Dream Seats II (or How I Met Rupert Murdoch)

The day after Rupert Murdoch, that evil, slime-mongering dicator of sleaze, pulled plans to publish OJ Simpson's "controversial" book, If I wink wink Did It, I hightailed it down to a hip east village bar to celebrate the fact that I'd survived another day at work without decapitating anyone, and to hear some music. Perhaps, I naively thought, there really was good in the world, even though even Happy Stan knows Murdoch and his band of merry Bill O'Reilly's yanked the OJ slimebomb off the shelves because the evil empire was going to lose more from lost ads and stonings than the book was going to bring in. But I was out of work and music always brings me closer to what I imagine others would call "happiness."

I got to the bar -- a tiny, hip dive on Avenue C -- and met my friends about 45 minutes before the concert was scheduled to begin, which meant we got seats -- okay, barstools -- in the back, about fifteen feet from the podium. Great seats, great bar and if my heart weren't made of lead, I would have been excited. I even thought for a moment: life is... Then eight girls entered the bar and took the remaining seats to my right. At first I thought little of them, because after all I'm a man of the people and I've learned to embrace humans from all walks of life, even twenty-somethings. They chatted and giggled loudly, but I glanced their way on occasion only to see if any of them might be my potential future wife. No such luck. In fact, given a choice between marriage to one of them and death by over exposure to Donald Rumsfeld, I would have chosen the latter. And it wasn't because they weren't cute and pert (which they weren't). It was because they were everything wrong with America. They were evil. They were people who would have stood in line to buy OJ's book. They were Rupert Murdoch! Would I marry Rupert Murdoch? Sure I would, I'm a writer, I'm not stupid. But Rupert's loaded -- come to papa, sugar-daddy. These girls were loaded in a very different sense.

People continued to stream into the bar as the temperature in the room rose above 250 degrees, but my compatriot -- call her ''The Tolerant Friend" (or "TTF") -- swore the music would make it all worthwhile. And I believed her because she's TTF and she's never lied to me, except for when it's been for my own good, which is every day. There were people all around me, people pushing past me, people reaching over me to get their drinks at the bar, but as I mentioned, I'm a man of the people and I was willing to endure their transgressions because, deep down, I love mankind as much as I love that funny feeling I get when I swallow my gum. So great: the music begins, it's a mix of bluegrass, country and soul and I feel my blood pressure begin to release, which it does when I listen to music or look at pictures of teddy bears. But the girls wouldn't stop talking. In fact, they raised their voices: after all, they couldn't hear each other and how else could they carry on a conversation during a performance? Speak up, Ashley, there's a band playing and if we talk loud enough, you know, scream, we can hear each other. Others stared at them. One brave soul leaned over and asked them to quiet down. The "girl" he addressed smiled. At him. And continued her conversation. I thought to say something to one of these people, but I hate confrontation and I also knew that these girls were built in a land (a home) of self-entitlement. They were grown babies and would look upon any effort to bring them to order, to show respect, as an encroachment on their inalienable rights to being bitches. They're of the sort who say "thank-you" in that little sing-song that really means, "You're so beneath me, I'm not thanking you, I don't thank anyone, I don't respect anything, except money and a punch in the face, and you're not man enough to do bring home either, motherfucker." To make matters worse, two friends of the evil eight arrived after the performance had begun. They stood to my left -- there was no room to pass in this packed bar -- and started signaling and chatting with their friends on the other side of me. My earlier theory about the girls was confirmed when TTF politely leaned over to the two new girls and asked them to be quiet while the band played. One of the girls actually said, "Well, you don't have to be so rude." TTF was rude. That's what she was saying. The girl was screaming to her friends during a concert, ignoring glares and "quiet please's" and TTF was rude.

Here are some things I wish could have happened:

1) I gather myself during a break and for once I'm articulate in a moment of rage and I say, "Will you fucking bitches shut the hell up? What? I'm rude? You're everything that's wrong with America. You're the result of parents who don't know how to create boundaries, to truly love their kids, to help them form proper attachments, to teach them that other people exist and that yes, they should respect those other people. And I hope that in five or ten years you'll be able to look back on how you are now and think, god, what a bitch I was, that guy was right, but I know that's not going to happen, because you're never going to grow up, you're going to be stuck in that miserable, self-indulgent body until you die, and you'll die miserably and alone because you know what, you're both of those already. Now why don't you take your so-called friends outside and do us all a big favor and get run over by a very large, disease-ridden bus."

2) The leader of the band stops and throws his guitar across the room and everyone goes silent. Except for the chatting girls, because of course they're oblivious. And everyone in the room stares and stares. And stares and stares. Until finally one of the girls notices and she blushes and points out to her friends that everyone in the bar is staring menancingly at them. Then the girls magically tranform into piles of poo, and the concert continues.

3) The devil, in the form of Rupert Murdoch, appears in the center of the room, hovering like a spector, and begins singing the theme song to The Duke of Hazzard, because, he says, it's his favorite show, and then that hot chick from the movie version of the show appears too and it turns out she's sensitive and smart, and we leave the bar together just as Rupert is singing, "Just good ol' boys..." and we never look back, we keep walking into the sunset.

4) TTF tells me I'm on a reality show called "Hanging with Bitches," and hands me a million dollars for lasting as long as I did. Everyone congratulates me, and then that Dukes of Hazzard thing from above happens.

Of course, there was no quieting down those girls, and so I left before the concert was over. It was cold outside (and, sniff, inside my heart as well), but at least I'd taken what little action I could under the circumstances. The world needs teachers, it seems, to educate people like this (there's only so much one cranky person can do), but in the meantime, it's a shame the rest of us have to put up with Rupert and his land of idiots. Next time I'm bringing my Taser.



I'm applying to graduate school and never mind asking in what subject, because it's not really your business and it's besides the point. What is the point is that I was required, as part of my application process, to take the Graduate Record Examinations, or GREs as they are affectionately referred to by people, like nuns and actors on TV, who refer to things with affection. The GREs are divided into three helpful sections: verbal, math and analytical, and while this is certainly enough to test my ability to answer difficult word problems and analogies, it doesn't begin to address an even more important subject: how low I'm willing to grovel in order to make these grad schools like me. "Oh please, please like me," Happy Stan recommended I write on page one of my applications, but I have too much integrity for that. But I WAS willing to sit in a tiny room with 20 other go-getter types for four hours and answer questions on a computer screen.

I am not a scientist, but I can spell "science" and without question that gives me the authority to say the following: the GREs test your ability to take the GREs and not much else. Sure, some of the questions are difficult [SEE BELOW FOR SAMPLE QUESTIONS], but there are innumerable classes you can take and books you can study in order to improve your score. The verbal section, replete with analogies, antonyms, sentence completions and reading comprehension questions dense enough to make an elephant choke, don't test in any way how well you'll be able to learn science terms if you're going to be a scientist, or even how well you reason. The tests aren't really useful for testing how you'll do in any particularly subject. And they're annoying.

So what are the GREs really testing? It's this: how hard you might work when you actually enroll in graduate school. Which isn't so bad, I suppose, since grad schools are investing in students as much as students are investing in grad schools (except students are investing their life savings, and grad schools are making millions). But some programs don't even use the scores! My programs require them only because they're required by the larger universities to which I'm applying. So that makes it even more annoying that I lost sleep over the buggers. Lots of sleep. More sleep than I'll ever get back (rest assured, I am not going to grad school to study time travel, so that sleep is long gone). Because I hate tests more than I hate mold season. I get nervous preparing for tests, the tests begin to occupy my every thought, action and taste, I can't sleep, or eat, tests, just, test, Tests, TESTS! So why do they make us take these meaningless, painful, tooth-pulling exams? Because those who don't take them will turn to a life of a crime and give the rest of us something to clean up after.

Here are some sample math and verbal questions:

1) If Ted has six sisters, three are named Elizabeth and one runs for President of the United States, and x = 13, what is the likelihood that Ted had too many raisinettes when he went to see the latest screening of Borat last night: A) 16! B) 16/x C) 16 D) 1.6 E) All of the above.

2) Which is greater, A or B:

x = 13 orangatuns, y = 4 lemon drops
Quantity A =x - y Quantity B = 11
Quantity A is greater
Quantity B is greater
Quantity A equals Quantity B
Relationship Indeterminate Since Orangatuns are not Crustaceans

3) Using the triangle not given and assuming x = 7, let us know if that guy is bothering you. Yeah, that one over there. Yeah, you. What? What did you say? Are you looking at me, because I'll come over there, man. What? Oh no, you di'nt. Just turn your fat head around and finish your test, because you know you don't want to see me mad. A) 90 degrees B) 45 degrees C) Damn, just turn around! D) 10 degrees E) Damn!


1) Rhinoceros is to GRE as
A) Hippo is to GRE
B) Llama is to GRE
C) Caterpillar is to GRE
D) Wallet is to Empty
E) Elapsed

2) Find the word that is most closely opposite in meaning to the following word: Defibrilator. A ) Trophy B) Sponge C) Boutros Boutros Gali D) Kareem Abdul Jabar E) Defibrilator

3) Answer this question after reading the following text which we have reduced to the size of an electron: if Batman had a gun, could he beat up Superman?


Dream Seats

If there's one thing in the world I really love, it's going to a spacious theater on a Saturday night, relaxing with a large box of popcorn and a 150 mg Zantac, sitting back to enjoy a movie without annoying disruptions from my phone, my blackberry or other humans. If I had it my way (and I do, but only when I dream), I'd build a giant theater for myself and attend movies daily -- Martin Scorsese style -- and allow only friends and other billionaires into my special cave. But since I'm probably not dreaming, nothing causes my GERD to flare up quite as much as people who arrive at the theater too late to find a good seat, or, even worse, after the movie has begun and ask me to move to accomodate their self-entitled, flabby asses.

