Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Archive for December 2010

I Am Woman; Hear Me Burp

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OK, I lied; I’m not a woman. And you can’t hear me burp, at least not through this medium.

I’ve never even been a woman, but I have one as a spouse. She understands women more than I do, which doesn’t say much. She actually asks me to explain many aspects of fashion to her, and it usually comes down to something being attractive to men, which I sort of understand. What I don’t understand is why propeller beanies went out of fashion. They did, right? I can’t find them at any of the high-end retailers.

In fact I’ve never even played a woman on TV, or anywhere else. I was on TV once, or at least the left corner of my glasses was (somebody tall was between me and the camera; I was about nine). In college our dramatics society put on a production of Inherit the Wind, which calls for a bunch of female characters, but the lack of female cast members meant I couldn’t even play opposite a woman.

But I can certainly burp. I can generate sonorous belches on demand, though there seems to be less demand for it these days. Used to be I could keep a roomful of peers enthralled and entertained for what seemed like hours, or at least until some “grown-up” put a stop to the fun. Now, at best I get dirty looks, at worst outright admonishment about corrupting the youth. Corrupting the youth? As if my output/input makes a difference? Jeepers, people; better they spend their time learning to mimic a barge coming through than learning truly unsavory practices, such as painfully obvious attention whoring via ambiguous Facebook status changes (“If you’re not going to apologize…””One more time.””I do wish the penguin would stop it.”).

My original technique involved swallowing a bit of air just so, but pretty soon I honed my skill to the point of almost instantaneous, loud air gurgitation. This talent helped me stand apart from my contemporaries, who were engaged in nondescript, humdrum pastimes such as basketball or learning a mode of communication with girls that does not involve what can only be described as harassment. Eventually, I picked up the latter skill set without sacrificing the burping prowess. Basketball, on the other hand, I still avoid.

Now my six-year-old can burp, or at least maximize the volume of an impending burp. It remains to be seen whether he will acquire the ability necessary to generate a belch at a moment’s notice; I do not wish to impose my approach on his nascent talent, so I will wait to see what develops. For some reason the “grown-ups” are happier that way.


Written by Thag

December 31, 2010 at 11:49 am

Putting the “Die” in Dialogue

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St. Peter: Next, please…Hello, sir. Welcome to The Pearly Gates. May I have your name please?

Man: Alex Kyuzmyself.

St. Peter: How do you do, Mr. Kyuzmyself. Please wait a moment while I check our records…(types on keyboard, stares at screen for a few seconds)…very good, Mr. Kyuzmyself. You’re definitely supposed to be here now. But we have a few procedural steps to go through before we go any further. Would you please take a seat over there, and one of our ministering angels will be with you right away? Thank you.

(Kyuzmyself moves to a booth at the side; archangel Michael joins him)

Michael: Hello, Mr. Kyuzmyself. I’m Michael. (offers hand; Kyuzmyself shakes)…Now, we have approximately an eternity to get through this stage of the proceedings, so I hope you don’t mind this taking a while. (places a stack of papers before Kyuzmyself, who raises his eyebrows, but then shrugs). Please sign each of these; they’re mostly to record that you’ve been here, and that you’re not still floating out there somewhere waiting to be declared dead.

Kyuzmyself: You mean you can’t just keep track of things yourselves?

Michael: Oh, we can keep track of things, but this week the Almighty is in a nostalgic mood. You should have seen the place way back when, when He decided on an ancient Rome theme, and all of us were in togas. It’s a pain to get those around these wings, I can tell you. And everything was on papyrus. But it certainly beat the whole Sumerian thing He had going for a little while before that. If you’d kicked the bucket at that time, I’d be placing a thick pile of stone tablets in front of you instead of just a stack of paper. Just chiseling your signature on all of them would take weeks. I can’t wait until we get to the twenty-second century; then everything will be done by embedded chips and the staff can go on to the really important things, such as interrogating inma- I mean arrivals.

Kyuzmyself: Uh…int..interrogating?

Michael: Oh, nothing reprehensible, I assure you. We’re the good guys, remember? But that doesn’t mean you haven’t earned a few uncomfortable experiences on this side of the daisies, now, does it?

Kyuzmyself: Uh…

Michael: Of course not. Now, then, Mr. Kyuzmyself – say, may I call you Alex?

