Monday, December 12, 2011

Could The Anti-Christ Be A Woman?

I've never been much on religion.  I don't pretend to subscribe to any particular dogma, other than I believe in God because the alternative is too depressing to contemplate.
I also believe in a lot of what Darwin had to say, although I just can't buy into the notion that the intricate functions of a pancreas or gall bladder are really the result of a genetic crap shoot played out over millions of years.
There are big chunks of the Bible I don't believe, mostly because I know that the whole thing was written by human beings, and I know humans tend to lie and exaggerate for their own gains.  But I still enjoy a lot of it, and many of the stories make for excellent drama.
One of the things that appeals to me about most religions is the symbiotic balance contained in their tomes.  If there's a Heaven, there must be a Hell.  If there's good, there must be evil.  If you believe in God, you must also allow for the existence of Satan. 
Along with the more mainstream interpretations of religion are scenarios depicted by zealots.  While I hate having anything forced down my throat, including sweets, and as a general rule I dislike any group that claims to have cornered the market on truth or are in sole possession of the secrets leading to "the way," I also enjoy some of the wild stories they are able to concoct in their quest to scare and sway the undecided.
For example, while there are tons of folks who believe Jesus will one day return to the earth, there's another faction that believes that the "Anti-Christ" is also on his way, if he isn't already here.
Blend into that confection a claim by a small minority that God is actually a woman.  I like that idea, and their arguments make sense.  God created mankind.  When you consider childbirth, bringing forth life is kind of a feminine gig.
Kindness, patience, virtue, and other touch-feely concepts from the New Testament also sit a little heavier on the female side of the ledger.  (The Old Testament God was a bit of a bully.  Just ask Abraham.  But as a lot of modern day troublemakers have shown, men tend to calm down a bit once they become fathers.)
Using these tidbits, I proffer the following:
If it's possible that God is a woman, is it possible that the Anti-Christ might also be female?
I know a lot of guys who would jump on this concept, and quickly hold up their ex-wives as potential candidates.
Because I'm not into religion, I don't know a lot about the Anti-Christ, other than what I've read in the "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins.  One of the big traits is that Jesus' counterpart will be known as "The Great Deceiver."
I could get into a whole discussion on who makes better liars, men or women.
Comedian Chris Rock did an excellent examination of this question in his show "Bigger and Blacker." 
"Men lie the most, women tell the biggest lies," Rock explained.  "A man's lie is like, 'I was at Tony's house.'  A woman's lie is like, 'It's your baby.'"
Both sexes are guilty of the sin.  So if both are capable, why couldn't the Great Deceiver be a woman?
I've looked for "signs" among current celebrities.
For the longest time, I was convinced Sarah Palin was a candidate for the position.  The job of Anti-Christ may be the only one for which she hasn't actively campaigned at one time or another.  Then I realized that the Anti-Christ is probably going to be a little smarter than a half-term ex-governor from Alaska who has to write crib notes on her hand and punctuates her most meaningful dialogue with "you betcha."
Ditto for Lindsay Lohan, who embodies a version of the old joke: "Q - How do you know when Lindsay Lohan is lying when she's in court?   A - Her lips are moving."  A lot of young girls have followed her like she's the Pied Piper equipped with a bag full of Ecstacy instead of a flute.  But her appeal pretty much ends there, although she's sure to pick up some new male fans when her spread appears in Playboy next month.
I think some votes could go in the direction of Kristen Stewart, the mopey actress from the "Twilight" film series.  She's made millions convincing teenagers that everyone should aspire to become a member of the undead, whether vampire or werewolf.
Casey Anthony would also be a reasonable nominee for the role.  It requires true evil to kill your own child, and the guile of a gifted Anti-Christ to convince 12 jurors that you didn't do it when every scrap of evidence and reason indicates otherwise.
And how could anyone leave Hilary Clinton off a list of potential candidates for female Anti-Christ?  Although, she's been so uninspiring in the last three years that few people would bother to follow her to the bathroom at an all-you-can-drink frat party.
On the male side, it's still easy to find likely options for Anti-Christ, so long as Dick Cheney continues to breathe and Newt Gingrich continues to run for president.
And you can bet the Obama haters are sure to nominate our current president as a likely candidate for the Dark Lord's throne. 
Of course, if you believe those same haters about our president's religion, it's pretty unlikely since Muslims don't count as Christians (even though they believe in Christ), and therefore couldn't technically qualify for the job of Anti-Christ.
So if there really is an Anti-Christ in the offing, who do you think it might be?  And is it possible that the job could be filled by a woman?  And if so, would the Anti-Christ also earn about two-thirds of what a male Anti-Christ would make for the same job?

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Trauma Of Buying A New Christmas Tree

