February 2009 Archives

arrested no more

Over the past 15 years, my three favorite TV shows were, in order, Larry Sanders, Arrested Development, and 30 Rock. I tend to think of 30 Rock as being the latest in a fraternity of equals...until I re-watch episodes of its brilliant predecessors.

No.

30 Rock is good, not great. I especially love, even identify with, the exasperated interplay between mentor Alec Baldwin and protege Tina Fey. His perpetual disappointment in her, her unblinking disregard for that disappointment...it's all too familiar to this mentor and protege.

But the big news this week is that one of the great, not good, ones is finally coming back: the Arrested Development movie is a go!

27 minutes

Here's a clip of every profanity ever uttered during the run of The Sopranos. It's not even mildly amusing, really, and you'll grow bored inside of a few seconds. I post it more because I'm amazed that someone took the time to cut together over 27 minutes of rapid-fire fucks. There must be 5000 cuts in this clip. Who has that kind of time? Who thought this was that funny?


the sopranos, uncensored. from victor solomon on Vimeo.

how to meet chicks

  1. Buy a Princess Bride poster that's autographed by every member of the film's cast.
  2. Take it to a frame shop and spread it out on the counter.
  3. Wait for every woman between the ages of 10 and 100 within a mile radius to come and tell you about their favorite scenes and/or dialogue. Which they will. Word spreads rapidly.

In the fall, my octogenarian friend Sue's best friend died. A lot of her friends are dying lately, but this one especially hurt. Sue was depressed. Months passed. The depression didn't.

In December, I noticed that her beloved Gonzaga basketball team, ranked #2, was playing #1 UConn here in Seattle. "How 'bout I fly you here for the game, take you out to dinner, and send you home?" I asked. She was elated.

"Oh my God, do I need this, John."

And then the snow came. She wasn't comfortable leaving her home, and she canceled. Her flight took off on time, so no refund was possible. Not only was she disappointed and now even more depressed—how singularly frustrating is that?—I was out about five hundred bucks. I would have gotten more for my money if I'd set it on fire. Heat, at least.

I resolved to try again. Two months later, I did.

"I'll tell ya what," I told her last week. "I'll drive to Spokane and take you to the game Thursday night." She was elated again. And so I mailed her the tickets, lest I get stuck on this side of the mountain pass and have to cancel. I drove eight hours through the fog, booked a motel room (lest my puppy whiz on Sue's rug), and stayed for a few days. I picked her up, flowers in hand. For dinner I took her to Clinkerdagger, a fine steak place, and on our way to the make-good basketball game, Sue spoke of how painful it is to see her friends die. I bet. I can't even imagine.

And then she bitterly spat the following.

"All of my good friends are dead."

Cue the headline.

get yer upside here!

The press has been falling all over itself this week to report on the silver linings inside our economy's dark cloud.

USA Today reports that joblessness has been a boon to the 2010 census, which has been flooded with applicants!

Newsweek reports that bad guys, too, are falling on hard times and can't pay for weapons!

Hats off to CNN, though, for the most utterly vapid upside of the week.

special kind of stupid

There's lots about the federal stimulus package that's annoying. Generally, I'm annoyed that it looks like the federal budget. Jobs? Infrastructure? Maybe. But there's definitely a little ground pork for everyone.

Specifically, though, I'm most annoyed by the $7500 tax credit for plug-in hybrids.

These cars do not yet exist. They will be mass-produced in 2010 at the earliest. My next car, Jeep willing, will be a plug-in hybrid. Thank you, federal government, for ensuring that when the car companies price my vehicle, that price will be exactly $7500 more than it would have been.

This subsidy couldn't have waited a year?

family ties

There comes a point in every one of my relationships where the stories about my family serve to pique, not diminish, her desire to meet them.

"I want to meet them," she'll say. "I wonder what they would think of me..?"

I can tell from her tone that she thinks she'll be different. That I'm somehow exaggerating. Why perhaps, on beholding her spectacularness, they'll even clutch her to their bosom. She doesn't realize, of course, that there is no bosom. There's only a cremation furnace where a heart should be. My family peddles rage and hate the way others hand out love and awkwardness. Cruelty is their bloodsport of choice. To be thrust into it without having grown up in it is like learning to swim by being tossed into 20-foot waves.

Yet no amount of metaphoria dissuades the cocksure girlfriend from wanting to meet them. "Over my dead body, " I say. I haven't introduced a girlfriend to my collective family since high school. One, the AW, did meet a single sister who was visiting. To the AW my sister said, "I'm supposed to invite you to come home and meet the family."

"Oh, how nice!" the AW replied.

"It's a trap," I sighed as I drove. "They're trying to do an end-run around me. Same shit, different decade. They know they won't get anywhere with me. Did this come from Maria?"

"Yes," my sister replied.

"That particular knifing is not happening."

