Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Somewhat Ecclectic and Scattered "Best Of" List of 2010

Harlan Ellison once said any book you haven't read is a new book. I like that. I take comfort in that. It reminds me we're never really finished with the arts, since they can hardly finish with us. Hell, last month I leafed through an old Balzac novel I thought I'd absorbed a decade ago, only to discover I didn't remember two-thirds of it. Right now, I'm reading Robert Harris' novel The Ghost, which is what Roman Polanski filmed as The Ghost Writer, which I saw seven months ago, and I'm still turning pages like crazy since I can't remember the details of how it comes out. By this rationale, just think of how many books I have yet to really read. It's like being a kid all over again.

So, I'm in no position to rate "Best of" anything in 2010. I don't get out to the movies that often, I don't go to many concerts, and I'm too busy trying to ball through Balzac to try much contemporary fiction. I do have my moments, though. So, in no particular order, with the proper bibliobiographical notes following, I give you:

Music I Discovered/Rediscovered in 2010

The Cold War Kids. A friend loaned me their CD. I went to their concert. Got a free concert download. And I was hooked. An original sound altogether.

The XX. Again, same friend let me download their stuff, which led me to go out and buy it anyway. Oddly compelling rhythm; lyrics are bordering on poetic. I like it.

Arcade Fire's Suburbia. Caught my attention, maybe because of all the media hype I stumbled across.

Ed Harcourt's Lustre. Half the songs interbreed pop and soulful moodiness too much for my taste, but the other half really get in my brain and bounce around pleasantly. Saw him when he opened for James; his bassist totally eyed me up at the bar.

School of Fish's self-titled debut album of 1991 or 1992. Caught between the no man's land of eighties rock and the grunge movement, it blends pathos and detachment very well for my indifferent generation.

Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde. How did I miss "Visions of Joanna" all these years? How can you not get hooked on a song that captures in seven minutes ten years of feeling?

Pretty much anything by The Velvet Underground. How did I miss "What Goes On" all these years? How can you not get hooked on a song that captures in five minutes half an hour's worth of pensive thinking?

We Became Your Family When You Died, Bullets in Madison. How did they not put this out sooner? How can you not get hooked on an album that captures in ten songs...ah screw it, I've got nothing.

The Cult's "Embers." Now this is the Cult I remember.

Stuff I Read/Discovered in 2010

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell. The Times did a big piece on him over the summer and the description of this novel caught my eye: four or five separates stories spanning the South Seas in the seventeenth century, to near-contemporary Britain, to a Korean dystopia, to a postapocalyptic Hawaii, and then back again, right to the beginning. All stories are separate, but interconnected. Utterly spellbinding.

King Lear. This time, when I read it, I accompanied it with Ian McKellan's RSC performance on DVD. I can't get him out of my head any more when I read of Lear raging against the storm.

Last Poems, A.E. Housman. For whatever reason, his verses exploring the profound in the commonplace really resonated with me last winter. I think everyone should memorize the following:

We for a certainty are not the first
Have sat in taverns while the tempest hurled
Their hopeful plans to emptiness, and cursed
Whatever brute and blackguard made the world.

Ballistics, Billy Collins. I'd picked this book up five times since it came out in 2008, but when I finally finished it, I have to admire how he managed to make poetry so accessible, and still so worthy of reflection. He makes you want to see the world all over again.

Letters from Iceland, W.H. Auden. I was led to this book by one of his poems that appears in it; now I want to go visit Iceland. More to the point, I want to go visit the Iceland in the early twentieth century that Auden got to visit--I think I heard that now the country is broke or something?

Lamb and Fool by Christopher Moore. Drop-dead hysterical, especially Fool. It's like the novel Benny Hill and Kurt Vonnegut would have fathered together. Okay, not really, but pretty close.

The Death and Life of the Great American School System, Diane Ravitch. Required reading for anyone who wants an opinion on why American schools suck. Short on solutions, but long on data and analysis. Might correct some of the commonplace assumptions kicked about in Washington and Springfield these days.

Movies I Saw in 2010 Worth Mention

The Six Wives of Henry VIII, a miniseries produced by the BBC. Keith Mitchell starts as Henry Tudor did: young and lithe, full of energy and innocence. By the end he's morbidly obese, still great yet corrupt, enthralling yet repulsive. He pulls the act off like no one else I've seen (Jonathan Rhys Meyers is supposed to be in his forties? Please).

Henry IV Parts I and II, from Shakespeare's An Age of Kings (first aired back in the 50's on television). Sean Connery as Hotspur is enough in itself; the Falstaff/Hal interplay is probably the best-achieved chemistry I've ever seen on film.

I Am Love, starring Tilda Swinton. Not that I could tell by watching this, but she had to pull off Italian dialogue with a Russian accent. Story of a woman who either dives into or is thrust into an illicit affair with her son's best friend, only so much more than that.

Winter's Bone. A young woman living in the Appalachians and trying to hold on to her house and family plays detective to find out what happened to her crystal meth-dealing father. She has to go through a backwoods drug empire that would give Vito Corleone pause.

Inception. Not quite a movie I could go right back into and see all over again. But pretty close.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and The Girl Who Played With Fire. Of course, the books are worth mention too, but the films did a superb job capturing the story, character and pacing of the Millenium Trilogy. Which begs the question as to why Hollywood feels we need an American version. Perhaps Americans are illiterate and can't be bothered with subtitles. Which brings me to...

Idiocracy. Not Mike Judge's greatest, but amusing. And I'd say a fairly accurate painting of where we're headed: once mediocrity becomes the norm, we tend to equate knowledge of civics with brilliance, or being able to tie one's own shoes with homespun wisdom and savvy. We might have a former president who's pretty good proof of this, but I'm not sure.

The King's Speech. If Colin Firth doesn't get an Oscar for his portrayal of George VI, struggling in equal measures with his duties as king and his speech impediment, I can't imagine who will get it instead. Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush are equally impressive.

True Grit and Black Swan I have not seen yet, but I suspect I'm going to really like. Haven't seen Waiting for Superman, but I'm sure I'd have a reaction to that as well. And fan of Aaron Sorkin that I am, I thought The Social Network was a bit overblown.

Okay, that's enough for this year. Bring on the next 365 days, and let's knock it off with the vampire stuff already, mkay?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Poetry Written Upon Seeing a Disabled Toilet at the Pub Down the Street

"The sign tells me it
doesn't work. No big deal:
There's still a hole there."

"What disappears when
I pull the handle above
my mess on the floor?"

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"It became clear after my colonoscopy that I had to kill her..."

No jury in the world will convict me of murdering the Woman I Love. Why, you ask? Simplicity itself.

Under doctor's orders, I had to go and get one of these damnable procedures last week. Nothing earth-shattering as far as why, I assure you, although the fact that I'd rather get medical instruments shoved in me than go to work for the day speaks volumes about the power of the mind over its environment. Still, I'd be a liar if I didn't confess to a selfish motive for going: A really good quip.

I'd practiced it all day and all night long the twenty-four hours preceding. I would awaken from the anesthesia and sit up in bed, sharp and alert. The doctor would come by, clipboard in hand, a carefully-arranged concerned look on his face, and ask me how I was doing.

And I would reply, oh-so-wittily, "Well, doc, hope it was as good for you as it was for me."

And the entire operating room would erupt in laughter, cancel my bill and send me home with a cigar and a clean bill of help. Nothing could be simpler.

But oh no. Leave it to Kim to screw it all up.

I did, in fact, awaken blearily, in a room I didn't recognize. There were, in fact, people in there. The doctor did come by, and I think he was carrying a clipboard. "Well now, how are we doing?" he asked me cheerfully.

"Ug," I rasped. "Ug uh ug."

"Yeah, you'll be a little tongue-tied for a bit," he said, patting my shoulder sympathetically. "Don't worry. You'll come around."

The Woman of My Life chose then to show up. "Oh, he's awake," she said flatly. "What a relief."

"Yeah, you'll probably have to cook him something tonight," the doctor said to her. "Maybe keep an eye on him, make sure he doesn't try anything too strenuous."

"Fat chance," she muttered, watching me try to sit up. "That there is more than he's moved all month."

"So, you feeling any better?" the doctor asked me immediately afterwards, hoping to get the niceties out of the way."

"Well...doc..." I started, laboring mightily to form syllables with a tongue and mouth that felt like it had been stuffed with cotton. "Well...well doc..."

"Good, good," he said, glancing at his clipboard. "Okay, let's see, you need to eat something soon, then take a nap. Get dressed, and, as long as your insurance payment processes okay in the next twenty minutes, we'll let you go home."

"Was it...was...was it..." I breathed out, grasping mightily at the few remaining seconds before the joke went flat.

"It went fine," he reassured me. "You're as healthy as a horse. And almost as intelligent."

The room erupted in laughter. I cast them all a withering stare. My joke was better. As long as I could get it out in time.

"Was it--" I began, increasing in strength and confidence.