Workman Christmas Tree
I broke one of my personal taboos recently, and the shopping gods punished me accordingly.
I usually don't do any Christmas shopping until after Dec. 10.  It's one of those quirky things about me, like insisting that Christmas presents get opened Christmas Day instead of Christmas Eve, and the fact that I don't eat my dessert until after dinner.
On the weekend closest to Dec. 10 each year, I inflict holiday torture on my family with what I call "Christmas Spirit Day."  On that day, I used to tie our children to the sofa with garland and force feed them a non-stop lineup of old Christmas movies like "Miracle on 34th Street" (the colorized version), "It's A Wonderful Life" (the black and white version), "Scrooge" (the 1951 version of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" with Alastair Sim, the absolute best version ever made), "Scrooged" (the comedy version of "A Christmas Carol" with Bill Murray, the second-best version ever made), the Jim Carrey version of "The Grinch Who Stole Christmas," "A Christmas Story" with Ralphie and his Red Ryder BB gun, and my all time favorite Christmas movie, "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and George Clooney's aunt Rosemary.
When all the movies were done, or after the children managed to chew through the garland, my wife would make hot chocolate and we would decorate the Christmas tree and put up holiday decorations inside and outside the house.  I can tell you that the hot chocolate part of the tradition was another form of torture back when we lived in Florida, where drinking a hot beverage in 80-degree weather could cause another Southern holiday tradition called heat stroke.
The movies and decorating were intended to put all of us in the mood, and make it easier for me to crack open my wallet for the trip to the North Pole (also known, then and now, as Walmart).
Filled with the Christmas spirit, shopping wasn't such a burden; also, since Christmas carols were verboten around our house until Dec. 10, I wasn't yet sick of the Muzak arrangements of "Silver Bells" and "Little Drummer Boy" force fed into the speaker systems at the stores and malls since just after Labor Day.
This year, we bent a little early on the rule.  We're still going to watch all of the Christmas movies on Dec. 10 (our youngest daughter is now 21, old enough to tie herself to the couch), but I relented on an early shopping trip over the weekend, a full week before the legal start of the shopping season at the Workman hacienda.  That's because you can't decorate a Christmas tree without...a Christmas tree.
We've had the same artificial Scotch pine since 2002, the year after we moved to the desert, and it was getting a little worn.  You know your fake tree is too old when it sheds more needles coming out of the box than a real tree does by Dec. 28.
So we went in search of a new tree.
Within two hours, it began to look like there wouldn't be any presents UNDER the tree this year because our entire Christmas budget was going to get blown ON the tree. 
Our first stop was in a craft store that boasted it had trees for sale.
I quickly realized that whoever was responsible for putting the price tags on those trees needed to step away from the glue gun and its fumes.  The first one we looked at was $400.
To be fair, it was pre-lit, which is how most trees are sold these days.
Initially, I thought a pre-lit tree was a great idea.  It meant one less step in the tree-erecting process, and a lot fewer four-letter words on Christmas Spirit day at our house while the patriarch tries to untangle the strings of lights from the previous Christmas (and one less trip to the North Pole/Walmart to buy four more boxes of lights to replace the tangled ones after the patriarch yells "Scrooge it" and throws away the lights bought last year).
At the next stop, a big-box home improvement store whose name in no way resembles its pricing structure (the store would be called "Highs" if that were the case), we found pre-lit trees in the $200-300 range.  Unfortunately, even with the built-in lights, the trees were so scraggly looking that even Charlie Brown would have taken a pass.  How scraggly were they?  There are Las Vegas strippers that aren't as bare as some of those trees.
I was beginning to think that maybe a home-made Christmas tree was in order.  I was pretty sure I could take an old broom, spray the handle with a light adhesive, then wave it around under the bed where the family cat sleeps, and still have a version of fake tree that looked fuller than anything we had seen so far.
On our way out of Highs, irony got a chance to slap me upside the head.  There, we found a display of real trees, priced anywhere from $30 to $60.  One of the reasons we bought a fake tree back in 2002 was because it was cheaper than buying a real one.  Guess those days are gone forever.
Finally we ended up at the rich-man's Walmart, a store we affectionately refer to as "Bullseyes" or "Tar-jay" (said with a redneck French accent). 
There, we finally found the 2011 Workman tree.
It doesn't have any lights, isn't pre-decorated, and is full and bushy enough that you can't see the rods and wires to which the green pipe cleaners are attached.  It also has uncomplicated instructions that basically say "attach section A to section B; attach section B to section C; attach section C into the decorative plastic tree stand."  The only thing missing is a little white warning label that reads "this is an artificial tree - do not water." 
It was "only" $85.
So when Dec. 10 rolls around, we'll have something to decorate at the Workman castle.  Now if only our worn out 15-year-old video tapes can withstand one more go-round in an ancient contraption called a "VCR," my family can enjoy another year of hearing Jimmy Stewart yelling "Merry Christmas, movie house" while drinking hot chocolate in the middle of the desert.

Monday, November 28, 2011

New Bra Gives Your Butt A Lift

You knew it had to happen.
In this, the dawning of the age of Kardashian (which is a little bit noisier, a lot more vacuous, and has more hair than the age of Aquarius), baby's gotta got back.
A new product developed by a California psychologist provides what every saggy-seated woman dreams of: a butt lift.
This sounds like the kind of farcical product to be featured in between Saturday Night Live skits, but it's actually a new fashion device that is getting a lot of attention among the fashionazis. 
The contraption looks like looped garters, with adjustable straps going around the outside of each buttock and rejoining between the legs.  The effect is to add a little J-Lo to every woman's backside.
The makers call it the "Biniki," referring to it as a bra for the butt.
It's hard to understand why fashionazis hate women so much.  The joke is that the fashion industry today is controlled by gay men, who compete to prove just how anti-woman they are by contriving the ugliest, most uncomfortable clothing possible.  That may or may not be true, but there's no denying that mid-century prisoners of war endured tortures that were far less painful than an eight-hour shift on seven-inch heels.  It's no wonder that men complain their women want to talk to them non-stop when they get home from work, since they've endured a full day of discomfort usually imposed by German SS officers insisting that their subject "talk, you swine!" 
Similarly, the only way the underwire on a woman's bra could be any more uncomfortable is if they connected it to a couple of 12-volt truck batteries and turned the amperage knob to "full."
Then you have the "Wonderbra," which improves the appearance of a woman's cleavage, but also leaves men to "wonder" why any woman would go through such extreme and uncomfortable lengths to perpetrate the hoax of an overstated ta-ta size on the public.
And that doesn't even include the liquid-filled bra, which is as close to water torture as the Geneva Convention will allow.
To its credit, the new butt bra is likely to attract a man's attention; not only because of the enhanced derriere illusion it provides, but because it's similarity to the lifting chains and straps of a car engine hoist is sure to intrigue every gearhead at bedtime.
The new device is getting a lot of attention and is sure to keep the California psychologist in cash for several lifetimes, leaving most former therapy patients desperate to ask the newly-enriched couch jockey "how does that make you feel?"
Since I'm big on bandwagon jumping, I've come up with a few inventions of my own, in hopes that one of them will catch on among the fashion firing squads, including:
  • "The UPS" - this is a contraption that fits like men's underwear, but includes enormous and bulky padding in the front that will give women the impression that the wearer is sporting an impressive "package."
  • "The Convertible Chest" - the early iterations of this product will be like a large sheet of smooth, flesh colored Band-Aid tape that a man can stick to his chest.  It will give the illusion of a smooth, hairless torso for women who are turned off by the hairy-chested Guido look, while allowing a man the option of maintaining his inner wildebeest for those female companions and cat lovers who like to have something tangled and matted to run their fingers through at bedtime.  A companion product, the "Convertible Back," applies the same theory to help men who have been mistaken for escaped zoo-dwellers when viewed from behind at the beach.  The only hang-up in early research development is that few Neanderthal types have been willing to put the no-hair-pulling adhesive to the test, especially after watching reruns of the waxing scene from "The 40-year-old Virgin."
  • "The Maniki" - just like the Biniki, it is a device men wear which will make their butts protrude, filling out their Wranglers to Brett Favre proportions.  The truth is that the accoutrement is actually nothing more than a jock strap, which is the secret behind why women lust after NFL running backs, and adds credence to the rumor that Kim Kardashian actually dumped former boyfriend Reggie Bush because she realized that his butt looked better than hers whenever he trotted onto the field in his New Orleans Saints uniform.
  • "The Rocktavia" - similar to Octavia dresses worn by curvy actresses like Kate Winslet that give the illusion of a slimmer waistline, the Rocktavia uses strategically placed reflective strips and holographic tape to hide a man's beer belly, while giving the illusion of a "six pack" with a series of a half-dozen bean bags sewn into the shirt's abdominal lining.
For now, these man-friendly ideas are still in the drawing board phase.  However, the Biniki is already a reality, and continuing to grow in popularity.  You'll know it has hit its peak when the Bravo Channel rolls out a new reality show this fall called "The Real Binikis of Orange County."

