Brian Sack

Yelp Review: Apple Berry iPhone Repair

My night table was not where I thought it was. As a result, my beloved iPhone 5S was placed on top of oxygen atoms which are sadly lacking in solidity. Had I placed the phone on top of the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms present in my wood night table, there would not have been a problem.

Absent the capability to support the iPhone, the oxygen atoms made no effort whatsoever to prevent the earth’s gravitational pull from drawing the phone into a downward acceleration. Based on the height of the night table that was not where I thought it was, I have to assume the phone struck the carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms comprising my hardwood flooring at approximately 11 mph. This resulted in what could be described as the Balkanization of the glass surface of my phone, and me cursing like a sailor being attacked by a spider monkey.

These folks fixed it rather quick-like.

 


 

 

Like everyone else, I share opinions on Yelp.

Welcome to My Terribly Neglected Blog

HUMBUG! I have not updated this sucker since August 2011 when my second book came out. Even before that it had been quite some time since I noticed it. Like a spouse of 50 years, I assume.

This blog was very good to me. I started it several years ago when time was not such a precious commodity. I’ve since made a baby, written a book, made another baby, written another book, and taken on the task of hosting a weekly TV show. These are all terribly time-consuming things if you want to do them right – and I’m afraid as a result this blog has fallen by the wayside.

A shame really, because there’s plenty of treasure to be found around here. I put my heart into this thing in the day and enjoyed it immensely.

Sadly the most popular entry is my dispatch about a Chinese squat toilet. I’m not big on poo humor, but this particular poo humor apparently hit a nerve. So, kazillions of views – and this before Facebook made it easy to share stuff.

Your New Monkey was read by Penn Gillette of Penn & Teller fame on his radio show. That was a nice surprise. I met Penn in October 2012 during a taping of Celebrity Apprentice I was involved in and got to thank him and give him a check for $10,000 for art it took him six seconds to make.
How Past Girlfriends Could Have Changed History was a piece I did for McSweeney’s way back. I stopped writing things for McSweeney’s after learning that they used my piece Possible Closing Lines for a Defendant Who Has Chosen to Represent Himself in a book. They never told me or let me write my bio line in the book. Or sent me a copy, for that matter. Uncool.

To the Person Who Found My Camera explains why my lost camera had numerous photos of a cat’s ass.

Then there’s this: DKNY Men’s Leather Pants I Unfortunately Own. It was an eBay ad I’d put up that wound up getting millions of views. I found myself being interviewed by TV and radio folks all over the planet. It did amazing things, like hook me up with producers and TV people and helped me get an agent who sold my first book to HarperCollins.

So, please enjoy my terribly neglected blog. There’s some good stuff in here. When I do get the time/hankering to write something silly I usually do it in my Yelp reviews.
In the meantime, I need to focus on my TV show. Go ahead and subscribe to the show’s YouTube Channel if you’re up for it.

Yelp Review: Sleep No More

About five minutes into my adventure some guy came running out of the shadows choking and I lost my wife.

At this point I felt weird and toyed with the idea of returning to the bar area. Not that it happens to me often, but I feel awkward in crowds of people in scary masks attending an experimental play. I started to worry that I was becoming another silly New Yorker who suffers through “performance art.” – one of those insufferable  dunderheads who stare at some crap abstract painting and barf up pretentious nonsense about its true meaning. I really don’t want to be those people.

But then I figured, fuck it, I’ve got a scary mask on. I wandered around the dark “street” pining for my wife and eventually found myself looking into a funeral parlor. A gentleman was seated at a desk writing something, so I figured I’d wander in and stare at him. He was surrounded by several of us – people in creepy masks – watching him write a note. Then he got up, looked out the window, and left. Some folks ran after him. I decided to rifle through his desk (you’re allowed to).

After that I was enjoying myself. I wandered in and out of stores and houses, watching scenes unfold, looking through drawers, reading correspondence and trying to find my wife. It made me realize that it’s hard to find my wife when she and everyone else is wearing a creepy mask. The mask is pretty liberating too – in a brief bout of extraordinary optimism on my part I looked at masked women and assumed that every single one had attractive faces underneath.

I eventually stumbled into my wife again. We found ourselves watching a pregnant woman clearly in distress. She apparently took a liking to me. She held my hands and guided me to a door. She opened the door with a key and led me in to a tiny room with an altar – then closed and locked the door. It was just us. She caressed my cheek and asked me if I was okay. I nodded yes and started to wonder if my wife was standing outside wondering what the hell was going on. Then the woman took off my mask, hugged me, rubbed my hands and generally made me wonder if she was going to make out with me. She gestured for me to kneel at the altar, then reached around me (very close – I thought she might nibble on my ear), tore a page out of a book and folded it into a pocket. I stood back up and she dipped my hand in a goblet of water, ran my wet finger down her face and put the “tears” into the pocket, which she handed me. Mask back on, door opens and next thing I know I’m standing in a room alone realizing everyone had taken off. Apparently my wife wasn’t too concerned that a woman dragged me into a closet. And I’d lost my wife again.

