Pops' Bucket
Monday, January 31, 2005
Photo Bucket
The time I'd normally use to write a clever post to brighten all your days with laughter I have instead devoted to trying to figure out how to post pictures. I know, I'm slow. Kill me.

It's a way, way over-used image lately, but it makes me smile and I needed a good test image.

Now that the Bucket has gone multi-media, expect lots of cutesy-poo pictures of my kids and my dog. Blog rules also dictate that I now must also buy a cat so that I might post the pictures of its hi-larious feline hijinks.

Hardcore PhotoShopped fakes of celebrity heads on porn-star bodies are not out of the question either. Mulder and Scully can be together at last! With two of their friends. And a horse maybe.

Peace out.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.5


Sunday, January 30, 2005
I Have Nothing To Say About The Iraq Elections
Happy Hype Week, everyone!

This is the built-in week off between the last football playoff round and America's favorite secular holiday, the Super Bowl. Baseball doesn't start until April, hockey is on strike or locked out or... well, who gives a shit really? It's hockey. The NBA is only worth watching when players are punishing the people who paid big money for courtside seats by beating them within a inch of their lives.

I'm not really sure what the purpose of Hype Week is supposed to be, but I suspect it has something to do with preparing us for Doomsday: the day after the Super Bowl, when football is gone forever and the light of televised sporting diversion goes out until the NCAA basketball tournament starts in March.

Unless you're in to fishing shows. But seeing as I have all my own teeth and have never required an alibi for murdering someone close to me, fishing holds no interest.

What I could do--what we all could stand to do--is reintroduce myself to my family now that my Saturdays and Sundays are free.

But hang on! Such drastic measures are not necessarily required. If we, the anesthetized horde of sports-watching husbands and fathers, suddenly started showing our wives and children interest and affection all it would do is cause confusion and fear. For their sakes, alternatives must be found. Outlets must exist that segregate men from the people around them, that allows us to hide in plain sight, taciturn and aloof, in the scant few months until we can start mowing the lawn twice a week again.

Here are some options to help fill the unfillable void you used to not fill up with football (but not for lack of trying):

1) Start drinking. I mean really drinking. Look, you were doing it anyway all season. If you put on a replica jersey and a foam hat shaped like a cheese you can drink 48 beers in 3 hours, you could call it "tailgating" and people will think it's charming. If you do it in the absence of the trappings of fandom, then you're just a rotten, surly drunk. Run with that. Embrace it. If people think you have a serious drinking problem, they will leave you alone. Right up until the intervention, which is a nuisance, but odds are your liver will give out before then anyway.

2) Take up a hobby. Physical abuse of your wife and/or kids does not count as a hobby, at least not without the built-in alibi of football-game-result-induced irrational anger or excessive drinking (see #1). You need something you can do in the house during the remaining cold-weather months that you cannot do with other people and appears to require absolute concentration, which has the further benefit of discouraging attempts at conversation or requests to "help around the house" which, let's be honest, is what we're all about here anyway, am I right? You can learn to paint, plant some plants in a window box, develop a bonsai tree. If you're worried some of those seem "kinda gay", you can always build models. Cars, ships, buildings, any kind of models, just so long as you can get your hands on some of that sweet, sweet model glue. Keep the windows and doors shut and after an hour or so and that knot of existential anxiety that is constantly tearing holes into the lining of your stomach... well, it will still be there, but you won't really care.

3) Pretend to have a serious, deblilitating, non-fatal disease. This is a tough one as it requires research. You can't afford to get your facts wrong once you commit to this one. Also, fatality is out because there's a pretty hard end-limit you're going to run up against unless you're planning on killing yourself anyway. Your best bet: narcolepsy. Drop off to sleep whenever you feel like it and blame it on your malfunctioning brain. After a while, they'll just step over you where you fall in the hallway. Some people prefer epilepsy, but I think that's kind of showy not to mention way too much work. Plus, sooner or later your wife will suggest you get that surgery where they remove half your brain if you go to the seizure well too many times. It's important to pace yourself.

Well, that should be enough to get you started. Of course none of this applies if you're an evangelical Christian and you have all this biblical back-up to make your wife and children be humble and submissive to your will or risk the eternal fire of damnation. Man, those bastards have a sweet set-up.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.3


Friday, January 28, 2005
Nobody Knows The Wreck Of The Soul The Way You Do
Before I can with complete confidence declare myself a Failed Writer, I think it's in my best interest to investigate writing in all its forms. I'm not bragging when I say I've tried many many methods, styles and media: straightforward mainstream fiction, academic non-fiction and a slew of genre stuff ranging from fantasy/sci-fi to sci-fi/fantasy. Oh, and lots and lots of erotic X-Files fan-fic. That Mulder and Scully... what a couple of sexy bitches.

I think I can say with some confidence that I've tried just about everything. I think I can say with absolute confidence that none of it is fucking working and I'm getting desperate.

Keeping that in mind, I have decided to branch out into a new area of writing: the advice column.

As far as I can tell, advice column writing requires almost zero writing talent along with antiquated senses of both morality and humor. Really it all comes down to how many different ways you can tell someone to "seek counseling" while not being funny at all.

If this blog has proved anything, all those are weapons in my arsenal of failure. So I've decided to steal a letter from a national advice columnist and then write my own response as practice.

I would solicit letters to my e-mail box (which is still popsbucket@hotmail.com by the way), but I frankly don't give a shit about any of your problems. Don't take it personally, but your problems plus $8 would get me a cup of coffee. A small coffee. Your agony just doesn't pay.

I've chosen to steal from "Annie's Mailbox". This is the nationally syndicated column dedicated to shaking the decaying corpse of Ann Landers until every last cent drops out of it while simultaneously standing in judgment of all the masochists and narcissists who think they're ridiculous petty shit would be of interest to everyone else in the entire country.

I think I can see where this is going to go already. Here's the letter.

Dear [Pops]: My husband's sister boycotted my son's baptism because she said it would be hypocritical to sit through a church service she did not believe in. She did, however, find it perfectly acceptable to attend the luncheon afterward.

Last month, I called her and said, "Since your name isn't in our Christmas-gift drawing, should we still include your boyfriend?" She asked why she was being excluded, and I reminded her that she had declared herself to be an atheist. She replied, "Well, I celebrate the winter solstice, so my name should be in the drawing."

How can I get across to her that holidays and other events aren't something you can pick and choose, and participate in only when it's convenient? If I had gotten her name in the drawing, I would not have purchased anything for her because, after all, I don't celebrate the winter solstice. -- Plenty Peeved Sister-in-Law

Wow! A humdinger my first time out. Let's see, where to start...

First of all, Plenty Peeved Sister-in-Law (if that's your real name), how old are you? I only ask in case you're over 18-35 and under 200 lbs. in which case, why not send some pictures along? OK, you can be 35-55, but you have to be in good shape, no visible scars or anything.

I don't hold out much hope, though. Judging by the content of your letter, you're either 7 years old (are you fucking serious with this "problem"? No way you're a grown-up) or 87 (who says "peeved" any more?).

And although I'm swooning from a massive overdose of Idontgiveashit, I'll try to help. Just as soon as the green and yellow spots fade away.

First, my condolences for marrying into a family of druids. It's a drag at holidays with all their "solstice" talk and occasionally they will sacrifice a party-guest on the stone altar in the basement, but the good news is they can talk to trees. You'll never get lost in a forest, let me tell you.

Second, the severity of your next move all depends on what state you live in. Your sister-in-law has obviously not yet received the light of Christ in her life. According to local law, your options range from ignoring her completely (New York), smiting her three times with a birch branch (Tennessee), subjecting her to an old-timey trial by water (South Carolina) or gathering your friends and neighbors together for a good group stoning (Mississippi or California, depending on how you're using "stoning"). Write your congressperson!

Third and last, where is your husband? Isn't this passel of sun-worshiping gift-hording freaks his tainted blood? What kind of a dickless bumbling eunuch sends his wife out to argue with his own sister? Let me tell you from personal experience, nothing is quite as satisfying as screaming at family members until your vocal chords are bloody with all the self-rationalizing righteousness of knowing that you're doing it in defense of your spouse. The fact that you might be a poisonous black-hearted harpy he'd rather see dead than naked anymore is really beside the point. His life has probably devolved into a degrading spiral of work sports porn, work sports porn, work sports porn (except on weekends when it's yardwork sport porn, etc.) so he has to learn to find release where he can at least until he wakes up and realizes that the only true release from being chained to a yammering pug like you is sweet, sweet death. Do him a favor: either turn this "problem" over to his care or smother him with a pillow tonight while he sleeps. I guarantee that either way, he'll thank you.

Also, seek counseling.

The end.

Wow. My 9th grade English teacher was right, I can do anything I want if I only put my mind to it.

I'm encourged. Of course this simultaneously makes me very, very apprehensive. It's the life-cycle of Failed Writerdom. Experiment, encouragment, apprehension, doubt, paralysis, failure. And of course sports and porn.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.3


Thursday, January 27, 2005
Man, This Bush Administration Is A Real Train-Wreck, Isn't It?
I like to kid the president. Part of it is because I disagree with almost everything I've ever heard the man say. Another part of it is easy jokes at the expense of a man for whom the act of speaking is an inartful, labor-intensive slog.

Over the last day or so, my opinion of the president has softened slightly. Events have conspired to put his worldview into a slightly more favorable context.

