Pops' Bucket
Tuesday, November 30, 2004
The Tired Old World
In my latest copy of Newsweek there's an article about this guy Carl Honoré. The article isn't just about his completely ridiculous last name, no. Apparently he's written this book In Praise of Slowness.

The obvious assumption from the title is "Oh great, political correctness has finally gone over the edge. Someone is going to argue that it's actually better to be retarded."

Actually no, it's about how everything and everyone is all like... you know, fast and junk. Like we're all rushy-rushy-rushy and maybe we shouldn't be. It's profound when you think about it.

I tried to get excited about it, but just couldn't. What ruined it for me is that the book is a huge hit in Europe. Europe is embracing the idea that they work too much and should try to slow down, enjoy life more. Europe, the continent that closes down for the entire months of July and August in order to Speedo-model on the Mediterranean coast. This continent that includes a country (Spain) that has a special name for the tradition of sleeping in the middle of the day (el nappo, if I recall). Europe, the continent that invented the fifteen-course seven-hour meal.

If they paced themselves any more, they'd be standing completely still.

From the article we can glean some of the brilliant suggestions, including nuggets like "Don't watch so much TV" and "schedule yourself less."

Jesus, this is what it takes to become a best-selling author? That's it, I've decided what my next project is going to be: 300 in-depth pages of self-help up-with-people motivational dreck under the title Live This Way Or Die. Chapters will include "Eat Something, You Goddamn Stick", "Eat Less, Fatty", "Try To Sleep At Least Once Per 24 Hours" and "Paint: Not For Drinking".

Slowness. This guy wants slowness? I'll give you "slowness": I've been reading The Aeneid for two months. It's 200 pages of short-line verse. How's that for slow? One person's ADD-and-children cocktail of non-achievement is another person's "savoring".

I should point out that all the conclusions I've reached are a result of reading this article. I have not read the book. According the article, the book has yet to catch on here like it has in Europe. Wouldn't it be ironic if we all really wanted to read it, but just never could get around to it?

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.1


Monday, November 29, 2004
The Dustbin Of History
After several years and a great deal of work, I finally have a momentous anouncement to make concerning my career as a Failed Writer:

I've now officially given up on my in-progress manuscript.

Yes, it was only a matter of time really. When you're 60,000 words into something and you're still introducing main characters, you have a problem. Not ever getting around to (or even deciding on) the scope and course of the central plot in all that time is also somewhat problematic.

Plus, when it's been more than 18 months since you've done any serious work on it, I'd say the writing is on the wall. It's on the wall, it's in the car, it's under your chair, anywhere but on the page really.

The manuscript is a mess, but it wasn't all horrible. There were a few decent paragraphs in there, suffocated under great fetid blocks of unnecessary descriptive verbiage and blustering, context-less exposition.

Whenever you meet some hack writing teacher, they will always tell you to power through the first draft and that real writing is re-writing. Yes, I saw Finding Forrester too.

But for obsessive-compulsives, this is a virtual impossibility. Mix that with a little ADD and you've got someone who needs to re-read everything just to remember where he left off, but then can't leave what he wrote alone. So for every one productive writing session, I have three nitpicking, fine-tooth-combing, useless revision-sessions of work I will probably completely revise later anyway. It is vitally important to get your commas and verb tenses all correct before you delete something wholesale. It's just good manners.

The other problem is that--like everyone else whose first grown-up read was a Tolkien book--I was trying to write fantasy-style fiction. It seems easy because you get to invent the cultures, the history, the settings and the context. Yeah, turns out it's a festering pain in the ass, the whole thing. You know what the hardest part is? You have to invent the cultures, the history, the settings and the context!

So my convoluted fable about misogyny and religion, my Life of Brian meets Norma Rae girl-power anti-religious screed will never see the light of day. At least not until I become a better writer and I'm able to write fantasy elements that aren't completely cheesy. Really, it's impossibe to pull off unless you take it completely seriously (which I'm sorry, I can't) or you're Terry Pratchett, which I am obviously not. He's English, for starters. And he wears hats.

Fantasy is out then. The other thing hack writing teachers tell you is "write what you know." I've decided, then, that the next thing I write is going to be a real-life account of this guy. He's got brown-ish hair, right. And he's sitting in this black leather chair. And he's typing something on his keyboard. The words appear on his Samsung SyncMaster 712n flat panel LCD screen. And he's got half a Coke sitting next to his monitor. And his desk is kind of brownish laminated pressboard. And he's got... um... papers and stuff all over his desk. And... uh...

Crap. "What I know" is boring as hell. How do you people read this stuff?

All of my failures now I can blame on my blog instead of my kids. It's a miracle invention whereby I can procrastinate and write at the same time.

So I'm out of the Not-Writing-Novels business for the moment and I can go back to my first love, Not Writing Short Stories. But fear not, adoring public, soon I'm sure I will have a new long-term project to ignore.

Look for it on bookshelves that exist only inside of my head.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 10.0 (an earth-shaker)


Sunday, November 28, 2004
Man's Inexorable Inclination To Mild Discomfort
There are certain aspects of the modern human psyche that are so powerful that, no matter what the circumstances or conscious will, cannot be avoided. Things like slowing down as you pass an accident to see if you can get a glimpse of a severed limb. Or snooping through other people's medicine cabinets. Or autoerotic asphyxiation.

These are things that when detached from the moment, we would all say quite honestly "No no no, not me, I would never" but we all have done. Go on, admit it. I know there's an elaborate harness-truss-noose rig in your closets just like I have in mine. We're all human.

Sometimes the compunction is so strong as to be unavoidable. Whether the desire is implanted by evolutionary biological instinct or by the strong current of culutral habit and suggestion I frankly cannot be bothered to try and answer. That's what God made boring graduate students for.

No, there are some things that are personal and social imperatives that insist on being observed, no matter how uncomfortable, unlikely or humiliating. If they weren't, we would have no reality TV.

Leaving pig-rectum-eating-in-exchange-for-cash-and-fleeting-notoriety aside, one of these undeniable subconscious needs is the association of late-year holidays with snow.

It can't all be the fault of that goddamn White Christmas song. Bing Crosby was good, but he wasn't implant-cultural-suggestion good. That's strictly Madonna level.

But Madonna never sang about Christmas time and snow, unless you count "Holiday", which I don't. As far as I can tell, that song is about jumbly word-association. And ripping off Kool and the Gang's immortal "Celebration".

The point is that even for those of us in the snow-free greater Los Angeles area we have this basic need to see/feel/slip and injure ourselves on snow during this time of year.

Thinking about this rationally, of course, there is no way in hell I should want anything to do with the stuff. There are several perfectly good reasons: 1) it takes roughly an hour to drive to find it up winding mountain roads 2) said trip would have to be undergone with three patience-free children in tow 3) I would have to contend with everyone else in SoCal mindlessly answering the same primal call 4) Did I mention I would have to take my kids? Yes?

Despite all the perfectly good, unerringly logical reasons not to, we made the trek up to the Big Bear area in the San Bernardino mountains on Friday afternoon. We had to get up to 9,000 feet just to find it, but find it we did. And O, what a glorious mud-brown 1" thin layer of wintry goodness it was.

How it works is, you drive up the mountain on blind faith. You keep going until you start noticing any kind of accumulation along the side of the 2-lane highway. There are several "turn-outs" about the width of a car from time to time along side the highway. Adjacent to some of these turnouts are areas to kick around in the snow that are not a) shamefully small or b) overlooking some kind of treacherous precipice promising certain death.

The scarcity of good spots to stop means that every car attempts to stop at the same rare, useful place. There had, at some point, been some actual snow on the ground. But the combination of warm temperatures this past week and the eighty zillion people traipsing about ogling the frozen water in the same confined space really put a damper on my own attempts to traipse and ogle. All we were left with was a thin veneer of off-white pockmarked with a thousand slushy foot-prints.

Luckily my kids are young and unworldly and were impressed anyway.

A couple of further quick points about the experience:

Of all the dozens of people at our spot, we were one of the very few groups actively speaking English. I think I heard snippets of every known human language on the mountain that day. People came from places in other countries where it already snows to drive up my mountains and trample my precious commodity into the ground. Goddamn for'ners.

In a moment of personal humiliation, I was forced to utter the call made by all complete and total dorks when engaged in any kind of physical activity: "My glasses!" The worst part was that it was necessitated during a snowball fight with a 5-year-old. Now that he's in school, it's only a matter of time before he realizes his dad is a complete spaz. Maybe I can save up for the Lasik surgery before then.

We built a snowman that looked exactly like you'd expect a snowman built by Californians to look.

Funniest overheard comment (that I know of... there were probably some foreign-language howlers that I missed) in the near-60 degree weather as the snow melted around us: "If I stand here any longer, I'm going to get frostbite on my toes." I don't know who you are, Lady Who Said This, but I know you're a Californian and I love you for it. But leave the flip-flops at home next time, no?

Last one: snow makes you cold and wet. Good to know for the future.

Next year I'm paying the $50 per head to see the fake snow at Disneyland.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.2


Saturday, November 27, 2004
Post-Event Gastro-Intestinal Distress Not Included
As I do not usually post on Saturdays, I had not planned to put one up today, but there are a couple of things the world must hear immediately.

