Archive for November 2010
Bob: Welcome to 2010 Christmas dinner at the Johnson home, brought to you by Jack Daniel’s and Big Bob’s House of Psychotherapy and Amusement Park. I’m Bob Costas, and with me is Greg Gumble.
This year’s feast once again pits two classic rivals against each other. In one corner we have Beatrice Johnson, a veteran housewife of twenty-two years, defending her title as author of the finest roast turkey. She has fended off challenges from many quarters in recent months, and now comes the final showdown of the year. Opposing her is her mother-in-law, Louise Delmar, grandmother of six and title holder in several categories, including Passive-Aggressive Put-Downs and Backhanded Compliments. Greg?
Greg: As you said, Bob, the drama has been building in the extended Smith clan for quite some time. Just last month, when Beatrice and Jared officially sent the invitations to today’s event, Delmar and her husband of eight years, James Delmar, waited until the very last moment to confirm their attendance, in a bid to make Beatrice stew as long as possible. But Beatrice saw it coming, and deflected the move handily by getting the skinny on her in-laws’ attendance from another relative in whom Delmar confides. Delmar tried to retaliate by insinuating to Jared that Beatrice had made a grave error in the family’s choice of upcoming vacation venue – Busch Gardens – and questioning her ability to properly raise Delmar’s grandchildren. However, the Johnsons had already talked over that possibility before that phone conversation last week, so Delmar’s move had little impact. We’ll see today how the two competitors continue to maneuver and try to score points.
Bob: Right now the guests are arriving, and the meal is scheduled to start in about five minutes. The Johnsons decided against serving cocktails before the meal, mostly to deny Delmar an opportunity to belittle their selection and taste in beverages. But she just muttered a wry comment just above a whisper, as if only to her husband, but really so everyone around could hear, something to the effect that Beatrice must be ashamed of her drinks, so she refused to serve any.
Greg: The Johnsons probably expected that kind of thrust, but are willing to relinquish the early, relatively minor, score in order to avoid a more specific, damaging move by the opponent. It’s hard to tell from the replay, but I believe that when Beatrice took Delmar’s coat, she intentionally hung it in the closet in such a way that it will crease badly. The Johnsons are definitely pressing the advantage they have at home.
Bob: With the children running interference, Beatrice now takes the time to check on the Turkey. Delmar exploits the opening and distributes candy to the young ones.
Greg: A shrewd move on her part, Bob. She plays to her strength as the grandmother. In one swift motion, she both gets the kids on her side tactically, and lays the strategic groundwork for ruining their appetites. That keeps open the possibility that no matter how good Beatrice’s food might be, the kids will seem not to like it because they’ve gorged on sweets. Delmar can exploit that opening to get in some important digs on Beatrice’s cuisine and parenting all at once. Let’s see how this plays out.
Bob: Here come Beatrice and Jared together now, inviting everyone into the dining room. The Johnsons take position near the door to the kitchen, at the head and down the right side of the table, with the Delmars at the far end near the hallway toward the bathroom. Down the left side of the table are assorted other cousins of different ages. The dozen or so people jostle around to find their places, and in the midst of the commotion, Delmar loudly critiques the tableware and color scheme.
Greg: That’s the real opening salvo of the evening. Delmar picked an inviting target. She pretended to admire Beatrice’s taste while actually highlighting that the colors are much more suitable to spring than to winter.
Bob: What a defensive play! Beatrice retorts that the children chose and set out the décor especially with their grandmother in mind, and yes, isn’t it bright and attractive? What a great play!
Greg: It’s a move right out of Delmar’s own playbook, when she was a rookie Johnson herself, hosting the family dinner back in 1975. She must be gobsmacked to have her own move used on her so well.
Bob: OK, it looks like the family is going to say grace. We’ll break here for a word from our sponsors.
On the twenty-eighth day of the eleventh month, Thag emerged from his study, and in his hand were two sheets of paper. Upon those sheets were printed the holy utterances. Thag spake unto the children, saying:
“Thou hast driven me to drink, with thy ceaseless bickering regarding the front-right seat of the family chariot. Hearken to my words, for these are the utterances by which thou shalt abide in determining who shall sit in the front-right seat.” And he called the seat the shotgun seat, and thus it is known unto this day.
“1. I am thy father and the driver. The driver alone shall have the final say as to who gets to sit in the shotgun seat.
2. Thou shalt not invoke the authority of any other figure to rule on the occupancy of the shotgun seat. If I am not the driver for a given trip, the driver for that trip shall exercise said authority, and thou shalt hearken unto him or her as thou hearken unto me. For I am a jealous car owner and driver, and I shall not abide those who defy my direct or delegated authority.
3. Thou shalt not falsely claim that the driver granted thee the shotgun seat.
4. Remember to call “Shotgun!” upon the initiation of each journey; even if there have been six legs to a journey, the seventh shall not be exempt from the need to call it. Calling shotgun shall be for thee, thy handbag, backpack, book, water bottle and the mobile device that is in thy hand. Thou shalt take all thy stuff with thee upon alighting from the car, for I spend many days keeping the car in working order and clean; therefore I command thee to adhere to proper shotgun procedure, that we all may enjoy some peace as we ride.
5. Honor the driver of the car, that he or she allows thee to remain in the shotgun seat for a lengthy period. Touch not the radio or the CD player.
6. Thou shalt not gloat that thou hast snagged the shotgun seat.
7. Thou shalt not enter into illicit partnerships with a sibling or acquaintance to deny a rival sibling or acquaintance access to the shotgun seat.
8. Thou shalt not forcibly remove a smaller or weaker shotgun seat occupant.
9. Thou shalt not falsely call shotgun; only on the way to the car shalt thou call shotgun.
10. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s shotgun seat, nor the legroom associated therewith, nor the view, window control, a/c vent direction control or access to the driver’s ear, nor anything the shotgun seat occupant doth possess.”
We assume, with no justification whatsoever, that your Thanksgiving went swimmingly, especially if you are a salmon. We shall refrain from inquiring about family relations, heartburn, tryptophan, burnt or undercooked pumpkin pie, lousy squash, Superman reruns from the 1950s, King Kong, pointless parades, the Detroit Lions, or the onset of the “official” holiday shopping season.
We shall, however, share some memories of our own Thanksgivings of yore. Our cynical tone here – and our distant, formal use of the first-person plural – should in no way be construed as a lack of nostalgia, or of disdain for the experiences detailed below. Except for the commercials. Oh, my goodness, were they awful, exacerbated by their frequency. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
People make a big deal about turkey and various “traditional” Thanksgiving foods, but we remember no such fuss. There was definitely turkey, but our family Thanksgiving meals bore the unmistakable mark of our immigrant family experience, not the “native” lore. And it wasn’t about the food anyway.
It might have been about the TV, though, at least as far as the kids were concerned. We paid occasional visits to the dining room of whichever home the festivities occupied that year – paternal grandparents, cousins or our own home – but then only to ingest token morsels of turkey and to gorge on fresh rye bread.