See, my biggest problem with Bush has been his famed certitude. His pig-headed, anti-consideration stance where he makes policy decisions driven by ideology with little or no weighing of practicality or cost (monetary, human or otherwise).

I've always believed (and still largely do) that there's a great deal to be said for doubt. Answers, after all, cannot be arrived at without first positing questions. I am not claiming that this is any sort of original insight on my part. Read anything from Descartes to Douglas Adams and the same idea will be staring back at you the whole time, fighting with the details of the last Fear Factor episode you watched for space in your brain.

Normally, as I said, I would mock the president and his disinclination to doubt, his abject lack of moral courage to question, the fragile and shallow nature of his belief system that he must know would not stand up under the weight of serious examination.

If I mix any more metaphors this blog may explode, so I'll just get to the point.

I realized yesterday that there are times when absolute certitude is a good thing. Even in questions of life and death, it can be a blessing to be completely doubt-free for not only your own sake, but for the sake of society in general.

Let's look at an example.

There's this guy, Juan Manuel Alvarez. He spends a few days and nights really struggling, Hamlet-like, with the burdens of existence in general, asking the deepest, most frightening question a human can ask him or her self: To be or not to be?

OK, maybe he just broke up with his girlfriend or something. Or maybe he's just a crazy fucker. Anyway, the answer to the question (whatever it might have been and who gives a shit now really?) was that he was going to kill himself. Pitch it in. Top himself.

Mr. Alvarez's main problem? He lacks the president's certitude. Bush's moral compass only points North (even if, say, civilization and safety is off to the west a little bit). Lacking that strength of conviction, Alvarez can't make a simple decision. This is not the kind of person you want to have invite to a restaurant. He'll spend 45 minutes going back and forth trying to decide between the spare ribs or the fish of the day (it's mahi-mahi today, if you're wondering) and end up with a glass of water and a green salad. Then he'll get home that night and wonder why he didn't have any fun.

So first Juan slashes his own wrists. No no, wait. Too Afterschool Special. So he changes over to stabbing himself in the chest. Either half-hearted from the lack of committment or weak from the loss of blood from the wrist-slashing thing, he fails to penetrate the breast-bone and lives.

Ah, he thinks to himself, I've got it! I'll drive my car on to the train tracks and let a train hit me. No room for doubt there, no margin of error. Train vs. guy, train wins every time.

So Juan hops in his Jeep and moseys down to the rail crossing closest to his house, parks squarely mid-track and waits.

For a person of Juan's mental make-up, waiting is a problem. The doubt-fueled thoughts come thick and fast. What am I doing? Is this what I want? Did I leave the oven on? Oh! I shoulda tried the head-in-the-oven thing instead. Next time maybe. Man, I can't believe the guy ate that pig rectum on Fear Factor. You'd have to be crazy to try that.

By now Juan has lost interest. If he dies now, he'll never see another Fear Factor. And how can he possibly think of dying when he doesn't know how The Amazing Race ends? Nope, nevermind. The suicide is called off. Getting hit by a train would probably really hurt anyway.

And now Juan has a problem. See, there's a train coming. It's almost on top of him. Had he been more decisive, he would have thrown his Jeep in reverse and got the hell out of there. Panicked and vascillating as he will, Juan gets out of the Jeep, leaving it there in the path of the oncoming train.

Oh damn. Details are not Juan's strong point.

Juan's bad day gets worse. It's a commuter train. Train hits car. Train derails. At the exact same time another commuter train full of people is coming the opposite way. Juan's derailed train hits that train, derailing it and sending it into a third train, a stationary one, a cargo train, that then bursts into flame.

Now, if I'm Juan, I'm gone. I'm running as fast as my weak knees will carry me in whatever direction is not Giant Train Wreck-ward. But Juan, he feels things deeply. He's a thinker and a ponderer and a sufferer. So he wanders around the debris field amongst all the death and destruction he caused mumbling "I'm sorry" and the like.

The police, bold decisive types that they are, put two and two together and decide to hold Juan for further questioning.

And now Juan, for all his troubles, for all his deep soul-searching, sits in a prison cell awaiting formal indictment and then a trial for murder. The hard decision he ultimately could not make for himself the state may now make for him.

Juan is facing death penalty. I can't imagine the relief he must feel.

Just for the record, we know if the president were despondent and considering doing harm to himself (God forbid... are you listening, Secret Service?), he wouldn't do anything so wishy-washy as slash his wrists. Besides, that's a chick's method. He'd do something bold, leaving no room for compromise or introspection. He'd probably do something all butch and manly like invade North Korea all by himself. That or watch TV alone with a bag of pretzels.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 5.2


Wednesday, January 26, 2005
This Might Be Less Interesting To You Than Usual
I'm going to be honest with you people: I'm completely exhausted. Between healing all the deep social rifts in this country (as I did yesterday) and the regular Tuesday hoo-ha, I'm spent.

Creatively, I have nothing left. My committment to excellence stems from my responsibility to put out a blog of the highest quality as an example to the young and impressionable Bucketeer legion which now numbers very nearly in double-digits.

If I were following the path of my high calling, I would write a scathing and (no doubt) hi-larious breakdown of all the debt projection figures that came out yesterday. The problem: I don't understand them. Not a one. Sure, you're thinking "that never stopped you from posting about a topic before. Remember yesterday?" to which I am obliged to reply "Shut up." Look, I have problems with basic math, OK? Once we start talking about trillions of dollars I'm just about ready to put the shotgun barrel in my mouth.

Denied the only obvious avenue of reflection and analysis, I have decided to go the MPH route and lazily steal things from the newspaper and then tack on enlightening commentary like "Isn't that crrr-azy?!"

These are local news, making them even less relevant to you and your daily life. Enjoy.

1) Riverside County Sheriffs arrested a guy. The end. Good night!

No wait, there's more! The guy they arrested used to be a volunteer assistant high school football coach at a local school. In the course of making the arrest, the also confiscated "a cache of white supremacist propaganda... 45 firearms, ammunition, body armor... and a variety of drugs." The accompanying picture (you might need to register to see it... sorry) is the Sheriff standing behind a giant Nazi flag strewn with weapons. Not really how I'd want my picture taken, but I'm not the Sheriff.

Anyway, this guy was one of 19 arrested in a sweep of parts of Riverside County that are exactly where you'd expect to find Nazi skinheads: in the vast expanses of brown land occasionally pocked with trailers. They can only be one of two things: white supremacist hideouts or meth labs. The two are not mutually exclusive.

What's interesting is that the coordinated effort of sheriff, police and FBI uncovered this ring of a prison-born white supremacist sect calling itself "Public Enemy Number One". In the acronym they gave themselves (again, gave themselves) they decided to use the Roman numeral instead of the Arabic "1" (damn you, Toby Keith!) so that the short version: PENI.

You can't make things like this up. A prison group operating on the outside calling itself PENI.

Robes and hoods on white-supremacist jackholes is more of a Southern thing. Out here it's more tattoos and bumper-stickers that point them out, which I think is kind of tragic. Think of the comic potential of watching a parade of hooded PENI. As I recall, a hooded PENI is the easiest way to tell a man isn't Jewish.


I told you I was spent.

2) A psychology professor at UC Riverside, my alma mater, has been awarded a $1 million grant to study happiness.

Every once in a while I really kick myself for leaving academia. The National Institute of Health apparently has all this money just laying around that they can throw at people for no reason whatsoever. From what I hear you can get $1 million from the National Endowment for the Humanities really easily. All you have to do is promise to somehow befoul, defame or discredit Jesus in your work. Easy money.

This is a proposed five-year study. I can already tell you the outcome, as this professor is about to find. Having $1,000,000 you don't have to pay back tax free makes people happy. And past that--if she's anything like every other psychologist I know--massive amounts of mood-altering drugs. Study done! Meanwhile she gets a pool dug behind her summer home in Newport.

No, I'm just kidding. You can't buy a house in Newport for $1,000,000.

OK, that's it. I'm going to leave out the story about the guy who killed his mom and then cut off her head and her hands because he saw Tony Soprano do the same thing after he killed Ralph Ciffaretto. I'm worried I'll be contributing to giving my home a bad name.

And as we all know, that's the white supremacists' job.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.9


Tuesday, January 25, 2005
There's been alot of action on the Culture War front this week. In most cases I would say we on the left get and give the best "action" since we're all for drug-enhanced multiple-partner sexual deviancy, but when it comes to drawing stark battle lines on questions of perceived morality, we are far outpaced by our brothers and sisters on the right.

All the details of the specific recent public incidents have been documented all over the blogosphere and sufficiently mocked by people within my circle (I've been recently informed that I am part of a circle, which is strange because I always felt more segmentally trapezoidal) like MPH and SJ, so I'll spare you.

The general theme in common is the effort of the Christian Right to combat the "gay agenda". That's their great and powerful enemy, the rampant "gay agenda". It lurks in every shadow covered in a thin, tattered trenchcoat waiting for unsuspecting little children to walk by so it can leap out and expose itself to them. And as we know, not only is the "gay agenda" insidious and dirty, it's primary target is America's children.

To be honest though, I'm a little frustrated. The Christian Right likes to talk about thwarting the "gay agenda". First of all, that's a mistake because as we all know there's nothing the gays like more than a good thwarting.

Second, the Christian Right never spells out what exactly the "gay agenda" is. That's why I keep using the annoying "quotation marks".

