes
Setting unit to automatically record show Clicks: 4
Time elapsed: three seconds
Clicks: 7
Time elapsed: 2:04 minutes
Stopping above automatic recording Clicks: 2
Time elapsed: two seconds
Clicks: 29
Time elapsed: 1:07 minutes
Going from live TV to list Time elapsed: one second Time elapsed: 6-25 seconds
Watching TV while looking at the guide or the list of recorded shows. Or while programming. Yes Huh?

Adam Sandler. I'm still waiting for the No Talent Police to catch him and beat him to death.

Rappers wearing Ohio State colors. Perhaps you'd care to regale us with a few verses of "Carmen Ohio," Mr. Dogg?

whoo! death!

Like many, I adore the Daily Show. Unlike many, I don't direct all of my love at Jon Stewart, who, while a decent stand-up comic, is but one of dozens of writers in the show's stable. It's embarrassing how much credit he gets. But my stars-getting-credit-for-other-people's-lines rant will have to wait, because today's post is about the increasingly insipid Daily Show audience.

One of the things that sets the Daily Show apart is its unabashed point of view. These folks lean left, and they don't hide it. No "fair and balanced" smoke here. Yet they're the kind of biased I can respect. They're no DNC mouthpieces. If anything, they're infuriated by the Democrats' ineptitude. Contrast that with one-note partisans like, say, Limbaugh or Franken, who would sooner die than utter a thoughtful criticism of their own houses. In this, the Daily Show staff stands alone.

Which, sadly, brings us to my beef. Their studio audience. They're never shown, so I can't be sure, but I'm betting the audience is jam-packed with 19 year old College Democrats of America, each with a mug in hand so that he might drink mightily from the well of validation. It has some curious results. I don't begrudge them going batshit whenever W. is insulted, but now they're spring-loaded, ready to cheer anything that remotely validates their world view. Twice this week Stewart mentioned Iraq casualties and got raucous cheers.

Stewart: So today, the list of American dead in Iraq passed 2000—

Audience: WHOOOOOO! YEEEAAAAH! WHOOOOOO! (applause)

I don't know about y'all, but the distasteful display of self-pleasuring irritates me. It makes me not want to watch.

rosa parks

Thirty seconds of lazy research shows that "Rosa" means either "beautiful rose" or "horse serpent." So much for that lead.

• • •

Much will be written about the death of civil rights pioneer—historical giant, really—Rosa Parks today. It's not often a historical icon dies while enjoying icon status. Perhaps this is because so many folks attain icon status by, well, dying. For me personally, my reaction was that of a teacher. Rosa's living was one of my go-to illustrations in class.

Even when I'm teaching banal technical writing, I manage to sneak a few of my personal loves into the assignments: history, astronomy, cooking, etc. This primarily stems from laziness. I'll be giving the students a technical description assignment, and I won't have prepared, so I'll tell them to research and write tech descriptions of words off the top of my head: aqueduct, seething, doppler shift, baleen, retrograde motion, etc. Invariably, I end up discussing their descriptions in class, and voila. For a day, I'm a histsciwrithomeec teacher. This being my class, the discussion immediately spins wildly out of control, and before you know it we'll have spent two lively hours discussing, say, the civil rights movement. Which brings us to Rosa Parks.

It's a tribute to Parks, among others, that your average 20 year old has no idea what the country was like two of their lifetimes ago. I think the black students have something of a grasp, but the others are hopeless. Rosa Parks is just an abstract name in a list to them— the list they memorized every year during Black History Month: Frederick Douglass, Dred Scott, Rosa Parks. I think they were friends! This lack of appreciation for how far we've come, how fast, how recently—in their parents' lifetimes—both appalls and delights me. The ignorance appalls, of course, but it's also delightful to think that maybe an entire generation considers racial equality a given, and inequality a historical demon slayed long before they were born, like slavery or plague or Nazism. Nevertheless, these kids have received an enormous gift. I want them to appreciate it. The lessons are less abstract if they're more immediate, if history is still living, so I would often point out that "You know, this wasn't that long ago. Rosa Parks is still alive. She's not just a name in a book." Alas. Among the many things lost today, we have lost that.

• • •

As part of W's overall cratering, his approval rating among black voters has fallen to 2%. This leads me to three questions:

  1. What was the margin of error? I'm betting around ± 2%.

  2. How many relatives does Condi Rice have, anyway?
    (Cheap shot, I know. Don't write me.)

  3. Didn't Strom Thurmond have an approval rating of 5% among blacks? And he was an old-time segregationist!

frank frank

So that maybe he'll stop searching on his own name, I thought I'd give Frank Frank his own post. Frank Frank is my ticket pimp, scoring me sweet seats at Mariners games, even back when anyone wanted them. More importantly to readers, Frank Frank is the sire of the Dorkette; he is none other than Mr. Dorkass. It's for that last capacity—taking Dorkass off the market—that all of mankind is forever indebted to him.