I went to see the "Science of Sleep" the other day (a movie apparently made about my entire 20s) and got there early and claimed a cozy seat near the middle-back. Those who filled in the row around me sensed my surlyness and as the theater filled I found myself with empty human-holders on both sides, which was fine with me: more room to stretch my too-long-for-the-movies-or-flying-in-airplanes legs. Happy Stan says I should use the opportunity at the movies to chat with other movie goers, but that's only because HS thinks I secretly like people.

About 17 seconds before the movie began I felt a tap on my shoulder and as I turned to bite off the offender's arm I heard him say, "would you mind moving over one so my girlfriend and I can sit together?" He had an English accent, long stringy hair and a vibe like Keith Richards, only without the rock stardom and years of drug abuse to back it up. In short, he was a lightweight hipster. Dude, where the hell were you when I was taking this sit 35 minutes ago? I didn't show up early to save you a seat. I couldn't help myself, I actually said that. He was flustered and I saw for a moment a flicker of fear: oh no, this guy is crazy. In New York anything is possible and he didn't know if I was about to stand up and cut off his head with a machete. But I moved over one, finally, because -- wait, why did I move? Perhaps because that moment, over a single movie seat, wasn't the best time to make a stand on principle. But then, when is? If we don't stop the bleeding, the decay, soon, if we don't prevent the ones who live in a cloud (and don't have their own blogs), the ones who do not realize other people exist, from destroying what little sense of humanity our culture has, who will? And don't tell me Paris Hilton, because I'll just slap you.

What gets me about these people is that they're oblivious to their own obliviousness. They think it's okay to inconvenience others to compensate for their laziness, tardiness or whatever -ness they're full of. I was waiting in line the other day at the movies with a friend (I have two) and the line stretched around the block. When they finally let us in a middle-aged woman tried to turn the corner and jump into line. Fortunately, a fellow cranky-panter was on the job and stopped her short with, "do you think I was born yesterday, lady?" What's wrong with her? I know what's wrong. She thinks she's more important than everyone else. She has no empathy, no capacity for love: she's all greed and American go-get 'em-ness. Another -ness taken to extremes. Makes me want to drift off, to sleep, to escape into my own moldable reality.

I often dream of being lost in large, empty buildings, of stumbling up dark steps, of winding through cavernous rooms. I'm invariably alone on these treks, slightly out of sorts, but not completely panicked. Is my brain telling me I'm lost? Or that too often my own psyche is unknowable, even to myself?

The movie was very good, as it turned out, and told the sad story of a boy-man who can't deal with the reality of dating, or of any other people, because he lives his entire life in a dream. The irony struck me only later, but then I wondered if I might not be better off disappearing into my own psychosis, like the protagonist of the film. At least I'd get a nice seat in an empty movie theater every time. I'm so close.


Happy Fitness

I've taken to exercising along with fitness programs on television in an effort to find ways to stay in shape while avoiding paying half my salary to a gym where I have to wait in line ten minutes to tone those hard to reach lats. After watching a bunch, I realized something was off, and it wasn't just my right hip. It was THEM.

I have nothing against the TV exercise instructors, because their crunching their abs to make sure I don't turn into a tubby ball of goo. I respect 'em. But what burns my buns more than Ellen Barrett after an hour long workout is this: they can't stop smiling. It's relentless. It's as if they've been hypnotized by Ms. America, it's like they're auditioning for Valley of the Dolls, it's as if their brains have been sucked out through a straw and replaced by vanilla milkshakes. What's with all the smiling, kids? You're sweating! Just once I'd like to see Ellen lean over her knee, wipe her forehead and exclaim, "fuck, this workout is kicking my ass!"

Wouldn't that make you feel better (and by you, I mean "me")? Because you're not even bending over, wiping your forehead and exclaiming anything, because you stopped about halfway through the workout, walked outside, kicked the neighbor's cat and bought yourself an ice cream Sundae. You're a human being, after all, and wouldn't it be easier to finish one of those workouts if the person you were following was human as well? No, it wouldn't, who are you trying to kid? You're lazy, stop blaming Ellen Barrett.

Wait, I've gotten off track again. Okay, I would marry Ellen. She's perky, in shape and she says things like, "You're doing great," which, lets face it, is something most guys want to hear in as many contexts as possible. But I'd love to see her after the show, clutching her side: "Damn, I've got a cramp, I've got a cramp." That would make her endearing, lovable and more like you, me and everyone else. So what's with all the phony smiling?

I think it's because we're living in a culture where nothing is supposed to be difficult. If it's hard to do, it's not worth doing. My Uncle Abe was over my house the other day to watch football and eat me out of nachos when he said, in between bouts of terrible gas, "There has never yet been a man in our history who led a life of ease whose name is worth remembering." It sounded like something Theodore Roosevelt would say, but my Uncle has a way of exceeding the intelligence of our collective human history. His point is that no one gets anything done unless he applies himself, but marketing people know they can convince you that it's not true. They put a shine, a gloss on everything -- they want you to waste your life, to sit in front of the television and get excited by the Dustbuster, they want you to go to your computer and order a thighmaster, they want you to eat McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken and put enough pressure on your poor heart to turn a coal into a diamond. They want you to pin a numb smile on your face, go through life like a dummy, smiling meaninglessly all the way into the dirt. They want you -- us -- to believe life is SUPPOSED to be easy. Life, lets face it, isn't easy, and in our culture there are too many reasons for giving up, for addicting yourself to Ally McBeal, cocaine or self-love blogging.

The fitness experts know what's going on, they're on the front lines, because that body they have took a shitload of work. Someone, I suspect, is forcing them to do all that smiling. The producers are convinced it's the only way audiences will stick with it: "Make it seem easy, Ellen." The experts need to get their own channel, run by fitness gurus, owned by fitness gurus, where they can whisper to us honestly: "Look, this is going to take a lot of work, you slob. But after a few months, if you stick with me, you might be able to climb down a flight of stairs without losing your breath. You and I are just alike except for one thing. I do 500 crunches a day and you can't lay off those Twinkies. You disgust me!"

Ellen, don't hesitate to say hi!


Damn machines

I was in the post-office picking up my hate mail (one from my mom), when I happened to pass by an average young man depositing quarters into a stamp machine. One of the quarters fell all the way through for no apparent reason and the man let out a hissing, exasperated moan and if I hadn't been right there I'm fairly certain he would have whipped out his manhood and peed on the contraption. By the way, I don't typically use the word "manhood" in any context, but Happy Stan says his kids have been reading my blog for tips on how to avoid a miserable adulthood, so I'm occasionally censoring my lingo.

Where was I? Oh yes, the post-office. I was right there with that poor guy, remembering the many times I've deposited change into the snack machine at work, my mouth watering, my eyes growing large at the site of the peanut butter cups just behind the plastic. And I remembered the many times the machine wouldn't take my quarters (and the one time I slammed my fist against the plastic sheild and swore revenge). I remembered all the times my computer crashed just as I was about to send a brilliant email to my girlfriend explaining why I was right and she was wrong about everything we'd ever discussed, including my tendency to ignore what she was saying after several sentences. I remembered the times my computer had a small glitch and all I had to do to fix it was to clean up a few things, but cleaning up a few things caused 7 new problems to arise, and then when I tried to clean up those 7 things, 49 new problems arose until finally I tossed my computer in front of a Sprite truck that happened to be speeding by the dumpster where I sleep. I remembered the time my Grandpa Schlomo got parking tickets for parking in a space when the parking meter was broken. Does that really make sense?

What's going on here besides my own slippery descent into madness? It's machines. Computers. Automated answering services. Televisions. Blackberrys. Cell phones. Parking Meters. They're everywhere and they're making life even less personal than it already is. We're turning into anti-social, isolated creatures, on par with sharks and TV talk show hosts. Whenever I'm at the airport, I always try to get into the line that will allow me to talk to a human being, even though checking in electronically might be a tad faster and less likely to lead to a conversation that would include the word "carry-on." I do this because I work with computers and I know computers fuck up all the time. And they're inflexible. You can't push an incorrect button on a machine and expect it to say, "hey, that's okay, you're just a squishy, idiotic human being, like me, I'll just switch your seat so you get to sit next to that hot tomato after all!" I like to be able to say to a human being, "I'd like the burger medium rare, but hold the fries and can I get a salad?" Even the least intelligent human being understands nuance. Machines understand 1 and 0.

Here's a quote from a New York Times article that I read on line: "A study by sociologists at Duke and the University of Arizona that gained wide attention this summer found that too much computer use can isolate one further from a shrinking circle of confidants." No, really? Cleary, those who funded this study either don't get out much or they're wild surfer dudes wondering why fewer and fewer folks are hitting the shore every week to catch a few tasty waves.

So when I slam my hand against the plastic casing of the snack machine, I'm really expressing the frustration of all humanity. I'm desperate for human interaction, for someone to say, "sorry sir, here's your peanutbutter cups, now why don't you go sit down in the kitchen and think happy thoughts about streams and squirrels."

All of this is our own fault. We thought machines were making our lives easier, but instead we're turning existence into one isolated, numbing experience after another. There are too many so-called humans, now, that are more automated than any machine you'll ever meet. That's not life. That's more like war, just with slower deaths. Which reminds me: a friend of mine produced a TV show (speaking of isolating electronic devices) recently about ways the world might end. One of them was: "machines take over." Maybe that's already happened...



Some days I have profound thoughts, like the day I realized that Mel Gibson is not my real father, as my mother insists, because he couldn't possibly be Jewish -- what Jew ever had an Australian accent, come on! But today is not a day I'm having any profound thoughts, which has led me to write about something that anyone who has ever had email finds annoying: spam. And not the kind that's tasty to eat with eggs, jam and toast, but the kind that pours into my email inbox at every hour of the day. Spam for Vioxx, for Viagra for estranged generals looking to use my bank account to make me a multi-bazillionaire. I hate spam like tall men hate airplane seats, like construction workers hate powerful winds, like my skin hates the rest of my skin when I'm watching Oprah Winfrey on television.