Kyuzmyself: Uh, yeah, I guess.

Michael: Good. It’s easier to say anyway. Such a pleasure after a whole slew of those tsunami victims we had to process. Pronouncing those names was a real trip, not to mention the data entry. A whole slew! Ha! Get it?

Kyuzmyself: Uh…isn’t that a bit racist?

Michael: Oh, come on, Alex! Like you’re not a bigoted schmuck yourself? We know all about you and your “the Civil War was all about states’ rights, not about slavery” nonsense. And the way you always avoided sitting next even the respectably dressed black people on the subway. And your opposition to public health care for illegal immigrants. But a little hypocrisy never bothered you, did it, Mr. Descendant of Immigrants?

Kyuzmyself: Hey, wait a minute! My ancestors came over legally!

Michael: Oh, yes, and so did all the European conquerors who didn’t give a rat’s patootie for the folks who happened to be there ten thousand years earlier, huh? It’s OK for the white folks to come over any which way, but the darkies? Well, now that’s a different story, isn’t it? Tell me, Alex, why weren’t you demonstrating over in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where who knows how many – well we know how many, but that’s hardly the point – white, educated foreigners overstay their visas?

Kyuzmyself: That’s different! They’re productive members of society!

Michael: Yes, just like your grandfather, who came over in 1920 and promptly looked for work in the lucrative field of migrant agriculture. Just like the Mexicans you seem to fear so much. How much separates you from them, really, Alex? Give the Mexicans two more generations and I’ll be sitting here with one of them, needling him about some other bigotry. Don’t deny it, Alex, it’s only human to be wary of the “other”.

Kyuzmyself: I, uh…I, uh…

Michael: That’s what I thought (makes check mark on clipboard). Let’s move on to some other questions, then. How old is the universe, Alex?

Kyuzmyself: (proudly) About six thousand years old.

Michael: (makes disappointed clicking noise) Oh, come now, Alex, must you be so gullible?

Kyuzmyself: (confused) What?

Michael: I thought you were reasonably intelligent. Since when are you supposed to go around ignoring evidence? Do you think all of medicine is phony?

Kyuzmyself: No, but…but that’s different!

Michael: How so? Science is science. Evidence is evidence.

Kyuzmyself: (incredulous) But the Bible –

Michael: Ah, the Bible. Yes, the Bible, which is somehow supposed to trump your own senses and logic? Please, Alex, if the Lord wanted to insult humanity’s intelligence, he could have done it much more effectively than have you take literally a bunch of passages that even ancient tribal herdsmen understood as metaphor.

Kyuzmyself: Metaphor! How dare you! You call yourself an angel?!

Michael: Oh, an archangel. Believe me, Alex, we noncorporeal beings enjoy quite an amusing show here, watching you take the symbolic literally and screw up royally. Now, I know it’s not really your fault; you just fell under the sway of peer pressure, or charismatic leaders, or whatever, and never saw fit to look critically at things. But really now, Alex, tell me: what’s the difference between you and a Pakistani Taliban supporter?

Kyuzmyself: What?

Michael: You heard me. How is your fundamentalism different from theirs?

Kyuzmyself: Because I don’t go around blowing people up for believing different!

Michael: I don’t mean your actions, Alex, I mean your orientation, the way you view the world. You happened to be born into a context in which your fundamentalism didn’t immediately translate into condoning bloodshed in support of your doctrine. If you came here during the Crusades, well, you’d be in a much hotter reception room right now, if you catch my drift. Let’s not make too much of uncontrollable social context, OK?


Michael: OK, then, next item: did you pay your taxes?

Kyuzmyself: I, uh, I think so. Don’t you, uh, have that on record?

Michael: Of course we do. I just enjoy seeing people squirm when I ask that question. Been doing it since Lord knows when. It never gets old! We had this one guy last week who kept apologizing for masturbating all the time – yes, we know everyone does it, and boy, some of you males can get pretty pathetic about what turns you on – and we never even mentioned it directly, just kind of flashed him vaguely knowing looks, and he’d start sweating and trembling and muttering. The Lord Himself had to step in after a while and put a stop to it.

Kyuzmyself: Well, pardon my saying so, but I don’t believe the Lord would tolerate your behavior!