Anyway – weird. But good weird. Really well done. After the grand finale I found my wife again and we compared notes: I’d seen a wonderful pair of breasts and my wife had seen two penises. A most unusual evening indeed.

[My Yelp page is here]

The Trailer for the Book

This is the trailer for my new book. You didn’t used to have to do trailers for books, but then something called the Internet came and completely changed publishing. So now books have trailers like movies do. I don’t know why. I don’t make the rules.
The book is available at bookstores. Hopefully at eye-level. It’s also available at Amazon like everything is.

As far as the timing of book releases goes, I’d like to thank the Republicans and Democrats for pissing off 88% of the population with this debt ceiling nonsense. You’ve really made my job easier.
And my job? That would be book promotion. Around the same time the Internet changed publishing, the publishing folks changed the way they do publicity for books by making the authors responsible for most of it.

Yelp Review: Mars 2112

If I were writing a screenplay about struggling actors working in a depressing theme restaurant, it would be set here.

We enter. A woman with gold sparkles splattered on her face and a nominal command of language ushers us into the “spaceship” to Mars. My darling prodigies grab seats in the front of the empty spacecraft. Eventually we “take off” meaning the doors close and the video starts playing. Alas, the “spaceship” is broken.

“Why aren’t we moving?” my four-year old wonders.

“This is lame!” says the six-year old.

The kids spend the entire four-minute, pre-Pixar animation pointing out that the spaceship does not move. It ends. We exit into the “Mars spaceport” where glitter-face awaits.

“Was you payin’ attention to the movie?” she asks.

We was! We pass her quiz and are directed to a corpulent woman with glowing antlers. She’s seated at her station, looking down, chins resting in her palm. No eye contact. In retrospect she was probably hoping I’d deliver a quick death blow to the back of her neck.

“First name?” she asks. Still no eye contact. I answer. She directs us downstairs to the hostess… who asks me if my name is Brian.

From what I can ascertain, the primary function of the overweight alien upstairs is telling the downstairs hostess my name before I can tell her myself. Not that I want to contribute to the nation’s unemployment, but I don’t see why there needs to be a middleman or middlealien for that task.

We enter the restaurant area, a big room with fake red rocks and TVs hailing from an age when Michael Jackson wasn’t creepy, Mel Gibson was cool and George Lucas hadn’t murdered the Star Wars franchise. They run a looped video of an alien doing sign language from what looks to be a sixth-generation VHS copy.

We’re seated at a ridiculously crooked table. My kids clamber onto the duct-taped banquette. Nearby, the man who will be our waiter reassures a very large customer that he’ll correct her bill. Promising. Around us are couples without children. One has to wonder: Why on earth would anyone of sound mind come to a Mars-themed restaurant without kids? Yet, there they are. Maybe they know something I don’t. Maybe the ramshackle Martian atmosphere is a great place to break up with someone or tell your wife you’ve been posting crotch shots on Craigslist.

One of the day’s specials is pesto linguine sprinkled with mozzarella and peanuts. Do they mean pine nuts? It says peanuts. Maybe glitter-face writes the menus. Or maybe the chef actually thinks that sounds delicious. The menu reads like Ruby Tuesday’s, but with space-related words randomly tacked on: Quasar Quesadilla, Nebula Chili Nachos, Astral Cod Fish Sandwich. Mmmm, astral.

The waiter is nice but doesn’t know what a gimlet is and has no idea what gins they offer. Why do I want a gimlet? Because their beer and wine selection is shameful. He returns to tell me, “Yes, they have Bombay and they have gimlet.”

A three-eyed alien approaches the table. The youngest buries his head in his hands. The older one is coloring his placemat. The alien does some hand gestures, blows a kiss and meanders off. I feel bad for the alien because she is a person in a costume as old and tattered as the establishment. Inside is some poor human being with hopes and dreams, her head stuck inside a filthy three-eyed alien helmet, breathing stale air and wondering if the résumés she recently blasted out will come to anything.

My gimlet is terrible but at least it’s strong. Another “alien” walks by in a mask and blue leotard. He’s in too much of a hurry to stop but offers up a wave. The kids are indifferent.

