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Shhh! Do You Smell Something?

July 28, 2000

Last week I happened to mention nearly being sprayed in the eyes by a "sales associate" wielding a wicked bottle of cologne. It’s a practice that’s being let go, gradually, but in a lot of shopping malls sales associates used to hide behind the counter, then jump up unexpectedly and spray customers with some horrendous cologne or perfume. Why do they do that? It’s so you’ll feel guilty and buy the stuff. Then when a friend asks you, "Why do you smell like feet?" you can say, "It’s not feet, it’s this new sandalwood fragrance I bought." Then your friend will feel guilty, and you’ll have been able to sublimate some of your frustration at being sprayed by a trigger-happy salesperson. (Sandalwood, by the way, is a myth. A perfume company botched a batch of perfume. The research and development team gathered around and said, "This smells kind of like feet. Let’s call it sandalwood and sell it for an exorbitant price!")

The cologne, for the record, came in a conical bottle of smoky blue glass and was called "Testes". It smelled sort of like baked roadkill, which probably explains why the sales associate couldn’t give the stuff away. But it made me wonder: what men wear cologne? I have yet to meet a single man who wears cologne–apart from a photographer I once met whose shirt was unbuttoned all the way to his hairy navel, and who apparently bathed in a scent called "Instinct" in between his daily sessions in a tanning booth. The only other male I ever met who even kept up a pretence of using cologne was a guy I knew in college. He had an expensive bottle of cologne on his bureau–but I never saw him use it, and he never walked around in the hazy cloud that distinguishes habitual perfume users. One night I opened the bottle and smelled it. It smelled like…water. That’s because it was water. He admitted to me that he bought the bottle for fifty-cents at a garage sale and kept it out to impress people.

For myself, I only used cologne–actually it was called aftershave, which is a more manly word for cologne–once. It had been given to my father as a gift sometime in the early seventies, which explains the brand name "Shaft". I was the first person to open the bottle. I was fifteen and wanted to impress a girl I was taking to see a movie. In the ticket line, she sniffed me and said, "That’s nice perfume." I replied, "It’s not perfume. It’s aftershave." She smirked and said, "Do you shave?" I never touched the stuff again.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

  1. don’t walk behind me, for I may not lead. Do not walk ahead of me, for I may not follow. Do not walk beside me, either. Just leave me alone.

  2. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a broken fan belt and a leaky tire.

  3. It’s always darkest before dawn. So if you’re going to steal the neighbor’s newspaper, that’s the time to do it.

  4. It’s a small world. So you gotta use your elbows a lot.

  5. Respect is like air; it’s not important unless you aren’t getting any.

  6. We are born naked, wet, and hungry. Then things get worse.

  7. No one is listening until you make a mistake.

  8. Always remember you’re unique, just like everyone else.

  9. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.

  10. It may be that your sole purpose in life is simply to serve as a warning to others.

  11. It is far more impressive when others discover your good qualities without your help.

  12. If you think nobody cares if you’re alive, try missing a couple of car payments.

  13. If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.

  14. If you lend someone $20, and never see that person again, it was probably worth it.

  15. If you haven’t much education you must use your brain.

It’s Getting Better

July 21, 2000

A lot of people of my generation are, frighteningly enough, starting to sit up and say, "What’s wrong with these kids today?" I’m frightened by this because it wasn’t that long ago that members of my generation were the ones laughing at old fossils who used such expressions. It seems that, after a certain point, every generation looks to the happy, exuberant younger generation, and criticizes them. Well, I’m not going along with it.

The other day in a shopping mall I heard a young boy say something that gives me hope for the future. Now, I rarely go shopping, which is a good thing because, like most males, I hate it. Shopping itself isn’t bad. It’s really the salespeople I hate. They’re always women in bright, cheerful clothes with cheerful nametags that cheerfully say, "Hi, my name is INGRID." To these women, I have a tattoo on my forehead which only they can see, and it cheerfully says, "Shoplifter". Since they can’t throw me out on the basis of an invisible tattoo, they instead approach me with The Question: "May I help you?" What this means is, "I know you’re not going to buy that scented candle, so get out." Because I’m usually waiting for my wife who really is shopping, I try to ward them off with, "No, thank you, I’m just looking." What this means is, "Geez, this scented candle looks like it weighs fifty pounds. And it smells like that malodorous perfume one of your co-workers tried to spray directly into my eyes. Now please just go away and I’ll leave quietly in a few minutes."

Back to the young boy. Right after his older sisters crooned, "Ooh, mom, fifty-percent off sale!" he said, "Can we please go home now?" This young boy, not even old enough to dress himself (his clothes matched), already understood the fundamental fact that he was in an environment where he did not belong. I’m proud of him for reaching a high level of awareness at such an early age. Although now that I think about it, he addressed his mother politely and quietly. In my day, I would have chosen the more effective method of screaming loudly and rolling around on the floor. What’s wrong with these kids today?

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

"Dr. Laura" refers to the California radio talk show host who is ultraconservative and sort of like Pat Buchanan in Jewish drag (I realize that is not a pretty image but anything concerning Pat Buchanan isn’t).

