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?

Kyuzmyself:

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.

Kyuzmyself:(gulps)

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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Hey Dad, Want to Have an Argument?

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“Dad, would you like to play ‘Go Fish’?”

“Go fish.”

“Yeah. Will you?”

“I meant no.”

“You didn’t say ‘no’.”

“Yes I did. I said ‘Go fish’.”

“That’s what I said.”

“Isn’t that what it means?”

“What?”

“‘Go fish’.”

“Go Fish?”

“That’s what I said.”

“No, that’s what I said.”

Yes, and that’s what I said.”

That’s what I said!

“Now let’s calm down…”

I think he wanted to play Go Fish, but I’m not sure anymore. Maybe he just wanted to argue. I know I did.

Written by Thag

December 27, 2010 at 4:50 pm

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Only Four More Snarking Days Left!

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The thing in media this time of year seems to be either retrospectives or tips for the coming year. The former is a great pretext for recycling old material with minimal effort; the latter, a great pretext for insulting the intelligence of the reader or viewer.

Because, hey, if I need to be told there’s something unique to, say, blogging in 2011, well, which is greater, my shoe size or I.Q.? Dude, you mean you’re gonna blog using the tips you got back in January 2010? Ha! No wonder your blog attracts like, nobody, whereas mine attracts, like, all the rest of nobody.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not like retrospectives don’t insult the audience’s intelligence, if they’re done right. I could drone on and on recounting every little keystroke of last week’s post about my little boys mishearing some profanity, but you already read that last week; if I need to go through it again for you, must I also remind you how to fasten your shoe’s Velcro straps? Did you ever even successfully learn to tie shoelaces? Or are even loafers a challenge for you? Here’s a tip for the new year: staple those shoes on so you don’t have to worry about tying and untying. Don’t you worry about all that bleeding; it’s perfectly natural. Brown socks might work for you, by the way.

The whole idea of marking the new year at all seems rather ridiculous doesn’t it? Why in the middle of winter, for crying out loud? At least the ancients – and some religious holdovers in the present – had the sense to do it in the spring, when the world actually seems to be starting over. You know what? Don’t mark your next birthday on the actual solar anniversary of your birth; make a practice of celebrating it a full week afterwards, for no logical reason. Every year. When challenged, simply respond, “But that’s the way I’ve always done it.” As if asinine precedent trumps reason. You also only learned to use the toilet a couple of years into your life. What was wrong with your previous mode, I ask? Precedent, after all, should trump everything.

And don’t get me started on resolutions. I will resolve one thing, however: I resolve to adopt the persona of a cynical, jaded, embittered, pompous know-it-all. Precedent, after all, is a potent force.

Written by Thag

December 27, 2010 at 2:33 pm

I D-d-d-d-dance Like I T-t-t-t-t-talk

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Someone accused me of sashaying the other day. It took me quite by surprise. I do not sashay. I have been known to sidle, or even to slink. But sashay, I do not, nor have I ever. I never even learned to waltz, let alone waltz in.

I can hop, but do so only rarely. I do, however, hop over on occasion, about as often as I hop on over. This occurs much more often than, for example, my scooting, not to mention scooting over. I never scootch, and scootching over is inconceivable.

I have been known to idle, and even to laze, but I do not loll, nor do I loll about. I might consider barreling, but I lack the physique to perform the maneuver properly. Not that the same impairment has prevented me from barging, or more accurately, barging in, which I do about as frequently as I butt in. Butting by itself I simply never have occasion to do, though if necessary I could bring myself to do it.

I take trips and I trip, but not in the archaic sense of dance; I do dance around the issue, even though I do not dance.

I am lithe, but not limber; svelte, but not shapely. I have vim, but only sporadic flashes of vigor. My muscles do not ripple – they could not take the strain – but one of them ripped once. And although my muscles did once tear, my eyes do so at least once a week.

My hair is soft, but not, as Vidal Sassoon would have it, sexy. It is neither wavy nor curly, neither straight nor coiled. I do not toss my hair, except the bits I cut, which I toss in the garbage.

I sit on my duff – am doing so now, as a matter of fact – but as I mentioned, I do not butt. I sit on my behind, I fall behind and I fall on my behind, and I sit behind the person in front of me, unless I sit up front; but I can be up front without sitting up front, and although I dislike doing it, I sometimes must pay up front. I always pay up, even if not up front – because when I fall, I do not like to fall in debt. I did fall in love once, but only to avoid stepping in it.

I can hold my own – and occasionally must – but I try to avoid holding the phone, since it occupies a hand that I might need for other things, such as lending to others or giving to a performer. I tip generously, I tip my hat and I tip the balance, but I do not tip my hand.

I have fared better, and I prepare some sumptuous fare in my kitchen; I pay full fare, because I am not disabled, nor am I a minor, senior citizen or student. To you, however, fare well. Or whatever it is that you do.

Written by Thag

December 26, 2010 at 2:11 pm

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Hello, Would You Please Hang Up on Me?

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Caller: Hello, may I speak to Thag?

Me: This is Thag.

Caller: Hello, this is Thwonga. I’m calling from one of your cellular carrier’s rivals to offer you big savings.

Me: I spend about $25 a month.

Caller: Well, you have a good day, sir.

****

Caller: Hello, may I speak to Thag?

Me: This is Thag.

Caller: Hi, I’m calling to take a survey of Muslim households.

Me: We’re not Muslim.

Caller: You have a good day, then, sir, and burn in Hell.

****

Caller: Hello, may I speak to Thag?

Me: This is Thag.

