Archive for December 2011
Originally posted November 29, 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.
Singles networking powerhouse JDate introduced a major site overhaul this week to afford losers a less unpleasant online experience. Mark Stein, a spokesman for Sparks Networks, PLC, which owns JDate, announced the change at a press conference in New York on Monday. JDate currently boasts approximately 450,000 members.
Until now, losers were subject to the same standards as other network members, such as the posting of a personal photo and indicating various aspects of Jewish practice, if any. That left losers in the uncomfortable position of actually posting photos of themselves on their profiles. According to Stein, many losers wound up without accurate photos. “We found that a full quarter of losers carried the handicap of no usable photo, for any number of reasons; the most prominent among the factors were the shame regarding their appearance, the unavailability of photos that did not show the loser without some food all over their face and front, and the inability of most losers to handle the simple upload process.”
The new layout will allow a joining member to decline the photo upload option, whereupon a sophisticated algorithm will divine from the rest of the profile data whether the applicant is a loser. If the answer is no, the applicant will receive a polite e-mail recommending the upload as soon as possible to enhance the member’s chances of having their profile viewed in a favorable light. If the algorithm determines that the applicant is a loser, then the joining member’s interactions will be restricted to other similarly classified members, and no mention of the photo will occur again.
“This new format affords members the double benefit of automatically relegating losers to a separate area of the site, and let’s face it, everyone wants that,” continued Stein. “Non-losers will save time, being finally relieved of the need to sift through loser after loser, and losers will be relieved of the pressure inherent in having to interact with normal, healthy seekers.”
Additionally, before the change, losers were also expected to indicate their level of Jewish practice or affiliation. This proved a challenged to many of them, according to Stein, because losers tend not to be certain or aware enough to provide usable data. The new format forgoes this set of points entirely, with the rationale that losers will more readily accept companionship from anyone, as their social situation is far more desperate than that of non-losers.
Reaction to the change has been mixed. Recently divorced father of two Jake Schwartz, a new member, has found that the number of potential companions has dropped significantly since last week. “I had all these options before – it seemed that not only were there other fish in the sea, but that there were schools and schools of them. Now I could probably exhaust my standard-issue flirt messages within a few days.” He conceded that it is still too early to judge the new system.
Aspiring therapeutic touch practitioner Sandra Bierman disagrees. “The exact opposite happened to me. I didn’t have a photo with the right vibes – everything was in bad-omen colors – so I declined the photo option, look!” she gestured at her profile page, “forty thousand potential mates with the same sensibilities!”
Other dating sites are studying the results of JDate’s move with excitement. “We see JDate’s niche audience as a excellent medium for this kind of experiment,” said James Lowenstein of eHarmony, in an e-mail message. “We’re interested in how this turns out for JDate, because that kind of granular data is invaluable in the online dating business.”
Stein, the JDate spokesman, declined to provide data on the number or percentage of losers in the JDate membership, but this reporter declined to submit a photo and enjoys the virtual company of more than 400,000 other JDate users.
Patty Kaik is in many ways your typical Crustian: flaky with a passion for cheeses. But her devotion to the cause makes even many of her peers sit up and take notice.
Ms. Kaik began her confectionery from home as a sideline about ten years ago for Yeaster. Her rosary-water delights and psalter-water taffy proved so popular that she began receiving orders almost immediately in anticipation of Crispmas. Winter would be mostly quiet, but business picked up again before Goody Friday. The business brought her a modest supplementary income, but for her, it remained a labor of love.
In the last two years, however, demand for Kaik’s unorthodox indulgences has soared, as has her selection of products. Her Pontius Pie Plate has become so popular, in fact, that she had to spin off its production into a separate facility and wash her hands of its daily oversight. Her motto, In God We Crust, has gained currency almost as quickly as money has changed hands in her temple of heavenly wafers.
Kaik now has separate stations for the cross buns, instead of just the single area of her kitchen that once housed the operation. She confesses, however, that she feels guilty for not spending more time trying to convert more recipes to her liking. She once considered that her mission, but the sheer mass of products to make rendered that avenue closed. Kaik says she still bears the wounds from spreading herself too thin when business began to boom; fortunately, she received some piercing insight from a dear friend. “He just nailed it,” she remarked.