The most vivid memories involve our grandparents’ apartment in the Bronx, with its ornate décor and plastic-covered sofa underneath the painting of King Solomon ordering the disputed infant divided between rival claimants, across from the display cabinet with the never-used china and crystal. On top of that rested the candy dish, with the fruit-flavored rectangular candies that our grandmother carried everywhere in case she saw any grandchildren (and, we discovered in later years, in case she craved them, despite her chronic diabetes).
The children would lounge in the small den-cum-cosmetics-boutique (we loved to play with the lights on my grandmother’s three-part makeup mirror) where the ancient, hulking Zenith was tuned to King Kong, followed by Mighty Joe Young – though in slightly later years, it featured Superman reruns, hosted by the guy who played Jimmy Olsen, resplendent in an awful bow tie. The tie was almost as bad as the acting in that show. My parents’ generation grew up, for lack of a better term, watching that, and its rebroadcast every year on Thanksgiving may me suspect that their nostalgia might, just might, be completely unwarranted.
There’s something to be said for repetition: twenty-five or so years later, we still have a stupid commercial jingle stuck in our head, for a now-bust department store, thanks to the network airing the ad at every single commercial break during King Kong (“Consuuuumerrrrrs! We wrote the book – on savings!”). It aired almost as many times as the ad for the windows, with the breathless, this-is-the-most-exciting-thing-you’ve-ever-encountered voice over with images of money pouring out through open windows, then back in again when the Eliminator! windows were installed. Hey, sign us up. A distant, but by no means ignorable, third place went to ads for the similarly long-defunct Child World franchise, with some poor actor in a panda suit pretending to be amazed at the selection.
We never watched the Macy’s parade. Ever. We – and here we use the genuine editorial we, not the pompous, royal we – could never understand why anyone would. Football, of course, we can understand, even enjoy, although we get the impression some folks over in Detroit would rather the whole thing just disappear for a decade or two. In early-to-mid-adolescence, the scene shifted from our grandparents’ place to our cousins’, and football became the default, largely on account of my uncle, and we slowly forgot about King Kong and Joe Young.
And here we shift pronouns again, and you’ll see why. I miss my grandparents terribly. My grandmother died four years ago, and my grandfather, ten. The apartment they had in the Bronx – where they lived since about 1960 – is no longer remotely associated with them, but every now and then I get pangs of longing for the way the china cabinets and their delicate contents would jiggle slightly when we ran or jumped about the place – inevitably getting warned not to thus upset the downstairs neighbors in 4J; for the narrow hallway connecting the kitchen, bedroom, living/dining room and bathroom; for the ugly-as-sin carpet in the den; and for myriad other little irretrievable details that only accented the old-world sensibilities driving everything my grandparents did.
We have our own family celebrations now, and my parents lovingly fill the grandparent niche. I wonder how my children will remember these days. This I can guarantee, however: commercials will play no part in that. We’ve, uh, Eliminated! those from our home.
I say, reinstitute the draft, pronto.
This is not because I believe we need more people in military service; not because the military has a way of negating socioeconomic gaps; not because I believe the skills and experience one gains in military service are of irreplaceable value. No, I say reinstitute the draft because I have it in for young people.
I can’t help it. It seems to be a rite of passage into fogyhood, which, at age 35, I can lay claim to reaching, at least in the eyes of those young people I seem to detest so much. I mean, come on: the kids for whom I babysat are now parents themselves. How much more evidence do you want?
Oh. Well, I can provide some more.
The last time I attended a movie was in 1999. We still have a working VCR (two, in fact, though technically one of them belongs to my in-laws). I still feel the need to say “digital” before the word “camera”. I still drive the 2001 car we bought new. I have a mess of white hairs (I refuse to say at what age they began sprouting, but it was definitely in double digits). I get nervous around teenagers (instead of disdainful; I believe that transition occurs somewhere around age 25). My metabolism has slowed to the point that I might consider restricting my food intake.
But it’s not as if this development comes as a complete surprise. Every generation must have its fogies bemoaning the decline of contemporary youth. I never texted during class. I never engaged in cyberbullying, and neither did any of my schoolmates, even the really nasty ones. I never downloaded pre-written papers. I never listened to pirated mp3s.
Today’s youth? No standards, I tell you. No appreciation for process; everything must be available now. Well, the army would take care of that in a jiffy. There‘s your instant gratification, or at least mine. The army will teach those whippersnappers to hurry up and wait like nobody’s business. The army will show them what a Hummer was really designed for. Then we’ll see how quickly they change their Facebook status to reflect the latest inanity in their cloistered, coddled lives.
Why, when I was their age…well, I was their age, so my shenanigans were similar. I cut school to go to the mall and see Lethal Weapon 3. I went to the bathroom and flushed the teacher’s note instead of taking it to the principal’s office. I liberated a bag of Fritos from someone else’s lunch bag while the classroom was empty during recess (OK, that’s digging pretty far back; I think that was in third grade). But I never tried to defeat my parents’ Net Nanny – in fact they never even needed one. Our generation was clearly superior. It would have to be, if the historical pattern is to be maintained.
So I stand by my thesis. Draft all the entitled little whiners. Then whenever I encounter a gaggle of hormone-crazed teens I can hold the prospect over them, and regain a bit of control over the world they will eventually take over.
And when they do, I plan to be dead.
You guys are just not holding up your end of the bargain.
I slave over a lukewarm keyboard to produce what would be reams of exquisite drivel in meatspace, and all I get for my efforts is an average of twelve unique visitors a day. This has got to stop.
Let me remind you of the arrangement: I post about once daily, sometimes more, and you visit my blog in such numbers as to make advertisers slobber all over me (figuratively, please), thereby guaranteeing me a respectable income without my leaving the house.
Unfortunately, while I have been doing just fine on my end, the rest of you have been, shall we say, slacking. This forces me to consider seeking actual gainful employment, and as my former employers can tell you, that’s probably not a good thing. It’s not just my livelihood at stake here, people: the very health of the global economy rests on your shoulders. Do you want me toppling small business after small business with my strategic incompetence?
And you don’t have to buy a thing! I’m not exhorting you to blow your meager savings on crap just to prop up the corrupt, top-heavy capitalist system; that’s what the holiday shopping season is for. Me, I just want some perceived popularity so those very same top-heavy capitalists will see dollar signs in Mightier Than The Pen.
Lest you think me inflexible in the way I view this arrangement, I hereby attest that I am perfectly willing to waive all that advertising and accept a lucrative buyout offer. It can come from any of those top-heavy capitalist entities, but just as legitimate would be some philanthropic body that wishes to guarantee I never publish again. See, I’m willing to go either way to generate all that money – by writing or by not writing! Doesn’t such consideration, such flexibility, warrant an eight-figure offer? Microsoft, are you listening?
At the very least, y’all can put a little more effort into the “Liking” and “Sharing” or whatever it is that Facebook addicts do. If I’m willing to disgrace myself by asking that my friends and family exploit their Facebook “friends” for my personal gain, the least you can do is reward such destructive behavior by complying. It’s only fair.
So here’s a restatement of the implied arrangement: I post, you do the simple task of publicizing this blog beyond Frank Zappa’s wildest dreams. In return for your efforts, I will not post those photos of you with Pee Wee Herman.