Michael: Our behavior? We more or less lack free will, Alex. This wouldn’t be going on if He didn’t want it. You get to relive this experience forever, you know. It’s a good thing you’ve been more or less pretty good to people, or we’d be messing with your head like nobody’s business.

Kyuzmyself: I…am I going to enjoy Heaven? You angels sound like a mean-spirited bunch.

Michael: Nah. Think of this as a hazing ritual. If you can handle it, you’re in.

Kyuzmyself: What happens to the people who can’t handle it?

Michael: We send them back to be reborn as rolls of toilet paper; they’ll get used to taking crap from people.


Michael: Oh, don’t worry, Alex. Most everyone gets in. The Lord has a soft spot for good-natured people; He thinks they’re kinda cute. (starts getting up) Step right this way…

Written by Thag

December 30, 2010 at 3:27 pm

…and Arpaxshad Begat Nothing but Trouble

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It came to pass on the twenty-ninth day of the twelfth month of year twelve of Thag’s reign, that the evening repast consisted of spiral pasta and sauce of tomatoes and meat. And Thag did toil over the pasta – for the pot was not washed after the last time it served to cook pasta – and over the meat, for the meat had to defrost for several hours before Thag could break it apart and sear it in the searing pan.

Over the tomato Thag toiled not, for it was but paste and water; and Thag emptied the paste container and added water and did stir the mixture in a pot on the fire, where it did warm until Thag served. But for the pasta and the meat Thag did toil, while Miggtha his wife did clear the table and spread out the cloth.

When the food became ready, Thag called his family to assemble at the table. And the family was as chronic complainers, which was evil in the eyes of Thag, and he did grow impatient with their shenanigans. For the eldest did at first request pasta with meat and sauce, but then did change his request, and Thag did not hear the change of request, for he was busy doling out the food in the kitchen while the baby did wail and gnash teeth at not having food in front of him that he couldst toss upon the floor. And when Thag did serve the bowl with the pasta and sauce and meat to his firstborn, the firstborn did recoil from it. Thag moved the bowl to his only daughter, who did thank him, only she ceased to eat after but eight bites. Thag served yet another bowl of pasta and only meat to his firstborn, who ate it and left to worship at the shrine of the Capoeira.

Thag served a bowl of pasta and only sauce to his next son, who did refuse to eat until he beheld a guest eating pasta with sauce, and the middle son did finish his dinner completely and request dessert. This request did try Thag’s patience, for although the day be junky snack day, lo, the boy had already consumed his junky snack, and the snack was the hazelnut cream in the tubular wafer sticks, of which the boy ate two. Then the brother of Miggtha did offer some pecans coated in sweetness, and the middle son snorked them as the ox snorks the grass of the field.

To Thag’s youngest he served also the pasta and the meat only, and the young one began to eat, but ate not more than four bites, whereupon he did toss the contents of his bowl onto the floor. Although this displeased Thag, he knew better than to expect otherwise; after the child had tossed all the food upon the floor, Thag released him from the high chair and did sweep up the pasta and meat. Thag disposed of the refuse outside for the feral cats, who did stalk the chopped meat and attack it. The meat did not flee, and the cats ate it and some of the pasta, which did surprise Thag, for since when do cats eat pasta?

Thag returned to the table and to his own dinner, which was now cold, but Thag poured some Emerald Riesling and did polish off his own serving of pasta and meat and sauce. Thag and Miggtha ascended to the bathroom and drew a bath for the young one and the daughter, and placed them in the warm water. When the young one entered the water and sat, he did emit a quantity of waste, and the daughter did scream. Thag did hurry to remove the children from the bathtub with the floating poop, and the daughter still did scream, for she was cold.

With empty toilet paper rolls, Thag removed the pieces of waste into the toilet bowl, and he drained the bathtub. And he filled it again and quickly washed the little ones. And his daughter did complain again, for her towel did not cover her feet, which were cold. And Thag explained that she did grow, and the towel did not grow, and the towel would reach her feet no longer. This did appease the daughter of Thag, and she donned pajamas and left the room to bother the guests.

