Friday, December 22, 2006

Arabian Nights: The Tale of the Incomplete Sunday Times

Friend of mine goes to buy a Sunday Times from his local Arab-run newstand. He pays his $3.50 and realizes that the paper feels light. He flips through it to make sure all the sections are intact and discovers that numerous sections are missing. He informs the news vendor, who sends his colleague out to check all the papers. It turns out that all copies on sale are missing the same three or four sections. My friend and the news vendor exchange looks, and my friend asks for his money back. The vendor begrudgingly returns the money. My friend says, "You can't sell papers in that condition."

To which the vendor haughtily replies, "Not everyone wants it complete!"

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Get your tootsie-frootsie ice cream

From a front-page story headlined, "Democrats want to Exit Iraq By the 2008 Political Season," in Monday's New York Sun (which, by the way, is half of an excellent paper -- the second section comprises the best arts and sports writing of any New York daily):

WASHINGTON — Senior Democrats are coalescing behind the view that America should begin withdrawing from Iraq by early 2008, the heart of the next presidential campaign season.
Yesterday, the incoming Senate majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, told reporters after an appearance on ABC's "This Week" that he would even support a surge in troops in Iraq, as President Bush is likely to call for in his new Iraq strategy.
But the increase in troops should only be part of a plan to begin withdrawing them, the senator said. "If it's for a surge, that is, for two or three months and it's part of a program to get us out of there as indicated by this time next year, then, sure, I'll go along with it," Mr. Reid said.

I get it. Our leaders intend to withdraw from Iraq by adding more troops. The logic of this ingenious plan, which seems to have been filched from an old Marx Brothers movie, is this: If we send in more troops, we can stabilize the country...until we start to withdraw troops again, at which time it will become which time, we'll have to put back the troops.

In the interim, how many more people will die? Bush, Pelosi, et all: You're all mass murderers.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Hi, I'm Harold Ford, and I'm confused

In the orgy of disingenuousness that characterizes our political campaigns, a new low was reached by Tennessee congressional candidate Harold Ford. A black man purportedly running as a Democrat, Ford went into Houdini-like contortions to distance himself from his party's traditional positions. In his ads, he asserted that he was a church-going, God-fearing Christian, a gun-loving hunter and a social conservative. I mean, I half-expected him to blurt out, "And folks, I'm not even black!"

Of course, this is not to overlook the typically despicable attack ad aired by his opponent -- and eventual winner -- Bob Corker, which used a long-ago Ford visit to the Playboy mansion as a springboard to suggest that Ford was a racially motivated sexual predator. That Ford was looking to despoil white maidenhood -- albeit of the stripper variety, a trailer park version of the antebellum defense of Southern male pride.

Perhaps this ad -- and the controversy it engendered -- was a factor in Ford's narrow defeat. And maybe his anti-identity politics even won him some redneck votes. But this desperate desire among Democrats to ape the worst qualities and positions of troglodyte Republicans while foregoing their traditional constituents is a disastrous strategy, if not for them then certainly for the rest of us who live in the reality-based community.

"Hi, I'm Hillary Clinton, and I'm really a man..."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

No cattle were harmed in the preparation of this hamburger

From today's Times:

Whole Foods Market is preparing to roll out a line of meat that will carry labels saying “animal compassionate."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Fair and Balanced

OPEN ON TV STUDIO – A panel of COMMENTATORS is in silhouette.

ANNOUNCER: It’s Salvo – the show that hits below the Beltway and tackles today’s most important issues.

LIGHTS UP and CLOSEUPS on each panel member as they’re introduced.

ANNOUNCER: Here’s our panel: On the right, Pat Buchanan! On the far right, Pat Robertson. Farther to the right, Heinrich Himmler!


ANNOUNCER: To the right of Himmler, Genghis Khan!

KHAN, in full body armor, holding spear, emits feral sounds.

ANNOUNCER: And on Khan’s right, Godzilla!

CLOSEUP of end of stage. A ferocious growl and roar is heard offstage.


BUCHANAN: Today's topic: The earth – flat or round? As you know, Congress is voting tomorrow on a bill that would declare the earth flat. President Bush and his religious right supporters back it all the way. Everybody’s in favor – except Michael Moore. That’s because he thinks the earth is as round as he is.

Guffaws from panel. Robertson high-fives with Himmler.

ROBERTSON: Of course the earth is flat. It says so in the Bible.

BUCHANAN: Heinrich?

HIMMLER: Javol! German engineers proved it – the Earth is flatter than Poland after the blitzkrieg!


KHAN: Earth flat. Me almost fall off near Manchuria.

He hisses and waves his spear menacingly.

BUCHANAN: Godzilla – your take on it?

SFX: Offstage enormous roar, sounds of crashing furniture, moans of STAGEHANDS presumably being eaten.

BUCHANAN: Now, the President and Congress have gotten some criticism over the Flat Earth Bill, which they say contradicts the basic laws of science. Panel?

KHAN: Lies of liberal media. They support America’s enemies. Right, Godzilla?

SFX: Roar. Sounds of Godzilla leveling the Upper West Side.

BUCHANAN: Some viewers have complained that we aren’t fair to liberals, that we never give them a chance to express their views. So we went out and found one, and we’re bringing him on. Welcome, Alan Colmes.

Enter COLMES, shaking, timid, in short pants and Poindexter tortoise-shell glasses.

COLMES: Th-th-th-th-thanks for ha-ha-ha-having me.

BUCHANAN: You’re against the Flat Earth Bill, right?

COLMES: Well, ya-ya-ya-yes and no.

ROBERTSON: It’s because you haven’t accepted Jesus in your heart, right?

COLMES: Well, I-I-I…

HIMMLER: You’re a girly man! Let’s feed him to Godzilla!

COLMES: W-W-Well, O.K. Giant mutant lizards have rights, too.

CUT TO CLOSEUP. Godzilla chewing on Colmes, whose puny body sticks out of Godzilla’s mouth.

BUCHANAN: That’s it for this week. Join us next week on “Salvo!” when we subject James Carville to electroshock torture.


The Prada bag and the stick

No, this isn't the title of Thomas Friedman's latest book of drivel. It's what I call the Bush Administration's strategy for punishing North Korea. In response to what might have been a nuclear weapon test, Bush and Rice got the U.N. Security Council to impose sanctions on "luxury goods."

Take that, Kim. No more Cristal. You know those Prada bags your henchmen have been smuggling back from the West? It's knockoff time.

What's next -- seating them at a table near the kitchen at Per Se?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I Was the Jackie Robinson of Gay Softball

NARRATOR: For the last forty years, a shadow has fallen across gay softball. The shadow of discrimination. Ever since its inception, a group of players have been banned from homosexual softball – just because they were heterosexual. That is, until one man, Dick Straight, and one gay team, the New York Toilet, decided to challenge convention.

FX: Ballpark sounds: Ball hitting bat, cheers, whoops, applause.

OUTFIELDER: I got it, Mary!

FOOD VENDOR: Get your coquilles St. Jacques! Coquilles St. Jacques. I slaved for hours over them.

NARRATOR: In its early days, gay softball was played by effeminate men, often in Capri pants. Most players had only rudimentary skills, and many didn’t even know the rules of the game.

PLAYER #1: I hit you with the ball. You’re out.

PLAYER #2: What do you mean, I’m out? Nobody’s supposed to know that!

NARRATOR: But while they were light on talent, they really knew how to throw a post-game party…

FX: It’s Rainin’ Men plays under sounds of players singing along, snorting coke, etc.

PLAYER #1: Honey, could you get me another popper?

NARRATOR: But after a while, gay people started to take softball more seriously. Organized leagues developed, and they attracted sponsors such as Oscar’s Cock Rings and Ye Olde Tavern and Glory Hole. There was even a World Series of Gay Softball, held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, the week after the Little League World Series.

FX: Crowd applause. Sounds of jubilant winners’ clubhouse.

PLAYER (being interviewed): You know, that’s why we play this game. To get a ring. Amethyst, preferably. Not too tacky, you know, like those Bud Selig monstrosities, honey, they’re so Vegas…

NARRATOR: Not all teams were successful, however. For example, the New York Toilet finished in last place for twenty-eight straight years. Its long-time sponsor, Tidy Bowl, pulled out of its agreement, and the Toilet’s owner and general manager, Evan St. Croix, was at his wits’ end.

ST. CROIX (to team): May I have your attention, ladies? You call yourselves gay softball players? You haven’t won a game since Boy George was a boy. And this clubhouse! What a dump! You have no pride in the Toilet uniform. Why, you even got beat by those bull-dykes, Pandora’s Jocks.

TEAM CAPTAIN: Bitch, bitch, bitch! Evan, if you don’t think we can play, why don’t you go out and sign a bunch of butch closet-cases? Better yet, why not sign a ... hetero!

DICK STRAIGHT: Excuse me. Are you Evan St. Croix?

ST. CROIX: Yeah. Who are you?

STRAIGHT: My name’s Dick Straight. I hear you could use some players.
ST. CROIX: You got any?

STRAIGHT: Well, I can hit, run, throw, play second, short, third, and the outfield, and pitch.

ST. CROIX: Fast-pitch?

STRAIGHT: Fast-pitch, slow-pitch, high-arc. You name it. Scouts say I got the good face. And the good ass. (beat) That's just scout talk.

ST. CROIX: Great! You’re just what we need. But sorry, I can’t use you.

STRAIGHT: Why not?

ST. CROIX: You’re straight.

STRAIGHT: How could you tell?

ST. CROIX: The gaydar gun. Never fails. (pause) Son, the gay softball world just ain’t ready for a heterosexual player.

STRAIGHT: But Mr. St. Croix --.

ST. CROIX: Stick to your own kind.

STRAIGHT: My own kind!? You mean straight people? Are you kidding! You’ve seen them. Keg parties, ugly T-shirts, sponsors like Uncle Bob’s Grease Monkeys. (pause) I’m better than that. I need to prove that I can play with the best.

ST. CROIX: Well, son, you’ve got the wrong team. There’s a reason we’re called the New York Toilet. We bottom for everybody, so to speak.

STRAIGHT: Please, give me tryout. I’m good. I can help you win!

ST. CROIX: (pause) You’re a pitcher, right?


ST. CROIX: Let’s see what you got. (to another player) Stuart, step in there and take some swings against this … what’s your name, kid?

STRAIGHT: Straight, sir. Dick Straight.

FX: Players laugh.

PLAYER: Honey, I’ll bet it is.

STUART: O.K., big guy, show me your arm.

FX: Sound of pitch whirring by at supersonic speeds, Stuart grunting and missing.