Subject: Infant Smith v Mr. and Mrs. Smith
If it please the court:
I am writing on behalf of my client, Infant smith, who seeks redress on the following counts:
1. On 20 October of this year, at approximately 4 p.m., Mrs. Smith knowingly and deliberately separated my client from his source of nourishment, warmth and safety, into an unspeakably harsh environment. Although my client continuously expressed his opposition to this course of action, Mrs. Smith proceeded to expel my client from the premises he had occupied for nine months.
2. While this was happening, Mr. Smith, rather than provide assistance, encouraged Mrs. Smith to continue her actions.
3. In addition to encouraging Mrs. Smith in her mistreatment of my client, Mr. Smith himself seized a pair of shears and severed my client’s metabolism from its source.
4. As a result of Mr. Smith’s act of vandalism, my client, accustomed to receiving oxygen to his cells directly, must inhale a mixture of gases through an untested and immature respiratory apparatus. This mixture of gases has been shown to contain countless pathogens and harmful substances.
5. As a further result of Mr. Smith’s vandalism, my client, accustomed to having nutrients fed directly into his bloodstream, must engage in a humiliating act called “feeding” in order to obtain nourishment: he must hold his mouth a certain way against a very specific part of Mrs. Smith’s anatomy, and repeatedly use his mouth to try to stimulate Mrs. Smith’s endocrine system to produce a substance for my client to ingest. The effort and discomfort involved in both extracting sufficient quantities of this substance and converting its components into physiologically useful materials takes a physical and emotional toll, causing my client to be perpetually tired, upset and uncomfortable.
6. Moreover, whereas before his expulsion my client could efficiently dispose of his metabolic waste products through his circulatory system, he is now forced to expel much of the waste through his own anus, which can irritate his sensitive skin. He lies at the mercy of his abusers in this respect, as well, since only they posses the wherewithal to clean the area. My client’s immature muscular system simply lacks the capacity to address this need, foisted upon him by the defendants.
7. The harsh lighting and unfamiliar, loud sounds of my client’s unwanted new environment further contribute to his discomfort and displeasure.
8. In his rightful environs, my client had no need for garments, but now risks exposure to extremes of heat and cold, not to mention the fundamental violation of his human dignity inherent in that exposure. Here, as well, my client lies at the mercy of his victimizers, as they alone decide if, when and how to garb my client. In addition to the obvious humiliation this engenders, my client has no say in the sartorial selection process.
If it please the court, my client therefore requests his immediate restoration to his previous abode, under the same conditions to which he became accustomed over the course of his entire existence.
OK, everyone, thank you – we’re done with that agenda item. Let’s move on to the last one. Ivan, could you call in Ms. Yazova, who’s been waiting outside? Hello, Ms. Yazova. Sorry to keep you waiting – I hope you weren’t out there very long. Oh, good. Would you like some tea? As you wish. Please, sit down.
Now, Ms. Yazova, we on the Rubber Stamp Committee take our job very seriously. I want to caution you against assuming that just because you happen to be the daughter of a cabinet minister, your application for the position will sail through the process like magic. It doesn’t quite work that way: there’s a good bit of paperwork to process before things are official. I trust you understand what I am getting at, Ms. Yazova?
Good. Just to make sure we lay everything on the table here, then. In reviewing your application, we found some glaring omissions. Now, just because your father has threatened all of us with bloody retribution if we fail to approve you for the position does not mean we simply ignore whatever qualifications you happen to possess or lack. I, for one, am pleased to see that you take things seriously enough to have filled out at least three of the twelve required forms, and that you made sure to affix a photo to all the right ones. We shall return later to the little detail of whose photos those are.
But this is where we get tough, Ms. Yazova. Your father might be a man with considerable political clout, not to mention a private army and the requisite outsize ego, but we simply cannot process this application unless you complete at least forms five through nine. This committee may lack the teeth to object to anyone’s candidacy on substantive grounds, but by thunder, we will stand on principle when it comes to bureaucracy. As I told the minister himself when he asked me which I preferred to do for the rest of my life, push paper here or keep track of passing Siberian winters by the number of extremities lost to frostbite: I live for paperwork. And I meant it.
It all comes down to proper procedure. Without proper procedure, the system breaks down, and then even the most brutal thug is at the mercy of the administrative chaos. I’m sure even the minister himself appreciates the importance of what we do; otherwise, why would he maneuver to get obsolescent loyal party hacks appointed to this committee? Spineless we might be, but we do insist on having the proper forms to copy, distribute, stamp and file so we know exactly where to find them when the order comes down from on high to start shredding compromising evidence. Are we clear on the importance of having these papers in order, Ms. Yazova? Good, good; are you sure about that tea? The samovar is still hot.
Now, about those photos. The committee appreciates the challenges of gaining access to a good portrait photographer these days, what with the patriotic fervor that our secret service so effectively shepherds along – we can’t have just anyone printing potentially treasonous photos, can we? – but we did expect a woman with your, er, background to have some access to pictures, and not to feel compelled to resort to random clippings from back issues of Patriotic Motherland Youth.
Oh. Really? I didn’t realize that, Ms. Yazova. We had naturally assumed that all those different pictures were of different people, since they were clipped from many different articles we all were required to read in advance of party meetings. Hmm. Sergei, would you pass me the dossier? Oh, my. How embarrassing. We’re truly sorry, Ms. Yazova. Well, forget about that little bureaucratic detail, then.
The last thing that the committee considers worthy of comment in your application is the number of copies of each form. We very explicitly requested each form to be submitted in triplicate. Now, again, we understand that many people have difficulty finding a working photocopying machine, and not only for appreciable security reasons; toner and spare parts, not to mention competent technicians, seem to be in short supply theses days outside certain political circles. But since you, Ms. Yazov, might have entrée to those circles, perhaps you can ease our workload and have the forms resubmitted to us in triplicate.
It was a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Yazova. As soon as you get the paperwork in order, this Rubber Stamp Committee can fulfill its crucial function. We take that very seriously indeed.
The problem with empathy is that it takes all the joy out of mocking people.
A house divided against itself is equal to the sum of he angles of…cosine somethingorother.
I walked up to the side of a government building and affixed a decal, because I wanted to stick it to The Man.
If anyone unnecessarily invokes a wrathful deity one more time, I swear to God, I’m gonna smite somebody.
A couple of tarantulas wanted to gain an edge on competing spider species by dancing all over their webs to remove their adhesiveness, but ended up getting stuck. Oh, what a tangoed web we weave…
The likelihood of a leaky, poopy diaper occurring away from home is inversely proportionate to the availability of a change of clothes. Corollary: the likelihood of a messy diaper staining the caregiver’s clothes increases in proportion to the importance of those clothes remaining clean.
“And what language do you prefer for the invoice, Mr. Havel?” “Czech, please.”
How many times do I have to tell you not to ask rhetorical questions?
The copy editing in this place is so compartmentalized they have a separate pair of eyes for synecdoche.
A guy electrified the left half his bed and was charged with matricide.
These cookies better come out good the first time; we have no margarine for error.
In Russian, we have no need for definite article.
Outgoing message: “Hi! How do you do? I’m Todd’s voice mail! What’s your name? So pleased to meet you. I’d love to know why you called…”
Cat porn is for purrverts.