The food arrives. Plastic plates. The kids’ macaroni and cheese is elbow pasta floating in orange cheese liquid. My chicken breast sandwich – which my waiter told me was great – is a paragon of mediocrity. Flavorless white protein draped with soggy pieces of undercooked bacon in a fresh-from-fridge cold bun. A chicken’s life squandered.

Naturally, the arrival of the food activates my four-year old’s bladder. We dash to the restroom where I come to the mind-blowing realization that Mars 2112 has a washroom attendant. Until this moment I had always assumed they graced only the most pretentious establishments: Five star hotels, trendy nightclubs, “Gentlemen’s” clubs. There’s now a dramatic shift in my understanding of the rules of washroom attendantry.

Back at the table the kids nurse their orange pasta soup. We’re approached by a woman identifying herself with a straight face as Empress Gloriana, ruler of Mars. She asks how everything is. With no regard to the legal penalties on Mars for bald-faced lying I say, “Good.” She wishes us well and moves on to matters of more diplomatic import, I can only hope.

At that moment I decide life on Mars is depressing. I make the call to return to Earth immediately which thrills the kids to no end. Apparently they missed it.

 

[My Yelp page is here]

One Week To Book Release / Debt Ceiling Debacle

bsofa-ad.jpg
This is my book. It comes out August 2nd.
It is a nonpartisan look at politics in the U.S.A. – hence the title.
In fact, it’s kind of ironic that it releases on the same day Washington politicians plan on imploding the country for the sake of partisan politics. Woo!
You can pre-order it on Amazon. Or get it at Barnes & Noble. And until they went Bankrupt last week, Borders was an option.

Piña Colada Song 2011

I felt compelled to adapt Rupert Holmes’s “Piña Colada Song” for modern times. And I don’t see why he doesn’t, seeing as Elton John does that crap all the time.
I was tired of my lady
We’d been together too long
Like a tired old playlist
Of my iPod’s best songs
So while she lay there sleeping
I was on Craigslist in bed
And in casual encounters
There was a posting I read
“If you like Pina Coladas
And getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga
If you have half a brain
If you’d like making love at midnight
In the dunes on the Cape
Then I’m the love that you’ve looked for
Write to me and escape.”
I didn’t think about my lady
I know that sounds kind of mean
But me and my old lady
Have fallen into the same old dull routine
So I posted on Craigslist
But didn’t spellcheck my ad
And though I’m nobody’s poet
I thought it wasn’t half bad
“yes i like Pena coladas
and getting caught in the rain
im not much into health food
i am into champain
ive got to see you by tomorow noon
and cut through all this red-tape
text me a pic of your body
and not just your face.”
So I waited with high hopes
Into my iPhone it came
I knew her smile in an instant
Though resolution was lame
It was my own lovely lady
I texted, “Oh it’s you.”
We LOL’d for a moment
She texted back, “I never knew.”
That you like Pina Coladas
Getting caught in the rain
And the feel of the ocean
And the taste of champagne
That you like making love at midnight
In the dunes of the Cape
You’re the lady I’ve looked for
Come with me and escape

Yelp Review: Little Branch

This is the first establishment that got me thinking about ice cubes.

I’d never really thought about ice cubes before. I knew them to be cold. I knew that their time on earth was limited, especially if I’m drinking. But I never really thought about the diversity of ice cubes we enjoyed. At least in New York City – I certainly can’t speak for your village or rebel-held province.

The ice cube in my drink was the largest ice cube I’d even seen. It was like a Rubik’s Cube floating in gin. It was perfect in all ways – smooth, crystal clear, square. It was like a supermodel as far as ice cubes go and I miss her very much (Yes, I assign ice cubes gender).

I think about that ice cube and the brief time we spent together a lot. Probably too much. I’m a simple man who can be won over by frozen water.

 


 

 

Like everyone else, I share opinions on Yelp.

Yelp Review: Ninja Restaurant

It occurred to me that I’d never taken my son to a restaurant where strange people leap out from the shadows. I decided to rectify this situation immediately.

Upon researching dining venues peopled with faux-assassins, I came to realize that in all of New York City there appears to be only one. One! I was flabbergasted. What giant, cultured metropolis worth its salt has only one restaurant where you can pay lots of money for food while being kind-of attacked with swords? Once proud of my city, I immediately felt like I lived in some depressing third-world backwater. Clearly we can only call ourselves an “up and coming” city until we have a wide variety of dining establishments where men in skirts shout “Heeeya!” and place cold, dull steel against your throat.

My son, 6, was was completely and regrettably unfazed by what I would describe as an “expensive” dining experience. He still struggles with the concept of money being used to purchase goods and services. He and his foolish friends still barter.