Caller: Hi, this is Mortho. I’m calling to offer you big savings for switching to us as your internet provider.

Me: I haven’t the faintest idea what I pay, so I’m not the right person to talk to.

Caller: With whom should I speak?

Me: With my wife.

Caller: May I speak with her?

Me: No.

Caller: Sir, how can I speak with the person who makes these decisions if you won’t let me?

Me: That’s your problem, dude, not mine. Goodbye.

****

Caller: Hello, may I speak to Thag?

Me: This is Thag.

Caller: Hi, I’m calling on behalf of We Embezzle, a charitable organization devoted to caring for our city’s neediest lobbyists.

Me: How did you get my name?

Caller: We call everyone in the phone book, sir.

Me: I gave at the office.

Caller: Sir, we’ve never collected before. That’s not possible.

Me: I don’t give over the phone. Send me your information by mail and I’ll review it.

Caller: Sir, it’s much easier for us to collect over the phone.

Me: Ma’am, it’s much easier for you not to call me at all.

Caller: May I have your mailing address?

Me: Sure. It’s 1-2-3 Go To Hell-

Caller: I’m sorry, sir, could you repeat that?

Me: I SAID, GO TO HELL.

Caller: You too, sir. Have a good day.

****

Caller: Hello, may I speak to Thag?

Me: This is Thag.

Caller: Hi, this is Borff, calling from dontinterruptmydinner.com. I’m calling to offer you a telemarketing screening package that will block telemarketers from calling you during dinnertime.

Me: And you called during dinner to demonstrate how much I might benefit from this service?

Caller: You eat dinner at eleven o’clock in the morning?

Me: I eat dinner whenever a telemarketer calls. That way I can yell at them for interrupting my dinner and have a valid excuse not to listen to their spiel.

Caller: You have a good day, sir.

****

Caller: Hello, may I speak to Thag?

Me: This is Thag.

Caller: Hi, this is Foog. I’m calling from the Committee to Elect Hugh Bribetaker. Would you care to hear what Mr. Bribetaker has to offer the residents of your area?

Me: You got thirty seconds.

Caller: Thank you sir. Are you tired of honest-looking candidates who turn out to be corrupt, selfish people once they’re elected? Hugh Bribetaker says enough; he’ll tell right up front he’s no honest man. He’ll sell out to the highest bidder. If you find this kind of honesty refreshing, vote Hugh Bribetaker.

Me: That was refreshing. You want a contribution?

****

Caller: Hello, may I speak to Thag?

Me: This is Thag.

Caller: Hi, this is Flubba. I got your name from Bilch, who recommended I call you. Are you able to babysit tomorrow night?

Me: Are you sure you have the right number? I stopped babysitting about seventeen years ago. I’m thirty-five.

Caller: That’s why I called you. I need someone to babysit my twenty-year-old cheerleader daughter.

Me: What time should I be there?

Written by Thag

December 25, 2010 at 9:57 pm

Did Moses Have a Literary Agent?

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The Book of Leviticus: a Review

Once he has established his reputation, a successful author might take liberties that lesser talents would be well advised to avoid. The established master, however, can count on his audience’s patience, as he has already let them know through his earlier works: thou shalt not be disappointed.

This is clearly the case with Leviticus, which picks up smoothly from where Exodus left off. Many readers were no doubt left puzzled and dismayed by the ending of Exodus, with its focus on the Tabernacle where narrative drama once played such a central role. But God Almighty clearly takes a longer view; he must have at least another book up His sleeve, since Leviticus simply raises the stakes – it does not address many of the open questions that the developing plot in Exodus left hanging. No, it is clear that the author used Leviticus primarily as a way to enrich the tapestry of the relationship He seems to desire so earnestly from His audience, not to hook the reader with action or romance; the payoff will come in the inevitable sequel.

Indeed, if one ingredient is missing from the series so far, it is romance. The semi-autobiographical account has the deity wooing and establishing emotional intimacy with a series of admirable characters, but only two occurrences of love between a man and a woman are ever mentioned – all the way back in the middle of Genesis, and the first one oh-so-by-the-way. And lest the reader get the idea that the author prefers those who prefer the company of men, Leviticus in no uncertain terms calls homosexuality an abomination. The reader might miss it, wedged as it is in a lengthy passage about the objectionable practices of the soon-to-be-displaced Canaanites, but no less vehement for its obscurity.

Yet somehow even the fiery injunctions against child sacrifice and improper sprinkling of sacrificial blood are so suffused with poetic technique, literary allusion and intertextuality that one wonders why Almighty felt He had to bother with stringing everything together into a single book. Leviticus certainly lacks the narrative continuity and drama of its antecedents – it lacks much narrative at all – but the slower pace gives rise to an appreciation for detail, for an emerging picture of Tabernacle-centered service upon which a people still learning what it means to be free can base the development of their society. Hammurabi had his laws, yes, but here we encounter a holistic, textured framework for the treatment of both body and soul.

What’s more, the pathos and drama that do arise in Leviticus by no means draw their power from their immediate place in any overarching plot. When Aaron loses two sons, we encounter a remarkable stoicism; when the consequences of abandoning the deity are laid out, the details at once horrify and engage the reader with a lyricism unseen since the song at the Sea of Reeds.

Leviticus can certainly try the patience of the first-time reader, but the author must be counting on everyone’s familiarity with the first two books in the series. This reviewer, for one, eagerly anticipates the next offering in the series, and might even camp out near the author and number the days until its release.

Written by Thag

December 23, 2010 at 9:14 pm

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Need a Change of Clothes? Urine Luck

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I’m not one to focus excessively on clothes.