First off, who the hell likes spam? I have trouble conjuring an image of someone pathetic enough to happily open any email that hits his Inbox: I picture a large, shaggy man with no pants and grizzlybear back-hair sitting in a ragged trailer set down in the middle of the desert with a cable running from his computer to the nearest city (probably Nevada). I believe it was The Beatles who wondered where all the lonely people come from. I don't know that they ever got an answer to that question, but I do know this: those folks aren't lonely anymore, they have THOUSANDS of new friends who write them every day.

It might be presumptious of me to assume that anyone likes spam, but I'm giving the spammers the benefit of several doubts. Why would they keep spamming if it didn't work? Either they're crazy (well, they are crazy), or they're drumming up business this way. So lets assume there is a segment of the population of the earth who like nothing more than receiving email ads for things that they absolutely must have. And how would they know they needed those things if they didn't get emails announcing their existence? How stupid am I? Or, as Grandpa Schlomo would say, "You're a schmuck, now pass the pork chops and the magic markers."

I read somewhere, probably in the New York Times during a dream, that the number of spam emails is greater than the number of real emails sent by real people. Which begs at least one metaphysical question: which are the "real" real emails? Huh? Ponder that! No, don't. Spam is not real email and quantity is only better than quality when it comes to champagne, ice cream and Zsa Zsa Gabor. But it does make me wonder about the quality of email in the first place. Remember a time way, way back, when people wrote carefully crafted letters? Those days are gone -- suggest writing a letter to someone and you'll be crushed by their manic laugh and soul-crushing punch to your solar plexus. Folks don't have time to write anything of substance anymore. In fact, most folks (especially lazy bloggers) don't even have the time to even think anything of substance anymore. They're too busy watching shows with words like "ghost," "spirit," "telepathy," and "Jay Leno" on the television. And lord knows we have to be fed constant stimulation: in my office building they recently put up ridiculous TV screens in all the elevators that shout out useless statistics and news all day. Who cares what Brad and Angelina are doing, besides their press agent and 2.4 billion people?!

Oh wait, I was talking about spam. Err, spam. So what to do about it. I have several suggestions. First, make it illegal. I know, that probably treads on at least one amendment to the Constitution, but I wonder if the founding fathers or the various amenders ever envisioned their lofty ideals being used principally to sell erectile dysfunction medication (though Happy Stan points out that those guys NEVER smile in paintings, so who knows...). Do democratic principles necessarily even go with capitlist ones? An unoriginal thought to be sure, but worth pondering next time some spam hits your Inbox. Like now. And now. Now. Another thought to stop spammers: track 'em all down, put them in a city that no one is using anyway (Phoenix?), build really high fences and then force feed them all the medication they've been selling. Then film it. Now that's some television that'd be worth seeing. Now I'm getting hungry -- yup, for spam and eggs.


Elevator Buttons

I was recently visiting the home of my arch-nemesis Dr. H -- there to plant destructive ideas -- and as I was leaving I noticed the elevator in his building had a display telling me exactly what floor each elevator was on. So while it was still moderately annoying having to wait for the elevator, I found my blood pressure remained fixed and dilated because I at least knew when the next elevator would be stopping on my floor. Yes, if this suggests to you that I'm a controlling freak, I'd say you're right about at least one thing: you do hate yourself.

Which brings me to the point at hand: why can't all public modes of transportation deliver information that will keep my blood pressure from shooting through my eyelids? The monorail at Newark Airport tells me down to the second when the next train will arrive! If you miss a bus or train in New York City, you have several choices: 1) patiently wait for the next to arrive; 2) write a screenplay; 3) pace back and forth until you can't take it any more and punch the nearest wall as an expression of your rage; 4) invent a time machine, build it and then transport yourself forward in time to the moment the next train arrives; 5) leap on to the train tracks and await your demise (but bring a novel and something to eat); 6) perfect the cello.

I remember reading in a New Yorker article a year or so ago that the man who "saved" the New York City subways in the 80s was going to London to help them with their mess. I can't believe that man got another job! Saved? The tracks are perpetually under construction, there is little rhyme or reason to the work (the G line tracks have been under construction for the entire 16 years I've lived in Greenpoint) and clearly no one cares about the passengers. There are many, many other problems with the subway and bus systems, but a neon sign declaring the innumerable delays would at least allow passengers to attempt to make productive plans during delays, like walking to work or having a picnic.

Uncle Abe was visiting my apartment last week to use the toilet and when I mentioned all this to him he said, "Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish." And even though it appears John Quincy Adams stole this notion from my Uncle I have to admit: they're both right. But who cares about being right. I want to live in a world as pristine as the one inside my head, where I never have to wait for anything, except pop culture references. I like it when elevators and trains talk to me, and I have too much time on my hands for my own obsessions anyway -- I have a tendency to carry on conversations with my imaginary selves, and most of them have ill tempers, bad manners and terrible posture. So I could really, really use someone else to talk to while I wait. If nothing is done, I'm afraid my own tenuous psyche will split into several irreparable pieces. And we don't want that, do we?


Rain and my brain

I love the rain. Only, I love it when I'm inside, snuggled up with my sweetheart, eating marshmallows out of the bag and exchanging occasional smooches. And since I don't have a sweetheart (though my own heart is scrumptious) this is currently a state of affairs virtually impossible to achieve (I'll leave open the potential for time travel, because humans are really clever at figuring out this kind of stuff). Which makes it even more exasperating that I was caught three times this week in a deluge, and although I had my umbrella with me during all three outbursts I still got soaked -- serious rain. I don't remember it raining this much in June in NYC. Is this being caused by a) Global warming; b) A vengeful god almighty; c) chance; or d) clouds. I'm betting it's some combination of a, c and d. I don't believe in a vengeful god, or of a deity of any sort, alas, though I spend much time damaging my own psyche by blaming him (definitely a guy) for all things that go wrong, proving at least one thing: I hate to take responsibility for my own failures. My favorite thing to blame Him for is losing at computer Hearts. I feel I'm entitled to win every game, so when I don't win, I blame Him. But I blame Him for lots of things. Here's a list of some of those:

1) Failure to achieve a career in writing;
2) Humidity;
3) Pimples;
4) When I trip on the sidewalk and nearly fall, I usually scowl. Damn Him!
5) Mayonaise, but only when it has that funny taste that makes me want to vomit;
6) Lack of girlfriend- ness;
7) Shitty job;
8) NYC subways;
9) That feeling you get when you pass a graveyard;
10) Bad teeth.
11) My negativity;
12) Spilling beets on my pants;
13) Graying and thinning hair (it'll be a race to see which wins);
14) the Yankees;
15) Bureaucracy

Happy Stan says that I should start appreciating the good things in life and stop focusing on the negative, but since HS isn't real I told him to go to hell. When he is out of the room, though, I secretly wonder if he isn't for once making some sense; but when I try to feel happy that my couch is really comfortable and that I have a good apartment, I get a funny feeling in my stomach. Maybe it means I'm happy, I think, but maybe it means I shouldn't have eaten that tuna sandwich with the bad mayo. The point is: my own brain is often my worst enemy, and it's tough to fight a brain because it knows what you're thinking before you do and it's pretty well insulated inside your skull. Like the rain, it oftens pours on my parade. Perhaps I need to find a mental umbrella? Such as, good work and good people? Hmm, meaning I might have to find more than three people I can stand to be around. Oops, I have to run, Happy Stan is calling. He says the Argentina-Germany soccer match is getting good. I hope it doesn't rain...


Religion and the Da Vinci Code

I was reading over the shoulder of a fellow subway traveler this week when I caught a letter to the editor in one of the local rags. The editorialist was wondering what all the hype was about concerning the Da Vinci code movie -- why are people threatened, he wondered, by something that is clearly fiction. The movie and the book it's based on, after all, are all made up, so why's everyone getting their panties in a sticky bunch? The problem with this argument and others like it, constructed by same-minded children, is that it implies that religious stories are not ALSO fiction, that religion is not, in every instance, a bunch of made-up mythology designed to get folks, for the benefit of civilization (however good or bad), to behave one way or another (mostly another). Want to avoid disease? Tell em: Sex is bad. And so on... So I think it's right that folks have their underwear pinched tighter than a lobster's claw on this one, because isn't it about time human beings let go of this ancient crutch? Isn't the truth, as revealed by science, even more wondrous? I mentioned these thoughts to my Uncle Abe and he said, in between slurps of his Cinammon Raisin oatmeal, "At least two thirds of our miseries spring from human stupidity, human malice and those great motivators and justifiers of malice and stupidity, idealism, dogmatism and proselytizing zeal on behalf of religious or political idols." Once again I looked up U.A.'s thoughts on the web and found that someone else -- in this case Aldous Huxley -- had spoken them first, which only proves that there are really no new ideas.

I haven't seen the Da Vinci Code and I haven't read the book, though I've read through several reviews of both and have discovered that intelligent people (assuming reviewers are intelligent, which is a dangerous presumption on par with the assumption that politicians are honest)... but I digress. Intelligent people seem to think the book and the movie kinda suck ass, and not in a good way. So I could understand those who would simply dismiss it as drivel and move on with their lives spent surfing things, like the web and the Pacific Ocean. But to them, I say: don't you see that's the point? What's the point? they would ask, exasperated by my inarticulateness. The point is: people are actually attracted to this kind of stupidity and it scares me more than hairless cats do. Yes, humans have always leaned rather heavily on superstitious claptrap to explain the universe and our seemingly super-important role in it, but that's because humans have always been scared, frightened, too-smart-for-their-own-good monkeys. So now, in the fabulous 21st Century, haven't we grown up enough to face that? Judging by events around the globe, clearly we haven't, but imagine what we could achieve if we did -- we've already walked on the moon, cured innumerable diseases, invented cool things like Ipods and pencil sharpeners. And we're just getting started, humans have only been around for a very short time -- dinosaurs were around for something like 200 million years and not one of them even invented a stapler!

Are you still imagining? Okay, stop, because you're drooling.