Monday, November 21, 2011

Pocket Protector Pit Crew At CERN Insists Einstein Was Wrong

CERN's Hadron Collider, where scientists claim they have
discovered neutrinos are faster than the speed of light, as
long as the light comes from a three-wheeled scooter. 
It gives me great pleasure to announce that genius extraordinaire Albert Einstein was wrong.
To me, it's not really important what the frizzy-haired whiz was wrong about.  It could be an errant answer in a game of Trivial Pursuit and I would celebrate his mistake.
I say this because the guy who turned the cryptic equation E=MC2 into a successful t-shirt franchise was known as the smartest man on the planet until he died in 1955 from terminal stubbornness.  It was actually an aortal aneurism that laid him low, but it was a correctable malady even in 1955 when surgical tools still included leeches and chopsticks.  Einstein simply opted not to have the surgery.
So now we're aware of the German-born scientist making two mistakes in his life.  The second one was outed recently by the guys with the big electron race car track called CERN near Geneva.
According to Einstein, nothing in the universe is faster than the speed of light.  Unfortunately, that's because Old Al lived in the first half of the 20th century.  Since then, there have been a lot of things shown to be faster than that, including:
  • A Kardashian marriage
  • A Lindsay Lohan jail stay
  • The length of an American Idol winner's career
  • The shelf life of a Hostess Twinkie at Rosie O'Donnell's house
  • The time spent on Jessica Simpson's deepest thought
  • How long after election it takes a new Congressman to accept his first bribe
According to the guys at CERN, Einstein was incorrect.  They claim that recent tests at their Hadron Collider prove that a particle called a neutrino is actually 60 nanoseconds faster than the speed of light.
I find it hilarious and telling that you can take a collection of mostly men with diplomas listing more advanced degrees than a Redman tobacco thermometer, give them a couple of billion dollars, and the first thing they do is build a 17-mile oval race track and start holding races and time trials.  I guess the white coats help really set off the red of their necks.
However, I'm not sure I buy their hypothesis.
How long is a nanosecond?  Who knows.  Not even Bulova can make a watch that will measure such a minute (pronounced "my-newt," not "min-nut," which is my ghastly attempt at a pun) fraction of time.  But it seems to get the guys in white lab coats all excited like Tony Stewart's crew chief following a 12-second pit stop.
The bigger question remains, "what is a neutrino?"
I got out my biggest Egghead-to-English translation dictionary only to find that it basically means "little neutral one" in Italian.  It's allegedly like an electron, but without being electrically charged.  It's neither positive nor negative. 
In other words, it's as completely politically correct as they come. 
But I believe that those guys are as wrong as Einstein.  As Congress has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt for more than three decades, nothing in nature is completely neutral.
However, the brainiacs in Switzerland insist that neutrinos exist.  The skeptical newspaper man in me suspects that the neutrinos also have an exquisite wardrobe made with the finest thread that only those with superior IQ's can see and appreciate (which would lead me to label them "emperor neutrinos").
I find it fascinating that people have been seeing actual ghosts for centuries, including documented and photographed proof of their antics.  Yet scientists continue to insist that ghosts don't exist, but that we should believe in these mystical neutrinos despite the fact that you could take all the PhD's in the world who claim to have "seen" a neutrino, and they could comfortably fit into the space of a single Spock Ears booth at a Des Moines Star Trek convention.
Who would have thought that the Mensa crowd would glom onto a phrase that used car salesmen wore out a quarter-century ago: "Trust me."
But to me the important thing remains the fact that a collection of virginal electron nerds armored with pocket protectors on both sides of their shirts insist that the smartest guy ever to walk the planet was wrong. 
If I had a nickel for every time someone pointed out a mistake in my writing with the suffix "Workman, you're no Einstein," I could now cash them in and be a millionaire.  But more importantly thanks to the new claim by the pit crew at the CERN race track, that Einstein was also occasionally wrong, I now have a flawless retort:
Apparently, yes I am.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Race Between Christmas And Politics

