Thoughts

Jury Duty Tips

We’re blessed to live in a country where each and every individual (not you, felons!) can participate in the justice system. A trial by a jury of our peers is one of our inalienable rights, and serving as a juror is not only a privilege but a civic obligation.
That said, sometimes jury duty can be a dreadfully tedious ordeal that you’d really like to get the hell out of – like if the trial will last over a month and is about rich people suing other rich people over a bent building.
Here are some helpful tips:

  • Declare yourself a sovereign republic. Tell the lawyers you are not subject to the laws or jurisdiction of the United States because you are a country from the skin inward.
  • Approach the lawyers and ask, “Where the guilty one at?” This should result excusal on grounds of bias and/or grammatical malfeasance.
  • Tell them you’re part of a daytime improvisational comedy troupe Mission Improv-able that will suffer hardship if you’re not there to provide base swears and crude scatological references.
  • Rock back and forth mumbling, “Man, I wish Carrot Top could see this.”
  • When the attorneys ask if you can be fair and impartial say, “For $40 a day? Pick one.”
  • Hold a quarter and keep referring to it as The Decisionmaker.
  • Tell them you will be fair and impartial as dictated by Starfleet legal code.
  • Frighten every attorney in the room by suggesting this could probably be resolved through binding arbitration instead.

Patents for a Better Tomorrow: Stop-To-Type Technology

ABSTRACT
Stop-To-Type technology disables the keyboard on your mobile phone or PDA when the device detects movement. This eliminates the dangers associated with people weaving down sidewalks as they write novellas to friends, family and business associate on their personal electronic devices.
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates generally to mobile communications equipment and common sense. More specifically, it is an improved method of communication that helps prevent innocent individuals from having to alter their on-foot transportation trajectories as a result of another party’s inability to properly combine mobility and text communication methods.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
1. The technology, once applied to all known text-capable communication devices, operates unobtrusively and automatically.
2. When device owner (forthwith: Marcus) determines that he must send an SMS or email message to his friend about nailing Doris after the Rangers game, he begins to use the device.
3. The invention determines whether Marcus is stationary (seated/standing) or mobile (walking down 6th Avenue).
4. If the invention determines that Marcus is in fact walking down 6th Avenue, it disables the keyboard. This prohibits Marcus from walking as he types his message about nailing Doris last night after the Rangers game. (Fig. A)
5. By disabling Marcus’s ability to walk and type a message about nailing Doris last night after the Rangers game, the invention allows Marcus to focus on his personal speed and trajectory. This should help prevent Marcus from careening into me and my $2.28 Starbucks venti coffee.
6. If the invention determines that Marcus is in fact stationary, the keyboard is then enabled, allowing Marcus to type his message about nailing Doris after the Rangers game. (Fig. B)
CLAIMS
What is claimed as invention is the technology that overrides the apparent inability of electronics-bearing pedestrians to perform two simultaneous functions.
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Sober On St. Paddy’s

It’s St. Paddy’s and that means one thing: everyone is going to be good and liquored-up. But not me. Every year I celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by staying sober.
It’s fine to be drunk 364 days of the year but St. Paddy’s Day is a special time. It’s a time to honor a saint who did something or other. I don’t want to tarnish his memory and the value of whatever he might have accomplished by slurring, throwing up in a bush or crying about being dumped 22 years ago. I want to celebrate St. Patrick’s life, and whatever he did, by wearing green clothes, a green plastic hat and trying to pronounce Erin go bragh correctly. That’s what St. Paddy’s means to me. The Guinness, the whiskey – that can all wait until just after midnight as far as I‘m concerned.
I like to celebrate St. Paddy’s Day by getting up early, not getting drunk, and eating a big breakfast. I put on my finest green clothing, green plastic hat, and an umbrella – as I imagine St. Patrick himself might have done. Then I walk around the neighborhood telling people “Top o’ the mornin’” in an accent like St. Patrick might have had. At noon I stop saying “Top o’ the mornin’” and start saying “Top o’ the noon” until around 1:30. Then I just start telling people exactly what time it is.
As the day progresses it’s very much like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, where slowly everyone around Donald Sutherland becomes an alien. Except instead of Donald Sutherland it’s me, and instead of becoming aliens everyone becomes drunk. I make it a point to show I can fight temptation by entering bars and not drinking. Then I pick out the drunkest person at the bar and ask them to tell me what the holiday is about. Usually they’ll try and buy me a drink, and I say “I don’t want to dishonor Mister Saint Paddy” and I thank them and move on. By nightfall most people are drunken wrecks. I enjoy quietly condemning them from my sober perspective and loudly praising myself for sobriety. If I were so inclined I could easily rob them or convince a woman to sleep over. But this holiday isn’t about me, it’s about St. Patrick and whatever he did that made him a saint. As then day draws to a close, I look at my watch.
“Top o’ the two minutes after midnight,” I’ll say, “Guinness please.”
[ Originally written for Fusion Magazine because they pay me more than I pay myself. ] ]

