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."

Friday, June 16, 2006

Perils of the tanning lifestyle

I went into a tanning salon today, and in the course of explaining the various package plans, altogether more byzantine than a tanning salon should require -- payment is based on a point system, in which each of the different beds (Sundazzler, Sun Capsule, Sunstroke), pressure levels (low, medium, high -- the low consists of a guy shining a flashlight on you), mattresses, tanning position (supine or standing), and session length are assigned a certain number of points -- the salesman emphatically volunteered that the goal of the company is to get people “into the tanning lifestyle.”

What exactly is the tanning lifestyle? Does one living the "tanning lifestyle" sleep in a tanning bed? Does he arise and have breakfast in a tanning kitchen, then go to his tanning office at the tanning bed company headquarters, where he makes phone calls, checks his email, and creates PowerPoint presentations on his computer -- all while acquiring that Riviera glow? At lunchtime, does he eat his tongue sandwich and drink his Diet Coke in a solarium, then attend an afternoon meeting in a tanning conference room in which arguments break out about what setting to use:

· Slightly burnish
. Light tan
· Tan
· Burn
· 911
· Third-Degree Burn
· 212-798-1101 [the number of Dr. Neil Waxman, reconstructive surgeon who specializes in full-body skin grafts]
· Incinerate
· Vaporize


Instead of Dunkin' Donuts, does the company dole out to its employees free sunscreen every morning?

But. Will this poor man become so revolted by, so thoroughly fed up with the tanning lifestyle that he will recoil from sunlight, natural or artificial, and seek the darkest recesses of the city? Will he renounce tanning in favor of the bank vault, the wine cellar, the murky apartment building basement, the sewer cesspool, the bar with an opaque tinted glass window and space so cavernous only moles could find their way around, if moles hung around in bars and they were gay -- indeed, would he become dark matter itself? Yes, I believe this man would turn himself into anti-matter, would truly go over to the dark side, where he would be trapped in a superstring or brane, or have his atoms totally reorganized to the point where he would become another, nonhuman mass of atoms and wouldn't know his own ACM password!

Whichever course of action he takes, this poor, ultra-bronze man is living a lie. He's all melanin on the outside, but inside he's white as Wite-Out, white as an Icelandic model without lipstick lying naked on the North Pole during a blizzard. He's not an Oreo; he's a ... tan-ish cookie with a vanilla creme center, a Girl Scout cookie they call the "Do-Si-Do."

That's what he is.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Zarqawi: the Sequel

This typically ponderous Timesian headline leapt out from today's edition of What the Government Told Us So it Must Be True:

U.S. Portrayal Helps Flesh Out Zarqawi's Heir

The byline is "Dexter Filkins" who -- let's face it -- sounds a martini-mixing valet from a Noel Coward play.

The story begins:

BAGHDAD, Iraq, June 15 -- American military officers on Thursday put a face on the new chief of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, releasing a photograph and details of the man they say succeeded Abu Musab al-Zarqawi after he was killed in an airstrike last week.

In a news briefing, Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American military spokesman here, identified Mr. Zarqawi's successor as Abu Ayyub al-Masri, an Egyptian who he said had trained in one of the terrorist camps in Afghanistan run by Al Qaeda in 1999.
Mr. Masri, he said, was a "founding member" of Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and had become one of Mr. Zarqawi's "closest remaining associates."

Here's the translation: Since the U.S. military killed the former terror mastermind who single-handedly was preventing them from victory in Operation Fill'er Up Unleaded, a murder they can use as proof that they are vanquishing the "insuregents," they have created another straw man, a new terror "mastermind" that they can use as an alibi for why they still cannot finish off the "insurgents."