First, to the people who found this site after searching for "tamale steaming bucket", I apologize for the utter uselessness of this blog in that regard. All the food-related functions of the Bucket are entirely metaphorical.

To the person who found this site after searching "the incredibles + undertones + incest", you are either a tiresome college student studying "communications" or "media studies" or you are a total perv. Either way I would like to arrange a time and a place wherein I will be able to kick you in the face.

Last, I would like to say how happy I am that my mom is not here for the holidays. Nothing can fuck up a perfectly good holiday like family.

Mom's in Illinois, driven off by the need for employment. On holidays, mom tends to be moody, impossible to please and given to ridiculous flights of cheese-ball manufactured "togetherness", like trying to make everyone wear the same T-shirt or something. Not "the same" as in getting everyone into one big T-shirt, I mean everyone getting their own individual T-shirt done up in similar colors and styles, usually with some kind of slogan puffy-painted on the front.

So Illinois is the best place for her. The problem is I have two sisters, both of whom live here. The younger is a paramedic, so she works all the time and I rarely see or hear from her.

The elder recently moved back to Cali after a period of exile in Michigan. She inherited all of my mom's cheese-ball genes. She also works for a photography firm. They specialize in high-school senior pictures but hey, wouldn't it be great if we could all put aside our plans on a Saturday, come down to the studio and get our pictures taken for Christmas?

Why, no. No, it wouldn't.

So there I was this afternoon, three freeways away from my house, way over-dressed, smoldering behind my fake smile as I tried to figure out who I was more likely to murder first, my sister or my children.

I've mentioned this before, but my kids are 5, 3 and 18 months. Everyone knows you can't get a kid's picture taken until they are at least 12 years old. Otherwise it's all and endless cycle of chasing, cajoling, threatening, beating, consoling over and over. Once they're 12, you can at least bribe them with pot.

It could have been worse, though: I could have had girl-children with their tights and dresses and bows and long stringy hair that you are (apparently) not allowed to cut in your backyard with the #3 clippers. I can hardly imagine the horror.

So anyway, I'm counting down the days until Christmas, but not in the way most people usually do when they say that. I've outlasted it before; I can do it again.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.7


PS- I know you're not wondering how my Thanksgiving went, but just in case, I'll tell you what I tell anyone else who asks: nobody got salmonella.

PPS- If anyone is interested in seeing how our pictures turned out, one is being stored for me here. I know I'm usually a stickler for privacy, but I thought you would be curious. Enjoy.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Dark Meat
That's it. We're surrounded. They're approaching from all sides. Our supplies of food and water are running short. Our hardy band of rebels is getting punchy from lack of sleep and the unyielding sense of inevitable doom. Any second now the fort will be stormed and we'll all be forced to succumb to a fate worse than death.

That's right. The holidays are here. No prisoners will be taken.

I wanted to get one more post in before the blogosphere goes dark for the Semi-Secular Festival Of Government-Mandated Gluttony tomorrow. The only people sitting in front of their computers tomorrow will be the sad, the lonely, the forgotten, the unloved, the really really lucky bastards not burdened with the gift of family. May God bless you all more than he already has.

I think somewhere along the line I've forgotten the True Meaning of the holidays. It's not that tragic post-teenage pose we all affect at some point in our lives, like "Hey man, Thanksgiving is just a celebration of genocide with a side of cranberries" or "Hey man, Christmas is just a dressed-up pagan winter solstice festival perpetuated by retailers and advertisers to make us all spend compulsively." I did all that. But then when I realized I wasn't the first person to come up with those particular bitches, I moved on.

The holidays get confused once you have kids. It's like being asked to work back stage at Sesame Street or something: it's a whole lot less magical when you're the guy who has to lug around the 150 lb. top half of Big Bird between scene set-ups.

I've been told by people who I have on good authority are not stupid that the holidays after you have kids are the most fun, the best time. In my experience thus far however, kids still whine, they still soil themselves, they still throw cutlery no matter what time of the year it is, only now I have the added pressure of making all their toy-related dreams come true one night a year on Christmas.


My lack of enthusiasm is shameful when I consider the history and sacrifice behind the first Thanksgiving when Jesus landed on Plymouth Rock, bringing bunnies to the New World who would then lay eggs in peoples socks and... something to do with turkeys...

Over the last couple of days I have made some progress, though. Honestly, I do think I've figured it out this year. I'm finally able to reconnect with the True Meaning of the holidays, the thing that makes this time of the year the most special: time off.

That's right. It was a concept that has been missing from my life for the last 5 1/2 years since I started staying home playing house-boy, a job with either 100% time-off or 0% time off, depending on how you look at it. Either way the lack of variety tends to dull the great, longed-for burning-sensation of Holiday Joy one expects to feel this time of year.

But now that my oldest son is in school and I'm once again a slave to the alarm clock, I really think I'm going to get in to the Thanksgiving and Christmas spirit this year as I laze away the early morning hours not waking up or driving anyone anywhere. It's a feeling I haven't experienced since I left grad school or, say, that time I got mono from the drinking fountain at Six Flags. If that's not something to be thankful for, I don't know what is. It's the best thing ever. Except for maybe porn. Or Coca-Cola. Did I say porn already?

Yes, it's going to be magical once more.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.9


PS- And people don't forget to spend more money than you have on people you don't particularly like this Friday. If you don't, the terrorists win.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
My Spastic Colin Spews Firth
We have a new leader for the Oddest Search String To Produce This Blog As A Result: Nicole Richie's Favorite Flower, via Google. The Bucket came in at number 67, but it's an honor just to be nominated. There are two possible reasons why a person would even attempt such a search: 1) Stalker. He wants to have said flowers pulled apart one petal at a time, then spread across her bed after he breaks into her house. Plus they will serve as a poetic decoration when he dismembers her strangled corpse. 2) Someone at work trying to look up heroin or heroin related products. Remember, Nicole loves the smack. So Nicole Richie -> Heroin -> Opium -> Poppies -> Flowers. It's subtle, but it's less scary than the stalker thing.

I would also like to say quickly how disappointed I am that I don't get more search engine hits for the phrase Vietnamese Hookers despite my best efforts. But as Jesse Jackson says, I should keep hope alive. Or more accurately as he says "Keeb hoba laaaaahf." Is there anyone else in the whole world with the same accent as Rev. Jesse? I swear he made that up himself, obviously without the help of a focus group.

Preliminaries out of the way, today's post begins now:

If I ever see that bastard Colin Firth in person, I'm going to punch him right in the face.

No, not Colin Farrell, broody, dark, smoldering-hot Irishman currently starring in Oliver Stone's gay snuff film epic Alexander, recently announced star of the very necessary film version of Miami Vice. Oh, and once he nailed Britney Spears.

I'm talking about Colin Firth, star of stuffily dull movies whose prime attraction is the employment of an English accent (Pride and Prejudice, The English Patient, Shakespeare In Love and Bridget Jones' Diary to name a few).

I'm sure he's a fine person and not at all deserving of a smashed-in cranium, but really, I'm completely tired of the man. Not only has he prominently featured in my latest Entertainment Weekly, but I've seen two news-service stories on him in my local paper as well as an interview in my latest Newsweek.

That last bit is just going to far. I read Newsweek with the explicit intent to be scared to death about the rapidly deteriorating political situations all around the globe and why it's all George Bush's fault. The last thing I need is some smirking limey thespian sniffingly dismissing the very necessary Bridget Jones sequel of which he is a primary part and complaining about how he wants to "stretch" as an actor.

There are certain people whose overexposure you expect and accept. Let's go back to Britney Spears for a second as an example. Sure, she can't sing a lick and has never to my knowledge even tried to sing live, unaided in any way by any sort of recording. But she does have giant fake breasts and dresses scantily while she does that hip-jiggly thingy when she dances. That type of a person you expect hundreds of thousands of newspaper and magazine pages to be devoted to. And well earned, I must say.

But this Colin Firth guy... it's all "oh, look at me, I can act and everything. Wow, aren't I proficient in the medium by which I earn my living." Bo-ring. Ever dance in a halter top while carrying an albino python? Didn't think so.

But for some completely unexplained reason, American women just swoon.

Did I mention he was English? Bastard.

OK fine, here it is, I'll lay it out for you. Here's what's bothering me. If Mrs. Pops had a blog/website, it would probably look like this. Or this. Or this. Or this.

Of course there is just the slightest outside chance that it would look like this, but really, does it make a difference? The point is still the same: I am a sad little insecure man who is easily threatened by pretend people portrayed by certain actors.

Therefore I would be totally justified punching him in the face.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.4


Monday, November 22, 2004
I'll Say They Are
Being the courteous and upstanding citizen that I am, I have returned the favor by linking Omnimatic blog by some dude called Bill. You can check it out if you want to, but beware the poo. That's all I'm saying.

Had Bill not left a comment I would not have known to reciprocate the link. If you read this blog and have linked it on your own but are crippled by some kind of internet text-only version of Social Anxiety Disorder rendering you physically unable to leave a comment, I can't be held responsible for not returning the favor. If you can somehow fight through the panic attack and say something, I will be happy to add you to the Roll of Perpetual Annoyance of blogs I read. I can guarantee persistently and consistently snarky and unhelpful commentary completely inappropriate to your needs or sensibilities. I cannot, however, guarantee that you won't be mocked by my regular readers. They're a ravenous, pitiless bunch of malcontents. If they weren't, what would they be doing here?