PLAYERS: Whoa! Did you see that?

PLAYER #1: (to Stuart) Hit it, Stuart.

STUART: Hit it? I can’t even see it!

FX: Another pitch whirls by and Stuart misses it.

ST. CROIX: Kid, you’ve got a hell of an arm there. Why don’t you take a few swings?

STRAIGHT: Sure, Mr. St. Croix.

ST. CROIX: (to another player) Roger, can you toss him a few?

ROGER: Alright. But I’ve got a brunch in half an hour. (to Straight) Are you ready, Miss Thing?

STRAIGHT: You bet.

FX: Sound of pitch being thrown, ball hitting bat and being smacked into the stratosphere.

PLAYERS: Aaaahhh!

STUART: Did you see that? That ball cleared Splash, went straight over Rawhide and landed on the Roxy.

ST. CROIX: Straight, come into my office. I want to have a talk with you.

FX: Transition to St. Croix’s office.

ST. CROIX: Look, Straight. I not only need a hetero man who can play, I need a hetero man who has the courage not to fight back … against catty remarks and vicious sarcasm. Are you that man?

STRAIGHT: Mr. St. Croix, I swear that I will turn the other cheek.

ST. CROIX: Uh, in our league, that may not be the best idea. But I get your point. You’re on. Let me handle the press. They can be brutal.

STRAIGHT: Whatever you say.

FX: Straight’s footsteps as he leaves the locker room.

ANNOUNCER: Hello there, gay softball fans. The latest standings show the Boston Red Hankies atop the Jeff Stryker Division, followed by the Chicago Lube, the Cherry Grovers, the Baltimore Barebackers and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. In the ChiChi Larue Division, the San Francisco Fabulous is in first place, followed by the Omaha Crank, The Kansas City Closet Cases, the Detroit Divas and in last place the New York Toilet. Now, the dish around the National Gay Softball League is that in a desperate attempt to revive the sagging fortunes of his club, Evan St. Croix has signed a – are you ready? – straight man to play for the Toilet. Right now, St. Croix and the pioneer player, Dick Straight, are holding a press conference…

FX: Press hubbub. Reporters shouting, Evan, Evan!

REPORTER: Damon Sashay, The Advocate. Mr. Straight, is it true that you are going to try to cross the sexual-orientation line of gay softball?

STRAIGHT: Uh, no comment.

REPORTER #2: Brent Mange, OhMyGod magazine. Dick, do you hit right-handed or left-handed?

STRAIGHT: Oh, I swing both ways.

REPORTER #2: Oh my God! This is bigger than when Liza dumped David Gest!

NARRATOR: All of America was agog when they found out Straight would try to integrate gay softball. There was an outcry from homo- and heterosexuals alike. But not even Evan St. Croix could imagine that one of the biggest obstacles would come from within his own locker room…

FX: Locker room sounds.

STUART (to Lance): Look who’s here, Lance. The guy Evan hired to take your place as our pitcher…

STRAIGHT: Hi, Stuart. Hi, Lance.

LANCE: Stuart, do you, like, smell something funny? Like Old Spice?

Lance and Stuart laugh.

STRAIGHT: Did I say the wrong thing?

FX: Sounds of Straight’s footsteps as he walks away.

STUART: If looks could kill.

LANCE: Honey, if that bitch thinks he can get strut in here and take my job, he doesn’t know Stuart Little.

NARRATOR: Even as Dick Straight helped his team to their first-ever winning streak, his teammates shunned him. When he hit a home run, there was nobody to greet him at home plate. They even refused to let him join the post-game shower orgy.

FX: Shower orgy sounds: running water, loud club music, sexual congress.

NARRATOR: But the worst abuse would come from opposition players.

FX: Ballpark sounds.

ANNOUNCER: It’s the top of the sixth. Toilet one, Divas nothing on Straight’s first inning homer. Dick’s on first, Stuart Little at the plate. Here’s the windup and the pitch. It’s a ground ball to short. To second for one and over to first for the double play. But Straight is down. The Diva second baseman bitch-slapped him! Oh, it was fierce! He’s getting up. But instead of cheering him, the home town crowd is taunting him.

LEATHER-LUNGED FAN: Breeder! Breeder!

NARRATOR: Not even the cruel vitriol from fans of his own team stopped Dick Straight. His slugging and pitching helped the Toilet beat the Chicago Lube and win their first Gay World Series.

FX: Ballpark sounds.

NARRATOR: Long after Dick Straight retired, his influence was felt. His success fueled competition, and gay softball players got bigger, tougher and more butch.

FX: Ballpark. St. Croix, Aspiring Ballplayers.

ST. CROIX: Welcome to the New York Toilet tryout camp. What’s your name, fella?

JARED: Jared Storm.

ST. CROIX: Listen, kid. You’ve got some talent. But you’re not going to cut it here.

JARED: Why not, Mr. St. Croix?

ST. CROIX: Look at you – manicured, salon cut, Dolce & Gabbana. You probably use moisturizer.

JARED: Twice a day, sir.

ST. CROIX: Son, this is the big boys’ league. There’s no room for metrosexuals here. Take a hike.

NARRATOR: And so it would be up to Jared Storm to become the first metrosexual to play gay softball. But that’s a story for another time…

ANNOUNCER: Hey, gay kids, if you’d like to learn how not to throw like Liza Minnelli, swing a bat like Quentin Crisp or run the bases like Jerry Lewis, order the new instructional video, Gay Softball Fundamentals, directed by Pedro Almodovar. Order now!


Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Alright! Alright! I'll buy the Viagra!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The latest terror plot

Two men were arrested last night and charged with releasing snakes on a United 747 London-New York flight, said officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The suspects wore long hair, white turbans, earrings and necklaces made of shells and beads, and were said to be carrying Indian passports.

According to administration officials, the suspects smuggled the snakes aboard the airliner in pots hanging from a bamboo pole they slung over their shoulders. Not long before its planned landing at Kennedy Airport, one of the terrorists removed a flute-like instrument and started playing a strange, Middle Eastern-sounding tune. Homeland Security officials said that this was a cue to the snakes to slither out of the pots and attack the passengers and crew.

The snakes bit the screaming, hysterical passengers, leaving no anatomical part untouched, including boobs and cocks, said a Homeland Security official.

Air marshals were alerted about the snake attacks by two preteens, Kevin and Katelyn Nessinger, who were traveling alone for the first time and happened to notice one of the snakes swallowing a nasty Brit who was overheard earlier telling the woman sitting next to him how much he hated snakes.

Upon touchdown at Kennedy, FBI agents boarded the plane, subdued the Indians and brought the snakes in for questioning. Homeland Security officials issued a ban on reptile passengers for all trans-Atlantic flights. "Mammals are next," said an administration official.

President Bush responded to reports of the incident by saying that, "Our enemies will use any means necessary to destroy our freedoms. This includes snakes on a plane, guys with chainsaws, witches in the woods, that Freddie Krueger fella, and don't forget Jason."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Terror in the skies, or: Moon over Washington

Well, it is getting close to election time and you know what that means: Fake terror alerts!

Here’s a story in the Wednesday New York Times, headlined:

Faces, Too, Are Searched at U.S. Airports

It seems the government is ratcheting up the political charade known as the war on terror.

From now on, they're going to be stationing hall monitors (excuse me, Transportation Security Agency officials) at some of the nation's leading airports, such as Dulles International in D.C. These Costco storm troopers known as “behavior detection officers” (I kid you not) are going to be scanning our faces and scrutinizing our behavior to ferret out people with evil intent.

How will they know when you’re evil? Well, the list of suspicious terrorist activities includes smoking a cigarette, picking up and putting down a backpack, touching his fingers to his chin, and rubbing an object repeatedly.

So listen up, all you nail-biters: Homeland Security is onto you.

After they spot somebody acting suspiciously, the behavior detection officers give them a behavioral score. Like the Olympics judges. I wouldn't be surprised if they flashed cards. If your score is high enough they pull you aside for a casual conversation involving questions like WHAT WERE YOU DOING IN WASHINGTON? Followed perhaps by YOU'VE BEEN SIGHTSEEING. WHAT DID YOU LIKE BEST IN OUR FAIR CITY? And if you don’t give the right answer or, if you appear nervous because the reason you were in Washington was to see your mistress, then they’ll search you, starting with your face and moving south.

By the way, the name of the program is Screening Passengers by Observation Technique, or SPOT.

See SPOT spot. See Dick and Jane being strip-searched. Bad Dick. Bad Jane.

In nine months the SPOT program has been in existence, a period in which about seven million people have flown out of Dulles, several hundred people have been referred for intense screening, and about 50 have been turned over to the police for follow-up questioning.

Of those, half a dozen have faced charges or other law enforcement follow-up, because of immigration matters, outstanding warrants or forged documents.

Nine months, multimillions of our tax dollars. And the net result is a half dozen illegal immigrants. So the next time you’re at the airport, and you see a couple of government goofuses trying to read lips and looking for people who have OCD, do me a favor. Pull them aside and ask them jauntily, So what did you see in D.C.?

Dispatch number two: An incident on a London to Washington flight last night. A middle-aged woman complains of claustrophobia. (That couldn’t possibly be, on an American airliner, in coach, right?) She starts wandering the aisles, and when the flight attendant tells her to sit down, the woman pulls down her pants. A telltale sign of terrorist activity. I mean, that's what Al-Qaeda operatives do when they're cornered and they want to evade capture. Drop their drawers.

The reaction to this woman’s panic attack? A full-scale emergency response. First, two an air marshal and a correction officer in passenger drag run up the aisle and tackle the woman, slamming her into the bathroom door, throwing her to the ground and putting her in handcuffs.
(It takes two of these macho studs to subdue an old lady.)

It gets much better: Fighter jets are then scrambled from Otis Air National Guard Base on Cape Cod to escort the diverted United Flight 923 into Boston. Yes, the flight had to be diverted because a passenger was mooning a flight attendant.

Remember September 11? When four planes were being hijacked and rammed into buildings and all that? Not one jet was scrambled. Just to give some perspective on the government’s priorities.

Anyway, this batty woman is now taken into custody and grilled by the FBI! All the passengers’ baggage is searched, for reasons that are, well, a little fuzzy to me. Guilt by association?

Oh, the one detail I forgot – the woman was babbling incoherently … but I guess the behavior detection officers must’ve missed that one.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Clowns Respond

Yesterday's post concerned Clowns Without Borders, an organization dedicated to bringing baggy-pants hijinx to disaster scenes and war-wracked Third World nations.

I did not approve.