I think it's time we all stopped pussyfooting around and laid out once and for all just exactly what the "gay agenda" is. I'm thinking if we all are on the same page talking about the same thing, maybe we can end this destructive conflict and all start pulling on the same end of the rope. So to speak. You know, "pulling the rope" metaphorically, but not dirty metaphorically although I see how you could make that leap. Actually, it's making me laugh a little bit right now. Heh.

Yes yes, "gay agenda".

I am going to use my highly specialized training as an historian to get to the bottom of this. That means consulting the documentary evidence, citing the information that helps me while ignoring the contradictory and then making up a bunch of bullshit filler and calling it "analysis" or "synthesis".

Man, grad school was fun.

Anyway, as my s0urces for reconstructing the hidden "gay agenda" I am going to use the words of the Christian Right themselves (they seem to know what it is, after all). In addition I will be consulting the only mass market venue for actual gay people (not fake gay people like those hetero neuters on Will & Grace) clandestinely filmed in their natural habitat. Of course I'm talking about Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.

So without further ado, I present to you sans quotation marks, the uncovered Gay Agenda.

1. Open recruitment of heterosexuals to join their ranks. Since we know same-sex couples cannot spontaneously reproduce, they must recruit in order to keep their population up. This will mean the processing of hundreds of thousands of people per day through massive regional Gayification Centers located in all major US cities. Any man with product in his hair or woman not wearing lipstick will automatically be assigned "gay" and forced to live a life in sodom-tastic sin and use words like "fabulous".

2. Under the guise of "tolerance" children will be taught to accept deviancy without question in all forms starting with homosexuality but eventually including incest, pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia and whatever it is Anna Nicole Smith does (it's got to be something really fucked up, doesn't it?). Honors students will be required to think of a whole new deviancy all by themselves. Further, all children regardless of gender will be required to attend thirty-hours of blowjob classes before graduating high school. Phallus-shaped fruits or vegetables for practice will not be provided by the school.

3. It will be expressly illegal for ugly fat white Republican men to deny the advances of gay men. The scores and scores of homosexuals who have been dying to get a piece of Jerry Falwell will be allowed to come out of the woodwork and--finally!--break themselves off a piece of that. Also, your unshaven toothless uncle who always says "Them gays are fine, jes so long as they don' try nothin' on me" will be gang-banged on television.

4. Private property will be abolished, terrorists will be invited to perform a Massive Bombing Of The Week on a monument or public space of their choice, French will be made the official language and the White House will be re-painted in rainbow stripes and rented out on weekends for all-night raves. Ecstacy will be provided to all.

5. Hair highlights and gym membership will both be compulsory.

6. Not only will gay marriage be legal, but hetero marriage will be outlawed. All children produced as the union between a man and a woman will immediately be offered to a gay couple. Rosie O'Donnell gets first dibs.

This is obviously only a partial list. But I think we might be on our way to a more open, mutual understanding. Now that we all know what we're talking about, we can let the healing begin.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.3


PS- The Daily Show's Stephen Colbert was on NPR last night. As the interview progressed, he said he was worried that a long analysis of the jokes he'd done and why things were funny would be unfunny and boring. Worries well founded, Stephen. Love ya and all, but wow.

Monday, January 24, 2005
Who's Looking Out For You?
As part of my overall plan to re-make my life along the lines laid out by the great infallible Dr. Phil, I've decided to stop beating my wife and kids. They'll be disappointed, but Dr. Phil says I must, so I must.

The scheme also involves exercise, community action and pro-activity, all of which I mean to get to eventually. Probably in the summer when all the TV shows are in reruns.

I have begun to strictly monitor what I eat. I will no longer, for instance, fry my peanut butter banana and marshmallow sandwiches in butter.

Also, when the fast-food craving hits me, I make it a point to hit the Wendy's. I've always avoided Wendy's in the past. I don't know why, but I suspect it has something to do with their square hamburgers.

Most of my geometry-related phobias have been handled by tweaking the dosages of my meds, so Wendy's is back in. I'm happy to say my self-makeover has been made all the easier by this franchised corporate giant taking an interest in my personal health. I think it's quite big of them, really. It's good to see an institution that size act purely out of altruism. Hang on, I'm tearing up again.

OK, back. Wendy's (how do you apostrophe that to denote ownership? Wendy's'?) great plan involves offering alternatives to french fries as a side order for your Great Big Giant Super Duper Meal package. You can get healthy alternatives like a baked potato (topped with bacon, pretend butter and one full pound of sour cream), chili (less said the better), or a salad. Whether or not you put the cream cheese pork fat vinaigrette on top is completely up to you.

All this goes alongside your 1/2 pound fried beef bacon triple-cheese four-layer jalapeño ranch Artery Burger with extra chipotle mayonnaise.

Wash it all down with four gallons of healthy, healthy Diet Coke.

And for the kiddies, you can get mandarin oranges on the side instead of fries, which is actually a good idea. They also offer chocolate milk instead of soda, which sounds great until you realize pre-packaged chocolate milk is about 1 part milk and 3 parts corn syrup.

Again, this comes with a carcinogen-loaded beef patty fried to death. Or chicken nuggets, which are a whole 'nother post.

How long do you think it is before Wendy's realizes that hamburgers themselves are bad for you?

This is a little off the subject, but do you think that the day the first person died from Mad Cow disease was the happiest day in a lot of crazy vegan hippie's lives? You'd really think they'd celebrate something like that. I can't even imagine the sense of vindication that comes from completely inadvertant revenge.

It must have been akin to how right-wing Christian fringe types felt in the early days of AIDS when it was thought to be a fatal gay-only disease. It was even misnamed GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency).

But I guess it isn't fair to equate vegans with right-wingers Culture War extremists. The latter has never been dissuaded by the evolving (did I just say "evolving"?) picture of AIDS and it's very real threat to reckless heteros. If you look hard enough, you can still see a few of them holding up their AIDS KILLS FAGS signs.

That really tells you all you need to know about those people, doesn't it?

I'm not sure what the second half of this post has to do with the first half. I do know that I've suddenly got a powerful craving for a burger.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.1


PS- Somebody tried to stab Christian Slater in London, which got me thinking: Christian Slater is still alive?

PPS- "London" is not a euphemism for one of Christian Slater's body parts. That's the place he was in when someone tried to stab him. Rumor is the assailant tried to stick the knife right up his Weehauken.

PPPS- I heart London.

Sunday, January 23, 2005
Driven To Distraction
It's been a long exhausting week-end, so I have little to say. But in order to stave off the street riots and spontaneous mass suicides if I leave this space blank, I'll throw some old crap up here to amuse the rabble.

By "the rabble", I don't mean you of course, dear reader. It's... you know... everyone else. Not you. You're very special to me. The rest of 'em can all get bent, as far as I'm concerned. Lousy bloodsuckers.

OK, so I'm kind of in a bad mood. There are two reasons.

First, I had plans for an evening out with just Mrs. Pops. Just the two of us. Lunch and a movie. No menus with crayons. No movies about talking animals scarred by the death of a parent talking animal. But because I am cursed to have been born into a family where I am considered the stable one, babysitting flaked out. Goddamn sisters.

There is no way to convey to my single, childless readers what a morbid, crushing blow this is to a human soul. It's like when you get down to the last piece of cake. You decide to wait until the end of the day to reward yourself with the cake, which hide in the back of the fridge in a tupperware container with your name clearly scrawled across it. And then the end of the day comes, you peel back the freshness-sealing lid and--gasp!--not only has someone eaten your cake, but your babysitter flakes out on you so you can't go on a date with your wife.

It's exactly like that. Except without the cake thing. I don't know where I was going with that.

So if that weren't bad enough...

The second thing is that I decided to console myself with an orgy of football. I settled into my Pops-shaped dent on the couch, switched the ol' Higher Brain Functions into Stand-by mode and let the barely controlled violence wash over me, like a warm bath in sweet, sweet sewage.

But then, on the little Sports News Only ticker across the bottom of the goddamn screen, I have to find out that Johnny Carson is dead.

Johnny Carson. Dead.

Well fuck me completely, now I'm distracted.

How could this be? Weren't the Carson people just a few days ago sending out a fantastic passive-aggressive public Fuck You to Jay Leno and everyone else at NBC by letting it slip that Johnny is sending jokes to David Letterman? Last time I checked you had to be alive in order to abuse and humiliate the people you resent and despise.

I guess that was just Johnny's way of saying good bye and nodding his head, Zeus-like, choosing between two lesser petitioners.

No cause of death was given, but I think I have a guess. If you read this article, Carson is solely and entirely responsible for the birth of every comedic career including Letterman, Leno, Joan Rivers, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, David Brenner and a whole raft of others.

Apparently Johnny spent 30+ years propping up all of Hollywood all by himself. The man probably dropped dead from exhaustion.

Although as I consider the careers Joan Rivers, Jay Leno and David Brenner, there is the outside chance that he died of shame.

On my grandmother's own personal list of People Who Are Awesome, Carson was third after Jesus and Whomever Happens To Be The Current Notre Dame Football Coach (the order between #1 and #2 varies depending on Notre Dame's record).

I turned 18 in 1992, the year Carson retired. Suffice it to say, he was more of a grandmother-type-thing by then. I knew just enough about Carson to get it when Jack Nicholson used the "Here's Johnny!" line in The Shining. Past that he was just the old guy with the lame band.