OK, business handled. For today I would like to point out that my wife is on vacation, which means I'm on vacation. She feels just guilty enough about leaving everyday to go to work that she insists on doing the annoying things I usually do, such as diaper changing and driving the oldest to school while I laze under the spell of Somnus, snoring like a vibrator on a cookie sheet.

Since she was here, I was able to sneak out and go to a movie. She got to take the oldest to see The Incredibles a few weeks ago as it was justifiably her turn (I had taken the boy to see Saw which in retrospect may have been a miscalculation). Being the petulant spoiled child I am, I insisted on getting the chance to see it myself and went just this morning.

I would like first to say categorically that going to the movies by oneself is not pathetic. It isn't. OK, it might be, but to hell with you all and your "rules". I have children.

As for the film, it may be the best movie I've ever seen. It was beautiful to look at, well paced and plotted, flawlessly animated and shimmering with socially critical undertones beneath the hero-action-flick veneer. It was a fantastic film-going experience.

I do acknowledge, however, that my opinion may be suspect. I get out so rarely that when I do, I tend to get a little excited. I remember being equally effusive about the Hugh Grant-Jeanne Tripplehorn-James Caan Trifecta of Suckitude Mickey Blue Eyes. It is an opinion I have since reconsidered.

This movie, The Incredibles, though may actually have been good. Now nearly an hour since I left the theater, I have no buyer's-remorse related side effects as yet. By that, of course, I mean shame. And the watering eyes. And the abdomnial cramping. And the blood in the stool. Ah, you all know what I'm talking about. I'm sure it happens to everyone.

I would give it a catchy, easily remembered rating based on stars or letter-grades or the extension of one of my extremities to denote inclination/disinclination, but I don't want to press my luck. Next thing I know people will be trying to judge this thing based on some faux-objective scale and I don't think my ego could take it. Glass house, stones, you know...

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.5


Sunday, November 21, 2004
The White Menace
I think as much as anything, this blog is about living in California. When it's not about politics, of course. Or popular culture. Or other blogs. Or my kids. Or the Catholic church. Or MPH. Really, it's troubling the amount of space and link-action that guy gets around here.

So really I guess this blog is almost never about California. I do vaguely recall making lists of things about California that are interesting, beyond the obvious things like the constant horrifying unknown of earthquakes and/or race riots.

I suppose I could go back and check, but really, no one who reads this regularly thinks that is likely to happen.

No, instead I'll just say that if you've ever read in this blog something about "The best part about living in California is..." just disregard it because I was in all likelihood talking directly out of my ass.

I can say that with confidence because I am about to tell you what is really the best thing about living in California: being able to call friends and family living in the east or the midwest during 80º fall or winter days and laugh at them as they slowly freeze to death waiting for the truck to come around to deliver the kerosene or coal or cord-wood or whale blubber or whatever it is you people burn to keep the hypothermia at bay.

Imagine my shock and horror, then, when I woke up this morning to find the very low surrounding foothills covered with snow.

I'm not saying there was any anywhere close to the ground where I live, but it was inappropriately close, like a sweaty man in an elevator when you're the only two in it. Except this was more awkward.

The problem is, I paid way too much for this house. That's OK though, because so did all my neighbors within a 200 mile radius. The median house price here in Riverside County is about $330,000. In neighboring Orange County it's between $500,000-$600,000 (shoreline bogarting motherfuckers, the lot of 'em). The reason people will do something as stupid as buying into this market is to avoid the snow. Snow is something that happens to other people. If we want snow, we have to make a conscious choice and a subsequent physical effort to find it up in the surrounding mountains--way way up in the surrounding mountains. There we can visit it, ogle it, wonder at it like we would the Bearded Lady or the Dog Faced Boy and then leave it behind. It's not supposed to follow us home.

How bad was it today? The high was 48º. The high. If I try to look at what the low was, I get suicidal, so I won't risk it. By comparison, it is currently 41º in Detroit, 40º in Chicago, 47º in Indianapolis, 46º in Wichita and 41º in fucking Omaha Goddamn Nebraska. I mean yes, we do have the fall-back position of lack-of-mountains and tendencies toward redneckedness with which to mock most of these places, but come on. The Earth and it's damned weather system is robbing us of our ace in the hole. In terms of both weather and property value, today was an unmitigated disaster.

The only logical conclusion I can reach is that the Earth is somehow angry at me personally. So for the record, I would like to say publicly that I am sorry I do not drive a hybrid car. I know, the minivan is not the best thing to be driving back and forth everyday to my kid's school, but the wife and I were waiting for the prices to come down a little bit as more hybrids reached the market. We will buy one, Earth, we promise. Just as soon as the time is right, we're going to be right on that. We're looking at 2006 at the latest.

So enough with the fucking snow and its companion coldness. I want to be sitting in my in-laws' backyard on Thanksgiving in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, breaking out in sweat-beads from the heat as I talk to my dad in Detroit. I want to be able to tell him what a dumbass he lives for living so close to the Arctic Circle.

Isn't that what the holidays are all about?

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.0


PS: Please, no "Californians are such wusses" comments. We know. We really do. In our defense I'd like to say we are very tan.

Friday, November 19, 2004
Beating Off The Global Pandemic Of Impure Thoughts
America is a dangerous place. Everyone knows this. Terrorists, foreign and domestic, want to blow up our shiny tall buildings. We have an extraordinarily high murder rate compared to other industrialized countries. Nuclear waste material is criss-crossing this country by unsecured train on a daily basis. Killer tornadoes exact personal vengeance on people with whom they are displeased. Victims of adultery regularly set their husbands on fire, go to jail only to eventually get out, go to college, lose 20 pounds and find a new man who won't cheat on them, beat them or rape them.

Those last few I got from the plots of TV movies, but I think you get the general idea. With the eventual exception of the scorned woman rising again to self-esteem and a size 6, we're dealing with some heavy shit around here.

Some of it is so freaky they won't even talk about it on the Lifetime Movie Network.

But still, somehow, I sleep well at night. Sure, part of that is because of the 72-ounce Super Big Gulp filled half and half with RC cola and rum, but past that, I rest under the comforting Laser-Beam Umbrella Of Morality that is our government.

See, when we had our elections nearly three weeks ago, we thought we were voting to keep us and all future generations safe from the scourge of gay sex. Imagine my delight when I realized just today that when you buy Homophobia, you get one heapin' helpin' of Generalized Sexual Repression for absolutely no additional cost!

That's right, consumers. Oil up the locking mechanism on those old chastity belts. The Moral Majority has arrived to save us all from our nasty, horny, animalistic selves.

The holy and righteous power of the Federal Communications Commission has already been unleashed on ABC for daring to show the uncovered shoulders and back of a white woman in the presence of a black man.

And now--God be praised!--instead of getting bogged down with nonsense like air quality or the terror war or law and order, the full weight of the United States Senate has been unleashed against the abomination of pictures of people in various states of undress. And these are available to the general public!

As we all know, it is not enough to avoid sin itself, but also the "occasion of sin", the act of putting oneself in the position to be tempted in the first place that is to be avoided. Clearly the federal government is in the best position of any other body to take this task up directly.

Oops, there, I nearly did it myself. I said "body" and "position" in the same sentence. You see how it works? You start thinking about bodies in positions, then you start Googling "Sally Field naked" or something, then you're abusing yourself in horrible (but probably totally hot) ways. But soon self-gratification will not be enough. Then it will be sex with your partner. Then sex with strangers. Then whores. Then multiple whores. Then multiple midget whores, a bucket of chum, multi-directional sex toys and Madonna. Then members of the same gender. Then children. Then animals.

The dots are so close together they practically connect themselves.

No, the only answer is to outlaw sex altogether. Not just to doing of it, but the looking at it and--hopefully, eventually--the very thought of it.

This problem of people engaging in sexual acts is so ingrained, so intractable I have very little hope of stamping it out altogether. It probably won't matter in the end, though. We'll all soon be dead from mad cow disease or Iranian nuclear missiles anyway.

But we're not doing this for us, oh no. This is for the vegetarians and cockroaches who will be left to repopulate the planet when a lethal mix of red meat and nuclear fission wipe the rest of us out. The dream is that they won't have all this sex business getting in the way of their task.

We've taken the first step.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 3.5


PS: My kid did really well yesterday. I have video to prove it.

PPS: Mrs. Pops is off all next week, so this might be a little sporadic for the next nine days or so. She unreasonably insists that we "spend time together" which really cuts into my sitting-alone-in-front-of-the-computer time. She is hot though, so I tolerate the intrusion.

Thursday, November 18, 2004
Stage Fright
My friends over here on the Far Left Wing of the blogosphere have all completely come unglued at the news that the Republican House of Representatives has altered it's own rules to keep jackass Majority Leader Tom DeLay in his leadership position even though he's under indictment for several politics-related crimes. The irony of it, apparently, is that the rules against indicted House members in leadership positions was passed by Republicans during the Clinton era in order to deprive certain similarly-embattled Democrats from positions of authority and prominence.