For this I received a lot of negative feedback from the clowning community. One clown casually mentioned that he would love to make a balloon animal out of my head. And a second, sitting menacingly atop his unicycle, hissed that I should make sure to look both ways when I crossed the street.

So today I am turning over the blog for a rebuttal from Mr. Jellybean, acting president of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Clown People).

Thank you, Mr. Gerard. For too long, my people have been second-class citizens in this country. The country we helped build. America would not have won its independence from Britain if Tater the Clown hadn't distracted General Burgoyne with his silly magic at the Battle of Saratoga. Who did Lincoln turn to in his darkest hour, when the Union looked all but lost? Floppo, the Abolitionist Clown. When the pioneers forged the West and the Freedom Riders stood up for civil rights, who were right beside them, spraying seltzer down the pants of evildoers?

Many heroic clowns have died forgotten. Like Happy the Clown, who lost his life trying to give Hitler a hotfoot. And Vincent van Goof, the face-painting genius from whom Picasso and Braque stole Cubism.

And yet, all this time, while women, African-Americans, comedy magicians and other minorities have been granted their rights, clowns have been and continue to be maligned. Prized for our mirth, and scorned because of who we are, our lifestyle, and the fact that we wear a "fright wig." Fact: Did you know that the original draft of Franklin D. Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address included the line, "We have nothing to fear, except fear itself...and clowns"?

America, for two hundred years you have used us for your idle amusement, then cruelly dismissed us. We are unable to organize, form political parties and climb the corporate ladder, except on stilts. We are routinely rejected for senior executive positions just because we have size 48 feet.

But that's over. No more "back of the clown bus." No more Uncle Tom-ming. Off with the fright wig, the red nose, and the suspenders! From now on, we will perform on our terms. If we feel like using garden implements or reading from the works of Jacques Lacan, so be it!

I am here to announce that we are organizing a Million Clown March on Washington, which will happen as soon as we can find a clown car large enough. For our dreams.

In conclusion, I'd like to say while you may consider us aliens, remember that every one of you has an inner Clown that yearns to break free. That you all have at least one clown in your family tree. And we look forward to the day when each and every American can stand up and proudly proclaim: "Ich bin ein clown." Your HTML cannot be accepted: Closing tag has no matching opening tag:

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Technorati Profile

Kofi Annan, Don't Send in the Clowns

Dear Kofi Annan:

Look, I know you're under a lot of pressure to solve this Middle East morass. And you may get desperate to find an innovative solution. But whatever you do, don't send in the clowns.

You may have gotten this idea from reading the Sunday New York Times, specifically, a story picked up from the AP, datelined Copenhagen and buried in the back of the front news section. The headline:

Clowns Escalate the Battle for Laughs

The story is about the just-completed 10-day International Clown Festival, and quotes one of the participants:

“Being a clown is my way of giving a present to the world,” said Marta Sanchez Sevilla, 40, of Spain. She has traveled the world with the comic relief group Clowns Without Borders, including going to Sri Lanka after the December 2004 tsunami.

This is just what those Sri Lankans need. They're fleeing the tsunami in utter terror, 90-foot waves are flattening their homes and mowing down their families -- and here comes Klutzy the Klown schpritzing seltzer down their pants. THEY'RE NOT WET ENOUGH?

Actually, Clowns Without Borders could unintentionally create peace in the world -- I mean, what better way to bring nations together then to unite them against the clowns?

No, I was kidding there. We can't really trust the clowns. Remember "A Clockwork Orange"? The Joker from "Batman"? That claw-fingered guy from Stephen King's "It"? And that Bozo at your kid's third birthday party who you later discovered had swiped your supply of Vicodin?

Besides the fact that they're not funny. They try way too hard. They're the party guy with the lampshade on his head...only they expect to get paid for it. You feel like saying to them, "Relax. You don't have to always be on. Just be yourself, Floppy Feet."

Back to the international stage. I say Clowns Without Borders is a bad idea. They're just the type of people who need borders. Otherwise, they'd wreak havoc everywhere, scaring small children, pulling quarters out of our ears and pulling that passive-aggressive "sad clown" schtik. Of course you're sad. You're a clown. Don't make me feel guilty. Did I make you go to clown college?

The real downside of clown activism is the possibility that their technology could fall into the wrong hands.


"This is Geraldo Rivera. I'm here at the scene of the latest terror incident. We don't know what happened. U.N. forces were patrolling this peaceful area when suddenly a six-foot toy car drove up ... the doors flung open ... and out came 50,000 guerrillas!"

And you know the inevitable escalation will lead to...

...the mimes.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Jesus Saves ... Offer not available in California

My soul must clearly be in need of saving, for in today's Inbox I found an e-mail message stating:

You have been awarded the entire King James Version of the Bible for free* but as of now this gift remains unclaimed! This edition includes a helpful year-long Bible reading plan and page explaining the plan of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. This 5 3/16" x 8", 512-page edition is reserved for you only for the next 48 hours. We hope to give you adequate time to claim this gift.

I find it odd that some fundamentalist Christian group would send me a book that's 512 pages long and requires a year-long Bible reading plan, but include with it only a one-page user's manual. It's like the "plan for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ" -- which, I presume is the reason for reading the Bible in the first place -- is an afterthought, like the one-page blueprint in Chinese that comes with any new appliance and is so crudely drawn, it makes your new DVD player look like a UFO.

Still, I was sure that the anonymous solicitor acted out of a sense of Christian charity for all God's creatures ... until I read the small print:

*This offer is not available for residents of California.

Well, it wouldn't be, would it? Those decadent heathens are beyond salvation. Still, I still cherished the illusion that my benefactor was a Christian church or an individual(s) affiliated with one, doing missionary work. Like the Gideons.

But no, it was the "Free-Gift Club," which

reserves the right to cancel this offer any time once quantities run out. A handling charge will be applied to each item. All merchandise and offers are based on first come first serve. This is an independent offer from Free-Gift-Club. The third parties appearing above are not co-sponsors of this offer and are not affiliated with Free-Gift-Club. Free-Gift-Club is solely responsible for all gift fulfillment.

Jesus had nothing to do with it. It's called plausible deniability. He isn't called "Lord" for nothing.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mel Gibson, L.A. Sheriff

Staring out from the cover of today's New York Post is a beer-eyed Mel Gibson. The headline "Boozer Loser" fronted the news that the actor had entered a rehab clinic, a week after "spewing anti-Semitic comments and cursing a cop when he was arrested for drunken driving."

The photo was one of several originally taken last week by a rival tabloid, and captured Gibson just hours before his arrest, spotted at a Malibu "celeb-studded restaurant with a babe on each arm and a beer bottle in his right hand."

Poor Mel's tribulations only increased when he launched an obscenity-laden tirade -- kind of a soliloquy, you might say -- against Jews, which included the observation that they "are responsible for all the wars in the world." He then asked the arresting officer, "Are you a Jew?"

Turns out he was. It just wasn't Mel's night.

I can only imagine Gibson's reaction: "No fair -- playing against type. You're supposed to be money lenders and studio heads. What's the matter -- aren't there any Irish left in Malibu?"

And then, I'll bet he addressed a higher power. "Lord, they're persecuting me just like they did You. This is my Golgotha, only instead of a cross and a crown of thorns, I've got a case of Foster's and a couple of underage blonde bimbos."

Then there were the stories about how the incident has damaged his career. The New York Times reported yesterday that a spokeswoman for Disney’s ABC television network said the company was canning a Holocaust-themed miniseries it had planned with Gibson. "Given that the script Mr. Gibson handed in depicted the Jews as the bad guys, we have decided to no longer pursue this project."

Of course, Gibson could've avoided the whole brouhaha if he'd only taken the advice of the nightclub's employees. They offered to call him a cab, but he insisted, "I want a chariot!"

One detail in the Post story stood out:

Gibson once filmed a public service announcement for the L.A. Sheriff's Department, dressed in a sheriff's uniform.

After much undercover work, Gangof60 has acquired the transcript of the P.S.A., which we offer for your edification:

The Jew Menace

Hi, I'm Mel Gibson -- the new sheriff in town. I'm speaking to you tonight to warn you against a hidden menace. An enemy whose greed and cunning is subtly eroding our society. That's right: the Jews. You may think that Jews are solid citizens and make great contributions to our financial system, the arts, and culture. You may even know some Jews yourself. But here are some other things I'll bet you didn't know about Jews:

*The Jews are responsible for all the wars that have ever happened, including the Civil War and that war among the ancient Mayans that I have depicted in my new, all-ancient Mayan dialect film, Apocalypto.

*The Jews are responsible for all economic depressions. Plus, they have gamed Mega Millions.

*The Jews are responsible for Ren and Stimpy.

*The Jews are responsible for all broken marriages, including my own.

*The Jews are responsible for my drinking problem.

*The f---g Jews are f---g responsible for everything bad about America.

If you want to know how the Jews are responsible for your broken marriage, your lack of a job and/or your drinking/drug/sex addiction, please call 1-800-SCAPGOAT.

Thank you.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

The NSA Variety Hour

Spam of the day:

Hi, I am Lara, the customer care manager at I would like to personally welcome you to, where you are wanted!

My first, panicked thought was that I was wanted by the NSA. They've been recording my keystrokes and know that I visit all the progressive websites, write apoplectic, profanity-laced tirades against the war criminals in Washington and that I'm to the left of Trotsky. But then I wondered why "sex" was part of their URL? Is the National Security Agency running a phone sex operation? They're already listening in; now they can start heavy breathing.

In fact, the NSA should consider getting into the content-providing business. Music, news, sports and -- sure, why not? -- porn they could transmit instantly into the 300 million phones they're currently tapping.

Why should we, the American people, be the ones providing the entertainment when we're not even being paid. Why should a couple of perverse old spooks or socially maladroit geeks get to listen into my candid complaints about my career, the publishing business, my inability to get laid, Joe Torre's misguided dependence on bunting, my chronically stiff neck and various and sundry ancillary grievances, without ponying up a rich subscription fee?

In my next installment, I will conjecture about the agency's debut season -- "Must Listen Telephony."

You have joined one of the most select dating Clubs online. You are the 25,068th member to join this week, among 5,915,705th registered members.

Wow. How select -- it's just me and 6 million other elite individuals.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Thank God I'm a sucker

Do you suffer from terminal leukemia? Mad cow disease? Schizophrenia? Have you or a family member been injured or killed in an auto or any other kind of accident?

Thank God!

At least, that's the message conveyed by a new publishing company called Thank God I...Enterprises, which aims to publish thematic collections of "Chicken Soup for the Soul"-like inspirational stories.