OK, that’s a flagrant lie. I focus a good bit of my time on clothes, primarily in gathering, cleaning, folding and storing them.

So let’s try again: I’m not one to focus excessively on choice in clothes. My sartorial rule: dark top with light trousers or vice versa. No stripes, no patterns, no confusion. I have better ways to spend my time than frittering away half the morning trying to coordinate an outfit: I can blog about frittering away half the morning trying to coordinate an outfit.

Mrs. Thag pays even less attention to such things than I do. Her wardrobe suits those sensibilities as well; if ever we need to attend an event that requires something other than casual dress, a brief powwow precedes the selection of garments from the Rarely Used section of the closet (that’s also where we keep the tact).

Our children have naturally inherited no sense of style, which presents quite a social and parenting challenge for us, since they have inherited plenty of clothes that do not necessarily match. It’s one thing for me to feel contented with my limited repertoire of chinos and button-downs; it’s another thing entirely for my offspring to encounter a drawer full of stripes, plaid and assorted other patterns that complicate the matching calculus (and they’re much more inclined toward poetry).

Thus, this morning, in the interest of preserving marital harmony and adherence to an already strained morning routine, I withheld my critique of certain sartorial choices. I remain idly curious whether our three-year-old daughter’s outfit today came solely of her own selection or whether her mother had some say in the process. It will remain a curiosity, as I do not wish to make such a triviality a topic of conversation, a conversation that will inevitably contain at least a trace of perceived dissing vis-à-vis sense of style, or lack thereof.

But requests to change do occur. Just the other evening, in fact, we requested of one of our sons to change his pajamas, since they reeked of urine – as you can well imagine, quite the fashion faux pas (urine is sooo last season). We shall accept, provisionally, his assertion that he had nothing to do with it, and that the stench resulted only from a surreptitious visit from the Urine Fairy, who seems to enjoy stopping by that bedroom and staying a while. What we could not initially comprehend was his refusal to comply.

It turns out not that the pajamas in question were no more or less visually suited to the occasion; no, he refused to change because that would mean he was no longer the first one in pajamas that evening. It took a while for us to persuade him that changing pajamas would not automatically strip him of the all-important title. But he was still suspicious as he grudgingly replaced them (I’m suspicious, however, regarding the sincerity of his devotion to being appropriately garbed first. He betrays no such drive in the mornings – see “strained routine,” above).

The following fashion wisdom I can, however, impart to you, lest your sense has been affected by our toddler: hats go on the head, not in the toilet.

Written by Thag

December 23, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Liberals Are Human After All?

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For a time I wanted to be a radical leftist, but I couldn’t escape my own past: I was a staunch fan of the New York Yankees for a number of years during a formative period of my life.

The problem with being a leftist is that one seems almost required to root for the weaker side in any conflict, be it in politics, warfare, athletic competition or access to public services. Naturally, baseball’s “Evil Empire” simply cannot answer properly to that description, and identifying with said organization puts something of a damper on expressing concern for the have-nots. I don’t feel sorry for Pittsburgh; I feel smugly superior.

Unable to shake this attitude – and I remain unsure whether it directly stems from Yankee fandom, or merely speaks to my New York origins – I found it very difficult to cultivate vehement opposition to all things capitalist, elitist or unregulated. If you don’t happen to inhabit the top of the financial heap – or at least one of its upper strata – you probably deserve it, I reasoned. It was all very Republican.

This is not to say that I do not feel the tug of empathy toward the less fortunate – Rwanda genocide victims; Burmese political prisoners; Seattle Seahawks fans – but there’s only so much a fellow can do for them. I don’t expect you to give up your fourth-floor walk-up with leaky plumbing and exorbitant monthly rent just to travel to Africa and share with those poor souls the benefits of your remaining AA batteries, and you shouldn’t expect me to part with my predilection for sweatshop-produced athletic shoes just to give some Southeast Asian kid the afternoon off. And the Seahawks? What kind of a fan base continues to nurture such an organization? The Pacific Northwest can do much better, but they refuse to.

Some cracks have begun to reappear in my worldview, however. For example, since one cannot survive on a steady diet of FOX News and the Dearborn Independent – delivery of that publication is dreadfully slow; I haven’t received an issue in decades – I chose to broaden my mind with The Huffington Post and Ann Coulter. Little did I know, however, that these sources of information occasionally let through a liberal voice or two, even if only on the way to refuting them.

That little bit of exposure to alternative, dangerous ideas has infected me. I find myself actually grieving for the newly homeless Haitians – what a novel experience! Instead of dismissing them as less-than-fully human foreigners, I somehow would up thinking of them as real people. It was a heady feeling, almost like a psychoactive drug.

And as with all psychoactive drugs, it is best experienced in small, rare doses, if at all. Further indulgence could threaten my performance as a card-carrying conservative (American Express; member since 1964, in case you were wondering). So I do not readily flash any newfound liberal colors. I do, however, understand that others might, even though they clash terribly with the furniture.

Oh, and here’s a dollar. Go run out and get yourself something nice.

 

Written by Thag

December 22, 2010 at 4:11 pm

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If It Piss Off the Court…

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You have to wonder why no major video games exist in which the player must make a convincing closing argument to the jury.

I suspect this gap in popular culture stems from insufficient appreciation for the benefits of a law degree. Heaven knows we could use more lawyers. If more people wanted to be lawyers, you’d just have to conclude that such a video game would find wide popularity. Since the marketing research gurus have yet to advocate the release of just such a product, the market must not support it.