Keeping A Marriage Fresh

Because I have appeared many times on a cable news channel I am often approached by people who ask me how to keep their marriages from getting stale. Having the answer to everything is one of the perks of appearing on a cable news channel. The other perks are: I can get a cup of coffee at Starbucks for only $2.15, and I get free copies of AM New York handed to me by some lady near the subway. Oh, and I got to touch Kevin Federline’s presumably unwashed hand.
Rather than answer everyone’s queries about marriage freshness individually I have prepared this helpful advice. I have done so knowing two things. One, nobody who plays hockey with Tim Robbins seems to like him, and two, advice always follows a standard formula: clever analogy and three main points to remember.
CLEVER ANALOGY
The word analogy can be broken down into ana – the name of a girl who mixes anti-depressants with alcohol to amusing effect, and logy – which means “field of study.” Therefore, an “analogy” is the study of why drunk Ana can be talked into setting fire to a duvet.
That’s weird, because actually analogies are very important for colorfully explaining concepts to people. Alas, they don’t work for Stephen Hawking, whose analogies for “folding space” still only make sense to those with doctorates in quasar management.
My analogy of choice for marriage is the orchid. An orchid is a beautiful flower that thrives under the right conditions – or dies when you put it on top of a hot cable TV box. So in many ways a marriage is like an orchid, though one hopes his marriage lasts longer than an overpriced flower and can withstand warm electronics.
THE THREE MAIN TIPS
Tips are essentially little bits of advice hastily assembled like an issue of In Touch and completely subjective, like VH-1’s 50 Greatest Album Covers show. Like good jokes and celebrity deaths they usually observe the Rule of Threes.
*CARRY A RED-SPECKED LOOFAH
I realize that sounds weirder than Cripsin Glover lecturing a tire iron, but it works. I carry a red-specked loofah with me everywhere I go and it’s done wonders for my marriage by giving wife-o and me something to really talk about. From “Why are you bringing that to my sister’s wedding?” to “Don’t take that to the restaurant” I can guarantee there’s always a spirited conversation just waiting to be had. Any expert will tell you the cornerstone of a good marriage is communication. Explaining why you want to bring a red-specked loofah to greet your mother-in-law at the airport is communicating, thus making the cornerstone of any marriage a red-specked loofah.
*DO NOT CO-STAR IN A FILM WITH ANGELINA JOLIE
I can not stress this enough: Do not sign a contract binding you to co-star in a blockbuster with Angelina Jolie. I realize it’s tempting – the huge paycheck, the stardom – but it’s a marriage-killer that can be traced to the fact that Angelina had a bad dad. Like many women with bad dads, she has issues with men and needs attention from them even when it’s not good attention. Unlike most women with bad dads, she didn’t go into stripping.
You may have a very happy marriage and the best of intentions when you enter into a three-picture deal with Angelina but her lips are puffier than a Zodiac boat and she’ll come at you with them. She’ll get sexy all over you and prance about the trailer naked and make you ice her down and your marriage will seem boring and un-fresh as a result. Trust me. Hold out until you can co-star with someone less marriage-endangering, like Rita Rudner.
*DEVELOP EARLY-ONSET ALZHEIMER’S
When you don’t recognize your wife in the morning, you’re not in danger of suffering the traditional plight of the average married couple. Instead of the daily grind you have a fresh perspective: a brand new woman in your room, what looks like a cat under the bed, and you’re standing in front of the closet with a golf club and a menorah. That’s the kind of adventure that keeps your wife on her toes and keeps the relationship spicy and refreshing. A wife is usually hinting that she likes surprises. I know that she means “jewelry” and “dinner reservations” but is it not surprising when she gets a call that you’re at an intersection wearing oven mitts? Frankly, there’s no better way to let her know you’re one in a million than standing in the shower shouting at pillow shams.
AN END TO UN-FRESH MARRIAGES
Take it from someone who doesn’t seem to have been invited to his TV show’s Christmas party: It may take some effort, but you too can keep your marriage fresh and exciting, like Pia Zadora once was.
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Poland Dispatch: The Ostrich

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The ostrich has the timid demeanor of Michael Jackson with the expressionless face of Brendan Fraser. It can be described as a small beanbag chair perched on two corn stalks with a vacuum hose neck and Nerf football head. They have very large eyes that they use to take in the world around them – which, judging from their behavior, they don’t really understand all too well.
The ostrich is naturally very curious and prone to stare at you. If an ostrich were to ride the subway to the Bronx it might start to believe “What you lookin’ at, bitch?” was a special greeting reserved for large flightless birds.
As a result of its twiggish bird legs supporting its compact torso, the ostrich has an awkward gait which no doubt would get them much verbal abuse in any high school cafeteria. They waddle like a penguin, but a tall one with scoliosis, locked knees and a touch of effeminate saunter – the likes of which is not unknown to any guy who dreams of a Bronski Beat/Eurasure comeback tour.
The ostrich default mode is Run Away followed by Stare and Approach Awkwardly. It’s quite prone to cycling through this line-up numerous times in a five-minute period.
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Run away!

If an ostrich arrives at the conclusion that you are a threat, it will hiss loudly, then nip at you. If it decides you are not a threat it will just nip at you. Either way, your encounter with an ostrich will most likely involve a nipping.
For that reason, it is not a good idea to approach an ostrich in nice clothing, as the ostrich has little to no regard for designer labels and would just like to eat the buttons on your jacket – be it Boss or B’Gosh. It would also like to eat your wedding ring, Poland/U.S. flag pin, finger, eye, wrist and hair. Pretty much anything in their vicinity is prone to be nipped whether that be you, the fence, the ground, the plastic sheeting that keeps their pen dry or other ostriches. When an ostrich nips at another ostrich, it starts a cycle of nipping and counter-nipping that can last for several minutes until one of them gets bored and looks for something that won’t nip back.
Ostrich nipping is not particularly dangerous or painful; in fact, it can be fairly entertaining if not a bit filthy, as their mouths are often filled with mud. In addition to their harmlessness their nips are also not very productive – like Gary Coleman in the post Diff’rent Strokes years. Nevertheless, an ostrich will frequently act as though his or her nip somehow magically produced a morsel of food. Regardless of what it just nipped at – you, a brick, firewood — it simply assumes it was successful and that it must be eating something, which explains why it will go through the motions of chewing and swallowing. In that sense, it seems to regard the entire world as edible.
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An ostrich cannot be bothered to escape. A low fence, some wire, twine, or other minimum-security perimeter will guarantee the ostrich will be in your custody for life. They have assumed, correctly, that they’d fare no better in the outside world. In this respect they are like many college professors on the tenure track.
Ostriches produce sturdy feathers – which would be a great commodity if this were 1730 and there was an abundance of talented music composers creating high demand for quill pens. Sadly, in the age of the Bic and word processing this demand is well satisfied. Although ostriches can be eaten and their skins made into leather, their main reason for existence seems to be to lay more eggs for the creation of more ostriches. When the ostrich market bubble will burst is anyone’s guess. When it does, expect an abundance of ostrich steaks and purses as ostrich farmers purge their supply in favor of more lucrative farming endeavors – like alpacas, llamas or government subsidy abuse.
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No escape lads. We’d have to step over. I say we give up.