The race is on, and the two competitors couldn't be more different.
It's what some might call a "hurry up" race.  Others might refer to it as "the race to prematurity."
I'm talking about the insistence on starting earlier and earlier to hawk some event.
On the holiday side, it's no secret that Santa images started popping up about the same time Freddy Kruger knocked on your door.
People say it every year, and every year they're more correct: The Christmas season seems to start earlier and earlier.
This year, my e-mail box has been flooded with various stores and businesses helping me prepare for "Black Friday," that day of shopping madness that usually comes the day after Thanksgiving.
Probably the best evidence that incrementalism has helped the Ho-Ho holiday creep up earlier is the announcement by Walmart that their Black Friday will actually begin at 10 p.m. on Thursday.  That's right, for those who can still move after a day of epicurean excess, Walmart will be holding their first big blowout of the Christmas season with a sale on toys and video games at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night. Then at midnight comes the one that usually results in somebody getting a ride in an ambulance thanks to trampling injuries - the sale on electronics.
I always thought the Black Friday thing was indicative of the worst in our consumer society, ramping up our shopping fanaticism a full month before Rudolph needed to get his nose shined up.  Sneaking that starting pistol to Thursday night, infringing on the Thanksgiving holiday's territory, is simply wrong.
The arrival of TV ads and Christmas themed music also comes earlier and earlier.  In fact, and I'm not kidding, I actually came across the movie "The Santa Clause" playing on TV over the weekend.  (For those reading this in the future, I'm talking about Nov. 12.)
We used to joke every January that instead of taking down our holiday decorations, we should just go ahead and leave them up year round.
Thanks to the folks on Madison Avenue, that joke gets less funny each season. 
You'll know the race to start Christmas shopping early has gone too far the day you see Santa and the Easter Bunny duking it out in your front yard some April.
But it's not just the retailers with an impatience bone.
It's not just an illusion that the race for president is starting earlier and earlier.
The next president of the United States won't be sworn in until Jan. 20, 2013.  Yet here we are, in the early part of November, 2011, and we've already been forced to endure no less than a dozen televised presidential debates.  (And I use the term loosely, since I've yet to see any "debating" take place at one of these events; it's actually just a compilation of candidates taking turns offering carefully crafted competing 120-second sound bites.)
I remember the good old days, when people didn't get sick of presidential politics until the national conventions fired up in the summer.
Here it is only November of 2011, a full year before the election, and I'm already tired of hearing from and about the candidates.  Even as protracted and fake-dramatic as American Idol can be, the nonsense and final voting are wrapped up in less than two months.
You used to have to wait until the spring of an election year for political scandals to erupt.  Now we have the Herman Cain sexual harassment claims getting front page publicity at the same time Santa is making his first appearances in the Sunday newspaper.
The first primary is yet to be held, and we've already had people dropping out of the race.  It's like holding the time qualification laps for February's Daytona 500 sometime around July.
The TV personalities and political junkies were wetting themselves over the Iowa straw poll in August.  A testament to just how meaningless these early straw polls can be is the fact that the winner of the Ames straw poll just three months ago is now about one "debate" away from going back to selling Avon.
It's ridiculous how early these presidential campaigns are starting these days, and rivals the early-Christmas dope pushers for impatient stupidity.
Personally, I'm hoping to solve both problems at the same time.
If I'm able to keep my eyes open long enough to continue paying attention, I'm going to listen very carefully to the next 30 or 40 televised debates.  The first candidate to state that they will support legislation prohibiting the mention of the words "Christmas" or "Holiday Shopping" between January and November, or who promises to change the Constitution to restrict presidential campaigns to only be permitted in an actual election year, will get my support and vote.
Provided, of course, that candidate is still in the race when the next babbling, cooing, drooling, caca-producing, gibberish-spouting political twins are born at the national conventions nine months from now.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Missing Andy Rooney

You know what really bugs me?  Writing heroes who die before I'm ready.
That would be a perfect opening for one of Andy Rooney's patented "60 Minutes" pieces.
His topics on TV made him famous, but I admire him because the CBS gig was actually like a side job for him.
Andy Rooney, at his core, was a writer.
In addition to his weekly TV appearances, he also wrote for numerous TV shows, including Arthur Godfrey's "Talent Scouts," an early precursor to American Idol in which the studio audience chose the winners with applause instead of texts.
He was also a newspaper columnist, and wrote a few books.  In his younger years, he served as a war correspondent for Stars and Stripes in World War II.
In fact, he often described himself as "a writer who happens to be on TV," instead of the other way around.
I've often thought that, if I could design my perfect job, it would be his.  In fact, I've caught myself on occasion writing articles that had a distinct Rooney feel while railing about one thing or another.  He was able to walk a fine line, offering views on topical issues without actually becoming a critic or political commentator.  His stuff wasn't particularly hard hitting, but it also wasn't fluff.  It was always, however, entertaining.
The irascible observationist didn't shy away from his unofficial title as "curmudgeon."  But despite his diatribes, I never felt he was truly mean.  In fact, he once commented that he hadn't said anything on "60 Minutes" that people didn't already know or hadn't thought.
According to a Washington Post piece, Rooney once said "A writer's job is to tell the truth."
I've always subscribed to that philosophy, and was always pleased that his fame didn't corrupt that approach.
He was a principled man.  When CBS refused to run a piece he had written about the Vietnam War in 1970, he quit the network.  He later returned in 1973. 
He spoke his mind and didn't apologize for being politically incorrect.  However, when he was wrong, he was man enough to admit it, as he did when a remark made about homosexuals resulted in his month-long suspension at CBS.  (Incidentally it was supposed to be a two-month suspension, but after viewership dropped 20%, he was reinstated early.)  In his televised apology in which he talked about trying to do good things for most of his life, he said "Now, I was to be known for having done, not good, but bad. I'd be known for the rest of my life as a racist bigot and as someone who had made life a little more difficult for homosexuals. I felt terrible about that and I've learned a lot."
Rooney also stated frequently that "writers don't retire." He lived that statement, continuing to do his "60 Minutes" segments right up until Oct. 2.  Like Alabama football coaching legend Paul "Bear" Bryant who died barely a month after coaching his last game, Rooney died almost exactly one month after his last "60 Minutes" segment aired.  He was 92.
While the writer and TV personality said he didn't believe in God, I'm sure he has found plenty of great writers to keep him company on the other side of the veil, including brilliant columnists like Lewis Grizzard and author Michael Crichton. 
On this side, he'll be missed.  As much as I've dreamed of being like him in some of my writings, I know that there will never be another Andy Rooney.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Insurance Ghost Needed