"It didn't show anything to worry about," he said, glancing at his watch. "Now, I've got to run. Those nine holes aren't going to play themselves."

"Thanks, doctor," Kim said to him, grasping his arm in a neighborly fashion. "I'm sure it was as good for him as it was for you."

Ten times the previous laughter filled the room. Nurses came over and squeezed her hand. The male attendant came over and nudged me. "You got a keeper here, pal," he said, yanking my IV out of my arm with all the sympathy of a pile of rocks. "Hold on to her."

Oh I will. You have no idea...

"Okay, honey. You just rest easy. But are you
sure I have to be standing
on a ladder
in a puddle of water to do this?"

Friday, November 19, 2010

My Web-based Sexual Harassment Tutorial Crib Notes

Fig 1. Potential lawsuit.
Look at Fig. 1 closely. Can you spot the potential lawsuit?

If you can't, then you're clearly in need of sexual harassment training. If you can, well, guess what? You're getting training anyway.

Clearly, sexually inappropriate behavior in the workplace is a serious offense. That's why my employer gives us this halfassed webinar every year, with the exact same brick-stupid questions and scenarios outlining the facets of sexual harassment, the vagaries, the mise en scène, and all the other crap we have to deal with now that we live in a world where a man can't spank his secretary's ass without her yelling about respect as a woman, blah blah blah, go bake me a pie, will you?

So I'm glad I kept my notes and screenshots this time around. That way, I can halve the time I normally spend on this drivel, just clicking the appropriate answers to the quiz questions they give while reading Big'Uns instead of actually reading them. That makes it much easier.


Introductory Lesson: Sexual harassment is when one person makes a move upon another person in the workplace. This move is unwelcome if unwarranted, or unsolicited, or made by someone not good-looking enough. Hence this will never be an issue for me.

Fig 2: When to complain...

Fig 3: When to not complain...

Okay, training is over. Time for the exam.

Quiz Question #1
: Which of the following constitutes sexual harassment?

Answer: Scenario A. Here, the employer is being insensitive and chauvinistic. In Scenario B, he has a sailboat, so that's totally different.

Quiz Question #2: Which of the following constitutes sexual harassment?

Answer: Scenario C. In Scenario D, the man is showing the woman the Swingers Classified section of the daily paper, completely innocently. In Scenario C, it's Mr. Sandberg, so what else could it be but an invitation to something filthy and depraved? Friggin' pervert.

Quiz Question #3: The man has just propositioned the woman. What is the proper response if she wishes to refuse his advances and let him know they are no longer welcome?

a) "No thank you, I'm busy tonight. Perhaps another time?"
b) "I don't know. Maybe you could show it to me first?"
c) "It's nothing personal. I just don't date people of my own ethnicity."
d) "Up it another five dollars and we have a deal."
Answer: None of the above. Because, seriously, most people think the man was the one on the right. And it's not. She's actually the one on the right, and she's trying to accept the offer. Did I just totally rock your world or what? It just goes to show you: trying to train us about suppressing our primal urges is completely, utterly futile. Let's go hit the Admiral. I'm buying first round.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Local goes to Florida, Gets Married

A beach- and downtown-Key West wedding review

What I remember was totally awesome. But the stuff I wish I could remember, I'm sure, was even more awesome.

Congrats to Tso and his blushing bride. Now: you guys are doing the holiday cooking this year, right?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

New rock band Bullets in Madison on fire with new single; lead singer on fire with fire

Originally published August, 2003, in Spun Magazine; reprinted here in light of rerelease of Panic in Amber Blue

Originally published August, 2003, in Spun Magazine; reprinted here in light of rerelease of Panic in Amber Blue

The singer steps up to the microphone, wind machine ruffling his clothes and carefully-disheveled hair artfully. The band behind him strikes chords and poses with thoughtful, somber moodiness.

"Crosswords..." keyboardist and vocalist John Morton intones soulfully.

I'm on the set of the Bullets in Madison video shoot for their hit single, "Crossroads," off their new album Panic in Amber Blue. Surrounding me are all the makings of a killer video: chained, caged strippers, a neon band insignia highlighting the stage, a prowling leopard in the rafters and a rotating drum set.

Director McG, whose Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle recently took in $52,000 at the box office, is at my side, coaching the merry montage of musicians along what will undoubtedly be their chart-busting hit single. The band is sluggish and slow-moving, which, for them, translates into ecstatic. McG is polysyllabic in his directions to the band, which, for him, translates into intellectual. I want a drink, which, for me, translates into business as usual.

"Crosswords..." Morton croons again, the band soulfully striking up the tune once more while McG makes frantic get-on-with-it gestures with his spindly arms. The music plods on, then stops as Morton trails off into silence.

"I forgot the rest of the song," he admits soulfully, hanging his head in shame.

"It's okay," McG assures him gently, shooting a quick glance at his budget director who is currently preparing to hang herself with a length of power cord. "We're going to overdub your singing in postproduction anyway."

"It's weird," Morton continues, gazing at his keyboard mournfully. "I have that first word down, but when it comes to the words that come after it, all I can think of are the words 'drive-by.'"

"That's the next song," guitarist Michael Stautmeister tells him thoughtfully. "The one we play after this one." Nearby, the trumpeteer is getting stalked by the leopard.

"Oh yeah." Morton adjusts his shirt collar artfully. "That's weird."

McG, clearly wishing he could get back to more cerebral projects like looking up Lucy Liu's skirt in her next film, hooks an elbow around Morton's neck. "We're going to get through this, guy. You and me. And the rest of the band. Sky's the limit. No holds barred. We'll show the rest of the clowns you play music with you're the glue that holds this miserable act together. You just wait."

"We can still hear you," guitarist Aaron Sandberg drones somberly. As he looks after Morton and his director, he runs a hand through his full head of hair soulfully...and winds up with a fistful of his remaining hair. His bald spot glares triumphantly. Upon seeing it, he screams mournfully.

McG is not unaware that the band is aging somberly, soulfully and mournfully ten years for every minute this farce drags its nuts. But clearly he's got ideas cooking on how to get the show more dynamic. More engaging. More today.

"Cue the flame thrower guy," he tells the head grip. "And get the kerosene ready. We're torching Morton first."


Bullets in Madison is an up-and-coming band whose debut album is just as new as they are to the Chicago indie rock scene. For some reason, I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of these guys are going to wind up teaching in the public school system. Some of them might even wind up where I work, sneaking into my room, swiping my lesson plans, stealing my medicinal whiskey (kept safely on the bookshelves, where students will never find it) and locking me inside the building when I'm not out the door at 3:05 like them. I have no idea why I suspect all this. But I'm rarely wrong.

That's the future, though. Years away. In the meantime, the band is putting together its first music video.

The "Crosswords" shoot has been going on for months, as Morton struggles to remember his lyrics and his partner in crime Sandberg watches the last remains of hair fall out. I've spent the majority of my time here exploring the band's origins and musical influences, only to discover that, much to my dismay, Morton and Sandberg are the most boring people on the face of the earth. Stautmeister was, for a time, a better bet at entertainment, but he stopped talking to me when he caught me going through his wallet looking for naked roadie pictures.

Sandberg, on the other hand, won't shut up about what inspires him as a musician and motivates him as a performer. Our most recent interview took place backstage, while McG layered Morton in petroleum for the big fire scene, which, according to McG, "really captures the song's anti-Iraq war message." Morton had tried to explain to him that the song actually came from a frenzied effort at free verse over the Sunday papers comics section, McG insisted that he had the better interpretation, and Morton's objections were effectively overruled. As the grip splashed Morton's mostly-hairless chest with a paintbrush dunked in Vaseline and Stautmeister, for some reason, rapidly took pictures, hooting and whistling all the while Sandberg droned on and on concerning the dangers of artistic influences.

"Many writers will stop reading any books by other authors while they are working on their own novel because they’re afraid that another style will seep into their own," he said. "Yet at the same time, they’re in a bind because they might happen to like that particular style, and wouldn’t mind if the influence rubbed off, so long as it didn’t suffocate the work."

Bored out of my mind, I tried desperately at this point to steer the conversation to oral sex. But no dice. Man. Musicians.

"The problem compounds when you’re in touch with many influences," Sandberg continued.

"Speaking of touching," I tried again, simultaneously gesturing towards the nearest cage-dancing stripper and my crotch. But he didn't take the bait. He only averted his eyes from my groin and went on with the interview. Fucking musicians...

"Again, two things can happen. There's a constant conflict between original vision and influence which the careful artist addresses."

"Hey, Professor, want to put it in language we can all understand?"

"Well, the resulting work, whether novel or album, can become an ugly pastiche of all styles, or, the result can be a beautiful and diverse, woven piece of work."

"That's the biggest load of bullshit I ever heard," I jeered.

Sandberg fixed me with a level gaze, and another clump of his hair fell to the floor. "You don't even know what pastiche means, do you?"