"I know."

We drove on in silence. "What just happened here?" the AW asked.

"I just saved you thousands of dollars in unsuccessful therapy. You're welcome."

The day wore on, and my sister got me caught up on all the family dynamics. At any given point, such as at this writing, I have no idea who's not speaking to whom. Sometimes people aren't speaking to me and I don't even realize it. So that's what my sister was briefing me about. It went for hours. Hatred, envy, rage, incredibly aggressive acts of cruelty. The AW heard all the crap some say about me. I'm on drugs. I'm a drug dealer. My house isn't really my house; it's a rental I use to fool my sister. The AW herself isn't my girlfriend; she's a friend who's posing, again to fool my sister. The list goes on and on.

That night, when she and I lay in bed, a shell-shocked AW stared at the ceiling. "I don't ever want to know these people."

Welcome.

giving good gift

Responses to last week's survey continue to come in, so I'll wait to roll them up. You can stop with the "my mother always got me socks for Christmas" stories, though, as that rather misses my point. We already knew your mother doesn't love you, so a sock monument to same really isn't that illuminating.

Several people have asked what my favorite gift has been. Several come to mind. A few years ago, Katrina got me The Improvisational Cook, a cookbook that concentrates on an area I'm especially weak at: intuitively knowing what ingredients will compliment what. The book came in a basket of various gourmet spices, rubs, oils, etc. A fantastic gift. I think I got her an AM/PM gift certificate that year.

Maddie once surprised me with an old world map, beautifully framed, when we were very poor. I didn't know I wanted it, but man, did I. I loved it then, and I love it now. It forever has a place on my wall.

I think the most touched I've ever been by a gift was Sarah's drawing of Ed, two Christmases ago. It's huge, it's perfect, it aggravates anyone who sees it because of the thought of a person this talented wasting her life. Right now it's in a closet, unframed, still in the pad on which she sketched it. Someday I hope to be able to look at it and think of Ed and not some creepy skank.

No luck yet.

bad gifts

When Dorkass and I first became friends, my First Alert Obligation Detector shrieked loudly. If ever there were a person who...

  1. would want to exchange birthday and Christmas gifts and who
  2. doesn't possess the consideration to eventually fade out of your life and thus end the obligation
...Dorkass is that person. After accruing these people early on in life, one year I took a look at my lengthy Christmas shopping list and bolted 2000 miles to Seattle, never to return. I'll be damned if I moved here just to accrue more of these folks. Moving to Hawaii would be expensive.

No, to receive even one such gift from Dorkass would mean a hundred gifts, lifetime.

"No gifts!" I told my new friend. This annoyed her, but the subsequent savings have meant more to me than any cow-themed oven mitt ever could.

cow_oven_mitt.jpgAnd thus have I kept the number of gift obligations to a minimum. In the absence of a girlfriend, I'm presently at three. This is a good number. It also means that I only receive three gifts, which you would think is a downside, but not really. Why? Because people's obligatory gifts tend to suck. Mightily. Sometimes they even manage to suck and blow at the same time. And I don't miss that.

Specifically, I don't miss the following feeling. A young friend was in love with a douchebag who had a two-year old kid. I thought long and hard about what to get her for Christmas, finally settling on something supportively family-themed and potentially cost-saving. I bought her a luxury picnic basket, replete with plates, silverware, crystalware, etc. I gave it to her. She accepted. And then she gave me my Rubik's Cube.

This was in 2000. You remember the year 2000, when Rubik's Cubes had already been at dollar stores for 15 years?

Now what bothered me wasn't the disparity in cost. I knew she couldn't afford much. What bothered me was the disparity in thought. What about me suggests to her that I would want a Rubik's Cube? I wondered, eventually coming up with no answer that wasn't "she felt obligated to get me a gift and grabbed the object nearest the cash register at the thrift store." I came to look at this gift as a monument to how little she cared about me. Seriously, a fucking Rubik's Cube? Were they out of "We Are the World" 45s and "Happy New Year 1993" cards?

I've received many such monuments in my lifetime, and let me tell you, I'd rather have no gift at all. I'm accustomed to getting no gift at all. I wouldn't even think about it. But when I'm engaged to your daughter and you shove a plastic freezable Frosty Mug that I know you bought in bulk at Costco and gave to the mailman and paperboy, too, into my hand—well, I guess I know where I stand.

• • •

In recent years, the mommy years, I've asked my gift-exchange people for a date. I just want to hang out like we used to, once or twice a year. This is the best gift imaginable. Makes me wish Christmas came once a month.

• • •

For my money, a gift that's not from the heart isn't worth giving or receiving. This is why I declare "no gifts!" to new friends. And it's why I surprise them with gifts bought not because of a holiday obligation, but simply because I wanted them to have it.