Cats Do Not Like Change

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Cats do not like change – which explains why they do not like being relocated to new houses and why they rejected Kerry’s message, overwhelmingly voting for Bush in the recent election.
With their preference for routine, it’s quite understandable that many cats are troubled by the appearance of new humans in the household. When presented with such dramatic change they react in one of two ways:
1. They hide under the bed or behind furniture.
2. They eat the dramatic change.
To determine the course of action your feline acquaintance has chosen is easy: look under the bed and behind the sofa. If your cat is not found there, odds are he’s considering the consumption track.
Furthermore, if your cat is seated three feet from the new human and looks pensive, he’s more than likely abandoned a defensive posture and is instead developing a plan that may contain a tragic eat-your-child scenario.
If your cat has reached this state, you’ll need to sit down with him and have a chat – which is French for “cat”, ironically enough.
Reassurance is key here. If you can ease a cat’s fears that he’s being moved to the side, he is more likely to accept the new addition and adapt to it – rather than devour it during naptime. Even though all your actions speak to the fact that he is indeed being put to the side, it should be easy to convince him otherwise – he has a brain the size of a fig. He lacks fully developed logic and reasoning, like a press release from Barbra Streisand.
Use a soothing voice, reassuringly put your hand on one of the cat’s thighs and explain to him why he should not eat your child.
Try reason: I put a lot of work into this child, and I would appreciate you not eating him. He is very nice.
If reason fails, try bargaining: If you do not eat the child, who is very nice, I will give you extra tartar-control snacklets.
When all else fails, you may have to threaten: If you eat this nice child you will get a serious misting from the spray bottle, and you hate that.
It is important to remember that all you are doing is buying time. At some point, hopefully, the child will develop defensive and offensive capabilities. He will also be too big to eat.
After the umpteenth time your cat’s tail has been treated like the starter-cord from a lawnmower, he will realize – too late – that he should have acted on his initial impulse. The ability to see long-term is what separates us from animals that chase light from laser pens.

What My Wife Has Learned From Watching The Forensic Files

My wife has watched Forensic Files religiously ever since our Tivo discovered it for her. Tivo studied her viewing patterns, as Tivo does, and after noticing that she kept coming back to HBO’s Autopsy series, Tivo correctly assumed she would like to learn more about murder methods and body disposal techniques.
Now, thanks to Forensic Files, my wife has a solid understanding of all the dos and don’ts of dispatching your spouse. The odds of her killing me and getting away with it are significantly higher now than they were before Tivo thought she needed to know such things. I was much better off when all she watched was Curb Your Enthusiasm and Klan, a Polish soap opera.
Taking into consideration her vast knowledge of forensic techniques and past criminal cases, I have undertaken to evaluate methods she may or may not employ to dispatch me were she to be enraged by my not cleaning the stove.
SCENARIO
I am in the kitchen enjoying a delicious, unpronounceable Polish wafer cookie; a gift from my mother-in-law. I am facing east. My wife enters from the west end of the kitchen. She notices I have not cleaned the stove as she had asked early that morning. Enraged at this, my wife decides to kill me.
HER OPTIONS
BLUDGEONING: This certainly seems like one of the most logical ways for my wife to murder me in the kitchen in a moment of rage. The kitchen is filled with blunt and potentially lethal instruments, like a juicer or rolling pin.
However, my wife is now well aware that bludgeoning is fairly messy and often leaves a variety of telltale signs that a murder has been committed, no matter how good she is at disposing of my body.
Thanks to Forensic Files, my wife would be concerned about blood spatter patterns that I might leave on the new cabinetry or artistically painted wall. Besides the fact that my blood spatter would tarnish the newly-remodeled kitchen, it would also indicate angle of attack as well as velocity of impact. Investigators would be able to determine the height and strength of the attacker, which of course would be her.
In addition, she may unwittingly leave fingerprints on the blunt instrument, as well as skin and bone fragments from my head. She knows full well that blood, skin and bone fragments would turn a missing-persons case into a homicide investigation, and she wouldn’t want that.
Therefore, I do not believe my wife would bludgeon me in the kitchen, or anywhere else for that matter, no matter how dirty the stove.
GUNSHOT: I would be very surprised to be shot by my wife for two reasons. One, she’s my wife and she usually likes me. Two, she watches Forensic Files and knows better.
A gunshot would possibly alert my English neighbors, the new couple down the hall, and possibly the overly-inquisitive doorman. In addition, I live across the street from a trendy 24-hour diner which could provide a slew of pretentious eye-witnesses; we haven’t had any window covering since I removed the $3.49 Bed, Bath & Beyond paper shade. Price does not include tax.
A gunshot is likely to produce massive amounts of blood which she knows can be easily detected by any crime scene specialist using Luminol, no matter how much she cleans the kitchen floor.
Certainly there would be a great deal of irony in my wife shooting me for not cleaning the stove and making a bloody mess in the process. I would be sorry to miss that irony, as I tend to enjoy it.
Regardless, I do not think my wife would shoot me in the kitchen.
STABBING: Much like the gunshot, this is probably not a good way for her to kill me in the kitchen. Though stabbing is far quieter and would not alert my English neighbors, the guys down the hall or the overly-inquisitive doorman, it still has the potential to leave plenty of blood. Again, blood traces are easily identifiable when you apply Luminol and shine a black light on them. Part of the reason criminals get caught all the time is that they don’t realize that there’s a whole world not visible to the naked eye. My wife realizes this because she was schooled in Europe and watches Forensic Files.
Blood aside, there are angle-of-attack and strength issues that could be used to pinpoint her as the killer, which she would be.
Therefore, I have to say I would not expect my wife to attack me with cutlery.
SMOTHERING: Smothering does away with the blood problems, but thanks to Forensic Files my wife knows it’s not always the best solution for killing me. She’s well aware that smothering me with a trash bag could leave my facial impressions and her handprints on the bag – very incriminating and something that could be used against her in a court of law.
This is unfortunate in some ways, because every transaction in New York results in the acquisition of another plastic bag. Many bags wind up wasted, sadly never used for trash or smothering your husband for not cleaning the stove.
There is also the matter of a physical imbalance that would be hard to overcome: I am 6′ 3″ and she is very not. I could put up some resistance.
I don’t imagine she’ll be smothering me anytime soon, no matter how dirty the stove I forgot to clean.
POISONING: Here, I start to get worried. Because of her scholarship under her murder mentor, Forensic Files, she’s well aware that poisoning can be quiet, clean and often undetectable under the right circumstances. She’s also quite aware that some poisons can be purchased over the counter.
Certainly, there are problems associated with her poisoning me. For starters it’s not instant. She’d have to administer the poison over time; perhaps in my mother-in-law’s delicious, unpronounceable Polish wafer cookies. This requires a lot of pre-meditation on her part.
With her Associate’s degree in murder from Forensic Files, she knows that if she were to poison me with Thallium there would not be any obvious signs of a homicide. The only inconvenience to her would be my incessant bitching about cramps, nausea, burning sensation, diarrhea, headache and blurred vision. This could last days, weeks or longer depending on the dosage she was administering to me via cookie.
Eventually I’d be hospitalized and die, putting her on the perfect-crime track as it might look as though I was claimed naturally, and not the victim of foul play. If her dosage was correct it might even evade an autopsy, though not if HBO Doctor Michael Baden was on the scene. He’s real good.
One of the downsides, however, is that I watched the same episode of Forensic Files. I’m confident that if I started collapsing and soiling myself every time I ate her mom’s delicious, unpronounceable Polish wafer cookie, I’d probably catch on.
Nevertheless, this would seem to be her best option the next time I fail to clean the stove in a timely manner. Assuming she wants to kill me.
CONCLUSION
My wife has a vast knowledge of murder and mayhem thanks to the tutelage provided by Forensic Files. She is exceedingly bright, and I believe that she would employ that knowledge perfectly, so as not to make the mistakes others had made.
That said, I would be surprised if she killed me, because just this morning she said I was very nice.
Overall, the best course of action would be to face east when in the kitchen and clean the stove when she tells me to.