Arthur Miller originally wanted to write about the tragic job-related demise of a drunk guy examining certain sedimentary formations for the presence of oil, in Death of a Shalesman.
The Pipe Organist on the Roof was one little-known early work of Johann Sebastian Bock.
There’s nothing like walking away from the house, pushing a stroller, and having one’s wife emerge spontaneously from the edifice, in full view and earshot of sundry passers by, yelling, “Your butt!”
No, it was not an epithet. In case our secret lovers’ language has left you guessing, that was her loving way of informing me, lovingly, that I need a new phone.
I have a good phone. I tried to replace it once, but the replacement ceased to work after just a few days, so I reverted to the original. The old unit seems to have gotten the message, because it doesn’t turn off without warning so frequently anymore. One thing it still does, however, is unlock itself and dial random numbers. OK, not random: my wife’s number. Once unlocked, all it requires is two consecutive pushes of a soft key.
This happens because the lock/unlock function is engaged by holding down the pound key (or is it the star? It’s the one on the right), and since I keep my phone in my left pocket with my house keys and two pens and occasionally the car keys, it gets bumped every now and then.
The same phenomenon accounts for the text messages that I never send. I don’t text. But my phone does. Consecutive presses of the “menu” soft key eventually causes a blank message to be sent to the first “group” of my address book, which I was fortunately far too lazy to populate with more than one entry, which was unfortunate for a certain distant relative, who for some reason never bothered to ask me about them. I have since emptied that group. And if all those subordinate clauses disturb you, get a life. That’s especially relevant if those aren’t really subordinate clauses, but let’s face it: if I’m far too lazy lazy to click around in my phone’s address database, do you expect me to go back and relearn all that clause crap?
Before you suggest I switch pockets, note that my other pocket holds my wallet, which, though mostly useless, does provide balance so my trousers do not fall down only on one side at a time. It also sporadically contains cash, including a good bit of change, but mostly functions as a holder of cards: a driver’s license, five health plan cards for me and the kids, a buy-ten-loaves-get-one-free card for the local French bakery (I’m up to three), and something that says “VISA” on it. I think it’s a bookmark, which is always useful, considering how many books I’m in the middle of at a time. I used to have a Procrastinators Club card, but it disappeared at some point a number of years ago and I haven’t gotten around to looking for it.
I could get a phone holder that attaches to my belt, but the few that I’ve had don’t last: the clip wears out, and besides, I tend to wear one of those woven leather belts with a bit of thickness to them, if not outright slope, making clips kinda useless. As for the kind that you’re supposed to thread a belt through each time you put one one, see above re subordinate clauses.
Since the naughty mobile phone dials my wife’s number on occasion, the love of my life has taken to describing the phenomenon as my butt calling her, based on a Zits strip from about a year ago (and if you think I’m not too lazy to find it and link to it, you haven’t been listening). Also, since for some reason I can’t hear the ringing very well when the phone is crowded in my pocket, and the preponderance of other detritus in there shields my leg from the dangerous effects of the “vibrate” function, Mrs. Thag insists I need a new phone so I can hear her calling to say, “Your butt!” without having to announce it to the neighborhood.
Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Jekyll. Please, sit down.
I’m sorry we don’t have very much time, just ten minutes for each set of parents. I know we have a lot to talk about, but with twenty-seven kids in the class, the time really adds up. I do wish we had more time to discuss Henry, but we’ll have to make do with what we’ve got.
And let me tell you, Mr. and Mrs. Jekyll, we could fill more than just ten minutes with this conversation. So let’s get right down to it.
First of all, I want to point out that most of the time, Henry is an absolute pleasure: he clearly studies hard, makes friends and does his homework. I’m sure you’re at least as proud of him as I am. Henry does quite well in chemistry, and he participates constantly in our discussions of philosophy, especially when we so much as touch on themes of morality and volition. Such a conscience that boy has!
Oh, really? His own chemistry lab? Well, Mr. Jekyll, I wish all parents were as attuned to their children’s aptitudes as you are to Henry’s. That’s very encouraging.
The thing is, occasionally Henry seems not to be himself. He has these, I guess you could call them episodes, when he gets disruptive in class, refuses to do any work and engages in what can only be described as bullying – please, Mr. Jekyll, let me finish; as I said, most of the time young Henry is a pleasure, and I know that’s largely thanks to his parents.
I assume I do not need to remind you that this school has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to bullying. I haven’t said anything until now because Henry is otherwise a stellar pupil, and I don’t want to jeopardize that. But you and I need to work together to set him straight, or who knows where he’ll end up?
So about those episodes. They seem to come and go – Henry will be sitting in class, his usual delightful self, and somehow a different persona comes over him. I don’t know how it happens, but in almost the blink of an eye he goes from charming young man to frightful devil; if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I couldn’t say for sure, but it seems clear that he goes right from well-kept to disheveled. Even his hair seems to get messier. It’s quite unnerving, let me tell you, to be teaching a lesson on algebra and all of a sudden one of the students undergoes such a transformation.
I any case, it doesn’t tend to last very long – usually he’ll rush out to the bathroom at some point, clutching his schoolbag, and come back in, charming as ever, a little while later.
So I’d like to ask you, Mr. and Mrs. Jekyll: does this happen to Henry at home, as well?
I’m sorry to have upset you, Mrs. Jekyll. Really, I only have Henry’s best interests in mind. I haven’t even called in the school psychologist, and believe me, according to the rules, I should have done so quite some time ago. But I like Henry too much to subject him to Dr. Enfield right now. Please tell me, is any of this familiar? I’d hate to have to take this beyond just you and me. Henry is such a sweet boy most of the time.
Oh. Oh, I see. Hmm. Well, I do have much more to discuss, but it’s already time for my next meeting. I do want to talk more about Henry, so I’ll give you a call later this week.
Everyone should have a list of things they are grateful not to be. I, for example, am grateful not to be a medieval peasant, among many other things. You might be grateful not to be the walls of my house, unless you happen to enjoy being scribbled and scratched on by little kids. The members of most advantaged majorities are grateful not to be members of disadvantaged minorities. The list goes on.
But one thing it had not occurred to me to be grateful for not being, until just now, was a hypochondriac. The events of the last couple of days have made me realize just what a miserable existence that would afford.
You see, since about Thursday night, my wife, my eldest son and I have been tasting everything we eat as bitter. I made broccoli calzones for dinner, and the three of us thought there was something wrong with the dough, because it was just unpalatable. Except that the other three kids had no problem with the stuff, even devouring more than usual. The problem persisted yesterday, and we decided on a course of action to determine whether the condition stemmed from something in our kitchen or something more sinister. Our teenage niece would be with us over the weekend, and we could rely on her to establish whether it was just us or something actually wrong with the food.
So she arrives on Friday and almost immediately informs us that she’s been tasting everything as bitter over the last few days. The news proved simultaneously relieving and aggravating – OK, we now know it’s not something in our food, but what the hell is it?