When at last the little ones did lie down in their beds, the eldest returned from the Capoeira rite and proceeded to take his sweet old time packing his school bag for the morrow and taking a shower. Thag reminded him repeatedly to get a move on, and after some time the boy donned his pajamas and lay in bed.

Thag was then free to relax before his blog, and he did offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord, who had bestowed upon Thag and Miggtha a taste of peace and quiet, at least until their daughter would cry out, as was her custom each night, in the middle of the second watch, that a cat was in her bed.

Written by Thag

December 29, 2010 at 9:13 pm

No. Are YOU going to Scarborough Fair?

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You could do worse than have your kids develop a liking for Simon & Garfunkel. They could start to like Barry Manilow, for example. I’ll start a new paragraph to give you time to wipe up the puke, or sprayed coffee, or whatever mess your reaction to that last sentence produced. That’s how considerate I am.

Our middle son doesn’t tend to change the CDs in the stereo; he’s usually content to listen to whatever’s already there, and if he wants something specific, he’ll ask for it. But one perpetually popular selection is one I picked up about twelve years ago, Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits. The boys have taken to calling them “the silly people,” likely a reaction to the period hair and garb featured in the photos, but possibly also in response to Cecilia.

They have heard this S&G album many times over the last few months, learning to sing along and sometimes spontaneously breaking out into S&G lyrics. We prefer that they do so when adults are around who can then be suitably impressed, but that’s really secondary, like the team for whom the cheerleaders are rooting.

Thus, this morning, when the aforementioned six-year-old left for school he informed Mrs. Thag that this afternoon, upon his return home, when she asks him how school was, he intends to answer, “Groovy.” On balance, I think it’s better to be happy about this development than concerned it might indicate a propensity to turn on tune in and drop out (though I am a bit, um, leery of the type).

We would do well to reinstate some out-of-fashion locutions, if only to hear them from the mouths of babes. I can just imagine our nine-year-old describing his capoeira class as “far out” or my brownies as “boss.”  Can you imagine such an interjection issuing from today’s youth with no trace of irony or affectation? Wouldn’t that be, like, groovy?

And no, under no circumstances may you gag me – or anyone else – with a spoon.

Written by Thag

December 29, 2010 at 2:22 pm

You’re Under Arrest for…for, Uh…

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It’s not everyday that a random person walks up to you on the street and threatens to alert the authorities.

Sorry, that was a bit presumptuous; perhaps for you, it is an everyday occurrence. I, never having seen the inside of a police station, found it most peculiar. My only real run-in with the law involved a speeding ticket back in 1999. Also,my oldest son sat in the driver’s seat of a police car in 2003; he was about two. Technically, he wasn’t even in the seat, but on the lap of the officer sitting there. It was all very not criminal.

Thus, when I exited a used bookstore this afternoon after a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt to sell a number of titles heretofore occupying valuable space in our domicile, and a fellow approached me, I did not exactly have crime on my mind. I did think he might ask for some change, and was already in the throes of preparatory thoughts on whether and how to alleviate his need, when he said, “I saw what you did, and I’m calling the police.” Then he kept walking, and we continued in opposite directions.

I didn’t react, as far as I can recall, other than to raise an eyebrow or two and keep my stride – I had one more unsuccessful bookstore visit ahead of me, after all. Almost immediately, it occurred to me that I might not be dealing with a person with all of his marbles in the drawer, if you’ll excuse the rhetorical travesty.

But then I wondered two things: (a) if in fact he had seen me do something suspicious, what was it? and (b) what if the police took this kook seriously enough to stop me? While I had no real worry about (b) – and the farther I walked, the less likely it became – I couldn’t stop myself from thinking about my actions. Was it exiting the store with a cart full of books? Not exactly suspicious. Was it entering, then exiting the store with a cart full of books? Not inherently suspicious, especially considering there was nothing I did inside the store that could be misconstrued as criminal (except perhaps trying to sell outdated books on HTML and Javascript, and methinks the police would not exactly consider that a prosecutable offense).

I guess the guy just has it in for sane people. I can deal with that; I occasionally get mad at them myself, such as when they inconsiderately wait until the light is green, even though I’m stuck behind them and in a terrible rush. But even in my meshugga state (New Jersey?) I wouldn’t dream of siccing the police on them. That would be a mite self-defeating.