I wish my house was haunted. 
To be honest, my internal jury is still out on the existence of ghosts.  I mean, I've seen some things in my life that can't be explained away by a mere Jim Beam overindulgence, but I also have doubts. 
However, I'm a horror fiction writer.  A part of me is required to believe.  I'm not sure, but I think it's part of the Horror Fiction Writers Union credo that belief in ghosts, vampires, werewolves, zombies, soulless night walkers, Lindsey Lohan, and other members of the undead is a requirement.  To give in to the notion that beings from beyond the veil don't exist might call into question my integrity as a professional story-maker-upper.
So I'm going to go on the record here and make the bold and firm statement that I believe ghosts might possibly sort-of maybe could theoretically have the opportunity to perhaps exist.  Or not. 
That said, if ghosts do exist, I wish one would set up shop in my residence.
It's not that I relish coming face to face with one of Casper's rogue brethren, or that I desire sleepless nights caused by rattling chains.  The truth is, I'm already awakened nearly every night around 3:15 a.m. by the rattling chains of my dog's collar, because Cree has this deeply-entrenched habit of wanting to go outside and pee on something at exactly that time.  It gives a whole new meaning to the term "wee" hours of the morning.  Midnight is the Witching hour, but for Cree, 3:15 a.m. is the Whizzing hour.
My reason for wanting a manifestation infestation is to combat the effects of old age.
Here's what I mean:
I find that some of my personal belongings occasionally become misplaced.  Keys, pens, sticky notes, a wallet...these are just a few of the things that I sometimes have difficulty locating.
Because I've been on the planet more than half a century, I'm concerned that those misplaced gadgets could be attributed to my aging, forgetful mind.  It's not an alternative I like to consider.  It would be much better if I had someone or something else to blame.
Before I got married, missing items such as these were easily chalked up to the reference I made earlier about Mr. Beam.  After a night at the bar (I used to be a performing musician), it would be a completely reasonable claim that the bourbon was responsible for my missing keys, missing wallet, or missing car.
Then I got married.  One of the advantages to having small children in the house is that they are easy to accuse for objects that have gone AWOL.  For starters, they usually did it.  And even when they didn't, the precedent has been established, which as any good lawyer will tell you is almost as good as actual evidence or confessions.
Now that the kids are all grown, it's tougher to hang missing goods at their doorstep. 
So who do I blame today when I can't find my iPhone, or my toenail clippers go missing?
If I had a good, legitimate ghost to blame, I would feel a lot better. 
I could also pawn off other inconveniences on such an entity.
For example, I have left my desk in the morning with a stack of 20 papers on it, only to return in the afternoon to find 40 pages there. 
The papers on my desk seem to be multiplying like uncaged rabbits that have nibbled through someone's Viagra garden.
My desk is always a mess, always overrun with books, boxes, paper, pens, and unencumbered office supplies, even after I just finished cleaning it.
I wanted to blame alien civil servants, figuring they were likely candidates to be so obsessed with paperwork that they would come to Earth and inundate an innocent piece of furniture with their paper mill excrement of forms, instructions, and reminders.
Then I remembered that I don't believe in aliens.
It would be much easier if I could claim that the office in my house is haunted by the ghost of a former insurance agent.  I've been in that business, so I know how enamored those in the indemnity industry can be with higher and higher piles of paper.  In fact, I was in the insurance business back when computers were really taking over and the term "paperless office" became a popular catchphrase.  What I remember best about those times was the fact that the volume of printed materials actually quadrupled under the "paperless" mantra.  (It wasn't the computer's fault; the PC's evil cousin, The Printer, was to blame.)
An insurance agent ghost would also be a genuine explanation for misplaced items.  Whenever my favorite pen isn't on my nightstand where I insist I left it, I could blame the Prudential poltergeist for moving it when the pen turns up on the living room end table the next day.
In a perfect world, the Allstate apparition would be married for time and eternity to an expired laundress, which would explain the thousands of right socks and monogrammed handkerchiefs that have gone missing from our dryer over the last 10 years.
Unfortunately, one of the disadvantages to living in a newer house devoid of ghastly histories involving murder and mayhem is that I can't conjure up tales of headless John Hancock agents wandering the hallway in possession of my always-absent scissors.
So for now I'll have to continue finding new and creative ways of blaming the dog whenever things go missing from my desk, a claim that will have little credence until the next time I find my keys near a wet spot on the lawn at 3:15 a.m.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Kutcher Whining Typical Of Fame Whores