Hey, are the ethics provided by religion really all that great, necessarily? Aren't they kind of repressive? And don't they encourage blind obedience, rather than thought? I was discussing this with the now deceased poet, Anais Nin, during a seance last night and she said, "When we blindly adopt a religion, a political system, a literary dogma, we become automatons. We cease to grow." Yes, Anais, yes! And no, I didn't sleep with her.

I know I'm not exactly cutting any edges by condemning religion and superstition (wasn't that what the Enlightment was all about?), and I know there are probably good arguments on the side of religion and metaphysics generally that point to the disasterously bloody results of peoples abandoning morality (the French Revolution, anyone?). But geez, isn't there a place for a world devoid of god and make-pretend that also includes a well-constructed ethics? I suppose you could argue back and forth like this, with good arguments on both sides, about the question of how much good vs. evil religion does. Is it a force of good or evil, primarily? But the bottom line is: it's a fantasy, it's make-pretend, and ultimately we do harm to ourselves when we believe in such dreams.

Now, maybe someone has to step up and educate the masses, let 'em know that it's okay to let go of their belief in god, and an afterlife and ESP, although I think we're all capable of doing this for ourselves. Did you really need your mom to tell you Santa was a hoax? Didn't you begin to realize on your own? Of course, there was a period in there where you allowed yourself to believe anyway, maybe for one last winter or two, but you finally told yourself it was all just a hoax and you went on to obsessing about other things, like that cute girl in your gym class, was her name Lisa Hernandez (call me!)? People allow themselves to believe in religion for far too long. I'm guessing most people know it's a game, but they choose to play anyway: anything to avoid dealing with reality.

Maybe it's something deeper, a need to belong to something, a need to imagine a power beyond us. Look in the mirror one day and think the world begins and ends with choices, however, and you'll see a different world when you walk out the door. Now excuse me, but I have to catch a nap before the hockey game tonight. Those Oilers are gods, man...


Free Throws

In the very near future I'm sure to write about some topic with grave repercussions, like the escalating war in Iraq, or the escalating price of gas in the U.S of A. or the escalating temperatures of our hapless planet, but today is not the near future, today is today, and so instead I'm writing about professional basketball. More specifically, I'm writing about free throw shooting, and the frequency with which said shots are missed in the National Basketball Association. I watched a game earlier this year and one team made UNDER 50% of their free throws, while the other made just over 50%. In a recent playoff game, the Miami Heat shot just over 25%. I mean, just over 25%! Imagine if baseball players caught only 50% of routine popups or if politicians only took bribes when they really needed the money (they're kids need new helicopters, just like yours, after all). That would be unacceptable, wouldn't it? Happy Stan, who isn't much of a basketball fan, because he's too busy with his knitting club, says that these players are trying their best, so why not give them a break. It's just free throw shooting, right, and you're thinking along with HP, who really cares, it's just a game, why don't I find something more useful to crank about, like pizza and it's tendency to scald the roof of my mouth? Because, I say to you and HP and all your Dominoes consuming constituents, poor free throw shooting is symbolic of the decline in our culture of integrity, hard work and a willingness to learn the fundamental components of a sport or discipline or board game in order to master it. We're a culture of needy, self-entitled jerks, and no one wants to spend the time to learn to do something right in the first freakin' place -- that's why we end up writing blogs instead of well-thought out essays, for example.

Wait, what was I talking about? Oh yes, free throw shooting. Look, couldn't they practice more? Isn't it that simple? So many games in the NBA come down to 2 or 3 points, so it would make a big difference if you're team hit 90% of its free throws. Last year's champs, the Spurs, were eliminated in this year's playoffs, but they'd probably never lose a game if they could make free throws -- they're terrible at it. They're best player, Tim Duncan, is called the "Big Fundamental" and he shoots around 60%. Yipes, I think we've lowered our standards a tad! If it was you, and you were a talented NBA player, meaning you were 8 feet tall and fast and strong and misogynistic, wouldn't you want to make your free throws? They're free, after all! No one guards you, no one tries to elbow you to the ground, no one mugs you while you shoot. You get to stand calmly and take your shot. If you practiced that as much as you practiced dunking, you'd get good at it. The New York Knick's rookie Nate Robinson, who is only something like 3 feet tall, won the slam-dunk contest at this year's All Star game, though it took him about twenty tries. First of all, you should only get one try! In life, you get one try, so why should a slam dunker get 20? Because we're pussies, that's why. Second of all, he's a shitty free throw shooter. No wonder uber coach Larry Brown nearly had a stroke trying to coach the Knicks this year. These guys are more interested in looking good, then playing good (and even though that's bad English, you know what I mean because you've also been watching too much TV recently).

I guess it's the most obvious thing in the world that most people would rather look good or be famous or be rich, than spend time learning about themselves and the world and how they can truly, and finally be both content and useful. Most settle with mere contentment, and by "content" I mean stupid, angry, depressed, suicidal, crazy, bad-free throw shootingly, and illiterate. It's enough to make me want to quit my job and run for president on a platform of integrity and reason and truth. But then, I don't think I could handle becoming a laughing stock, so I'll leave it to some other sucker, maybe an athlete who makes his free throws? Hey, maybe Steve Nash of the Phoenix Suns should take over for Bush. Oh wait, he's Canadian. D'oh! That figures...


Where's the music?

I went recently with a friend to a late Friday night party at the Guggenheim museum and it was packed with hipsters, wannabes, art lovers and lost-soul bloggers. I thought, beforehand: great, a chance to interact with my fellow sufferers, an opportunity to share ideas, to flirt with art admiring women, a reason to listen to the insufferable intellectual ramblings of posers. Alas, no such luck. The "DJ" there played "music" at a volume that made it impossible to hear this mass of potentially lovable cranksters. We couldn't have been more isolated from one another if we'd been waving from offices that happened to face each other in neighboring skyscrapers. I don't see the point of blasting "music" in this way, unless it's to assure that none of us ever gets to know each other, that we continue to live with some underlying, anxious fear of ideas...

By now you've stopped reading this blog because you have something better to do, like watch the episode of "That Girl" you DVR'd and because you have no attention span -- so I'll continue for those few who perhaps can't afford the glorious luxury of Tivo (and for myself). You're wondering why I've put the word music in quotes in the above paragraph. Is it because I'm a pretentious windbag? Yes. Is it because I'm a brainy cultural critic of the first order? No. Is it because the "music" this supposed D.J. was cranking could only be described as "music" by the most generous (read: stupid) listeners. Every "tune" (there were no tunes, no melody, no harmony) was exactly the same: just a driving, techno beat and some hazy, unintelligible lyrics. So I was left wondering: is red meat really that bad for me?

I was wondering that, because I was distracted to the point of convulsive confusion. If you're going to drown our brain cells in a sea of ear-splitting sonic thunderclaps -- I'm talking to you, Mr. DJ! -- then why not at least attempt to fill our leaking brains with music. You remember music, don't you? Notes? Songs? About heartbreak, drugs, sex, heartbreak?

Could it be that the folks at this not-so-culturefest actually preferred this technocrap to music? I hope not, but probably. If so, I'm left questioning what the hell happened to these poor innocent, brainless twits. Has our culture reduced our intelligence to the level of single-celled organisms, responsive only to a thudding, repetitious, clanging beat? Perhaps.

So let me reevaluate. The evening was, after all, a rousing, raving, modern-day success: no thoughts, no possibility of communication, no music, no intelligence, no progress, no growth, no love, no heartbreak. Are we turning into a culture of zombies, incapable of thinking for ourselves? No -- duh! We're CHOOSING to turn into a culture of mindless drones. And that's what's got me drinking three cases of pepto before bed each night. That and the tasty, chalky smell. Mmm, Pepto Bismol.


Restaurant Crowds

Look, I'm not an unreasonable person, as unreasonable people go. I understand that restaurant owners have to make a buck, just like CEOs, oil tycoons and 99 cent store clerks. And so I even understand why they often must, in their desperate grab for the almighty buck, pack as many slobs into their cramped, cockroach infested establishments as they possibly can. But I don't like it -- I like it less than I like it when the hairs on my legs are pulled out one at a time by my annoying friend Elvis. It sucks to enter a restaurant and get seated in a narrow, square table for two (with your arch-nemesis) only to find yourself, in the midst of your attempt to trick your enemy into taking hold of the bag you've sneakily loaded with Kryptonite, surrounded on both sides -- inches away! -- from other desperate, sad New Yorkers begging for a little air or space or anything resembling a sense of humanity. We're cattle when we ride the subway, but there we only pay $2 a ride. We're paying $75 for a bread stick in most restaurants, so shouldn't that at least buy us enough room to kick back and spread our lungs. I think my Grandpa Schlomo put it best when he said, "fuck crowded restaurants -- now shut up and hand me the Motrin."

The problem, of course, isn't limited to a particular type of eatery. There are overcrowded Thai, Chinese, American, Vietnamese, and Japanese restaurants. There are no overcrowded Greek restaurants, but that's another sordid tale (there was the time my friend found a 4 inch hair in his pancake and the cook came out to kill a scampering cockroach with his shoe). What I don't understand is how these restaurants stay in business. Wait, yes I do understand it. They stay in business because they have us over a barrel. It's a conspiracy. It's a conspiracy in the way most things are a conspiracy -- it isn't a conspiracy, but it feels like one because you can count on being treated like a Holstein Cow the second you step through the threshhold of any restaurant in NYC . They stay in business, I'm saying, because they ALL do it. (Okay, the super ritzy places leave you a little elbow room, but you have to consult your stockbroker to see if you can afford those places and you don't even have a stockbroker -- Jesus, what's wrong with you, at least get a job!). And if they all do it, and you're too busy writing pointless, rambling blog entries to cook your own dinner, then they've got you by the short hairs.

There's only one solution: boycott 'em. Start eating pasta every night. Plant a garden in the cracks in the sidewalk. Move to Kansas and live on a farm. Stalk the cute girl next door (this won't help you with the restaurant problem by the way, but you may as well get out now and again and do something productive). Fast for 40 days and 40 nights and then, when you're done, settle for a cracker and a Pepsi and then fast for another sixteen years. Read a book -- it's a different kind of nourishment. Save your money and give it to the needy (like a struggling blogger). Anything -- just dont give it to these hapless, struggling restauranteurs. Force them to space out their tables, to serve you in the way you deserve. Ask yourself, I'm saying, am I man or cow?!!! If the answer is yes to both, then you should probably think about ordering the salad, by the way.