So if you see a guy making vague threats about alerting the law, send him my regards. And ask him if he wants some mediocre paperbacks. Cheap.

Written by Thag

December 28, 2010 at 8:49 pm

I Don’t Mean to Dump on You. Just Near You.

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Hi, there. Do you mind if I toss my empty wrapper into your yard?

I wasn’t sure. See, it looks like a few other people have already done so, but I didn’t know whether they have some special arrangement with you, or what. I see that a lot, and I’m never certain as to some people’s behavior when it comes to disposal of refuse.

I figure all the wrappers, newspaper fragments, cigarette butts and half-eaten food items that I see all over the place must have been discarded with some forethought, because, you know, humans have this capacity to consider the consequences of their actions. I favor the economic model that sees people acting more or less in consonance with their interests – which, I know, does not account for all of human behavior, notably the popularity of certain television networks – but I’m looking for ways in which what appears to be profligate, indiscriminate scattering of garbage might be accounted for in terms of productive ends.

So I surmised they had some collaborative, mutually beneficial arrangement by which they might save time and energy by just chucking their trash into other people’s property, and in exchange they might offer some tangible benefit, such as payment, babysitting or housekeeping services, for example.

Now, it could be – and please indulge my speculative musings here – that some people knowingly dispose of their garbage every which way and rely on their tax dollars to fund municipally administered cleanup efforts; but this fails to reckon with the obvious benefits of having a continuously clean environment, not one that merely oscillates between filthy and passable (let us not get carried away with the assumption that cleanup successfully removes every morsel of crap; one illusion at a time, please). The long- and short-term benefits of taking one’s refuse all the way to the nearest appropriate receptacle far outweigh the negligible savings of time and energy involved in just dropping everything on the spot. So it could not be this calculus that drives the litterbug to act thus.

That’s why I posed this question to you, you see. If my assumption proves correct, I would further inquire as to the benefits you enjoy from the accumulation of assorted waste in your territory. I admit that my own territory might lack a bit in the maintenance department – I vacuum and wash my car scarcely more than once a year – but I wish to understand why one might countenance active use of one’s space as a dumpster, especially in light of the ill will such aesthetics can easily generate among the neighbors.

Unless, of course, you already have an agreement with those neighbors, who are willing to forgo a completely pristine street or neighborhood in exchange for, say, something you might offer them in return – free shortcuts through your yard; barbecues or block parties that you sponsor; decorative pairs of your old shoes, aesthetically adorning telephone wires throughout the area. It could be anything, really, which just piques my curiosity even more.

I suppose an alternative hypothesis could explain this phenomenon: the individuals putting their trash in your yard, or bicycle basket, or the bed of your pickup truck, have not actually received permission to dispense their detritus there, but behold the existing accumulation and conclude that you are an avid collector, and generously wish to contribute. This hypothesis has the advantage of explaining both what you might receive from these passers by and the benefit you offer them – the convenience of clearing the space these objects occupy without additional effort.

Give this arrangement enough time, though, and people might start driving over just to deposit their used whatever in your yard. I suggest you forestall this by warning them they can be cited for illegal dumping. After all, it’s only the concern we all share for one another that keeps our society functioning as well as it does.

Written by Thag

December 28, 2010 at 2:27 pm

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You Heard It Here First. Just Don’t Tell Anyone.

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It’s not easy to know when you’re in the presence of nascent genius and originality. But sometimes the originality – as demonstrated by the failure of a Google search to turn up any precedent – is so manifest as to warrant immediate documentation.

However, since I’m not exactly your go-to guy for things that carry real importance, the world had to wait until I got off my duff and documented, lo these several days later. Behold, sentences whose existence could not be proved until they were uttered by various family members and preserved herein:

I’m too busy lying down right now.  – Mrs. Thag
My tongue is a piano. – Thag’s three-year-old
That’s the Broadway melamine! – Thag’s nine-year-old
Excuse me, I’m going to make peepee. – Thag (yes, that was a Googlenope; I couldn’t believe it either)
I think the TSA took my… – a series of statements made by visitors who could not immediately find everything they’d packed.

I promise to keep you updated on these Earth-shattering developments. (Yes, that sentence was also without online precedent. Jeepers.)

Written by Thag

December 27, 2010 at 9:48 pm

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