Dear Dr. Laura,

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. I especially like that you don’t go for any of that namby-pamby stuff about forgiveness and loving one’s neighbor. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may buy slaves from the nations that are around us. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify?

I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 10:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree.

Can you settle this?

Lev. 20:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Rejected Childrens’ Books

  • Strangers Have the Best Candy

  • The Kids’ Guide to Hitchhiking

  • Pop Goes the Hamster…and Other Great Microwave Games

  • Testing Homemade Parachutes Using Only Your Household Pets

  • Curious George and the High Voltage Fence

  • The Pop-Up Book of Human Anatomy

  • What is That Dog Doing to That Other Dog?

  • Mr. Fork and Ms. Electrical Outlet Can Be Friends!

  • Bi-Curious George

  • Daddy Drinks Because You Cry

  • The Care Bears Maul Some Campers and Are Shot Dead

  • Babar Meets the Taxidermist

  • Things Rich Kids Have, But You Never Will

  • Controlling the Playground: Respect Through Fear

  • The Hardy Boys, The Barbie Twins, and The Vice Squad

  • The Boy Who Died From Eating All His Vegetables

  • You Are Different and That’s Bad

  • Where Would YOU Like to Be Buried?

The Truth Is Out There. WAY Out There.

July 14, 2000

For those of you without basic cable, or who may simply be unfamiliar with the term, cryptozoologists are scientists who search for animals whose existence is disputed, such as the Himalayan yetis or the New England mothmen. The term combines "zoology", which is Greek for "study of life", and "crypto", which is Greek for "load of crap".

Whether you believe ’em or not, you have to admire cryptozoologists. These are, mostly, intelligent, dedicated people, willing to sacrifice money, reputations, and even friends in order to prove that the evidence of Bigfoot’s existence is "inconclusive." These are people whose careers consist of being featured in tongue-in-cheek documentaries on basic cable (and PBS in its trashier moments). And in some cases these are people who are willing to ignore all scientific evidence and instead take at face value the unverifiable report of a couple of drunk fishermen.

Admittedly, cryptozoologists were responsible for finding the Vietnamese pseudo-oryx, but they haven’t gotten a clear picture of a Jersey Devil, found a Patagonian ogopogo skeleton, or gotten Champy to come up for a big hunk of fishbait and a photo op. They haven’t even figured out how the vicious, tragophilic chupacabra, indigenous to Central American folklore, made it all the way to Moscow, although some suspect it may have been disguised as a first-class airline passenger.

Admittedly, some of these scientists do work at MIT, one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, whose tuition rates are so high partly because it lets cryptozoologists "borrow" (or "destroy") equipment. And those documentaries can be pretty interesting, especially when the scientists are one day away from incontrovertible proof that a giant reptile is living in a cold Northern lake that’s barely able to sustain a small population of minnows, or when the brontosaurus is only a half mile away. Of course that’s when the funding runs out. Even the most dedicated scientist can’t be bothered to walk a half mile without funding. Then it’s time to pack up the broken equipment and head back to MIT to work on other projects, such as a camera that doesn’t jiggle wildly and underexpose everything.

Cryptozoologists are always secure in the knowledge that, next year, they’ll be able to return to the same spot with even more valuable equipment, which they’ll unfortunately drive over in the parking lot.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

The following concerns a question in a physics degree exam at the University of Copenhagen:

"Describe how to determine the height of a skyscraper with a barometer."

One student replied:

"You tie a long piece of string to the neck of the barometer, then lower the barometer from the roof of the skyscraper to the ground. The length of the string plus the length of the barometer will equal the height of the building."

This highly original answer so incensed the examiner that the student was failed. The student appealed on the grounds that his answer was indisputably correct, and the university appointed an independent arbiter to decide the case. The arbiter judged that the answer was indeed correct, but did not display any noticeable knowledge of physics. To resolve the problem it was decided to call the student in and allow him six minutes in which to provide a verbal answer which showed at least a minimal familiarity with the basic principles of physics.

For five minutes the student sat in silence, forehead creased in thought.

The arbiter reminded him that time was running out, to which the student replied that he had several extremely relevant answers, but couldn’t make up his mind which to use.

On being advised to hurry up the student replied as follows:

"Firstly, you could take the barometer up to the roof of the skyscraper, drop it over the edge, and measure the time it takes to reach the ground. The height of the building can then be worked out from the formula H = 0.5g x t squared. But bad luck on the barometer."

"Or if the sun is shining you could measure the height of the barometer, then set it on end and measure the length of its shadow. Then you measure the length of the skyscraper’s shadow, and thereafter it is a simple matter of proportional arithmetic to work out the height of the skyscraper."

"But if you wanted to be highly scientific about it, you could tie a short piece of string to the barometer and swing it like a pendulum, first at ground level and then on the roof of the skyscraper. The height is worked out by the difference in the gravitational restoring force T=2 pi sqroot (l / g)."

"Or if the skyscraper has an outside emergency staircase, it would be easier to walk up it and mark off the height of the skyscraper in barometer lengths, then add them up."

"If you merely wanted to be boring and orthodox about it, of course, you could use the barometer to measure the air pressure on the roof of the skyscraper and on the ground, and convert the difference in millibars into feet to give the height of the building."