One of the things you've got to love about celebrities is how they complain about the media. 
The latest whiner is Ashton Kutcher, Demi Moore's boy toy.
He has recently taken to the internet to claim that the media needs to work harder to confirm their stories and to be more honest in their reporting.
This comes after reports that he and Demi are on the outs, and further allegations that he slept with a girl on his 6-year wedding anniversary that not only wasn't his 48 year old wife, but also wasn't even half his wife's age.
Any time a Hollywood celebrity complains about how he or she is treated by the media, I can't help but crack up.
Before they are famous, so many of these untalented wannabes hump the leg of every photog in Southern California in hopes that their face will show up in one of the celeb-rags.  They will do just about anything to gain a little bit of press, including marrying someone who happens to be just a few years younger than their own mom.
You'll find these fame whores having animated conversations with restaurant doors just because they see the word "press" next to the handle.  (They never have anything to say to the side of the door that says "pull.")
On the rise, their reps set up interviews and meetings with anyone who even remotely resembles a reporter, which is how so many up and coming stars wind up visiting homeless shelters on a regular basis.  (In Hollywood, as in most places, there isn't a big difference in appearance between a freelance paparazzi and a street beggar.  For that matter, there isn't a big difference in conduct, either.)
Once these scumbags (the rising stars, not the reporters) achieve a certain level of fame, made possible only because those paps snapped plenty of pictures and gave plenty of exposure, they suddenly begin treating the photogs like rabid lepers.  They save their choicest insults, and occasionally their best umbrella beatings for the reporters that helped them get where they are.
Then when these Hollywood slugs (still talking about the rising stars) break through to legitimate stardom, they all become Marcel Marceau when on the streets, offering silence and occasional pantomimed finger gestures to the flash-photography flock.
Finally, the anointed ones do what all Hollywood trash heaps do - they eventually mess up in a big way, like sleeping with a Highland Park transvestite hooker, or showing up to a gala function sans their Victoria Secrets.
Or sleeping with a 22-year-old bimbette on their anniversary.
When that happens, the celeb hogs who just weeks before were bragging about how many hundreds of thousands of followers they have on Twitter pull a Dick Cheney, going so far underground that steam shovel-equipped prairie dogs couldn't reach them.  All of a sudden they're not giving interviews, not taking calls from legitimate media trying to find the truth, not addressing allegations in press releases, and avoiding getting their pictures taken as if their latest gig was on "To Catch A Predator."
With that news blackout from the fame whore, the paparazzi and press are left with no alternative but to talk to other people, like the bimbette, the bimbette's dry cleaners, the fame whore's former stylist, and anybody else willing to do what the former glory hound will no longer do - talk.
Obviously, a reasonable person who has anything resembling a real life would ask "who cares about who so-and-so shtupped?"
Except, the answer is "almost everybody!" 
People are so fed up with the lies and spin printed in "legitimate" media about the latest Congressional inaction, and the deeply slanted partisan rhetoric that now passes for "news," that they don't even bother to pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV news anymore. If they're going to hear untruths and fabrications anyway, I guess readers figure it might as well be salacious and feature names they recognize and can pronounce involving places they can actually find on a map.
In the case of Kutcher and his ilk, the paparazzi and credible reporters have done such a good job over the years of building up the celeb to demigod status that they've created a national appetite to know everything about that person.  Including their fallacies and weaknesses.
So the celeb goes silent when trouble hits, then wants to complain when the press prints stories that the celeb didn't sanction or spin.  They spout snarky little snippets on their Facebook accounts, then bitch when their cryptic messages gets turned into something they didn't want and can't control.
I guess one of the reasons I love these melodramas so much is that this tabloid fare is, sadly, the last bastion of pure journalism.  No matter how rich, how famous, how powerful a celebrity might be, it won't stop the minimum-wage Canon jockey from spilling the beans on the front page of the National Enquirer.  Unlike "legitimate" media whose silence can be purchased with a full-page ad by a wealthy oil company, the tabloids have no fear in pursuing and printing the story.  They can't be bought off, and they aren't intimidated by someone's status or their lineup of high-powered attorneys.
So the celebrity goes down in flames while insisting their privacy has been violated.  A celebrity that was created and vaunted by the same people that eventually brought balance back to the world by telling the smelly truth about just how scummy these demigods are.
In Hollywood, it's simply the circle of life.
No matter what Ashton Kutcher may Tweet.

Monday, October 17, 2011

I Want Jon Stewart's Slacker Schedule

The Daily Show's Jon
Stewart has more days
off than an air conditioner
in Anchorage.
I'm a big fan of Jon Stewart, the host of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show."  I'm not bothered by his left-leaning approach to news or humor.
What I am bothered by is his work schedule.
It seems he is doing his best these days to embody and confirm allegations by F0x and the GOP (which are one and the same) that anyone who doesn't wear a red pachyderm on his underwear is a lazy slacker.
To say that Jon Stewart takes a lot of days off is like saying that a contestant on "The Biggest Loser" occasionally eats food.
Stewart gets more days off every year than a California school teacher (with or without government shutdowns), and almost as many days off annually as George W. Bush did during his presidency.
The jury is still out on which guy takes more mid-day naps, as it's a carefully guarded statistic protected by the Secret Service.
For starters, Stewart's show only airs four days a week.  On the fifth day, he's a re-run.
To be honest, I'm a little bit jealous that I didn't think of this idea when I was a newspaper editor.  Had I been a little smarter, I would have made myself a re-run once a week.  The previous week's car crash or house fire would have gotten an "encore" in Monday's online front page.
But I can live with Stewart's four-day work week.  The day off gives me a chance to see what else passes for comedy on the inaptly named Comedy Central network.  So far, videos of skateboarders taking crotch shots on stairway banisters or grandma losing her underwear at her grandson's wedding reception qualify as high-brow humor on Tosh.0 and similar CC offerings.
Yes, you just can't beat cutting edge humor honed in the crucible of Dick Clark and Ed McMahon's "TV Bloopers and Practical Jokes" circa 1982.
However, it's not just Stewart's short work week that irks me.
It's the fact that he takes more vacations than a travel reporter for Conde Nast.
There are unemployed people who work more than Stewart and his crew.
I'm pretty sure the human resources office at the Daily Show studio plans his work schedule like this:  4th of July = week off.  Easter = week off.  Groundhog Day = week off.  Rosh Hashana = week off.  Arbor Day = week off.  If there is a traditional holiday, whether Jewish, Christian, or secular, Stewart doesn't take that day off.  He takes that entire week off.
Then at the end of the year, he's like a civil servant who's accrued too many unused sick days, taking the last two weeks off like he's going to lose them if he doesn't use them.
It would probably be easier to just figure out which days he DOES work, circle them in red on the calendar, and decorate the office accordingly.
"Jon's gonna be here today!  Hooray!"
Newsman Walter Cronkite has been dead for two years, and he STILL has a busier broadcast schedule than Stewart.
He should be embarrassed that Osama bin Laden showed up on TV more frequently while in hiding than the Daily Show host.
To his credit, when he does appear, Stewart is nothing short of brilliant.  Sometimes I wonder if he is the illegitimate result of Nobel Prize winner Henry Kissinger sleeping with Lucille Ball. 
When Stewart interviews authors, diplomats, or presidential candidates, he's adept and learned.  When facing off with vapid Hollywood stars hawking their latest movie, he's funny and quick, able to elevate the IQ points in a room with little more than a raised eyebrow.
Only in my wildest non-sexual fantasies could I ever get anywhere close to being as smart as he is.
I just wish he could figure out how a calendar operates.
Every time I turn on the TV and tune in to Comedy Central in anticipation of getting my nightly news fix, I'm never sure if it's going to be Stewart at his topically comedic best, or a rerun of dated zingers about that nutty President Clinton's latest sexcapade because Stewart was on another vacation for National Jelly Bean Day.
He could be the spokesperson for an old recording tape company, because with Stewart you never know "is it live, or is it Memorex?"
It's indicative of today's America, where some people have to work 50 hours a week at hard, physically demanding jobs just to make enough to scrape by while others get paid millions to sit behind a desk and crack jokes.  The higher you go up the socio-economic ladder, the less you work and the more you get paid for it.
But I guess it could be worse.
Stewart could be Bill Maher, the host of HBO's "Real Time," where Maher spends an hour on TV once a week for about 26 weeks a year doing basically the same thing that Stewart does.
Once again, it just makes me wish I was funnier or smarter.  Someday I'd like to be good enough that I only have to work one day a year and still be known and loved the world over.
Unfortunately, that job is filled until the next time the guy slides off Tim Allen's roof.
If that ever happens, one thing you can count on: Jon Stewart will be off that week.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stay Away From Las Vegas

 The famed slogan for Sin City is "What happens here, stays here."