It sounds innocuous enough...until you get a look at their initial releases:

Thank God My Husband Cheated on Me
Thank God My Parents Beat Me
Thank God I Have A Home Based Business
Thank God I Was Raped
Thank God I Was Incested
Thank God I Have A Small Penis
Thank God I'm Suicidal
Thank God I Am Crippled

If you think that's tasteless -- I have a home-based business and was personally offended -- wait until you see what they're offering writers. You see, for the opportunity to "register your stories" -- that is, to reveal to the world your masochistic gratitude for the worst tragedy that has befallen you -- you've got to ante up $399.

Beyond that, the founders strongly encourage taking their "three-month thankfulness course," so that "once you have reached a state of unconditional love & gratitude for WHATEVER it is that you believe is getting in your way, we will then work with you on sharing your personal story with our readers."

Got that, Job? Sure, I destroyed your house and smote your children and gave you leprosy, but ... it's all good! In fact, you should thank me, because all these horrors are stepping stones on the road to self-discovery. And you, Anne Frank -- get over yourself! You want closure, baby.

I'm curious about how they're going to spin such tragedies in a way that convinces their victims that their misfortune is actually a benefit. Thank God I Have a Small Penis ... because this way, it won't get caught in swinging doors! Thank God I Was Incested ... because it brought me closer to my father (although it eroded my aptitude for English grammar). Thank God I'm Suicidal ... because then I won't be around to how just I'm being exploited by...

John Castagnini is a renowned published author, poet, musician, producer, speaker and consultant who has developed tools to help you Live Your Dreams. His books include Seven Secrets to Successful Network Marketing, for which he holds workshops at $499 a head.

Amanda Kroetsch is an accomplished writer, professional actress, classically trained jazz singer, and consultant who is dedicated to helping raise the collective consciousness of the planet. She's also the co-leader of the $400 Sun Soul Solutions Transformation Experience, which involves colon cleansing (a.k.a. royal screwing).

I don't know what manner of village idiot would possibly agree to be shafted by these two New Age Ponzi-schemers, but I did devise a few additional titles for their series:

Thank God the IRS is Auditing Me
Thank God I'm on Death Row
Thank God I Have the Ebola Virus
Thank God My Entire Family Was Ethnically Cleansed
Thank God I Just Fell Into an Open Sewer

Monday, July 24, 2006

Jack the Mensch, or: Death goes to a party

Note to self: At your funeral, do not show an "homage video" of your life co-starring a talking fish.

Death, the last frontier of conspicuous consumption, has been conquered. As the New York Times reported last week, the Yuppies' latest trend is large, stage-managed funeral parties. I'm not talking about Irish wakes, but full-fledged nouveau riche theme "events" with hundreds of invitees, banquet service, guest seating status neuroses, and a "funeral planner" to coordinate it all.

The piece reads:

What they want ... are services that reflect their lives and tastes. One family asked for a memorial service on the 18th green of their father’s favorite golf course, “because that’s where dad was instead of church on Sunday mornings," [said someone who calls himself a "funeral concierge"]. Line up his buddies, and hit balls.” Another wanted his friends to ride Harleys down his favorite road, scattering his ashes. ...

A personal aside: My dad would be sitting in his underwear watching a Yankee game, and very few guests would be able to tell the difference.

The biggest change is that as more families choose cremation — close to 70 percent in some parts of the West — services have become less somber because there is not a dead body present. “The body’s a downer, especially for boomers,” said the concierge. “If the body doesn’t have to be there, it frees us up to do what we want. They may want to have it in a country club or bar or their favorite restaurant."

The body is a downer. So check Dad at the door. Leave Mom with the corpse-check girl. And let's paaarrrttyyy!

[Mr. Biggins] arranged a service for Harry Ewell, a man who had been an ice cream vendor. Mr. Ewell’s old ice cream truck led the funeral procession and dispensed Popsicles at the end. “If you call that over the top, then I guess I’m guilty,” Mr. Biggins said.

Hey, kids! Here comes the ice cream hearse! When you hear that familiar tune, the "Volga Boatman," squealing from the tinny speakers, you know it's time for Mr. Softee! And what would be a bigger surprise for the tots than catching a glimpse of good old Mr. Ewell's cryogenically frozen body in the back of the truck, lying among the Klondike Bars.

Some Yuppies are leaving explicit instructions for their demise, such as one woman, who insisted that "an all-out disco party be held on top of a mountain" and that the guests must wear suitable 70s attire.

And you thought disco was hell the first time around. The top of a mountain! God, you'd hope the Sierra Club would nip that in the bud.

One funeral director envisioned day when “our mainstream celebrities would make appearances at funerals to enhance the service.” Brilliant! But who could I afford? Maybe Ricardo Montalban. "Not only was Jim a great writer and humanitarian, but the inside of his coffin is lined in fine Corinthian leather."

But the future ex-Yuppies' most hubristic preference is for an "homage video," a self-congratulatory cavalcade of narcissism. But here, I can't make this stuff up:

For Jack Susser, a real estate agent in Santa Monica, Calif., the sendoff can have benefits now. Mr. Susser, who is 57 and healthy, hired Ms. Isenberg [a funeralpreneur] to create a tribute video so that his future grandchildren and great-grandchildren could know his life in ways he’d never known his grandparents’. Ms. Isenberg developed a 20-minute video called “Jack the Mensch,” with an original script, professional actors, animation and a $75,000 budget. The lead characters are Mr. Susser and a talking fish.

Is that really how you want your grandkids to know you -- as a megalomaniacal, self-aggrandizing schmuck who co-stars with a talking fish?

And what about the poor actors who were desperate enough to act in this cinematic sarcophagus?

ACTOR #1: So, Bob, what are you up to these days?
ACTOR #2: I just finished, "Jack the Mensch." Indie thing. You know, very edgy. I had this awesome part as this...creature who, like, talks.

Speaking of which, Mr. Susser himself, like everyone else in L.A., is a part-time actor who was so pleased with the production values of "Jack the Mensch" that he intends going to send it to agents. I'd love to overhear the agent trying to pitch Jack to a producer:

"Jack Susser? Yeah, he's new. A fresh face. He can do anything. Act with anybody. Cruise. Denzel. A talking fish...Yeah, there's only one downside. He's dead ... but he still gets union scale."

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The things of a child

Hard as it is to believe, "Dear Abby" still exists. Although a note appended to her column claims that it is still written by Abigail Van Buren, it's clear from reading it that at this point she more resembles the mechanical fortune-teller popular in 19th-century sideshows than any human advice-dispenser.

In the column I read, Abby's response to a desperate "shopaholic" was to direct her to a shopaholic support group. And to an equally stricken abused wife, Abby suggested she see a counselor. Twice.

You know things are bad when even Dear Abby is outsourcing.

Who writes to her? Maybe the people for whom Dr. Phil is too advanced. People in a bad marriage who don't know enough to see a marriage counselor or a divorce attorney. "Dear Abby: My husband totally neglects me. Should I call the fire department?"

Anyway, one of Abby's readers had an issue you don't come across every day. But let her tell it:

I have a blanket I have had since I was a baby and have slept with it since before I could walk. When I turned 16, I told myself I'd get rid of it. Sixteen turned to 18, 18 turned into getting rid of it when I graduated from college, which turned into getting rid of it when I married.
I am now married and have no intention of getting rid of it. I guess I've held onto it because it's familiar. (We moved far from home after our wedding.) My husband says he doesn't mind, and I'm sure he's not lying, but it's a little embarrassing.

Hubby says he doesn't mind. However, in a "Dear Abby" parallel universe, I came across his version of events:

Look, I was lucky to nab Luanne. I know that. Regular nookie? Who can put a price? And she's pretty hot to trot in the sack, as long as she can hold onto ... you know...that thing. Which by now is a grungy, moth-eaten rag maybe your cat would play with. But she kept it on her side of the bed, so I could live with it. .

Things would've been fine if she had just stopped there. But after six months, she asked would it be OK if she brought her Barbies into bed. "Bar-bies?" I asked. Turns out she had fifty-eight of them. Whoever heard of Eating Disorder Barbie? Crack Ho Barbie? Fag-Hag Barbie? Must've been limited editions. But the sex got even better, especially when we brought Dominatrix Barbie into the mix.

One night she casually asked if her imaginary friend could join us. His name was Casper. "The ghost?" I asked. "No, not the ghost," she said. "He's alive." I said that I would prefer the imaginary friend to be female, so I could fantasize about having a threesome, but that it was not a deal-breaker. Casper stayed.

Sure enough, things got even hotter, even though we had a buy a bigger mattress and one night I got a minor puncture wound when I accidentally sat on Bitch-on-Wheels Barbie.

But one night, Luanne crossed the line. The line when the imaginary friend became an actual friend, named Casper. Who worked in XXX films. And who was porking my wife while some Barbie -- I think it was Customer Service Barbie -- was sticking her head out of his ass.

How did things come to that, Dear Abby? And what I am to do about it?
--- "Ken"
Albuquerque, N.M.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Twilight of the putzes

Remember the name: Aaron Schwarz.

Scratch that. Forget the name Aaron Schwarz.

From the tenth circle known as public relations comes a release about a self-made millionaire who is running an online contest to give himself a new name -- "not just any name; it must be something outrageous."

The millionaire, whose name is -- at least at press time -- Aaron Schwarz -- says he needs the new name to help him achieve his "ultimate goal: becoming an aloof, overweight, music mogul billionaire by the age of 40."

Yes, this is the state of the American Dream: to become a fat fuck. A flabresario. And after all, what self-respecting hip-hop producer could go by the name Aaron Schwarz? What kind of street cred could accrue to he who soundeth like the guy who takes your money at Kabbala Night at the Learning Annex? Of what gang could he possibly be a part -- the M.B.A.s?

The press release about Aaron Schwarz goes on:

Aaron has recently launched, which empowers the general public to submit ideas for his new identity and the winning entry - chosen by a worldwide vote– will walk away with $25,000.

I love that trope -- "empowers." And the IRS "empowers" us to be taxpayers. And the dentist "empowers" us to have our wisdom teeth removed. PRtistry at its zenith: Frittering away precious time -- that you might otherwise use meeting your soulmate, enjoying a sunset, learning a new skill, or moving one iota closer to enlightenment -- indulging this dime-store megalomaniac in his hackneyed ambition to become a rock star. American Idle.

And the "worldwide vote" if the Iraqis are going to drop everything to support this bozo's publicity stunt. "Ahmad, can the suicide bomb. We must give a rich American a new name. And a Jew at that."