The reactions to such utterly predictable news have ranged everywhere from purple-faced, stuttering apoplexy to sighing, slow-head-shaking I-knew-it-ness.

My personal reaction can be summed up in one sentence: my kid has to perform a skit today.

What? That wasn't... man. OK, I might be too preoccupied to blather on and on about the Tom DeLay thing. Suffice it to say the man is a douchebag and we can move on.

My kid has to perform in some kind of horrific skit thing this afternoon and it's got all me tied up in knots. He's only been in school since the very end of August and already this is the third major public presentation he's had to make.

Either he's getting a really good, well rounded education or his teacher is some kind of crazy sadist who enjoys causing children to suffer public humiliation. Granted, that type of a propensity has to be on-board already in order for someone to go into Kindergarten Teaching anyway, but this is some kind of specialized mutated strain of the dysfunction.

I guess this is what we're paying for by sending him to Catholic school: chance after chance to experience excruciating personal embarrassment. If he missed it the first time (and he did by performing flawlessly) there's always another chance just around the corner to earn the scorn and contempt of your classmates. And if they really fuck it up, there's the outside chance of earning from their peers a derogatory nickname that rhymes or--the Holy Grail of Playground Ostracization--one that fits into a punchy three-to-four-line song.

So far this is nothing like my experience in school, but then I went to public school. I don't think I did three presentations my whole thirteen years in institutionalized learning, which stood me in really good stead when I got to college and later grad school, let me tell you. Your Tax Dollars At Work, people.

Actually, the only time I remember being asked to present anything out-loud was when I accidentally won the annual Red Ribbon Week essay contest. I was supposed to read the thing in front of a gathering at City Hall. I told my mother I didn't want to go. She said, "OK". Way to push me, mom. And then she and I split a brick of hash we smoked by rolling it up in red ribbons.

As most of you know, in public school you get ignored if you show any kind of academic competence on any level. Unless you're "gifted" in which case they make you take classes that require work and are hard. My primary goal in high school was to escape saying as few words out loud as possible. I cannot be anything but pleased with the results.

And this is why I went to junior college.

I guess I can comfort myself knowing that public school for my son would include a whole slate of other personal and social disappointments, so I can rest easy. At least I know that, when all is said and done, he'll have a first-rate private school education and as an added bonus a lifelong hostility to all forms of organized religion and further a strong resentment of his mother and myself for making him get Catholicized.

So screw "free" public education. Those are the types of things only money can buy.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.0


PS: For those of you who are interested, my son will be playing the immortal role of "Tom Turkey". I think Olivier created the role originally with the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Have We Learned Nothing From Moonlighting?
This post is Steph's fault. I guess I could go back to the post and get the evolution of the idea all in order, but really, I can't be bothered. As far as I recall, it had something to do with Steph's burning unscratched carnal itch for Tom Hanks.

I know, you're all thinking "Tom Hanks, really?" but as far as I can recall, that's what she said. I'm not going to try and explain it because, frankly, it defies explanation. Although it's probably important to point out that she's an "artist" and there's just no telling with those people.

Anyway, past Steph's bizarre and disturbing proclivities, we were making fun of The Da Vinci Code (sorry SJ, the consensus amongst the Bucketeers was "Sucks", with you being the lone "Sucks Not" vote) which, honestly, I could do full time, 40 hours a week for a year. What I thought was funny was that the two lead "characters" (that's a whole 'nother post), one male and one female, who had shared nary a second of romantic chemistry along the course of a crowded, self-satisfied plot suddenly and inexplicably at the end are suddenly all in loooove.

Now, I realize that I'm talking about The Da Vinci Code, the book with a giant masochistic ascetic albino giant as one of its principle bad-guys. Subtle shadings and intricacies may be asking too much.

But it's the cliché that irritates me: every time in every movie/book/TV show that involves lead characters of opposing genders, the end up sleeping together.

Always always always.

Look, I recognize it's an easy way to set up dramatic tension either as characters fumble their way toward awkward coitus or as their couplings unravel into plate-throwing and lawyer-retention. But as a convention it's become so ingrained that the internal narrative logic of it has become inescapable.

Even a show whose entire premise is the antagonism of the two lead characters will always end up with sweaty boot-knockin' just as soon as the writers run out of decent ideas. Hence the horrible last 4 seasons of The X-Files.

The worst example of it, I think, is probably the 2002 Clint Eastwood steaming pile o' film Blood Work. Clint played a heart transplant recipient looking (rightly and bravely, I thought) every second of his 72 years old. I would like to emphasize that last word: old. And let's not forget the heart transplant recipient part of his character. He meets up with his heart donor's sister, 30 years his junior. She plays the plucky Hermione to his wrinkly, easily winded Harry Potter as they sneak around trying to solve some damn thing or other.

But even though he's got 30 years on her, even though he looks like a walking corpse, even though he speaks in that unintelligible emphysema whisper, even though he's got this woman's sister's heart (which in some small way makes it incest, doesn't it?) Clint still gets to bang this woman.

Why? Why God, why? Because him man, she woman, trapped in same plot.

She even fondles his nasty zipper-chest heart-surgery scar as foreplay. I realize I'm using alot of italics, but that's because I know you can't see me sweating as I write this. There's no other way to convey the existential crisis this subject is causing me.

Seriously, don't see this movie. I'll spare you: Jeff Daniels did it.

What you're thinking now is: "Pops, what do you care? It's just a comfortable narrative convention used to give artificial depth and meaning to characters and character relationships in media forms with limited time/page space to do so. Chill the [curseword of your choice] out already."

You'd worry too if your wife worked in a field that is 80%+ male. If the convention holds true in real life and male-female parings in the workplace can't help but do it and do it alot, then my wife would have to be the engineering equivalent of Jennifer Lopez. Not with the giant runaway ass, I mean indiscriminately sleeping with co-workers.

No no, I shouldn't worry. My wife has very little in common with Jennifer Lopez. For instance, Mrs. Pops can actually sing.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.1


Tuesday, November 16, 2004
One For The Scat Fans
Something I think most non-parents suspect about parenting that is actually true: parents are much more likely to come into contact with other people's feces than non-parents.

Like most things of which non-parents have an inkling--sleep deprivation, the constant whining, the gerbil-like instinct to devour--there is almost no way for a person without children to understand the scope or the depth of impact of these (and other) parent-specific syndromes.

Yes, the reflexive, mechanical truth is obvious: diaper changing leads to man-on-poo contact. What's hard to really convey is the extent to which said poo becomes a source of constant attention, speculation and conversation.

I know for a fact my childless readers have never (hopefully) asked the following question regarding another human being: "What did his poop look like?"

I know, I know. It's inconceivable that such a thing would ever come up. But if you're considering a trip to the doctor to get your hands on the prescription-strength antifungal ass-balm, you will ask.

Why do I bring it up? Because right now I'm in the midst of an unexpected man-on-poo situation. Not with my still-diapered youngest, oh no, that would be predictable and manageable. No, this is with my middle child, the one without the absorbent undergarments that keep the excretia off the upholstery. My frustration is your misfortune, dear readers.

You're thinking I should be past the unexpectedness of the poo experience, but when you're presumably potty-trained three year old soils himself in the cell-phone store, I think that qualifies as a situation.

I'm sure there's something deeply psychological about it all, this trend of potty-training reversal (and yes, it is a trend). Something to do with his older brother going to school and being shut out from all school-related conversations and activities. I don't know. I'm sure there's something Dr. Phil could say to me to fix this all up within a six-minute segment between commercial breaks and still have time to convince me that I'm a total failure as a parent/human being. Jesus, I hate that bald motherfucker.

Upon further reflection, yes, maybe it's partially my fault for teaching my son to shit on command. But come on, it kills at parties.

One thing I now know doesn't work and I think it would be beneficial to share: rubbing his nose in it doesn't help. I learned the hard way that dogs and kids don't necessarily respond to the same things, discipline-wise. Unless we're talking about the rolled-up newspaper, but that's highly situation-specific.

And lastly I would like to point out--honestly--that as I type this my excrement-befouled 18-month old son is standing next to me, so this is all being produced with the proper background aroma.

I apologize. I got nothin' else. The Tom Hanks thing from yesterday has still got me a little thrown. Between that and the giddy buildup to MPH's 100th post, I'm completely spent emotionally.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.6


Monday, November 15, 2004
No Secret Messages Contained Herein
I'm going to break my usual pattern of waiting to report news until it has had a chance to age properly so that I might bring you fast breaking entertainment news!

Tom Hanks has been cast in the lead for the film version of The Da Vinci Code.

Ron Howard will direct. An A-list director and one of the very few truly A-list movie stars will be adapting what has been one of the most astonishingly successful novels in recent memory. As far as I can tell, the project can't miss.

There is one thing I'd like to point out, however: Wow, what a terrible book that was. Never in my life have I come in contact with fiction so completely in slavish service of research. That guy who wrote it (forgot his name... isn't that curious?) managed to put every single tidbit of everything he ever read about Holy Grail legends and then hung this chase plot around it. Let me reconstruct his worknotes for you all:

1. Clues to Grail legends in da Vinci paintings in the Louvre. Characters search for them and discuss in brief. Bad guys do similar, forcing good guys to flee.