"No. No, I don't. Do you?"


"Okay then. So, getting back to getting your knob polished..."

Here, our interview was interrupted: the pyro guy had ignited the flamethrower, turning Morton into a flaming ball of smoke and heat.

"Crosswords! Crosswords!" Morton shrieked, running around the stage, slapping at the flames with his hands. "Agh!"

Sandberg took this opportunity to make some lame excuses to go and comfort his friend. However, Morton, engulfed in fire and screaming in blinding pain, decided that company with Sandberg was infinitely worse, and came back over by me for his interview.

"And yes, while some say it is impossible not to be influenced," Morton said, leaning in close to my tape recorder, "I say it is possible to use the influence to eventually transcend the influence. That is the ultimate goal."

"Did you used to have chest hair there?" I said, gesturing towards his smoldering torso. "Because you don't any more."

With one thing and another, Morton getting carted off to the emergency burn ward, Stautmeister running off to post the entire thing on the Internet and Sandberg finally taking a hint and hitting up the cage dancers for some back room action, I finally got some peace and quiet in which I could actually listen to the album. So here's my review:

It's good. Overpriced, but good. I recommend it.

Maybe in the future we won't have to buy music any more. Maybe some day we'll be able to get it for free off the Internet. Not Napster, obviously, but something else. Something...torrential. That would be sweet. In the meantime, if you want it, you'll have to buy the album off their website, or your local Tower Records outlet.

Hmph. Musicians. Always in it for the money. And a first aid kit.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Website addresses I'm either sure exist or think should exist

Iron Sheik on Youtube. http://ironsheikyoutubereview.blogspot.com/. A blog exclusively about the WWF star Iron Sheik's meltdowns and conniption fits on Youtube.

Professor Blago. http://blagojevichyoutubereview.blogspot.com. A blog exclusively focused to former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's spouting of my favorite poetry in front of news cameras as he gets indicted, trying to weasel his way out of corruption charges by invoking Tennyson, who, ironically enough, did plenty of tirades against the corruption of humanity. Not that the former governor need bother with such trifles.

The Real World: Chile (2,000 feet below). http://therealmine.blogspot.com. A blog detailing what happens when 33 miners have to stop living in the real world, with easy access to water, insulin and wives, and start getting...real.

What am I, one right out of three? Not bad. Not bad.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Tso is Tso damn gullible...

Me (via text message): Just got tickets to Charlotte for your stinking wedding.

Tso: Why Charlotte? Wedding is in Key West.

Me: Whoops.

Tso: 15 hour drive. Are you nuts?

Me: Nuts like a fox! Don't worry. I'll be there on the 29th.

Tso: Wedding is on the 18th.

Me: Whoops.

Tso: WTF moment?

Me: WTF like a fox!


I could play this guy like a violin. What a maroon.

Now...Key West is in Massachusetts. Right?

Just kidding.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

From NPR's Contest Story Site: Three-Minute Fiction is back, and it's time for Round Five!

Our contest has a simple premise: Listeners send in original short stories that can be read in three minutes or less. We're looking for original work no longer than 600 words.

Each round, our judges throw out a challenge. This time, your story must begin with the line, "Some people swore that the house was haunted." It must end with, "Nothing was ever the same again after that."

Those lines were written by the judge for this round, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Michael Cunningham....because he's a huge fan of ghost stories.

“Those Deadbeat Dead”

A short story

Some people swore the house was haunted. Most just swore.

It wasn’t so much the two-story brownstone’s foreboding façade, or its squeaky hinges or vampire, cannibal rats. It wasn’t even that it was built on top of an ancient Native American sacrificial site, and it wasn’t the regular parade of headless apparitions that got people boiling mad.

No, the deal-breaker for everyone, and what got Neighborhood Watch Patrolmen Rory and Buck knocking on doors up and down the block to raise awareness, was whether or not the ghosts were legal.

“Because we’re not just taking this country back for America,” Rory would tell people up and down Pleasant Street. “We’re taking it back from the undocumented undead too.”

Buck honestly didn’t give a shit whether the house had one ghost or two hundred, or whether the ghosts had all just taken the night shift at the local Wal Mart. He was only following Rory because he really wanted to get into Rory’s sister’s pants, and the afternoon before, he and Rory’s sister, a fox of an activist named Jessica, had gotten plastered on a cheap bottle of wine, during the course of which he’d been granted immediate access to her boobs while she’d speculated about what might be in the house, “people all dead and on welfare? That would leave this nation vulnerable!” Yet now, at three in the afternoon, with a pounding headache and a dry mouth, he was wondering if maybe he hadn’t overestimated the allure his investigations would have in Jessica’s mind when he returned to her later that afternoon.

Rory, however, was a man on a mission, unlikely to back down.

“It’s the principle of the thing,” he told Buck for the twentieth time. “The Constitution doesn’t say anything about whether or not the occupants have to be alive.”

“Activist judges, man,” said Buck, wishing Rory would shut up so he could go back to daydreaming about his pleasant afternoon with Jessica.

“Just wait until some activist judge manages to tack a bunch of bloodsucking, brain-eating, chain rattling Mexicans into the Fourteenth Amendment. Then what? They’re in our schools, our factories, our abandoned asylums...”

“Exactly,” said Buck. “Illegal. Also breasts.”


“Nothing,” Buck said. He ignored his friend’s stare and squinted up at the house. They were in front of it, and he could faintly hear the sound of the walls moaning and bleeding.

“Let me handle this,” Rory said, pushing past him and rapping against the dark mahogany in front of him. “Damned illegals. Probably socialist ghosts, too.”

Buck scowled, and thought of breasts some more.

The two waited a minute. Eventually, a transparent, cadaverous white man appeared with a blood-smeared mouth and sharp fangs, dressed in black, sporting a cape. “Visitors,” he intoned in a smooth, Eastern European accent. “Welcome to my home. I bid you enter! Mwa-hah-hah!”

“Good evening, sir,” Rory began in his best official voice. “My name is Rory Calhoun, and this is my friend Buck Mulligan. We’re canvassing the neighborhood, and we’re wondering if we could inquire as to the residency status of this house, specifically pertaining to number of people, both alive and dead, currently living in this fine establishment.”

“What?” The apparition, startled, drew back from the door. “Uh, sorry, no habla espanol. I, er, love Americanos. Go local sports team!” The door slammed in their faces.

Rory beamed triumphantly at Buck. “What did I tell you? That guy’s never seen the inside of INS, I tell you.”

“Oh yeah?” Buck retorted. “Well I’m seeing the inside of your sister tonight.”

Nothing was ever the same again after that.


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thomas Friedman's "We're Number 11!" Required reading for anyone invested in the debate over education.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

An Open Letter to a Friend of Mine Who's Going to France While I Toil Here in Wretched, Abject Misery and Jealousy

Dear Matt,

So you're going au France, are you? Good for you! Of course I was only kidding before! About hating you for going! How could I, loyal friend that I am, be so small-minded and petty as to sabotage your journey? Très unlikely. In fact, I've gone so far as to try to help you out a bit.

As you probably remember, I studied French in high school and college, and had to brush up on it some in grad school for some work I did with Rimbaud. So I've dug up some of my dictionaries and idiom books and written up a list of phrases you'll be sure to need pendant votre temps à Paris. All you need to do is keep this cheat sheet handy, but I'd suggest memorizing these phrases so you can spit them out rapidly and confidently as you encounter people.

Expressions You'll Need Upon Your Arrival:

"Where is the nearest hotel? I just landed and am tired."

Où est le district de feu rouge ? J'ai faim de la chair mâle.

"I am American, but I admire this lovely country."

Les États-Unis essuie son âne avec votre pays.

When You Wish to Eat Out:

"Let's grab a bite. I have reservations at a restaurant nearby."

Nous étreignons charnellement. J'ai prophylactics que nous pouvons utiliser.

"I'm quite hungry and would like a table for two."

Je suis tout à fait content de manger votre saleté.

Random Pleasantries

"Lovely weather we're having, isn't it?"

Cette rue pue des abats.

"Greetings to you!"


"I think those clothes light up your face."

Je veux pour vous m'asseoir sur mon visage.

In Case You're Ever In the Country

"This is a beautiful farm you have here. Where is your bathroom?"

J'ai imprégné tous vos moutons. Où sont vos filles ?

When You're Getting Ready to Leave

"How far is the airport? My flight leaves in thirty minutes."

Je peux le plaisir vous dans une question de minutes.

"Let's stay in touch after I leave."

Je vous ai juste donné des herpès. (Note: It's very important to smile broadly after saying this.)

Now, I know what you're thinking, and the answer is no. No need to thank me, and certainly no need to pay me or anything. I just want you to have a good trip and take lots of pictures, especially of the people you meet and socialize with using these expressions. That alone will lighten my heart and ensure me of the good time you're having.

Your friend,

Piss Off

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Introductory Lecture and Reading List for Fall, 2010

Hi kids! Welcome back!