I will now, for the first time, reveal the origin of the nickname Frank Frank. I don't even know if he knows. I promise the story's not worth the time you'll spend reading it.

It's a few years ago, and Dorkass and I are both remorseless dating machines. It's a blur of faces and immediately forgotten names, a cornucopia of romantic futility. We're one another's dating buddies—the first person to whom the other reports the debacles from the night before. And then along comes Frank. Debacle-free Frank. Super-dainty Frank. And Dorkass has it bad. Frank Frank Frank! Isn't that cute. Frank Frank Frank! Okay. I'm happy you're happy. Frank Frank Frank! Give it a rest, now. Frank Frank Frank! Oh please, for the love of all that's holy, shut up! Frank Frank Frank! Finally I mock her through imitation, singing the Colonel Bogey March with "Frank" as the only lyric. Everyone now:

Frank Frank!
Frank Frank Frank Frank Frank Frank!
Frank Frank!
Frank Frank Frank Frank Frank Frank!
Frank Frank!
Frank Frank Frank Frank Frank!
Frank Frank Frank Frank Frank,
Frank Frank Frank,
Frank Frank!
(Frank Frank Frank)
repeat chorus

The worst part of this is I just spent a good half hour listening to some god-awful midi versions of the Frank Frank song, and now it's still ringing in my ears. Be a dear and hand me an icepick, would you?

stank bound

I caught some flak from readers two weeks ago when I temporarily pruned this site. I was interviewing at Vulcan at the time. I knew they did background checks, and with six years of cantankerous bitching immortalized here forever, there is surely, by now, something to offend everyone. It seemed prudent to limit the site to just the last few weeks' entries. I put up a note over the weekend, then truncated the site Monday morning. And then the accusations of hypocrisy began. Any stand worth taking is a stand worth keeping, any employer worth working for won't mind, you have no courage behind your convictions, and so forth.

Horseplop.

A cardinal rule governing my life is to never violate a trust I want to keep. It's a matter of honor, yes, but it's also eminently practical. In blog as in life, anyone (or any job) I torch here is someone I've already decided doesn't matter, whose esteem I do not value. Torching someone whose esteem I don't value—no coincidence, that. By definition, then, their reaction is of no gravity to me. On very few occasions, some folks have come to matter, and on those occasions I've even been known to hunt down and eliminate old posts. Now. Cut to Vulcan. Until I got to know them better, they mattered. Until they no longer mattered, why on earth would I poke them with a stick? Out of an overdeveloped, self-sacrificing sense of rebelliousness? Fuck that noise. This is my site. Give away your own money on your own site.

visiting the planet vulcan

The NDA I signed prohibits me from saying much about Vulcan or what I would have been working on, but I'm entitled to tell you anything freely available to the public. The gadget's too big to fit into your pocket like a PDA, yet it has a minuscule monitor and a keyboard so small you have to type with your thumbs. A perfect storm of uselessness. I kept asking what the presumed customer was for such a product. And I kept getting silly answers like "Everyone!"

The Vulcan staff I met was Very Serious. For a measly six month contract, they did a phone screen and seven, count 'em, seven in-person interviews. That was to be followed by criminal and credit checks. I wore what I wore to Katrina's wedding, and I was by far the most casually dressed person on the premises. They did not smile, did not attempt to put me at ease, did not attempt to sell me on the job or company in any way. It was several hours of me defending myself. The program manager, in particular, was utterly humorless and self important. A typical excerpt follows. Context: I'd been asked to describe the documentation creation process.

ME: "And then I work with the editor on a developmental pass—"

PM (accusingly): "Where do you get this...editor?" He all but used air quotes. His tone suggested he thought I pulled the word word editor from the depths of some orifice.

ME: "Um. Kinda the same way you found me. You don't have editors on staff?"

PM (downright snide): "We're not Microsoft."

ME: "It's. Um. Not exactly a Microsoft thing. It's kinda an industry standard. In many industries."

PM: "Well, you're not getting an editor."

It was like I'd asked for a company car. A convertible. Now imagine 12 such conversations, and you have my half hour of bliss with the man. I chose the editor conversation as my example because it's precisely when I decided to pass on the job. No editor? No problem. PM masturbating on me? Big problem.

• • •

When I arrived at Vulcan, I was early, so I killed time outside the offices. I chatted with the security guard. When several hours later I returned, he asked me how it went. I paused. I reflected. "I think I hate them," I said.

He cackled guiltily, looking over his shoulder. "Me too, man. Me too."