What the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority fails to tell visitors from Des Moines is the reason that it "stays here."
It's because whatever happens here stays stuck on the freeway.
Prepare yourself for a hot news flash.
There's road construction on I-15 going on right now in Las Vegas.
Even if you're reading this missive online in 2019, the statement remains as true as it is here in 2011.
The reason someone reading this in Pascagoula won't find this funny is the part that the tourism board never mentions in their four-color brochures:
There is ALWAYS road construction on I-15 in Las Vegas.
Wait, let me rephrase that:
There are always barricades, orange barrels, orange cones, orange signs that say "Road Work Ahead," and flashing signs that read "No, seriously, there's road work ahead, honest"; detours that dead-end at empty shopping malls; and even the occasional pileup of earth moving equipment and paving machinery on a gravelly shoulder.
To be honest, I go to Vegas about once a month to deliver some poor unfortunate rural dweller to McCarron Airport (which has its own half-mile tunnel leading to the terminal that has been under constant repair since about 15 minutes after it opened.  I haven't been able to confirm the likely rumor that the project was actually the defect-prone model for Boston's Big Dig).
During these semi-monthly trips along I-15 over the last eight years, I've yet to see an actual construction worker doing anything on the other side of those orange barrels, cones, and signs.  I'm pretty sure the Audobon Society has an entire page devoted to the rarely seen "Orange Vested Reflective Striped Hardhatted Pavement Layer" that is rumored to visit a construction site in Vegas almost as often as cicadas make an appearance above ground.
There have been more verified sightings of Bigfoot than reports of someone actually working on a Las Vegas highway.
So as a public service, I'm warning out of state visitors to avoid coming to Las Vegas, unless you're flying in.  Customers with United, Delta, and American Airlines have already endured endless holdups and delays involved in getting on an airplane these days, including repeated security stops, crotch grabs, wanding, more I.D. checkpoints than an Iraqi Green Zone, and the incessant "did you pack your own bag?" question that outstrips in frequency and annoyance a three-year-old's fascination with saying "Mommy" 87 times in a row every 60 seconds.  Sitting at a dead stop for hours on a six-lane highway where signs saying "Speed Limit 65" will taunt you every 12 feet probably won't be much of a change from the torture of air travel. 
For such visitors, I strongly recommend taking a taxi from the airport to your hotel.  You'll still wind up stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, ensuring that a six mile trip will take 90 minutes.  However, you won't be the one wearing out your horn hand and middle finger (both of which you'll need at the slot machines and craps tables).
To the rest of the country thinking about driving to Las Vegas, I would recommend against it.  Goodness knows we need the tourism dollars, but my conscience won't allow me to encourage anyone to endure the Las Vegas equivalent of Chinese water torture, which is the technique of stranding visitors on I-15 near exit 46 where you can see the glittering Strip hotel that holds your reservation, but you simply cannot get to it.
Instead, if you really feel compelled to taste of the Las Vegas experience, do this:  Head to your bank and cash your most recent paycheck.  Then take your car to the nearest shopping center and park in the busiest section, but leave your car running.  Get out and place a shopping cart behind you so you aren't tempted to drive away after being stuck for two hours.  Roll up all your windows and turn on your heater to full, or until the thing conks out (which is what most air conditioners do on the Vegas interstate after sitting still in the passing lane for three hours at a throw).
While you're waiting, take out your stack of money and a quarter.  Flip the quarter.  If it comes up heads, put some of your money on the empty passenger seat.  If it comes up tails, put the money on the dash.  Repeat 217 times, then take the pile of cash off the passenger seat, stick it into an envelope and mail it to me in care of this website.
Include an extra $10 and I'll send you back a stack of losing Keno slips and a tall plastic cocktail container labeled "Fremont Street" that's used and empty, complete with a circle of dried foam at the top marking how full the thing once was.  That way you'll have "proof" you can show your friends of all the fun you had visiting Sin City, and the empty pockets to back up your story.
If you enjoy this experience, ask about our special "Atlantic City" package, which includes all of the above plus we'll send a meth addict to your house to "trow you a good beatin'" and a homeless guy to whiz on your front steps, just so you get the realistic feel of a day near the boardwalk.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Words We're No Longer Allowed To Use