Plus, back then there was some Arsenio Hall to watch. You know, the next big perennial late night fixture. Say it with me: Woof! Woof! Woof!

OK, in retrospect we were all retarded. Carson's monologues at least were still topical and sharp. Here's every Arsenio Hall monologue: "Hey, did you all hear [celebrity A] and [celebrity B] like to get together and do the wild thang? Hey band leader, play me something funky!"

And somehow he went out along with the high-top fade. A puzzle, that.

So goodbye Johnny, wherever you are in whichever afterlife you have chosen for yourself--respectfully reserving the possiblity that Johnny preferred no afterlife whatsoever and is simply dead. In a pluralistic society we must respect not only all wishes, but the possiblity of wishes that might exist, even if they are godless and heathen and, well, wrong.

Good night. Join me tomorrow when my guests will be Bob Newhart, the third female lead from Hill Street Blues, up and coming comedian Jerry Seinfeld, Manhattan Transer will perform and... oh this should be good... Jesus H. Christ! We hope you'll join us.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 6.0


Friday, January 21, 2005
The View From Half Way Down The Cliff
I think it's easy sometimes, when you're inside a particular community, to misread the extent to which people outside that community care or even know about what it is you're doing. Some communities are so insular and self-gratifying that it doesn't matter. The hardcore convention-going Klingon-speaking Star Trek dork could give a shit what I or anyone else thinks so long as he got his twenty-seventh signed picture of Leonard Nimoy. Lots of self-gratifying going on in that little community, I imagine (although I do not imagine it in any vivid or graphic detail, no).

Blogs and bloggers are in sort of a weird position at the moment. We all recognize ourselves and each other. Almost everytime I walk past a mirror I'll go "Hey, that's me!" in under three guesses. But where do we fit amongst the non-blogging dirty masses really?

We've got some media heat coming off an election year. Bloggers were even featured as commentators on television (and frankly if we were suited for TV, would be we hiding in our basements like moles plonking out this stuff?) during the election itself. Now there are all kinds of magazine articles and university symposia about bloggers and their influence on... well, anything and everything really.

With the inauguration now come and gone, the political cycle is now officially over. I suspect we're about to find ourselves floundering as a community for a while. The hardcore lefty blogs will still say Bush sucks every day while the hardcore righty blogs will find new and colorful ways to complain about gay people and Jews... er sorry, the "New York media elite". Man, the Right has all the best euphemisms.

But then there are the rest of us; the ones who dabbled in politics but aren't consumed entirely by it. Unlike the Trekkies, we are a mass media outlet. Let's face it, we all want people to look at this stuff otherwise we'd just write it down in our Hello Kitty! diaries like we used to.

Journals. I mean journals. Black leather journals. All entries about football and naked chicks. Yeah.

No, we don't keep these thoughts hidden between the mattress and the box spring alongside a 10-year old Playboy magazine we found in a dumpster and a condom we hope to one day use as something other than a water balloon. We want people to read them, which means the loop cannot be closed in the way it can be for Trekkies or knitters or cat fanciers.

The potential for new people to both start blogs and to read them is, I think, about to take a precipitous (although probably temporary) drop as our Old Media profile fades like John Kerry in late October.

What we need is some concrete real-world legitimacy. We need something to both fill the content-void created by the end of the election and to put blogs and bloggers firmly, indelibly into the minds of people who would otherwise have no use for either.

What we need is a good scandal. Sex and blood, one or the other. Preferably both, but one will do.

Remember back when the internet was first entering mainstream consciousness? A few tech weirdos would make plane reservations on Prodigy on something, but that was about it. Tom Brokaw would direct people to the NBC News website at the end of a broadcast, but you could hear his eyes rolling behind the all-covering infographic.

Quick think, what was the first national news story you heard involving the internet?

Me, it was creepy old pedophiles luring young girls or boys away from the homes using chatrooms, sending them plane tickets (the really tacky pedophiles would send me... er, them bus tickets) once their confidence was won. Every news anchor had to explain what a "chat room" was, what an "internet" was, complete with scintillating video of people typing on keyboards.

A profile-raiser if ever there was one. Not only did general knowledge of the internet rise in part because of stories like this, but I'm sure actual use and participation was affected as well. Just think of it: every pervy nonce with a credit card probably went out the next day and bought themselves and 14.4 modem.

[Aside: Used to be in order to become a child-molester was a lot more difficult. You would have to become a child singing star with your brothers, endure several disfiguring plastic surgeries in order to make yourself look like a kindly old woman, make a zillion dollars, buy a Ferris wheel and a monkey, all just to get strangers to leave you alone with their kids. Technology. Man.]

There's nothing like shock and horror to leave an impression on people. Why do you think all local news promos during sweeps months say things like: "Something in your home right now can kill you. Want to know what it is? Tune it at 11!" They know.

We as bloggers need something like that. I think I have it figured out too: someone will have to be murdered by a blog-stalker.

Maybe it's already happened, but obviously the details weren't grisly or that-could-happen-to-me! creepy enough to draw national attention because I didn't hear about it.

Here's the hard part: we need a volunteer. Actually we need two, one for the murderer and one for the blogger-victim. Don't say no right away. Think about it just a little: you could be the Great Martyr of Blogdom. Blogs all over the world would dedicate post after post to your memory, your sacrifice. At least until Brad Pitt starts dating someone else, then we'll be all over that, but you'll get your moment.

Or if you wanted to go the other way, you could be the biggest media villain since OJ! Well, maybe not OJ. But certainly as famous as that guy who killed that chick he was stalking. Oh, what was his name... ah well. Who am I kidding? The victim is the glory role in this grisly play. The only thing I can offer you, potential murderers, is the chance finally to satiate that bloodlust you've been nursing all these years, the chance to scratch the unscratchable itch in the unreachable center of your diseased brain.

I would offer myself as one or the other, but I'm sure you all know by now that I don't actually exist. "Pops" is actually an artificial intelligence program, forgotten and left running on a dusty old Commodore 64 in a basement at CalTech. Simple algorithms spit out random strings of text that are then parsed for syntax and punctuation, then spewed across the internet for everyone to see. I am the digital equivalent of 10,000 monkeys with typewriters.

That doesn't mean I'm not serious about the rest of it though. Consider.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 3.9


Thursday, January 20, 2005
Left Hook
Oh snap! No they di'n't! Did they? Daaaaaaaammmmn, that's cold.

I'm sure the whole time George Bush was up there on the dais on the Capitol steps, hand on the Bible being held by the Chief Justice of the United States re-taking the oath of office to solemnify and begin his second term as President of the United States, right there in the back of his mind, he couldn't help but feel vexed and defeated by his hardball-playing take-no-prisoners political opponents.

Sure, Democrats in Washington (even though nationally we seem to be only slightly under 50%) are as marginalized as a #2 party has ever been in the history of the two-party system. They have no voice, no real role, not even the ability to put up serious partisan resistance on... well, anything really, yet they still somehow mustered up the courage, the fortitude, the will and the muscle to put off the almost unanimous confirmation vote of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State until next week.

Take that, Unstoppable Republican Political Machine! The committee version of the vote went 16-2. That's two votes against your precious Secretary of State nominee. One vote against is sticking the knife in. That second vote against is just twisting it around to make it really really hurt.

Ha! We're back, bitches!

Seriously, the only two voting against were John Kerry (what else is he going to do?) and my own senator, Barbara Boxer (D-Awesomeland). She was able to bring it all out, to publicly call "Bullshit!" on the whole Iraq debacle and Rice's role in it, to point out what a complete and total cock-up the whole thing was idealogically, logistically, logically even in terms of the PR campaign of lies Rice spearheaded during the run-up to the war.

Rice's wounded reply has been getting the most airplay:

MS. RICE: Senator, we can have this discussion in any way that you would like. But I really hope that you will refrain from impugning my integrity. Thank you very much.

What! How dare you raise reasonable and well-researched objections to an obviously flawed, disastrously expensive foreign policy mistake!

Less people are playing Boxer's awesome response:

SEN. BOXER: I'm not. I'm just quoting what you said. You contradicted the president and you contradicted yourself.

At which point Dick Lugar (R-MPHville) swooped in and cut the proceedings off. Just when it was getting really good.

So now Barbara Boxer gets to be tied to the Right-Wing Blog/Talk-Radio Whipping Post and I couldn't be more proud.

I would have more to say about the inauguration and everything but I kind of forgot to watch it. Ah well. I was busy. Because I am confused by powerful women in positions of influence who impress me, I was busy Photoshopping Boxer's head onto porn-stars bodies.

Is that wrong? It felt wrong. I guess that's what made it exciting.

Happy Inauguration Day, everybody! I'll be in the bunker if you need me.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.3


Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Cult Of Personality
Fantastic news, everybody: I am now a huuuuuuge star.

Being entirely consumed with this blog as an extension of myself--the source of all my external personal validation in the absence of any ability to spontaneously generate self-esteem due to the lingering traumatic effects of a tragic childhood exposure to Physical Education class--I keep a close eye on my friendly Sitemeter. My mood rises and falls with every swing in readership. On high volume days, everything is fine. On low volume days, the kids get yelled at, the dog gets kicked, food has no flavor and I can't feel the warmth of the sun.