Competition remains fierce, chiefly from another local caterer, Pan Theist, with a clashing philosophy and eyes on the same market stigment. But Kaik is not worried: she has seen it rise.
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Originally posted 13 June 2011
I know that most of the letters you receive arrive in the weeks prior to Christmas, so this might come as a surprise, as Christmas was two days ago and I’m only writing it now. As you can tell, this is not your typical letter to Santa: not a wish list, and not an attempt at casting ostensibly naughty behavior in a better light. The fact that you visited our house at all this year means that I was, in fact, on the “nice” list.
However, I do feel the need to communicate with you about a previous letter that I did send, the one that contained a detailed list of items I wished to find under the tree this Christmas. Having established that I had earned gifts from you this year, it puzzles me that my wishes seemed so egregiously disregarded. For your convenience, I have included a copy of the list as Attachment A.
As you can see, the list contains twenty-six items, and they appear in order of preference. But of those requested items, not a single one ended up under our tree. I did not receive my first request, a Nintendo Wii. By itself that might not be of major significance, but it causes me consternation in light of the gift delivery to my friend and classmate Gregory Walsh, just up Maple Street from me, who did receive the Wii he had requested from you, while I had to make do with a two-volume dictionary and a world atlas, neither of which, you will note, appeared on my list. In fact the closest thing to a book on my list is number 22, a DVD set of all the Harry Potter movies; I am told they started out as books.
I do not wish to imply that you, personally, are responsible for the error; of course, with many, many millions of households to visit, keeping track of the deliveries by necessity requires delegating responsibility to someone else. Nevertheless, that someone messed up badly, as I received absolutely nothing that I requested. I can understand that actual light sabers are hard to come by (number eleven on the list), but a toy one would have demonstrated that the list was received and processed. The mess-up in this case is so severe that I wonder whether you received my original letter at all. Even though I sent it three times just to be sure.
Yes, I realize that it was not identical all three times; there were additions, a subtraction and clarifications in each of the two latter letters. However, it defies comprehension that not even the obsolete versions of the list found expression in this year’s actual gifts. I certainly did not request a new scarf, but there it was, lying there with an ugly yellow ribbon, the kind of scarf Great Aunt Mildred would make for Uncle Myron. In fact I’d almost thought it was the same one, but for the fact that it doesn’t have the ketchup stains on it, and Uncle Myron showed up later wearing his just to make sure Mildred noticed. Mom made me wear the new scarf, too, for Mildred to see, I guess to make her feel good that Santa approves of her taste enough to copy it.
I realize that there is no superior or supervisor to whom to report this debacle, so I am left with no choice but to appeal to your sense of justice and proper procedure, and to request that this matter be sorted out as soon as possible. Gregory Walsh is going to be absolutely insufferable as soon as we get back to school, so I would appreciate if this can be satisfactorily resolved before Christmas break ends on Monday.
I trust this matter will receive due attention. Should you require more information from me, such as an explanation of the difference between a MiG-31 bomber-interceptor and a MiG-29 air superiority fighter (numbers 13 and 15, respectively), I shall be more than happy to elaborate.
A new survey of the sheep community demonstrates the group’s continued acceptance of its reputation for passivity when confronted with danger, reports the journal Sheer. A spokesman for the animals shrugged off the announcement.
Ovine sociologists from Tufts University visited a number of slaughterhouses across New Zealand to conduct a poll of the individuals on ovine death row. They found that the vast majority – nearly 98% – of the sheep barely reacted to being shorn in preparation for their deaths, and the same percentage showed little response to their imminent demise.
The study results constitute the latest evidence to buttress the age-old image of sheep as eschewing resistance. The trend was first recorded by ancient observers, who in the eighth century BCE wrote down their findings in the journal Isaiah. As this observation proved increasingly common, more and more researchers flocked to the banner of ovine passivity.
