Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Thank You, Kanye!

Hear me out! I don’t hate Taylor Swift – I don’t think Kanye did a good thing by grabbing the microphone from her during her acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards. Believe it or not, I agree with President Obama’s outlook on his actions: Kanye is a jackass.

However, what Kanye did – inadvertently, I’m sure – was give the holier-than-thou media the chance to jump off their high horses and show their true colors. It must have been extremely cathartic for so many of the media! With this incident, they proved that they and the paparazzi are one in the same. The main dude at TMZ.com must have been interviewed by thousands of media outlets yesterday and today to get the “inside scoop” on Kanye’s behavior. You read that right: their “expert” is a cat who runs an outfit who spends most of its time tracking down the celebrity du jour to find out if she ate more than 200 calories that day and to snap pictures of said celebrity when she forgot to wear underwear (most likely because she’s not getting enough food to the brain).

The mainstream media want us to believe that they’re a step ahead of us at all times and that they keep themselves above the fray to assure we’re getting the “whole story”. First of all, by spending more than five seconds on the Kanye West story shows that they’re not above the fray at all – they’re down in the gutters, too. Secondly, if they wanted to make this into some type of life-lesson story or an exposure of what celebrity does to a man’s head, they shouldn’t be going to the guy who salivates over catching on video the ramblings of someone famous who has drunk enough Jack Daniels to float a small yacht. While there’s probably not a whole lot of “jackassologists” thick on the ground to dissect Kanye’s behavior for the morning news, there is a whole host of accredited professionals who could give the viewing public a little better insight into the whole affair – but that wouldn’t really be that interesting, truth be told.

So, Kanye, thanks for screwing up so magnificently! You gave the mainstream media the chance to let their hair down and show us they’re just a bunch of schlubs like us. Because of you, I’m inviting Matt Lauer to my next outdoor barbecue, and I won’t be ashamed to ask him to bring a beanie weenie casserole.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Start (Don't Stop) Making Sense

Let’s go back to a simpler time when our “politicians” made a little more sense: the American Revolution. Specifically, let’s focus on the night before the pivotal crossing of the Delaware.

Aide to General Washington (avoiding eye contact with his superior): “Sir, I have a gentleman outside your tent we caught snooping around and listening in on the meetings with your officers.”

General Washington (stops writing in his journal and puts his quill down – all he’s been able to write is “Lord Cornwallis is a tool.”) “Why has he been listening in on our meetings? Is he a spy?”

Aide (clearly not enjoying this task, he blows out a deep breath and continues to avoid eye contact): “No, worse. He says he’s a member of the press and insists that he’s exercising one of the rights – Freedom of the Press to be specific – for which this war is being fought.”

Washington (giving his aide that Are you completely bonkers? look – aide simply closes his eyes and makes an almost imperceptible shake of the head): “I’m a fairly intelligent man – at least my mother thinks so – but I’m having trouble understanding why this chap feels it necessary to listen in on my strategic planning meetings with my officers the night before one of the most important events of this war. Throw me a bone here, man.”

Aide (throwing back a look of Don’t shoot the messenger and looking up at the ceiling, hands behind his back, clearing his throat): “Sir, he claims that his readers have a right to know what’s going on at the front and that this right supersedes the safety and security of our men who are fighting this war.” (Aide holds up both hands, palms outward, in an it sounds even dumber hearing myself say it manner and rolls his eyes.)

Washington (looking at his aide with a sideways glance): “Are you absolutely sure he’s not a British spy sent here to kill us with laughter? They’re famous for their dry wit, you know, but this is absolutely ridiculous.” (Washington notices a very pained look on his aide’s face and turns to look him straight in the eye.) “What? You’re serious? Is there something more?”

Aide (hands behind his back again, staring up into the corner of the tent just over Washington’s shoulder): “Um, well, yes, there is one other teeny tiny thing. He’s insisting on being embedded in one of the front-line infantry units tomorrow morning and wants your personal assurance on his safety.” (Aide casts his eyes immediately to the floor and shuffles his feet.)