"But since we are constantly being exhorted to exercise independence of mind and apply scientific methods, undoubtedly the best way would be to knock on the janitor’s door and say to him ‘If you would like a nice new barometer, I will give you this one if you tell me the height of this skyscraper’."

The student was Niels Bohr, the only person from Denmark to win the Nobel prize for Physics.

Call me a cab

July 7, 2000

Recently I had the opportunity to ride on Nashville’s buses. On one of my trips, I sat next to a man who called himself an "assiduous mendicant", and explained that his primary occupation was "surveying alternative sleeping arrangements." In exchange for some spare change, which he assured me would go toward his 100 proof medication, he gave me some advice about riding the buses. I’ll share that advice with you–for free–because buses everywhere are exactly the same.

  • Buses don’t stop in residential areas (such as suburbs). Buses are public transportation, and the public doesn’t live in residential areas.

  • Don’t bother getting an early start. If the bus schedule says the first bus comes at 7:05 and the second bus comes at 7:19, go ahead and sleep a few extra minutes. If you go the stop and wait for the 7:05 bus, you’ll still end up taking the 7:19 bus. Actually the 7:19 bus IS the 7:05 bus. No one’s really sure what happens to the 7:19 bus, and anyone dumb enough to sit around wondering is going to miss the 7:34 bus.

  • No matter which side of the street you’re on, there will be more bus stops on the other side. Chances are the other side of the street will have stops every eight feet. You’ll have to walk two miles to find one.

  • When you see the bus you want, step directly in front of it. Standing at the bus stop is not sufficient. But be careful: buses are the only vehicles on the road that will stop for pedestrians, because they’re in no hurry to get anywhere.

  • Modern buses have soft seats covered with dark fabric. The fabric is dark so you won’t notice that they’re wet.

  • You don’t want to know why the seats are wet.

  • Next to every third seat will be a button or cord or some other device that’s supposed to tell the driver you’re ready to get off. On modern buses it’s designed to look exactly like part of the wall. This is because the driver doesn’t care that you’re ready to get off. Press the button, pull the cord, or punch the wall three or four times, then get ready to jump off at the next stoplight.

  • No matter where you get off it will be at least one mile from where you’re actually going. You’ll also be on the wrong side of the street.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

[Now that the 90’s are behind us…]

  1. You just tried to enter your password on the microwave.

  2. You now think of three expressos as "getting wasted."

  3. You haven’t played solitaire with a real deck of cards in years.

  4. You have a list of 15 phone numbers to reach your family of three.

  5. You call your son’s beeper to let him know it’s time to eat. He e-mails you back from his bedroom, "What’s for dinner?"

  6. Your daughter sells Girl Scout Cookies via her web site.

  7. You chat several times a day with a stranger from South Africa, but you haven’t spoken to your next door neighbor yet this year.

  8. You didn’t give your valentine a card this year, but you posted one for your e-mail buddies via a web page.

  9. Your kids just bought a CD of all the records your college roommate used to play.

  10. You read the label on chicken soup to see if it contains echinacea.

  11. You check your blow-dryer to see if it’s Y2K compliant.12.Your grandmother clogs up your e-mail, asking you to send her a JPEG file of your newborn so she can create a screen saver.

  12. You pull up in your own driveway and use your cell phone to see if anyone’s home.

  13. Every commercial on TV has a web-site address at the bottom of the screen.

  14. You buy a computer. A week later it is out of date and sells for half the price.

  15. The concept of using real money,instead of credit or debit,is foreign to you.

  16. Cleaning up the dining room, means getting the fast food bags out of the back seat of your car.

  17. Your reason for not staying in touch with family; they do not have e-mail.

  18. You consider second-day air delivery painfully slow.

  19. Your dining room table is now your flat filing cabinet.

  20. Your idea of being organized is multiple-colored post-it notes.

  21. You hear most of your jokes via e-mail instead of in person.

  22. You’re reading this.


  1. "Well, butter my butt and call me a biscuit."

  2. "It’s been hotter’n a goat’s butt in a pepper patch."

  3. "He fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down."

  4. "Have a cup of coffee, it’s already been ‘saucered and blowed.’"

  5. "She’s so stuck up, she’d drown in a rainstorm."

  6. "It’s so dry, the trees are bribing the dogs."

  7. "My cow died last night so I don’t need your bull."

  8. "Don’t pee down my back and tell me it’s raining."

  9. "He’s as country as cornflakes."

  10. "This is gooder’n grits."

  11. "Busier than a cat covering crap on a marble floor."

  12. "If things get any better, I may have to hire someone to help me enjoy it."


The following is a pre-approved posting whose purpose is to offer insight and advice to Northerners moving South.

  1. Save all manner of bacon grease. You will be instructed on how to use it shortly.

  2. Just because you can drive on snow and ice does not mean Southerners can. Stay home the two days of the year it snows.

  3. If you do run your car into a ditch, don’t panic. Four men in the cab of a four-wheel pick-up with a 12-pack of beer and a tow chain will be along shortly. Don’t try to help them. Just stay out of their way. This is what they live for.

  4. You can ask Southerners for directions, but unless you already know the positions of key hills, trees and rocks, you’re better off trying to find it yourself.