The food wasn’t bad, just pricey for what you got. What he got was chicken teriyaki he liked and tempura shrimp he wouldn’t touch. The waiter rather admirably insisted that the vegetables be eaten before he would materialize with dessert. It takes a village.

Dinner took a while because instead of eating it, my son was absolutely fixated on the prospect of being set upon by the legendary, gratuity-dependent, shadow warriors. He sat back-to-the-wall, calling out “I hope nobody attacks me” at one minute intervals. I have to admit I felt betrayed that he devilishly permitted a smallish, pony-tailed man to creep up behind me and put a dagger to my throat as I tucked into a ribeye.

The arrival of the “ninjician” was the highlight of the entertainment – which until that point had consisted solely of the aforementioned shouting/leaping/thrusting people. He performed several tricks, the last one being quite impressive.

My son clearly enjoyed his time there and declared it to be his favorite restaurant. That hurts, considering I’ve taken him to some remarkable ones. I attempted to suggest that we were in a “special occasion” venue only – perhaps we’d visit when he got married. He was having none of it and asked if we could dine there again on the morrow. I said no because I’m the parent and I win.

[My Yelp page is here]

Your Vacation In Iceland

Congratulations! You’ve just purchased your airline tickets and are committed to a vacation in the truly remarkable country of Iceland. What can you expect?

IT IS COLD. Iceland is called Iceland for a reason. If it were Sunland or Warmistan you could be forgiven for being upset at the absence of heat you will undoubtedly experience. There’s no false marketing here. The country is called Iceland precisely so that there are no surprises. In the Icelandic summer, which I understand is about a week in August or something, the temperatures may even reach 70 degrees for a few hours. Do your weather homework and pack accordingly.

IT IS PERFECT FOR AMERICAN TOURISTS. Americans are generally terrible tourists which is why I pretend I’m not American when I travel. No matter where they are they tend to assume everyone speaks English. They point at things and say, “What’s in that sandwich, is that ham?” or “Hey, buddy, do you know where I can find a Citibank ATM?” and they are flummoxed when people shrug their shoulders and say “Je ne comprende pas, je ne parle pas l’anglais.” But that doesn’t happen in Iceland because everyone speaks English. Everyone. And they speak it better than most of the kids I come across in New York. Even a guy working a gas station, seven teeth, filthy hands, looks like he was recently beaten: “Will there be anything else, sir? No? That will be six thousand eight hundred Kroner please.”