I'm your teacher. Hold the applause.

Yes, it's been two months and change since we've all seen each other. Joey, I see you've been working out. Mustache is coming in well, isn't it? Whoah, that's a killer grip you've got there. Good. You're growing into a fine young woman.

Sarah, not so plain and tall any more, are you? Ha. Now you're just plain.

Okay, enough of this charade of good intentions and civility. You don't want to be here. Fine. I get it. Hey, you think this is my whole life? I've got a family! Okay, I've got two dogs to train. Okay, I don't actually train them so much as I just let them lie on top of me and sleep, but they do their homework, dammit.

No, I'm not interested in how you spent your summer. Now, I spent a lot of time this summer touring Europe and wining and dining several high-rent models and call girls. I also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro (for like a few feet--that damn thing is steep!). Also, I did a lot of reading, and I've managed to construct the class syllabus around these selections. This exposes you guys to what I call high-quality literature, but more importantly, it cuts down on my workload. So here's our syllabus for the fall. Read it, get the books, and read those. We'll meet back here in a month. If anyone asks, I'm in the can.

  • The Kama Sutra: This text has been showing up on the AP Reading List for a few years now. It's technical, and skills-based, which means it aligns perfectly with the Core Standards coming out of the White House. No, I haven't seen any of the pictures, why?
  • The Anarchist's Cook Book: Enough with the whole, "I don't know what this word means" crap. Look it up! Enough with the whole "But I don't know who to vote for." Look it up! And enough with the whole, "I can't make gunpowder! I don't know how." Not my kids. Not any more.
  • Das Kapital: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people." Stop and think about that for a minute. Realize how bleak and meaningless your existence actually is. Okay. Now you're ready to join The Party and follow your One True Leader. Your blue overalls are in the far left cabinet.
  • Listen Whitey! by Huey Newton. Well, actually I don't know what this is about. But it says to listen, so...

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Film Notes Assignment for "Dante's Inferno: An Animated Epic"

Directions: Note observations, critical and stupid, while watching the movie and write a summative evaluation at the end.
  • Dante seems pretty buff for a would-be medieval pilgrim. I didn't know clerics had such broad shoulders, armor and deadly swords.
  • Okay, scratch the last comment: Dante is a Crusader? This is critical of the church? There's so many paradoxes here, I think my head is imploding.
  • "Hey, Dante? When you run up to a woman whose stomach is spread out about her on the ground, the last stupid question she needs to hear is 'Are you all right?'"
  • Did medieval couples always get naked and rub against each other before swearing chastity?
  • "Hey, Dante? Saying 'I don't like the look of this' before entering Hell is a pretty stupid comment."
  • Okay, unbaptized babies were in the original poem. But an army of scrimitar-wielding demon babies? I'm never going near a nursery again.
  • So the second circle is filled with horny lesbians? Then what's a Heaven for?
  • I'm beginning to sense a pattern in this movie. Is it...we're all sinners?
  • The seventh level looks pretty much like a parking lot. I think Dante was on to something. It really sucks when you have to drive around and around looking for a spot, you know?
  • In every level, Dante and Virgil have different hairstyles. So when I go to Supercuts...am I sinning?
  • Nerissa is pretty hot. Even if she has a tail.
  • Wait a minute...Mark Hamill did Dante's voice? He can't be that hard up for work.
  • Okay, I think I've got the theme figured out...we're all going to Hell? Party on my rock, then.
  • If the real Dante saw this movie, he'd probably come up with a new circle for video game movie directors.

OVERALL SUMMARY: Vivid action scenes, zooms and extreme closeups of people getting their heads chopped off, women raped, men butchering and overall mayhem does wonders for preaching a message of compassion and Catholic faith. I felt myself getting brainwashed every minute this thing dragged its nuts. It just needs a good soundtrack.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Lines of Poetry Written Upon Contemplation of a Really Screwed-Up Bathroom in Tinleytown, D.C.

"And whoever tells me there's a need for more government transparency
Will have to do their business here, or else shut up."

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Rejected Fortune Cookie Submissions

--"It's been ten minutes. You'd better call home and check on the kids before something happens."

--"We can recommend a good proctologist."

--"If you had the chicken, see the hostess before you leave."

--"Time to pull the plug on that machine that's keeping Gram Gram alive."

--"If it oozes and hurts, you've got at least a few months."

--"They're talking about you."

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Proof I am a red-blooded American and
not a secret Russian spy

With all the hype about the Russian agents circulating amongst the US in recent weeks, we're all getting a little nervous about who's really whom he says he is. And if history is any guide, that proves it's time to start pointing fingers and making wild accusations about each other. So before the mass hysteria sets in, I'd like to preemptively clear myself and demonstrate my love of this country and full citizenship.

Of course, as we know from accounts of our president, birth certificates are insufficient. You have to look deeper. So here's proof positive of my patriotism and American background, a template we would all do well to apply.
I know all the names of the players in the Chicago Bulls and how many home runs they scored last season.

When watching Rocky and Bullwinkle, I always cheer for the moose and squirrel.

I have no idea how to say dosvedanya. And I think Leo Tolstoy deserved getting shot in Mexico like he did.

I really suck at math and science.

I live on Main Street, and we have backyard barbecues every weekend.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My On Record Introduction to the Shakespeare Institute

I live and teach in a working- and white collar district. I've been teaching for twelve years (ten in the public schools, two as a teaching assistant), although the last few years have been a bit hairy, what with revamped curriculum, new preps and the like. I do journalism and the school newspaper as well.

The only play I've taught consistently is "Macbeth," although I sneak in what I can when I can. Usually, this means reading or doing a film of "Hamlet," the film version of "Henry V" to my seniors, and maybe parts of "Richard III." But it's tough to get away with this these days.

I have all the usual hobbies and interests of an English teacher (reading, writing, etc.) See you all next week.

My Off The Record Introduction to the Shakespeare Institute

I teach in a complete hellhole, where skill and brilliance does take place, but staggering mediocrity and incompetence tend to have their way as well. I've been saddled with new classes almost every year lately and am just about at the end of my rope. Either my students or myself are getting more and more complacent every year that passes, and "teaching Shakespeare" is regarded by administration as an inane luxury these days. If you all don't inspire me and help me start getting the circle of gifts going again, I'm packing it all in next year and taking a job as a Starbucks barrista. I just met one last week who regularly travels the world and looks twenty years younger than he is, which makes me think this whole "professional education" stuff is for the birds.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ring Tone Suggestions for the Special People In My Life

Sandra Bullock's Ex-husband Jesse James: "Don't Trust Me" by 3o3

BP Oil Executive Tony Hayward: "River Runs Red" by Midnight Oil

Former Chicago Police Officer John Burge: "Peace, Love and Understanding," by Elvis Costello

Monday, June 14, 2010

My birthday's coming, bitches!

Only thirty shopping days left. And you don't want to be caught up in a mad rush of shoppers, do you? Of course not. So here's my wish list, none of which should be a surprise--I've been dropping hints on all of this all year now. You're welcome. Go hit the stores.
A Zero Turn Riding Lawn Mower Kawasaki 31 HP Gas Engine, 50 Inch Mid Cut, with Mid Mount Floating Deck, Solid Uni-Body Construction and a 31 HP OHV Kawasaki Durable Engine. Because my lawn deserves the best, most fuel-gobbling, loud and obnoxious monster it can get. http://www.cleaningstuff.net/cleaningsupplies.

A Colt M4 Carbine 6920 AR15 16", with a direct gas operating system and straight-line construction. Because I'm sick and tired of the Accurized 24" rifle. It always jams and I can't hit enough random targets with it. http://www.impactguns.com/.

A one-year membership to Rooster Heaven Hunt Club , 2900 East 12330, North Forrest, IL 61741. Because the Edwardsville Gun Club threw me out. They said I cried too much. Roosterheaven.com.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Passages from my self-published romance novels, available for immediate purchase

Purchase the following titles wherever fine paperbacks are sold.

The Mysteries of Love

Published: 1997, Harcoyrt/Brase, Inc.
"I find myself attracted to you," he said, approaching her slowly and loosening his tie.

She blushed, knowing full well that he only loosened his tie when he found himself attracted to women. She also knew that, when attracted, he tended to make a move.

"I find myself also wanting to make a move on you," he added, removing his glasses and regarding her intently. She squirmed and blushed some more under his intent regarding, and realized that, within moments, what with the tie-loosening, glasses-removing and intent regarding, that there would soon be romance between the two of them...
Love in the Dot-Com Bubble
Published: 1999, Crown-Dundee, Inc.
Jameson leaned back in his office chair and laced his fingers together. "All right, Miss Templeton, in your duty of secretary, I'll be needing you to take appointments for me. Is that a problem?"

"No, Mr. Jameson," Miss Templeton said, clenching a pen between her teeth and making obscene gestures with it. "I think we understand each other quite well."