But recently... O Sweet Recently. Every week is a new record visit-count. Every day is a cornucopia of unexpected surprises (completely unlike expected surprise which, let's face it, suck) of daily-visit heights. My Sitemeter graph looks like the EKG of a speed freak, all spiky but elevated, elevated, rising ever higher.

I'm in love with the world and the world is in love with me.

Walking down the street now I will spontaneously burst into song; something peppy and smart usually, like "Stayin' Alive" or "Let's Hear It For The Boy" or "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria?" When people stop to look, I'll hold up a hand and wait for the inevitable high five. Sometimes they'll try to shout something to me or gesture at me while I'm skipping and singing, but I just wave back, only interrupting my song long enough to say "Keep reading! Keep reading!" Satisfied and no doubt honored, they walk away. Just knowing I could share some of my brightness and give them the satisfaction of a little celebrity encounter makes me feel great, almost as good as the old days when I used to start every morning with a little Red Bull and black tar heroin.

No more junk for my veins anymore though, no. These days I'm high on life, injecting myself daily with the rush of blog-born superstardom. Thank you, world.

OK. OK, OK. Alright. Fine, you got me. I'll confess, just... stop with the eyes will you? OK? I said I'll come clean.

You want me to say it? I'll say it: I've been to BlogExplosion.

Look, I just tried it that one time. Those other readers meant nothing to me, I swear it. It was all about accumulating blog-hits, I swear that was it. They were using me as much as I was using them. It was purely physical. At least it started out that way, but then I let it go on farther then it ever should and I guess that part of it is my fault. It doesn't mean I don't love you any less, Bucketeers. Those others, they were just... just a need I had at the time. It was something I was going through, but it's over now. It's over. I swear it's over. It will never happen again.

BlogExplosion. What a degrading source of blogger whoredom. I may never live down the shame. For those unfamiliar, visiting other BlogExplosion registered sites will generate reciprocal traffic. They auto-surf you to member sites. A little timer ticks down. For every thirty second visit to one site, you get 0.5 credits. One full credit (two sites visited... still following?) will earn you one full random visit from another BE member trying to run up his/her credits.

Of course in order to kill the time required to get your 30 seconds in, you are not required to look at the blog, just to have the window open. Go ahead, multi-task. Play freecell. Read a magazine. Porn-surf. Read other blogs that you actually know and like in a different browser window. Anything. Just so long as the timer hits 0 and you can collect your half-a-credit and move on.

So my Sitemeter numbers have been... er... slightly... uh... inflated with empty BlogExplosion hits.

But that part of my life is over now. The shame backlash it caused was not anywhere near worth the euphoria of the... gosh, nearly dozens of visits I was getting daily. I was able to muddle through the depths of self-loathing with a little help from Wild Turkey Kentucky Bourbon and Red Bull (that Red Bull... it really goes with anything). At least I think I was able to; I don't remember much since the delirium tremens wore off.

Of course I should allow that it is just possible that all my site visits are being generated by the same handful of people (you know who you are) motivated purely by a desire to see their own comments and the subsequent responses, mixed in with just a tiny splash of collective OCD that keeps them coming back against repeatedly over the course of the same day despite their better judgment.

Self-interest and mental dysfunction...

You know what? I'll take it.

You love me!

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.9


Tuesday, January 18, 2005
I Guess Teetering On The Perpetual Brink Of Death Can Really Work Up An Appetite
It might not be evident or apparent from the gregarious and shining personality that comes bursting out of your computer screens every time you fire up the Bucket, but I don't like people. Not any one person in particular; particular persons I like fine. It's people I can't really tolerate. I'm speaking of the nameless, faceless masses that confront you every time you go anywhere or do anything, all of them waiting just outside your door to see how many ways they can fuck up your day.

So really, even though I'm physically able and over-educated, I don't mind not working a whole whole lot. I do miss the activity and the product of work, but mostly that's because my last "job" was graduate school. Unless you count my summer temp job working for a company that was essentially a ponzi scheme. Which I don't.

When you're a teenager and you need--need--money to buy CDs and burritos and gas, you really can't avoid people. Being unskilled labor, you really have no choice. There are times when I wish I were a woman, then I could have hopped on the stripper-pole for a few years to pay for my education right after I paid off my implants. Sure, there are people there too, but you can make six-figures. Any social anxiety can be slept off on a bed stuffed with money.

Being a doughy, bookish, slightly pasty (but still devastatingly handsome) male my main options were food service or video store. Recognizing my own limitations--did I need the temptation of spitting in people's food or, say, being in close proximity to very throwable hot french fry grease should the situation call for it--I went video store.

I quit that eventually after one of my coworkers was tied up and pistol whipped in the course of being robbed just before he closed the store one night. My before-tax $4.25/hour suddenly didn't seem quite worth it.

It's quite a resumé, innit? You'd hire me in a second, wouldn't you? Video store, ponzi scheme, grad school. All I need do is find something that combines all three of those elements... I'm thinking State Senate.

I'm considering home-schooling the kids. That way I can hide here forever. And think of how much we'd all benefit from the corporal punishment regimen.

Considering all this, yesterday then I was completely unprepared for my Monday Night Bingo Kitchen Volunteer experience.

Each family at my kid's school is required to volunteer one night to work the church's Monday night bingo. You can either work the kitchen (4-8:30) or "the floor" (6-10). Being none too keen on the idea of directly dealing with really old people armed with various walking implements and their deadly-serious bingo cards, I chose kitchen.

My vast video-store experience, you will be surprised to know, did me absolutely no good. Nobody once asked me where the new releases were or if they could reserve a copy of Last of the Mohicans.* Not one! Instead they kept asking me for hamburgers and fries and made me do math in my head.

I did find out alot about myself last night, though. For instance, I never knew that I had an irrational fear of the Deep Fat Fryer. Even if I had wanted to, there would be no spiteful greas-throwing. Every order of fries was a paralyzing moment of existential doubt and self-loathing. You see, it's really really hot all the time in there. And you put the fries in this basket and then lower it right into the really really hot grease and it... I don't know, it kind of explodes. There's all this noise and spitting and crackling... and no lid, thanks very much. There's no way that's safe.

There were two others in there, the kitchen regulars. Then there were the two volunteers, me and this guy Rick. Rick had done this "four or five times" already. So with all the panache and swagger of a doomed Homeric hero, he was on Fries Detail. And a good thing too as I was able to avoid what would have no doubt been a very embarrassing panic attack otherwise.

With help then, I survived. No one ever complained, which meant I had no opportunity to spit in anyone's food. But we have to do this at least once per year, so there will be other opportunities. In the meantime it's all microwave food for me if I need it warm. And the doors stay locked and the blinds drawn and the shotgun on top of the bookcase, all to keep the people safely outside.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.5


*="I will find you!" Man, that was a good movie. Whatever happened to Madeleine Stowe, anyway?

Monday, January 17, 2005
I Have This Dream Where I'm Being Chased By Giant Gay Government-Created Spider Monkeys
I'm going to keep this short since I was so longwinded yesterday. Plus it's a day off for my kid, so I've got lots of ass-sitting to get to.

"Ass-sitting" as opposed to sitting with any other part of your body, I guess.

On Meet the Press yesterday they showed a clip of Martin Luther King during an appearance from 1967. Mostly we as latter-day Americans are only shown his great long speeches full of prepared rhetorical splendor. I was quite pleased to see the man on the old clip, looking relaxed and unrehearsed, speaking with great ease, the "preacher voice" turned off. When asked straightforward questions he would give beautifully structured, well-reasoned, focused, complicated, eloquent answers.

Here on the eve of the second Bush inaugural, it kind of makes you want to put a gun in your mouth. Is it possible that after a full year of Bush-Kerry I'd forgotten people like that actually existed?

And then this morning, in the America of 2005, the America that puts Dr. King and his legacy on par with Washington and Lincoln and the Super Bowl and nobody else whose birthday is celebrated as a national holiday, I woke up to find a story with this headline:

Pentagon Spurned Plan to Initiate Enemy Homosexuality.

Can we claim it's part of Dr. King's message of "love thy neighbor"? "Kill them with kindness"? Nah, you're probably right.

I guess I should be grateful that the Pentagon rejected the idea of developing a drug that makes dudes want to fuck other dudes, but I think we all know why they did. What if--horror of horrors--in, say, a free Iraq some of these drug-induced gay Iraqis wanted to marry each other?

Best not to think of it.

I do think they missed an opportunity though. It could have been the first weapons program that paid for itself. All they would have to do is make it in pill form and sell it to gay nightclub operators (not nightclub operators who are gay but operators of nightclubs who cater to a largely homosexual clientele... am I being patronizing again? Sorry), give it a cool name (sorry, Ecstasy is taken) and distribute. We'd be raking in dough hand(job) over fist(ing).

Although I guess it's possible it would be ignored completely in a club packed to the rafters with natural (read: free) male sex drive seeking out other natural male sex drive.

I have a question though: if they reasonably thought they could make an agent to heighten homosexual desires in a population of men, doesn't that suggest that the government knows a hell of a lot more about the biology of homosexuality than they're letting on?

I'm just asking.

This is probably the most inappropriate MLK Day post ever. My apologies to the King family.

Keep hope alive!