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Losing Your Hard Drive Is Like Taking A Nice Vacation

There is a tendency for all of us to get caught up in our day-to-day affairs, bogged down by the things we’re writing, our calendars, and all our financial records. So hectic is our multi-gigabyte life we forget to sit back, relax, and lose all of our data.
A vacation, like a hard drive meltdown, takes us away from all our works-in-progress, photographs, and genealogical research. When you have no other worries than sipping a Pina Colada or touring an old cathedral, your mind clears out – just like your hard drive does when the reallocated sectors count reaches the threshold.
Sitting on a tropical beach is a welcome retreat from the monotony of the daily grind. After all the pressures of the workaday world have built up, and our brains are at maximum capacity, a vacation cures us. It distances us from friends, family and business associates – as if your entire address book had been turned in to a bunch of zeroes.
When sitting on a Swiss hilltop or paddling the Grand Canyon, your mind is at ease. Thoughts of checking email, reading a blog about someone’s favorite cereal or downloading a 15-second teaser from Pinkworld are far from your mind; as far from your mind as the applications that allow you to check email, read a blog, or view pornography are from recovery.
Losing your hard drive puts things in perspective, just like a vacation. Free from the congestion of your normal surroundings, you’re able to paint a better picture. You suddenly really understand what’s important, or what was important. With this clean slate, inspiration comes easier, as do answers. Questions like “Should I back up my data more often?” no longer require much deliberation. The answer seems as obvious as the Caribbean is blue.
When you return from your vacation, your mind is as clear as a brand new 180 gigabyte hard drive. The roadblocks in your synapses have been disassembled. You approach everything with a new vigor and a clarity of vision. The same clarity that has you kicking yourself for not purchasing backup software like Retrospect, version 6.0.178.
The days after returning from a vacation are your best chance to address everything with a fresh perspective and start over, as if reinstalling your system software onto a completely blanked surface. Even if that surface is riddled with bad blocks, your energized outlook allows you to overlook them. For a while, anyway.
Losing your hard drive is like taking a nice vacation. Though I’m still glowing from this most recent trip, I can’t help but plan for the next one. I’ll be heading to CompUSA post-haste.

The Pay-O-Matic Logo Meeting

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Scene: The guy who owns Pay-O-Matic Check Cashing is seated with Chip, a freelance graphic designer and metrosexual with thick-framed glasses who recently graduated from the School of Visual Arts.
Boss: As you know, Pay-O-Matic is a check-cashing operation. As such, we provide a valuable service to individuals who don’t have a bank account.
Chip: Who the hell doesn’t have a bank account?
Boss: Mainly illegal immigrants, fugitives, felons just out of Rikers, terrorists, deadbeat dads, conspiracy theorists, drug addicts, tax evaders and people who really hate banks.
Chip: Okay.
Boss: We’d like a logo that helps us to connect with our customers, who I’d imagine are mostly unhappy.
Chip: So you want your logo to reach out to those people and say “We know you’re unhappy, we’re the check-cashing place for you.”
Boss: Exactly.
Chip: What if I cram your company’s acronym into a circle, and created a kind of anti-“have a nice day” logo; the “P” will look like an eye crying, and the “M” will look like a grimace – as if the logo itself is in pain.
Boss: Brilliant!