"I do too, Miss Templeton. In fact, I'll go even further: I want to sandwich in some lovemaking with you between my ten o'clock meeting and my teleconference with Beijing at eleven."

Miss Templeton examined Mr. Jameson's appointment book carefully. "I think we have just enough time, sir. I can push the teleconference ahead, if you think that's going to be necessary for us to finish lovemaking in time."

"I like your confidence, Miss Templeton. Put the teleconference at five after eleven."

"Yes sir, Mr. Jameson."

"And now, if you've done your job and scheduled the time, I will make sweet love to you."

"Yes, sir, Mr. Jameson. You will."
When I Get Passionate (I Also Get Stupid)
Published: 2001, Park Lake, Inc.
George Edison walked into his swank Upper West Side apartment just after six p.m. He slung his jacket in a corner and turned on the television real loud. He made himself a bourbon and water, slamming ice cubes into the glass with maximum force and noise, and made sure to belch loudly several times before shouting, "Jessica! Where's my dinner?"

He heard nothing. Glancing about the apartment, he saw his wife's coat and purse lying on the sofa, next to a pair of man's shoes, a suit coat, pair of pants and silk underwear he didn't remember leaving there. Shrugging, he finished his drink and walked towards the bedroom.

The door was slightly ajar. He went to push it open, then paused.

"Is your husband home?" he heard a male voice asking. "I don't want him to catch us together, making love."

"No, lover," his wife's voice responded. "Don't worry. I locked the door hours ago, and he'll be at work until six."

"Then there's plenty of time for us to finish making love."

"Yes, lover. Plenty of time. For lovemaking."

George frowned again. Something seemed suspicious...

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Rejected New Yorker Cartoons

Every issue, the New Yorker hosts their Write a Caption contest, where you get to supply the joke to the already-drawn cartoon. I've entered this contest every damn month my entire life, and they have yet to accept any of my witty, cultured, erudite submissions. If you need further proof of an elitist, pinko bias to the nation's oldest arts and literature magazine, I don't know what else I can show you.

Submission: "If I do this long enough, his penis stands up."

Submission: "If I reach over and grab you, your penis will stand up."

Submission: "My hair is standing up because you're so hot. And if you grab it, my penis will stand up too."

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Rand Paul: Father-in-Chief

As reported in the New York Times on Sunday, Rand Paul parents according to his politics: hands-off, no excessive intrusion, choice-heavy for the child. I did a little more digging into Mr. Paul's Child-Rearing Philosophy as per Tea Party Parenting Guidelines and got some awe-inspiring and soul-stirring answers:
College savings: "This is tantamount to wasteful spending. If the kid wants college badly enough, s/he will work to save up for it firsthand. The last thing American parents want is to enable children leeching off welfare handouts."

Birth Certificate: "In order to qualify for a parent's love and compassion, all children need to be able to provide immediate documentation as proof that they are, in fact, their father's child, and not the result of a one-night stand with the immigrant housecleaner (who coincidentally works for half of the minimum wage)."

Education: "All homework is done with domestic products and is not outsourced in any way that could hurt the American economy. This means working with Texas Instruments calculators rather than Sony, and Drivers Ed must be conducted with Ford and GM products."

Bullying: "Kids getting harassed in the courtyard is healthy competition. Competition breeds excellence. I want my kid excellent. You do the math."

Sex and Sexual Orientation: "Hey, listen kid, I'm not asking, and you're not telling. Got me? Good. Now get outside and work on that curve ball." (wink)

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Commencement Analysis 2010

As hundreds of thousands of graduation ceremonies unfold this weekend, most parents are probably thinking roughly the same thing: “Why the hell didn’t I wear something lighter? It’s hot out here!”

Well, that remains a mystery. However, as of today, approximately 10 million seniors have walked across the stage and received a sheepskin as reward for four years of rigorous high school academics and achievements. In order to better understand the best and the brightest of this lot, the Flannel Diaries has painstakingly transcribed and compiled the highest-frequency words of all high school valedictorian speeches across the country.

The following chart gives a valuable clue as to the new horizons and fresh perspectives the Class of 2010 will be giving to the world, and the legacy they have left behind.
--Average valedictorian speech length: 2 minutes, 30 seconds
--Average word count: 425

Word / Average number of word appearances per speech









American Idol--29



Monday, May 31, 2010

My Eighth Grade Journal:

The Spring Musical

Wednesday, March 23 1988

Today, they posted signin sheets for the spring musical, Up Your Wall. Turns out I'm doing it this year, but only because Matt switched the signup titles and I thought I was entering the Dungeons and Dragons Gamers Club. When I went to the first meeting, I said I wanted to be a wizard, and Mrs. Royce said, Well, that's nice, but you're going to be playing the part of Randall, the Concerned Citizen. She gave me the script and I saw I was in a musical and I said this was bullshit. Royce got mad and told me if I didn't show some appreciation for culture and the arts, she'd make me the Flatulent Male Cheerleader instead. When I got home I told my mom what happened, and she said Listen, buster, if your grades are as bad as they were last semester, you won't be doing any musical at all. Then she saw my face, and said, No, I mean if your grades don't pick up, you will be doing that musical! Then I got all confused and she told me to go away. My brother laughed at me when I told him and said I couldn't sing for shit. Then I called Matt and yelled at him, and he laughed at me and said he wanted my autograph. I'm going to get revenge on them all.

Tuesday, March 29 1988

We had our first practice today. Royce asked if I could make a falsetto note, and I said no, but my grandfather has a falsetto teeth. Then she sent me out of the room for a minute. When I came back in, we were learning steps to a number called "Video Game Fever." Andy Richter got to dance with Lori Bundt, who's totally hot, and the whole time he was doing it, he was smirking at me and twirling her around so I could see up her dress. That part I didn't mind so much. But then Royce gave me my first line for the number, and told me I was supposed to say it strong and loud. So I went, "What's wrong with kids today?" Then she told me to do it with more feeling. So I tried, "So what's wrong with kids today?" and she said no, my rhythm is all off. So I went "So what's wrong with kids today?" and she said no, you're not passionate enough. I said that was because I wasn't dancing with Lori, but then Lori heard me and blushed, and everyone else started laughing at me. Royce had to send me home so she could get everyone calmed down again. I swear I'm going to get revenge on them all.

Monday, April 3 1988

Oh God. Got demoted to background chatter today. How humiliating. Instead of taking front stage and projecting something about something being wrong with whoever these days, now I have to stand in the background with that loser Jacob, shake his hand during the big number and watch Andy dance with Lori. Royce said, don't worry about it, this is much less pressure for you. I said I can take pressure. She said Really? and made a sudden motion towards me, and I squealed and hid behind Jacob. She said, Okay, calm down, and then she sent me to go try on my costume. My costume is stupid. It's a Hawaiian shirt with a tan jacket. Who wears those shirts? I look like a geek. One of Lori's friends, Katrina, came up to me and told me Lori liked me. I said Really? and the girl squealed and ran back to her friends and said Oh my God, he believed it! Tomorrow I'll find Katrina's lunch and spike her sandwich with sugar from the cafeteria floor.

Tuesday, April 4 1988

Had to serve a detention today. Principal Johnston caught me in Katrina's lunch. Apparently she's diabetic. I tried to tell him what happened, but I don't think he was listening. When I finished the story he said, Well that's nice, and Who are you again? and Mmmm. Sandwiches. His eyes looked glazed. When I got home, before I could open my mouth, Mom told me she didn't even want to hear about it.

Thursday, April 6 1988

Two days until opening night. I now have a total of three lines: "Kids today"; "That sounds like a plan!" ; and "I've got homework to do." I told Mom and Dad about the show and Mom said, We'll be there. Dad said, How long will it last? and Mom said for him to encourage me. Dad ruffled my hair and said, Good job, kid, I'm proud of you. Mom said, He hasn't done the show yet! and Dad said, Well now's my only chance to feel proud before it actually happens. Mom said, Have a little more faith in him, but I think Dad is onto something. I still can't remember all my lines.

Friday, April 7 1988

At lunch today, Royce asked me if I could say any of my lines. I made it as far as "That sounds like kids today!" and she rolled her eyes and told me to report to the choir room for practice. We drilled the lines for half an hour, but all I could come up with was "I've got a plan for kids" and "Homework today!" Royce said, If you flub this performance, I'll slap you silly. I said What's the big deal? and she said This musical is my ticket out of this dump. George Abbot will be in the crowd tonight and once he sees my talent, good-bye junior high nincompoops. I said, Like me? She said, No. Other nincompoops. I would get revenge on her, but I think the musical will take care of that by itself.