No more monuments to how little someone cares about me, thanks. How about you? Think I'm an asshole? What's the worst such monument you've ever gotten?

the unshop4able

It was a typical end-of-day-pointless-blather-call with Allie.

"So I'm reading Denis Leary's book called Why We Suck and—"

"Goddamn it, John!"

"Why?"

"I was hoping to get that for you for your birthday!"

And so it goes with me. Allie's lament for 14 years, now: I'm bloody impossible to buy anything for. Me not really being into self-deprivation, if I want something, I already have it. Your only chance is to get me 1) something so expensive that I don't want to spend the money or 2) something I'll like that I don't already know about.

Sorry, Allie. My fault for leaving the house that one time last month. I guess "too expensive" is your only option.

royal blood

"I'll need to meet both parents," I said to the dog breeder. After all, the whole point of getting a purebred dog was knowing exactly what I was getting. I wanted to meet the parents and see their temperament first-hand.

And so I did. Dex's Mom hated me on sight, which is pretty much par when I meet girls' moms. Dad, though, was a lover. Affectionate but cool. He's the type of dog who instantly conveys that you and he have a special relationship. Of the assembled humans and dogs in the room, only you two really understand the world, and on this point you're forever bonded.

The breeder made some reference to Westminster. What's that?

"You don't know?"

Know what?

"The dad won best in breed at Westminister."

No. Way.

Way. I looked him up, and he won it twice. I don't really see much evidence of royal lineage in Dex, not unless Prince Harry is also a bed-wetting shit-eater who moves the driveway into the house one rock at a time. So I'm not sure what to make of my dumb luck.

The breeder, however, knew exactly what to make of it. She and the dad looked at one another and shook their heads in disgust.

dad and mom.jpg
Dex's Dad, left, and mom

glass castle

A few months ago, I was lamenting to Blondage about how I'd like to write about my mom, but I sure don't know how to make a bitter, petty, miserable person a protagonist. I've been utterly blocked by this fact for years. So Blondage suggested I read Jeannette Walls' The Glass Castle.

It's non-fiction, thank god, 'cause if someone made this melodrama up, you'd feel manipulated. Walls was raised by two parents who are clearly mentally ill and ultimately, once she's an adult, defiant homeless people. It immediately became apparent why Blondage recommended the book. The story is chronological, and we view the parents through Walls' age at the time. So when she's five, she doesn't know her parents are nuts. They're her parents. They're therefore brilliant and infallible. As Walls aged, she slowly unraveled the truth, and so too does her narrator. As chapters pass, the narrator grows older, and her perspective on her parents sharpens into ugly reality.

Brilliant device.

"What did you think?" Blondage asked. "Was it helpful?"

I shared with her the analysis I just shared with you. And then I sadly shook my head. "The problem is, I always thought my mom was a moron. There was no shifting perspective as I got older."

"Oh."

Oh.

super bowl xviii photos

Pictures of Santonio Holmes' and James Harrison's catches abound, so I wanted to immortalize some more unusual pics.

Yes, that's his wife.

340x.jpg

How Ryan Clark spent the celebration

610x.jpg

I know it's futile to hope that I'll never be an old white man, but if I ever dress like Mr. Rooney, kindly put a bullet in my skull.

rooney2.jpg

Make that two bullets.

rooney1.jpg

This geek sold drugs as a kid?

santonio.jpg

"Upsies, coach, upsies!"

ben.jpg

Wow. Just wow.

dogs.jpg

It's his prerogative.

tomlin.jpg

Man, do I know this feeling. I call this the "I just spent two grand per seat to have my dick kicked in" face.

cardfans.jpg

Obligatory parade shot. Clark again.

clark2.jpg

This is my absolute favorite photo making the rounds, but I think you have to be a Steeler fan. If any other lineman in league history has more "not being lined up on the line" penalties, I'll be stunned.

colon.jpg

bumsbands

I used to think that the worst side-effect of the feminist movement was male porn. For a time, anyway, it seemed that newly empowered women were looking toward their Penthouse-thumbing male counterparts as their moral example and were rushing out to buy demeaning pictures of men. Yeah! Power through degradation! This trend has either waned or I'm more out of touch. Either way, it doesn't bother me anymore.

Besides, it's been displaced by an even nastier side-effect, something that couldn't have much existed before women were in the workforce: the lazy-assed husband. The guy who realized "Hey, she makes good money. I'm in no rush to get to work this morning" and then parlays that commute into a lifetime of shameless leeching. This is an alarming percentage of the men I know. I call them "bumsbands."

It's hard to pronounce, yeah, but it looks great in print.

What astounds me the most, besides the fact that their wives let them get away with it, is the overdeveloped sense of entitlement that got them here. The bumsband getting a job isn't an option. It's not even on the table. Selling off possessions, cutting spending, borrowing money, pulling the kid out of school, pulling the wife out of school, making her get a second job...these things are all decidedly on the table. Witness this conversation from a week ago:

"Is she still working at the post office nights?"