Especially if it involves anyone involved in the production of this maudlin, ham-handed, steamin' pile of pathos. And forget this second trimester nonsense; I'll abort them well into their 60s. Listen to it. You'll understand. If you can hear this without thinking of 1) the Chipmunks, 2) South Park, 3) the Lollypop Kids, or 4) suicide, I salute you.

The backstory:

Lil' Markie (Volume 1)
There's no photos or credits anywhere on this album. Just the sickly drawing on the cover and a list of song titles. I bought it for 50 cents on a hunch after noticing the title: "Diary of an Unborn Child".

As far as bizarre Christian LPs, I gotta say, this is this most extreme thing I've ever heard. It's some full grown man with a munchkin voice, singing terrifying songs about drug use, abortion and being a fat kid and each fill me with a profound sense of dread, horror, and disgust.

At one point, he acts out the part of a baby fetus, telling how happy he is to have fully formed fingernails at 4 1/2 weeks, and a well functioning heart after 6 1/2 weeks, etc., etc.

And then ... You can guess what happens.

source

(hopefully) the final percy story of the year

Percy mowed his lawn last weekend and left, which is his annual ritual right before he irritates Arizona for the winter. Sure enough, they disappeared without a comment. They're still pissed about my house color, you know.

Concurrent with the glorious No Percy season is Walking Around Outside in My Underwear season, and I commenced immediately. When I got home from my interview, I tore off my costume and started puttering around the house. I needed to cut a metal plate, so I grabbed my jigsaw and went outside. And there I was, in nothing but my white underwear and black socks and brown sandals, making my cut, being watched by an alarmingly present Percy and Thelm@.

Goddamn it. I'm not supposed to give them blog material.

dradle dradle dradle, i play with you all day

There are two kinds of people. There are those who think laughing at a dog's misfortune is cruel, and then there're those of us who own dogs. To love a dog it to secretly, guiltily root against it.

My all time favorite such dog moment occurred when Maddie's Cairn Terrier (think Toto) was at her favorite post, attentively watching squirrels through the sliding glass door. She sneezed. I will never forget the sound—

aaaaaCHOOOO-BONK!

—that she made when her head ricocheted off the glass, nor the stunned look on her face, nor the spectacular kaleidoscope of dog snot all over the door, complete with the nose print at ground zero. One of the great laughs of all time.

angel.jpgLast night, Ed entered the pantheon. Wearing gym shorts, I was freezing my giblets off. I went looking for my sweat pants. Elderly Ed had claimed them; she was curled up and sleeping comfortably. I tried to coax her up. No dice. I extended a cookie bribe. Uh-uh. Finally, I ordered her off. With great resentment, she lifted her stiff old body and stepped off, and I snatched my sweats. Unbeknownst to both of us, her leg had gone down the pants leg, and the force of my tug spun her like a top. Ultimately unhurt, she yowled in surprise, finally spinning to a rest on her stomach, all fours sprawled. If her eyes had bugged out, she'd have been a character in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

united nations

Long Way Round, for those who don't know, is a TV documentary chronicling the London-to-New York motorcycle trip undertaken by actors Ewan Macgregor and Charlie Boorman last year. They struggled through remotest Mongolia and Siberia, where often there were no roads, so a support crew rode a day behind them to help with the various crises that occurred. The support crew was largely British but was led by the producer, an American, and included a Russian doctor.

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In barren Siberia, the support crew caught up with the motorcycles. What ensued struck me as a little microcosm of international relations. Boorman had severely injured himself, and the Russian doctor was aghast, appalled, and morally outraged that Boorman would even consider going on.

"Zis eez so fooleesh, to reesk zer healths like zis. For what? Zey have famileeze, you know? Just stupid, stupid!" the doctor scolded, making the cigarette hanging on his lower lip bob like a conductor's baton. I was utterly charmed by this guy. The perfect Russian.

Later, the support crew was gingerly driving their SUVs through five feet of disgusting standing water. The vehicles konked out, and the Brits took to slogging through the muck on foot. Then the SUV driven by the American plowed through at breakneck speed, violently sending a wake of muck at his British companions—and getting through without stalling. The look on the Brits' faces said it all, a telling combination of respect, bewilderment, envy, and utter disgust. I thought the moment crystallized Anglo-American relations perfectly.

kids lite

Disclaimer: before I discuss this latest parenting debacle, I need to clarify something oft misunderstood. I do not hate children. Nor parents. I do not care if people procreate any more than I care if they buy a sedan. It's not my business, not my place, not my interest. Any frustration I've expressed in this space is simply the result of my losing a significant percentage of friends to parenthood. Yes, "lose." I'm delighted that my friends are happy, but I miss them, and the little shadow-of-what-it-used-to-be audiences I'm granted, while appreciated, are salt in the amputation stump. I do not, you see, have a demanding infant with which to fill my newfound free time. I'm still right here, right where I was with you, without you. It sucks, frankly. It's merely unpleasant at an individual level, but collectively, it's been socially decimating. Am I being selfish? Probably. But I can't believe it's any healthier to not miss my friends. Anyway. I'll deal. The larger point is that it's not really about kids at all. Got it?