In some places in this country pedestrians can walk safely across the street on a crosswalk. Those places are not New York. Here, you take your life in your teeth, and you'd better have brushed and flossed.

The other day I was walking downtown for my weekly head shrinking session (my head has grown unwieldy and heavy over the years from too much crankiness) when I stopped at 37th Street and Park Avenue, waiting to cross. When the light changed there was a car stopped in the crosswalk. But this is not an uncommon occurrence here. Cabs edge through the crosswalks, hoping that all the traffic ahead of them will miraculously clear and they'll be able to get through without blocking traffic. Only, it never happens that way and as a result traffic is always gridlocked.

Why gridlock? Three reasons. 1) People are stupid. 2) People don't trust each other. 3) People are stupid. Or as my Grandpa Schlomo liked to say, "Oy, what a bunch of fuckheads." It's very simple. When you approach the crosswalk in your gas-guzzling Hummer, stop, wait until you can safely make it across the intersection without blocking traffic and only then proceed. It's logical and if everyone obeyed this rule there would be no gridlock (people in Carmel, California obey this law, although the folks there are all brainwashed zombies so perhaps that doesn't count). But stupid people don't get this simple rule: they edge out, kicking off a chain of heart wrecking events: the next guy thinks he should edge out too, his blood pressure increases, he pumps the horn, his IQ goes down 3 points to 64, the light changes, the pedestrians squeeze between the cars, they give the finger to the driver in the crosswalk, he gets out ready to fight, traffic is blocked, the driver's mother half way away across the country has a vision of the Hindenberg exploding and she collapses in a heap, blood.

The rest of us just don't trust each other to obey the rules: if one person breaks the rule and you don't, then you could get stuck waiting to drive through an intersection for several decades. So it doesn't pay to trust each other (even though it really does).

I think several law changes could alleviate this problem. First, make it legal to walk over cars blocking crosswalks. When the car is in the crosswalk and pedestrians have the right of way, then the car simply becomes part of the crosswalk. Second, issue $10,000 tickets to anyone blocking a crosswalk or traffic. That for first offenders. For second offenders, the death penalty. That'll probably stop gridlock, as it will thin out the population of stupid people rather quickly. (For more on the death penalty, go to my 2/1/06 post on escalators).


10 questions

In honor of Passover, here are ten questions (why settle for just four, as grandpa Shlomo liked to say) :

Why do they have to put Health Inspector posters on the front doors of restaurants that closed down for health violations? Is it to rub it in? As in, ha ha, not only has your favorite dining hole been closed down, but it's likely there are bacteria living in your body now forming Calypso bands and dancing nightly with your spleen.

Why do people who hope never to see you again promise to give you call "real soon?" Are they so afraid of truth? To those people I have a few restaurants to recommend.

Why do people fail to reply to emails when the reply is "no." Bill, you want to go to a party on Saturday? No reply = no. Since when? Bill is a pussy.

Why do people enter a nearly empty subway car and block the doorway? I know it's more comfortable to lean against the doors and after all, who wants to get any closer to the teeming masses than you have to, but how do these people expect others to get on the train? Oh wait, they don't think. They don't care. They're New Yorkers.

I had a screaming cold this week, and by "screaming," I mean that every time I tried to sneeze my head nearly exploded and I let out a piercing shriek that astounded my friends and once caused my neighbor to call the police. My question is this: would A-Rod be more popular if he weren't such a phony?

Why do the two women in the office around the corner from my desk think they're princesses? Must have been bad parenting.

Why do technical support folks keep you on hold for so damned long? Are they back there playing video games or writing worthless blogs? And when they finally complete the call they have to gaul to say, "thank you for choosing Sprint" or whichever, when we all know none of us really chooses anything in this topsy-turvy world, we're all just helpless specks hurtling through the universe.

Speaking of phones. Why do marketers call you at home to sell you stuff? Next time that happens I'm libel to track 'em down and force 'em to sing I Write the Songs over and over until they go even more insane then they must already be for calling me at home, don't they know I'm watching my soaps? Damn!

Why is chocolate so tasty? Mmm, chocolate. But not as tasty as caramel.

Speaking of sweet. Why is life so short, but so damned sweet? Mmm, life.


Turning 40

On Sunday I will turn 40, and while that number doesn't particularly scare me, the fact that I'm the same age my father was when I was 17 kind of does. What the hell have I been doing with my time? I should have kicked a two-pack a day cigarette habit by now (and I haven't even started smoking!), I should have a whiny kid preparing for college and another making her way through high school and still asking me to help with her math homework (daughters are cool) , I should be bitter and divorced, reluctantly paying alimony, I should be a Republican, but all I have is ME and my own whinyness and existential angst. What am I waiting for? People who believe in Intelligent Design (ironically some of the stupidest people on the planet) must be right about something, because if they really believe that tripe they're peddling, then they never had a neck ache that lasted three years, or a bum knee or a wrinkle or any other physical ailment. I guess prayer and belief is keeping them young. For the rest of us there's only one recourse: bitching on our blogs.

One thing I really hate about turning 40 is realizing that I'm not going to live forever. You might be thinking that I should have figured that out by now, but that's because you're cruel and removed from reality and it's giving you pleasure to mock my sad naivete. Cut me some slack, I'm a dreamer. So anyway, it's hit me: death is coming, and pretty soon. 40 years have slipped by and any day now it could happen -- hit by a bus, struck by lightning, battered to death by Condi Rice. And if I may wax philosophical for just one moment: that sucks.

Actually, what sucks more than my impending demise is aging. After all, once I'm dead, I'm dead, and then who am I to complain? I don't even exist. But I do exist now (or so my horoscope implies), and it sucks that I have TMJ (Temporomandibular joint disease, most likely caused by too much crankiness), an aching hip, GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease, also caused by too much crankiness), deteriorating hearing and a growing desire to move to Florida to cash in on early bird specials. I remember like it was yesterday the halcyon days when I could digest a McDonald's hamburger and ambulate without a walker, when TV network experts desperately wondered what kind of shows would entertain me and when I was the youngest member of my softball team. I remember when I didn't really know what it felt like to be tired: it would just get kinda late and so I would go to bed (you can only plot to destroy Microsoft for so long). Now I can't remember what it feels like to feel rested. I remember when looking in the mirror meant falling in love all over again with my pristine image (sorry, Lacan): oh, you're so beautiful, and isn't it great you're going to live forever, so just take your time figuring out your life, don't bother making any decisions... Alas, I've broken all the mirrors in my home and even though I did it deliberately to keep my friend Alec, who's a vampire, from freaking out, it's still nice I don't have to look upon the ravages of time with despair, nostalgia and the feeling that any moment I should dash to the store for a 10 pack of Depends.

Where's my grace, you ask? Where's the wisdom accumulated from years of introspection, trial and error? Where's the regret turned into intelligence and inner calm? It's no where to be found. What do I look like, the Dali Lama? Or Regis Philbon? Okay, so maybe I'm a bit wiser, a bit calmer, but it'd still be nice to be able to eat a gigantic, sickening hot fudge sundae and then fall down for a four hour nap. Ahh, youth.

It also sucks that young women now call me sir. What's worse, most of them, the young ones, seem like alien species to me. People in their twenties, in general, with their desperate manicness, their obession with pop culture, are like people from a B-Movie, something that might be called "American Graffiti" or "Citizen Kane" or "Look at Me, I'm young and scared and stupid, what's life really mean?" Jesus, chill out kids. What could be causing all this angst? Is it the decay of values? Sure, it is. And I don't mean those simplistic values like religion and family, because those are just for kids anyway. I mean, America is just so AMERICA -- obsessed with glory and money, all at the expense of thought. What ever happened to thinking? To reading, to conversation, to communication? You can't talk to any of these damned kids anymore without filtering out a thousand "likes" and "and then she saids." It's all surface and gloss, all TV and desperation.

Makes me cranky.

Maybe I'm cranky because I'm 40 or 40 because I'm cranky. I'm not sure, but I do know this: you know that episode of Green Acres where the rooster refuses to crow? Like, it just cracks me up.


The Man Who Shared His Salt

I was crankily shoveling snow on the day of the largest New York storm in recorded history. It took a few hours to get the stairs cleared, but it was good, honest labor and I felt pleased that, above all else, my heart wasn't bursting apart like a cheap pinata. Not long after I'd begun, an older gentleman exited his humble abode and began shoveling and for a few minutes I imagined we were two hearty men sharing a moment of fortitude, grit and bone-chilling cold. When he finished shoveling he began salting his stairs and I thought it would be a good idea to do the same. Only I didn't have salt, all I had was this older gentleman with whom I'd silently bonded.

"Ahem," I said. "Could I have a little salt?"

"Errr!" he said. "You don't have any?"


"Errr! Okay, when I'm done."

He then finished salting his staircase, put the salt away as I waited, walked to another staircase -- perhaps he owned both buildings? -- and shoveled that stairway. Then he pulled the salt out again and salted there. The whole time I leaned on my shovel, waiting. Sure, maybe in a perfect world it would have been better if I'd been prepared and had my own salt (though I'm a mere renter and have a lousy landlord who doesn't take care of things like stair shoveling or smoke detector repair), but we were neighbors and I wasn't asking for much. Or was I? Maybe I was just another goddamned punk, artsy type who'd invaded his neighborhood and damnit who needed to help these irresponsible succubae? Maybe I'd slip and break my neck, one less punk in the world, ha ha ha!

Finally, he came over, tossed half a handful of salt on one small section of the stairs. Then he took another handful and threw it at me.

"Errr! There, that's enough." Then he went inside.