Saturday, April 8 1988

The show started at 7, but we finished early. At 7:35. Royce watched me mouth "Kids...today?" before she yanked me off stage and gave my lines to Russell, the Drama Queen. Andy got caught making out with Jacob backstage, and the two of them got sent home, so I had to take Jacob's part. Which meant I had to shake hands with myself. I thought I'd get to dance with Lori, but she was all like, Eeew, and I told her to stick a cork in it, so I got in trouble again. Every time I was on stage, Matt kept holding up signs from the middle row saying "DOUCHEBAG," and I kept losing my place after I saw it. Mom caught him doing it once and smacked him on the head. Dad kept looking at his watch. After the second act, I went backstage to do my homework so I could get better grades and not have to go through all this again in the fall play. I later found out that George Abbot thought our production of "Up Your Wall" was "somewhat more tolerable than a vasectomy with no anesthesia" so I guess Royce will be at school on Monday. I have to go finish my math now. My test is Monday and Mom is still whaling on Matt downstairs.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Making Amends File #324

To: Jimmy Spazoli
Re: Your Getting Caught with Gabrielle Uniger

Jimmy, you probably don't remember me, but we went to high school together. We didn't have any classes together or anything, but we passed by in the hallways once or twice. You were usually holding Garbrielle's hand and stealing kisses before classes and mushy, lovey things like that.

You probably never noticed the insane, burningly jealous stares boring holes into your thick, drug-addled head from across the lunchroom, and you most certainly didn't notice the furious stare from a social misfit firing at you through the walls of the DunEnd Motel on Route 72 after senior prom, where you took Gabrielle and the two of you went at it like lust-crazed weasels. Until, that is, the police and your parents, tipped off by an anonymous phone call, bust down the door and took you to the station to process you for statutory rape.

You didn't notice that stare coming from me, because it wasn't coming from me. I don't know who would have had that much rage towards an idiot like you with a hot piece of ass he didn't have the brains to appreciate (what was it, three other girls on the side, Casanova?). But I do know that, when the chips were down, I didn't offer any words of commiseration or support. And I should have.

I'm so very, very sorry, Jimmy.

All the best, etc.

P.S. You were so busted! Dude, you should have seen your face!

Making Amends File #323

To: Gabrielle Uniger
Re: Our would-be high school romance

Gabrielle, you might remember back in high school that annoying kid who sat behind you in study hall and stared down the front of your shirt all the time. The kid who made hooting and kissing noises whenever you walked by him in the hall. The kid who was caught with a photo of a Playboy model with your yearbook photo glued over the head.

Well, I was friends with that kid. And I stared down the front of your shirt too, only I was much more subtle about it.

Anyway, I am here to make amends for our disgraceful and disgusting behavior. You deserved much better than the lascivious and perverted leers of a couple of prepubescents like us. Your low-cut shirts, slit skirts and bared midriff clearly demands more respect than we were apparently willing to give. I'd also like to express my sorrow over your tragic prom night and your leaving high school early--I'm sure you wound up being a terrific mother and that Jimmy Spazoli wound up being a terrific father.

All the best, etc.

P.S. You are a filthy whore.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Happening (Happens): An M. Night Shyamalan Film

Starring Alma, Jess, Julian, Eliot...and me

Scene 1

ELIOT: Something's happening!
ALMA: What is it?
ELIOT: The trees! The grass! I think...I think nature is communicating with itself!
ALMA: Oh my God!
ELIOT: In order to protect themselves against humanity's damage, they're releasing a toxin that causes self-destructive--
ME: This is stupid. (Goes outside to mow the lawn in cleats)

Scene 2

ELIOT: We can't be too close to each other! Nature is starting to fight back!
ALMA: Oh my God!
ELIOT: We'll be okay as long as we don't band too many people together--
ME: This is stupid. (Goes outside to bulldoze landscape and install landmines)
ELIOT: No! (dramatically)Don't go outside!
ME: Why? The guys are coming over. We're going to carve our initials into all the trees. (pause) And set fire to them.
ALMA: Oh my God!
ME: What? What?

Scene 6

ME: Wait...what? You mean all that green stuff out there--
ELIOT: Nature.
ME: Yeah, that. You mean it's making us kill ourselves?
ELIOT: Well, I explained all that twenty minutes ago while you were beating the lawn with your rake--
ME: Ah! Ah! Fuck! Let's get the fuck out of here! (breaks down crying)
JESS: Calm down, guy.
ME: (sobs) I hate trees! I hate grass! I hate you, kid!
JESS: God. What a pussy.

Scene 7

JULIAN: We've got to be calm.
ME: Calm. Right. Because there are a bunch of pissed-off Ents outside trying to make us all put bleach on our breakfast cereal.
JULIAN: Calm down, man. Here, want to hear a math problem? If you get paid one cent your first day--
ME: Stop telling me to calm down or I'll stick this log up your ass.
JULIAN: Look, no reason to get testy. I'm a secondary character. I'll be dead in about twenty minutes anyway.
ME: Good point. You want to smoke some of those leaves over there?
JULIAN: Only if we play a few hands of Texas Hold'em while we do.

Scene 8

ELIOT: (into phone) Julian! Julian! I think Julian just killed himself! He's not answering his cell. He must have caught the toxin!
ME: Yes...the toxin...(throws bloody log away, pockets Julian's wallet)

Scene 17

CRAZY OLD LADY MRS. JONES: I guess I should let you all into my house. But don't touch any of my--
ME: This is stupid. (sucker-punches her, throws her outside, goes in house)
ELIOT: Okay, I'm with you on this one.

Scene 20

ELIOT: The wind! It's coming our way!
ALMA: Oh my God!
JESS: I'm scared!
ELIOT: Don't worry. We just have to approach this scientifically. First thing is to get Jess to safety.
ALMA: Right. Because she's young and vulnerable.
ME: Hey Jess! Let's go outside and play hide and seek!
JESS: Um, is this really the right--
ME: Tag! (Pushes her out the door of the house, locks it behind her) You're it!
ALMA: Oh my God!
ELIOT: But what good does that do? The wind will still--
ME: No time to explain! Eliot, I need you to go outside and douse those crops with kerosene. Alma, spray all the bushes with Axe Body Spray!
ALMA: Oh my God! Oh my God!

Scene 26

ELIOT: Okay. I just ran outside to be with my wife and newly-orphaned best friend's daughter, and the toxin that's making people kill each other has mysteriously dissipated.
ALMA: Wow, that's...unrealistically lucky.
ELIOT: We must make sure we respect nature from now on. We must learn from this lesson.
ME: We must light a bonfire out of hay and chrysanthemums in memory of all the poor dead bastards. (starts spraying gasoline)
ELIOT: Oh crap...!
ME: (hacking at foliage and laughing maniacally) Who's your daddy? Yeah! That's right, bitches! Kiss my carbon-emitting, oxygen-gobbling ass!
ELIOT: Hey, Alma, let's have kids.
ALMA: Okay.

The End

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Comebacks to the beautiful, entrancing woman in my life which I've been too cowardly to deliver

While watching Raising Arizona)
HER: So where does this movie take place?
ME: Wasilla, Alaska. Duh.

While cleaning house
HER: Hey! Hey!
ME: (pulls iPod earphones from ears) What?
HER: Why do you wear those things while you're cleaning? Then you can't hear me yelling at you!
ME: Why do you ask questions and then immediately answer them?

While drinking beer recklessly on a Sunday night when I should be grading papers
ME: Could you get me another beer while you're up?
HER: Won't that be your fourth one?
ME: No. It'll be my third one. The next beer will be my fourth.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Suggested Curriculum Revisions for the State of Texas

Recently, the state of Texas voted to rewrite their secondary education curriculum to make sure it reflected conservative, Christian values. Without question, the following passages need to be chopped, in order to ensure the continued moral development of our children. These passages are filthy and perverted. Strike them from the record. Now.

"Close to our bows, strange forms in the water darted hither and thither before us; while thick in our rear flew the inscrutable sea ravens."
--Moby Dick, Chapter 50

"It has ever since [I came to Boston] been a Pleasure to me to see good Workmen handle their Tools."
--The Autobiography of Ben Franklin, p 57

Quince: If that may be, then all is well. Pyramus, you begin.
Enter Puck, from Behind
--A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II, Scene 1

Palin lays down law on neighbor reporter

Palin lays down law on neighbor reporter

Former governor of Alaska Sarah Palin reported on her Facebook page yesterday that freelance writer Joe McGinniss is renting a house next to hers in Wasilla in order to write a book on her.

Palin, concerned about privacy and lifestyle violations, immediately spoke to police, who issued a series of edicts limiting McGinniss' activities and intrusions, including:

--no attempts to impregnate any female members of the Palin family

--no open discussion of the origin of dinosaurs or the Big Bang in front of Trig

--no attempts to "friend" Palin on facebook

--maintain a low volume on the radio while listening to NPR; also, copies of the New York Times will not be left out in public where Palin fans might catch a glimpse of them

--routine submissions to backyard touch football games and skeet shooting with Todd

Pathetic Moments of Triumph I am Currently Reliving

Episode I: 1993, Lake Zurich Blockbusters

My friend Jen and I are out getting a movie to watch at my place. Jen asks me if she can drive my mother's 1990 Honda Accord back, since she's got her drivers ed test coming up, which will determine whether or not she'll get a license, which will, in turn determine whether or not we'll get to hang out this spring and summer vacation.