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

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There are several reasons this picture from Haiti is disturbing.
1. There’s a dead guy in it. That’s never good. Pictures of dead people are like pornography: you sit there and wonder what choices the subjects made in their life that led them to this. I don’t know what the circumstances were that resulted in this gentleman being made dead, but I’ll assume he had assumed a pro- or anti- Aristide stance in front of people who thought differently and had an inclination towards resolving disputes by discharging firearms.
2. He was killed in front of a kindergarten. That’s absolutely tasteless. Nothing good can come from killing people in front of a kindergarten. It’s hard enough choosing the right school for your child. When you’ve finally made such a monumental decision, you’d like to think that folks wouldn’t be getting killed in front of the school you finally chose.
3. There’s a guy casually walking by with soda. Coca Cola, to be exact. Personally, if I were walking down the street with soda, in any quantity, and I saw a man dead in front of the kindergarten, casual behavior would be out the door. I’d drop the soda and I’d run. I’m certainly not going to stick around and find out what led to someone being dead in front of a kindergarten. Obviously such people are uncivil. What if they’re still in the area? What if they prefer Pepsi?
4. It makes an absolute mockery of the Coke Adds Life advertising campaign.
5. From the dead guy’s perspective, I’d be upset that my demise was being handled so casually. If any one of us were unlucky enough to wind up deceased in front of a kindergarten, Ray’s Pizza, or wherever, we all deserve a little freaking out. At the very least, we would expect to shock you just a little bit while you’re nurturing your sugar & caffeine fix. This guy seems to be treating it with the same measure of detachment reserved for discarded bike frames chained to parking meters.
6. There’s a horrific irony about happy cartoon characters presiding over your dead body. We’d all like to think that when our time comes we’ll have a little dignity. We hope we won’t be dressed as clowns, in bed with a Bishop, or practicing auto-erotic asphyxiation in our parents’ closet. There’s a reason I stopped wearing boxers with smiley faces on them. This reminds me of a picture of a dead drug dealer I saw; shot dead in his doorway, wearing a Mickey Mouse sweatshirt. Disney’s starting to freak me out.
7. The deceased’s shoes were removed. Again, a little dignity would be nice. You’ve already killed a guy on the street, in front of a kindergarten, under the gaze of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Big Bird and a yellow, bi-pedal elephant with pox; people don’t seem to care and are enjoying soda – can’t you please leave the shoes? And what’s more tasteless, looting a body or wearing a dead guy’s sport sandals?
8. This is a flagrant violation of copyright law. If contempt for trademarks and patents starts at such an early age, it’s no wonder they emigrate here and sell bootleg copies of The Matrix on the sidewalk.

The Breast That Launched A Thousand Queries

My mother died in 1983, long before the internet ever existed as a public resource. At that time I was far too young, too hyperactively scattered, and probably too weird for her to ever predict what I might one day grow up to be.
For certain, she had absolutely no idea that some day her first son would become the #1 resource for any human who typed ‘nipplegate’ into Google. Worldwide.
It’s a bittersweet achievement for me. Mom will never know that ‘nipplegate’ information seekers from all over the planet are finding Banterist has been declared the world’s foremost resource on Janet Jackson’s tit. Thanks to whatever top-secret mathematical formula Google has put together, if it’s about Nipplegate, then Banterist is apparently the answer. For the time being, anyway.
I may be usurped later, but for now the glory is mine. All mine. You can never take that away, which is potentially sad.
As the current #1 answer to the question ‘Nipplegate’ I wanted to let you foreigners know that the jig is up. You scold us, mock us, tell us that only Americans would get so carried away with a naked boob. You tell us that you and your countrymen are above it all. Well, I have proof to the contrary. Liars.
I know for a fact that a goodly portion of the planet wants to know more about that breast. That dark-areolaed, starfish-pastied breast. I know, because at this moment I man the toll booth on the road to that information. I’m like the overpaid union booth worker, sucking on carbon monoxide fumes and welcoming you to Nipplegateinformationland. By virtue of the power bestowed on me by Google, I am the Nipplegate-keeper.
But, instead of looking back over my shoulder to read your license plates as you head in, I need only flip through the referral logs to know from whence you came.
Hello Dutch people. You’re #1.
After America, you Netherlanders lead the pack. You’re #1 in the international quest for more information on Nipplegate. That quest has brought you right here, to Banterist. Welcome. I’ve been to Amsterdam. Once I bought a stolen bike for $5 from a drug addict there. Interesting city. I’m not a big fan of burly African whores, but I admire your libertarian attitude.
Belgium is next, at #2.
Lots of Belgians coming to Banterist to get their Nipplegate fix. I have to say, I’m a little surprised you’ve made #2. I’ve been to Brussels. Can’t say I remember anything other than an Irish friend who worked for the European Union and a Cambodian guy ironing his shirt for about a nickel. What Brussels lacks in excitement it makes up for in blandness. I hear Bruges is nice. Never made it there. Regardless, I must respect any tri-lingual culture that adores drunk monks and the fruity beer they make.
The Germans are the #3 nipplegate-interested culture.
I like Germans. They’re goofy and well-educated and have strange obsessions with sex that border on creepy. Sex is fun, yes? I like sex! Do you like sex? It’s fun, yes? Yes, fun! Sex! My brother and I met Germans many years ago at a hostel near Galway, Ireland. As our German bunkmates drifted off to sleep, we whispered ‘Please don’t kill us” Repeatedly. You could do that back then. And it was funny. They read comic books and shared delicious Mettwurst sausage with us. Good times. I’m not surprised the Germans rank #3, though I am surprised that they’re not higher than the Belgians.
Canada is #4.
My first visit to Canada was only last year. I love Montreal. Charming, colorful, and home to a variety of new internet pornographers with accents. Canada’s dollar is even lower than the US dollar so they can’t go anywhere, except maybe Argentina, Haiti, or Burma. That explains why so many Canadians are sitting at home in their skivvies typing ‘nipplegate’ into Google. And finding me.
India is #5.
Good people, Indians. In fact, I probably talked to one of you last week when I called Microsoft about my defective Xbox. We use a doctor from India. She’s lovely. No sense of humor, as I’ve learned too often, but a great doctor. She hates cats, with no apologies. I’m kind of surprised to find you here, India. I think it’s because of Gandhi, but I kind of expected more. Shame on you.
France is #6.
Of course France is represented. If there are breasts, there’s a Frenchman skulking around the corner, waiting to pounce when the husband goes to pee. Why are there more Indians than French looking for Nipplegate information? Because there are more Indians than French.
Australia, #7.
Australians are nuts. I’ve watched them throw each other through walls. They’re like insane Scotsmen, but their ancestors were caught. I’ve been wanting to go to Australia ever since Paul Hogan made those shit movies, became famous, dumped the wife and mother of his kids for a Hollywood floozy, and pimped Subaru as he disappeared into oblivion. Now the Aussies come here, because I am the Nipplegate-keeper.
Austria is #8.
Germany Lite. Last time I was there it was mushroom season. Everything was made out of mushrooms. Delicious mushrooms. Does your digestive system have a problem with mushrooms? Mine apparently did. Welcome Austrians, and for God’s sake put some air conditioning in the bars.
UK, #9.
I’m a little surprised. Don’t you guys like boobs more than that? They’re in the newspapers, they’re on Benny Hill. Is it possible you’ve been saturated by too many boobs? Honestly, I thought I’d find a lot more Britons seeking information on Nipplegate. If not out of genuine interest, then to at least to take your minds off of your awkward bisexual prince.
Singapore, #10.
All I can say is I’m sure saying ‘nipple’ is illegal in Singapore, because everything is illegal in Singapore. I’d hate for any of you to get a governmental ass-whacking on my behalf. However, many of you have expressed an interest in Nipplegate and have found your way here. Welcome. Perhaps this is the beginning of a new movement?
Oh, I could go on.
Sweden, Malaysia, Finland, Poland, New Zealand, Turkey, Spain, Italy, United Arab Emirates, Switzerland, Chile, Brazil, Hong Kong, Mexico, Taiwan and Czech Republic ‘ welcome to all of you. I hope you found what you were looking for. Even if you didn’t, rest assured that no matter what you were actually hoping to find when you entered ‘nipplegate’ into Google ‘ it’s bound to be out there somewhere.
Until your search takes you elsewhere, a hearty welcome to all you breast-obsessed freaks, foreign and domestic.