2. Clues to Grail legends in some old church in Scotland. Characters search for them and discuss in brief. Bad guys do similar, forcing good guys to flee.

This goes on for about 300 pages, which are divided up into over 100 chapters. This is the only book I've ever read that has a shorter attention span than I do.

Every whiz-bang chapter ends either with the solving of one puzzle or the introduction of another. All are solved in exactly the same way: one of the two protagonists, stumped by 2,000 years of intractability for two (sometimes as many as four in the case of the real head-scratchers) pages suddenly goes: "A-ha! My enyclopedic knowledge of everything related to this story has produced an answer in very specific detail and in tension-building time-release fashion!"

For all future novelists out there, I would like to torture a metaphor as a reader giving adivice: if you put in too many twists, all you have in the end is a tangle. And everyone knows tangles are only fun as a means to passive-aggressively torture misbehaving children as they are "combed out".

Perhaps it is possible that my aversion to this particular book has something to do with it's widespread appeal to the masses, the same way I hate the movie Titanic and that Hoobastank song.

I don't think of myself as a snob, but I guess I do have snobbish tendencies. I don't know how I came by them. They can't have come from childhood, as--at least socioeconomically--there was no one to look down on when I was growing up.

No, the fault must lie in higher education. As a full-time caregiver to children (OK, not full-time as I obviously found time to jot this mess down) I have all these well-honed "critical thinking" skills beaten into my head from 5 years of college and another full year-plus of graduate school. With no problems to solve beyond Who Was Playing With The Talking Pooh Bear First (same answer always: I was), my only contact with the outside world of adults is sadly vicarious.

So I must sit here and let Yahoo! News tell me what is happening outside the walls of my suburban Tower of Ivory (really more of an off-white stucco) and then pass haughty judgment on the philistine consumptive tendencies of my fellow man. Maybe my reaction to this particular book has to do with my background in history, religious history in particular, the inarticulate bastardization of which this author perpetrates and perpetuates.

Or maybe it just sucked ass. Shouldn't dismiss that possibility out of hand, no.

If you can't wait for a hackneyed, cobbled-together second-rate chase movie based on completely debunked myths, you can always go out right now and see the new Nicolas Cage blob of awful National Treasure, itself a hopelessly transparent ripoff of The Da Vinci Code.

But Pops, you're thinking, if Da Vinci is so horrible, why would I pay money to see a pale imitation of something that is itself bad?

The answer is you shouldn't. Forget I mentioned it. In fact, forget all of this. Any discussion of The Da Vinci Code can only hurt mankind.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.75


Sunday, November 14, 2004
Riverside Pride
The region I call home has been getting something of a bad rap lately. And no, I don't mean just from Red State opportunists who like to paint California as Bacchus' Playground... although, I think maybe if Bacchus found his way here, he wouldn't want for something to do.

But that's beside the point, no. I mean the area I'm from, Riverside County. Specifically I mean the communities of the western edge seeing as the eastern and central 80% is all desert and/or semi-desert inhabited entirely by Joshua trees, several species of endangered desert reptiles (put there by God to be run over by dirt-bike-riders) and meth labs. I've been told we are to methamphetamine production what Afghanistan is to heroin production. We expect the Delta Force commandos any day now.

No, this is the western county, in a little notch where LA, Orange and San Diego counties nearly meet. It's the place people live who can't afford to live in any of the three others.

Normally it's pretty humdrum. All housing developments named after obscure and exotic parts of Italy or France ("Provence" or "Toscana" or "Abattoir"), all the same color beige with very little to do outside the bi-weekly cul-de-sac key party.

There has been some (very very mild, but still) national attention given to two stories out of this area lately. One, in nearby Norco some guys got convicted of organizing a party on a golf course. I agree, this is already grounds for arrest on the charges of Boringest Party Idea Ever, but add in the little tents strategically placed between holes (no pun intended) wherein the prostitutes were housed and you got yourself the top story on Extra.

I must acknowledge that my close personal friend MPH mentioned this story once and thus avoid any raging fit of apoplexy ending in a stroke on his part.

And in Corona, another adjacent town, security cameras caught two men chasing a woman down, forcing her into a car trunk and then driving off at a local Dirt Mall. The "scandal" apparently was that the security camera caught everyone else in the area standing around taking no notice of an obvious kidnapping, let alone trying to intervene on the woman's behalf. In their defense, let me say I know from personal experience you can buy just about anything at that particular Dirt Mall. Were I there, I may have reached the unalarming conclusion that these men were simply having trouble with an awkward bit of recalcitrant merchandise.

That said, I thought it was incumbent upon me to point out some of the positive aspects of the region I choose to call home... and no, not just because I can't afford to live in Orange County, I really do want to live here. I do. I do. Shut up.

Here's some stuff:

Famous people who are/were from the area.

Aging NBA star Reggie Miller (you're welcome MPH and everyone else in Indianapolis)

Cheryl Miller, Reggie Miller's sister, the greatest female basketball player ever. You don't know her because she pre-dated the instant global superstardom factory known as the WNBA.

Travis Barker, drummer for the band Blink-182. Seriously, the best drummer currently working. Yes I am biased, but if you ever get a chance to see them live, do it. You will instantly agree with me.

Burt Ward, who played "Robin" in the old Batman TV series who now lives in Norco. I may be stretching the definition of "famous".

OK, that was a shorter list than I'd hoped. Some trivia then:

This is the city--Riverside, where I live--where Richard Nixon got married, at the local landmark hotel the Mission Inn. Funny story: Richard Nixon and I got married in exactly the same place. Not to each other obviously, but in the same chapel at the same hotel. The hotel itself (not the chapel... that would be weird) is also the regional headquarters for the local Republican Party. And suddenly I feel less good about mentioning it at all.

Boy... um... well, most of the cities here were founded by religious settlers fleeing persecution. Riverside still has a large Seventh Day Adventist population, which would be fascinating if it didn't mean it was just about impossible to get anything dry-cleaned, baked for you or rented to you on a Saturday because every other fucking store is closed. Alright, we get it, God rested on the seventh day, which is technically Saturday. Rub our faces in it why don't you. Man, they're worse than the "the milennium doesn't start until 2001" crowd.

OK, how's this: for about 75 years up until the mid/late 20th century, we provided the United States with an overwhelming percentage of your citrus fruit. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, what have you. So if your grandparents and parents didn't have scurvy, you have us to thank for it.

Oh! And also we're #1 nationally in both smog and commute times, which is a polite way of saying stand-still soul-crushing traffic in all directions. But #1 is #1... so suck on it, Houston!

If anyone from any local Chamber of Commerce is reading this, you're welcome.

Riverside County: Come By Forced Kidnapping, Stay For The Golf Course Whores.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.3


Saturday, November 13, 2004
The Cavalry From Calvary
I'm going to sneak a politics post in on a Saturday when nobody reads this because you're all out having lives and whatnot.

Over at liberal news-catcher Demagogue, which I frequent, there is serious discussion going on (still) about the exit polls from Nov. 2 and what they really say. This is standard operating procedure for intellectually curious people who are more interested in reaching correct conclusions than contorting shifting facts to fit their predetermined value-sets. We're kind of charmingly quaint that way.

What is being openly questioned is the extent to which "moral values" drove the electorate to the polls in such large numbers as opposed to the whole raft of other issues. Almost two weeks on now, we're all un-slinging our noose-ended ropes from the rafters, putting our kick-away step stools back in the closet and trying to figure out what is really going on here.

The problem is with the questions asked and how they were framed when the exit polls were being taken. It is still clear that "moral values" was the answer most often given, but it was in a slate of multiple-choices and gave no further refinement to what "moral values" actually means.

Of course I think the argument can still be made that the prominence of the gay marriage issue, brought up by some pioneering attempts in Massachusetts and in the Bay Area of California, was further exploited by the Bush campaign to scare people into a very odd revolt--it was a rising of people... who already control everything. Republican House, Senate, Presidency, Supreme Court, but still the tactic was effective to get what might have been a complacent electorate out in numbers to defend against rampant homo-ism. The Comfortably Enfranchised rising up, as it were.

But the same edge of despairing hysteria among Dems, in the cold light of day, doesn't hold up quite as much. Kerry gave it his best shot and people simply didn't buy it in quite enough numbers on the whole range of issues.

No such re-examination, however, is going on amongst the far right fringes of the GOP.

Everyone's favorite cuddly racist homophobe Bob Jones of Bob Jones University, Bob Jones Academy, Bob Jones Middle School and Bob Jones Elementary School fame--that paragon of Christian modesty--says the election was God's way of saying Bush should stick it to us "pagans", the liberals who "despise Christ". No details of his legislative plans were given, but one assumes they would include public branding and stoning of Mormons and Catholics, severed hands as punishment for race-traitors and immediate execution for anyone who knows how to exfoliate.

I readily admit that Bob Jones is on the extreme of the extreme.

Slightly more mainstream, Jerry Falwell is back in the gay-baiting fundraising game with some force, energized by the Republican steamroller that was Bush's massive 3% national mandate margin, convinced that the election is the sign of a new rebirth of America into a godly era where abortion is illegal, homosexuality is a treatable condition and the law will look the other way if he decides Larry Flynt "has to go".