And that’s a shame. We definitely need more highfalutin rhetoric peppered with Latin phrases that the speakers themselves only dimly comprehend. We need incentive to get youngsters more interested in making simple things as complicated and dependent on one profession as possible. And since youngsters are demonstrably interested in playing video games, the most reasonable course of action for the game manufacturers -who, as we know, are among the most socially conscious entities in existence – involves developing and marketing such games before law becomes a popular career, thus ipso facto fostering the drive in young people to pursue fulfillment in the very activities they so enjoy. (Ex post facto? Quod erat demonstratum? Semper ubi sub ubi?)

It’s a win-win situation: if the market researchers have it all wrong, and such a game proves immensely popular from the outset, the game companies can rejoice; if the researchers have it right, it’s only a matter of time before the trend catches on and the games lead to record enrollment in law programs across the country, leading to better lives for everyone. The unfortunate shortage of lawyers we now suffer can be remedied quickly – after all, a lone lawyer cannot make a living: it takes two to do the litigation tango.

Granted, the focus on litigation unnecessarily narrows the field, which is why the game can include several levels or modules, each of which would help develop a different lawyerly skill set: research; contracts; labor; corporate law; meaningless phrases such as, “If it please the court…” . Aren’t you excited just reading about it? Then think of how excited all those future law students will be when they get their hands on these games!

If this model proves successful – and you can rest assured I have the same confidence in that as you do – it can be replicated endlessly and successfully in any other crucial profession that the world lacks: celebrities, papparazzi, supermarket tabloid journalists, plumbers with defective waistbands, comic book nerds, you name it.

Oh, I’ve no doubt many would raise objections to this proposal. But I’d have them overruled.

Written by Thag

December 21, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Don’t Wait for Death; Cause Your Brain to Rot NOW!

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Zombies might not exist, but do you want to take that chance?

I don’t mean you should take some stupid, superstitious safety precautions to keep zombies at bay; that’s clearly a waste of time, resources, and whatever passes for your credibility. No, I’m thinking about the future: what happens to you after you die and your body starts to decompose? Wouldn’t it be the coolest thing in the world if your body could be reanimated as a zombie?!

Your remains, wandering around spooking people – and maybe even eating some brains for good measure. Does an urnful of cremation ashes offer the same jaw-dropping, scream-inducing coolness? Of course not. Just opt for burial over cremation and you’re set, on the off chance that bodies can rise from the dead as zombies.

I know what you’re thinking: it costs less to cremate a body than to purchase and maintain a burial plot. But not that much more, especially in some outlying areas – and as any good horror film student knows, it’s the suburbs where the undead action is. And no one says you have to have the grave maintained to be eligible for zombiehood. So if you’re willing to lay out a few thousand dollars more, at most, you can guarantee a chance to give your old skin, bones and rotting flesh a new lease on something vaguely resembling life! It’s like joining a retirement community!

We all want to make an impact on the world that outlasts our physical sojourn on this mortal coil. Unfortunately, we can’t all be Shakespeare, Einstein, da Vinci or Marx (Karl or Groucho). Or Stalin, for that matter. If we’re lucky, we might inspire a nice once-off memorial gesture by relatives, such as a donation in our names to the Elmer Fudd Speech Pathology Foundation.

Burial, however, offers the advantage of keeping a body available for diabolical reawakening and the overrunning of sleepy hamlets. If circumstances permit, your body might even participate in an full-scale zombie invasion of a major metropolitan area! There’s no way you could do that with a bunch of ashes. And the carbon emissions from the cremation process are just wrong. Your decomposing flesh will reintegrate with the ground in the most natural way while it waits to be mobilized for an undead offensive.

And if you’re really serious about it, you can even invest in embalming. But that’s for the really hardcore zombie wannabes, people willing to pay to guarantee an intact physical frame, even if the skin does take on a disturbing hue. But disturbing is exactly what you’re aiming for, after all; you want your remains to be disturbed so they can rise up and terrorize the populace.

The choice is clear. I know I wouldn’t be caught dead being cremated.

Written by Thag

December 20, 2010 at 3:52 pm

More Products My Kids Don’t Need

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Fellow preschoolers, I am here to make your jobs much easier.

You know how it can take some time to gauge your parents’ moods? We all know how difficult it can be to find the right time for intransigence, to maximize the inconvenience and frustration. Well, guess no more.

I have here a fabulous new product that can tell you in an instant whether the time is ripe for a good, old-fashioned, “NO!” when Mommy asks you to stop bothering the baby, or whether doing so will only slightly annoy her. Since you want the most bang for your pluck, all you need to do is consult your handy-dandy AbhorRent – and you can find the ideal moment to agitate the ‘rents!

Just one glance at your AbhorRent will tell you whether to wait a little while before unraveling all the dental floss, or whether now is the time to act; whether merely to refuse to pick up the clean laundry you’ve dumped everywhere, or whether you also need to strew it about the room and trample it; when to look straight into Daddy’s eye and flick an unwanted piece of dinner onto the floor. With your new AbhorRent, it all becomes clear, and you can save valuable minutes looking for new and exciting ways to drive Mommy and Daddy to drink! You haven’t felt this much power since every shout of “peepee!” sent your parents scurrying madly about the house!

No longer do you need to expend precious energy yelling and singing at the top of your lungs all the time – now you can pinpoint the stretches of time in which the crescendo will have its maximum effect. No more pretending to grab whatever Daddy’s working with, without knowing whether it will aggravate him. No more slapping the keyboard when Mommy is away from the computer, without knowing that your actions will definitely ruin her unsaved work.