Sure enough, the head shot of this newcomer looks like it came from the "Terrorist" photo file at Central Casting -- a somber young man wearing a white kaffiyeh and robe, a well-groomed moustache and van Dyke, staring vacantly into a camera. Actually, it looks more like his camel driver's license I.D. Above the photo is inscribed:

Abu Ayyub al-Masri
AKA Sheik Abu Hamza al-Muhajer

as if he was on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

Mr. Filkins, after drawing his master's bath, continues:

General Caldwell said Mr. Masri — the name means "the Egyptian" in Arabic — was the same person as Abu Hamza al-Muhajer, whom Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia declared as its new leader in an Internet posting this week.

"The Egyptian"? Sounds like a professional wrestler. Also, it's interesting to note that the Iraqi Al Qaeda franchise proclaimed its new leader not by staging a grandiose ceremony but by putting it on the Net, like a pimply-faced sophomore posting at MySpace. Did "the Egyptian" added a profile with his top ten sheiks and favorite jihadists? Hell, if the announcement had been any more understated, they'd have been handing out fliers. "Check it out, we have a new leader, check it out."

Both names are thought to be pseudonyms.

Ah, so they really don't know who this guy is.

Shortly after Mr. Zarqawi was killed, American officials predicted that Mr. Masri was the likely successor.

Or do they? Was his emergence predicted? Accepted with a sigh of relief? "Whew! We finally filled the terror mastermind vacuum." Or, taking it one step further, was he somehow chosen by Washington to play the role of Zarqawi for a while? Did they audition people? If so, was it an open call, or did you have to be referred by an agent?

AGENT (to U.S. military): Listen, I got this great new kid, he's fresh, did some under-fives in Al-Qaeda training videos, does his own stunts: IEDs, car bombs, the whole nine yards...he's perfect for "Zarqawi, the Sequel."

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

I love carbs, but I hate you

At my gym tonight I saw a young, slim woman wearing a T-shirt reading "I Love Carbs," using the rebus-making heart emoticon.

Wondering what could possess someone to actively proclaim such a sentiment -- was she a member of an anti-Atkins cult? -- I approached her. (Full disclosure: She was rather attractive and I wanted to have sex with her.)

"You don't look like someone who likes carbs," I said.

Truth in advertising is very important to me.

"Oh, I do!" she exclaimed, suggesting unbridled, powerless enthrallment tinged with guilt and remorse.

"I didn't know they made T-shirts with such sentiments."

"My girlfriend got one first. Then I got one. So there's at least one other person who has one."

"It's not some kind of cult, is it?"

"No," she said, and immediately left the floor. She seemed very discomfited by our encounter. Now, dietary preferences aside, I find that women in New York City gyms tend to recoil whenever a man tries to talk to them -- in fact, whenever a man violates what they have deemed their personal space. It could be the Stairmaster or the Nautilus machine next to the one they're using. It could be the same street. Sometimes I think it's the entire city. I think they'd like to carve their own solipsistic world out of our metropolis of eight million. Turn Manhattan into MySpace.

Or maybe it's just me. But I don't think so. I think the great majority of affluent young professionals have grown up in suburbs where, from earliest childhood, spontaneous human engagement is frowned upon, if not forbidden. You know, the 4-year-olds' play date, McMansion-filled, acres-apart next-door neighbory, auto-centric, air-conditioned nightmare, the royalty check is in the mail, Mr. Miller. (When I was a kid...ah, I'll save that for another post. Or maybe for another novel I'm contemplating, the central premise of which I've stolen from Witold Gombrowicz. But, since I first conceived of the idea in a dream, perhaps
-- and despite his dying before I was born, for physics has proven that time is an illusion -- he stole it from me.)

So they come to the big city where they can't help -- even after the Kochian real estate sellout and the Giuliani Disneyfication -- having teeming humanity thrust upon them. In the streets, in the shops, on the subway, in the health "club" where they don't seem to want any other members, they have to (shudder) rub up against "them" -- you know, other people. Hell is, like, icky. And they don't know how to handle it. So they insulate themselves with the cell phone, the iPod, the middle-distance stare, the brisk, aggressively aloof stance. The Kevlar walk. When they're bereft of such equipment, well, they get terrified and flee.