IT’S GOING TO SUCK CASH FROM YOUR WALLET. Even after the collapse of their economy Iceland is ridiculously expensive. That’s because Iceland is a giant volcanic rock covered in moss. Only 0.07% of their land is arable. As a result, practically everything is imported with the exception of fish and horses. Plus it’s an enormous welfare state. One Icelander hotel manager told me she’d be much better off financially if she was an unemployed single mom. How does the government foot entitlements like that? They tax the living crap out of absolutely everything. The tax on alcohol is amazing – it rakes in more than their gas tax. Bottle of crappy, horrible, lousy, awful Gallo white wine that you’d get for around $12 in the States? It’s $53. Cheers!
IT’S CLIMATOLOGIC ATTENTION-DEFICIT PARADISE. The weather changes every few minutes. It snowed. Then it was sunny. Then it rained. Then it was cloudy. Then there was hail. Then it was sunny. Then it snowed. And it was sunny. Then cloudy. Then we went to bed and heard the world’s most incredible windstorm. And it apparently rained after that because the car was wet. You will most likely never be bored with the weather.
YOU’LL THINK YOU’RE ON A STAR TREK SET. Hot sulfuric steam comes out of the ground. There are pools of boiling blue mud. There are geysers. There are bizarre lavascapes formed by eruptions of the past. Endless fields of rock. Sub-arctic plants. Black sand beaches. There are giant fissures in the earth’s crust that let you totally visualize the tectonic plates underneath you. And it’s freaking empty. Assuming you’re traveling on your own and not in a tour bus you’ll soon come to realize that you are the only representatives for humanity in the area and if your car breaks down you’re probably going to die.
IT’S A DRIVING PARADISE. Since only about 318,000 people live there the roads are often empty once you’re out of the main city of Reykjavik. And it’s hard to get lost because the main road is a circle around the island. If you get lost, just ask someone “Where’s Route 1?” and they’ll say, “It’s right over there,” and then you’re back on your way. Naturally in a country so small, the police presence is limited. I saw one Lögreglan the whole time I was there and he was just going about his business. I drove as fast as I wanted mainly because I was an ignorant tourist who had no idea how dangerous that was to do.
IT’S AN OUTDOORSMAN’S PARADISE. Do you like fishing? You are surrounded by a giant ocean filled with them. And rivers and streams and ponds and puddles. All the snow sports are accounted for, of course, and even if it isn’t snowing where you are you simply hop in a car and three minutes later you’re on top of a mountain and it’s winter wonderland. There are tall rocks everywhere to climb. And mountains, of course. And hiking trails everywhere. And majestic glaciers galore. I did not realize you could simply drive up to a glacier, but you can. Driving, driving, driving, GLACIER. The particular glacier I drove up to, Svínafellsjökull, had a plaque dedicated to two Germans who vanished in it so I opted not to try walking on it. Or rather, my wife told me I couldn’t.
IT’S GREAT FOR KIDS. What kid doesn’t love a boiling pool of blue mud, natural steam vents or a spewing geyser? And exotic animals! Kids have to love adorable (and edible) puffins. And gorgeous (and edible) whales. And they’re sure to love the fact that the only affordable meal consists of Iceland’s (totally delicious and edible) gas station hot dogs. Just exercise some caution because unlike America where we put up fences and walls and barriers and 300 signs telling you how to not injure yourself, Iceland puts an ankle-high piece of string around a pool of mud with a little sign telling you it’s 250 degrees.
MANY ICELANDERS HAVE EMBRACED AMERICAN OVERWEIGHTNESS. Based on a chance encounter with an attractive Icelandic woman 20 years ago, and because of the singer Björk, I assumed Icelandic women were svelte and pixie-like. This is not the case at all. Many are some degree of overweight. Perhaps it’s because gas station hot dogs are the only affordable food. Or because they’re stuck indoors for seven months because of the weather, surfing the Internet for pictures of what the sun looks like. I have to say my wife found the men to be more attractive.
THEY LOVE SITTING IN WATER. Even tiny towns have community swimming pools, often heated by a pipe that goes way down into the earth and taps an endless supply of incredible, pollution-free heat. These are year-round social centers where people just sit outside in hot tubs and talk about stuff with their friends and neighbors. They sit and chat as the snow falls, turns to rain, sun comes out, hail falls, etc. I imagine they ask each other things like “What are you going to do for the week that is considered summer?”
YOU WILL GET BORED OF AWESOME WATERFALLS. The country is completely littered with amazing waterfalls. At first you’ll be screaming, “Look at that!” and “Oh my God!” and “Wow!” Several days later you’ll be so jaded that you won’t even bother letting other folks there’s some spectacular waterfall off in the distance. Every time you see a waterfall, you’ll fantasize about swimming under it. Then you’ll remember that the water is always a few degrees short of freezing and you’ll fantasize about drinking it instead.
I love Iceland. Also, I am declaring bankruptcy.

How To Book A Hotel Room In Iceland

iceland.jpg
Go to the hotel’s website. It was designed in the late 1990s but it should have room rate information somewhere.
The room rate information will be in Icelandic Króna (ISK). Is 20,000 ISK expensive? Who knows? You’ll have to leave the web page and go to Google Finance. Use the currency converter to find out.
Return to the hotel’s web page armed with the knowledge of the room rate.
There is no way to reserve a room online.
Send an email to the hotel’s reservation desk asking if there is a room available on the date you’ll be there.
Wait 2-3 days.
Call the hotel.
The hotel does not answer the phone. After 20 rings you are hung up on.
Call the hotel.
The hotel does not answer the phone. After 20 rings you are hung up on.
Send an email to the hotel’s reservation desk reminding them that you sent an email asking if there is a room available on the date you’ll be there.
Receive an email telling you a room is indeed available, please email your credit card information to them.
Respond to the email by telling them you do not feel comfortable sending credit card information over an email.
Receive an email saying to call tomorrow between 4am-9am your time.
Call the hotel close to 9am.
The hotel does not answer the phone. After 20 rings you are hung up on.
Send an email saying you would like to confirm the room with a credit card but no one picked up the phone.
Wait one day.
Call the hotel.
The hotel does not answer the phone. After 20 rings you are hung up on.
Send an email saying you will fax the credit card information instead. Ask if they take American Express.
Wait two days.
Receive an email saying the fax machine is broken. Suggests calling between 4a-7a and 1p-5p your time.
Call the hotel.
Woman answers! Provide credit card information. Receive confirmation via email.