Although the surveyed sheep displayed remarkable equanimity in advance of their slaughter, Mary Woolsey, head of BAA, the Bureau of Apathetic Aries, dismissed the findings as irrelevant. “It makes no difference,” she said, citing the sheer number of animals involved. “It’s not like anyone’s hearts will bleat for us anyway,” she said in a recent interview at O’Donnell’s Meat Plant.
At press time, Ms. Woolsey was unavailable for further comment.
Gastropod Sales Forecast Sluggish
Orly Taitz Unable to Produce Original Store Receipt
Ambitious Vivisectionist Hoarder Keeps Abreast
LGBT Activists Mistakenly Attend Rally for Transylvania
Egyptologists Unearth Ancient Pyramid Scheme
Bible Critics Denounce Apostles’ Acts
Ferdinand Marcos Leads in Voting for Most Popular Deceased Leader, with 29,877,897,321,001 Ballots Counted
Road Cut Off by Jackknifed Swiss Army Truck
Literary Re-enactor to Give Hemingway Suicide a Shot
Double Major in Chemistry and Geology Described as Ether/Ore
Secular Israeli Environmentalists Warn of Hasid Reign
Bach-Loving Church Grateful to Organ Donor
Consumers Find Rotting Flesh in Post® Humus
Insane Organic Farmer Declared Non Compost Mentis
Old Foggies Reminisce About Mist Opportunities
Helium-Inhaling Umpire Calls Pitches High
Brass, Wind and Percussion Items Confiscated from Orchestra Members Now Classified as Banned Instruments
Viral Marketer Introduces Cellular Phage Service
MALVERNE, NY (AP) – After three years of on-again, off-again dating, Hector Lopez and Maria Polkowski decided yesterday to put an end to their troublesome courtship, announcing a wedding date of December 31.
At a press conference on the steps of the city clerk’s office, Lopez, 41, and Polkowski, 39, explained that their decision involved a host of factors including their advancing ages, annual incomes, bathroom habits and the complete breakdown of both parties’ relationships with their respective parents. “Hector and I thought long and hard about this, “said Polkowski. “We shouted at each other every night for three weeks. I could have done more, but my vocal cords wouldn’t hold out.”
“A good thing, too,” added Lopez, “because she almost had me convinced it was time to dump that sad sack. But I took a good look in the mirror and asked myself if I’d really be better off with no one in my life to nag me for coming home drunk every day.”
The couple met in the waiting room at the dentist, when Lopez needed a root canal and Polkowski stopped in to deliver her back issues of Newsweek. The two struck up an awkward conversation, as Lopez’s pain prevented him from properly pronouncing most words. Polkowski made repeated unnecessary visits to Dr. Gertler’s practice on the off chance that Lopez would be there for further treatment. “I even took back issues of random magazines and supermarket circulars as an excuse,” she confessed. The dentist agreed to put them in touch, and the pair soon discovered shared interests in Kenny G, UFOs and gambling addiction support groups.
However, Lopez’s financial situation worsened after he was laid off from his pizza delivery job, and the instability threatened his relationship with Polkowski. The relationship petered out after several months, or so they thought: the two wound up on opposing sides of a car accident several months later, and the romance was rekindled. The next two years saw a cycle of co-dependence and enabling of destructive behaviors, primarily Lopez’s drinking and Polkowski’s addiction to daytime soap operas.
At the press conference, Lopez declined to specify how he intends to address the challenges of marriage. “It’s like playing house. I’ve played house before. It’s even more fun when you’ve had a few beers. So that’ll be what we do. Maria, isn’t that what Jack did on The Young and the Restless? Maria? Hello?”
At press time, Polkowski was unavailable, as press time coincides with the opening credits of The Bold and the Beautiful.
Originally posted 24 October 2010
The superhero inside me, just waiting to burst forth, received a dose of encouragement this morning when a friend commented that I looked like I had a secret superhero identity. This is not completely unexpected, since as kids, both my brothers’ looks prompted comparisons to Superman (I, on the other hand, had to settle for, “You look like that guy whose brothers look like Superman.”).
Since I’ve yet to decide, at age thirty-five, what I want to be when I grow up, superhero remains a possibility. Not a comic book superhero, mind you; those make for high drama, low-cut blouses and dubious moral rectitude. I prefer a more down-to-earth, practical type of vigilante, one that I think you will agree is sorely needed.