  5. Get used to hearing, "You ain’t from around here, are you?"

  6. Don’t be worried that you don’t understand anyone. They don’t understand you, either.

  7. The first Southern expression to creep into a transplanted Northerner’s vocabulary is the adjective "big ol," as in "big ol truck," or "big ol boy."

  8. As you are cursing the person driving 15 mph in a 55-mph zone, directly in the middle of the road, remember: ALL Southern folks learned to drive on a John Deere, and this is the proper speed and lane position for that vehicle.

  9. If you hear a Southerner exclaim, "Hey, y’all, watch this!" Stay out of his way. These are likely the last words he will ever say, or worse still, that you will ever hear.

  10. Most Southerners do not use turn signals; they ignore those who do. In fact, if you see a signal blinking on a car with a Southern license plate, you may rest assured that it was already turned on when the car was purchased.

  11. If it can’t be fried in bacon grease, it ain’t worth cooking, let alone eating.

  12. The wardrobe you always brought out in September can wait until December.

  13. If there is the prediction of the slightest chance of even the most minuscule accumulation of snow, your presence is required at the local grocery store. It does not matter if you need anything from the store. It is just something you’re supposed to do.

  14. Satellite dishes are very popular in the South. When you purchase one, it is positioned directly in front of the house. This is logical, bearing in mind that the dish cost considerably more than the house, and should, therefore, be prominently displayed.

  15. Be advised that in the South, "He needed killin’" is a valid defense.

Whose DNA Is It Anyway?

June 30, 2000

Earlier this week it was announced that the Human Genome Project was complete and had mapped human DNA. Then it was announced that the project was almost complete, and had mapped 90% of human DNA. Then it was announced that this was really just a rough draft, and it will be years before it’s really complete, or, as they put it in technical jargon, "finished". And in a final development to the story, the people originally hired to do the publicity for the human genome project are now standing on a streetcorner holding signs that say, "Will do PR work for food."

Scientists also say that when the project is finished, it will serve humankind, but not deprive us of the mystery and wonder which keeps poets busy. Scientists, of course, always bring up poets to give a human dimension to their projects. Poets respond with silence, probably because they don’t receive large research grants that would allow them to hire even incompetent publicity people. Among other expected benefits of the project, scientists hope to identify the genes that cause men to leave the toilet seat up, women to buy so many shoes, and people to think hackneyed jokes about the sexes are actually funny.

Meanwhile grade school teachers are concerned that they’ll have to start teaching their students DNA sequencing, since this is about as useful for students’ futures as making collages of the four food groups. The biggest concern among teachers is that the equipment costs will be prohibitive. The biggest concern among students is that DNA templates don’t have nearly the same humor value as frog gonads.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

If you receive an e-mail entitled "Badtimes," delete it immediately. Do not open it. Apparently this one is pretty nasty. It will not only erase everything on your hard drive, but it will also delete anything on disks within 20 feet of your computer.

It demagnetizes the stripes on ALL of your credit cards. It reprograms your ATM access code, screws up the tracking on your VCR and uses subspace field harmonics to scratch any CD’s you attempt to play.

It will re-calibrate your refrigerator’s coolness settings so all your ice cream melts and your milk curdles. It will program your phone auto dial to call only your mother-in-law’s number.

This virus will mix antifreeze into your fish tank. It will drink all your beer.(For God’s sake, people, are you listening?!?!)

It will leave dirty socks on the coffee table when you are expecting company.

It will replace your shampoo with Nair and your Nair with Rogaine, all while dating your current boy/girlfriend behind your back and billing their hotel rendezvous to your Visa card. It will cause you to run with scissors and throw things in a way that is only fun until someone loses an eye.

It will rewrite your backup files, changing all your active verbs to passive tense and incorporating undetectable misspellings which grossly change the interpretations of key sentences.

If the "Badtimes" message is opened in a Windows95/98 environment, it will leave the toilet seat up and leave your hair dryer plugged in dangerously close to a full bathtub. It will not only remove the forbidden tags from your mattresses and pillows, it will also refill your skim milk with whole milk.


In case you are a blonde, this IS A JOKE.

We Must Metriculate

June 23, 2000

You may have noticed that I took a few weeks off. I was actually asked to speak to the graduating class of Catalpa University, but, as I later learned, I was Number 81 on a list of 82, the first 80 being unavailable. And I made sure to tell them what wonders that did for my self-esteem when they called to tell me that Number 78 had gotten a replacement to pick up the garbage that day, and was therefore available. Rather than let it go to waste, which it would have even if I’d read it to a crowd of drooping mortarboards, I thought I’d share it with you. Here’s my speech to the graduates:

As I look out at the blank gazes of those of you who aren’t looking at your watches, I think what a great equalizer time is. Someday you and I will share a rest home, and will reminisce about what times were like before people had computer linkups installed directly in their cerebrums. We’re separated by so little, despite the fact that I’m pretty sure people are going to call you Generation Z. I’m a member of Generation X. Consider yourself lucky to be at the end of the alphabet. It will give you some distinction, unlike Generation X, which used to be known as "slackers", and is now known as corporate cannon fodder. Generation Y started up Internet companies and became fabulously wealthy. You’re not going to be fabulously wealthy. The Internet companies are either going under or sucking each other up like some deranged executive amoeba. You’re also going to be corporate cannon fodder. Your only chance for wealth is a game show, and people are already getting tired of those. I would share some words of wisdom with you, but you already know everything. Your collective knowledge is overwhelming, but don’t worry. It will decline significantly in the years to come. Therefore, I’ll share some of what you already know with your parents, who are so far removed from your myopic, corporate advertising-driven world they have no idea what’s going on.