Those Who Pre-Cana Don’t Really Wanna

To the dismay of many Catholics, or those choosing to marry one, tying the knot requires attendance of Pre-Cana classes. Pre-Cana is a series of lectures on how to have a functional marriage, organized by people not allowed to have one. The irony is not lost on anyone, save the organizers. Still, one has to imagine they’re in on the joke, if not just a little.

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The Year In Review

2003 was a banner year for Banterist, primarily because it didn’t exist in 2002.
Indeed, Banterist is still a youngin’ ‘ which is what you’d call it if you’re inclined to use the vernacular of the Old West, or if you weren’t properly schooled. It is yet another weblog in a vast universe of weblogs, many of which suck so incredibly bad they’re like little black holes.
[Stephen Hawking laugh here]
But in the vast expanse of cyberspace there are the occasional gems to be found. Planets with life, as it were. It was the intention from the very beginning that this one try and be amongst them; a friendly planet that entertains its visitors. Much like that planet in Star Trek: The Next Generation where everyone was gorgeous and running around having fun and screwing. Banterist wants to be like that planet, up until the part where the little weasel kid steps on the flowers and the natives want to execute him.
The original intent of Banterist was to consolidate writing in one place, rather than many, and to have the motivation to keep writing – in the form of people who were looking for something to read. Now that there are a significant number of said people, it feels like employment. Worrying about deadlines. Proofreading. Evaluating everything for its potential as a topic. It has forced me to get up two hours earlier every day and required I never leave the house without my tiny digital camera, notepad and a pen. It has made my day job as an TV & radio commercial actor and copywriter much more interesting.
We left the year 2003 with over 7100 unique visits in December alone. Not bad for a weblog that didn’t even exist in August. For that, I owe thanks to folks like Choire Sicha at Gawker, and the various and sundry who’ve liked the banter enough to link to it, quote from it or come back to it. There is great reward in finding that folks like what you’re doing. It makes the fact that you’re not getting rich off of it much more palatable.
In 2004, I resolve to follow up with the magazines that have contacted me as a result of seeing something they liked on Banterist. It would be great to make something come of that. And I hope that Banterist will offer you many more reasons to quote from, link to and come back.
Happy New Year.