I understood this man and I love him: he is Crankypants squared! He showed me that it's not okay to expect your neighbors in NYC to help you when you're in need! Be prepared or die! What if it had been a nuclear attack, he was thinking, and I'd been asking him for water? (And I'm sure his apartment is full to overbrimming with supplies in hopes of such an attack). Helping your neighbor would be tantamount to death. Why can't people just take care of themselves? Why can't we all just live on our on little islands? Why do we need other people at all? When will the little purple martians stop telling me to pull out my shotgun and go on a killing spree? Life is so hard!

Yes, he had a point. People today don't take responsibility for themselves, or for much of anything. And why should HE be the one who has to step up and set an example. Errr!

I wanted to thank CP2 so I called my friend Happy Stan and we tossed around a few ideas. We could wait for him to leave his house and then crack him over the head with a pumpkin tossed from the roof. Happy didn't like this -- he wanted me to invite him to dinner and "communicate" my feelings. No, I said. Happy Stan then suggested sending flowers. Errr! I kicked Happy Stan out and devised my own plan. I went to the 99 cent store near my apartment and bought my own supply of salt. I filled a small plastic cup and then left it in CP2's doorway with a note: "Thanks for helping out!" Then I laughed maniacally. It was the same laugh the old man would have laughed after tossing salt on my pants had he not lost the ability long ago to express any joy, even the happiness derived from the misery of others. I laughed because I knew this would twist CP2s's panty's into a bunch: there's nothing cranky people hate more than happy people and my note just screamed "happy." I should have known I was dealing with a master.

A week later I discovered him sitting on his stoop, smoking a cigarette. That's right, all the snow had melted in a week and the weather had warmed. If you choose to read anything into this change, it's because you're hopelessly naive: weather changes, not cranky old men. Thank goodness.

As I walked past on my way to work I felt a little smack on the back of my head, followed by a fizzy plunk. He'd flicked his cigarette off the back of my head. I'm something of a dualist and believe we all have multiple selves, some of whom do battle with others. And so when CP2 plunked my ear with his still burning cigarette, I felt a warm glow, knowing I was facing a manifestation of myself, only older, Polish and not nearly so bearded. I wanted to embrace him. I wanted to thank him for giving me a Yoda-like model for crankiness. And thinking this I knew I couldn't thank him -- doing so would destroy the bond we'd established. So instead I turned and said, "Nice shot."

"Errr!" he said.

It was truly love. I considered suggesting we join forces, but the look on his homuncular face told me otherwise: cranky people do NOT unite, by definition.

By the way: all of the above is true and if you don't believe me, just ask James Frey. He helped me with the writing.


Free Agents

Many of my fans have written me letters lately begging me to write about important topics, like world politics, lying Republicans and Mel Gibson. But I make my own rules, fans be damned, and have chosen this week instead to write about something I know little about. Money. And sports. Or, at least, the intersection of the two.

NFL teams this week are signing free agents like turkey buzzards at a turkey buzzard feast, and like many sports fans, I'm disgusted, naseauted and clinically depressed after watching some of my favorite players switch uniforms. And what's lighting a fire in my socks more than anything about all this, what's causing my Uncle Abe, an orthodox Jew, to cross himself daily, what's causing my pure-hearted niece Suzy Purebread to shoot vitriolic spitballs at the television set, is what these athletes dare to say after signing their new multi-gazillion dollar contracts. They dare to lie!

David Givens, formerly of the New England Patriots, said he was excited at the new "opportunities" available to him playing with a new team. I guess that means that he didn't appreciate the opportunity to win the NFL championship TWICE with his old team? Of COURSE he appreciated that opportunity. What he meant to say, I believe, was something more like this: "I"m really glad this new team is paying me lots of money."

I have nothing against these guys cashing in -- loyalty to team cuts both ways and players risk injury every time they go out there -- but why can't they just come clean and speak the truth? I guess the U.S. president is setting a bad example, because players seem to think it's okay to lie. Drew Brees, now of the New Orleans Saints, talked about how much his new team had embraced him and how excited he is to turn the page on the first half of his career. What he really meant was, "I'm really glad this new team is paying me lots of money." And Willie McGinness spoke with heartwarming passion after signing with the Cleveland Browns of looking forward to a chance to teach younger players, to show them the right way of playing the game. I love Willie as much as it's possible to love another man and never see him with his pants down, but I still believe what he meant to say was, "I'm really glad this new team is paying me lots of money."

It appears that these athletes are under the delusion that it's okay to lust after money, to put the value of money above, before and beyond any other value (and that just makes them like everyone else), but that it's NOT okay to simply say so. So maybe the problem isn't them. Maybe it's a cultural problem. This country was founded, after all, by Puritans and Batman, and we all know how uptight Batman gets when conversations turn to the green stuff. But what I would like to point out to athletes, rich people and Barry Manilow, is that it's simply SILLY to go through life talking a talk that you're not walking. And I'm afraid it's becoming an epidemic.

I spoke to Uncle Abe about all this and he said, "Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised." I was blown away by this insight and when I asked Uncle Abe how he'd thought of it, he looked up from the turkey buzzard he was consuming and said, "It just came to me out of the blue." Later I looked up the quote on the web and found that Tolstoy had said it before my Uncle, but I think it's at least possible he'd thought of it himself, since why would he lie?

The bottom line about this is that Uncle Abe and Tolstoy are both right. Any child can tell that these athletes are just blowing cigarette smoke and pixie dust up our butts when they pepper us with their lies. So they, like many Americans, must be trying to fool themselves! And if they're succeeding, well then they're heading down the dangerous path to psychosis (a path I've tread upon many an early morning after watching Oprah Winfrey on the television). I believe that it was Andre Gide who said, "The true hypocrite is the one who ceases to perceive his deception, the one who lies with sincerity." (I believe also that's already one hypocrisy quote too many).

I never used to respect the common folks on reality and game shows on TV, shows like Wheel of Fortune, Survivor and Give Me Lots of Money!, but now I can at least watch those shows with renewed respect for the competitors. Sure, they're sad, pathetic rats on a wheel, but at least they're just using their limited brain capacities in an honest, forthright, baseball and apple pie kinda way when they clutch, grab, spite, cry and kill for a buck. Because they admit it. What's wrong with the rest of us? I'm afraid that if the split between reality and our concocted lies continues to grow then we (us Americans) will begin to believe any action we commit is sanctified by god. And if we believe that, lord knows what atrocities we're likely to commit.

Man, this is depressing. Think I'll turn on the tube and watch a little Wheel of Fortune to cheer myself up...


The Academy Awards Explode

I'm a fan of the Academy Awards the way some people are fans of Nascar: I watch the awards restlessly waiting for something or someone to crash and burn, for people to go running horrified into the streets, for the end of the world to come thundering down in the form of an angry, spiteful Lord. And that's why it's perhaps appropriate that the movie "Crash" won the Academy Award for best picture last Sunday. They should shut the whole operation down now after finally getting it so perfectly, absolutely and abysmally wrong. I love those guys.

This is worse than "Gigi" winning (though I'd pay money for Michael Jackson to release his version of "Thank Heaven for Little Boys"). It's worse than Dances With Wolves, which was at least a pretty movie with lots of cool shots of Kevin Costner looking like he was about to make a baseball movie. It's worse than Titanic, which I actually think was a very good film in spite of the bad acting and maudlin plotting. And it's worse than The Silence of the Lambs, which isn't even as good a movie as Manhunter, the first Thomas Harris\Serial Killer movie. Heck, it's even worse than Jaws 3-D winning the best picture award, which of course it didn't.

Naturally the Academy Awards is a sham. It's ridiculous in the first place to judge art in this way, so I think it's fair to put that issue aside and simply accept that living in the United States means, at some point, selling your soul to the devil (or to AOL\TimeWarner, which is worse than the devil). That is, art = money. But what puts two capital letters in my Sass-a-Frass is that the Academy Award voters consistently (though with notable exceptions like The Godfather) choose to award films that will not stand the test of time because they're just not very good movies. In the case of Crash, they are the worst movie ever made.

Voters of the last few decades make one error consistently. Lets call it, for the sake of sounding pretentious, "the error of morality." They choose films with lofty aspirations. They select flicks made by hacking windbags (Ghandi, Driving Miss Daisy, Dances with Wolves). But who goes to see a movie because it has a good "message?" Who goes to see Ghandi at all (and if you think you did see it, it's because you were really drunk that night and you should return that ceramanic elf sitting in your living room to Mr. Goldenberg's lawn)? Who goes to see any dramatic form because it's politically correct? We have essays and speeches and wars to convey messages! Drama should convey it's meaning... well, dramatically. The premise should be explored... well, dramatically. The "message" should lie beneath the surface and sneak up on you like a shark attack. Maybe Jaws 3D should have won! No it shouldn't have.

Brokeback Mountain should have won this year, but not because it had a superior political message: gay people are cool and look like Heath Ledger, mostly. No, it should have won because it's dramatic, because it's crisp storytelling, because it's compelling. Later, after the tears subsided, you might have had a few thoughts about turning in your KKK uniform after watching Brokeback. But the movie, as it plays, carries you along on the strength of powerful characters, dramatic writing, conflict, superior editing and so on. Crash relies on sentimentality. It slams you over the head with its message.

Is this confusing? Here's sample dialogue from Crash:

"Racism is bad, Bill."
"No it's not, Tyrese."

That's not drama, folks. That's suckiness. Here's another quote:

"White people hate black people, girlfriend."
"You gonna eat those fries?"

Thus: when a film as undramatic as Crash comes along, we should all flock to the latest Weekend at Bernies retrospective to protest. But the Academy voters, apparently, can't help themselves from putting it up on a platform and shouting, "hey, look at us, we're smart and left wing and shame on the rest of you" (and meanwhile women past the age of 21 in Hollywood can't sniff a job and have to turn to other forms of prostitution).

Movies like Crash should be collected and burned. Lets put them all in a giant Kentucky Fried Chicken bucket in front of the Kodak Theater or wherever the Academy Awards are held, toss on some lighter fluid, maybe fling Whoopi Goldberg on there for luck and then light 'er up. That's right: I'm advocating burning art. Really, really bad art. And then maybe Hollywood will make some pictures worth seeing. Weekend at Bernies III, anyone?