You can have this valuable piece of equipment in exchange for no more than the next four weeks’ junky snacks – and you won’t be getting those anyway once you start to use your AbhorRent. Just think: at your mucus-encrusted fingertips you can have all the information you need about what effect your course of action will have on your parents. And it can be yours for less trouble than emptying Mommy’s purse down the toilet!

So act out now! Supplies are limited – get your AbhorRent while they last – and get to your ‘rents while it’s this easy!

Written by Thag

December 19, 2010 at 5:13 pm

I Don’t Know Why I Even Let the Kids Outside

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Six-year-old: Daddy, what’s a shidhead?

Me: What?

Six-year-old: What’s a shidhead?

Me: Um…where did you hear that?

Six-year-old: That man called me a shidhead.

Me: I…uh…it’s not a word. I couldn’t tell you what it means. Are you sure that’s what he said? Maybe he said something else. Whatever it was, it probably wasn’t very nice.

Six-year-old: He called me a shidhead. Shidhead isn’t a nice thing?

Me: It’s…it’s not anything. I told you that already.

Six-year-old: Shidhead. Shidhead. Shidhead. Shidhead.

Me: If you keep saying that, I’m going to get upset.

Six-year-old: Why?

Me: It’s not…it’s…it’s…uh, it’s annoying to hear the same thing again and again.

Nine-year-old: What did he call you? Shidhead?

Six-year-old: Yeah, shidhead. What’s a shidhead?

Nine-year-old: I dunno. Daddy, what’s a shidhead?

Me: I said already, it’s not anything.

Nine-year-old: But that man called him a shidhead.

Me: I said, stop saying that or I’ll get upset!

Six-year-old: Stop saying shidhead?

Me: Yes!

Nine-year-old: What does it mean?

Me: Nothing! It doesn’t mean anything!

Nine-year-old: It sounds not nice.

Me: So don’t say it.

Nine-year-old: I can’t say shidhead?

Me: You can say things that make sense and don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Nine-year-old: Shidhead will hurt someone’s feelings?

Me: I said stop saying that.

Nine-year-old: But it doesn’t mean anything. I’m just being silly.

Me: No, you’re being annoying.

Nine-year-old (To six-year-old): You’re a shidhead.

Six-year-old: You’re a shidhead.

Me: Stop it, both of you! I said stop saying that!

Six-year-old: What’s a shidhead?

Written by Thag

December 18, 2010 at 11:06 pm

The Three Little Kittens Probably Did It on Purpose

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The Toddler Principles of Mitten Use

1. I am dimly aware that my thumb plays a role in the process, but am as yet incapable of aligning that thumb with the thumb compartment. Either that, or I mastered the required level of digital dexterity and am just messing with you.

2. You will regret not clipping the mittens to my coat sleeve. Are you trying to lose these things?

3. The number of times I will remove the mittens and cry that my hands are cold is inversely proportionate to your patience.

4. I am perfectly capable of disproving your contention that mittens only disappear one at a time.

5. You are fooling yourself if you think that I cannot remove mittens that have no separate thumb.

6. Because washing mittens is inconvenient at best and outright destructive at worst, I will make sure to wipe my runny nose on the mittens as frequently and messily as possible.

7. The compromised manual dexterity that mittens cause will in no way prevent me from demanding foodstuffs that necessitate full finger use, such as pretzel sticks or Cheerios.

8. The odds of my removing and dropping at least one mitten increase in proportion to the wetness of the ground.

9. If you do wise up enough to attach the mittens to my coat sleeve with clips, if you then make the mistake of trying to do so while I am wearing the coat, I will move around as much as possible, and might throw a tantrum.

10. Despite all your precautions and efforts, at least one mitten will disappear by the time winter ends.

Written by Thag

December 17, 2010 at 11:20 am

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If You Enjoy the Stuff, You Probably Deserve It

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If I ever express a desire to eat shakshuka, please beat me to death with a fork.

Yes, there’s no accounting for taste; yes, chacun à son goût; yes, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. However, the appeal of some creations so defies comprehension that said concoctions constitute a challenge to the very fabric of all that is good, holy and tasteful. I refer, of course, to cooked peppers.

Lest you think that I wish to impugn the culinary sensibilities of the Maghreb, rest assured that I hold North African culture in the highest regard. I’d better, considering my surroundings. For some reason the Near East is teeming with such people.

This does not mean, however, that cooked peppers can in any way be justified as a dietary staple, unless one enjoys the assault on the sense of smell and taste. You want to find something to stuff with meat, rice, onions and assorted other yummy things? Try flake dough. Or intestine. Or maybe even butternut squash, with some nutmeg or cinnamon. But what unholy alliance of pepper farmers and satanic spawn was able to prevail upon an entire culture to depart so radically from common sense?

Which is not to say that other cultures do not have what to answer for in the Eats Department (extension 224). Take borscht (the meatless kind, anyway). Or lutefisk. Soft-boiled eggs. Ketchup. Or, God help us, prunes, which represent an indictment of civilization as a whole.

But at least prunes have the sense not to produce an odor that wafts from the kitchen window out onto the pavement, where it attacks innocent pedestrians. Dear would-be chefs, do you also cook and serve, with a suitable flourish, your sweaty socks? Are you so proud of your armpit scent that you wish to share it with the neighborhood? (Actually, don’t answer that one; it might explain other behavior).

I therefore declare a low-key war against cooked peppers. You may grill them, but any cooking is strictly off limits. We shall stamp out this scourge from kitchens the world over. Join in the crusade to liberate the people from this stench-producing evil!

And when we’re done, we can move onto brownies that have nuts.