No, that's Jesse Jackson. Sorry again. I'm not very good at this.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.0


Sunday, January 16, 2005
...And If We Throw It All Away Things Can Only Get Better
Bad news, first off. They fixed Prado Dam. No bursting, no giant flood to wash away 1/3 of SoCal's 20 million people in a rampaging wall of white water. So go on world, go back to ignoring us. You'll come back. You always do. One mountain range burns down and all of a sudden everyone will want a piece of the Cali. Wait and see.

Best piece of local news hyperbole from the whole episode though goes to Channel 4, our NBC affiliate. The reporter, standing in the Corona High School gym (that's like less than 20 miles from my house!) evacuation center surrounded by evacuees, said this: "If the dam were to fail [that's the euphemism, "fail", rather than "rupture" or my own favorite "'splode"] Angel Stadium--that's twenty miles from here!--would be under four feet of water!" He did not add: "Dooooooomed! We're all dooooomed!" and then collapse, swallowing his tongue. Although that would have been some compelling TV if he had.

Today I'm here to write about my close personal friend Happy Fun Ball, the only blogger I know with a worse pseudonym than me. HFB has been on the same career trajectory toward spectacular Failed Writerdom for quite some time. We even have the same lame excuses about our kids and whatnot. I would characterize the arrangement as mutually beneficial up to this point. That or obliquely enabling as we tacitly justify each other's march toward permanent obscurity.

But now HFB has taken it upon herself to torture me by announcing she has decided to write something someone may actually one day buy. I find this new explosion of ambition and enthusiasm to be personally insulting, not to mention a complete betrayal of our unspoken pact to reach Failed Writerdom as a team, to douse each other's creative spark should the nasty, contrarian thing ever threaten the embrace of utter darkness under the all-encompassing canopy of Perpetual Procrastination.

Are you starting to understand why I've never sold anything?

So panicked, betrayed, alone and bored, I took it upon myself this weekend to turn the old Writer Radar back on, just to see what I could pick up.

For those who don't know, the Writer Radar (sometimes intentionally misspelt "Writer Wradar" by people with broken senses of humor) is an innate quality writer's have whereby we are able to observe life at a molecular level, observing and understanding the world around us in ways simultaneously profound and mundane; to collect subject matter from the Everyday, then allow it to germinate into something that will one day bear artistic fruit.

You may know it by it's layman's name, Pretentious Obnoxiousness.

Shamed and annoyed then, I found myself hard at work once again. On Saturday this took the form of sitting on my ass watching the James Bond marathon on Cinemax. Or maybe it was Encore. Somehow my keen powers of observation failed to pick up on what channel I was watching. All I know is that it was in the high channel numbers somehwere where I usually find my soft-core porn.

I think it was during The Living Daylights that it happened: the Magic found me. I remember very clearly thinking it, as though it were only yesterday: why do people hate Timothy Dalton as James Bond so much? I thought he was quite good. Only it just happened that when his turn came, the material had begun to seriously degrade, culminating in the truly awful Die Another Day (sorry, no link... can't afford to perpetuate knowledge of that one). Not his fault, surely. It's probably because he's Welsh. For some reason people hate the Welsh. Is there a more perjorative verb than "to welsh"? OK, maybe "to gyp", but come on. Those Gyspies kind of had that coming.

What was I... oh yes. No, that wasn't the Magic. The Magic was some little detail somewhere started the billiard ball rolling which kicked off the Rube Goldberg machine that is my useless imagination. Suffice it to say, I am now the proud owner of a Really Good Premise.

I'm not going to share what the premise is because like every other Failed Writer I'm convinced that everyone is out to steal my few precious Really Good Premises, so I guard them jealously. I put them on a list with a short synopsis. I currently have 27 Really Good Premises whose security is absolutely guaranteed by the knowledge that they will never be developed into anything read by the general public, if they're developed at all. Most are carefully and meticulously ignored each and every day while I play Star Wars Battlefront and read blogs. Now that, my friends, is secure.

The ones I have developed are usually fairly disappointing. The curse of the failed writer is impatience. I want it to be great just as soon as the words travel out of my head, down to my fingers, out the keyboard and on to the digital page. But everyone tells me "real writing is re-writing", which--I'm sorry--just sounds like alot of work. Don't these people have internet access?

The awful truth may be that my particular writing talents (yes, make your funny jokes) may be less suited to fiction than to writing, say, about the legal and cultural ramifications of the Act of Union between England and Wales in 1536. That's what my master's thesis was about. I did quite well. And somehow it all comes back to the Welsh again...

If I do say so myself, however, I can write the hell out of a blogpost. Some tend to be somewhat self-interested and long winded. Wordy. Dull. Bloviatory. Full of made-up words. Insufferable. Obnoxious. Ill-informed. Unfunny. Did I say "dull"? Dull.

The weird thing is, I've never been so dedicated. I write on this thing six days a week, some times seven. Meanwhile my list of Really Good Premises snuggles safely in a warm corner of my hard drive, safe in the knowledge that they will never be disturbed by human ambition.

Boy, you know, I really thought this was going to be about HFB and her cruel back-stabbery, but somehow it turned out to be all about me. Funny, that.

I blame the Welsh.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.7


Friday, January 14, 2005
Won't You Please Help?
Man, it's been a rough couple of months. There were those hurricanes all over Florida in the fall, the earthquake and tsunami in Asia, the mudslides and flooding in LA County. And I didn't even mention the November election results. It's just been one natural disaster after another.

It's all got me pretty down. I just can't help thinking: what's wrong with us out here in Riverside County that we don't deserve some natural-disaster love of our own?

I mean sure, we had that earthquake in Fontana a week or two ago, but at 4.4, please. That's just Mother Nature totally patronizing us. Remember, we're the region that nearly burnt to the ground two years ago in one of the largest wildfires in recorded history. We've proven time and time again that we can do it. We're deserving.

I was so relieved then when I read this morning about a possible rupture and leak at Prado Dam in nearby Chino. Sure, it's technically in Chino which is in San Bernardino County but it overlooks Corona, in the RC (as the kids probably aren't calling it), where all the evacuations thus far have taken place.

I think we've all seen enough disaster movies to know what happens when a dam springs a leak. The effects were covered extensively in such highly acclaimed nature documentaries as Superman and X-Men 2. Trickle, gusher, burst, flood. There's a giant wall of rushing water in there somewhere from which we will all get to run in front of, screaming and waving our hands.

While my house is not in the direct line of fire should Prado Dam 'splode, I would like to thank the (sub-)urban planners who put a bunch of houses and freeways and golfcourses in the shadow of a giant dam. The idea is in California if you have a dry square foot of land, you build on it. Even if that dry square foot of land is technically designated a "river". The Santa Ana River, which flows largely underground and whose chief physical marker is not an obvious flow of water but random, incongruous clumps of reeds between buildings, is choked with roads and mini-malls and rail lines and homes and freeway overpasses. 98% of the time, this is no problem.

We are now staring at that fascinating 2%.

And ooh, guess what the first type of development is in line for destruction should the dam burst. Go on, try. Give up? That's right! A mobile home park.

We already know how they fare against tornados and hurricanes. Now's our chance to see if the fuckers can float.

As a former mobile-home resident, I can only marvel at the foresight of the people who cobble these little communities together. It seems to me that the flimsiest of structures should only be built in places where they can reasonably expect to survive. Say in a solid steel-and-concrete bunker 2 miles below the earth's surface, nestled snugly in unbreachable bedrock.

But no, somehow they always manage to end up on floodplains and in lowlands. The park I used to live in seemed to be in a suprisingly safe location in the hills. No tornados and virtually flood proof. The only reasonable explanation I can think of is that it must have been built on top of an Indian burial ground housing the angry spirits of wronged natives with the power to summon an inhuman man-eating beast of horrible, unstoppable, insatiable supernatural force. In retrospect I was damn lucky to move out before it could be awakened.

In light of the inevitable Prado Dam disaster now looming, I have decided to get in on the ground floor with the relief efforts. Inspired by my president, I am launching a pre-emptive strike against disaster by encouraging you all to send me money. Should the dam burst, all proceeds will go toward helping the unfortunate people stupid enough to live under a dam. Rest assured that if the unthinkable remains unthought and the dam stays where it's supposed to, the money will go to a good cause. I will put a CD player in my minivan. It only has AM/FM and 4 pre-sets. It's pretty brutal.

Think of the children.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 7.1


Thursday, January 13, 2005
Some nights I just can't sleep. Sure, usually it's the hairshirt and all the other complicated array of self-torture devices I sleep attached to in order to keep me safe from my own impure thoughts, but those are absolutely necessary. My subconscious is a filthy, filthy place where every depraved sexual fantasy and fetish lurks, safe from the active iron resolve of my waking mind where I can supplement my own will power with the help of Jesus and lithium. The bad thoughts wait there, ready to strike just as soon as my guard slips. And that's why I lock myself into the erection-proof solid-steel thong every night. Just in case you were wondering.

The reason for my sleeplessness recently, though, goes beyond the sweet discomfort of physical restriction. Instead I am wide-eyed and panicked during the sleeping hours by people. They're everywhere. And they all have individual little minds, making their own individual little decisions, all without the benefit of my indefatigable vigilance for the causes of decency and right-thinking.

But I am not without hope. Actions have been taken recently that buoy the spirit, that elevate soceity as a whole with the cleansing flood water--a tsunami if you will--of spiritual purity. All thanks to our Beloved Leader, too.