The Olympics

The Olympics are over, and to the Olympics I say: fair-not-so-well. Welcome to a world without bronze medals (medals for third?), without luge, without Bob Costas, without that overplayed John Williams theme song that I used to love but now, with increased maturity (and crankiness) have come to despise the way old men despise chewy food, without snowboarding and without skiing (of any variation) . No more Winter Olympics!

Another way of putting this: I'm of two minds about the winter games and although I typically attempt to keep my minds together, I'm making an exception today. One mind says that the Olympics are numbingly boring crap for the masses and I can't believe anyone, save a few desperate, cableless lonelyhearts, would wade through hours of luge, bobsled and curling in order to get to the three or seven moments of genuine goodness. (I'm basing my estimation on several intense years of research, plus a pictogram of Bob Costa I saw carved into the rocks on a cave wall in Carmel, California). My second mind says this: the Winter Olympics suck. I'm probably preaching to the converted (who else would read this far?), but I can't stop myself from venting my frustration anyway: couldn't NBC have run a Twilight Zone marathon instead of the Olympics? Or maybe just dead air. I imagine those watching wouldn't have noticed the difference for at least three days.

According to Happy Stan, who often doubles as my trusty research assistant, the ancient Greeks started the Olympics. They ran, they jumped, they competed. They never skiied. They never skated. They never snowboarded. They never shot rifles on skis. They never bobbed. Stan did unearth some texts showing that the ancients may have luged, but only because they were a much more open-minded society than many of us realize. So is it even fair to call these games Olympics? Just one glimpse at a man snowboarding down a hill and you know it makes as much sense to use "Olympics" to describe these events as basing your brand of toothpaste on its resemblance to other clean things, like you're favorite glass kangaroo bauble.

Okay, okay. Maybe (you're thinking rhetorically) that just because the Ancient Greeks didn't enjoy this cornucopia of winter sports doesn't mean that WE shouldn't. They never ate grapefruit either, but that's not stopping us. You are of course wrong about that -- no one eats grapefruits. And you're wrong twice over because no one enjoyed this recent cornucopia of pseudosports, not even your mother.

But even granting our athletes' rights to call various permutations of sliding down a hill on a board "the Olympics" doesn't alter the compelling facts: it's all so very boring. (And am I the only one who thinks they added all those snowboarding events just to give Americans a better chance of earning medals?). I turned on the Olympics last week after dinner (and after a hoard of maruading investment bankers broke into my apartment and put a gun to my head and forced me to switch from the World's Strongest Man Competition, which is, I've no doubt, a sport the Ancient Greeks would have endorsed wholeheartedly). The marauders stuck toothpicks in my eyes and still I fell asleep during a luge event. Worse, after watching the Olympics, the bankers turned hippy and moved to Vermont.

I do have to admit a certain fondness for speed and figure skating, even if I don't think they're Olympic sports. Speed skating is just cool -- and somehow I think the ancient Greeks would have speed skated had they thought of it (and had ice). And figure skating is kinda sexy. Scantily clad women twirling around on ice. Sweet. And I don't have to go to a strip club to enjoy the privelege. But please don't tell me that figure skating is a sport. Sure, it's athletic and those women/girls are incredible athletes. But there's no stop watch, there's no finish line and the poor girls are judged; after a while watching the competition becomes not much more interesting than watching a room full of tightly clad young women taking their SAT tests. I'll leave it to you to decide if that's something you'd like to do.

So lets can the Olympics and just have a one sport event every four years: how many variations of speed skating can you think of (100 meters, 120 meters, 200 meters, etc...)? And lets put some poles on the ice for those figure skaters. Yeah, that'd be hot...


Subway Announcements

If there is one thing that sets my shirts on fire more than turning on the television set and seeing Regis Philbin blathering on about neutering his cat, it's subway announcements that thank me for services or states of mind that I have in no way offered.

If you live in New York City you've probably been on the subway (and if you have, you're probably tense, queasy and feeling a bit like telling someone (probably your mom) to F off). Anyone who has taken a trip through hell has probably heard something like this: "Due to an unavoidable delay, we are going to sit in this station for the next several millenia. Thank you for your patience." In these cases I usually turn several shades of purple, rip off all my clothes and go screaming into the streets. My friend Happy Stan calls this "acting out." There is nothing about my disposition that could be described in any way as "patient." So what the hell are they thanking me for? Why are they mocking me?

Aside: All of this assumes (a big assumption) that I can even make out what the announcer is saying. It's actually rare. Sometimes I'll hear, "Blah, blah, sqauwk, kruncher, mumble, cough, Bush for President, blah, blah..." Most of the speakers on the trains and subway platforms don't work. But even when I can hear what the announcer is saying and I'm satisfied (rare) that he's not mocking me, I hate announcments. Why? Because they never give me any useful information. You never hear, "The next train will not be arriving for 15 minutes," or "Look out, that guy standing next to you is a flasher!" Second aside: The word "squawk" has the least intuitive spelling of any word I've ever encountered.

Maybe you've heard this: "Due to a police action, we are going to take a short vacation. Good luck getting to work and thank you for your patience." Or: "The conductor forgot his lunch, so while he runs out for a six pack of McNuggets we are not going to move. Fuck you and thank you for your patience." After a while this plentitude of thanks begins to sound smug, like the declaration of a haughty bully who knows you're helpless and can't help rubbing it in. Are these announcements written by Republicans? I can think of no other explanation.

Here's another explanation: the people who either utter these f-yous or program them (many of the announcements are recorded) have no regard for the English language (or, for that matter, language itself). I'm all for butchering a sentence here and there to keep my readers on their toes, but I respect language. Poets butcher language, but with occasional good cause. These subway utterers are just plain mean. Maybe it's another sign of the decline of American civilization (if there really is a way we can go lower than Jerry Springer) -- I'm not sure. But have you have EVER seen a subway door moving during this gem: "Stand clear of the closing doors." Brother, those doors are standing still! Maybe, "Stand clear so that we may close the doors" would make more sense. Or, "Step away from the entrance so that we may begin moving, stall, break down and ask you all to walk through a murky tunnel." It's bad enough we have to suffer through our daily commutes, but must the so-called workers mock us? Is this their Marxist way of rising up? Don't they know that there are lots of blue-collars riding the train along with all the doctors and pizza delivery men they seem to despise, and if they're trying for solidarity by twisting the language to their own fiendish ends, then they're failing, and mightily.

Maybe the problem is self-esteem. If I worked for the MTA I'd probably hate myself. So here's my solution: force the entire MTA crew to sit down with Doctor Phil. After listening to his smug ass for several hours, I'm sure every single "worker" would begin to understand the pain we have to endure. Praise Dr. Phil...


Valentine's Day

I happen to work in a building with a Godiva Chocolate store in the lobby and yesterday, while on my way outside to kick a few kittens and pull the whiskers off a baby sea lion, I noticed, to my dismay, a line stretching 30 deep waiting to get into Godiva. I thought to myself, as I often do since no one will talk to me, are these people really that desperate to conform to conventions created by a card company? When I asked a man in line – they were all men, of course – he shrugged rather sheepishly and said, “What are you gonna do?” Another man chimed in, “I love my wife, so what the hell.” To these desperate, conforming boy-men, I say: rebel!

It’s what we all have to do against vile holidays like this. If I got the day off from work in order to celebrate I might find something useful to do with my time, like nap or watch reruns of South Park; and then, MAYBE I could understand the appeal. But I don't get the day off and so I'm pissed (or more so than usual). I think Valentine's Day offends several groups of Americans. First, it's society's way of telling single people: you suck. If you're single and don't have anyone to spend money on, then you're a big Valentine's lonely hearts, you're relegated to daydreaming about that hot tomato who works part-time at reception and occasionally stops at your desk to chat and makes you think on occasion you have a chance with her when the truth is she just likes to flirt -- and what's wrong with that? -- and besides she has a boyfriend and you can always go home and look at porn on the internet. But I digress... The point is: you get to feel like a bit of a pariah if you don't happen to have a significant other on Valentine's Day.

Second. This faux-holiday is also society's way of telling folks who have lovers: you'd better conform or otherwise you're not getting any. God forbid we talk to each other to negotiate these intricate matters of coupledom! Err, sometimes capitalism, as it turns every possible object, idea and emotion into a commodity, just makes me want to pee my pants. Why must a holiday tell us we suck if we don't buy a box of chocolates, a bouquet of flowers and an inane card that captures nothing of our complex selves? (Happy Stan asks that I point out that this is a rhetorical question). Don’t get me wrong. I’m actually for contributing to the great, thriving economy, especially when it’s not so great and not exactly thriving. But I’d rather have a day named “spend extra money day” or "Support Americathon!" than a day that makes people feel inadequate if their lives don’t fit inside the plot of a Sandra Bullock movie. Obviously, I don't speak for everyone, but I speak for me and that's all that's important.

Full disclosure: I recently broke up with my girlfriend. And while you might think that this has contributed mightily to my thoughts about Valentine's Day, I have this to say: you're probably right.



I do not believe in instant gratification. That is, I do believe in it, I'm human, and after all I'm writing a blog so I must have the attention span of Musca domestica Linnaeus, the common housefly. But I don't believe in it for other people, and when a certain Dr. complains, via blog comment, that I do not allow people (for lack of a better word) to post instantly here, I have only this to say: tough crackerjacks. CrankyPants has made the executive decision to filter comments and if it seems like the act of an insecure, controlling neurotic, it's because it is. It's also to prevent stupid people from leaving their inane remarks.