The point I'm getting at is that this has been a really good couple of days. Less than two weeks after this election and a putsch is in progress within the Republican Party. They banded together to save the world from the godless articulate competence of a John F. Kerry. Now they can focus on the real enemy: moderate Republicans.

Yes, this is excellent news for Democrats everywhere. Our dark hours have come and gone. We need only wait while the Christian Right nut-cases drive the moderates out and into our waiting, comforting arms.

Don't believe me? The purges have already begun.

Moderates like Pennsylvania Republican senator Arlen Specter are meant to get the message that the religious right arm of the new Republican party will brook no dissent. Seniority and precedent be damned, he will not get to chair the Senate Judiciary Committee if they can help it all because he voiced the obstinately obvious, calmly rational opinion that he didn't think Roe v. Wade would be summarily reversed in the immediate future.

That's the beauty of the two-party system: there are only two options, D or R. If moderates are dissatisfied/uninvited to Jesus' Pre-Rapture Blow-Out Event, where could they possibly end up? I'm not saying everyone's going to re-register Democrat, but frighten enough reasonable people and 2006 could go very badly for the GOP.

Not to mention 2008 (although I still say Hillary is the wrong candidate... OK, it's a little early to get in to it).

So go on, Reverend Falwell! Preach it, Bob Jones! Get those people good and riled.

We've got cookies and milk over here on our side. That's not a bribe, moderate Republicans, I'm just saying they're here if you want some.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.5


Friday, November 12, 2004
What Is It Good For? Absolutely Nothing (Outside of the Intrinsic Entertainment Value)
It seems that some ABC stations don't want to air Saving Private Ryan in all it's unedited glory, a tradition now for 4 years on Veteran's Day. I think I can understand why: that movie is totally overrated.

While I give the film credit for daring to show Matt Damon as brave gay soldier James Ryan and the very satisfying way they managed to show disembowelment in all its glory, the ending of that movie is so horrible as to undo all the otherwise good stuff in it.

It's supposed to be a front-line war reporter-type view of the truth(-ish) of combat, a kind of anti-John Wayne look at military service. Everyone dies quickly and/or painfully, without much warning or cosmic narrative sense.

That is, right up until the veeerrry end when the Star, Captain Tom Hanks, dies. No, he lies there wounded after performing a feat of bravery for the good of all mankind, and as he does he gets to eek out one last line of important, totally spontaneous plot-related advice to the title character: "Earrrn th-thisssss..." Gurgle, gurgle, expire.

Very John Wayne and therefore completely unacceptable.

But I will say that other scene toward the end where Adam Goldberg (he who would go on to dazzle us as The Hebrew Hammer) gets slowly killed with his own knife after a long fight with a Nazi has and will (tonight, for instance) ruined many a night's sleep for me.

As alternate programming on some ABC stations, you can instead watch Return to Mayberry, the excellent "Andy Griffith Show" reunion piece that ties up all the loose ends and unanswered questions that bedevil American minds. I guess technically it addresses the questions and loose ends that bedeviled American minds back in 1986 when the thing was made, but come on, the names are really funny. Opie. Goober. Gomer. Barney. How can you go wrong?

No, the real controversy with regard to Ryan is from fear of reprisal by the FCC's George-Bush-America Thought Police in a post-Janet Jackson climate. In order to try and mitigate the inevitible damage caused by young people being exposed to swearing and images of violence not accompanied by a bumpin' Jay-Z song, John McCain has recorded a WARNING! introduction for the start of the film.

That John McCain. He'll do just about anything to stick it to George Bush. You kind of have to admire that.

Or if you didn't want to watch the lovable Tom Hanks lovably cursing while people around him are being lovably blown to grisly bits on broadcast TV, you had the option of switching channels entirely to watch Last Letters Home, an HBO documentary where families read letters they got from their sons/daughters/husbands/wives/etc. who had been killed in Iraq.

I seriously considered watching this one, but then I opted to sit in a bath of broken glass and vinegar while punching myself in the face over and over again. It seemed like the less masochistic option.

Instead, to honor America and her brave veterans, I spent the two-hour block of time during which Ryan and Letters aired playing Medal of Honor: Allied Assault multiplayer. Since I was feeling particularly patriotic, I only played as a Nazi very nearly less than half the time.

But when I did play as an Allied soldier, you can rest assured I made those digitally rendered representations of Axis motherfuckers pay.

It was the least I could do.

I mean that absolutely literally.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.2


Thursday, November 11, 2004
I Know You Wanna Hit That
I would not under any circumstances fuck Liza Minelli. And not just because I'm married either, no. Even if I were single, I would give that one a wide, wide berth. Arm's length at least. Turns out she's a hitter. Oh, and about 400 years old. And the alcohol has not made her age well, either.

Of course I have nothing to worry about as she would never be interested in me because 1) she is famous, or at least used to be and 2) I am not gay man looking for a beard and/or someone in her employ. I guess when you look and sound like Liza Minelli and all you've got going for you is a giant pile of money as an enticement to fornicate, you've got to flaunt what you've got and then pounce on the most vulnerable targets of opportunity. Sort of like the way a jackal will pick out a wounded antelope.

As for her chauffeur/bodyguard suing her because she "forced" him to impale her on what is no doubt a flawless and spectacular specimen of manhood, well... I'm not so sure. Is it that hard to say no to Liza Minelli?

LIZA: Ooh, chaffeur person. Mama's feelin' saucy. Mama's feelin' randy. Come back here and rub somethin' for Mama.

CHAUFFEUR: No thanks.

Open and shut, really. I realize I left out the part where she physically assaulted him; this man who is her bodyguard, remember.

Hey, if the person you're supposed to be protecting can beat you into submission, you should see your guidance counselor immediately. Especially when you enjoy a 2:1 advantage in both height and weight and a 40 year deficit in the age department.

This is not to say that I'm against younger-man/older-woman doin' it. Look at Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher. Have you ever seen a love so natural, so pure, so unforced? And I would definitely take a run at Anne Bancroft or Susan Sarandon. You know what, just as soon as the statute of limitations is up, I may just try one of those two again.

Abruptly changing the subject and infinitely more seriously, I would like to take a second to note that it is Veteran's Day. I would like to thank all those who served, fought and/or died for our country. I would especially like to single out the veterans of World War I who fought the Hun to a stalemate right around this time of the year way back in 1918. It is the anniversary of the armistice signed to end that war that gives us the school holiday I am enjoying even as you read this.* I desperately needed the day off this week so I just wanted to say I appreciate the thougtful foresight you had all those years ago that allowed me to keep my fat ass in bed for a few extra hours instead of driving my kid to school this morning.

And all that shooting and fighting and stuff was good too.

Peace out.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 5.0


*=unless you are reading it on, say, Friday or later, in which case please disregard... all of it, really. It's old news by now. Hey, did you hear Arafat's dead? I got Castro next in the Death Pool. My brother-in-law's got the Pope, the lucky bastard. He's a lead-pipe cinch.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Idiot Light
Each time I touch a key as I type this, there's a little electric shock of pain. I'm completely ab-sore. It turns out that you can do the same exercise-set for nearly two years, but if you take one month off, when you come back it's just like you're starting all over from scratch. I remember all the rolling and falling, but now my enemy is my own acquired flab-tasticness.

I guess when you take a month off, the wrong thing to do is the anti-Atkins all carb diet. Sugar and bread, sugar and bread, sugar and bread. If I was feeling snackish sometimes I would just put sugar (refined, powdered, brown, whatever) directly on bread and laugh at Atkins people as I crammed it down my throat.

But still, despite being locked in a prison that is my own body, I blog. OCD, I thank thee.


I don't tell alot of detailed personal stories. They tend to elicit comments like "Whoa, that sucks! Hang in there!" which are generally heartfelt and fine, but I really feel like I have a responsibility to my readers to not put them in the position where they would have to say something like that. Instead I prefer comments like "This blog totally sucks ass" or "What the hell was up with that sentence? It's four times longer than it needs to be and makes no sense at all" or "Pops you are a demigod, a paragon, unequaled and certainly unsurpassable. I have built a shrine for you complete with an altar upon which I spill the blood of lesser creatures and then burn them in your name." You know, something with some pizzazz.

That said, here, let me tell you a personal story.

My mom is the most self-contained person I know. I don't mean simply that she is admirably without publicly noticeable leaks (althought that also can be said), but she's completely self-motivated and self-justifying on all fronts.

She's a nurse who works for a company that places nurses where they are needed all across the country on 13-week assignments. Obviously she travels alot, criss-crossing the country in her disgusting black Pontiac Aztek.

Yes, they really spell it like that. The ridiculousness of it matches the silliness of the vehicle's overall design.

Anyway, for some reason, my mother, the arrow that only points forward, turns into an amorphous ball of gibbering goo whenever she approaches an automobile dealership. That's not a metaphor either, she actually reverts to her natural gelatinous state.

When she bought that thing, she made me go down there with her to do all the negotiating because this woman who spends her professional time with her hands inside other people's insides (no, not that way) thinks there's "too much pressure" talking to people inside the magic Car Dealership buildings.

She bought it used. It had no gas cap, but she didn't care. She was in love with the hideous hoopty.