Odyssey Dawn Belongs On Charlie Sheen’s Sofa

Odyssey Dawn sounds like a porn star name. I’m not quite sure why they went that route. It seems to buck the trend of naming military operations something that kind of makes sense. Desert Storm makes sense. Uphold Democracy makes sense. Provide Comfort makes sense. Odyssey Dawn? Porn star name.
Naming military operations is something the Germans started doing in World War I. Other countries caught on and by World War II America was naming operations too. But we were new at the game and not very good at it so we went with names like Alpha and Leader. Kind of dull and they didn’t say much about the actual operation. That was intentional because giving too much away was considered a bad idea after British intelligence came to realize that Operation Sea Lion was Germany’s plan to invade Britain.
By the time we were in Vietnam operation names were being used more for public relations, although they still weren’t particularly descriptive. Furthermore, names like Masher and Flaming Dart angered the anti-war crowd.
Nowadays clever operational names are par for the course. Usually, anyway, I have no idea what happened with regard to Odyssey Dawn. Here’s how Slate explains the naming process:

For a big deal like the Iraq War, staff officers compile a list of two-word nicknames that seem appropriate, and their commanding officer picks one, keeping in mind that it may be used to sell the public on the validity of the undertaking. Then he submits his choice to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for approval and then the Secretary of Defense for a final OK.

The more minor operations – which I presume Odyssey Dawn is – there is a different protocol, which actually might explain how they arrived at Odyssey Dawn:

The Joint Chiefs of Staff assign each command agency in the Department of Defense a set of two-letter alphabetic combinations–Southern Command, for example, has BL and KE, among other pairings. (Or, at least, it did as of 2002. The document list is classified.) The first word of each nickname must start with one of these designated pairs; the second word is random.

Regardless of how they got there, Odyssey Dawn is a name that seems to fail the guidelines laid out by Lt. Colonel Gregory Sieminski in a 1995 article for Parameters the quarterly for the U.S. Army War College:

First, make it meaningful.


Odyssey Dawn is not particularly meaningful, but is an excellent porn star name.

Second, identify and target meaningful audiences.


The audience in this case is the world community, and especially Arabs. A good name can send them a calming message. Operation Civil Shield or Operation You Asked Us To Do This, Remember? might reassure the Arab street that we’re not going on another Middle East adventure. Odyssey Dawn doesn’t do that. Porn star name.

Third, be cautious of fashions.


In other words, don’t get stuck with a clichéd convention like the very popular verb-noun combination: Provide Hope, Provide Comfort, Provide Relief or Uphold Democracy. They managed to evade that with Odyssey Dawn’s noun-noun combination. But it still makes no sense and sounds like a porn star name.

Finally, make it memorable.


Oh, it’s memorable alright. Odyssey Dawn, Jenna Jameson and Shyla Stylez in No Guy Zone.

A Primer In Politics For The Incredibly Disenchanted

Alas, I’m afraid my blog is more neglected than one of Charlie Sheen’s children. There are several reasons. Babies, busy, ran out of funny. One of the bigger reasons for this extended neglect has been that I’ve been working on another book. The final edits are on their way to the publisher, Simon & Schuster. The book will look like this:
BS of A Cover
Please sear the image in to your memory so that you recognize it when you stroll into a book store. Assuming book stores still exist when the book comes out.
Speaking of: It will come out in June 2011. Or July 2011. Or August 2011. It’s hard to say. Every time I ask someone I get a different answer. The good money seems to be on July. Let’s just say July.
As you can see, it is called The B.S. of A: A Primer in Politics for the Incredibly Disenchanted. The assumption is you are among the incredibly disenchanted. Like my last book is a humor book. Unlike my last book, which was ostensibly directed at my son, it is ostensibly directed at everyone.
It’s about politics, as the title suggests, and I tend to poke fun at a lot of things. There’s a good chance I poke fun at some thing or politician you like. I hope that doesn’t make you mad. It’s all for the greater good of being as objective and non-partisan as possible, which is what we’re sorely lacking these days.