This is where the gratitude at not being a hypochondriac comes in. Do you know how many scary conditions have bitter taste as a symptom? The internet is a bit too conducive to worst-case self-diagnosis. According to one online resource, it could be gastroesophageal reflux disease. It could be acute mercury inhalation. Or rattlesnake poisoning (which would be impressive, considering that there are no rattlesnakes in the Middle East). Or Jaundice (wasn’t she a character in something?). One site listed no fewer than a hundred possible causes – and that was just on the one site that I happened to see.
So I asked a doctor friend, who said it’s most likely some weird virus, like the one that went around his family at some point, causing them to find all their food yucky – the only symptom. On the bright side, he offered, it has a slimming effect. While I concede that I do not have the same waistline that I had fifteen years ago, its expansion has not reached the point that I welcome pathogenic intervention.
As it happens, I am now grateful not to be suffering from any infection resulting in severe weight loss. Those don’t tend to be pleasant, as I understand. If you wish to try them out and prove me wrong, please. I promise not to clamor to be you.
The scene: Thag and Miggtha sit at the dining room table, pretending to engage in discussions about the evening’s food preparation, but in fact just seek ways to procrastinate doing so. The eighteen-month-old, scrounging on the dining room floor for dropped Cheerios, lets loose with a pair of impressive gaseous emissions.
Miggtha: That’s your boy.
Thag: I don’t get it. Where is there room on the Y chromosome for all that?
Miggtha: You don’t understand: most of the X chromosome is devoted to suppressing that.
Leave it to Mrs. Thag to put her, uh, finger on the source of my misperceptions (she’s busy washing it of with loads of soap right now) (Miggtha: You’re gross).
You wouldn’t think I could have no compunction about disemboweling people. I thought so, too, at first. But over time it became clear that more and more people simply deserved it, and there was no one else who would step up and do the job. So I suppressed my reservations and began meting out justice.
As with all long-term endeavors, you’ve got to start small. So I restricted my activities to people who mistreated the wait staff at low-end restaurants. If I saw someone bad-mouth a minimum-wage diner employee for an imagined offense not of her doing, I’d wait till the patron was done, follow him out (it was usually a him), club him unconscious, then drag him behind some building and disembowel him. Just to show I meant nothing personal, I’d stuff his entrails back in as best I could, and leave so as to cause the guy no further trouble.
After a few weeks of that, I felt it was time to move on. So I began disemboweling people who waited to get their wallets out at the supermarket checkout until the total was tallied. If these women (they were all women in this case, the ones who waited to dig through their handbags for their wallets until they knew exactly how much to pay) valued themselves or others, they would have their wallets out and ready before then, but since they clearly did not, they were asking to be disemboweled. So I obliged. Many of them were older, so it was easier than the wait staff abuser disemboweling.
You might think that by that time I’d be tired of the whole thing, but I found it energizing. The newspapers started talking about how the people were found, which meant that I was raising awareness of the things these jerks had done, and maybe deterring future offenses. If I could do it with seemingly minor things, I reasoned, why not raise my sights and broaden my impact? My gut told me to go for it.
So in recent weeks I’ve been focusing on higher-profile offenders, jerks whose insensitivity to the rest of humanity affects far more people than just those behind them at the checkout: dolts who leave the water running as they brush their teeth; nitwits who wash their cars with the hose, wasting countless gallons of precious water; jackasses who neglect to clean up after their dogs (I leave their entrails with the pile of waste).
How could I do such a thing, you ask? Well, it depends. Usually a good pair of Cutco poultry shears does the job nicely, but for sometimes I have to use some rope as well, just to make sure the offender doesn’t wiggle too much and make me cut the wrong organs. I almost removed one guy’s pancreas by accident, and that would have been going too far.
I think I’m making progress, really raising awareness of the rudeness issue. Too bad more people aren’t as sensitive as I am to the suffering of others.
It was in the days of Mogg, son of Uth, who ruled from Hither to Yon, seven and twenty households. In those days, as Mogg sat upon his porcelain throne, in Toylitt, his capital; in week three of his reign, he did throw a party for all his associates and underlings: the Who’s Who of the hood, the sycophants, heads of households and movers and shakers before him. As he showed the bling that his kingdom possessed, and the glory of his splendorous gaseousness – for many days, at least a week or two. And at the conclusion of those days, Mogg threw yet another party for his closest peeps only, those residing in Toylitt, young and old, a seven-hour shindig in his spacious back yard. Designer labels; color-coordinated you-name-it; gold this and that; bling to make Liberace blush; couches and tasteful plastic covers for the furniture, and strategically placed splat mats. The drinking was from a few clean glasses – what dost thou expect after a week plus of partying? – and various other vessels that people happened to find convenient, such as the umbrella holder and (mostly) empty flower vases, and much of the esteemed home brew, as Mogg had arranged. And the drinking was all legal – none for minors, for so had Mogg ordained to all the catering staff, to, well, cater to the guests; that be kinda clear from the job title.
In the seventh hour, when Mogg was good and sloshed, he said unto Biff, Thad, Chad, Brad, Vlad, Norad and Payperclickad, the seven buddies who were really chummy with Mogg, to bring forth the foosball table, properly bedecked, to show off this crowning feature of his guyness, for it was a bodacious foosball table. But Queen Hernia did refuse to allow such shenanigans in her living room, though Mogg had directed it, for the foosball table would get ruined in the imminent vomit-fest that was quickly developing, in case thou hadn’t guessed. Mogg loudly and rudely demanded the foosball table again, and Queen Hernia relented, admonishing Mogg not to deny that she had warned him. Needless to say, a certain neighborhood newbie, a bit too eager to please and a bit too plastered, immediately did puke all over the table. This did piss off Mogg greatly, and he stewed, which was an apt description, considering how stewed he was, himself.
Mogg called together his inner circle of confidants, the guys who really had their fingers on the pulse of the neighborhood – I mean, come on – thou expect a macho bigwig such as Mogg not to have a contingency plan? Well, he didn’t, but at least he had these fellas. His closest ones were Ron, Don, Lon, Juan, Kahn, Hahn and John, the seven confidants he was willing to buy a drink, which was saying quite a bit, if thou knew old Mogg. So he asked them what to do about the foosball table, that could now no longer function properly – puke in the works will do that – and did stink up the chamber.
Thus said Ron before Mogg and the other cronies: “Not only does the puke-soaked foosball table bring shame and foul odor to this house – verily, it offends the very sensibilities of all guys in the neighborhood! Why, when word gets out to the wives and children of other proud foosball table owners, they will find ways to sabotage the hard-earned standing of the guys in those households, to force them to spend the dreaded “quality time” away from foosball, NFL games and O’Reilly’s! For they will say, ‘Mogg’s own foosball table is no longer such an attraction; why dost thou not follow in his footsteps as thou normally does, thou apple-polishing wannabe?’ And today, the wives and girlfriends will say thus, for they have heard the goings-on already; let us forestall further shame and cause for hissy fits. If it please Mogg, let him issue a proactive, preemptive decree that foosball is out, and that a suitable replacement for a male bonding activity shall be determined.”
And the matter was good in the eyes of Mogg and the confidants; and Mogg did as Ron had proposed. And a signal went forth from the house of Mogg, in coarse burps and other bodily noises, not to mention egregiously misspelled text messages to all the guy domains in the hood, to make sure to preserve the guy time that foosball no longer occupied.