Washington (laughing hysterically and trying to keep himself from wetting his pants, he’s amazed his aide is able to keep a straight face – this is one phenomenal joke, perfectly delivered!): “Wait. You’re not kidding are you?” (He regains his composure, tugs at the hem of his coat and smooths down his lapels.) “Right. Take the bugger and his rights (Washington makes air quotes with his fingers) out back and give him the Thomas Paine treatment – beat some common sense into him. If that doesn’t work, dress him up as a woman and set him free in the British camp – most of those men haven’t seen their wives or girlfriends for months, and it’s cold. He’ll quickly learn the meaning of being embedded in an infantry unit!”

Fast forward to today: if someone in Washington’s position making a similar suggestion were overheard by the wrong person or videotaped and played on YouTube, the madding crowd would be clamoring for his resignation, his evisceration, and/or his castration. I can’t pinpoint where in the ensuing centuries we, the American People, decided to fill our collective wheel barrow with stupid bricks and get everything turned around, but it’s obviously happened!

I was watching the morning news recently when the talking head read a story about the liberation of a member of the press who had been taken hostage in the Middle East. The newscaster – one of the hostage’s kindred spirits – blithely announced the happy news that the man was now free but then quickly breezed through the part of the story that a British commando was killed in the operation. Warning: I’m going to capitalize this next part so you can clearly hear me. A MAN WHO HAS BEEN PAINSTAKINGLY TRAINED TO DEFEND HIS COUNTRYMEN AND WOMEN AND TO BRING HOME HIS FALLEN COMRADES UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES WAS KILLED SO A MEMBER OF THE PRESS – SOMEONE WHO WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF HELL VOLUNTARILY, SOMEONE WHO WAS BRINGING ABSOLUTELY NO END TO THE CONFLICT OR PEACE TO THE REGION – COULD COME HOME IN THE PASSENGER CABIN OF AN AIRCRAFT WHILE THE DEFENDER CAN COME HOME IN A BODY BAG. That’s A LOT of stupid bricks for the wheel barrow, kids!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A Man and His Pets

Little did you know, but the day you were born into this world, you made an implicit promise with the rest of the world that you were going to accept some things just as they are and keep moving along. Parts of this compact include motorists who drive 35 mph in the fast lane on the freeway, your seventh-grade English teacher’s bad breath, and the inexplicable fame and success of hair bands in the 80s – you just file them away as givens and try not to let them ruin your day (or your decade for that matter).

Back when I used to have to travel a lot, I would stay in a mid-level hotel chain, and I was generally pleased with the accommodations. The two things I did do on a regular basis that still give my wife the heebie-jeebies was walk around my room barefoot and leave the bedspread on the bed when I went to sleep each night. Sure, I’ve heard all about the funky foot fungi that are ever present on hotel floors and what a hotel bedspread looks like under a black light, but I’ve chosen to exercise my birthright and just not think about it. I stayed in hotels regularly for over four years – I wasn’t about to let myself go neurotic.

Another aspect of my life in which I refuse to think beyond the moment is when I go to a convenience store and get a fountain drink. The lids to the cups are always arranged in such a way that it’s good odds that another ungloved human hand has touched the inside of the very lid you’re about to place atop your cup and allow who-knows-what to mingle with your thirst-quenching drink. But I can’t think about that! I have a Coke to swig.

Recently, I noticed our pool sweep wasn’t working properly, so I reeled it in and brought the head up out of the water only to notice that a small rat had become lodged in the intake valve – if the look frozen on its face conveyed its last thoughts before succumbing to the depths of our pool, I’m pretty sure he was ticked! While I dismantled the sweep’s head and pushed the rat’s body out of the opening with a screwdriver (that went immediately in the trash can afterwards), I made sure I didn’t touch the vermin with either of my hands. Nevertheless, the rest of that evening, I kept having to wash my hands with HOT water and plenty of soap. Before I went to bed, I forced myself to stop thinking about the whole incident so I could get some rest. Fortunately, I didn’t have any nightmares that night of Chuck E. Cheese chasing me with a pool sweep.