She was meant to head back to Illinois (where she is nominally based, though she rarely sees it) this past week, but had some problems. Her regular mechanic couldn't figure it out, so she had to take it to... the dealership.

They fixed her problem for free (very decent), but then they told her "hey, your Service Engine Soon light is on" and that it might be because she has no gas cap and they would check it out.

Luckily she called me. Luckily again I was on the phone with her when they came back with the list of shit they wanted to do to "diagnose" the problem, like $300 in tests.

My mom, usually stone-headed and unflappble, said very meekly to me "What should I do?" to which I replied, very simply, "Run."

She was about to fall for the scammiest scam out there. The Service Engine Soon indicator light. Used to be you could tinker around with an engine and figure out how to fix it yourself. Now so many components are computerized and unique, dealers need their particular machines with their proprietary secret-code book to tell you what's "wrong". Know what? There's always something "wrong" when they check. Funny, that.

My mom went to an autoparts store and bought a $10 gas cap. Light off.

Since I'm not happy leaving you just that to comment on (again, I apologize), I will now give a brief list of other giant scams. Some of these, I will admit, I have fallen for.

-the Service Engine Soon light (obviously)

-"organic" food. Yes, it's just one tomato with no discernable difference in taste. That will be $25 please.

-credit cards. This is the best one. They charge you for the right to spend your own money. I have 10 of them.

-Social Security. It's fine for grandma and grandpa, but I'm 30. I suspect by 2039 when I'm 65 they'll be down to sending an envelope full of ready-to-eat single serve packets, like ketchup, Sweet N Low, etc. for me and my family to live on. The good news is, with the way medical science is advancing, I should only have to live that way until I'm 110 or so.

-The Oprah Winfrey Show. I haven't figured out what the "scam" here is yet, but I know I don't want to be around when Oprah decides she's done giving and it's time to take.

-organized religion.

Lots to think about. Discuss.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.1


Tuesday, November 09, 2004
First and briefly, I survived my first night of strenuous exercise in over a month. I would like to point out two things briefly: 1) As much of a drag it was to have my class go from independent to health-club-included, it's hard to complain about air conditioning and ample parking. I will miss the rodents and giant spiders, though. 2) I am not, in fact, dead. I'm not even sore. Sure, I have this nagging ache in my right leg that is probably a blood clot formed by one solid month of sitting perfectly still in the exact same position that will travel to my lungs and kill me in my sleep tonight, but everything else feels fine.

And now for something completely different.

I don't want you people to get the wrong impression about my children. Yes, of course they do things that are adorable and wondrous and noteworthy. They mispronounce and misunderstand things with often comical results. Who am I kidding, it's Family-fucking-Circus around here most days. At the end of the day we all hold hands and sing showtunes, but we replace all the swear words (no matter how slight! "Darn" is a gateway curse, a one-way ticket to "cocksucker") with the word "Jesus".

All that said, there are probably lots of good reasons why you shouldn't strangle your children. There are legal and ethical arguments against it probably, but mostly you have to go out and buy 5 turtlenecks to get them through the school week.

It's helpful to recognize sometimes, though, that the things they might do to inspire the strangulation urge are not their fault at all, but rather the influence of a cruel, pitiless society bent on crushing their individuality in the name of lifeless conformity. Of course I'm talking about Kindergarten.

Recently it's been the acquired playground vocabulary that's been stimulating my annoyance gland (it's just to the left of the spleen and secretes--oddly enough--Billy Corgan's Voice directly into the bloodstream). Yesterday it was "Liar pants on fire" that he brought home for the enlightenment of his two younger brothers. The one I really just can't stomach is the "Neener neener neener".

Of course there are variations on the "Neener neener" from region to region in this country and, indeed, throughout the world, but I think most of you know what I'm talking about.

After the spasm of involuntary rage came and went (to the tune of Smashing Pumpkins' "Disarm"), I thought "Kids still say that shit?"

As disappointed as I was/am that kids today can't come up with any new material (that's what hip-hop is for), I guess it's not their fault. I'm sure it wasn't new when I was spouting the same nonsense and tempting my parents with the urge to strangle me. I imagine from the earliest days, when humans still roamed in scavenging packs across the Serengeti, staving off lion attacks (this is before converting lions to Jesus was a viable option), they would pen their children together for the sake of safety and immediate portability. And amongst those children, one expressed his or her displeasure with another and for the first time the response was given: "I know you are, but what am I?"

And then they were all stampeded to death by rampaging water buffalo.

But their tradition survives to this day. The kindergarten playground is the site of social transmission of language the same way dance clubs are the sites for social transmission of chlamydia. It's a global pandemic that can never be stopped. I suppose I'm going to have to learn to live with it.

And then I had a second realization, something I remembered from my kindergarten days: he's probably also out there swearing like a Gallagher brother in between trips down the corkscrew slide.

At least I hope he is.

A dad can dream.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.8


Monday, November 08, 2004
Blinded By The Light
For those of you who are not seriously visually impaired, I have changed the look of my blog. It's still a lame pre-fab Blogger template, but the look is cleaner and not so cramped.

It also fulfills two needs:

1) I can tell when I'm reading my blog as opposed to HappyFunBall's, which adds Nostalgia as yet another reason to patronize her site.

2) By going white, I am now the anti-MPH, whose blog is all black.

Whiteness also calls to mind my complete lack of soul and inability to dance, but these things are true no matter what my blog looks like


Spot Me
Like most people, there are plenty of things I've done in my life of which I am ashamed. I think my time as a Venice Beach street prostitute falls into that category. Not that it was all bad. I mean, I made some decent money and the men were generally very nice to me, but one day you wake up, you're fifteen and your priorities have changed. It was just time to leave that life behind.

What I'm saying is one bad choice shouldn't color the entire rest of your life. But if that were true, life would be fair and no one would have anything to blog about. Besides their kids. Or their cats. Or their love of Thai food. Or politics. Or sex. Or their kids some more.

Jesus, blogs really are about nothing at all, aren't they?

What was I... oh yes. There are things that we do that, no matter what the company or the situation, when found out cause immediate negative reactions. Like the street ho thing from above or if you were to suddenly find out I was, say, a cannibal or a slave trader or a Republican. I recognize that some things are simply too horrible to completely contain.

What all this is leading up to is that on Sunday I did something I swore I would never do and I'm a little freaked out about what people will think of me after they learn it even though I have a perfectly good, very reasonable excuse for doing what I did and, given the circumstances, I would most likely do it again.

This past Sunday, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, irascible old lazy-bones Pops, detester of shallowness, crusader against TV-commercial-inspired body shame...

...joined a health club.

Oh God. Phew. There. I said it outloud. Well, in text, but sort of... you know what I mean.

Give me a chance to explain myself. I didn't want to. I really really didn't. But look, my martial arts class got evicted from...

It occurs to me as I start to write this that "I'm in a martial arts class" is not the best counter-argument to the implied cheese-ball toothy-grinned enthusiasm of a health club membership.

I will tell you that when I signed up, my information was taken by two meat-head weight-lifter type guys "filling in" for the normal reception/office staff. Before either one of them opened their mouths, I hated them immediately.

Then during the quick tour of the facility given by grunty Meat-Head #1, I did get to see another man completely naked during the locker-room portion of our tour. Acres and acres of flabby white flesh all there in glorious technicolor for my unprepared eyes to feast on. I was worried at first that I had stumbled in front of a mirror that lets you see yourself from behind and with no clothes on. Imagine my relief/horror when I realized this was not the case.

I scampered very quickly through the "workout" section of the tour and the group of treadmilling, life-cycling old people trying to outrun death on a machines explicitly designed to keep you stationary. I hated them immediately as well.

Suffice it to say, I didn't sign up just for me, I did it for my children. And no, not because if Daddy's fat ass gets some regular exercise they will have me around for longer... barring any kind of unforseeable man-bus encounter or the inevitable reinstitution of the draft.

No, I did it for them in this sense: if I am able to get out of the house 3-4 hours weekly, mingle with some grown-ups and work out alot of my pent-up aggression and barely-subdued irrational anger issues, their lives are going to be infinitely better for it. You can punch holes in walls and that's fine, but eventually you're going to run out of wall, the dog will run away and who's going to be left to fill the unfillable rage hole?

That's right. I'm doing it for the kids. So two nights a week I will beat on other people and they will beat on me for $45 a month.

And to think what I used to charge for that back on Venice Beach.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.7


Sunday, November 07, 2004
Nowhere Man
With the state of Yasser Arafat's health an open question these days--and doesn't that guy from the president's press conference feel quite the ass for "informing" Bush of Arafat's death that day--I have decided, in the best traditions of the Bucket, to forego patience and exactitude in favor of a long stream of premature obituary-type remarks on the basic justification that I feel like at this exact moment. Very American of me, I must say.

And who knows, by the time you read this, he'll probably be dead anyway so you won't know the difference.

Yasser Arafat was born in Egypt in 1929 and then given a long string of names I do not care to remember or try to spell, none of them--curiously--Yasser.

We all know a great deal about Arafat, so I won't bore you with alot of the details of his younger days. Suffice it to say the creation of Israel was not his best day.

I think the most interesting part of his life, though, was during his years abroad in exile, especially when he became the drummer for a little English rock-and-roll outfit called the Beatles.