Having just seen a headline about a busted organ-trafficking ring, I had to wonder: what’s the big deal?
Why doesn’t anyone get worked up about trafficking in pianos? Harps? Tubas? If you’re going to implement all sorts of strict rules about trafficking in instruments, ban the friggin accordion – but what’s the problem with organs?
Is it that they’re unwieldy? That they can take up entire rooms? That they make a lot of noise, so the neighbors might file some sort of grievance? Hey, I think anyone learning to play violin should have to spend the first six months playing in a soundproof underground chamber, but you don’t see tons of governmental or so-called “rights” groups agitating for any regulation of those.
Is it because the organ is one of those can’t-really-classify-them kinds of instruments – that it’s huge, but essentially a wind instrument? With a keyboard? Well, why should pianos get a free ride? No one can make up their minds whether they’re keyboard, string or percussion, so what’s the double standard when it comes to organs? Is it because pianos can claim to be furniture, so they’re exempt from the whole instrument thing?
I gotta tell you, as a parent, the most aggravating class of instrument is percussion, hands down (hard). But you don’t see drum trafficking anywhere near the top of anyone’s priorities – unless “drug” was just a typo for “drum” that got out of hand and no one had the guts to call the whole thing off. A likely story, buster. If that is your real name.
I can come up with a whole list of instruments I’d rather see regulated – we can start with the soprano saxophone (Kenny G is an assault on the ears) and move on to the ukulele, but I’m not picky about the order. At the same time, we can revoke the licenses of anyone who plays the Mister Softee ice cream truck tune more than once per neighborhood per day. Yes, I’m sure you’re selling just ice cream, Mr. Softee, when I can hear you around Washington Heights at 3 in the morning. Kids a-plenty to please then.
And while mobile phones are tightly regulated -the FCC don’t mess around – no one seems to think that the ringtone industry has anything to answer for. It’s high time to start clamping down on that hazard – why are the authorities wasting everyone’s time trying to stop trafficking in organs?
It has come to our attention that too many people haven’t the slightest idea what goes on the kitchen – and no, we do not mean the free nocturnal rein that roaches have established there.
An offense far graver than inattention to vermin has become all too prevalent. Fast food, frozen dinners and ready-to-eat grub have not only transformed our society into a bunch of morbidly obese losers so unfit they can do nothing but sit around and read inane blogs; they have made true culinary knowledge a rare thing – rare enough that most of you didn’t even think of the culinary connotation of “rare” when you read it above.
The time has come, then, for you to diagnose just how pathetic your cuisine ken has become. Knowledge is power. That doesn’t mean you can plug your iPod into your nostrils and expect it to charge, but if you really thought that, perhaps your kitchen ignorance is not the most important gap in your knowledge right now.
We have therefore devised the following diagnostic test to determine just how desperately you need to bone up on your food prep. Scoring information will appear at the end.
1. Potatoes taste best when they have been:
(c) deep fried
(d) immersed in a vat of lard and detonated.
2. A sauté pan is:
(a) a skillet used for frying foods quickly
(b) a decent substitute for an omelet pan, if you must
(c) one of those things only the hoity-toity care about
(d) about big enough to hold half the Coke I drink per meal
3. A cake batter with leavening should be:
(a) put in a preheated oven as soon as the batter is mixed
(b) mixed well to ensure proper, consistent rising
(d) poured directly down the throat
4. When measuring dry ingredients:
(a) level the measure with a smooth, flat object
(b) make sure the measure is dry before use
(c) make sure to use heaping measures of the yummier ingredients such as sugar
(d) remember that only the powdery stuff will stick well to the clothes of the person at whom you flick them
5. Dry red wine:
(a) goes well with red meat
(b) should be served at room temperature
(c) will simply not do if you’re having the guys over to watch the game
(d) makes a nice tangy addition to the Velveeta
6. Black pepper should be:
(a) freshly ground
(b) used sparingly
(c) kept apart from the ground poppy seeds, to avoid confusion
(d) forcibly inhaled as the soup is served for maximum comic effect
7. The most appropriate accompaniment to serve with fish is:
(a) baked potato
(b) wild rice
(c) French fries
(d) Chunky peanut butter
8. Bread should be:
(a) crusty on the outside and fluffy on the inside
(b) served the day it is baked
(c) sturdy enough to handle spreading butter on it
(d) used as a hot dog bun only if Twinkies are unavailable
9. “Less is more” applies to the use of:
(a) baking soda as leavening
(b) alcohol in chocolate truffles or mousse
(c) oil for stir-frying
(d) women’s swimwear
10. The preparation of good cheesecake requires:
(a) a good Springform pan
(b) creating a good contrast of textures between the crust and cake
(c) a good balance of creaminess and fluffiness
(d) too much time – I’ve eaten four of them while you’ve been puttering around in there
Scoring: for each answer a, b or c, give yourself five points. For each answer d, deduct fifty. If you wind up with a positive score, there is hope for you yet.
My mother has said on at least one occasion that if she could, she would have home schooled me.
Considering how well I took to my first eight years of formal schooling, that’s hardly a revelation. And in fact my brother (well, mostly my sister-in-law) home schools his kids. So the concept is hardly alien, nor do I have a problem with the idea.
It’s the practice of it that gives me pause, and I don’t just mean the logistics that make it impractical for us. We might be eccentric people (if we were dirt poor, the term would be “bat-$#!t insane”, but as we have a roof over our heads and enough money in the bank to last a few months, “eccentric” will do, much in the way that money, or lack thereof, makes the difference between “blessed with a large family” and “breeding like rabbits”), but our idiosyncrasies are nothing compared to the astounding looniness that some of our homeschooling friends have encountered in that world.
Most readers of The Onion could read this fake news article and laugh, secure in the knowledge that no one could be so warped as to think that a child could be raised to choose its own sex. Most. Not I, not after being told of a child whose two female guardians (I think one was actually the biological mother) refused to refer to their little one as either boy or girl, saying, “We’re going to let it decide.”
Let us ignore, if we can, the glaring ignorance of basic biology, not to mention irreparable psychological burdens that this kid will carry forever. Let us omit discussion of the ways in which such radical gender-neutrality will collapse in the face of myriad practical circumstances (“I’m sorry, Ms. X, but we simply cannot process your child’s passport application until you choose to check either the male or female box in section 2, but not neither, and not both”). Let us instead focus on the sheer nutsoid insanity that this episode represents.
Not to say that freaks do not abound in the non-home-schooling demographic; indeed, we have plenty to spare. And the dozens of home schoolers that I know personally are, to a man (excuse the non-gender-neutral formulation), delightful people. But there’s something not surprising at all, somehow, in the news that people so out of touch with societal sensibilities – nay, with reality itself – would choose to home school. I mean, what choice do they have? If they sent their kid to a mainstream kindergarten, it might encounter dangerous ideas, such as the wonderful, essential differences that Nature bestowed upon us! It might learn singular pronouns other than “it”, “this” and “that”! It might begin to doubt the weltanschauung of its guardians! We can’t have that! Cut it off from society! Handicap its functionality for decades to come, lest the guardians’ vision be challenged!