“Making It” Made Easy

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There was a time, and it really wasn’t that long ago, that in order to be famous you had to accomplish something. Prior to the red carpet being rolled out for you and the nuisance of restaurant reservations being waived, it was necessary for you to write a book, appear in a blockbuster, sing a hit song, get elected, do something, something, that entitled you to the trappings of celebrity.
Blood, sweat, tear and toil were involved. People drove broken down station wagons to Hollywood and slept in them for years while they lost audition after audition. Bands toured the country 350 days a year, lugged their own equipment on stage and slept 10 to a motel room. People climbed mountains or flew the Atlantic. To achieve their fame they out-acted or out-funnied or out-played. They were the prettiest of, the best of, the smartest at, the first. And by being such they earned their place.
Even becoming infamous required a remarkable achievement. You needed to inspire your country to genocide, poison your followers with Kool-Aid, lead a group of murderous hippies or shoot a president. Certainly all terrible things to do, but at least there was effort involved, as evil as it may have been. Now all you have to do is blow a president and you get a line of handbags and a shitty TV show along with your infamy.
Celebrity of late has been handed out en masse, like driver’s licenses. Seemingly no one is denied their 15 minutes or longer, achievements or no. Usually the only effort required is wanting it. Somewhere there’s a camera crew ready to indulge you, film you eating a sandwich, and make you a star.
Currently, the most nauseating case in point has to be Paris Hilton. Her crowning accomplishment was being born into extreme wealth. That’s it. She has enjoyed a life of luxury beyond comprehension for most millionaires, never mind the thousandaires and hundredaires who populate the country. Void of responsibility, beholden to none. There has not been a moment in the girl’s life where her intellect or talent has been challenged or needed. And she has publicists to promote her underachievement. She’s Marie Antoinette 2003. Fortunately for her, they’re not beheading the rich who say dumb things anymore, they’re giving them TV shows. Between Fox’s Simple Life, HBO’s Born Rich and M-TV’s Rich Girls, it’s all the rage to make the rich famous. Because they’re rich, I guess.
What is particularly offensive with Hilton is that with all the resources afforded her, with all the opportunities at her disposal, she’s chosen the path of a trailer whore who’s won the lottery. An extra eighty pounds and she’d be Anna Nicole Smith.
Other women of significant wealth take noble causes under their wing, hold lavish fundraisers for the arts or social causes. At the very least, like Stella McCartney, they take advantage of their position and wealth to do something constructive. Lady Diana was pretty well off, but she didn’t pass the time videotaping sex romps, or posing outside Spago. She toured orphanages and hospitals. She played the part of the rich lady who didn’t have to do much of anything but did because it was the right thing to do. Not to mention good politics.
But Paris? Her aspirations have been limited to getting past the doormen at Bungalow 8 with minimal hassle and making uninspired porno with a sleazy ne’er-do-well. Most disturbing, after climbing those peaks of success she has not only acquired fame, but had a television show handed to her. Insult to injury, this week’s New York magazine goes so far as to include her among a collage on the cover of ‘stars’ gone wild. First she came, now she’s arrived.
With standards that low, there’s no reason you shouldn’t become a ‘star’ merely for buying a bagel and swearing at a homeless guy.
Us Magazine, which my wife continues to read despite my desperate plea, is constantly throwing new celebrities at me. I never saw ‘The Bachelor’ but apparently they’re eager for everyone to know how Bachelor Bob is doing, who Bachelor Bob loves, and what Bachelor Bob’s hopes and dreams are. As far as I can discern, Bachelor Bob is in the pages of Us for the crowning achievement of at one point not having a girlfriend, then looking for one. Hey, I didn’t have a girlfriend once. I didn’t get a show out of it.
My friend has become a popular musician as of late. He got there the old fashioned way. He’d go home and practice while the rest of us stayed out. He knew what he wanted and what it was going to take to get it. And, just as importantly, he had the talent you need to back it up. And the brains to make good decisions. He did it properly, and employed what it takes, or used to take, to be successful and famous. That’s admirable. But it’s also rare these days, where you can seemingly demand celebrity for the achievement of being Ozzy Osbourne’s daughter.
There’s been a lowering of the threshold here. I want celebrity to be earned again. If I’m going to be forced to deal with Us Magazine in my house, I want the celebrities to have earned their status. I want their glossy, cheap paper pages to bring me people who had fire in the belly, passion, focus. People who had some kind of talent. Like Madonna. I don’t particularly like her music. I think she puts on a lousy fake English accent like a RenFest reject. And she’s probably going to die lonely and sad after her star fades. But she’s a star. She earned it the hard way, clawing upward. She should be the role model for stardom. Not some girl who slobbered on Clinton’s shaft. Not some slutty socialite. Not a guy who filled out an application to be on Joe Millionaire for God’s sake. I want real stars again. People we can look up to. People we’ll miss when they die.
I want Pecks and Gables and Monroes. I don’t want to be told Shoshanna Lonstein is famous because she dated Jerry Seinfeld. I want the standards back. Otherwise, I’m liable to set the offices of Us ablaze. And then I’ll be a somebody.

Copier Jam

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I remember back in the ’80s when I was reading a some aspiring-writer magazine of the sort and came across an ad for Xerox asking, rather pleading, that aspiring writers stop using ‘Xerox’ as a verb or noun in their stories.
At the time I never quite understood the reasoning. I was too young and hyperactive to ever read past a headline and get into the body copy. I was left to wonder why they weren’t happy that their name was so popular that it had become part of the vernacular. Certainly it had to make competitors like Canon miserable. And isn’t making your competitors miserable what business is all about? Xerox should have been thrilled, but they weren’t. They did not want you to Xerox things or hand out Xeroxes to the classroom.
It’s some twenty years later and apparently that battle is not going too well. A recent issue of the Hollywood Reporter featured more of the same ‘ Xerox, a huge corporate entity, begging the little people to stop using their name as a noun or verb. I guess they’re worried that screenwriters will pitch flicks with protagonists Xeroxing classified documents as the quintessential black government helicopter hovers outside the office window.
I now understand the reasoning behind the whining: the lawyers call it ‘trademark dilution.’ Fair enough. They’re afraid of losing their trademark status if the brand name becomes, well, a common word. But the whole idea of trying to convince folks to not talk a certain way seems about as probable as getting everyone to not say ain’t or knowhatimsayin’ or to stop putting like in front of every fourth word.
Likewise, no amount of time, money or energy is going to convince me to talk a certain way. Starbucks counter help can call it venti until they’re red in the face, but it’s large to me, and that’s what I’m going to order. Large is a perfectly good word, and there’s no reason I should need to translate my coffee order into Starbucksi, Coffish, Javese, or whatever they’d like me to speak.
The money Xerox has been spending on this endeavor might have been better spent on other things. Such as the technology to keep copiers from breaking down every 20 minutes.
So, we know that Xerox would prefer that we copy things and staple those copies together, but folks will continue to Xerox things and staple those Xeroxes together. People will continue to Google and be Googled. The English Hoover their floors. I was supposed to FedEx someone yesterday. People will Rollerblade even though Rollerblade would prefer they inline skate.
Hormel, ever the good sport, lets us refer to junk mail as Spam. They know that there’s no turning back now.
Xerox is, and has been, a household word. Xeroxing sounds better than Toshibaing or making several Konicas of your thesis. Basically, whoever came up with the brand name Xerox was so good at their job that they created a name that not only achieved brand awareness but crept its way into’ Webster’s.

Green Card Blues

The prevailing myth among those who have never experienced the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service first hand is that when you marry an American you are simply issued a Green Card and all is well. You sail off into the sunset, everyone’s happy, America has gained another taxpayer. You raise bilingual kids. End of story.
By virtue of having married a Polish citizen, I now possess a wealth of knowledge that not only contradicts that myth of bliss, but actually is capable of shattering it completely to the point that it is unrecognizable. Even to the myth’s relatives and close friends.
When fate introduced me to a Polish girl in an Irish bar in France, fate was also arranging my introduction to a world of stifling bureaucratic chaos I once thought was monopolized solely by the Internal Revenue Service. How naive I was.