As a writer, I would like to kick President Barack Obama's butt.
Before the guys with the dark suits and cufflink microphones show up at my door to have a conversation about the idiotic notion that the above statement in any way represents a threat, let me explain.
I'm not mad at Obama for the same reasons that most people in my community and on Fox News are mad at him; namely, for the unforgivable sin of not being a Republican.
I'm mad at him because he has stolen a couple of items out of my toolbox.
Back in the 1970's, George Carlin made famous the list of "seven words you can never say on television."
Today, censors now must add two more words to that list.
"Hope" and "change."
I'm a writer.  My livelihood depends on my ability to use words.  Because of Obama's actions, or inactions, these one-word phrases can no longer be stocked in my professional toolbox.
Back in 2008, he damn near wore those two words out, so they were already about as useful in my trade as a tape measure with the numbers rubbed off, or a socket wrench with the ratchets all stripped.
Since we're currently on the cusp of another presidential campaign season, the two words are now all but banished from the American lexicon.
Don't take my word for it, go straight to the horse's mouth.
When was the last time you heard the president use either word in public?  Three years ago, you would have thought that he invented the terms.  Today, if someone handed him a baby with a smelly diaper, he would say that the baby needed to be "re-diapered."  No way would he use the "c" word, even in that context.
As for the other word, even farmers have taken to uttering "I'm looking forward to the next instance of atmospheric irrigational precipitation" instead of daring to say "hope it rains soon."
I miss "hope."  In the etymological armory, there simply isn't an adequate replacement.  The word is just so darn...hopeful. 
Now, "hope" is the new communism.  If I dare to use it in any op-ed piece, I'll be branded a Socialist and Obama sympathizer faster than you can say "Joseph McCarthy."  Paroled pedophiles get better treatment than anyone who refers to the "h" word in this day and age.
As for "change," the only time I can almost get away with using the term is if I'm writing about the money I get back after handing over a dollar for my 99-cent McDouble.
Even the plastic change banks sold at dollar stores are now referred to as "money sorters."
I guess I shouldn't carp too much.  In exchange for those now-verboten terms, Obama and his detractors have given us some new ones.
For example, I can't turn on a television these days without hearing about "class warfare."
Suggesting something as outrageous as the notion that billionaires should pay the same income tax rate as the guy who scrubs truck stop toilets for a living has been deemed "class warfare."  Ditto for hinting that the same guy should get back any of the money he's been giving to the government over the last 40 years when he retires.  If you listen to the new way of thinking, that guy should have been studying and investing in the stock market during the previous four decades instead of sponging up errant pee. 
Had he done so, I doubt the eggheads and investment bankers have any clue how that excess excretion would have been taken care of over the last two generations, but I'm sure the answer would involve some sort of government-funded research grant.
In his upcoming re-election bid, I'm counting on Obama to come up with some spiffy new words to refill the trough.  But he needs to be careful and select terms that aren't too controversial, or too difficult to comprehend or spell.
Otherwise, the words might wind up being debated and dissected in high schools and college campuses all over America.
And as the Republicans keep telling us, the last thing this country needs is class warfare.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Salt and Pepper Workout

I've noticed a new trend in eating out.
No, it's not the trend of serving clam chowder on Friday at nearly every sit-down restaurant in America.  That's been around for a while.
I suspect the clam community celebrates Saturdays as their high holy day each week, thankful to have made it through another blitz of bad soups.
The new trend involves salt and pepper.
Like most annoying eating innovations, this one began in high-end eateries.  Just as you were getting ready to dig into the three ounces of unrecognizable beef and two carrot sticks you had waited 90 minutes to receive, the waiter shows up with what appears to be a shoulder-fired wooden bazooka.
"Would you like some pepper?" the server would query.
"Yes, please," you would answer, not because you had any hope that pepper was going to help improve this microscopic little $75 meal, but because you were afraid the waiter would club you over the head with the bazooka if you said no.
Since I've never been rich, I always thought this was the height of luxury; to have so much money that you could pay someone to shake pepper on your food for you.
A few years back, I noticed that this freshly ground pepper gimmick had trickled down to more traditional tables at family restaurants, where every form of seasoning is a blessing aimed at helping you cover the tin can taste that seems to permeate anything that once resided in a garden.
On those tables would be a small, plastic version of the pepper grinder.
I'm not a pepper user; I'm a salt man, so I didn't care about the new fangled gadget.
But now, the problem has reached the epicurean equivalent of the Niemoller quote about "when they came for the communists, I remained silent; I wasn't a communist..."
"They" have finally found a way to mess with my mealtime.
I visited a Red Crustacean restaurant with my family recently, a place that (as the name implies) features seafood.  My wife, daughter, and mother were there for the annual "Eat Shrimp Until You Swim Backwards In Your Own Garlic Sauce" promotion. 
Since it was a seafood restaurant, naturally I had the steak and baked potato.
Everything was going along swimmingly (sorry about the pun; it's like standing on the bank with a harpoon in your hand and Moby Dick happens to swim by) until I asked someone to pass the salt.
The first sign of trouble was the label: Sea Salt.
I'm not a big fan of sea salt.  As the name implies, it comes from the sea.  I know what fish, crustaceans, seagulls, and cruise ships do in the water.  I don't want any of their excretions on my food.
Sea salt also fell out of favor with me when Wendy's made it the star of one of their commercials while rolling out their "new" french fries.  Anyone who has visited a Wendy's in the last year knows just how badly they've botched what were once the best fries in the fast food industry.  I still harbor some resentment against sea salt for that debacle.
Call me a purist, but I don't like anyone messing with my salt - not Wendy's, not Red Crustacean, not even the salt police (namely my physician, who began trying to arrest my salt intake about 50 systolic points ago).
I'm not sure where traditional salt comes from, because I can't find a state or nation named Iodizistan on any map.  But I do believe that the Morton Salt girl could whip Wendy's red-pigtailed behind in a fair fight, with or without the umbrella.
At the seafood restaurant, I tried shaking some of the sea salt onto my baked potato.  Nothing came out.  Figuring the top had become clogged with damp salt (a frequent problem when I lived in Florida, before discovering the benefit of putting a few grains of rice in the salt shaker), I tried to twist off the lid.  I twisted, twisted, twisted, quietly recited the "righty tighty, lefty loosey" mantra between clenched teeth, and twisted some more.  It wouldn't come off.
Then I figured it out.
I had to turn the plastic bottle upside down and twist the top so it would grind the nuggets of sea salt inside and dribble the rock-quarrying results on my meal.  So I twisted, twisted, twisted, not-so-quietly recited a few mantras that embarrassed my mother, and twisted some more.  I began to feel like a seasoning-deprived psychopath wringing a stubborn chicken's neck.  After what seemed like 30 or 40 minutes, I think I counted three white granules on my spud. 
Unfortunately, the steak needed a little bit of pepper, too.  As you may have guessed, the pepper dispenser was another of those grinding devices.
By the time I got around to actually eating any of the (now cold) food on my plate, I needed a nap and a Power Bar.
I'm not sure whose dumb idea it was to introduce aerobic workouts to the mealtime experience, but if I had to name a suspect, my physician would be at the top of the list.  I believe he is involved in a food conspiracy, because the Red Crustacean was able to accomplish something in one hour that my doctor hasn't been able to do in 10 years; namely, to cut down on my salt intake, to exercise more, and to elevate my heart rate.