Written by Thag

December 16, 2010 at 10:49 pm

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This Just In: Adolescence Is Hard

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Muffin: Good evening and welcome to the Seventh Grade News. I’m Stud Muffin, with Jess Kidding.

First-period math got off to a shaky start today when half the class came in without homework. Mr. Cowell claims the students need to get their act together, while the class complains of unfair burdens. Lisp Nightly reports.

Nightly: That’th right, Thtud. The detailth are not a hundred perthent clear yet, but it appearth that at about nine-o-five thith morning, Mithter Cowell athked the thtudenth to plathe their homework on hith dethk, then thpent about a minute going through them, checking the nameth againtht the attendanth litht. When he got to the end, he thlammed the latht paper down on the pile and yelled at the clath.

What happened nektht ith thtill in dithpute. Thome thtudenth thay Mithter Cowell threatened to put a permanent mark in each one’th record if the lathineth perthithted, but otherth claim the teacher went even further, threatening to have the nektht clath trip cantheled.

Student 1: I dunno, so like, Mr. Cowell took attendance, and like, someone kept making, like, armpit noises, so, y’know, things were already, like, not so calm, and Jenna sneezed, and Mr. Cowell was all like, “OK, everyone, get your homework on the desk right now,” y’know? And so, like, he was like going through all the papers, and like ten of them were like totally missing, and he was like, “If you people keep skipping your homework, I’m gonna have to put it in your record,” which, like, whatever.

Student 2: So I’m sitting there in math class? And Mr. Cowell starts yelling at us? And I didn’t do my homework, cuz Britney, the girl who sits behind me? She had like a bad breakup with Brad? So I spent all of yesterday kinda making her feel better? And suddenly he’s yelling that we’re not gonna go on our next trip? And we have math homework like every single day?

Nightly: Mithter Cowell himthelf wath unavailable for comment, but the thtudenth themthelveth theem divided on the fairnethof their treatment. Thith ith the thecond time thith themethter that the clath hath had the threat of cantheled priviligeth dangled over them, and the way thingth are going, thome doubt they’ll ever go anywhere at all thith year. Back to you, Thtud and Jeth.

Kidding: Thank you, Lisp.

Gregg Mitchell was sent to the principal’s office for the sixth time this year during second-period history for mouthing off to the teacher. Here’s Fulla Vitt, with more on the story.

Vitt: Gregg Mitchell was whispering with Ellis Morton in the adjacent seat when Ms. Anthrope, the history teacher, asked him to quiet down. When Mitchell continued talking a few seconds later, Ms. Anthrope warned him, but he continued talking. That’s when she sent him to Ms. Urry’s office. That’s the third time in the last month that Mitchell has been sent there, and the sixth since the start of the year. Ms. Anthrope was the first teacher to send him to the principal back in October, as well.

Mitchell himself gave us the finger when we asked for an interview, but classmate Keith Antell says that Mitchell is just clowning around.

Antell: I don’t know why everyone’s getting on Gregg’s case. He’s just joking around. So he made a few jokes while Ms. Anthrope was talking. So what? It’s not like he hurts anybody. And he’s funny. Besides, history is boring.

Vitt: A school office official speaking on condition of anonymity informed us that the school psychologist is looking into Mitchell’s situation at home. For the Seventh Grade News, I’m Fulla Vitt.

Muffin: And now we’ll have a look at the weather, with meteorologist Dan Kandertti. Dan?

Kandertti: Looks like a calm second half of the week, but as you can see, the clique of Veronica Miles, Stephanie Durkett and Chloë Dumont are planning a series of embarrassing moments for Kari Wilmer on Thursday. Friday looks mostly clear except for the afternoon, it looks like, when the school will have a talent show, and only the popular kids will feel confident enough to participate. Here’s the five-day on your screens now; you can see the weekend shaping up to be troublesome, with Stephanie Durkett and her eighth-grade boyfriend having a fight on MySpace and spreading nasty rumors about each other. That storm will last into next week.

Kidding: It’s not a busy time for sports right now, but Jack Ovahltraids nevertheless has some news for us.

Ovahltraids: Yup. Jess, the new uniforms for the middle school basketball team are almost ready, and the boys will wear them when they get creamed by Edison Middle School on Sunday. The new uniforms are brown with yellow stripes down the side, and misspelled names on the backs. School officials say they have had to deal with budget cuts, so they purchased used uniforms from the Salvation Army and had volunteers sew the names. Go team!

Muffin: Well, that’s it for this evening. Join us again tomorrow when we give you an inside look at the janitor’s closet, and ask him about cleaning the boys’ locker room. Stay tuned for Midgets on Parade! For everyone here at the Seventh Grade News, I’m Stud Muffin. Good night.

Written by Thag

December 15, 2010 at 4:05 pm

The World’s Grossest Way to Melt Cheese

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I might have a tendency to pass out and have convulsions when I try to give blood, but I am not particularly squeamish in non-phlebotomy situations. Hey, I’m a four-time parent; I’ve gotten soiled by puke, poop, snot, pee and various unholy combinations of foodstuffs. It takes more than mere grossness to get to me.

Nevertheless, just yesterday a colleague with misguided enthusiasm wished to share with me what he apparently sincerely thought was a good thing. I shall reproduce the recipe as shown to me. Make of it what you will, but if you ever try to make it or consume it, please, don’t ever come near this blog again.

You will need:

1 mug
2 cups boiling water
1 slice of your favorite cheese

Place cheese in mug. Pour boiling water into mug; let sit until cheese is melted. Empty mug of water. Eat goopy cheese with implement of your choice.