"Yeah. They pay good."

"How about you? You looking for work?"

"Nah. Someone's got to watch the kid."

"Where is the kid, anyway?"

"At her grandmother's."

How they go to bed feeling like a worthwhile human being—indeed, like a man—escapes me. And yeah, I'm holding them to a standard that's pretty traditional: able-bodied men either parent or work. Get off your asses, report to the nearest counter, and turn in your penises.

shortest month of the year

By the time they invented Black History Month, I was out of public schools. I was working at a library, and my introduction to the month was an unceasing parade of resentful white kids asking for one of our three books about Frederick Douglass. They were out of luck, as some resentful black kids had checked them out already.

That was my first impression of Black History Month: children, born to both black and white mothers, reaching across the racial divide to share their common hatred of history and library clerks. It was beautiful, really.

I also remember being puzzled, as I thought I remembered "separate is inherently unequal" as being a critical part of black history. I wasn't opposed to the month, really; I was just skeptical that this was the best way to get more black history into textbooks.

Soon I taught my own class, in Eastern Washington, which at the time was damned near the headquarters of the Aryan Nation. I got to see first-hand the resentment that BHM and the Black Studies major cultivated inside these illiterate little pricks. They openly declared their resentment. Poor, put-upon blond-haired, blue-eyed white guys. I'm sure that but for the horrible indignity of BHM, they'd all have interracial posses and children. By this point, my only concern about BHM was that it wasn't nearly long enough.

Which brings us to 2009, when my team's black coach, one of the three black head coaches in my division of four, was just congratulated on his Super Bowl win by President Obama. And it occurred to me right then and there: if a separate Black History Month hasn't gotten kinda silly already, it's certainly about to.

six appeal

20090202mfsb22_roethlisberger_tr_330.jpg
Wow, what a game. My thoughts as I watched my team hoist the Lombardi for the sixth time in my life:

  • When I fly to Pittsburgh in September for the ceremony, Ben Roethlisberger's two starting receivers will both be Super Bowl MVPs. That will never happen again. Now let's get Heath one.
  • The MVP was the only Buckeye on my team. I'm not sure, but I think that may well be the first Ohio State alum so named.
  • My nickname for The Touchdown: "Big Ben Strikes 10."
  • This played out like half the Steelers' games this season. Last minute, come-from behind drive, Ben tossing the winning touchdown, linebackers forcing a fumble to end the game. I cannot tell you how many times I've seen that scenario unfold this year.
  • The astonishingly, truth-defyingly whiney Seahawks made exactly as many plays in this Super Bowl as they did in the previous 42. Zero, bitches. Don't like that number? How about 21-0? Or 4-12?
  • Does anyone else taunt Kurt Warner's image when he screws up? When he plays well, he shoves Jesus into every sentence; I think it's only fair to shove Jesus into every sentence when Warner's sucking.
  • Quite in contrast with two years ago, I didn't much hear Tomlin's race mentioned. And afterward, I didn't hear one member of the media state that "Tomlin is the second black coach to win the Super Bowl." I thought "Good, that's progress" until they began harping on Obama being the first black president to congratulate the winning team. Sigh.

the next

My post-ideas queue has long included "spotting deceptions." Now, I don't claim to be able to infallibly sense when someone is hiding something from me. Far from it. I just claim to be better than average at this dubious discipline. Integral to success, I think, is precisely that you shouldn't think you know anything for certain.

"I think there's a 30% chance he's lying about his promotion," I'll begin, and then I'll employ the scientific method, testing my hypothesis in order to make that number go up or down.

It starts with flags. Over the years, I've developed a list of favorite red flags. Tells, if you will, that have withstood the test of time. I'd love to write about it. I just can't. It's like publishing a How to Deceive John manual. I'll share one red flag, though, because it's on my mind.

tub.jpgI truly hope that soon, the Biographical Name will fail me for the first time. This is when a woman consistently includes the nature of their relationship in the name of a man. Curtis One of Our Clerks was my first. That was his full name. He worked with my girlfriend, who never failed to call him Curtis One of Our Clerks when she referenced him. I thought this funny. "Is that his full name? Ha, ha." I didn't know.

There have since been other such names, all applied to men. Somehow females never rate the repeated inclusion of biography in their names. I've come to realize that any given biographical name translates to "the guy with whom I will replace you." (Hello, Rich Who I Consider a New Friend. I sure saw your ass coming up Lakeness Rd.) The biographical name is intrinsically defensive. And defensive is intrinsically suspicious.

I'm pretty sure that when Dorkass mentions me to Frank Frank, she doesn't feel compelled to say "my former boss John" or even "my friend John." She probably incorporates the word "dickless" in my name, but that's offense, not defense.

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