I agree and fork over my keys. We switch places. She fixes the seat. Adjusts the mirror. Turns towards me and gives me a confident, humorous smile. Puts the gear into drive. And crashes into a bush in front of her--she'd meant to put the car in reverse, but had been too busy adjusting the mirror and smiling confidently to note her direction.

I was reassuring. I was confident. I was sympathetic.

I didn't smack her in the mouth.

A true moment of triumph.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bardcast has podcasts on multiple topics. I'm going through them to see if there's anything I want to steal for the seminar next month.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Area English Teacher "Fucking Fed Up" with Palin's Language

WASHINGTON, D.C.--A suburban high school English teacher has gone on the record as saying he "can't fucking take" another lexical or semantic gaffe by conservative pundit and former vp nominee Sarah Palin.

The teacher, whose name is not being released, made it clear that Palin's upcoming book, America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag, was the primary source of his frustration and that Palin herself was setting the oratorical bar lower than ever.

"How many different ways can this woman bitch up the English language?" the teacher asked at a recent press conference. "Bad enough she's adding 'ey' to the end of any word she doesn't like. Now this."

The teacher explained that what made Palin's book title so inelegant, and "fuck-dumb as a manure pile in the living room," was its asymmetry.

"You can reflect on Family. You can reflect on Faith," he said. "But how in Christ do you reflect on Flag? Does she mean Reflect on a Flag? On the Symbolism of the American Flag?

"Me Sarah Palin. Me reflect on flag," he added. "I need a drink."

Palin's campaign manager, Lou Trillo, defended Palin's title choice.

"[The English teacher] may not see it as a matter of choice, but then, neither do a lot of these cultural liberal elites," he said in a brief press release. "They want you to abide by the government. They want you to abide by what they decide is best for America. But Sarah is a rogue. This is what she does."

The teacher countered Trillo's statement by telling him such assertions were "unfuckingfounded" and that he should get his boss to "shut her damn cake hole."

"'Flag' is a definite reference, not a generic noun," he said. "Language is sacrosanct. So you can take that crap and blow it out your ass."

Palin herself declined to comment, saying through intermiediary sources only that she was "riding in car" to go back home so she could "think about speech" she had to deliver in Boise later that week.

The English teacher, meanwhile, said he was throwing in the towel on teaching grammar and syntax and going home to get high.

"If the political right won't speak English correctly, how in hell can they argue that it should be our national language?" he said. "Language is a tool. In the hands of the ill-suited, what could be a sharp scalpel for incisive and revealing commentary becomes a blunt cudgel used only to grab attention, not deliver information.

" 'Reflections on Flag,' " he added. "My cock-filled ass."

"I used good grammar...and almost bought into domestic terrorism!"

Palin's next book already making waves. Shallow, empty waves...

CHICAGO--Confidential sources, and page seven of today's newspaper, have confirmed that former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin will be releasing her second book, titled America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith and Flag.

Palin mentioned the title during a recent speech at the Rosemont Theater yesterday, where she riffed on President Obama's "hopey changey thing," the "lame-stream media" and other clever onomatopoetic noun phrases designed for subliterate would-be voters. The new book will most likely sell like crazy, given the popularity of her first book, Going Rogue.

However, sources close to other sources (who never leave the house) revealed that Palin had gone through several other possible book titles before settling on America By Heart.

Lou Trillo, Palin's campaign manager, said the conservative pundit had thought about titles such as Talk to What's On the Hand: Tactics of a Pundit for the People and What I Meant Was Spill, Baby, Spill: How Oil is Good but Something Clean Would Be Better.

"And for the record, she didn't write [those titles] on her hand," said Lou Trillo, Palin's campaign manager. "They were all neatly printed on a big yellow legal pad. With stickers and ponies by the good ones."

Palin fans are already rampant with speculation about what domestic and international issues plaguing the world Palin will be writing about.

"I'm thinking...Faith? I bet she reflects on faith," said Dustin Eckhardt, general manager of the Twin Rivers, Idaho Borders.

"Balls," countered Robbie Cruz, Chicago tax accountant. "She'll be reflecting on Family. Doesn't she have a kid who's dying or something?"

Trillo declined to comment on specific content of the book.

"There will definitely be a lot of reflecting on the many facets of America," he said. "The former governor is a rogue. It's anyone's guess what she'll reflect on next. Even she's wild to find out."

Palin gestures with flinty frontier toughness for her flinty Midwestern tough audience.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Rushed Review of Me and Shakespeare, a memoir by Herman Gollob

A lot of what Gollob has to say in this admittedly riveting memoir makes me want to punch him in his erudite, enthusiastic mouth. Basically, the book takes us into his golden years of retirement and his blossoming interest in All Things Shakespeare: reading the plays, studying the plays, teaching them, watching them and interpreting them. His interest becomes your own, if it isn't already, but for me, it's a bit too hard to stop being jealous/resentful of him long enough to roll around in his commentary and life story.

Gollob edited books for forty years, consorting with authors the likes of which I shall not see any time soon. He retired comfortably, and picked up a passion for Shakespeare after a staging of Hamlet. He dove into the texts, learned everything you could expect an autodidact to learn, and dove into teaching Shakespeare to an adult education class. He took trips to the Folgers Shakespeare Library in D.C. and got a day's pass to the Reading Room, where he uncovered a Whitman essay and incorporated it into a paper. He traveled to Oxford to study the Bard for three or four weeks. He put together a damn good argument concerning Shakespeare and Judaism. He talked to celebrities and professional playwrights, developing his sense of drama and waxing enthusiastic over what Shakespearian gems he's unearthed over the years. And he ends his memoir with plans to get an M.A. and teach as an adjunct, while still developing his own curriculum for the adult ed course and maybe even teaching how to perform the plays, a la Shakespeare Set Free from the Folgers. Nifty, Herman! How do you find the energy?

Oh how I envy this guy. (His memoir is full of tragedy, loss and striving, I should point out, but I will overlook all of this at the moment.) He fights (and wins) his school for a two-hour course over a three-week period with no bathroom breaks, and determines to limit discussion, arguing (rightly) that extended classroom banter does not yield material for those seeking to learn explicitly. He turns down a chance to teach Freshman Comp, arguing (idiotically) that forty years of book editing is just as painful as grading all those essays (oh really?). He downs pints of ale in London and wallows in history and literature every chance he gets. And every other sentence begins with a literary allusion. "As I stood there on the bridge, I found myself thinking of Psalm 43..." "As I watched Frank Sinatra chat up my wife, I found myself reflecting on what Feste had to say about youth in Twelfth Night." Go fly a kite, Gollob. And guess what? My Reading Room pass this summer will last me a month, not ust a day. Suck on it, Herr Professor.

Still, I have to give credit where credit is due. Gollob is passionate, informed and witty. His zest for Shakespeare is contagious--I'm not one to go in for Bardoloatry myself, but some of it does wind up rubbing off, even in spite of hardhearted jealousy over someone reveling in that elusive second act of American life, Fitzgerald notwithstanding. His 300+ book will get even the most devout Philistine running for a Shakespeare fest, or at the very least chasing down some of his gobbets and observations (I'm starting with his oft-quoted Shakespeare and the Jews myself--he cites the book at least two dozen times and it looks pretty interesting). If I can just get through the next thirty-five years of work without losing my sanity, maybe I can pull off what he manages...provided books haven't been replaced by mind-texts or something.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

It used to be, Bill O'Reilly was who I went to when I needed something to vent my spleen upon. Now Hannity fits the bill.

Sean Hannity complained about Bill Maher tarring all Republicans as racists by having two commentators on (both black, I think; one from the left, one from the right) and talking over the guy on the left. Standard Operating Procedure, from what I can tell. Only thing is, he quotes and cites evidence against himself, and nobody calls him on it.
SEAN HANNITY, HOST: HBO talk show host Bill Maher was typically classy on his appearance on ABC over the weekend. Here's what he had to say about members of the Republican Party.


BILL MAHER, HBO TALK SHOW HOST: I would never say, and I have never said, because it's not true, that Republicans, all Republicans are racist. That would be silly and wrong. But nowadays, if you are racist, you're probably a Republican.


HANNITY: And joining me now with reaction, James Peterson, assistant professor of English and Africano [SIC] studies at Bucknell University. And Congressional candidate from California and the 37th District is — Star Parker is with us.

What — he is saying, basically trying to advance the narrative that, if you're conservative, if you're a Republican, you are racist, right?
Parker, even if he wanted to bash Maher, could have still responded, "Well, Sean, actually you're misquoting him, based on the video clip you just fucking played." Nope. Par for course:
STAR PARKER, CALIFORNIA CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Right. To intimidate. Again, they throw out racism every opportunity they get.
Eh. Maybe, in addition to being a Republican, he's also dyslexic. (Whoops, did I just call all Republicans dyslexic? I'm sure it'll come out that way.)