For example, last Saturday night, as Mrs. Thag and I were trying to unload the kids and belongings from the car, we saw and heard a neighbor confront a dog walker who let his pooch poop in the lot in front of their house (next to ours) and began walking away as if nothing were wrong. Though I didn’t catch the offender’s exact words, this woman felt sufficiently miffed at his response that, at a loss over how to handle such flagrant disregard, she called over her husband. At this point the jerk began leading his animal away, with the deposit still lying there. As he passed me, I remarked how considerate it was of him to leave his mess for others to clean up. ”I’ll make messes wherever I want,” he barked as he continued, and followed with a threat of violence if I persisted.
Well, what’s a wiseacre to do but persist? “You’re so manly! Everyone can see how manly you are! We’re all so impressed!” He probably didn’t hear everything I directed his way as he went around the corner, but I felt I had done enough, under the circumstances, to defend the honor of the wronged.
But as a superhero, I could go the extra mile and mete out actual justice: my super speed and vision would track this scumbag home, where I would deposit his lost object, with interest, on his bed and/or dining room table.
Others who would feel the long, uh, arm of retribution: those who board the subway and stop in the doorway despite the space available further inside the car (they would find themselves removed to the very rear of the crowd); litterbugs (see above regarding the dog poop), with special treatment meted out to smokers who dispose of their butts in places other than ash trays (they will awake in the middle of the night to find those butts in their nostrils); drivers who neglect to make sure the intersection is clear before entering it, thus generating gridlock (car removed to somewhere inaccessible), as well as the drivers further back honking at those in the front to proceed into a not-yet-clear intersection (they will find their horns automatically administer an electric shock); parents who do not buckle their small children into car seats (videos and reports submitted to child welfare authorities); and drivers who exercise their right to freedom of expression by blasting “music” from their car stereos at a volume of eleven (strapped to a chair and forced to listen to Barry Manilow at half speed for eighteen hours at a time)(that may be a bit harsh, but not very).
Such a superhero would find his time constrained, considering the number of offenders whose violations of simple courtesy, not to mention safety, require this special kind of therapy. So I shall have to allocate specific hours during which to fight the rising tide of inhumanity. Morning and evening rush hours obviously top the list in terms of urgency, but a few late nights ought to take care of the other creeps.
That would leave me time to blog, as well. It’s a win-win situation. Unless you happen to be one of my readers.
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Originally posted April 20, 2010
There seems to be some uncertainty out there among the twelve or so readers of this blog as to the nature of certain posts. The one about my escapades involving a roll of raffle tickets in particular seemed ambiguous in that regard, as emerged from a discussion today with the person most responsible for my starting this blog.
Said interlocutor found that post laugh-out-loud funny, whereas I, the author of the post, happened to view the thing as the only one, so far, completely devoid of intention to induce laughter. Clearly, I do not understand humor.
I resolve, therefore, to establish some basic rules for determining whether a given post is funny. The presence in a post of one or more of the following indicates that the author has employed humor, and you must react appropriately:
1. The word “weasel”. Use of “weasel” in a post unmistakably indicates humor, or at least an attempt thereat.
2. ALL CAPS. CAN YOU THINK OF A SINGLE INSTANCE IN WHICH ON-SCREEN SHOUTING IS IN ANY WAY NOT LAUGHABLE?
3. Intentional mispeling. Self explantory.
4. References to the 1980′s sitcom Small Wonder.
5. Like a frog caught in an eggbeater, the use of jarringly inappropriate similes.
6. Bone-crushing exaggeration.
7. Gibberish. Who in their right mind rejunkel narb?
8. Uncomfortably intimate references to someone’s bathroom habits, such as the way you reuse dental floss.
9. More than one occurrence of the phrase, “rotting llama carcass” (I actually introduced that phrase to the internet back on January 18, 2006, but do I get credit? Noooo; Google doesn’t even find it, but I managed to dredge it up).
10. Use of the word “Noooo.”
There are other indicators, of course, and perhaps we shall devote another post to them. Just as soon as I get this rotting llama carcass out of the way.
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