Don’t try to wrap your head around this one; it will break. I try to be open-minded, but I think these people tried to be a little too open-minded, and their brains fell out.
421. If I answer your question and you do not speak again for three seconds, the conversation has ended. I am physically or mentally elsewhere, or both.
422. This. Is. Not. Shouting. THIS IS SHOUTING. Shouting = raised volume, not stern tone.
423. Withholding reaction until you realize the stupidity or absurdity of your most recent statement does not mean I am making fun of you. You’ve done such a fine job on your own, after all.
424. Anger at a situation does not mean anger at you, though that anger affects my tone with anyone in the vicinity. If someone carelessly drops a hammer on my toe, please do not expect me to turn around and address everyone but the perpetrator in a gentle, soothing manner while the offense is fresh.
425. Verbalized suggestions of what can be done about irresponsible drivers in no way indicates intent to administer the suggested treatment to those drivers, no matter how much the bastards deserve to have their privates caught in the seatbelt retraction mechanism.
426. It is unhealthy to suppress farts.
427. Better a filthy bathroom than a half-hour wasted cleaning it. It’s just going to get dirty again.
428. Rude noises are a celebration of life and its inherent absurdity.
429. Please do not deny me appreciation of my prowess by forbidding me from admiring the contents of the tissue I just used.
430. I genuinely believe that rooting for a particular sports franchise makes me a party to its success. It will never occur to me that the franchise’s failures might similarly be attributed; these will always result directly from management incompetence, bad fortune, ownership shortsightedness or unfair competitive advantages of opponents.
Are you tired of encountering incident after incident of brazen misbehavior? Does your environment bear the unmistakable stain of wantonness on the part of people all around you? Do you occasionally slip into such behavior yourself?
Don’t you wish there were a way to prevent such filth from affecting you again?
We’re with you. And that’s why we made new Shame!
Shame! – the new spray to help rid yourself of those unpleasant, awkward encounters with couples making out in public. One spray of new Shame! and they won’t offend your sensibilities again for at least twelve hours – guaranteed! In independent tests, new Shame! induced embarrassment twice as fast and kept the offenders chastened up to thirty percent longer!
Kids making a scene in public? Shame! them into shape. Smokers carelessly tossing their used cigarettes all over the place? Shame! them into picking them up – and using an ashtray. Bus or subway passengers ignoring the elderly, disabled or pregnant? Shame! them into giving up their seats. It even works on inanimate objects – so go ahead and spray the car that cut you off in traffic. It won’t be able to go over 45 mph for three days!
Shame! is 100% discreet – the silent spray can be used up to three feet away, and dispenses an odorless, colorless treatment – colorless, that is, until the offender’s face turns various shades of white or red as the heinousness of the deed kicks in. Available in disposable canisters, each package contains enough Shame! for at least six uses.
So go ahead – wallow in Shame! Satisfaction guaranteed, or your money back – and we know we couldn’t get away with anything less!
Test results based on comparison with good hard glare. Effectiveness not guaranteed if used on political figures. Side effects may include whimpering, rent garments and gasps of horror, not necessarily in that order. Side effects for the user may include a disproportionate sense of moral rectitude, furtive observation of others and smugness. Use only as directed. Guarantee void if Shame! is used for offenses that exist only in the mind of the user, such as differences in race, creed, color or gender. Batteries not included. You don’t need them, but we felt compelled to include that.
I should not be swatting mosquitoes away from my head in the middle of the night during November. Nocturnal mosquito-swatting should take place no later than October 1, and then only because the little devils have managed to stay alive by remaining inside for that long.
If you wish to engage in autumnal swatting, please restrict it to other pests, such as people who think I want to smell their cigarette smoke. Just make sure not to hit the lit cigarette directly with your hand. Anyone who wishes to have mosquitoes around to swat during the off-season (as opposed to the OFF! season, its opposite) must get approval from the Bored of Health, Local 1199, the Department of the Inferior and the National Porks Service.
Alas, the opponents of the scientific mainstream on climate change – that the world isn’t really a warmer place than it used to be – are going to have a hard time converting anyone around here to their way of thinking. It’s one thing to point to a severe storm or two and laugh at the environmentalists; another entirely to convince folks that the stretches of hot weather in mid-fall are but a fluke.
And that’s too bad, really. I prefer a world in which ambiguity reigns – that’s where free will can have meaning, and where we can all enjoy the humor in having people take their umbrellas and overcoats with them in the morning of what appears to be a blustery day, only to find themselves burdened with them later, cursing themselves and the weather. A world in which the driver in front seems poised to zip through the yellow, only to slam on the brakes at the last second. A world in which yet another breakdown in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations would actually generate genuine disappointment instead of confirming everyone’s cynicism. A world in which a team other than the Yankees wins the World Series.
I do grant that some comfort lies in the predictable, which is why God had mercy on the adolescent Baby Boomers, allowing them to settle into the routine of a New York championship every year, and an MGM musical every other week. But society must mature – do you think for a moment that the concurrence of the Vietnam War and the breakdown of the Yankees’ ascendancy was mere coincidence? That feminism and civil rights came to the fore just as Hollywood began to withdraw from splashy musicals? That the Arab oil boycott was a completely independent development from Watergate? (OK, maybe it was; never mind).
But the predictable, the familiar, the mosquitoes, must end at some point, unlike the holiday shopping season, which seems in effect all year long now except for a brief stretch between April 7th and 19th. I do apologize for thus reminding you of your negligence in failing to prop up the economy with some irresponsible spending – you are, after all, reading this instead of blowing the rent money on a new Wii for whatsizname – but can we get back to some change around here?
Say, isn’t that what the sitting president promised during his campaign? Clever of him not to spell out exactly what kind of change he meant…
If you have simple tastes, then an evening out for falafel and fries should do nicely. I do have simple (if picky) tastes, and treated the kids to a dinner out, of falafel and fries. Somehow this disagreed with Vah Mitt, the patron saint of puke, who ordained that the little one would spew chunks at random intervals over the subsequent twelve hours.
If you have simple tastes, then the smell of semi-digested garbanzo bean paste will not do at all. Nor will the sight, nor that of semi-digested potato. Compounding the problem, the substances adhere quite well to fabric, making the necessary load of laundry more or less pointless.
If you have any taste at all, you have ceased to read beyond this point. Any regular reader of this blog would anticipate the next step in the literary process, which will involve a progression toward even more objectionable substances. However, “any taste at all” and “regular reader of this blog” are mutually exclusive, so if you are not a regular reader of this blog, take this paragraph as a warning to go do something more constructive, such as creating a scale model of the Hindenburg entirely out of wax paper. As the regular readers know, my use of the word “regular” should already provide a hint of the substance in question, and no, I do not mean petroleum.