• • •

Two friends, let's call them Kathy and Mike Mulligan, are in the family way. Eighth verse, same as the first—man, am I ever numb to this by now. A couple months ago, they were me. Together we mourned lost friends, and we cynically toasted our own eternal childlessness. Somewhere in the discussions, birth control came up, and she said they used none. "Are you insane?" I asked. "Pretty please, allow me to drive you to the freakin' drug store." No, she replied, it'll be fine. She is unable to have kids. Her only evidence: a lifetime of being careless with birth control. Her logic made me nervous then, and now voila. Tardo Jr. is en route.

Wishful thinking, sadly, is how they make all major decisions. Concurrent with their careful conclusion that no birth control was necessary: a $150,000 home remodel. They're turning their house into a bed and breakfast. When they entered six digit territory, I asked what the zoning restrictions were.

"Hmm?" came the reply. Turns out they hadn't checked.

"I'm sure it'll be fine," they said. Turns out it's not fine.

A week after the remodeling conversation, when news of the pregnancy broke, I wanted to bitchslap them. Not for having a baby, but for having a baby for the most moronic reason imaginable. Kathy asked me to look up abortion law on the web. She was unsure if she wanted an abortion, but Mike was sure. Damned sure. He even joked about throwing Kathy's pregnant body over the cliff. Ha, ha.

Welcome, Tardo Jr. You will be loved.

So now we're having a baby, but we're having it Mulligan style. "How are you going to run a shop with a newborn around?" I asked.

"Oh, it'll be fine. No problem. We'll just set up a playpen in the boutique."

"It's not that easy. Newborns turn your world upside down. You won't be working."

"It'll be fine," she repeats crossly, getting peeved at me for daring to question the wisdom of The Plan. She's offended? I'm offended. Do I dare mention their previously established genius for foresight? Nah. I let it go.

No, I do not hate children. But I sure do detest when people create children lightly. If any decision calls for some care, some gravity, I'd think it the decision to create a human being.

Alas. It'll be fine.

stank unbound

Even though my interviews were just today, I'm de-sanitizing the site. I frankly no longer care if the site offends them. Never have I come so close to stopping an interview in mid-process.

Back to the original plan of taking a month off. "Yeah, you're really bustin' your hump lately," Katrina sneers in my imagination. "You're puttin' your health at risk, you are."

she wore pearls

Yesterday after I docked, an elderly couple stopped by to ask questions about my boat. They were lovely, truly a sweet little old couple from Kansas City. Unfortunately, when they approached unseen, I was puttering around the boat in my giddy, post-orca mode. My falsetto was in fine form, belting out Rick James a capella.

A little girl came up to me,
Acting young and shy.
A look of curiosity
Was flashing in her eyes.

She had seen my face before
And thought she knew me well.
So I said, Shall we talk some more?
Girl, come to my hotel.

She was only 17, 17,
But she was sexy!
She was--

"Hellooooo..?" said Grandma, understandably frightened by the apparent cross-breeding of Rick James and Grizzly Adams. But hey, at least I'd already finished singing "Sir Psycho Sexy."

top o'the morning

The call came around 9am. I heard the sweetest six words in the English language: "There are orcas near your house." Within minutes, I was watching a triple breach (really, more of a 2.5) with one eye, keeping the other eye on the Ohio State game, and cookin' gumbo. Some days, I don't mind life so much.

Off to the boat I went. I can record the Ohio State game. Just so long as some asshat doesn't tell me the results, I'll be fine.

Thanks heaps, Frank Frank.

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breach_sm.jpg

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metamuville singles scene

What's the single life like for the thirtysomethings of old, white-farted Metamuville? I recently walked into the local grocery, and there was a stunning young woman standing in line, a ringless vision of beauty. I was incredulous.

"Are you lost?" I asked.

She was lost.

ex-ships

wilted.gifI've learned to mention it by the second date. Just so ya know, some of my closest friends are ex-girlfriends. There's nothing whatsoever to be concerned about—if we wanted to be together, we've had plenty of chances—but some women find it off-putting. So if it weirds you out, please let me know sooner rather than later. Dategirls are never offput by this early on. If anything, they misinterpret this as evidence of a loving, forgiving nature that I do not actually possess. So why give the little speech? To set up the speech six months down the road, when Dategirl's traumatized by, say, Maddie knowing that the chicken masala gave me food poisoning. To me, this is a no-brainer. What good is having diarrhea, after all, if you can't graphically depict the symptoms to your appalled ex-girlfriend? "But that's so intimate..." Dategirl will say, suddenly feeling threatened. And then I launch into the 6-month speech: "Look. I was straight with you from Day Two about this friendship. You have no right to have a problem with it now..."