But the irony is that they're the monsters.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bachelors of Alcohol

"For Some, Online Persona Undermines a Résumé"

The headline topped this week's "Can kids today be that dumb?" story, from page 1 of the Sunday N.Y. Times. It concerns how college students are being eliminated as job applicants by companies finding the racy, provocative public posturing students do on websites such as MySpace.

At Facebook, a popular social networking site, the executive found the candidate's Web page with this description of his interests: "smokin' blunts" (cigars hollowed out and stuffed with marijuana), shooting people and obsessive sex all described in vivid slang.

RECRUITER: Come on in, Mr. Starkley. So, your resume here says that in college, your major was "'Shrooms. With a minor in sniping. And pimpin' ho's..."

STARKLEY: That's right.

RECRUITER: Welcome to the CIA.

The article goes on:

But now, college career counselors and other experts say, some recruiters are looking up applicants on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Xanga and Friendster, where college students often post risqué or teasing photographs and provocative comments about drinking, recreational drug use and sexual exploits in what some mistakenly believe is relative privacy. When viewed by corporate recruiters or admissions officials at graduate and professional schools, such pages can make students look immature and unprofessional, at best.

A New York University recruiter claims that companies are now doing background checks on prospective employees by searching their pages on intercollegiate sites and posing the question, "Is there something about their lifestyle that we might find questionable or that we might find goes against the core values of our corporation?"

Ah, yes, the core values of your corporation. Now, what might they be? Disempowerment, abuse and petty tyranny of -- not to mention outsourcing and slashing health benefits and pensions for -- employees, swindling or otherwise deceiving vendors, customers and government officials (if not buying the latter off with campaign contribution/bribes), manipulating the firm's stock price so the top execs can make out like bandits, and making outrageously inaccurate claims about your product. That's for starters.

But they're always worrying about the "core values" of their company. The core value of every corporation is profit, by any means necessary. Small companies want to be big, big ones bigger. (Even al-Zarqawi wasn't immune. According to a story on the same Times front page, he wasn't satisfied being a mom-and-pop terrorist operation. He was planning to expand his operation worldwide, to compete with the other brands, such as Bin Laden.)

But I digress. The story quotes a recruiter from a "small consulting firm" who went to Duke University to interview a promising candidate only to find on the student's Facebook page, "explicit photographs and commentary about the student's sexual escapades, drinking and pot smoking, including testimonials from friends. Among the pictures were shots of the young woman passed out after drinking."

This begs the question: Is getting plastered to the point of unconsciousness is such an accomplishment that one feels a need to boast of it on the Internet? I thought that at American colleges, everybody got a B.A. (Bachelors of Alcohol)?

I would permanently delete Adam Sandler

The ads for the new celluloid product "Click," starring Adam Sandler, feature the tag line:

What if you had a universal remote that could control your universe?

Um, I'd zap "Click." I'd "Click" off. Hel-lo, smart-ass critics! We just wrote your lead for you!

The tag line is a prime example of what Hollywood insiders call "high concept" -- meaning any idea that can be easily understood by a five-year-old of average intelligence.

However, if I were to accept the movie's postulate of a universal remote device, and I obtained one, the second thing I would do with it is eliminate Adam Sandler.

Then I'd bump off the studio chiefs, marketing execs, producers, directors, writers, actors, and reviewers responsible for perpetuating Adam Sandler movies on the public.

Then I'd get rid of all the Adam Sandler fans ... and, well, the lesson here is:

Don't give me a universal remote...I'm too much like Stalin.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

It's not this kind of love story

I'm mulling the idea of writing a novel. Something funny, contemporary, not too experimental. About love. But let’s get one thing straight: It’s not the kind of love story in which:

· Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back.

· Boy meets girl, boy and girl are separated by their feuding families, boy and girl consummate their love before dying tragically.

· Boy meets girl, girl realizes he’s below her station and marries Baron von Schmaltz, boy marries gamekeeper’s daughter and takes out his disappointment on her by making her sleep with the pigeons.