He excitedly demonstrated this to me, causing me to shudder and my stomach to lurch. Even now I get intermittent spasms recalling it. For some reason, this fellow (a) finds this repulsive thing appetizing and (b) thought I would find it both appetizing and cool. I cannot begin to express how little trust I have in this person’s judgment right now, let alone aesthetics. And this is from someone supposedly educated. Here you have it, ladies and gentlemen: proof that knowledge alone has no effect whatsoever on a person’s character. Or taste. Ugh.

I don’t mind gross; I was once present at the slaughter of a sheep (owing to my aforementioned aversion to bleeding, I took the precaution of standing behind someone else when the neck was cut), but had no problem observing the vivisection and evisceration of the animal. I found it really cool, like the feeling of discovery that accompanied the experience of dissecting a fetal pig way back when, only without the pressure of academic achievement. Also, it was amusing to watch the knife-wielding guy engage in intellectual discussions with the other people present as he stretched out the sheep’s intestines and used his fingers to squeeze poop pellets out the end.

I also have no fear of weird animal parts as food. I have eaten spinal cord, sweet breads, spleen, whatever’s being served, no problem; sometimes I actively order it. But this cheese thing is just beyond the pale.

My stomach is still protesting at the thought. Yuck.

Written by Thag

December 14, 2010 at 8:47 pm

I’m Waiting for this Kind of NY Times Wedding Announcement

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Sarah Kastic and Angus McDoofus

Sarah Infix Kastic and Angus McLeod McDoofus were married Saturday evening at the Wannabe Country Club in Lake Mediocre, N.Y. Father Noah Zbest performed the ceremony, with Reverend Motha Volbattels taking part.

The bride, 26, is keeping her name. She is an assistant cashier at the local C-Town. She graduated magna cum laude from her mother’s basement, from which she also received a shopping degree.

She is a daughter of Wanda Bisar Kastic and Don Caesar Kastic of Dull, N.Y. The bride’s father, a certified public nuisance, is an appellate conferee for the Infernal Retinue Service in Ringworm, N.Y. He instigates tax disputes. Until 2001, he was the executive director of the tax department at The New York Crimes Company.

The bridegroom, 32, is an assistant janitor for the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn. He works in the Public Unintelligibility Section, which obfuscates and provokes crimes involving public officials, public enmities and institutions that deceive government monkeys. He graduated summa cum laude from the Madoff Institute for Fiduciary Integrity, and received a lawn degree, magna cum laude, from New Dork University.

The bridegroom is a son of Rufus McDoofus and Clueless McDoofus of Lame-O Beach, N.Y. The bridegroom’s mother, who is retarded, taught first grade at Lame-O Elementary School in Lame-O Beach. His father, a certified public enemy, is a partner in Breaking & Entering, an accounting firm in Porkville Centre, N.Y.

The couple met at a mutual friend’s frat party in Manhattan in 2007, and realized that their mothers, who had grown up together in Jerk, N.Y., had discussed setting them up three years earlier, as a practical joke. Mr. McDoofus, however, had refused to call Ms. Kastic without first administering a polygraph.

The couple gradually learned that the ties between their families were even more disturbing — the bridegroom’s maternal grandmother, Ruth Liss, was the sixth-grade warden of the bride’s mother.

Once he finally met Ms. Kastic, Mr. McDoofus was quite taken with her tastelessnes and made two CDs for her of his favorite Barry Manilow songs, which he gave to her after their first date.

Last December, a few weeks after their engagement, they attended the Crappy Old Fogy Convention in Washington, where Mr. Manilow was one of the honorees. The couple had a few minutes to meet and speak with Mr. Manilow at the after-event vomit-fest.

Ms. Kastic said that when they told him that they wanted to dance to one of his songs at their wedding, his hands formed the shape of a rude gesture and he responded, “I give you five minutes to get out of my face.”

Written by Thag

December 14, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Better Late Than, Uh, That’s Just Not True.

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I’m supposed to be somewhere else in just a few minutes, at a parents’ meeting for our three-year-old’s preschool. I must fight the urge to stay right here for a little while, however.

This has nothing to do with the drudgery into which the meeting will inevitably devolve. It has everything to do with people’s tendency – around here exacerbating to an incredible degree – to show up ridiculously late to everything, including their own weddings. So I must somehow resolve the internal conflict: do I stick to my principles, show up at the appointed time and continue to feel superior; or do I take advantage of the forgone conclusion that no one will get there until at least fifteen minutes after the scheduled hour, and the proceedings will not actually begin until fifteen minutes after that, such that I might use this time to get some laundry or dishes done?

(In case you hadn’t guessed, no, posting this probably doesn’t qualify as a constructive use of the time).

We have friends, real movers and shakers in the community, who know to tell us a different starting time from the one they give everyone else. Seriously, we don’t mind; we’re perfectly happy to show up “early” and help you set up, and besides, adhering to the announced times when no one else does helps us justify our elitist leanings.

Some of our on-time-ness has been compromised in recent years; having a number of kids will do that to you. But we still manage to arrive most of the time according to the “official” schedule, whether for a wedding, lecture, entertainment event, or dinner.

I confess I find it difficult to comprehend a lifestyle that does not take such things seriously. I have a brother, one who reads this blog, in fact, whose approach to the issue differs markedly. There is much about him that I admire, but I simply cannot wrap my head – or my nerves – around the blasé attitude he and his family seem to have toward announced vs. actual times. We try to get him and his family to stay with us over the weekend every now and then, and even after many years, I find myself surprised and nervous each time they arrive long after the time they said they’d get here. It’s gotten to the point that Miggtha gets surprised at my still being surprised.