But nothing tops the quote from Aaron himself, in which he sounds like Kurt Vonnegut on speed:

"I was originally named Aaron to rhyme with my mother’s name Sharon and my last name is my mother’s previous husband’s last name, who is not my father,” says Aaron Landau Schwarz. “I enjoy using my money for personal fulfillment, and instead of building that exotic animal circus in my apartment that I had been planning, I've decided to give someone $25,000 for a new name. I figured, rather than researching mythological deities or wasting my precious time looking through books, I would get the entire population to do the job for me!

"Instead of building that exotic animal circus in my apartment..."

Yeah. That's part of all the new luxury co-ops. "Panoramic rooftop view. Jacuzzi. Chimpanzee act room."

"Rather than researching mythological deities..."

The FBAA (bozo formerly known as Aaron) fancies himself atop Valhalla.

I've got a new name for him: Wotan.

Wotan Schwarz.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The terrorists' bulls-eye is on you, buddy

The inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security has released a list of terror targets that includes Old MacDonald’s Petting Zoo in Woodville, AL, the Amish Country Popcorn factory, the Mule Day Parade in Columbia, TN, the Sweetwater Flea Market, Nix’s Check Cashing, the "Mall at Sears," "Ice Cream Parlor,” “Tackle Shop,” “Donut Shop,” “Anti-Cruelty Society," “Bean Fest,” 718 mortuaries, and an unspecified “Beach at End of a Street.” The database is used by the Homeland Security Department to help divvy up the hundreds of millions of dollars in antiterrorism grants. -- New York Times, July 12, 2006.

You may think that the terrorists can never reach you. But you are wrong.

That would mean you, Old McDonald, who had a farm or a petting zoo or whatever the fuck you're calling your operation these days. Your ducks have a quack-quack here and your chickens have a cluck-cluck-there ...and you don't have the faintest idea that they're a sleeper cell sending secret signals to the terrorists! Are you happy now?!

You, too, "Nix." Don't think we don't have our eyes on you and your shady check-cashing enterprise through which Al-Qaeda has laundered millions to suicide bombers!

Oh, isn't the Bean Fest lovely -- with red beans and yellow beans, kidney beans and fava beans, black beans and beans full of ricin, a deadly toxin that the terrorists have no compunction about putting in your three-bean salad, Ms. Bean Fest 2006!

And don't you look innocent, Mr. Mountain Man, Mr. Grizzly Adams-looking fuck, living in your camouflage shack in the wilds of Montana that you leased from the Unabomber. You are on their list.

So are you, Inuit Family, holed up in your igloo on the floating iceberg in the Arctic Circle. You are on the terrorists' radar, and they have a hundred words for "kill."

And you, the cast of "Lost." The terrorists watch you on TV. They know where to find you. And they may be planning to accidentally crash a plane right on your island!

You members of the Whig party -- you think you're safe from the terrorists just because you lived 150 years ago? Well, I guess you haven't heard about Al-Qaeda's time machine! We're fighting them here and now so we don't have to fight them in 1849.

Which takes us to you, Mr. Occupant of one of the 718 terror-targeted mortuaries. Sure, you're dead -- but the terrorists' bulls-eye is right on you, buddy!

No one is safe.

Satan, CEO

Don't you love all these books that depict Jesus as a modern capitalist leader? Take the book "Jesus CEO," which praises the Lord for the way he dealt with his "staff" ("If Satan calls, I'm in a meeting"), for "staying in touch with His boss," and for turning a motley group of apostles into a "thriving enterprise." (Well, they got that right.)

Who are these people kidding? If Jesus walked into Merrill Lynch tomorrow morning in his robes and sandals, followed by his usual motley crew of apostles and sinners -- not to mention lepers! -- he'd be crucified for the second time.

"Um, Jesus, that email that you sent around about the meek inheriting the earth. It's not funny."

"Jesus, this business of giving away your earthly goods...what kind of investment strategy is that?"

"J.C., listen: When one of our clients asks you how a rich man can enter the kingdom of heaven, you tell him, "diversify."

Satan is clearly a much better model for today's corporate CEOs. On the other hand, clearly the Evil One could learn a few tricks from Jack Welsh and "Chainsaw" Al Dunlap.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Share the wealth

So many generous Americans. So many potential benefactors. Not a minute passes that an offer of heart-rending largesse doesn't slither into my Inbox. All this time I've harbored a viperous resentment of "high net-worth individuals" as rapacious robber-barons who would sooner sacrifice their own flesh-and-blood than part with a nickel of their ill-gotten gains.

I am happy to confess that I had them pegged all wrong. It seems that they are all closet commies, socialist comrades who just can't wait to share their good fortune with the proletariat. Take this fellow, who emailed me about five minutes ago for the forty-eighth time:

"Hey, Jim, I just won the lottery! Now I’m going to share my secret method!"

Oh, you mean that instead of guarding your secret formula in a nuclear bunker, you're going to email it to a couple million strangers?

But of course. And here are some more emails we're likely to see:

"Hi, I'm Warren Buffett, and I want you to share my insider trading info!"

"Bill Gates here. You know our ultra-top secret Windows Vista system? Now your IT start-up can have it too, in our open-source blowout giveaway!"

"This is Long John Silver. Ain't ye always wanted to know where ye could find a chest filled with gold doubloons and precious pearls? Well, now ye can, with my new video: Long John Silver's 'How to Find Buried Treasure in Your Own Backyard.'"

“Hi, I’m Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I've won the Nobel Prize for Literature. And I’m here to show you how you can do it, too, from the privacy of your home!”

ESPN to televise "Softball World Cup"

The winner gets a keg.

The United States of Arrested Development

The observation of a new piece of Hollywood celluloid product, "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" prompted me to wonder yet again at the American obsession with superheroes. The enthusiasm is not exclusive to teens; purported grownups, such as film critics and academicians, lay waste to prime American timber and waste mega-fields of electrons expatiating on Spiderman.

This pathetic enthusiasm for comic book characters is just another manifestation of the cult of youth that prompts septuagenarians to don low-slung jeans and bare their midriffs. Recently I saw a woman who had to be in her 60s crowbarred into a tight blouse and camouflage pants. The only war she could possibly be fighting is against that arch-fiend Time, which was clearly guilty of war crimes.

The compulsion to conform is so strong that even homeless addicts feel it through their crack-haze. Tonight, on 42nd Street I saw a woman waiting for a bus with garbage bags full of her life, her face so heavily bedaubed and rouged, it seemed to have been vandalized by a gang of outlaw makeup artists. She was wearing shorts and a skimpy halter top.

Life in these United States of Arrested Development.

I have a challenge to all the alleged grownups who listen to punk music and avidly flock to comic-book movies: If you're really still teenagers at heart, why not act like it all the time? Tomorrow, I want you to do the following:

1) skateboard into the your boss's office
2) post embarrassing photos of him on your MySpace page
3) toss the company president a Frisbee and shout, "Mr. Faversham, dude -- catch!"
4) bring a keg to your next board meeting
5) in the company cafeteria, start fucking a cherry pie
6) shove your pink slip up your ass
7) grow up

Back to "My Super Ex-Girlfriend." You want to know what real super powers an ex-girlfriend has? She has the ability to fill the rest of your life with guilt and remorse. She has the power to forever ruin your sleep for obsessing about her. And she has the power to render you incapable of establishing a healthy relationship with another woman ...

... if indeed such a state exists.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Death of an Anal Lube Salesman, or: The Da Vinci Load (part I)

The other day, out of dispassionate, journalistic curiosity, I walked into my neighborhood XXX emporium, run or at least fronted by a sweet-dispositioned South Asian man. Besides the aisles of adult videos and racks of vibrators, I noticed some items that you might not associate with the enhancement of libidinal interest.

Such as:

Pecker Party Ware, a package of plastic spoons, knives, and forks with penis-shaped handles;

Dr. Love Stethoscope, a plastic simulacrum of the actual medical device;


Phoney Face, the false glasses-eyebrows-nose combo. Yes, nothing gets a woman more excited than a guy wearing a Groucho Marx disguise.

In a glass case that also served as the cashier's counter were several bottles. One advertised a product called "Anal Eze," and another named "Anal Ease."

Now, putting aside the minor differences in spelling ("You say 'Anal-Eze' and I say, "Anal Ease'"...), I discovered that both are lubricating gels with a "slightly numbing effect," the better to ease the pain of well, objects traveling the wrong way down a one-way street. The box copy from Anal-Eze states:

Use Anal-Eze for those times when you need a little help easing comfortably into anal play. Maybe your toy is larger than you or your partner is used to, or maybe you haven't had much anal experience. Either way, sometimes a little help goes a long way. Anal-Eze is there to lend a hand. .. If you or your partner is experiencing discomfort during anal activity, try applying a little dab of Anal-Eze.

While I read this ad copy and noted its similarity to that used to shill 1950s products such as Brylcreem, it occurred to me that the proprietor had to order Anal-Eze from some manufacturer or distributor. And while he probably selected it from a catalog (most likely online), I wondered if perhaps he had purchased it directly from a door-to-door Anal-Eze salesman, a sex industry Willy Loman, who peddled his wares to stores specializing in anal sex accoutrements. And if so, what would be his story?

WILLY (to Singh, the proprietor of The End Result XXX emporium): Hey, what's the good word, Singh? Can I put you down for the usual six cases of Anal-Eze, two cases each of cherry, strawberry, and margarita?

SINGH: I'm sorry, Willy. I can't be buying from you anymore.

WILLY: What? You're kidding, right? More of that Sikh humor, heh, heh. Hey, I got something brand new. This is gonna rock your world. It's a Rectal Dilator --

SINGH: I'm sorry, Willy.

WILLY: Comes in five sizes up to two inches in diameter. It's great as a training toy for people working their way up the Hershey Highway, as well as for your hardcore fisters. And here's the beauty part: Each dilator has a small hole on the tip to prevent pressure build up. Just one thing: you gotta use plenty of Anal-Eze.

SINGH: Willy, you don't understand. I cannot buy anything from you. Not now. Not ever.

WILLY: What? What did I do?

SINGH: You didn't do anything, Willy. It's just that I can order the stuff from China over the Net for half the price I pay you. It's called globalization.

WILLY: You, too, Singh? Every customer, it's the same story. Globalization. Sure you can get the Chinese lube at half price, but you don't know what they put in it. I mean, where's the quality control? What if one of your Chinee anal vibrators explodes? Who you gonna call, huh, Mr. Singh? Whereas I stand behind every anal product I sell to my customers. I was Anal Salesman of the Year three years running. Anal lube built my family a house on Long Island, and butt plugs put my two kids through college. One of them, Biff, we nicknamed the Pocket Rocket --

SINGH: I'm sorry, Willy.