· Boy meets girl, girl leaves boring, patronizing husband for boy, girl throws herself under train.

. Boy meets girl, goes off to war and loses girl, shell-shocked boy spends rest of 1920s wearing far too much rouge in Berlin cabaret.

· Boy meets girl, boy suffers ambivalent feelings about girl, boy loses girl and with the help of Zelga, his chilly lesbian shrink, spends the rest of his life trying to win girl back.

· Boy meets girl, boy realizes he’s homosexual, girl becomes irrelevant, boy meets boy, loses boy, who cares it’s rainin’ men.

· Married boy meets girl and promises to divorce wife for her, married boy dumps girl, girl learns nothing and spends the rest of her life meeting other married boys.

· Boy meets girl after girl after girl in desperate attempt to a) avoid growing up; b) avoid working out conflicts with mother; c) win approval of fraternity-like peer group, boy ends up meeting no one in a desolate hovel in which he spends the rest of his life making insistent calls to sports radio jocks about his fantasy league draft.

· Girl meets boy, girl realizes boy won’t make enough money to indulge her in high-end luxury-branded goods for which the author receives product placement fees, girl callously dumps boy.

. Boy meets girl, girl leaves boring, patronizing husband for boy, girl throws herself under the Internet.·

. Girl meets girl, girl meets boy, boy meets boy meets gerbil who’s only an urban legend…reader can’t tell players without a scorecard.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Abandoned by Jesus, Colorado Rockies turn to Satan

Last week I read a rather startling story in the sports section of USA Today. It was written by Bob Nightengale and carried the headline, "Rockies seek success on two levels"

It began like this:

No copies of Playboy or Penthouse are in the clubhouse of baseball's Colorado Rockies. There's not even a Maxim. The only reading materials are daily newspapers, sports and car magazines and the Bible. Music filled with obscenities, wildly popular with youth today and in many other clubhouses, is not played. A player will curse occasionally but usually in hushed tones. Quotes from Scripture are posted in the weight room. Chapel service is packed on Sundays. Prayer and fellowship groups each Tuesday are well-attended. It's not unusual for the front office executives to pray together.

Behind the scenes, they quietly have become an organization guided by Christianity — open to other religious beliefs but embracing a Christian-based code of conduct they believe will bring them focus and success.

Well, it depends on how you define success. When the story appeared, the team's record was 27-27, and they were in fourth place (out of five) in the National League West division. The Rockies have had one winning season since 1998. However, they had a brief early-season first-place sabbatical in a very mediocre division, which deluded them into thinking they were contenders.

"We had to go to hell and back to know where the Holy Grail is. We went through a tough time and took a lot of arrows," says Rockies chairman and CEO Charlie Monfort, one of the original owners.

So we finally know where the Holy Grail is! Somewhere between Hell and back.

Monfort did, too. He says that after years of partying, including 18 months' probation for driving while impaired, he became a Christian three years ago. It influenced how he wanted to run the club, he says.

Don't you love these born again types? The first thing they do when they need to rehab their public image is declare their allegiance to Jesus, which allows them to roll back the moral odometer to zero. Then they can't wait to punish the other sinners.

"We started to go after character six or seven years ago, but we didn't follow that like we should have," he says.

No, since now ex-Rockies pitcher Denny Neagle was arrested for soliciting prostitution.

"I don't want to offend anyone, but I think character-wise we're stronger than anyone in baseball. Christians, and what they've endured, are some of the strongest people in baseball. I believe God sends signs, and we're seeing those."

So God's giving the Rockies' signs. What kind of signs would He call for? Well, lots of sacrifices. Preferably bloody. And he'd cut back on the running game, because everybody knows Thou shalt not steal.

I guess he'd be calling the pitches, too. And what Rockies hurler is going to shake off the Lord when he calls for a 3-0 fastball down the middle to Barry Bonds?