• • •

Allie and I have long looked for a project we can write together. I thought I had a pretty good idea: a he-said/she-said guide to being friends after a breakup. She gently declined. "Why on earth would I wish this friendship upon another living soul?"

So I guess I'm writing this on my own.

First of all, much as most relationships shouldn't happen, so is it with ex-ships. Most exes should just go away. Far away. I know it feels good to know that this person doesn't hate you, but that's no reason to invite the unique strains of ex-ship into your lives. I personally think the strains are worth it. I like that these friends know my every last wart and button; that they turn up my thermostat without asking; that they decide that the vase looks better there and presume to move it; that I can make them scratch that spot on my back I can't reach; that they know they can criticize me with impunity. I don't enjoy this level of platonic intimacy with any other friends—they haven't earned it, and neither have I—and I've yet to meet a Dategirl for whom I'd even consider giving it up. I'd sooner be alone for the rest of my life.

But it ain't easy. I've tried ex-ships and failed. I don't pretend to know all, here, but my experience is that the following ex-ship scenarios are doomed:

  • Evolution, not revolution. People who try to transition to ex-ship immediately are lying to themselves, IMO. Going from planning a future together to talking about your respective dates the other night is like shifting from fifth to reverse. You'll scatter your transmission in tiny pieces all over the freeway. Stop clinging. You need time apart—for me, at least a year—time to forget what you were and become something else. This is hugely important. And it's still no guarantee that after a year, you'll be able to be friends.

  • Assignment of blame. Once this becomes an ongoing priority, forget about being friends afterward. Of all the legacies that can't survive the romantic era, this is #1. It's more destructive than physical attraction. If you're still talking about this nonsense, you haven't moved on. Thou shalt not assign fault for the breakup. It just wasn't right.

  • No right of succession. Your ex has Dateboys of her own to contend with, and they'll be varying degrees of accepting. One of the great burdens of ex-ship is that it's incumbent upon you to make them comfortable with the thought of you. Is it fair? Hell no. You were here first. If they don't like it, they can take a hike, right? Wrong. It's on you. You're the extenuating circumstance, the complicating factor. Your ex has risked her romance in order to accommodate your friendship. Accommodate back. Once you get past all the weirdness, you'll probably find you have quite a bit in common with your successor. And you'll find no bigger fan when you insult your ex.

  • The trade-in. Friendship is, of course, a subset of any worthwhile romantic relationship, but I'll be damned if I don't see people who were never friends suddenly vow to be friends afterward. It doesn't work like that. Friendship is a treasured component that you labor to keep, not something for which you trade-in sex. I've actually had the following breakup conversation: me saying we're not really friends, so what's the point; her, gradually accepting this, then saying "Okay, so we'll be just friends now." Having freshly tolerated my being friends with two exes, she thought ex-ship was her entitlement, the consolation prize awarded to romances that didn't work out. Alas. There was nothing to salvage.

  • Different pages. This is obvious, but it's happened to me. I'd taken my year off, forgotten what we were, and I was delighted to be her friend. And then we'd be hanging out and I'd catch her getting weepy. Not bloody allowed. Pull the plug.

guardian angels

A special thanks go to the wherever-they-are-now Angels for dispatching the most cancerous franchise in all of sports, the New York Yankees. And with that, ESPN is suddenly watchable again. Except for all the plaintive "what went wrong?" stories, of course.

I feel no sympathies whatsoever for Yankee fans. This is a fan who watches the Discovery Channel and roots for the fox to catch the bunny. And then when the kill happens, he screams "BUNNIES SUCK!" in your ear, with a venom appropriate only if your bunny once slept with his wife.

RIF baby, yeah!

Serious congratulations go out to Carla, my now former manager, who managed to finesse a fat severance package from the job she was quitting next week anyway in order to live her dream. Dream-chasing with a big chunk of cash in her pocket? All bow! All kneel before the Puppet Master!

I know I have no right to be jealous. But I am. Her exit was that sweet.

grin erosion

I appended a note to my below post, but apparently no one saw it.

I sat through the opening credits of "Were-Rabbit" with a big stupid grin on my face, ready to be delighted by Aardman once again. Slowly, methodically, the grin faded to a smirk, then to nothingness. Then I was stealing peeks at my watch. Was the movie bad? Oh no, not by any means. But it's an underwhelming successor to the delights of the W&G short films, or even to Chicken Run. Bloviated to 85 minutes here, perhaps W&G can't scale. Scenes without the lead characters were interminable and felt like padding. Unfunny, charmless padding.