  • Drugs are funny. I’m not advocating the use of drugs, because there’s nothing funny about a bad drug experience if you’re the one who took the drug. However, there is enormous humor value in Dave down the hall who got loaded up on LSD and spent the rest of the night thinking he was being attacked by the bathroom tiles.

  • A penny saved is worth the same as a penny thrown out the window. Even if you gather a whole pile of pennies together they’re worthless because Don, the guy at the all night grocery, won’t take a handful of pennies. Nickels are slightly more valuable, but only in quantity.

  • Regardless of where you went for Spring Break, whether it was Cancun, Tijuana, Baja, Las Vegas, Rio de Janeiro, or Boise, it was the wrong place. Attractive people having more fun than you will ever have were filmed at some other place, and the best you can do is watch it on television. But at least you can use what’s on television to make up some exciting stories about what happened to you and you can rub those in the face of your friend who spent the week volunteering at homeless shelters in Bolivia. On second thought, don’t — he or she will be your boss someday because "Once did 27 Jello-shots while dancing naked" doesn’t look good on a resume.

  • Don’t criticize people who relinquish their principles for money. Face it: you’d do the same thing.

  • Stay close to those friends who took care of you that night you drank an entire bottle of whatever it was — assuming you can remember. Someday they might work for you, and people with that kind of loyalty will make your job easy.

  • Finally, keep your sense of humor. You’ll need it when you get fired.

That’s it. So long, farewell, live long and prosper, don’t take any wooden nickels, don’t take any pennies whatsoever but leave them in the plastic thing next to the cash register, and where’s my check?

So long, goombahs!

May 19, 2000

After hours of careful consideration and brainless TV watching, I’ve finally decided to leave my present job in a library and take on a whole new career on the Mafia. Of course I did the proper amount of research first. In addition to those hours of TV, which were enough to convince me that the Mafia is glorious, fun, and not nearly as dangerous as my conversations with the FBI have suggested, I also called up my old friend Benito "The Pangolin" Brancusi (no relation to the sculptor). Mr. Brancusi and I first met in Florida when I was six years old. I was there with my family, and he was taking care of some business with some very special friends he referred to as "goons". We talked about seashells, how much fun it was playing in the surf, and the proper way to conceal a large firearm under a beach towel. I even did him a favor: I delivered an oddly shaped seashell to another man in a pinstripe suit.

Mr. Brancusi was very grateful, and said I had a real knack for "whacking people". As it turned out, though, the Mafia business isn’t what it used to be. Thanks to a series of high-profile movies, television shows, and Congressional hearings, anyone even tangentially associated with the Mafia has made enough money that there’s no reason to "whack" anybody anymore. What was once a proud and glorious business built on a system of honor, respect, and heavy weaponry, has been reduced to a group of old men in expensive suits eating linguini and reminiscing about the good old days when they might’ve been caught dead in the same room together. I begged Mr. Brancusi for a suggestion, some way I could get into the business of being able to kill people on a whim, holding small neighborhoods in fear, and building up frequent flyer miles to Italy.

"Well," he finally said after some thought. "There’s always televangelism."

Enjoy this week’s offerings–or I’ll whack you!

Words of wisdom


SYMPTOM: Feet cold and wet.
FAULT: Glass being held at incorrect angle.
ACTION: Rotate glass so that open end points toward ceiling.

SYMPTOM: Feet warm and wet.
FAULT: Improper bladder control.
ACTION: Stand next to nearest dog. Complain about house training.

SYMPTOM: Beer unusually pale and tasteless.
FAULT: Glass empty.
ACTION: Get someone to buy you another beer.

SYMPTOM: Opposite wall covered with fluorescent lights.
FAULT: You have fallen over backward.
ACTION: Have yourself lashed to the bar.

SYMPTOM: Mouth contains cigarette butts.
FAULT: You have fallen forward.
ACTION: See above.

SYMPTOM: Beer tasteless, front of your shirt is wet.
FAULT: Mouth not open, or glass applied to wrong part of face.
ACTION: Retire to restroom, practice in mirror.

SYMPTOM: Floor blurred.
FAULT: You are looking through bottom of empty glass.
ACTION: Get someone to buy you another beer.

SYMPTOM: Floor moving.
FAULT: You are being carried out.
ACTION: Find out if you are being taken to another bar.

SYMPTOM: Room seems unusually dark.
FAULT: Bar has closed.
ACTION: Confirm home address with bartender.

SYMPTOM: Taxi suddenly takes on colorful aspect and textures.
FAULT: Beer consumption has exceeded personal limitations.
ACTION: Cover mouth.

SYMPTOM: Everyone looks up to you and smiles.
FAULT: You are dancing on the table.
ACTION: Fall on somebody cushy-looking.