Although I feel to pat myself on the back for my ability to let things slide the way I do, I have three pet peeves that I just can’t shake:

1. Using Chopsticks to Eat Asian Food (IF YOU’RE NOT ASIAN AND/OR LIVING IN ASIA WHILE DOING THE EATING!): you’re not impressing anyone with your manual dexterity. The only person who MIGHT think you’re cool is the dishwasher at the restaurant because your chopsticks are made of cheap wood, and they’re going to throw them away after you leave rather than washing them.

2. People Who Say, “I Never Watch TV. There’s never anything good to watch.”: Liar, liar, pants on FIRE!!!!!!! So you pay $100/month for high-definition cable so your dogs have something to do while you’re gone instead of chewing up the sofa leg and/or playing “Guess Which Shoe I Peed in Today”?

3. People Who Make a Big Deal that They NEVER Sleep More Than Four Hours Each Night: Come on!! I have yet to eavesdrop on a conversation among a group of women who say, “That Steve is a hunk! Don’t you just love what sleep deprivation does to his eyes?” Even if you’re some freak of nature who revels in such a behavior, keep your weirdness to yourself and let me get some shuteye – Chuck E. Cheese isn’t going to be patient forever, so I might as well face him sooner than later.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Television's Healing Power

Over the years, I’ve tried to deliver wise advice and insights that might help you navigate your daily journey through life. My columns have ranged from the inner workings of the English language and air travel to the virtues of the public education system and the Theory of Evolution. If for nothing else, this stuff will at least come in handy during a spirited game of Trivial Pursuit. Sure, you could argue that my columns aren’t exactly on par with Nietzsche (which is perfectly fine with me because I gather he’d be a real downer at a party) and are light on what some people would call “facts”. Today’s column, though, turns its back on frivolity and mirth to serve a higher purpose by announcing I’ve decided to become a medical expert and warn you of a dangerous and potentially lethal malady that is reaching epidemic proportions. What formal medical training have I undergone, you ask? We needn’t dwell on such trivial matters when lives are at stake, people!

The disease to which I’m referring is HPV! There are a lot of commercials these days talking about being tested for HPV, but that’s a whole other issue. The HPV of which I speak doesn’t have any fancy commercials or public service announcements aimed at educating the public about its dangers because those who catch it are, quite frankly, not exactly smart enough to catch on. This HPV is He-Man Pamplona Virus: an infectious neurological disorder that mutates the brains of the male portion of the species causing them to do all sorts of stupid things. It’s named after the mindset of those men who run with the bulls through very tight alleys and narrow streets in Pamplona, Spain, each year, but this affliction knows no international borders, cultural boundaries, or specific age range.

This tragic disease manifests itself in so many ugly ways! Here’s a list of just a few: getting a double hernia from refusing to lift with your legs, running for political office, wearing Spandex at ANYTIME, posting a video on YouTube of yourself lip-synching an AC/DC song, being an actual member of AC/DC and STILL touring, NASCAR, cage fighting, the creation of MySpace, running an Ironman Triathlon, karaoke, the wearing of pants so low that even a midget pickpocket has to reach down, etc. (Although I don’t have conclusive evidence, I have it on pretty good authority that HPV was at the root of both the automotive designs and market launches for the AMC Gremlin and Dodge K Car, respectively.) We haven’t even scratched the surface, and you can already see how pervasive a reach and tenacious a hold this disease has.

Even I have not been able to avoid HPV’s insidious coils. I have consented to be a part of a relay team that will require me to run, jog, walk, and/or crawl over seventeen miles on rather uneven terrain. Why? Is the purpose of the race to raise awareness for breast cancer or autism? No. Am I doing this to honor the life of a great man or woman who has helped me be a better person? No. Pretty sure I’ve never undergone a lobotomy, so there’s only one good reason I allowed myself to get caught up in this madness: HPV-induced stupidity!