The first thing is minor, but so obvious. Greasy-haired hatchet-faced "rap" act Kid Rock has been dropped from the bill at one of the inaugural balls. I know, you're probably thinking "Is it because he has no discernable talent?" You would think so, but no. Actually it's because he once put out a song with the following lyrics. It shames me to reprint them as they are not suitable for decent people to read:

Pimp of the Nation, I could be it
As a matter of a fact, I foresee it
But only pimpin' hoes with the big tush
While you be left pimpin' Barbara Bush
What's up granny
First name Annie
Dried up cunt and a saggin' fanny
The highlight of your sex adventures
You wanna suck this, take out your dentures*

Yes, wearing furs as a grown man along with that stupid hat and ridiculous mullet should be enough to disqualify him from... well, any human endeavor, but these lyrics are the last straw. Leave the Bush inauguration entertainment to the big-time celebrity guests such as... um... well, I can't actually think of one right now. Minus Kid Rock, though, I think we as a nation have dodged a bullet.

I actually have a second reason for encouragement. It turns out that nothing will be allowed to interfere with the Bush administration's plan for total national conformity. Not even national security. I nearly wept for joy, then, when I read today that more gay military linguists have been fired exclusively for their sexual preference than had been previously reported. Three times as many! Oh wonder of wonders! And they were all Arabic or Farsi speakers! What resolve. What courage by our military. Think of it: when the next 9/11-type attack come in we won't have any Arabic-speaking homos on the earphones being distracted by thoughts of hot, hot sodomy. Everyone knows the military is only for butch tough-guys who speak American and only like to have anal sex with women.

I know I'm not the only one relieved by all this happy news. Think of all the laughter in foreign capitals around the world. Actually you know what, don't. They're foreigners, after all.

These evils put to bed, I know I will sleep well tonight. And when I do--if my will-power holds up--it will most certainly not be in the company of a shemale prostitute. Last time was the last time. I can do it, I know I can.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 5.3


*=many thanks to the good people at Virtual Pus for saving me the trouble of looking up the lyrics myself.

And PS- I couldn't figure out a way to work this story in, but you should check it out anyway.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005
Holy See!
Some days it's pretty easy to be Catholic. Among church-goers, we have a secret code name for these days: Monday thorugh Saturday. Those are the days we're not required to go to Mass, when we can sit on our fat asses indulging in five out of the Seven Deadly Sins (mix and match as you like... you can even double up, say two Lusts and three Gluttonies, just so long as your daily total stays below six) provided we show up for the one hour on Sundays, eat the crackers we're given and not fall asleep during the sermon. Such is the path to the kingdom of heaven.

Other days, however, being Catholic is slightly harder. Take yesterday for example when the Pope laid out his agenda for the year. Of course all the usual noise was made about continuing the church's work against hunger and violence and war and torture (blah blah blah, right?), but then His Holiness has to go and embarrass us all with his call to fight against abortion, stem cell research and--yes--gay marriage.

This Pope--my Pope--has decided to throw his Parkinson's-wracked body at last on top of the big gay marriage pile...

Wait, that didn't come out right. What I meant to say he finds himself coming up from behind in an attempt to insert himself...

This is not working out at all.

My basic point is that if Jerry Falwell has been there already, the ground is tainted. Nobody wants Falwell's sloppy seconds.

Of course with my Catholicized world-view, I tend to think the Pope has a little more moral authority than Jerry Falwell. I mean, JP2 suffers from a disease that could be helped by stem-cell research and still he staunchly opposes it. I guess you could call that principled. It takes alot of fortitude to know first hand what it is to suffer the ravages of a disease, to see some potential for a cure--however dim and distant--and still say to the people who will suffer Parkinson's long after he's dead and buried "Suck it up, you big babies. Take an aspirin or something."

As a Catholic myself, it's always been my position that my positions are my positions. Is that clear? Yes? Fantastic, let's move on.

No, what I mean is on these controversial issues, unless asked directly in a specific situation, I'm going to keep it to myself, thanks very much. This includes not voting for or supporting candidates who manipulate moral positions into political ones for politics' sake. And that, boys and girls, is how pro-choice Catholics are made.

I won't bore you again with what I think about the logic of opposition to men marrying other men again, but suffice it to say: fuckers.

The worst part about this is that we're probably going to be burdened once again with the pasty, snarling face of Catholic League Chief Camera Whore... er sorry, President William Donohue spouting all kinds of sanctimony and nonsense purportedly (though not at all) on my behalf all over the talk-show circuit. He will no doubt be accepting everything the Pope says uncritically if not expounding and expanding, turning programmatic suggestion into hyperbolic blinkered zeal.

I have a question for Bill Donohue and the rest of his ilk: what's the point of believing in human free will if you're going to spend every waking minute of your life trying to suppress it to the guessed-at Will Of God? Isn't that an abomination in itself? It seems like it should be if it isn't. It sounds a lot worse than masturbation at any rate.

If you're flipping through the high-numbered channels on your cable system this week and you do happen to see Mr. Donohue, please remember he and his whole "League" are self-appointed and have no official church standing. Thank you.

And that's how we Catholics transfer our annoyance from the Pope to insignificant middling intermediaries. It's quite a gift. It's what keeps us from all turning Protestant.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.3


Tuesday, January 11, 2005
A Rose By Any Other Name Would Be Called Something Else Entirely, Wouldn't It? Seriously, I'm Asking
I've been thinking and thinking about it, but it's no use. No matter how many times I mull it over it makes no sense. Could it really be true? And if it is, is there any crazy, crazy notion in this whole messed up world that couldn't be true?

Whatever the consequences, I have to admit it. It's true: I don't know anyone named Nancy.

Not only do I not currently know anyone named Nancy, I have never in my life personally met anyone named Nancy.

How could this be possible? Does this make sense to anyone else?

Sure, I've seen them on TV. There's Access Hollywood's chipper-scary bleach-toothed fake blonde Nancy O'Dell, the late Livia Soprano herself Nancy Marchand and of course the most famousest Nancy of them all, Facts of Life's Nancy McKeon. But that's like saying I know the stars because I've seen the sun.

I guess in some ways it kind of makes sense. According to the Social Security Administration's Baby Name Registry, Nancy ranks 74th amongst female names given in the 1970s (the decade I was born), equal with the male name Philip and I've only known one Philip. Total asshole, by the way. If you're reading this Phil, you're an asshole.

But as far as Nancy's popularity goes, it hasn't always been that way. I mean, 74th in the 1970s is down from 26th in the 1960s and a perpetual Top Ten for the thirty years preceding that. Nancy used to be the Brittany or Ashley of its day.

Hmm, maybe that's the problem. Hold on, I think I may have cracked it: Nancy was killed by its own ubiquity. Used to be whenever you met some girl, chances were better than one in ten that her name was Nancy. Perhaps it was so popular that the very name itself built around it such a powerful, explosive bundle of cultural weight and energy that the cross-identification of name and gender spun out of control, wreaking havoc across the linguistic landscape, laying waste to all in its path. And then as Hurricane Nancy's destructive force was spent, amongst the detritus and debris in its horrible wake, we were stuck with the association: Nancy = Girl.

And then, because we as males are always looking for new ways to ostracize, humiliate and belittle our peers--especially, say, during our playground years or when we want our sons not to run like such a goddamn girl--"nancy", like "mary" before it, found its way into schoolyard vocabulary to denote the feminine characteristics displayed by males.

O Nancy, how far you have fallen! From 74th most popular name given to American girls in the 1970s to a common epithet we use when we think the company we're in won't tolerate "faggy".

So now the only Nancys I know--that any of us know, be honest--are all actually more properly "nancies". But I don't see that as a permanent strike against the name. The tide may be turning. We've already got "metrosexual". Where "nancy" used to mean the inability to throw a ball, now maybe--and I can barely bring myself to dare to hope--"nancy" can mean well-dressed, good-smelling, neatly groomed, all singing, all dancing, all fabulous human being.

I hope for this before all else. Before world peace, before the health and well-being of my children, before a lake of gravy that only I know about. It's that important.

Tomorrow: why are there so many chicks named Cathy?

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.3


NOTE: I had effed up the link to the SSA baby name thingy. Instead you had a double dose of Nancy McKeon, which isn't as appealing to me as it was in 1987. Fixed.

Monday, January 10, 2005
Low And Outside
When my mom moved us into Corona in the late 1980s, I was not happy about it. Of course I was in my mid-teens, so I wasn't happy about alot of things, mostly stemming from the constant hormonally-induced erection I couldn't seem to get any mid-teenage girls to help me out with.

I had lived in Riverside County for most of my life, never really knowing I was supposed to be horrified and ashamed by the association. After my mom's second divorce, our circumstances (that's our euphemism for "homelessness") once again forced us to retreat to my aunt's house Mission Viejo, Orange County.

The streets in Mission Viejo all had medians and gutters, not to mention the meticulous landscaping. There were rec centers with pools and pool tables and tennis courts and a giant members only lake. There were country clubs and BMWs and Spanish-tyle tract houses and white people as far as the eye could see.

This was ninth grade. It was pointed out to me--sometimes directly, sometimes not--that places like this is where functional human beings should always endeavor to stay and places like, say, the gigantic tract of land in Riverside and (gasp!) San Bernardino counties were for those who strived and failed. I was determined to make it work. Even if I had to be the Uncle Tom of poor kids, I was gonna be one of them. I wasn't going back.