SYMPTOM: Beer is crystal-clear.
FAULT: It’s water. Somebody is trying to sober you up.
ACTION: Punch him.

SYMPTOM: Hands hurt, nose hurts, mind unusually clear.
FAULT: You have been in a fight.
ACTION: Apologize to everyone you see, just in case it was them.

SYMPTOM: Don’t recognize anyone. Don’t recognize the room you’re in.
FAULT: You’ve wandered into the wrong party. 
ACTION: See if they have free beer.

SYMPTOM: Your singing sounds distorted.
FAULT: The beer is too weak.
ACTION: Have more beer until your voice improves.

SYMPTOM: Don’t remember the words to the song.
FAULT: Beer is just right.
ACTION: Play Air Guitar

And as it was once told to me, let us pray….


Our lager,
Which art in barrels,
Hallowed be thy drink,
Thy will be drunk,
(I will be drunk),
At home as I am in the tavern.
Give us this day our foamy head,
And forgive us our spillage1s,
As we forgive those who spill against us,
and lead us not to incarceration,
But deliver us from hangovers,
For Thine is the beer,
The bitter and the lager,
Forever and ever, Barmen.


May 12, 2000

Because I couldn’t think of a subject for this week, I’ve been reading a book about how to boost creativity. Amazingly nothing diminishes creativity more than reading about how to be more creative. I’ve just gotten to Chapter 5, Make Mistakes. That’s the theory: creative people in all fields make more mistakes than their colleagues. But what sort of mistakes do you make? The book doesn’t give much help in this regard. It just lists off examples of various mistakes that paid off. For instance, Silly Putty was discovered by mistake. So was penicillin, the chocolate chip cookie, and polyester (there’s a bad example in every group).

The problem is this is a little like telling someone that the way to make large amounts of money is to take large amounts of money and invest it. You have to be pretty brilliant and creative to begin with to turn your mistakes into something as useful as Silly Putty, and even then it’s hit or miss. You might end up with something useless like, well, Silly Putty, and that would be a problem because it’s already been invented. Alexander Graham Bell, for example, isn’t famous because he spilled acid on himself. He’s famous because he invented the telephone and became the first person in an emergency to be put on hold. For Thomas Edison, persistence paid off. He kept working at the lightbulb until he got it right. With his machine for talking to dead people, he was smart enough to realize what it was: a mistake. People remember Leonardo da Vinci for the Mona Lisa, not because he designed a flying machine that doesn’t work. (Actually, I’m not all that sure why he’s remembered for the Mona Lisa.) He’s also been credited with the invention of the submarine, another idea which didn’t come to anything.

In fact, Da Vinci may be the only person in history who’s famous for nothing BUT mistakes. Or maybe that submarine would have worked, but no one wanted to build it because they were afraid they’d meet their counterparts in the ocean. This proves that five hundred years ago people were just as moronic as they are now. Back then they believed aquatic versions of every person lived under the sea. Nowadays people believe they can become successful by making lots of mistakes. That kind of thinking led to the Love Bug virus, whose presumed creator claims it was released by mistake. Obviously his experience failed to teach him one very important lesson: Don’t come out of hiding.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

Useful Phrases

  • Thank you. We’re all refreshed and challenged by your unique point of view.
  • The fact that no one understands you doesn’t mean you’re an artist.
  • I don’t know what your problem is, but I’ll bet it’s hard to pronounce.
  • Any connection between your reality and mine is purely coincidental.
  • I have plenty of talent and vision. I just don’t give a damn.
  • I like you. You remind me of when I was young and stupid.
  • What am I? Flypaper for freaks!?
  • I’m not being rude. You’re just insignificant.
  • I’m already visualizing the duct tape over your mouth.
  • Ahhh…I see the whacked out fairy has visited us again…
  • I will always cherish the initial misconceptions I had about you.
  • It’s a thankless job, but I’ve got a lot of Karma to burn off.
  • Yes, I am an agent of Satan, but my duties are largely ceremonial.
  • No, my powers can only be used for good.
  • How about never? Is never good for you?
  • I’m really easy to get along with once you people learn to worship me.
  • You sound reasonable…Time to up my medication.
  • I’ll try being nicer if you’ll try being smarter.
  • I’m out of my mind, but feel free to leave a message…
  • I don’t work here. I’m a consultant.
  • Who me? I just wander from room to room.
  • My toys! My toys! I can’t do this job without my toys!
  • It might look like I’m doing nothing, but at the cellular level I’m really quite busy.
  • At least I have a positive attitude about my destructive habits.
  • You are validating my inherent mistrust of strangers.
  • I see you’ve set aside this special time to humiliate yourself in public.
  • Someday, we’ll look back on this, laugh nervously and change the subject.

Occasionally, airline attendants make an effort to make the in-flight safety lecture and their other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples that have been heard and/or reported:

"There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane."

As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Washington National, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fellas. WHOA!"

After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced: "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

"Weather at our destinations is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we’ll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines."

"Your seat cushions can be used for flotation, and in the event of an emergency water landing, please take them with our compliments."

Once on a Southwest flight, the pilot said, "We’ve reached our cruising altitude now, and I’m turning off the seat belt sign. I’m switching to autopilot, too, so I can come back there and visit with all of you for the rest of the flight."

"Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead area. Please place the bag over your own mouth and nose before assisting children or adults acting like children."

"As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

"Last one off the plane must clean it."

Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City. The flight attendant came on the intercom and said: "That was quite a bump and I know what ya’ll are thinking. I’m here to tell you it wasn’t the airline’s fault, and it wasn’t the pilot’s fault, it wasn’t the flight attendant’s fault. It was the asphalt!"

Another flight attendant’s comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the flight attendant came on with, "Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

Part of a flight attendant’s arrival announcement: "We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you’ll think of us here a US Airways."

And from the pilot during his welcome message: "We are pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight."

Gardening Is Decadent And Depraved

May 5, 2000

The other night I was in a home improvement/gardening/construction warehouse looking at different kinds of herbicides, pesticides, and omnicides. I have to respect the companies who make these chemicals because, with all the pro-environment movements, all the efforts going to save endangered areas and species, not to mention the obvious environmental damage, the diminishing biodiversity, the tons of fish that wash up on beaches daily, it takes guts to thumb your nose at all of that. These companies are saying, "Screw Nature! We’re going to cement the planet and paint it green!" Of course a few wimp out and call themselves "environmentally friendly", but, come on, if they were really environmentally friendly, they wouldn’t be very effective, would they? No, I prefer the ones that promise to kill everything within a one-acre radius, including dirt, the ones that have labels that say, "Warning: Causes Liver Damage If Looked At Directly."

But as I was strolling along the aisle, I came to the section with rodent poison. On every box was the same picture of a timid mouse in a crouching position, his little paws hanging just below his little pink nose, his eyes bright and his ears perky. He was, as much as I hate to use the word, cute. I know they carry rabies and typhoid and the plague, but how could I kill something that looks so much like the hamster I had in fifth grade? How could anyone, with the exception of psychopaths, buy that stuff with the intention of using it? That’s when it hit me: some people have nice lawns and gardens because they have an appreciation for beauty. Others are just deeply repressed serial killers whose manicured lawns mask mass graves of thousands, maybe millions of innocent victims of various species. And who can tell which is which? Mr. Griffiths with his prize-winning begonias might look innocent, but what if one of these days he flips out and buzzes the neighborhood with a crop duster? I can’t offer any answers. I’m too distracted by that lovely scene out my window of wildflowers blooming, butterflies dancing through the grass, and squirrels playing. Yep, it’s definitely time to get out the lawnmower.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

You Might Be in Education If…

  • You believe the staff room should be equipped with a Valium salt lick.

  • You find humor in other people’s stupidity.

  • You want to slap the next person who says, "must be nice to work from 8 to 3:20 and have your summers free."

  • You believe chocolate is a food group.

  • You can tell it’s a full moon without ever looking outside.

  • You believe "shallow gene pool" should have it’s own box on the report card.

  • You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says, "Boy, the kids sure are mellow today."

  • When out in public you feel the urge to snap your fingers at a child you do not know and correct their behavior.

  • You have no time for a life from August to June.

  • Marking all A’s on report cards would make your life SO much simpler.

  • When you mention "vegetables" you’re not talking about a food group.

  • You think people should be required to get a Government permit before being allowed to reproduce.

  • You wonder how some parents ever MANAGED to reproduce.

  • You laugh uncontrollably when people refer to the staff room as the "lounge."

  • You believe in aerial spraying of Prozac.

  • You encourage an obnoxious parent to check into charter schools or home schooling.

  • You believe no one should be permitted to reproduce without having taught in an elementary setting for at least five years.

  • You’ve ever had your profession slammed by someone who would never DREAM of doing your job.

  • You’ve ever had your profession slammed by someone with no experience or knowledge in the field but who is "appointed" to be your boss.

  • You can’t have children because there’s no name you could give a child that wouldn’t bring on high blood pressure the moment you heard it uttered.

  • You know you’re in for a MAJOR project when a parent says, "I have a great idea I’d like to discuss. I think it would be such fun."

  • You think caffeine should be available to staff in IV form.

  • You smile weakly and want to choke a person when he/she says, "Oh, you must have such FUN every day. This must be like playtime for you."

  • Your personal life comes to a screeching halt at report card time.

  • You’ve had to listen to approximately 15,000 jackasses who think they’re being funny and original when they say, "Well, those who can’t do, teach!"

  • Meeting a child’s parent instantly answer the question, "Why is this kid like this?"


April 28, 2000

Don’t get me wrong: I have nothing against vanity plates. The problem is there are only so many reasonable combinations that are possible. With more and more people getting vanity plates, pretty soon we’re going to start running out of good ones. The other day I saw one that said, "CRASHR". How did the guy get away with a plate like that? More to the point, why did he even bother? It would have been cheaper to go out and get a bumper sticker that said, "I accelerate for pedestrians." Or maybe he should have just gotten one that said, "Warning: Driver has no insurance." This is just a sign that peoples’ self-esteem has reached such a collective all-time low that we’ll take pride in even our worst attributes. If Hitler were alive today, he’d be driving a VW Beetle with the license plate "JUKILLR" (but not in Alabama, where that plate has already been taken).