Nontheless, the Lord works in mysterious ways. Ever since the USA Today article appeared, the Rockies have been on a bender, getting swept by a bunch of Central Casting ballplayers masquerading as the Marlins over the weekend and getting spanked by the woebegone Pirates earlier tonight.

This led me to wonder how long Colorado can keep the faith. I can see the season unfolding like this:

June 15: In the midst of a 20-game losing streak, manager Clint Hurdle tells USA Today, "God is testing us. He has big plans for us."

July 1: Losing streak reaches 38 games. The team has taken to holding prayer meetings during games -- while the ball is in play. General Manager Dan O'Dowd announces that the Lord has told him to fire Hurdle as manager and replace him with Pastor Jerry McMoney.

July 20: Colorado has lost 60 in a row. They're the laughing stock of baseball, and ESPN creates an entire daily show of highlights of the Rockies' ineptitude. CEO Monfort bans Bibles in the clubhouse, and the new manager fines players for "not cussing enough."

August 2: After their seventy-second straight loss, the Rockies issue a statement saying that, "After much consideration, we have decided to opt out of our agreement with Jesus, and we have signed a multi-year pact with Satan." They sell the naming rights to Coors Field to the Devil, who renames it Inferno Park. They sweep a doubleheader from the Cardinals.

August 18: Riding an 18-game winning streak, the Rockies players admit that their season turned around after they started indulging in "Satanic stuff." This includes celebrating a Black Mass before each game and substituting a human sacrifice for the post-game spread.

September 3: The Rockies have now won 33 straight, and every game is a sellout. They sport creepy new uniforms -- black shrouds with the number "666" emblazoned on the back -- and engage in sinister behavior, such as only playing in night games, and pointing down to Hell and hissing, "Hail Satan!" whenever they hit a home run or strike out an opposing batter.

September 19: As the team approaches first place, it goes over the edge. Rockies starter Jason Jennings deliberately beans Ken Griffey Jr., then eats his brain on the field.

September 29: After 10 days of agonizing deliberation, Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig bans "ghouls, zombies, vampires, devil-worshippers, anyone whom the Commissioner declares to be undead, and Barry Bonds." Any player caught sucking another player's blood will be fined $20,000 and suspended for ten games. A second offense carries a $40,000 fine, and a twenty-game suspension. The Rockies -- joined by New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner -- immediately appeal the ruling. Selig agrees to delay the implementation of the penalties and appoints a blue-ribbon panel to study the issue of Satanic worship in the clubhouse and issue a report no later than 2015.

October 1: The Rockies win the pennant! Praise the Evil One!

November 1: The Rockies beat the Yankees in the first all-demonic World Series. The seventh and deciding game turns when umpire Angel Hernandez makes a call against the Rockies and is made to vanish into thin air by Rockies' third base coach Aleister Crowley.

Friday, June 02, 2006

My broker is full of bilge

Today's Spam of the Day has a subject heading "Bilge with Thickish."

Judging from those three words, you might expect the message to concern sewage treatment or waste disposal.

You would be wrong.

The subject of the email was Infinex Ventures Inc., a possibly nonexistent penny stock about which we all receive dozens of spams every day.

My question is: For what conceivable reason -- other than to evade my Internet provider's spam detectors (which by the way are almost as worthless as Infinex Ventures) -- did its author, a phanthom who uses the name "Josiah Camp" decide to open his cyberspiel with the vaguely Joycean phrase "bilge with thickish"? Does he think that I'm going to see that subject line and exclaim "Oh, my God! It's what I've been waiting for my entire life -- Bilge with thickish!"

Let me put it another way: You're shopping for a financial manager, you meet for your initial consultation, and the money manager starts by saying, "Bilge with thickish." I mean, this is the guy you're going to entrust with your future -- and he's an outpatient.

But the weirdness didn't stop with the subject line. The return email address was A lunatic travel agent who dabbles in stock trading. Or possibly the reverse.

Just what I need.