An aside to parents: although we expect to be surrounded by your profundity-shrieking little savants at an animated film, it is not reasonable for you to turn the theatre into an off-leash area. Exercise your brats on your own time.

mr. michaels, i'm ready for my close-up

You'd think I'd have a big smile on my face this morning, fresh of the Steelers' last-second win on Monday Night Football, but I'm still pissed. Pissed at officials apparently determined to be the real stars of prime time. It's not just the 204 yards—204 yards! That's two football fields and change!—of penalties they called. It's the phantom calls. The phantom no-calls. The officials completely and ineptly controlled the outcome of every drive I can remember, and that's not fun viewing.

equal time for bumbos

cruise.jpgfox.jpgTom Cruise and Matthew Fox, channeling John Gielgud and Laurence Olivier

Has any actor ever successfully navigated from wet t-shirt shoot to Serious Thespian status?

I'm thinking no.



"What the Fucking Fuck?" awards 

  howard dean & jessica biel

Jessica Biel

Esquire magazine's "Sexiest Woman Alive" Biel, trying to evoke modesty while ill-advisedly speaking self-authored words:

"I feel like my parents must have voted for me."

• • •

Howard Dean

Howard Dean, quickly becoming the Democrats' Quayle, on Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers:

"I think with a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, you can't play, you know, hide the salami."

shortly thereafter, my head exploded

Resigned to the fact that her blistering disapproval will not move me to shave my beard, Allie tried a dirty new tactic.

"It's just...such...an AW thing."

"The beard wasn't her idea."

"Well, she liked it."

What do you do when an ex-girlfriend who's an active pain in the ass invokes an ex who's more passively hemorrhoidal? I am at a moral impasse.

were-rabbit

Weary from my elder siblings' hell-raising, drugged-out school years, having employed both carrots and sticks and having been resoundingly flogged with both, Mom threw her hands up and tried a different tactic with her youngest. She proposed an armistice. Maintain a 3.5 GPA, she told me, and you can take as much time off school as you want. This was diabolical. It was freeing yet confining. For her next trick, was she going to buy me as much fudge as I wanted...provided I maintained a 32 inch waist? Nevertheless, I routinely missed about two weeks of school per year. "John is needed at home," Mom would snap at the goose-stepping assistant principal. "Don't call me at work anymore."

Bliss.

Which brings us to the single loudest moment of applause I've ever heard in a movie theatre. We were assembled at the first showing of Return of the Jedi—me, being needed at home; 400 geeks, being 400 geeks. The excitement was just electric, something spiritual, like a religious revival. And when the 20th Century Fox logo went up on the screen, the thunderous roar that resulted shook great volumes of dust from the ceiling. It was like god was dumping a vacuum cleaner bag on us.

The second-most thunderous applause I've heard in a theatre occurred when a clay dog pushed a button and caused his motorcycle sidecar to sprout wings. And if you don't know what I'm talking about, get thee to Wallace and Gromit, and quickly. And if you're at the matinee, look for me.

• • •

Eh. It was okay. Certainly not as good as Wrong Trousers or Close Shave. 40 dynamite minutes stretched over 85.

lost

When I was a kid, all the girls were abuzz about General Hospital. Luke, Laura, Ice Princess, blah blah blah, who knows, I wasn't really listening, even though I was pretending to be enraptured. I gathered, though, that they were whipped into a frenzy over 99 33/100% pure crap, some god-awful sci-fi plot in which our good-looking heroes were pitted in a battle to save the world from a fiend who was going to freeze the Earth.

Yep. Precisely. That's how I felt, too.

I feel exactly the same way, for exactly the same reasons, about the TV show "Lost." I've watched a few episodes. I don't get it. Oh, I get the show; I don't get its popularity. It's pretty obviously schlock, its run padded heavily with increasingly uninteresting backstories that have nothing to do with the many weird-for-the-sake-of-weird "mysteries" for which, I know in the bowels of my bowels, no satisfactory explanation is forthcoming. The idea of watching this show every Wednesday night for the next 2-17 years is like the idea of dating a stupid, pretty chick. Sure, it's good for a few months, but that loud ticking sound you hear is the countdown to inevitable disgust and disillusionment. I'll pass.

putting on airs

For the first time since college, today I have a job interview outside of Microsoft. Which leads me to one burning question: do I even own dress pants?

fandom

As the excitement for Football Weekend '05 builds, I'm in a reflective mood. I've been to about half the NFL stadiums at this point, and a mish-mash of Division 1A college stadiums, and I've met a lot of fans. This morning I got to thinking about what constitutes the best fan. Is it rowdiness? Noisiness? The willingness to weather tough games and help rally the team? Friendliness toward a couple of schmucks from Seattle who have no grill of their own? It's all these things, so I'm not going to hand out a "best overall" category. That leaves plenty of other awards, though. I'll throw in stadiums, too.