Then there are those cute vanity plates, the ones that say things like "JNSPORSH", which are usually attached to a car that’s held together by duct tape, coathangers, and cardboard. And then there are the ones that are so bizarre I’m sure they’re bound to cause accidents because people are so busy trying to figure out what they mean. I think half the drivers with really weird vanity plates just like to look in their rearview mirror at stop lights and watch the people behind them squinting and making fish-faces. The other half probably really think "GQRLMX" is the name of their home planet, and their dilapidated sub-sub-compact is the scouting craft of an alien invasion fleet.

So far, though, the most interesting vanity plate I’ve seen is the one that says, "HACKER". Admittedly, among some computer wizards the word "hacker" means rebellious, cool, even dangerous. The reality is that ten years ago the word "hacker" meant "computer geek with too much equipment, too few friends, and not enough knowledge to get a real job". Of course times change, words take on new significance, and an innocuous term can develop profound implications. Such is the case with the word "hacker", which now means, "computer geek with too much time, not old enough to get a paying job, and wanted by the FBI". People who get such blatant license plates usually end up making them.

Enjoy this week’s offerings.

If you’ve seen this before, I apologize. If you haven’t, and are fed up with ill treatment from banks and other impersonal businesses, read on ……….


Letter received by a bank recently and printed in the New York Times. (Note: whether this was actually printed in the NY Times has not been confirmed, but then neither has most of what’s actually been printed in the NY Times. -CW)

Dear Bank Manager,

I am writing to thank you for bouncing the check with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations some three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the check and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honor it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in place for eight years.

You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account for $50 by way of penalty for the inconvenience I caused to your bank. My thankfulness springs from the manner in which this incident has caused me to re-think my errant financial ways. You have set me on the path of fiscal righteousness.

No more will our relationship be blighted by these unpleasant incidents for I am restructuring my affairs in 1999, taking as my model the procedures, attitudes and conduct of your very bank. I can think of no greater compliment, and I know you will be excited and proud to hear it.

To this end, please be advised about the following changes: First, I have noticed that, whereas I personally attend to your phone calls and letters, when I try to contact you I am confronted by the impersonal, ever-changing, pre-recorded, faceless entity which your bank has become.

From now on, I like you, choose only to deal with a flesh-and-blood person. My mortgage and loan repayments will, therefore and hereafter, no longer be automatic, but will arrive at your bank, by check, addressed personally and confidentially to an employee of your branch, whom you must nominate.

You will be aware that it is an offense under the Postal Act for any other person to open such an envelope. Please find attached an Application Contact Status which I require your chosen employee to complete. I am sorry it runs to eight pages, but in order that I know as much about him or her as your bank knows about me, there is no alternative.

Please note that all copies of his or her medical history must be countersigned by a Justice of the Peace and that the mandatory details of his/her financial situation (income, debts, assets and liabilities) must be accompanied by documented proof.

In due course I will issue your employee a PIN number which he/she must quote in all dealings with me. I regret that it cannot be shorter than 28 digits, but, again, I have modeled it on the number of button presses required to access my account balance on your phone bank service.

As they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Let me level the playing field even further by introducing you to my new telephone system, which you will notice, is very much like yours.

My Authorized Contact at your bank, the only person with whom I will have any dealings, may call me at any time and will be answered by an automated voice. By pressing buttons on the phone, he/she will be guided through an extensive set of menus:

  1. To make an appointment to see me.
  2. To query a missing repayment.
  3. To make a general complaint or inquiry.
  4. To transfer the call to my living room in case I am there; extension of living room to be communicated at the time the call is received.
  5. To transfer the call to my bedroom in case I am still sleeping; extension of bedroom to be communicated at the time the call is received.
  6. To transfer the call to my toilet in case I am attending to nature.
  7. To transfer the call to my mobile phone in case I am not at home.
  8. To leave a message on my computer. To leave a message, a password to access my computer is required. Password will be communicated at a later date to the contact.
  9. To return to the main menu and listen carefully to options 1-8.

The contact will then be put on hold, pending the attention of my automated answering machine. While this may on occasion involve a lengthy wait, uplifting music will play for the duration. This month I’ve chosen a refrain from "The Best of Woody Guthrie:" "Oh, the banks are made of marble With a guard at every door And the vaults are filled with silver That the miners sweated for." After 20 minutes of that, our mutual contact will probably know it by heart.

On a more serious note, we come to the matter of cost. As your bank has often pointed out, the ongoing drive for greater efficiency comes at a cost – a cost which you have always been quick to pass on to me. Let me repay your kindness by passing some costs back.

First, there is the matter of advertising material you send me. This I will read for a fee of $20 per 1/4 page. Inquiries from your nominated contact will be billed at $5 per minute of my time spent in response.

Any debits to my account as, for example, in the matter of the penalty for the dishonored check, will be passed back to you. My new phone service runs at 75 cents a minute (even Woody Guthrie doesn’t come free), so you would be well advised to keep your inquiries brief and to the point.

Regrettably, by again following your example, I must also levy an establishment fee to cover setting up of this new arrangement.

May I wish you a happy, if ever-so-slightly less prosperous, New Year.

Your humble client,

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