One of my favorite characters on the Simpsons is the tubby video store owner who spends all his time on the internet condescending to imaginary enemies. People like him are the sort, it seems to me, who comment most frequently via the web on Blogs. I've had a little experience with this, as I run a literary web magazine (http://www.ducts.org/) and we periodically receive impolite\coarse\ emails generated by borderline human beings afraid of their own shadows and compelled, as a result of their encompassing fear, to shoot down the efforts of others. Of course, I wouldn't be bothered by such things if it weren't for the above-stated insecurity\neuroticism. Recently, for example, we ran an essay-writing contest (check it out, you have until March 1st, 2006). I posted an ad on Craigslist and received several derogatory emails about our magazine, the contest, the entry fee and my hair style. Instead of heartily laughing at the folly of others, I formed a team of crack assasins and tracked down all the offending emailers over the course of several months. Some things just aren't funny to me.

The good Dr. asked, however, for a list of filtered comments and so, without further ado (and with little adon't), here's a sample of the many comments that did not make the cut. Feel free to assume all of these are made up:

1) This blog is the greatest blog in the world, except I noticed that you don't have anything useful to say, that you complain too much and that your parents smell like onions.

2) I think I saw you walking down the street the other day. Was that you? I'm watching you. I hate you. You smell like onions. --TheCandyManCan

3) You know the episode of Star Trek where two crew members are turned into gods and then battle each other until one is weakened and then Kirk jumps in and kills him before he kills the whole crew? Just wondering. --SpocksSweetAss

4) I happen to be an escalator repairman and I was offended and appalled by your prior post. Please understand that stairs are not meant to move! Escalators are complex machines and people like you who take the advances of modern society for granted should be shuttled into a time machine and forced to live through the middle ages! Catch a little bubonic plague and then see what you think about escalators. Prick. --Frank

5) You're hot. Want to party? --Frank

6) Hello, this is Saul Bellow. I know what you're thinking: "But Saul Bellow is dead!" You're reaction is further evidence of the extremely limited nature of your thinking. Is Shakespeare dead? Does that stop him from posting? Anyway, I'm writing to ask you to be funnier. You're not funny and it depresses me. And you smell like onions. --SaulsTheOne!

7) You know what? I wouldn't read your blog if it was the last blog on the planet!

8) I think calling women "tomatoes" is a great idea. Sure, and why don't we call men "celery sticks" because that's what they all are: stiff and dumb! Ha ha ha. --EvilTemptress

9) You stole my lunch money in 3rd grade and I haven't forgotten. You're so dead, dude!

10) Alas, blogs are final evidence of the complete decline of our culture. We are the first to go from inception straight to decadence, skipping civilization altogether. And your blog represents more declinishness than any I've read. --FoxyAndSlyForNigh



In the future, I'm sure I'll write about the New York City subways because nothing burns my buttons more than those overcrowded, poorly run, dirty, rattling underground locomotives, but today I'm starting small (smaller). I'm writing about escalators.

I like escalators, in theory. That is, I like what they stand for: hey, this city is for everyone, even lazy people like you, and so we're going to install stairs that move so you don't have to walk to your jobs where you're underpaid and underappreciated, it's a place, like your couch or your toilet, where you're treated like a king. Rest ye weary limbs, dear peasants! I would continue this italicized description of the meaning of escalators for several paragraphs, but my friend (lets call him Happy Stan) is looming over my shoulder and threatening to pull the plug on my computer if I don't find something nice to say about someone soon (he thinks that New York subways are a "miracle"). Stan clearly doesn't get me.

So I would like escalators if they and the people who rode them all existed in a pristine, perfect world (such as the universe of my mind). Alas, we live in the real world and I believe it was either Jean-Paul Sartre or Daffy Duck who said: "Hell is other people."

There are approximately 7 escalators on my commute each morning and I'm one of those who doesn't mind walking up them. I prefer to hop into the left-passing-lane and glide up the steps two at a time: it's like flying, except without the danger of crashing (and without actually flying or getting anywhere nice, like Hawaii). Those in the right lane are more patient than I am, and I don't begrudge them their brief moment of luxury, as long as they stay over there to the right where they belong. For those who drift into the left lane and then stand, lump-like, blocking the way for the scrum of neurotics and Type-A's working up a coronary behind them, I propose this: the death penalty. [An aside. I'm basically against the death penalty for things like murder, because I can't see how it's a disincentive to others. I can't imagine anyone who, in a fit of rage, would pull out a candlestick to kill someone and then stop and think: wait, I'm going to get caught and then get sentenced to death, I'd better chill out with a pitcher of Budweiser and put down some money on the Steelers to win the SuperBowl instead of killing my friend Happy Stan. Thus, the death penalty amounts to a simple act of revenge.] But I'm all for the death penalty for standing to the left on an escalator during rush hour because if it were a crime and you knew the penalty for standing there was death, you wouldn't do it. Unless you wanted to die, and then I say, good for you, you've found something you're good at! Why not clear the population of malcontents (who don't have blogs), anyway?

So where was I? Oh yes, escalators. My biggest problem with these ambulatory devices is that they are always breaking down. And by always, I mean: every 17 seconds. I would estimate that the average escalator works only about 50 percent of the time (I've done extensive research on this matter, including sleeping on this topic after a heavy lunch). I live in New York City, and thus I have two choices: numb myself to the incompetent, careless, feckless, heedless, inattentive, irresponsible, reckless, thoughtless, unconcerned, unmindful people who work for our public transportation departments or work up a lather of anger and frustration that leads only to an increase in my blood pressure and a thinning of my hair, but that does nothing to contribute to the public good. I choose the latter. (By the way, I looked up "lack of care" in the thesaurus and copy\pasted the entries above. I noticed "New York Public Servant" wasn't listed, so I'm crafting a letter now to Roget's). So then why are escalators always breaking down? I've considered two possibilities: 1) they're just built very, very badly. Imagine if your car worked only half the time. Or your computer (wait, that might be an upgrade if you're using a computer with Windows). I suppose it's the American way. Build something badly, make it so it needs lots of repairs and thus, keep a lot of people employed (and keep a lot of other people, like you and me, but mostly me, really cranky). I guess that's called "Built-in Obsolescence." Geez, though, couldn't they at least last more than a week? It seems unlikely to me that builders can construct airplanes that fly for years without incident (it's the safest way to travel, they tell us, and lord knows "they" are always right), but escalator architects can't build a decent set of moving stairs that don't break down after fifteen minutes. That brings me to my second theory. Lets call it Possibility 2) they're doing it on purpose! They just want to piss us off, maximize our inconvenience, because, well, they can! It's not that they're laughing at us or particularly enjoying the misery they've inflicted on millions (yes, visit Grand Central and count the teeming masses (and if you get bored, count toupees)). But there's no incentive to do it any better. No one is holding them to a higher standard, since this is New York City and there are 11 million of us here. You can overcharge and underwork and as long as you can sleep at night, you can also just say fuck it, let them suffer. So while the escalator workers might not consciously be doing it to us the hard way, they're unconsciously doing it. I bet no one who works for these various companies has ever had any therapy. A little Freud, a little guilt, and we might all be traveling like Kings again.

Another possible solution to this whole mess: the death penalty.


First Entry -- tomatoes are not your friend

I hate tomatoes.

Why is it you can't buy a sandwich without a tomato? And why is it, you might ask if you have nothing better to do than sit around asking rhetorical questions, do I choose, on my first blog, to write about this offending fruit? (Or is it a vegetable? Damned semantics...) Simple: I'm sick and tired of picking tomatoes off my food. Normally, I don't have anything against any particular fruit or vegetable. I do not discriminate on the basis of size, color or weight. If it tastes good, I'm for it and even if it doesn't I'm willing to co-exist. Olives, for example, taste to me like what I would imagine rubber soaked in lighter fluid tastes like to people who have the time to taste such things (critics and academics, I imagine). But I have nothing against the poor, innocent olive, it doesn't offend me. In fact, I've been known to cook with olive oil on the extremely rare occasions where my friends allow me close enough to the stove to light a flame. Tomatoes -- ubiquitous tomatoes! -- won't leave me alone, however, when I'm trying to ignore them. And here's the rub in all this: I actually like the taste of this dastardly fruit\vegetable (Aside: why the confusion over their nomenclature? Because they're often served with vegetables? They're served with everything! Tomatoes are fruit, so don't be fooled. Here's what the dictionary says: 1a. A widely cultivated South American plant (Lycopersicon esculentum) having edible, fleshy, usually red fruit. b. The fruit of this plant. 2. Slang A woman regarded as attractive). I simply cannot eat tomatoes because of a dietary restriction due to too much stomach acid (probably generated from worrying about this and other trivial matters). I can't eat oranges either, but I have nothing against them. Oranges know they're place, they don't try to sneak onto every sandwich in every restaurant in New York (where I haplessly live). Sure, they turn up in the occasional salad -- good for them! I like ambition and they look attractive sitting there and sometimes I'll even eat one, against my stomach's better judgment, because I admire the pluck of this delicious fruit. Tomatoes have gone too far. They are the cockroaches of the plant kingdom, insidious and impossible to avoid. (Fun fact about cockroaches: they fart about once every five minutes). It's getting to the point where you (and by you, I mean "me") can't even order a bowl of soup anymore, because every soup is tomato based! What ever happened to water? You know, boil some water, throw some stuff in there and, voila!, soup! (Clearly I know nothing about making soup, but like other critics who know nothing of what they criticize I can't help rambling on in the hopes that I'll sound intelligent. By the way, "Voila" is more or less the limit of my French).

Anyway, if you're like me (and you must be) you're sick of tomatoes too. It's time for us to take a stand before it's too late, before tomatoes start running for office, before they start declaring unnecessary wars on other countries, before they start walking slowly on sidewalks when you're trying to get some place fast, before they make you wait four hours for your cable installation appointment and then cancel and then make you wait four hours on another day and then show up with only 1 minutes left of your alloted time. Come to think of it, maybe tomatoes have already taken over! I, for one, think we should rid our fine (if overly happy with ourselves) country of tomatoes! I like the dictionary's alternative definition of this haughty fruit: it's a term I never use, but that has sexy, juicy connations and should be revived.

Thus, I'll begin today.
Anyone seen that Project Runway? Plenty of hot tomatoes on that show!
Who is with me?