I Am An Expert On France

In case you were unaware, French highways become parking lots during the summer. Especially in the south of France. Especially on Saturdays when people are departing from or arriving to the vacation houses they’ve rented. I learned that fact this summer, having spent countless hours in various traffic jams. Just sitting. Sitting, sitting, sitting and watching people pee fearlessly and without shame on the side of the road in front of 12,000 cars with families inside.
That experience coupled with my other previous visits to France make me an expert. I am an expert on France.
My hope is that the next time I appear on CNN or Fox News, I will not be slugged as “humorist” or “author” but rather “France Expert” or “Expert on France” even. As an expert, I could weigh in on a variety of topics. Hopefully better than I weighed in on celebrities when I appeared on Showbiz Tonight because in that instance, sadly for the girl who booked me on the show, I didn’t know shit about the celebrities. But I do know about France. Par exemple:
Frenchmen have incredible self-esteem. Amazing, baffling, often unwarranted self-esteem rivaling that of many Los Angeleans. A gangly, cross-eyed, lisping Frenchman with razor burn and soiled pants will still have no problem trying to seduce your wife in front of your very eyes, and for that I admire Frenchmen greatly. In my youth I viewed my concave chest and poor posture as detrimental to the acquisition of female companionship. Not in France. In France I would have slouched up to the most beautiful woman in the room, whipped off my demi-glace stained t-shirt, pushed her boyfriend aside and offered her the chance to make sweet love in the nearest utility closet.
As an expert on France, I know France isn’t so crazy about being at the office. Public sector employees can work no more than 35 hours a week. It’s the law. It’s absurd, impractical and unsustainable, but it’s the law and if you dare try and change it they will come down on you with a fury like you’ve never seen and go on strike. And strike they do, because if there’s one thing French people like more than cheese, Bordeaux and your wife, it’s going on strike. In fact, they’re on strike as I write this because some imbecile had the brilliant idea to change the retirement age from 60 to 62 because the system is bankrupt.
Because of my status as an expert on France I knew that when my tire valve broke on a Friday afternoon at 4:58pm I was utterly screwed. I knew at that very moment that anyone who was capable of fixing my broken tire valve was closing up his shop. Or, more likely, had already called it a day around 2:30pm. Even worse, I knew that those people would certainly not be opening their store on Saturday. And especially not on Sunday. And my problem would inevitably have to wait until Monday – unless I was willing to sit down with a phone and the PagesJeunes and start calling every tire-valve related business in a 150-mile radius. In fact, we did find one gentleman open on Saturday, which was incroyable. Or, it was incroyable until we learned that his grandfather was Polish. No doubt it was that tiny smattering of non-French DNA in him which was responsible for his working on a weekend.
Incidentally, you may be wondering how my tire valve broke. Well, I used a gonflage machine at a gas station that was supposed to put air into my tires but instead opted to break my tire valve (for the low price of 60¢). Vive les gonfleurs de France!
As an expert on France, I know why so many stores don’t post their business hours on the door. It’s because they just don’t know. Maybe they’ll be there in the morning. Maybe not. Who can say? You’ll just have to stop by and see. And when you do stop by and see that they’re closed you get mad and shake your head. But it doesn’t matter because as an expert on France I know that absolutely no one there cares.
Having driven a lot in France I have learned that should you require some modicum of courtesy – someone letting you cut in, perhaps – you are doomed. French drivers would run over a classroom’s-worth of schoolchildren rather than let you pull out in front of them. No mercy. And, as your expertise in all things francaise grows you come to realize that the only way to get from Point A to Point B is to do what they do, which is to disregard the rear and side-view mirrors and simply go where you have to go and accept the consequence which is inevitably an angry French person shaking his or her fist at you. I lost count of the number of French people who shook their fists at me but if I were to arm them all with maracas it would have been a hell of a concert.
French food and wine is spectacular. I’m an expert. I know this. Their devotion to quality is unparalleled. Fantastic food can be found in the dingiest brasseries, bistros and cafés. A simple sandwich purchased at a gas station makes a mockery of American casual dining. They care about ingredients. They care about quality and taste. They don’t want you to pasteurize their cheese. There is no lo-cal version. High fructose corn syrup? Non! They use sugar. They don’t give a crap about sodium, trans-fat, cholesterol or carbs. It’s just better. French shrimp? Incredible. Tastes like shrimp. In comparison American shrimp tastes like packing peanuts. Their foods are fatty, salty, unhealthy… and absolutely delicious as a result. And unlike Americans they don’t eat twelve pounds of it at once so French people are, by and large, not very large.
Anyone who has spent enough time in the States knows we’re a service culture. We might score badly in education, foreign policy and per-capita energy consumption but we are awesome at service. And that’s why Americans, spoiled by the 60-second “greet times” mandated in chain restaurants like TGI Fridays, are often flabbergasted at the French concept of service. In my opinion as an expert, the French love food so much that they want you to savor it all day- which explains why the waiter disappears for hours at a time. But that’s only if you can get the food. At 12:30pm a friend of mine ordered room service from the “24 hour room service” menu at a posh Parisian hotel. An hour later they called to tell him his order had been lost. He tried to re-order but was interrupted: I’m sorry sir, the kitchen is closed. An adorable young hostess turned us away because it was “already” 1:15pm. Mind you, we were a normal-sized party of four, the restaurant was half-empty and it was lunch time. When they do seat you, acquiring a menu can take a quarter of an hour. Waiters will chat up a table for 20 minutes before taking a smoke break. Crap service is a by-product of France not being tip-oriented. The waiter’s getting paid the same regardless of how quickly he brings your frites. And anyway, he assumes that you have a 2-3 hour lunch break that you’re trying to milk.
As an expert on France I can tell you that the image of the obnoxious, arrogant Frenchman is unwarranted. Except in Paris. Everyone in France, including the Parisians, hates the Parisians. Fortunately car tags let you know who the Parisians are so you needn’t guess. One glance at the département from which they hail and you’ll know whether to immediately shake your fist at them or to wait a few seconds before doing so. In my travels throughout the country I’ve encountered very few of the typical stereotypes conjured up when Americans talk about the French. Most French folks outside of Paris are quite pleasant – you might even encounter one if you happen to find a store that is open. They’re grateful when you speak the language, or in my case speak the language like a six-year old. In Normandy they’re still appreciative that we swung by on D-Day some 66 years ago.
As an American expert on France, I know they get a lot of flak for throwing their hands up in 1940 and letting the Wehrmacht sail on in (“cheese-eating surrender monkeys” as Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons famously put it). But traveling around France has helped me put that into perspective: In every town – from the tiniest one-bakery village to the biggest metropolitan centers you’ll find a World War I monument. We Americans, having strolled into that conflict at the very end, tend to forget or never knew that much of the Great War was fought on French soil and that France suffered immeasurably as a result. Actually, it is measurable if you look at the names of all the dead on the monuments. When you’re in a village that’s a croissant’s throw in length by a baguette wide and you find a monument covered in scores of names of the young men that little place sacrificed, you start to understand the scale of their losses in World War I. So, when the Germans came goose-stepping and Heil-Hitlering 22 years later, a country that had already sacrificed generations of their able-bodied men was being asked to do it all over again. The lack of enthusiasm should be understandable, in my opinion. And my opinion is very valuable, in my opinion, because as I’ve established I am an expert. In my opinion.
Sure, there is plenty to criticize about France. They’re not nearly as germ-phobic as I’d like them to be. They handle money and food at the same time, and will lay your baguette on the counter. The bathrooms can be frightful. Administratively, they have some pretty insane policies in dire need of fixing particularly with regard to immigration, unemployment and entitlements. Their socialized healthcare system is pretty darn good and beyond generous – you can be prescribed a lovely visit to a spa. Of course it’s been running at a deficit for 25 years now despite the hefty taxes that subsidize it.
When a problem does get really bad, inevitably someone stands up and proposes fixing it. That prompts everyone else to go on strike until said person throws his or her hands up and sits down. Attempt to reform the educational system? Furious protest. Try and change the crazy 35-hour work-week law? Furious protest. Allow businesses to fire new employees who aren’t working out? Furious protest. In France, there is nothing they won’t protest furiously. In fact, they’re in the streets today because they want to retire at 60 and not 62, damn you! I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this strike will probably be resolved by everyone deciding to kick the can down the road and deal with it another time.
I’m an expert on France because I love France. For all its flaws, they really have done the place up quite nicely. It’s gorgeous. And if you like castles, they have castles up the wazoo. So don’t put off a visit to France. And I’d say you should go sooner rather than later, because at some point they won’t be able to kick the can down the road anymore, and the party will truly be over and I’ll have to become an expert in something else. Like Yonkers.