So when mom let her stupid personal dignity and one-income financial limitations cloud her judgment, she dragged my sisters and I to Corona, the first city just to the east of the Orange Curtain, undeniably part (again) of Riverside County.

Unlike the 1970s pre-fab planned communities of South OC, Corona was (and still is, come to that) over a century old. It had... old stuff all over it. Parts of it were positively distressed.

When you're fifteen, everything and anything remotely negative that happens to you is instantly the Worst Thing In Your Whole Life Ever. So at that point, moving to Corona was the Worst Thing Ever.

Fast forward 15+ years to last Saturday. My oldest boy is a Riverside County kid. It no longer means what it used to mean, quite (unless you ask an Orange Countian, who will insist it's all cows and meth labs out here). We have a Nordstrom for Christ's sake.

The unbelievable economic success of Orange County has driven many, many people east, fleeing crazy house prices and rampaging hordes of yuppies and their hip-hop ridiculous (or alternatively, White Power skinhead scary) teenage spawn. To their own personal shock and dismay, they find themselves by and large in Corona, by now almost entirely gentrified. The streets all have medians and gutters, not to mention the meticulous landscaping. There are country clubs and BMWs and Spanish-tyle tract houses and white people (more or less) as far as the eye can see. The population has doubled since I first moved there and they brought their Jamba Juice and their Pick Up Stix with them.

So when it came time to sign up my boy for his first-ever organized sports experience, I had my eye on Corona, my polished, come-of-age neighbor to the east of me. My ZIP code is Riverside, but I live in kind of a shadowy undefined space floating near the border of the two cities. It was worth a shot.

The boy and I turned up at the pizza place where they were doing the Little League sign-ups on Saturday. Full of kids, giant wall-sized TV, lots of noise and good humor. We drove past the LL park on the way: all green and open with shiny new play equipment.

I honestly wasn't sure if we were supposed to go to that particular LL or not, so I asked. The very nice man in the satin Corona LL jacket pointed me to the giant map. In the middle was a giant red ploygon indicating the designated Corona LL area.

And there, just to the east, clearly excluded, was my community. Bastards!

So I trudged up to the other Little League nearby, in an old part of Riverside, with old equipment that screamed tetanus. Sign-ups were inside the "community center". A homeless dude was sleeping under the eaves.

Being a Democrat I suppose this shouldn't bother me. I should take what community Little League program I'm assigned to and like it. It's not that I don't like homeless people either, I do. Heck, when I see one, I'll invariably smile, wave and shout at them loudly "Hello homeless person!" and then run like hell. Those fuckers are crazy, most of them.

But that's my story. That's my lot. It's not alot, but it's mine. The only real solace I take is that my son just wants to play baseball and doesn't care about the where so much. It isn't fancy-pants Corona, but it's organized and the field has grass. In places. And used condoms and hypodermics, probably. But still, I'll let him play.

Completely unrelated I swear, but does anyone know how to get a gun permit? Thanks.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.996 (.004 for the geographical information)


Sunday, January 09, 2005
This post is somewhat late. That is because I am now writing it on my fancy new home-built computer. It uses the same old beige case, but somehow it just looks sparklier and brighter.

The key words to explain the delay are, as you might guess, "home built". I have a brother-in-law who mumbles when he talks, is afraid of girls and rarely showers. This means he is something of an expert in all things computers. I bought all my constituent components on Saturday and then bribed him with pizza and awaited sparkly, bright newness to wash over my household.

When he left four hours later, my sparkly, bright new hunk of useless silicon laughed at our hubris. It actually laughed.

Or at least it would have if the fucking thing were at all capable of any kind of goddamn function.

So I trundled back to my local PC Club (which is, hard to believe, even dorkier than it sounds) so that I might be scolded and yelled at by a 14 year old halitosis-afflicted Super Tech dude.

Long story short, it works now. I would also like to say the person who thought up the oh-so-fancy RAID (uh... something something Independent Drive... I forget) technology that is supposed to do... something or other is, to be blunt, a fucker. They put that shit right on your motherboard and you're just supposed to know what it does and how not to make it fuck up your new computer. Bastards and their goddamn "improvements".

Time was a fella could wander in to his local Dork Squad office, gather a few components and cobble together a working PC. Apparently in the intervening four years since I last had to put one of these together, things have gotten infinitely more complicated. Seeing as my wife is an electrical engineer at a tech company, this is where I stop bitching because "infinitely more complicated" is currently paying for my house.

So like the first human who harnessed fire, the first who threw down his crude stone tools in favor of crude iron tools, the first who threw down his horse and picked up a railroad engine, the first frutstrated housewife who tossed aside her worn-down vibrator in favor of a complicated forty-piece masturbation machine (sorry no link, the pictures were just too nasty... google it yourself if you're that curious), I have cast aside my 933 MHz mule-drawn wagon in favor of a sleek, sophisticated mule-drawn 3.0 GHz monstrosity.

Also I am the last computer-using human being in the Western Hemisphere to switch from Windows 98 to XP. At last, my computer has vaulted into 2001.

Planned obsolescense, here we come!

Sorry it wasn't that interesting, but you see, I've got gaming to get to now.

Yes, I'm a sad specimen.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 9.995


Friday, January 07, 2005
Fear And Trembling or "Did You Feel It?"
About five minutes after I got out of bed yesterday, I was on the phone with Mrs. Pops. She goes in really early. She never calls that early, but she's helping out with a friend's bridal shower this month, so she had a list of stuff for me to do.

Just as I was about to tell her what I thought about that, just when I was about to point out that she was the one who volunteered to help and she should leave me the fuck out of it, goddamn it, because I'm a man and I don't have to do what she says because she's not the boss of me.

And then BOOM!shake-a-shake-a-shake...

Earthquake! Aaaaaagh! Earthquake earthquake! Doomed! Dooooomed! DOOOOOOMED!

Then it stopped. I have no idea how my wife knew what I was thinking and even less how she managed to rattle the very earth in order to pre-emptively punish me for it, but I apologized immediately anyway.

The quake measured 4.4 on the Narcis... er Richter scale and was centered in Fontana, roughly 25 miles north of me (as the MapQuest flies). When I learned that, the first thing I thought was: that's how karma works. Fontana used to be a steel town. Like all other American steel towns, it had fallen on hard times in the last, oh, thirty years or so. What this earthquake shows is that the answer to economic hard times is not and can never be to build a NASCAR track. That's what the people of Fontana did and now God has voiced his displeasure. When the firstborn sons of every family suddenly drop dead, don't say you weren't warned.

My second thought: minor local earthquake, no damage, no injuries. Finally! That super-depressing tsunami story is so over. Why would a news station carry a story about hundreds of thousands of dead foreigners again for like the 20th day in a row when they have a non-emergency local situation of utterly mundane and commonplace dimension to "team cover"? I mean, they laid out all that money for the fancy machine that makes the overlay title graphics. They might as well use it.

People think Californians all but ignore earthquakes, that we take them in our easy stride as part of our daily lives. This is not true. We simply get over them faster, assuming we are not lying at the bottom of a giant pile that used to be, say, an apartment block or a parking garage. Then it tends to keep your attention. But otherwise what you do when the shaking stops is call everyone you know and say "Did you feel it?" right before you play the Richter Scale game. That's a game where you randomly pick a number on the scale, the other person in the conversation does the same thing and then you take turns abusing each other for their obvious idiocy. And thus the nervous tension dissipates.

My dad is from Michigan, born and raised, still lives there. He was out once and we had a very, very minor--but noticeable--earthquake. It took several hours for him to regain his ability to speak and about four days for the color to return to his face. I had the same reaction the first time I ever visited him in winter, so geographically I guess we're even.

But like anyone else, Californians do exactly what you'd expect when an earthquake hits. We say things like "Oh holy fuck!" when the first BOOM! hits. If the first BOOM! hits and then fades away into a slow rattle, then you're OK. If there's a second BOOM!, you're in trouble. We do know we're supposed to stand in a doorway, something that sounds so stupid in times of clarity and geological stability, but suddenly seems eminently reasonable when your house is swaying. Of course it really makes as much sense as those old 1950s educational films that said you should flop down in a gutter and cover yourself in newspaper in the event of a nuclear attack. The idea, I guess, is to give the relief workers something to laugh about as they're climbing over the pile that used to be your house. "Hey Frank, take a look. Here's another dumb-fuck in a doorway. Heh heh. Let me know if you find the rest of his torso."

Topic shift, one last thing before the weekend:

Our kids are in Sunday school. We don't do it so much for the Jesus of it but mostly so the aren't in church with us during Mass, screaming out things like "my butt is itchy" (which they have) while the priest is up at the altar slitting the goat's throat.

Did I mention we were Catholic?

Anyway, at home my boys and I play this game where I lay on the floor and they all jump on me. It's fine with me since I don't have to move a whole lot. Basically it's a variation on a game they play call Smash Daddy's Testicles Flat. Essentially every game they play is a variation on that. I say they because at the same time, I'm playing a related but very different game called Protect My Junk From Pointy Kids' Knees. I don't always win.

How are these related? Well, recently when I've been laying on the floor, my three-year-old has been pulling my arms out straight, perpindicular to my body. Then he beats his little meatball fist against my palm, then does the same thing to the other arm/palm until I'm stretched out like a capital T. Then he announces: "There. I nailed you to a tree like Jesus and now you're going to die."

And I did.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 4.4 (in honor of my brethren in Fontucky)



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