If you have a sense of smell, you do not want to be in this house right now (if you have any sense, period, that’s true as well). It emerges that the stomach was not the only part of the alimentary canal affected by this bug. Mind you, this isn’t exactly an end-of-days scenario – he has barely any fever – so I don’t want to get all eschatological on y’all, but the little guy did take an atypical two-hour nap this morning, so he must be pooped. I can’t say our wipe supply is wearing thin, because thin is exactly the way to describe the product of the situation. In case the flow of this paragraph has you confused, well, you asked for it; the pampering that goes on around here is reserved for others. If you still don’t get it, well, that’s water under the bridge. Suffice it to say that with just a few dozen more used diapers we’ll have enough to do a Martin Luther of our own, and nail ninety-five feces to the Wittenburg church door. No wonder they excommunicated him.
He seems to be feeling better now, thank goodness. But you can bet your bottom…dollar that there’s one falafel place that won’t get any repeat business from us. Some things you just don’t want repeating on you. Or the floor.
Aries: Beyond merely thinking about the future, make some concrete plans. Take the garbage out for tomorrow’s collection now.
Taurus: Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but that’s nothing a shot of Novocain and a pair of tweezers can’t fix.
Gemini: Intestinal worms lay their eggs outside the body, usually at night. You may stop rooting around inside to find them.
Cancer: People do not spontaneously combust, so you are safe. At least until next Thursday.
Leo: The stars would tell you what fatal accident awaits you this week, but then they’d have to kill you.
Virgo: Despite Herculean efforts on your part, the United States will not bestow upon you Most Favored Nation trade status.
Libra: When you step outside this week, you’ll feel a tremendous weight lifted from your shoulders. You do, after all, live next door to a guillotine salesman.
Scorpio: You’ve never been one to give up easily, which is why you’ll spend three hours trying to get the last bit of toothpaste out of the tube.
Sagittarius: Just because other drivers can’t anticipate your moves doesn’t mean you must tip your hand. Surprise is kind of the point in a bumper car.
Capricorn: Your attempt to end it all will result in frustration when you discover that the batteries on your super super supercollider were not included.
Aquarius: While a moment of silence is a touching gesture, it is hardly appropriate when the priest has just asked you if you take this woman to be your lawful wedded wife.
Pisces: The moon rising in your sign means that the lunar body appears to be ascending in the spot where the constellation called “Pisces” would normally be visible.
And it came to pass on the tenth day of the eleventh month in year thirteen of the reign of Thag, that the morning sky did lighten. And Thag’s consort, Miggtha, did arise early from her bed and she did sit before the computer. And Miggtha said unto the computer, “Lo, what tidings have thou for me this morrow?”
And the computer did arise from its slumber, and did bestow upon Miggtha the tidings. For the computer bore the wanton Facebook status changes of Miggtha’s friends, and Miggtha did wade through the slop of random postings, and did cull the vanishingly few of interest.
And it came to pass at slightly after the sixth hour that Miggtha did remind Thag to rouse himself, for the children needed his shepherding, and in case Thag remembered not, Miggtha did plan to attend a meeting and would not be around to serve as shepherdess this morrow. And Miggtha said unto Thag, “Get thee out of thy bed, thou lazy bum.”
And Thag did stir, and rubbed the eye crud from his eyes, and rose from his bed. And he did scratch himself as he lumbered toward the bathroom.
He emerged from the bathroom, and his face did shine, for he had shaved and brushed his teeth, but he did not know that his face did shine until Miggtha did shield her eyes from his countenance and gently reminded him to rinse off the soap. So Thag did return and rinse off the soap.
Thag did lumber to the room where the children sleep, and he sniffed the air at the room entrance, lest the odor of urine assault his senses as the walls of water did collapse upon Egypt as the Israelites walked on. And he did not smell urine this morrow, and his children found favor in his eyes. Thag stood in the doorway of the bedroom and spake, “Thus saith thy father and progenitor: rise now from thy beds and don the vestments of school. Thou shalt wear the short-sleeve vestments, for it be a warm day.” And Thag did depart from the room to don his vestments.
And Miggtha said unto Thag, “Go thou to the room of the children once more, for they have strayed from the path that thou hast commanded them; they have lazed about and not dressed.”
And Thag’s anger flared, and he did march to the room of the children and did rebuke them mightily, saying, “Must I threaten to smite thee? What taketh it to get it through thy skulls that thou must move faster? For by my chocolate, thy skulls be thick.” And Thag did stomp heavily out of the room.
And Miggtha said unto Thag, “Why dost thou adopt such a harsh tone with the children?” for he had adopted a harsh tone with the children.
And Thag said unto Miggtha, “For they do defy my will, and it pleaseth me not.”
When Miggtha saw that Thag became cross with the children, she did give him a look of impatience and disappointment, and did walk to the room of the children and gently prod them to don their vestments. And Thag descended to the kitchen to prepare the morning feast and the snack of the mid-morning and the midday meal for the children. And Thag did mutter unto himself, “Miggtha shall not be pleased to feel compelled to dress the children when on this day she must journey to a meeting;” and it was so.
WARNING: DO NOT USE THIS APPLIANCE
Read all instructions carefully before discarding. Use only as directed. Keep away from children. Keep the appliance away from children, as well. Do not submerge in banana-scented acid. Do not insert body parts smaller than a life-size map of Moravia.
If appliance begins to emit giggling sounds, discontinue use until giggling subsides, or pigs sprout wings, whichever comes first. Do not attempt to use this appliance while riding a unicycle on a tightrope while singing the folk songs of Yakutsk. Do not tease anyone over the age of ninety-eight (98) using this appliance.
In case of fire, take stairs, not elevator, unless you do not have stairs, in which case just walk out the front door. Do not attempt to carry the appliance with you as you exit; serious injury to pride may occur. If color of appliance begins to fade, don dark sunglasses and pray to Hava Nareesha, ruler of noisemaking. Do not sit on appliance if you have eaten chili within 24 hours.
Do not attach appliance to outgoing e-mail. Do not tag appliance in Facebook photos. Do not attempt to depict appliance in works of art. Do not use appliance as a swatter to kill mosquitoes unless directed by a physician. Always wear safety goggles. When using the appliance, wear an additional set of safety goggles.
Do not confuse the appliance with a bowl of spaghetti. Do not attempt to show your college transcript to appliance. Do not request letters of recommendation from appliance. Do not use appliance as employment reference.
Do not write snide remarks about appliance in text messages. Do not speak any of the following languages in the appliance’s presence: Vodic, Finnish, Polish, Lithuanian, Swedish, or Yorkshire-accented English. Do not eat powdered doughnuts for at least a week after being in the same room as appliance.
Warranty is void in Alaska after the first of each month. Appliance must be returned in its original packaging, shrink-wrap and all, if you expect your refund application to be processed. Please allow eight to twelve years for processing.
Void where prohibited. Then get in trouble for indecent exposure and littering.
Things I never learned to do, and regret it:
Play an instrument
Speak more languages
Stand up to bullies
Find fulfillment in well-paying paper-pushing
Program in useful computer languages
Things I never learned to do, and do not regret for a moment:
Dislocate/relocate my shoulder
Crack my knuckles
Appreciate conceptual art
Watch political debates
Refrain from making faces at little kids
Gut a fish
Get $#%&faced drunk
Dance like a snake on acid
Things I learned to do that I regret:
Run fingernails along a blackboard
Like Hip-hop “music”
Root for the New York Mets
Read the ingredients in orange soda (“glycerol ester of wood rosin” – What the hell?)