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‘Twas Forty Nights Before Christmas…

Somewhere — a place off-limits to normal folks — there’s a shadowy cabal of business masterminds sitting around a table, organizing the migration of Christmas season from where it used to be to where they want it to be. The end result is: I was walking by a Mrs. Field’s Cookies on 6th Avenue today and heard Feliz Navidad playing. After that, I became keenly aware of what I consider to be premature holiday intrusions. Annoyances such as the Christmas tree in Pier 1 and the techno-remix of some holiday classic wafting out of a Coach store, home of the overpriced knapsack.
If my memory serves correctly, the old holiday season started after Thanksgiving. Right after, as a matter of fact. As you were drifting to sleep from your tryptophan overdose the radio stations were shifting to their all-Xmas-all-the-time format. The one that puts Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer on 17 minute rotation. The next day was the official shopping day, and if you were insane and wanted to be miserable you’d head to the malls with the other billion nitwits who also thought shopping en masse was a great idea. The season lasted until Dick Clark declared it over, around January 1st or so.
Alas, Thanksgiving is no longer the guidepost that tells one where the Holiday stretch begins. This year, stores were unpacking the Christmas trees and manger scenes as they were removing the Frankensteins and skeletons from their windows. If Santa were real, and dead, he’d be spinning around in his grave.
Next year, I imagine the holiday season will start around July 4th. Choreographed fireworks displays will segue from the triumphant finale of the 1812 Overture into Little Drummer Boy. The fireworks will explode to reveal the dates of the Macy’s One Day Sale.
I wanted push for a leap year of sorts, where we reset the calendar and start holiday season in the right place. However, it occurred to me that at the rate we’re going they’ll eventually push Christmas season so far back it will actually start around Christmas.

Doctor Who?

Studying the Fine Art of Bullshitting
A few years ago, a friend and business associate proudly announced to me that he had completed his Doctorate in Musical Theory and from that point onward would prefer to be addressed as “Doctor” in light of his accomplishment. Those better acquainted could presumably call him “Doc.”
This was very suspect as I had known this individual for some time, and had not known him to be the scholarly type. Indeed, he was the partying type, and during his off-hours I had never once seen him crack a book much less fret over an upcoming thesis. When not at work he was drinking. I know this because I was usually sitting across from him at the bar.
When pressed, he insisted that he indeed was a Doctor of Musical Theory and had a diploma that said so. When I asked where the diploma came from he told me “The University of Wexford at Zurich.”
The fact that the University of Wexford was located in Zurich was interesting to me. We did not live in Zurich. At the time we lived in Atlanta, and the commute would have been prohibitively expensive and logistically impossible as he had a full-time job. I asked how one gets a Doctorate in Musical Theory from a college 4,700 miles away and the answer was simple enough: correspondence.
At this point I was unable to stop asking questions. The good Doctor had dug himself a hole and it seemed that he would dig even deeper. After further interrogation, it came down to this: He received an unsolicited email about getting a diploma of his choosing. He paid several hundred dollars. After a brief telephone interview, the “University” staff felt that since he worked in the field of radio and music, his Doctorate was fully warranted. They processed his credit card and he was issued a PhD based on his “life and work experience.” Despite the absurdity, he continued to insist it was legitimate, that he was in fact a Doctor, and that the University of Wexford was an accredited institution.
At this point, I was intrigued. I had to learn more about the University of Wexford at Zurich. I did a little searching and eventually discovered their website, a brilliantly ambiguous work of art. Generic photographs of students were on every page. The “Alumni” page featured a vague statement along the lines of “Our graduates work in a variety of professions” surrounded by photos of people in various professions. The “Courses” page said the school offered a “diverse curriculum” for its students.
The fact that the website was void of any real details was curious enough. The site was registered in Romania with a telephone in Arizona, a fax machine in Massachusetts and a “campus” in Switzerland. All that was missing as far as warning signs go was a man standing atop my monitor screaming “Warning! Warning!”
A little more sleuthing, and I learned that the University was accredited by an organization of its own making. So they accredited themselves. This was pure gold.
I’m not sure if my friend sought to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes. Certainly if that was his intention the attempt was very half-hearted. He crumbled under questioning, sucked up to the fact he’d been swindled and fortunately never asked us to call him “Doctor” again.
Certainly he wasn’t the only “graduate” of this institution. I was sure there were shameless folks out there who would have no qualms about placing their University of Wexford degree on a resume. Best of all, in this Age of Information, all I’d have to do was a little Googling to find my answers. In short order I discovered dozens of folks bold, brash and dumb enough put a make-believe University on their resume and back it up with a straight face.
Even better, there were some real humdingers, like the Democratic candidate for U.S. Congress in California’s 21st District, David G. LaPere. He lost the election, but the candidate with a “Bachelor of Arts” in “Political Science” from the “University” did manage to take 26.3% of the vote. That’s just plain scary.
The organizational consulting firm, Character of Excellence features the employee profile of a “Doctor” who, it is revealed, “earned her doctorate in Computer Sciences based upon her work experience from the University of Wexford in 1999.” Really.
Ah, based upon her work experience. At least she kind of came clean. But the “University” she “graduated” from wasn’t even online in 1999. Their internet presence didn’t start until 2001. Interesting.
There’s a “psychic” and “guide to intoxicating bliss” with a “Masters” in “Psychotherapy” from the virtual university. The accomplished lady is also a “D.R.S.”, “Ms.D”and a “Reverend.” She likes titles, I suppose. From perusing the website I believe her degree was warranted based on her obvious life experience in the psychotherapy field. As a patient.
And there are more. So many more. A job hunter’s website had one individual with a double Masters: “Engineering Management” and “Management Information System.” Way to go! There was also a “Masters” in “Computer Science” on the same site. I wonder if they ever crossed virtual paths on their way to virtual class.
And there’s the gentleman who graduated Magna Cum Laude from the non-existent University’s non-existent MBA program. Certainly someone so intelligent should have a job by now.
The University of Wexford’s internet presence is no more. That alone should tell you something. Undoubtedly their academic jig was up, discovered by one person by too many, and the Romanians running the place moved on.
For certain, there’s another “accredited” institution of higher learning out there, issuing degrees like New York City cops issue parking tickets. It makes you wonder who out there thinks they’re pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes, laying claim to titles they purchased with a Visa card.
Fortunately, with a minimal amount of effort the answers are easy to come by. After all, discovering someone with a fraudulent “Doctorate” in “Physics” isn’t rocket science.