Best collegiate experience: Boston College. Oh sure, the Big Ten and SEC teams have great traditions, too, but they're so enormous that something can't help but be lost. Me, I liked Alumni Stadium. We went when the leaves were turning, and New England in autumn can't be beaten. Lots of tailgating; we found the mooching easy. The stadium itself is small and accessible, bordered on all sides by the old brick buildings of campus, and the students were the dominant presence. The cheerleaders lead cheers, and the male fans bench-press their girlfriends whenever BC scores. As it should be. A pure, lively experience.

Weirdest collegiate experience: Stanford. Tailgating under palm trees? With wine and brie? The band's halftime show: "A Salute to Professors Who Require Their Own Textbooks."

College fans most likely to stuff singles into cheerleaders' g-strings: University of Miami (FL) A hideous experience, devoid of college atmosphere. No band. No fight song. No student section. Little tailgating. No traditions. No alumni. No buildup in the local media. Hideous, antiquated stadium in the ugly part of town. (Well, that's not fair. Most of Miami is ugly.) Booze at the stadium. Ads for Bacardi. And on top of all that, my biggest pet peeve: stripper-style cheerleaders. There was nothing remotely collegiate about the experience, which given Miami's academic standards and graduation rate, is probably appropriate.

Most chills: Lambeau Field. If you can walk up Lombardi Ave. and across that parking lot, between the tailgaters huddling over the warmth of their grills, snow falling in flakes the size of golf balls, wind swirling, the yellow stadium letters barely legible through the snow; if you can walk to row 26 and realize, with a start, that there's only one section of seats, like in a high school stadium, that row 26 is really row 26; if you can brush six inches of snow off your seat and not mind the middle-aged women behind you digging their knees into your back because it's a source of warmth; if you can watch Farve in his prime throw an out across his body and put it where no one else could put in 100 tries; if you can watch all these things and not get chills, call the coroner. We have a stiff.

Fans kindest toward strangers: Oakland. Yeah, I was surprised too. I've never been welcomed like I was in Oakland. Warm, sweet, welcoming fans everywhere I went. This was easily the most diverse fan group, too. I didn't see exclusively posh white couples with opera glasses and tricked-out Benz SUVs like in Houston.

Fans who changed my mind about them: New England. I went to Foxboro not caring about the Patriots or their fans. I left despising them and vowing never to return. The most self-obsessed, moronic, hateful fans I've ever met. 99% of the racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks I've heard in this decade occurred over two days in Boston. An appalling experience.

Favorite pro stadium: Baltimore. Everyone has something to admire: Charlotte has great sight-lines, Pittsburgh the Great Hall, Tampa Bay the pirate ship. But Baltimore's stadium is pure football-watching delight. Comfortable seats with great sight-lines, great monitors, short rows so you're not constantly standing up. My favorite building, despite the fans, who are none too bright.

Worst pro stadium: Giants Stadium. I won't hand out a "best," but I know the worst. Accessible from nowhere, a horrible multi-purpose stadium with terrible angles and a serious dungeon quality. But the seats are comfortable, so there's that.

Coolest fan feature: Heinz Field's "Great Hall" There's nothing else like it in the league. Imagine a cavernous concession area running the length of the stadium. Now fill it with museum-like exhibits (uniforms, game balls, old players' lockers, trophies, etc.), a TV studio with fan seating and an ampitheatre for live music. As soon as you see it, you wonder why every stadium doesn't have such a venue for fans.

Most drunken fans: Jacksonville. It was on a Monday night, which makes it worse, but I still have to give them the nod. Kansas City was awful close.

Fans most in need of a drink: Seattle. I promise cheering doesn't cause permanent embarrassment. Honest.

Worst parking: Kansas City. Holy shit. Imagine driving a road that forms an immense downward spiral of perhaps 8 revolutions, and people are parking 20-deep on either side of the spiraling road. At the bottom of the spiral is an enormous parking lot. You park there. Now imagine everyone leaving at once.

Most criminal fans: Baltimore. Like players, like fans, I guess. I've seen glass bottles thrown from the upper deck at rival fans below. And I've heard a player on his radio show tell fans not to attack Steeler fans in the stadium. "Wait until they go into the bathroom. There are no cameras in there." We have a winner.

