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.