WILLY: I can't believe it. A man works his whole life selling sturdy, well-made anal toys and what's he left with in the end -- bupkus. All this time...I had the wrong dream.

(part II to come)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I'm with Bipolar

"Bitchy is My Middle Name."

"Shopping is My Aerobics."

"I Stole Your Boyfriend."

"Whip Me, Beat Me, But Don't Send Me Flowers."

We've all seen them. Advertisements for the self -- or what's left of it. Billboards for people too lazy to be exhibitionists. Trash talking for Generation Whatever.

The question of why people wear such provocatively inane slogans on their chests always has fascinated me. When you ask a young woman, say, why she is wearing a T-shirt that reads, "New York's #1 Slut," and ask her to consider the possibility that such a declaration at the least will garner public disapproval and most likely will attract unwanted, predominantly male, attention, she either will plead innocence, dismiss the risk, or go into denial.

[A digression: Who decides that somebody is New York's #1 slut or "America's #1 Dad"? Which governing body is doing all this ranking? What criteria do they use? Maybe it's a secret cabal like the Trilateral Commission.

"O.K., Mr. Kissinger, we've decided that the U.S. is going to conduct air strikes on Iran, and that we're going to devalue Venezuela's currency. Next order of business: Who is New York's #1 Slut?"

And what if two men meet in a bar and they're wearing the exact same T-shirt. You know how competitive men are. "Hey, asshole, let's get one thing straight: I'm America's #1 Dad!" It could get ugly.]

Right now, you could say that these T-shirts are crude, graphic Freudian slips, messages from the unconscious (which is the only kind of conscious many of these people apparently have).

But if people feel no compunction about having their T-shirts reveal tawdry predilections or brag vaingloriously, why not let them take it a step further and bare their deepest, darkest secrets on their breasts?

Think about it: It would allow these people to feel unburdened of guilt and shame, while at the same time providing a kind of public service announcement.

I mean, I'd certainly think twice about approaching a woman whose T-shirt read "Caution: Bipolar." Or, "Can't Get Over My Ex is My Middle Name."

Here are some other "truth shirts" you might see if my idea catches on:

"America's #1 Deadbeat Dad"

"Indicted, But I Had a Smart Lawyer"

"I've Never Gotten Over Not Being Breast Fed"

"Remember Herpes?"

"I Brake for Transsexuals"

"I Used to Hate Myself. Then I Went into Therapy. Now I Hate Men."

"I Married a Plushie."


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Kim Busts Out

The end of Western civilization is at hand. Have you heard the shocking news -- Lil' Kim has acquired nuclear weapons.

At least, that's the conclusion my addled brain reached after receiving in quick succession these two bits of information:

1) that North Korean has tested six long-range missiles, all capable of carrying nuclear warheads and one an intercontinental missile able to reach our West Coast; and

2) spotting on the cover of today's New York Daily News headline:

Kim Busts Out!

Foolishly, I assumed that the Daily News head referred to the rogue nation run by a psychotic megalomaniac defying world opinion and recklessly launching missiles over Japan (though the intercontinental missile broke up and fell into the Sea of Japan 42 seconds after it was launched, leading one to suspect they purloined it from NASA).

But I forgot: This is the United States of Pornanity, a circus minimus of sub-vaudeville jackanapes, burnt-cork rapresarios, ululating androids, and air-rutting vulgarians.

So it turns out that the "Kim" who was busting out was Lil' Kim, whose release from celebrity prison bumped the news of a threat of nuclear attack from North Korea, led by that other Lil' Kim, Kim Jong Il. (I shall henceforth refer to him as Big Lil' Kim.)

Fans cheer as rapper quits jail in style -- and a Rolls Royce read the subhead. The story -- which in and of itself abounded with ironies that were compounded when juxtaposed with the North Korea news -- went on to say:

Dressed all in white in a low top and pants that looked painted on, the rapper got a royal reception when she returned home to her $2.3 million estate in tony Alpine, N.J., where she will be under house arrest for the next 30 days.

And then:

Independence Day arrived a day early for Kim

Yes, rap fans forever will associate July 4th not with the creation of America, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers, or the flag, but the release from prison (for lying about her friend's participation in a shoot-out) of a self-styled slattern ...but then again, James Madison only wrote The Federalist Papers and not "Big Momma Thang."

One such aficionado was quoted by the News: "She's gonna come back to the game snappin','" said Jenna Johnson, 18, of Wilmington, Delaware.

Back in the day, prisoners were mortified to be seen approaching a penitentiary from either direction. Now the perp walk has become a catwalk.

Kim's crew of cameramen videotaped her release for her Black Entertainment Television reality show. It will be the follow-up to the first season of Kim TV, which was called "Countdown to Lockdown."

It gets weirder:

...Kim picked up a young man in the Rolls whom her publicist described as "a friend" before arriving home in the exclusive North Jersey town where the street signs have been removed to discourage intruders.

Removing all the street signs? Excuse me, but doesn't that sound like something the other Lil' Kim -- the crazy missile launching leader who runs his entire country as a giant prison -- would do?

And speaking of the other Lil' Kim, maybe the timing of his missile launching was his way of telling the paparazzi: "I'm the real Notorious K.I.M.! I mean, does she have a nuclear arsenal that can destroy Beverly Hills?"

Or maybe it was Kim's way of celebrating America's independence.

It would serve the Bush Administration well to consider the brazen launchings as just the shooting off of aerospace fireworks. Because for all its macho swagger, it knows right now that for a variety of reasons, it is powerless to lift a finger against North Korea.

Yeah, that Kim busted out, alright. He's come back to the game snappin'.

Break out the Cristal.

Monday, July 03, 2006

A cognitive psychologist and a guy in a gorilla suit go into a bar-like setting

Today's p.s.a. is "Know When to Say When...When You Can't See the Guy in the Gorilla Suit."

At least, that's the message I took after reading the result of a study reported in the Journal of Applied Cognitive Psychology, which was that ...

People who were given a simple visual task while mildly intoxicated were twice as likely to have missed seeing a person in a gorilla suit than were people who were not under the influence of alcohol.

You might've thought that no matter how wasted you became, you couldn't possibly miss seeing a man in a gorilla suit. But "scientists" at the University of Washington Addictive Behaviors Research Center say you could be wrong. According to the press release celebrating this scientific breakthrough (which, by the way, was funded by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism), their study is the first to show that visual errors caused by "inattentional blindness" are more likely to occur under the influence of alcohol.

As the press release stated,

This phenomenon occurs when important, but unexpected, objects appear in the visual field but are not detected when people are focused on another task.

One of the researchers described this effect in the following manner:

"Say you have been at a party and are driving home after having a couple of drinks. You don't want to be stopped for speeding, so you keep eyeing the speedometer. Our research shows that you will miss other things going on around you, perhaps even a pedestrian trying to cross the street." Possibly a pedestrian in an ape suit. Possibly even a pedestrian in an ape suit who removes his ape head and asks to hitch a ride to Reno.

In the study, 46 adults ranging in age from 21 to 35 were brought into what the report calls, "a bar-like setting." The Blarney Stone, for instance. Half the subjects were given alcoholic drinks (by a man in a bartender costume). The other half were given non-alcoholic beverages.

The press release went on -- and I quote liberally because, frankly, I can't make this stuff up:

After the volunteers had their blood alcohol levels measure by a breath test, they were taken to a computer monitor and asked to watch a 25-second film clip. The clip showed people playing with a ball, and the volunteers were told to count the number of times the ball was passed from one person to another. In the middle of the clip a person dressed in a gorilla suit appeared, walked among the players, beat its chest and then walked away. Afterward, the subjects were asked if they saw the gorilla. Just 18 percent of the drinkers said they noticed the gorilla while 46 percent of the sober subjects indicated they saw the gorilla.

Here are some facts that were left out of the press release but which were uncovered by the Gang of Four investigative team:

1) Some of the subjects got suspicious when their "drinks" were served in steaming beakers.
2) The guy in the gorilla suit was a promising adjunct professor of cognitive psychology who started to identify with the gorillas, abruptly left his profession, and joined the circus.
3) The other 54 percent of the sober subjects failed to notice the guy in the gorilla suit because they "see guys in gorilla suits all the time."
4) The film clip shown was from "Winning Baseball Fundamentals Starring a Guy in a Gorilla Suit," an instructional video used by the Kansas City Royals.
5) In an earlier study, these same researchers asked subjects to parallel park while a guy in a devil suit cavorted in their rear-view mirror.
6) The New Jersey State Police are now pulling over drunk drivers and asking them to "spot the gorilla."
7) In the future, the U. of Washington researchers hope to do a larger study testing inattentional blindness using a driving simulator, but a real gorilla.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

When it comes to dating, Craig’s List is sadder than Schindler’s

I had another taste of dating via Craig’s List, which if my experience is any indication, is more tragic than Schindler’s.

I had posted that I was looking for an Asian woman (my preference -- don't pry), and “Lily” responded yesterday, volunteering the following:

“I am here. from china. was a fashion model there. 5'10" slim very beautiful and sexy,,, just broke up with my and work in Manhattan.”

The subject line of her email was “Hello???... a drink?”

She sounded appealing. I wrote back that I would gladly have a drink with her. She wrote back saying she’d prefer to talk on the phone first, and provided her cell number. I called her two hours later, after first e-mailing her that I would do so at that time.

At first she wasn’t sure who I was. I joked that we had just e-mailed two hours ago. It was immediately clear that she had corresponded with and perhaps spoken with other men, which, after all, is her prerogative. But do you think she might want to pretend otherwise? And was the fact that she didn't a calculated attempt to create an aura of aloof selectivity? Or did she just not give a damn about my reaction? I belive it was the latter, for while women used to care enough about men to spend hours devising ways to confuse them, now they simply broadcast their contemptuous indifference.

We conversed for about twenty minutes, quite pleasantly for the most part, except when she abruptly shifted into a demanding interrogative mood, blurting with a sense of judicial entitlement intrusive questions about my age, marital and relationship history – the third-degree that Manhattan women seem to learn by rote in relationship terror training camp. This, interwoven with repeated demands to know exactly how many women responded to my ad, and downplaying her rudeness by claiming idle curiosity. I made up a number that I thought would sound plausible -- 12 -- and yet incite her nascent sense of competitiveness. Already, I was sinking to her level.

She asked where I lived.
“That’s where all the gay people live. Are you gayyyyy?” she asked, her voice rising on the last syllable. I gave my stock response to such idiocy: “I was here before they were.”
“Oh, so you a pioneer?”

Yeah. I was the first to import open-toed sandals into Chelsea. I gave a pre-op Hedda Lettuce her first break in the back of my latte bar, Muscle Mary’s. You know, back in the day, before it started rainin’ men.