My research tells me he first encountered the Beatles in Hamburg in 1962. Young Yasser fell immediately in love with their energy and their sound and decided he would make himself part of it. This led to the brutal murder of original Beatles bassist Stuart Sutcliffe, done with the intent that Yasser would then replace him.

Yasser was heartbroken to realize that playing the bass was a tremendous pain in the ass. His next move was more subtle. Realizing he needed a fall-back replacement in case he couldn't handle the drums and be forced to off George or, say, Paul, Yasser organized the dismissal of drummer Pete Best by publicly condemning him as a "Zionist".

This being the early 1960s, the plan was a resounding success. Knocking things around with some old sticks proved to be right up his alley and Yasser was in.

His incomplete grasp of English led him to adopt the regrettable stage name of "Ringo Starr", to the unending amusement of his bandmates.

The unexpected global success of the band drew Yasser away from Palestinian politics, though he did find time to organize the Al Fatah cell under the umbrella of the Palestinian Liberation Organization sometime between gigs and banging groupies four at a time.

He rode the Beatles wave as long as he could, but by 1970, the band had begun to drift apart.

John, under the tutelage of Japanese militant communist transsexual Norman Francis "Yoko" Ono, was itching to start his long, arduous and ultimately successful 11-year campaign to have himself gunned down in the prime of his life.

Paul, unnerved and exhausted by the pressures of worldwide fame, was anxious to get out from under the spotlight. He would guarantee success in the coming years by producing some of the most unlistenable "popular" music in recorded history, first with Wings and climaxing with dubious collaborative efforts such as "Say Say Say" and--most notably--the completely unlistenable "Ebony and Ivory", the only song ever to make Stevie Wonder wish he was deaf too.

George, as everyone knows, went completely batshit insane, insisting he was in fact Indian which resulted in the unforgivable crime of naming his son "Dhani".

As for "Ringo", he returned to his birth-name and his first love: the cynical manipulation of the Palestinian cause for personal gain. He spent the next 20-30 years of his life organizing the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of people, many of them innocents. For his long years of labor, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.

Mohammed Richard "Yasser" Abdel-Raouf "Ringo" Arafat Starkey As Qudwa al-Hussaeini Starr is/was/will be remembered by many different people in many different ways: Patriot. Soldier. Terrorist. "That guy wot sung that octopus song."

Farewell (soon... probably), O Man of History. We hardly knew ye. Er... You. Whatever.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 3.5


PS: Sure, you scoff. But look at this and then look at this and you tell me they're different people. Go on, try.

Friday, November 05, 2004
Blog Drift
For lots of blogs, the events of this past Tuesday have become their sole reason for being. Partisanship, a deep passion for misreprenting the positions of the other side and maybe just the tiniest bit of unrequited and unquenchable sexual hunger for CNN's Jeff Greenfield were the fuel that drove many a blog over the past 6, 12, 18 months.

And now that the electoral climax has come and gone, it's reasonable to suppose the alot of the blogging impetus has faded and all many political bloggers will want to do is roll over and get some sleep before the glow fades and the Republican Party decides they want to cuddle.

Faced with the prospect of the blogosphere going quiet, some blogs drying up and blowing away altogether, I can't help feeling anything but... hopeful. Thank God, I say. Leave blogging to people who know what they're doing so we can get back to the serious business of cataloguing what we eat for breakfast, the local weather, the strange things our dogs eat and then subsequently vomit up and the boogers of our children (what up, SJ!).

Some order is returning to the universe of the terminally inward. It's high time we stopped thinking and worrying about the thoughts and proclivities of others and again focus exclusively, obsessively on ourselves. That's what we all got into this blogging business for in the first place, isn't it?

I know I did. Well, that and the groupies.

The shift from electioneering to personal trivia doesn't have to be traumatic, either. It can be subtle and slowly. After all, why quit cold turkey when there's lots of perfectly good methadone available?

For instance, take me. As I wallowed in the sewer-iffic depths of disappointment and self-pity following the election, where others turned to Johnny Walker Red or dusted off their old hash pipes, I threw myself with some gusto toward the comfort food.

Lots of really fantastic stuff like Frosted Flakes with banana slices, carne asada tacos with tomato, onion and cilantro, sloppy joes, McDonald's fries... lots of other stuff.

Most helpful has been the ready availability of my kids' Halloween candy. I'll put away 6, 7, 8 pieces at a sitting, a couple of sittings per day. It's a very horse-and-feedbag type of experience. I worry somewhat about setting an example for my kids as they watch Daddy lick the inside of a used Reese's Peanut Butter Cup wrapper, but I comfort myself knowing that when I'm into it, there's no way in hell the little grubbers are going to touch my candy bag and they are therefore protected from the perils of gluttony.

As my martial arts class has been in limbo for the last month (it starts again Monday), the combination of lots of quality Ass Sitting time with my new hobby of chewing and swallowing anything and everything within arm's reach, Pops is starting to get a little paunchy. By "a little paunchy" I mean I'm sitting here typing this in my wife's maternity clothes. Not the girly stuff, but just a plain black cotton/lycra blend top and elasti-pants (with stretchy gut-panel!) to comfortably accomodate my improving girth. Not really sure why she complained about wearing it when she was pregnant. It's very forgiving and the black is slimming.

If I were still being civic minded, I would worry more about this. It seems that great big fat Americans are costing airlines millions in extra fuel expenditures. It turns out we're so grotesquely obese as a people, we're actually weighing down the airplanes we fly on and driving up costs.

But forced to choose between making the world a better place or eating seven snack-sized Snickers bars because the mood has moved me to do so, I choose the latter. Because I am an American, the (and I mean this in terms of literal mass) greatest people in the world.

See, it started election-related, but it ended up being all about me. If I can do it, you can do it too. Probably not as well, but don't beat yourself up about that. I'm special.

Wow, it's like riding a bike.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.9


Thursday, November 04, 2004
Worst Day Ever
1. You suffer an excruciating election defeat to the Worst President Ever.

2. Your wife gets breast cancer.

Helluva Wednesday, John Edwards. There should be some people by to kick you in the nuts and set your house on fire shortly.


Somewhere Between Vindication And Despair
This will be my last election post, I promise. After this we can go back to Paris Hilton jokes and making fun of my kids.

It's been a full 24 hours since the official concession and I've had some time to reflect. I've come to the conclusion that it's not the end of the world. Of course I mean that in the metaphorical sense in reference to Democratic politics. Whether or not a second Bush administration will oversee the actual end of the world is more up in the air. I'd put it at about 40/60.

Not saying which is 40 and which is 60.

Some more detail has been released abuot the exit poll numbers. Breaking it down by deciding issue, the now-infamous "morality" people ranked first in terms of numbers and they went almost exclusively for Bush. For some reason the article doesn't break down the Terrorism deciders, but let's assume they went for Bush too.

Those for whom the economy was first priority went for Kerry huge, as did those who cited the Iraq war.

So the conclusion I guess is that Kerry was right on Iraq and the economy, but still he got swamped. He ran exactly the campaign he wanted to run and rolled with the issues he made the centerpieces of his campaign, Iraq and the economy.

The problem was that at the exact same time there was this totally separate second election going on that Kerry was completely oblivious to. It was the "Which one of us is George W. Bush again?" election. Apparently it was all the rage in the Red States. Even had Kerry known about it, I really don't like his chances in that contest.

See, one of them is a New England-born blue-blood, prep school-attending Yale graduate and the other was... oh wait a second. Maybe he had a better shot than I realize.

I guess the real separation in this campaign wasn't the choice of Edwards as vice president or any of the debates or the Osama bin Laden video or even that Ashlee Simpson Saturday Night Live thing (though we'd be fools to discount it entirely).

No, the turning point in this campaign was when George Bush's mom and dad decided to take their giant pile of old family money and move it to Texas. There little George W was still young enough that he could still absorb that accent (they all say the word "terror" as "terr" down there) and affect that squinty face as well as the now famous bowlegged gait that screams West Texas.

West Texas or Day After My First Night With My New Cellmate. One or the other.

From there it didn't matter if he spent the next 30 years of his life in a Wild Turkey haze and trading in on his dad's name to insinuate himself into West Texas business only to fail spectacularly at everything he tried (including, I would argue, the presidency).

All that mattered in 2004 Red State America were the accent, the swagger and millions of terrified white people.

Oh, and the opponent. What a gift that was. As if you needed any more proof that God exists and He (inexplicably) loves loves loves George W. Bush.

So both sides ran exactly the campaigns they wanted. There's alot of gloom and doom talk amongst Democrats, but if you look at the 2004 electoral map vs. the 2000 electoral map, you're going to see that not much has changed. Sure, the anomalous bump in turnout among The Faithful swayed alot of local and state races and turned some southern Democratic Senate seats (Georgia, Louisiana) to the other side and boosted Bush's national vote tally, but what was true on Monday is still true today:

No northern Democrat has won the presidency since John F. Kennedy in 1960. Carter (Georgia) in 1976 and Clinton (The Bosom Of The Angels) in '92 and '96. That's it. Kerry is Dukakis is Mondale is McGovern, except he actually did better than those others, though not as well as the Southern-ish Gore (though he did get more total votes and even if the end result was the same).

It's not the end of the world.


This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.0



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