hit of the day

This Yahoo search

more things that apparently only i like

I thought the film "Lone Star" magnificent, but I couldn't name another soul who's mentioned it. A marvelous murder-mystery/cultural study set in a typically Saylesian location, a Texas border town. It explores interracial and intergenerational issues without pretense, in complete service of the story, better than any film I've ever seen. (Spoiler alert: unlike "Sixth Sense," the surprise in which I saw coming from the opening act, Lone Star shocked me. Its surprise genuinely surprised me.) More praised but kind of forgotten is Robert Altman's "The Player," another murder-mystery/cultural study of sorts, this time set in a movie studio. People think I'm insane for saying this, but it has the most erotic sex scene I've ever seen, a scene that 1) shows absolutely nothing and 2) overcomes the significant handicap of Tim Robbins' involvement. (Spoiler alert: What makes it erotic is purely emotional undercurrent: in the middle of their consumation, he tries to tell her a terrible secret that she already suspects but doesn't want confirmed. Powerful stuff.) And Spike Lee's 25th Hour is an overlooked near-masterpiece about a man tying up his relationships before beginning his prison sentence. The film features a heartwrenching parental moment from Brian Cox and one of the finest ensembles I've ever seen: Edward Norton, Rosario Dawson, Barry Pepper, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and, um, Tony Siragusa too. Those of us who remember a young Spike blustering that white directors shouldn't tell black stories smirk at his nearly all-white casting, but really the story and characters transcend race. As it should be. Sublime storytelling from a mature filmmaker. I loved this film.

"Andrew Henry's Meadow," my favorite childhood book. It's too subversive for modern parents—the hero runs away from home and finds happiness—but it's fun and marvelously illustrated, and it addresses important themes of self-reliance and self-possession head-on. Not to mention it was prescient.

Chicks in sweats. Or better yet, in those flannel pants things. Do they have a name? Now, I appreciate a woman in painstakingly-selected heels just as much as anyone else; I just like the comfortably dressed-down look even more. Love, love, love how women dress down when they're home for the weekend. Love it.

Bobby "Blue" Bland. An upbeat, velvety smooth R&B/blues artist whose voice sounds eerily like the late Ray Charles. He gets bonus points for using lots of organ. If it don't got organ, it ain't music. Me'Shell Ndegeocello is a very different sort of R&B artist, and some of her library does nothing for me, but if you want your soul to positively ache—and really, who among us doesn't?— think about your long lost love and put on her single "Beautiful."

Microsoft Streets and Trips. I seldom use its route-planning feature, but man, I can't live without this app. I couldn't before I was boating; now I'm married to it. It is to Mapquest what Tivo is to your VCR. Google Earth also seems to be strangely unknown.



"What the Fucking Fuck?" awards 

  don criqui

Says the announcer of the Bills' quarterback:

"In addition to other things, Losman has a big time hose, there."

bye bye

Ohio State and the Steelers both have byes this weekend. So this is how my Jewish brother-in-law feels on Christmas.

Sigh. I guess I'll go fishing.

because you asked for it

I cannot, we have established beyond all doubt, correctly predict which posts will be popular or controversial. I'd fare better by throwing darts at my monitor, frankly. Squarely in the "I'm still getting comments about that? Really?" category is my remark that competence is the trait I consider sexiest.

I teach a little class (or a large workshop) based on some work I did in graduate school. There, it was a 10-week class with a 50% failure rate. When I "workshop" it, it's an intensive 20 hours or so. The topic: hard-core sentence diagramming, where we learn that verbs are adjectives and clauses are nouns. It's not for the intellectually flaccid.

The first individual to whom I taught the workshop? None other than Fucking Amy, who needed it for a tutoring job. She might have space for rent where her soul should be, but the chick is seriously bright. She inhales information, and to my astonishment and great pride, she mastered 10 weeks' worth of material in about 6 hours, acing the actual final exam. I fell more in love with her that day. I remember the feeling clearly. Dead. Sexy.

Plus she could turn a double-play.

I've taught the workshop several times since, and there've been varying degrees of speed and success. The only other girlfriend I've taught the material to was the dread Approval Whore (AW). It's not often that you know the exact moment the bloom fell off someone's rose, but in her case I do. This was it. It was in a professional environment, and she was one of several editors at the table. As always, I began slowly and built incrementally on what they'd just mastered. It's rather like algebra—if you fall behind, you're hopelessly lost. She was hopelessly lost in about two minutes. Worse, she smiled and tried to fake it (in this as in all endeavors, as it turned out). The other editors started working ahead by themselves, but AW furiously spun her wheels, lapsing into what got her through high school and college: nodding her head like an idiot, pretending to understand, trying to steer the subject toward whatever pictures she saw in Us magazine that week. She was increasingly and visibly flustered by what was becoming excruciatingly obvious to all present: the woman with whom I was in love was the dumb student in the class. Of course, my embarrassment wasn't what was upsetting her, nor was it the knowledge that she was the stupid one. It was everyone else knowing that upset her. As for me, I cannot describe how mortifying it is to empirically prove that your girlfriend is dim. Not only dim, but dishonestly dim, dim with a vapid, arm-waving, giggling, this-is-boring-let's-go-shopping, cheerleader flourish. Dead. Unsexy.

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