Although there may be no hope for me, I believe I have come across a cure for those for whom it’s not too late. Where, pray tell, did I find it? From watching TV. I saw a commercial for Miralax, a medication originally designed for constipation, while I was jogging on the treadmill the other day, and the two things that stood out to me were the words “No Sudden Urgency” and “No Grit”. For the impulsive male mind, this is certainly a step in the right direction and a blow to HPV! As soon as you’re finished reading this, I urge you to go out to the store immediately and get a bottle of Miralax. In addition to fighting off the contagion of He-Man Pamplona Virus, you’ll feel more regular within twenty-four hours. However, if you actually go to Pamplona to run with the bulls, and something seems to be stuck where it shouldn’t, no amount of Miralax is going to help that.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Toilet Humor

While hiking up Camelback Mountain with my almost-twelve-year-old son the other day he asked me how I got this gig writing a humor column. Between attempts to draw air into my lungs with what seemed to be a male elephant with a thyroid disorder sitting on my chest and his less-than-fit girlfriend sitting on his lap, I began to explain to him the laborious process of sending out thousands upon thousands of e-mails begging people to read my work and asking them if they would be kind enough to pay me in a currency recognized by the US Government – the market for beaver pelts and beads is way too volatile for my comfort level – for running my humorous little anecdotes on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Thinking I made a fairly reasoned explanation, I left him to ponder this wisdom and began to ascend a portion of the trail that required the use of handholds and carefully choosing where to place my feet to assure I would live long enough to write a couple more columns. By the time I reached the top of that stretch, Jack had already scampered up some other way – I swear he has mountain goat blood in him, which may not be too hard to imagine because both my wife and I have relatives from the South – and he awaited my arrival with a follow-up question: he wasn’t so much concerned about the ins and outs of how one goes about getting a job writing a humor column; he was more bewildered by the fact someone actually thought I was funny enough to pay me in something OTHER THAN beaver pelts and beads AND publish my musings in a newspaper – a vanguard of truth dedicated to keeping the public informed and up to date on what’s happening in the world (when the cable is out).

Rather than trying to reason with him (and in the interest of preserving what little breathing capacity I had left), I just looked at him and said, “It’s just one of the great mysteries of our time. It ranks up there with Stonehenge and why the French are so enamored with Jerry Lewis.” He began to ponder on that, and I’m not quite sure to this day if it was the natural phenomenon of Stonehenge or the absolute absurdity of the French’s love that caused his pensive nature.

As we were completing our ascent, I tried to see it from my son’s perspective. I’m the guy who marches him and his brother to bed on school nights – no humor there. I’m the guy who broke it to him that there’s a difference between boys and girls – definitely no humor there; that was just cruel! I’m the guy who demanded silence when trying to fix the toilet and then proceeded to break that silence with a few choice words directed at the fixture in question in a tone that seemed to be begging a response from an inanimate object – that’s not funny, that’s nuts!

Do you think people’s children see them the way the world sees them? Did Abraham Lincoln’s son see a true statesman when he looked at his old man or was he thinking, “What’s with the hat, dad? You’re tall. We get it.” Did Marie Curie’s kids see a pioneer in radioactivity or were they saying to each other, “Do you think mom will ever make a meatloaf that ISN’T burned to a crisp?” Did Socrates' kids recognize him as one of the founders of Western philosophy (which is contrary to the popular belief that it was John Wayne), or were they saying, “Enough with the questions. Yes, I want you to pass the salt NOW.”

The next time one of your kids gives you that look that can be interpreted as “was I adopted”, don’t bother breaking out a DNA test. Just wait until they get ready to go on their first date and break out the volumes of naked baby pictures of them when their date shows up, and they’ll wish they were adopted.