Google Presents An Exciting Business Opportunity

My wife and I had been talking for a long time about a start-up business. We’d been looking for something challenging and rewarding. As you can imagine, when this well-targeted Google ad popped up it was a eureka moment for both of us:

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Labor camps! Of course! Why didn’t we think of that? So much better than ostrich farms or retailing on eBay.
I know from having read Anne Applebaum’s Gulag that labor camps can be immensely profitable – the Soviet Union relied on them. And part of China’s great economic success stems from the low-cost labor often associated with mass involuntary servitude.
As the ads contend, China is the world’s supplier of all your labor camp needs. North Korea too, I suppose, but they’re not really big on the Internet just yet.

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We immediately sketched out our plan for a small, manageable labor camp. Nothing too fancy as we could always expand later. We secured a small parcel of land in upstate New York (a bargain because it was clay soil next to a mosquito-infested swamp). Taxes are minimal.
As the ad promised, we got a better deal on a bulk labor camp. It arrived in 3,221 separate shipments. Granted, most of our spring was exhausting as we spent it installing fence posts, latrines and razor wire. But – I’m happy to say we’re now in business and looking forward to the adventure that is entrepreneurship.

Grammar Cop: Steady Doesn’t It

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Defendant: CamCaddie
Count 1: Negligent spelling.
Count 2: Failure to proofread retail product packaging.
Count 3: Mass distribution of grammatical malfeasance.
Report: Officer was in Los Angeles, strolling the aisles of Filmtools, the Mecca for film professionals when the crime attracted his attention like a freaking strobe light – despite being on the lowest shelf. It was just that obvious.
Fine: $245 and the Original CamCaddie steady camera mount.