As for the meeting, I’m going right now. Old habits die hard.

Written by Thag

December 13, 2010 at 8:05 pm

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Beauty and the…Is that Chocolate?!

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Once upon a time there lived a beautiful princess in a shining castle. It shone because the maintenance staff were required to reapply the melted chocolate at regular intervals; that’s what the mistress of the manor wanted.

The mistress of the manor was the beautiful princess’s stepmother, who married the princess’s father, himself once a handsome prince. Daddy ran off with a young pixie several years before, and was not missed. Unlike most fairy-tale stepmothers, this one wasn’t all that bad to her stepdaughter: she had no jealously issues, nor a desire for vicarious fulfillment that only the younger woman could fulfill. No, the strained relationship grew mostly out of the stepmother’s utter cluelessness about teenagers.

The beautiful princess thought her stepmother was OK, but not, you know, cool or anything. They had a fine time every now and then at glamorous balls, but that had little to do with their relationship; the men there were just too good to be true, and provided good fodder for gossip.

And so it was: the handsome princes were prissy; the good-looking gentlemen were gropy; the dashing dukes were dull. The music was nice and the dancing went into the night, but inevitably, stepmother and stepdaughter would leave early, commiserating on the way home in their horse-drawn carriage just how dreadful the evening became after the smorgasbord. They found each other’s company pleasant, if not exactly thrilling, which is more than you could ask for from a teen-stepmom relationship, really, especially in a fairy tale.

The princess longed for a handsome, charming prince to whisk her away to a realm of gallantry, pageantry and all the usual magic. The stepmother wouldn’t mind fetching herself a fetching fellow, either, but was quite content for the time being, living off the estate that the king had awarded her as part of the generous divorce settlement. She had wanted to have her philandering ex-husband transformed into a frog, but the frog community would not allow it.

A dragon with a taste for chocolate discovered the castle one fine morning, and set about licking it from the turret tops. The maintenance staff fled in fear, raising the alarm throughout the countryside. Of course the countryside tends to be lightly populated; it would have been wiser to raise the alarm in the city, where more potential rescuers might await, but hey, we’re talking peasants here, not rocket scientists.

The stepmother rushed to the castle library, hoping to find some information on biodegradable dragon repellent. The princess, incensed at the beast’s rudeness, ran to the window nearest the dragon and screamed at him to leave, and besides, his breath stank. And who did his scales, anyway? They should be ashamed; didn’t they know that the pinkish hue clashed with his orange eyes?

That dragon stopped licking to listen to the lovely young woman’s tirade, not really understanding a word of it but clearly amused at the reaction he had generated. To show his appreciation for the attention, the dragon licked the princess’s face. The tremendous dragon tongue wound up licking more than just her face; it rubbed against the entire left side of her body, sending the princess screaming down the steps and into her chambers, where she spent the next two hours in the shower, scrubbing like mad and shuddering each time she recalled the experience. Eww.

Meanwhile, the stepmother had found some information on dragon repellent, and was trying to find an exterminator willing to use the biodegradable variety, with no success. She ran to the window to check on the dragon, and saw that the beast had licked one turret completely clean of its chocolate coating, as well as of its gargoyles. There even seemed to be shingle damage underneath it all; now the stepmother needed a roofer as well as an exterminator.

A young prince with a mighty steed heard the news and galloped toward the castle. He beheld the dragon squatting next to the castle’s highest turret and gulped. Perhaps a change of strategy was in order.

The prince – who was of course handsome; they don’t let you be a prince in a fairy tale if you’re not handsome – galloped into town and bought as much Godiva chocolate as his mighty steed could carry, and made the vendor’s day; he couldn’t sell that much in a typical week, let alone a single afternoon, and the day was yet young. The chocolate rendered the prince even more attractive to the maidens, but he ignored them and galloped right back to the castle, circling the dragon and whacking its toenails with the sack of chocolates.

The dragon, who clearly knew a thing or two about chocolate, lunged at the prince, who jinked and dodged each of the dragon’s thrusts. He galloped into the woods as the dragon began circling overhead, waiting for the chocolate to emerge from the woods so he could devour it. Having smelled the best, he could not go back to the inferior roofing chocolate. It was OK, he supposed, if you had no standards, like most beings, but, being a genuine chocophile, there was no way he could settle for that compound stuff anymore.

The fearless prince left the chocolate in the woods and returned to the castle, where the beautiful princess was drying her hair. Her stepmother told her of the prince and the chocolate, and together they went down to greet their savior.

As he dismounted and bowed, the three of them spotted an angry mob of villagers. Enraged at what they thought was a colossal waste of precious resources, the townspeople stormed toward the prince, intent on beating the stuffing out of him for leaving such a huge amount of primo chocolate somewhere in the forest. The three of them took shelter in the castle and raised the drawbridge.

The dragon, meanwhile, had found the chocolate and disposed of it as daintily as he could, which doesn’t say much. Then he returned to the castle, because, hey, maybe they had more. He immediately spotted the pitchfork-waving mob and swooped over them, scattering them to the four winds. The prince and the two women waved at him from a turret window, and he came to a soft landing in the garden, where he waited until they came to greet him.

The prince and the dragon took up residence with the princess and her stepmother. After a suitably modern period of living together, the prince and princess finally got married. The stepmother and the dragon collaborated on the catering; the wedding colors were brown and dark brown. The four of them made a point of inviting only ugly but courteous people. And they all lived happily ever after.

Written by Thag

December 13, 2010 at 3:53 pm