Lily told me that she had modeled in Beijing – she was 5’10” – and studied fashion design at Parsons, but now worked as a mortgage broker.
Then, suddenly, she had to get off the phone – she uttered something about her 8-year-old son’s play date arriving – and asked if we could talk “later.”

This afternoon I left a message on her cell phone, asking if she was free to get a drink. She called me back an hour or so later, and I repeated my invitation. She hedged a bit, saying it was raining, and implying that she didn’t want to travel far. I offered to come to her neighborhood and we agreed to meet for coffee at – where else? – a Starbucks branch on 84th Street and Third Avenue, near her residence.

As per our agreement, I called her when I arrived at the Starbucks. It was a rainy night when most of the Upper East Side was out of town. The shop was small, sparsely populated, and depressing in a Hopperesque way. You know, "Half-Decaf Mocchacino Nights."

Lily showed up five minutes later: older, flabbier, and decidedly un-model like. It was immediately clear there was not even Chemical Ali could bring us together. Nontheless, I determined to make it a pleasant encounter.

She had no such scruples.

From the get-go, she looked away when speaking. I showed her a copy of my book on celebrities (I don’t normally drag copies of my books around, but I thought it might impress her and at the very least establish me – or my claims – as more real and less virtual), but all she did was issue niggling criticisms, such as “Why Anglina Jolie on cover and not first in book?”

Then she took a cell call from a Chinese friend. Now, I think it’s rude to take social calls during a date, but hey, I’m a fossil, homo sensitivus.

“Checkin’ up on you?” I ask.
“No, we talk this afternoon, and so she call me…”
More small talk. Then, abruptly:
“You want to meet my friend?”
“You want to meet my friend? She’s nice.”
She points to the cell phone, as if her friend is some sort of Verizon genie.
“Oh,” I say. “You’re saying that you have no interest in me and are trying to pawn me off on your friend?”
“Yeah,” she says enthusiastically. (This woman is emotionally tone-deaf.)
“She’s very nice, very pretty. Shorter than me. Five-six. What is your age?”
“I told you yesterday.”
“I forget. After I have my son, all I can think of is him. I don’t remember anything. I need to write everything down – dates and things to do. So what’s your age?”
“How old is your friend?”
“She forty-one. She has daughter in China. So, what is your age?”
I tell her. “Why is her daughter in China?”
“She divorce. She has chance to come to America, so she take it.”
“And the husband got custody of the daughter?”
“No. I think her sister take care of it.”
“Oh. What part of China is she from?”
“I’m not sure.”
“Does she also work in the financial field?”
“No, I’m not sure what she does.”
“Good friend of yours, huh?”
“Yes. I know her one year.”

She tries calling the friend, but the phone is busy, apparently, because she doesn’t leave a message.

“She busy. Doing laundry.”

The phone rings. It is her son. “I will be home soon,” she says. Apparently, she has left him home alone to meet with me.

I joke that her restaurant (it is named Lili’s Noodle Shop) is right down the street.

“Yeah, they pay me for rights to name. I don’t like so much.”

I recommend Shanghai Pavilion, which is close by.

“You know Chinese food? ARE YOU JEWISH?”

I shake my head, disconsolately. I fear the conversation quickly drifting into Protocols of the Elders of Zion territory.

“You know, you shouldn’t reduce people to stereotypes.”
“Oh, but that’s why stereotypes! True!” She laughs heartily. I wonder how she’d take it if I cracked wise about her Chinese friend doing the laundry.
“Listen, I wouldn’t say things like that to Jewish people.”
“Why not?”
“Because Jewish people aren’t the only people who love Chinese food.”
“Oh, no, they LOVE it!”
She continues to defend her position, insisting that only Jews are connoisseurs of Chinese food.
“O.K., I’m just giving you some advice that might save you embarrassment,” I say. “You don’t have to take it.”

She says she will ask her friend if I can call her. Then she says, “I have to go. My son waiting” and bolts out the door.

During our initial phone conversation, Lily told me that she had been in Manhattan for ten years. “I’m a real New Yorker,” she had said.

She was not kidding.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

JT and the Ferraro Twins Say: Take Tomorrow Off

For some inexplicable reason, my name has virally snaked across the vast Internet serversphere and onto mailing lists for some of "New York's "hottest clubs." Pacha. Crobar. Minestrone (OK, made that one up).

I don't know how this could've happened. I am so far outside the demographic orbit of these establishments as to live in a parallel universe embellished not by strobe lights, 747-takeoff-level hip-hop, Ecstacy vending machines, and beautiful androids named Ivinka and Helmut, but by stacks of books with titles such as "Eros and Civilization" and bottles of ibuprofen.

The party planners -- young pups who are either patricians trying to forge make-believe careers as party entrepreneurs, Eurotrashites looking to subtract meaning from their lives, or Wall Street drones who seek salvation from their six-figure servitude -- promise in their almost daily missives immediate entree to these fantasy palaces, the catch being that we, the initiates, should be so grateful to be on BZ's or Tomcat's or Rich Fine's list that we will gladly pay the equivalent of a month's rent for a bottle of Cristal to try to impress a Belarusian fashion refugee.

My latest solicitation, from an entity called JT Talent and Casting, just arrived. It was an invitation to "THE ANNUAL INDEPENDENCE DAY EVE ROOF TOP PARTY LEGENDARY MONDAYS on July 3, hosted by two Italian-American sports stars and New York Rangers, the Ferraro twins."

Ignoring the fact that the Ferraro twins were two of the biggest busts in NHL history, I continued reading the ad, which featured cut-out profiles of the twins wearing turtlenecks and looking like GQ cover boys, an illustration of an exotic dancer writhing in barbiturated rapture, and the words, "No work next day."

This caught my eye. Either JT Talent and Casting presumed that its audience was so dumb/strung out that it couldn't calculate the day following July 3 was July 4...OR: They had acquired the power to give all attendees the day off.

"Sorry, boss, I can't make it tomorrow. JT gave me the day off."
"Work? No can do. Speak to JT."

And who knows -- maybe JT's corporate penetration is even deeper. "Mr. Faversham, sir, JT says give me a raise."

Of course, JT can do nothing for the worker who arrives on July 5th to find an irate manager waving a pink slip big enough to be a float in the Pride Parade. (The most they might be able to offer is a job as a doorman, but then you'd have to supplant Rudy Ray and Butch, both of whom were part of the planet Pluto until it was struck by a comet 1oo, ooo light years ago.)

But that's not JT's problem. Their motto: Liver free or die.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Lives of the Speedo Saints

Though I severed myself from the Catholic Church at age 13 and have grown to thoroughly despise it, I still was discomfited by a window display of a shop here on Eighth Avenue in Chelsea. It's a boutique that caters to the locals, its merchandise is laughably overpriced, and besides, the only waist size available among the trousers is 26 -- I don't think I was that size in the womb.

In the front window are two mannequins, clad only in Speedo-like swim trunks tented by 12-inch mannequin penises. Fine. Goes with the territory. But the two graphic panels lying at the mannequins' feet read, "Lives of the Saints."

What could this possibly mean? I remembered most of the saints drilled into me at Catholic school, and I don't recall any of them wearing bikini briefs. Were these new saints that snuck into the hagiographical corpus while I was off studying Buddhism? Could they have been recent arrivistes hastily canonized by John Paul during his last, senile days (in the same way presidents such as Nixon and Clinton granted last-second pardons to their felonious cronies)?

Saint Muscle Stud? Saint Liza? Saint Hedda Lettuce?

The old saints each had certain special skills on their resumes, which helped them attract their core constituents. St. Jude was the patron saint of lost causes. St. Francis of Assisi protected the animals. There was a saint for every group and every occasion. (The pharmacists alone have six who they can presumably implore for aid in solving the new Medicaid drug plan.) For every disease, there's someone up above standing by to hear from you. Why, there are seventeen saints who can protect you against mental illness, including Job, who went daft himself -- it's the old theological revolving door.

But of what cause could these Speedo saints possibly be patrons? "Yeah, this guy is the patron saint of malfunctioning penis pumps. And this over here, in the canary yellow trunks, if you run out of mascara, say a prayer to him. Also, if you're a twink, and you're unhappy about it."

I can see life-size reproductions of the Speedo saints being carried by a throng of celebrants during a Chelsea-fied version of the San Gennaro Festival, as wailing gay men lit aromatherpay candles and called out their desperate prayers for a miracle: "Please, make Jeff Stryker appear in my bedroom tonight!"

Profanity 101, or Why Johnny Can't Curse

Earlier this week, a new book was brought to my attention:
English as a Second F*cking Language : How to Swear Effectively, Explained in Detail with Numerous Examples Taken From Everyday Life. The book is not only selling briskly, but it received a laudatory plug by the Pope, Stephen King. His blurb, placed over the book's title, is, "Great f---king book!"

The book jacket copy reads, "In the English language, swearing is essential to effective communication." It purports to teach "the basics of swearing," refers to its curriculum as "ESF-L" and offers a "final f--king exam to test your swearing skills."

Has our educational system sunk so low that people actually need a Berlitz course in cursing? Especially at a time when, thanks to the ghetto manners that have infiltrated our popular culture, America already is awash in profanity? (Full disclosure: When alone, I utter more epithets than Al Swearingen with Tourette's Syndrome.)

Americans are so dumb, I wouldn't be surprised if half of them failed the "final f--king exam." If the teacher had to curve the f--king grades. And if many examinees used cheat sheets or worse, Cliff's Notes for ESF-L.

Imagine taking that report card back to Mom and Dad. "Johnny, you failed cursing again! What the fuck is wrong with you, you fucking moron?"

"Sorry, mom."

"We've done everything -- we hired a tutor, bought you that swearing tutorial, and sent you to Cursing Camp. And you let us down. You dumb shit. You'll never make it on Wall Street."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The New York Woman and the Big Con

Dating in New York has been likened to many things, none of them salutary. War (for me, it's World War I -- you know, hand-to-hand combat, trench warfare, and protracted, bloody battles over the same patch of ground). Survival of the fittest. An outpatient clinic. A supermarket in which you are the shoppee and often end up feeling like that off-brand can of peas with the ax-driven dent in the middle -- the one with the label withering off and "20¢" written in black magic marker on its top.

To that unfortunate list of analogies I now can add the Big Con. An elaborate ruse in which the grifter (the New York woman) tricks the mark into believing that she is sincerely interested, that her interest is based on a recognition of his looks, charm, wit, warmth, etc., and is devoid of any ulterior, commercial motives, and that the two of them have forged a precious spiritual bond.