There's plenty to throw at Maher, to be sure. But why is it that Fox's favorite target for "liberal bias" or "liberal venom" is always cable talk show comedians and satirists like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert? Who's this "they" Star is referring to, late night cable?

I'm still trying to figure out the headline of this story: "Bill Maher Plays Race Card." What race card? I thought that was when you used your race to get a special privilege or something, like, "Hey, you're just denying me a mortgage because I'm black," or something. Maher is making an accusation; isn't that "wielding the race club?" "Beating it with the race stick?" Man, I hate bad metaphors.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

The Limping Dogs Debut at Lamplighters (But First, a Word on Their Origins)

I'm in my basement trying to coax my mutant, mentally handicapped chihuahua out from under the couch so I can go to a rock concert. Typical drama in this household: it's 6 p.m. and I'm due at Lamplighter's in Palatine for the debut of an exciting act, a once-in-a-lifetime assemblage of musical talent and sensibility. And some serious balls, too--this is a trio of trend setting rock stars (if "trend setting" is a euphemism for "aging, irate drunkards who will play for beer pretzels") that are making their mark tonight. I have observations to record, quotes to obtain, Colt 45 to chug and beer pretzels to procure.

But my dog, bless his stupid little heart, is making marks of his own. Since I'm in a hurry to leave, after having dozed off in front of the TV and after he's gotten himself comfortable, my mutt with the brain of a fruit fly has decided that now would be a pretty good time to take refuge under the couch so as to trap me at home, swilling vodka and neglecting my journalistic responsibilities.

"Come here you little rodent," I growl in my most threatening voice (which usually sends hardened study hall delinquents into hysterics) and fishing at him with a broomstick. "Get out from under there or I'll popsicle you with this thing."

Batman sneers at me and lifts his leg threateningly. From past experience, he knows full well that the most violent act I'm capable of committing against him is a wagged finger in his face. Even that is rare--Batman tends to snap at anything he thinks might be food, and I need my finger. I love my finger. For reasons I will not get into here.

"Put that leg down," I warn him. "I told you--save that for when the band is here. They're not. They're at the bar and I've got to go cover them."

Batman growls, farts, and squeaks out a bark. The subtext is clear: Fuck the band. Stay at home and let me bathe your elbow with my tongue.

It's no use. I'm trapped. I don't dare leave him in the living room--he'll systematically tear every cushion in the house apart, and then pee on the remains. For Batman knows. He knows the power he holds over me, over the band, and over contemporary rock music overall. While I'm chasing him around, working up a sweat and wondering aloud whether or not I could make a good pair of gloves out of him, Chris Dewey, Bryan Park and Kim Laibach are taking center stage, howling their greetings and flashing three-fingered devil's signs at a crowd of adoring fans. The Limping Dogs are ready to rock.

A legend has been born.


It all started when Batman stubbed his toe.

I'd taken him duck hunting yet again, which was proving to be somewhat troublesome. Someone once told me chihuahuas are from the desert, don't handle water well and don't know dick about duck hunting, but I figured that was hooey. Every time my dogs so much as heard a geese honk, they were off running, barking their fool little heads off. So I figured they must be naturals. Oh, true, I had second thoughts the first time I put Batman in the marsh and he sunk up to his eyeballs and I had to fish him out and clean mud out of his mouth that he'd eaten in an effort to escape. But never let it be said that my dog's slow start is any mark of my own skill as a teacher.

This time, though, I'd dropped my duck hunting gun in the water, and since it was unable to fire, I'd resorted to using it as a club on any ducks within reach. Of which there were none. Besides, Batman was being a dick, insisting on avoiding the water and preferring to be carried in my flak jacket, grunting all the while. The one duck I did manage to get close to bit me on the hand, and it was then I decided I'd better go home and see what Kim, who is, after all, a doctor, could do about it.

When I came home, I found my wife-to-be at her drum set, with Dewey on the guitar, Park on the bass and Chris Tso blowing notes out of a hooch jug. This setup had become quite common over the past year and a half, as the four of them experimented with several kinds of music and talked idly about ditching their spouses, S.O.s and pathetic day jobs in order to rock the suburban open mic scene. I'd tried to be supportive by stepping around Dewey's gyrating guitar solos while doing laundry, or agreeing to experiment with LSD with Park in the backyard. But truth be told, this time I was in no mood to be accommodating. The duck bite was starting to fester, and the world was dipping and swaying alarmingly as I stepped up to the band. At the moment, Dewey was performing an electrifying guitar solo on a Fender Stratacast, Park was belting out Primus riffs, Laibach was doing a Keith Moon solo and Tso was weeping frustratedly on a nearby chair, jug dangling from his girlish grip.

"It just...it's just not coming out right," he sobbed.

"It's okay, man," Dewey said, making a halfhearted gesture of reassurance. "You've only been playing for four years."

"We need to start thinking about a schtick," Laibach announced, twirling a drumstick with one hand and stuffing a fig bar into her mouth with the other. "Something radical. Original. Groundbreaking. Moneymaking."

"How about we use old Celtic runes and do some songs about Tolkien and Arthurian legends?" Park suggested.

"How about we paint bats and what not on our faces and stick our tongues way out?" Laibach offered. "Also, we could set Tso on fire."

"I think we should do a hard-core Satan worshipping act," Dewey said. "It's what the kids are into these days, right?"

"I can't play this thing," Tso cried, chucking his jug into a corner and retreating into the kitchen to sulk by himself.

There was a lull in the conversation at this point, which is when they noticed me. "Hi," I mumbled. "You're all still here. Good."

"Who's he?" Dewey asked Kim absently.

"What do you want?" Laibach demanded. "We're really busy."

"Where's that roast duck you promised?" Park asked.

"My dog didn't retrieve it," I lied, putting Batman down on the floor. "All he did was stare at the duck, bark at a squirrel, run on the docks and poop." Batman, taking umbrage at my criticism, ran back towards me and peed on my shoe. I swore at him and made as if to kick him.

"He's limping," Laibach observed, taking a long pull from her bag of trail mix.

"He stubbed his toe on a duck that was already dead," I said. "Which reminds me. I got bit. Do I have anything to worry about?"

"How the hell would I know?" Laibach retorted. "I don't know human medicine."

"Well...it was a duck."

"Well I'm sure it'll be all right." Laibach squinted at Batman, chewing her lower lip thoughtfully. "He's limping," she repeated.

"You're right," Dewey said, his own gaze narrowing on Batman. "He is limping."

"I'm only asking because this duck was foaming at the mouth," I interjected. "Can ducks get rabies? I mean, I don't want to sound like a wimp or anything, but..."

"A dog...a dog that's limping," Park muttered quietly, his eyes riveted on Batman's trek across the floor in order to continue dribbling on my sneaker.

"He's a dog," said Laibach.

"A limping dog," agreed Dewey, catching on. "My God, that's too stupid not to work."

"He's a Limping Dog," Laibach announced. "And so are we."

"I think my hand is infected," I sulked.

"That's brilliant, Kim," said Dewey. "I mean, aren't we all Limping Dogs deep down inside?"

Park spun his bass in his arms and cracked open another one of my beers. "To the Limping Dogs!"

"Call an ambulance," I begged.

"To the LD's!" yelled Laibach.

"To the Limping Dogs!" announced Dewey.

"I got my hand stuck in the jug!" Tso yelled from the kitchen.

And thus, the legend began. No, really. For real.


Of course, I'm not at the concert to enjoy it. The debut performance drew a crowd the likes of which Palatine had not seen since the Michael Richardson poetry slam of 2007. The earth moved. Records for standing ovations were broken. The Dogs managed to seduce an entire demographic with retro folk songs and Dewey's unbounded contempt for the crowd, sandwiched in between sets in the form of rambling, drunken monologues. And while Kim received three marriage proposals (seriously considering only one or two, she later assured me) and Park had a urinal memorialized in his honor by the bar owner, I was surrendering to the band's six-pound, blob-like namesake.

"Look, Batman, there's a bunch of crotches for you to sniff at the bar if you come out of there," I plead with him. "I've got a deadline, okay? Just come on out."

Batman bares his tooth at me and dribbles on the nearby remote control. "All right then," I grunt, utterly defeated. "You win. Animal Planet: Late Night Confessions it is."

Batman yips triumphantly and beings doing victory laps around the sofa.

"Help!" I hear from upstairs. A whiny, defeated tone to rival even my own. "Now I got my dick stuck in the jug!"

And thus, another legend was born. But seriously, the hell with that one. Go try your luck with the last legend--the Dogs are playing a bar near you soon, and the beers are going for half price.

The mighty Batman rests up after an exhausting afternoon of doing nothing. In front of him, the Limping Dogs perfect their opening number: "My Dog Hunts Ducks but My Man is a Dick."