Yes, and my uncle, the king of the Ibo tribe of Nigeria, has personally entrusted you, Jim Gerard, to deposit his millions in your Chase checking account with the -$13.00 balance.

As a longtime bachelor (non-toxic variety), I've heard and seen just about every variety of female aberrance. The false cell phone number. The bipolar waxing and waning of interest. The flirtatious pursuit, followed by the faux naif declaration (i.e., "I just want to be friends. I thought I made that clear."). The invitation returned for insufficient funds. The self-hating rejection ("I'm worthless, and you like me; ergo, you're not worthy of dating a worm like me."). The paranoid rejection ("I won't go out with you because I know you're married.")... Ad infinitum. (Note to Generation Whatever: If women alone give you that much trouble, why would you even think of going bisexual?)

Look, I'm not innocent. I've fender-bendered a few hearts in my day. And I realize that women play the field, and that sometimes a woman is only floating a rumor of her availability to gauge market interest -- and to reassure her vanity.

And women have used me for favors -- help me move, edit my term paper -- by feigning interest. My bad.

Yet, I've never experienced a woman's warm attentiveness as an element of a marketing plan.

I just joined a rather upscale gym. I befriended a young personal trainer, who confided in me about her father's precarious condition -- he is being treated for cancer and recently had a heart attack. I offered my prayers and best wishes for his recovery. We exchanged a bit of back story. She's a dancer; we both like swing. She said she would never forget my name. Or my face. I felt that, unlike the other women I'd met lately, she was sincere, transparent. I worked up my nerve to ask her out. She said she'd love to, but she was busy and going out of town (i.e., the pile-on alibi rejection) and the way, "how long have you been a member here at X gym?"

"A month or so," I say.
"Have you gotten your free Equi-Fit session?"
"You should let me know if you're interested."

And then it hits me: All this time she's been playing me for a potential personal training client, so she can reach her "target" number. This is a standard policy at the contemporary health club: The trainer as salesman. Tony Little meets Willy Loman. No sooner has the member paid his $150 a month dues, plus an "initiation" fee -- as if he's being inducted into the Skull & Bones -- than he's inundated with sales pitches. He has been reduced to a thin slice of market share. In the gym owners' eyes, he wears a huge $ on his Nike sweats. Ideally, they wish he would walk outside, get knocked in the head, forget he is a member there, walk back in and re-join. And then get run over and never actually work out there -- unless he promises to buy lots of p.t. sessions, energy drinks, overpriced exercise gear from the pro shop and physical therapy.

Anyway, I got hustled, I admit it. And I had been warned by another member on the first day I joined to be wary of trainers in sports bras.

This was just the latest in a series of improbably disappointing romantic scenarios:

*A Taiwanese artist I meet in Williamsburg who not only fails to thank me for the wine I bought her, but when I call her 48 hours later, only recognizes me after we've been speaking for several minutes. I'm telling you: One sentence you never want to hear during a phone call with a woman you're dating is, "Oh, that Jim!"

*A woman I meet online sends me her photo: She is posing with a Native American chief at what appears to be a Cherokee theme park, and who looks as if he wants her condescending scalp. She is wearing sunglasses that obscure her features. I ask her for a second photo: In this one, she is wearing a Maid Marion-like medieval wimple and trailing gown that seem made of chain mail. I'm afraid to ask for another photo, and have to restrain the urge to tell her she's making an ass of herself across 800 years of Western civilization.

*Another woman I met online who spends our entire first date pontificating about conspiracy theories. I'm afraid her idea of foreplay will be to play the Zapruder tape.

I'd like to give this up, forever wash my hands of N.Y. dating. But I need the material.

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to thoughts, attitudes, and emotions of the real Jim Gerard is purely coincidental.

Monday, June 26, 2006

I Live for This, or: 60 Feet, 6 Inches Under

It is now clear that everything is for sale, and that here in America in the early 21st century, none of us has a spare moment when we are not either being sold something or selling something. Marx prophesized that under capitalism, human beings would become commodities. What he left unstated was that we also have become salesman, even if -- or should I say especially? -- the only product we're pedding is ourselves. Our "brand."

Even entertainment venues during which we've come to expect a certain degree of commercial sponsorship, such as televised and broadcast sporting events, have become avenues for hysterical, hyper-marketing.

The other night, I tried tuning in to the Yankees game on WCBS radio, to get the score. Beyond the problems I had getting a strong, consistent signal on my Walkman radio -- it's 2006, guys, isn't it about time you improved on Marconi? -- I had to endure a half-inning of nearly uninterrupted commercials uber-sycophantic announcer John Sterling desperately tried to shoehorn into his play-by-play call. In five minutes, this guy threw more pitches than Randy Johnson.

"Up comes Jason Giambi, trying to get the Yanks a big insurance run. You can be sure that Jason won't need to get a free quote from Geico...Hold on: Terry Francona is bringing in a left-hander to face Giambi. Which means it's time for the Cingular call to the bullpen..." And so on, ad nauseum. And every game event --every pitch, every jockstrap-grab and toss of the resin bag -- is now an object of corporate sponsorship.

"This pitchout is brought to you by Burger King -- Have it your way at Burger King."

"Here's the pitch -- there goes Carl Crawford -- this attempted stolen base is brought to you by the Slomin Shield -- Protect your home from theft with the Slomin Shield, call 1-800-ALARMME -- and here's the throw by Posada -- this attempt to prevent a stolen base is brought to you by LoJack -- and he slides and he's safe! And you should be safe from worry in case you are injured or laid off and don't have supplementary insurance, so get Aflac. And Crawford breaks for third -- I can't see what happened, the Aflac duck walked across my monitor -- oh, the ball got by Jeter and into centerfield. Crawford's rounding third and he's going to try to score the tying run. Here's the throw and the play at the plate,, if you're having erectile dysfunction, why not ask your doctor for Cialis?"

Was the runner out or safe? Who's winning? Who cares? Sterling, a master at unctuous, pompous toadyism -- if he'd been in Germany in 1938, he'd have been hosting "Naziography" -- has done his job: Making the sponsors happy.

I wouldn't be surprised if his life off-mike was just as branded. He goes home, has sex with Mrs. Sterling and: "This fuck (huff, huff) is brought to you by Meineke. (Huff, huff)-- Meineke Car Care -- Our new name says it all."

I can't listen to the games anymore, which is sad. What may be even sadder is that the grand wizards of baseball are moving in a macabre direction by targeting what you might call the ultimate niche market.

According to a story in Sunday's New York Daily News, who picked it up from Bloomberg News, Major League Baseball has signed a licensing agreement with funeral product maker Eternal Image Inc., to have the company decorate its caskets and urns with the names and logos of MLB teams. They'll be available in time for the 2007 season: the caskets will go for $3,000-$3,500 and urns for $600-$1,000.

So even beyond the grave, we're not safe from hucksters. I'm not sure what they think the market is for this. I mean, how much purchasing power do the deceased actually have?

I suppose this service is meant to appeal to the true hardcore fan -- like the lifelong Chicago Cubs zealot who on his deathbed was asked by his son if he had any last words and replied, "They gotta trade Kingman." This kind of obsessional fellow, plus the eccentric immortality-seekers who cryogenically freeze themselves.

I wonder which team's logo fans will most often choose to take with them to the afterlife? The Yankees (God's chosen)? Angels (believers)? Devil Rays (atheists)? Royals (suicides)?

And while they're at it, why don't they throw a mini-TV into the fan's casket, so they can hear John Sterling for the rest of eternity...No, not even Dante could conceive of a punishment that onerous.

Yankees fans could have Bob Sheppard read their eulogy over the Stadium's p.a. system. "Bruce from Flushing...Flushing...shing...was a real people person...person...son..."

And to think: The current slogan of Major League Baseball is "I live for this."

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The World Cup or: the death scene from Camille

Headlong dives to the pitch, impelled by the slightest of brushes. Histrionic grimaces. Cries of pain. Wails that bespeak tragedy...

No, it's not Shakespeare in the Park, but the World Cup, showcase for the globe's most outlandish practitioners of melodrama -- world-class divas who would give any telenovela actress a run for her money in the exaggerated depiction of elemental human emotion.

Nary a contested ball passes without eye-rolling, head-shaking, Kabuki-like facial contortions, imploring of the referees as if beseeching the gods, and other tools of the thespian trade rarely seen since the advent of Stanislawski.

How did playing the death scene from "Camille" become an accepted part of the world's most popular sport? Can you imagine if an NFL player -- let's say an offensive tackle -- tried it? "O linebacker most foul! Who doth hold me when the zebra's back is turned!" (Oddly enough, diving is rather commonplace in that purportedly most macho of sports, hockey, but it's much less frequent, more often punished, bereft of other operatic mannerisms, and counterbalanced by the grudging acceptance of fisticuffs.)

I mean, do soccer players practice all that diving, wailing, and gnashing of teeth? For all I know, between youth soccer and international stardom, they go to drama school. Presumably some would prefer the Method technique, in which they are asked in class to "remember a time when your father tackled you from behind or your parish priest committed a flagrant foul." (Possibly: "Did you ever want to give your mother a red card?") Or perhaps each team has its own system of practicing ways to emotionally manipulate the ref. (Give him flowers, complement the way his legs look in those black shorts and lederhosen.)

Since soccer players are hams and the referees are apparently incompetent at their chosen profession (to judge from observation and the criticism from informed commentators), why not have the games mediated not by some corrupt ex-midfielder in cahoots with FIFA satraps, but by real drama critics? Ben Brantley. John Lahr. John Simon. Those kind of guys. Instead of keeping score by goals, they would judge the players like the contestants in "American Idol."

"Well, Brian, today we witnessed one of Figo's greatest performances as 'the midfielder who was tripped by a Dutch player standing five yards away from him.'"


"You know, Brian, Italy's star forward is no longer the capo du Totti capi of howling in mock pain."

Or maybe directly to the player:

"You call yourself a diver? I've seen corpses fall into the East River with more panache!"

The theater critics could impose their own carding system:

Yellow = failure to completely grasp character's inner struggles -- to send a long, overhead ball to his star striker, or stop and bitch at the ref for 10 minutes

Red = total lack of credibility when denying obvious hand ball

Purple = excessive crying at offsides call

Fuchsia = over-the-top goal celebration involving running halfway out of the stadium shirtless while miming a man playing a violin

Flaming Orange = calling the referee "Your Majesty" in an attempt to persuade him to award you a penalty kick

Pink = holding breath and turning blue to protest foul during stoppage time

Puce = for announcers who hold the word "Goooooooaaaaaallll" longer than Birgitte Nillson in a passage from "Tristan and Isolde."