Friday, November 30, 2012

A Bad Enchiladas Carol

Tiny Tim was dead these 16 years. There can be no doubt about that. His plucky heart first gave out at a ukulele festival in a grange hall in Massachusetts; two months later, while he was hitting the high notes for The Women’s Club of Minneapolis, he had his final heart attack. And on November 30, 1996 he stopped tiptoeing through the tulips … and started pushing up daisies.

This is not entirely true. He was never laid to rest underground but was entombed in a mausoleum. 

But that made me no less surprised to see him.

If you asked me yesterday, I wouldn’t have been too sure Tiny Tim was indeed dead. But seeing him at the foot of my bed, floating six inches above the ground, there could be no doubt. His long hair was dry and wiry against his skull, which seemed to be attached to his body only by the grace of a red checkered cravat—obviously the one he was buried in. (Pardon me, entombed in.)

“Mercy,” I croaked. “What are you doing here?”
“A tisket. A tasket,” the long-croaked trebled to me. “For 16 years, I have floated from bedchamber to bedchamber, invading the dreams of those who repose in sweet slumber. I have borne falsetto witness to the music inside their heads—those very melodies that tug at their brain, tightening their lips into whistles or even causing them to burst into song.”

“Yes, we all get a tune stuck in our heads. Nagging things,” I said.

At this, the spirit of Tiny Tim cried out, hitting a high register that cracked the glass on my nightstand. “Nagging things? You think a catchy tune a nagging thing? Do you find the fur on a kitten’s head scratchy? Do you bristle at the lingering aroma of lilacs? You should drop to your knees and thank the Almighty Paul Simon for the lyrical bliss you find so … nagging.”

“Why do you tell me this?” I asked.  And in retrospect, my question should have been “What the hell did I eat?” to actually see—let alone converse—with the ghost of Tiny Tim. Were those flaxseed oil pills I took at breakfast or something else? Was I completely losing my mind or had I just temporarily misplaced it?
Tiny Tim sat on the end of the bed. That is to say he assumed a sitting position six inches over the end of my bed. He flipped his hair and a wad of it dislodged from his skull and floated towards the dresser. “In life, I made a mockery of music and fame,” said the ghostly troubadour. “Although pitch perfect in a world before Auto-Tune, I sang songs that no one wanted to dance to … to sing along to … to whistle to … or even remember in a dream.”

“You were always a good con man of the business, Tiny Tim” I said.

“SILENCE!” screamed the wraith. “That’s all I require of you. Silence. Because in life I plagued the airwaves with a goofy brand of singing, I am now forced to spend the afterlife warning those on similar paths. I’ve heard you sing. … Shut up.”

“It’s just in good fun, Tim.”

“Shut up. I mean it.”

“Or I will end up sharing your gruesome fate?”

“Yeah, let’s go with that.”

“OK. I guess I could stop singing. Will that bring me salvation?” I asked.

Tiny Tim rose, floating toward the ceiling. “First, you will be visited by three spirits,” he said. “All Bee Gees. The two dead ones will stop by at one and two a.m. And then at 8 a.m., Barry will stop by to try to sell you some magazines.”

And as the ghost of Tiny Tim disappeared behind the ceiling of my bedroom, I distinctly heard inside my head .... "Staying alive. Staying alive." 


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I may be right. You may be crazy.

The Swedes are at it again—studying who’s nuts and who’s not. According to research done by the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, creative people are treated more often for mental illness than others.

Well, brilliant deduction, Sven et al.

It only took a study of 1.2 million people to figure that out, did it? I could have named that tune in two notes. … Literally, just give me two notes written by a creative person, and I could have told you they’re generally bonkers. I wouldn’t even have had to read them.  

First of all, creative professions are not something rational people pursue. They historically pay a pittance. And anecdotally, everyone says they can do the job better. What normal person would do that to himself or herself? Whether you paint, draw, dance, act, write, or trip the light scientific, everyone is a critic. (Some people even think they can do a better job at studying the correlation of mental illness and creative professionals. Jeesh. The nerve. )

You want to be an artist? You must be nuts.

Second of all, what profession isn’t creative? With tax codes the way they are, accounting may be the most creative job out there. Politicians and customer service representatives make things up all the time. Detectives recreate crime scenes. Bus drivers think they can send their wives to the moon with a single punch. Even ditch diggers are creative. After all, they’re creating ditches. 

The syllogism is easy. If everyone is creative and creative people are more prone to mental illness, everyone is a little nutty.

It’s nice to belong to a big common social group, isn’t it?

I would argue that it’s not just people. Animals are crackers, too. For instance, I recently gave my cat some flea powder. Now she can magically play all Red Hot Chili Pepper songs on the bass. That’s pretty creative. Moreover, it’s downright insane.

My cat plays bass. But she prefers slapping a salmon. 

So I don’t mind the Karloninska Institutet—whose sports teams are, by the way, the Fighting Turnips (Go, Nips!)—saying that creative people have issues. We all have issues.

But the study goes further and says there's “a particularly salient connection between writing and schizophrenia.”

I’ve been arguing myself over this one.

In a nutshell, the argument goes as follows: I’m the sanest person I know. And that’s hard to take given this study. Surely, my sanity hinders my creativity. So that’s depressing.

But depression is a mental illness, right? So maybe there’s hope for me after all.

Friday, July 27, 2012

A tale from the motivational vault

Rocket was a racehorse. That is to say that he was horse—in every way—from forelock to fetlocks. Equus ferus caballas. And he ran in many races.

But he was not a good racehorse. He never won a race. Indeed, Rocket was a very slow racehorse. Equus slowus molasses.

His rider, Jacque E. Shortz, who was as light on the whip as he was in the saddle, believed Rocket’s lack of alacrity was all in his head.

“Listen, Rocket,” he whispered in the horse’s ear. “Speed is relative. Compared to a walking horse, you’re Hermes incarnate. Compared to a plow horse, you’re incredibly fast. A Clydesdale could not hold a candle to you. Compared to a rocking horse, you’re supernatural. 

“My goodness,” Jacques chuckled, “compared to a saw horse, you’re a million times the speed of light!”

Patting Rocket on the rump, he cooed, “You’re an Olympian, Rocket. … Now get on the truck and meet you’re destiny.”

And with that, the horse happily clopped onto the back of the truck, which was emblazoned on the side with big red lettering:

Jumping Jack’s Pommel Horses
Made with real horsehide!

 Morale: Run faster. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

No turn signal? Your brain is on the blink.

Dear dude in the silver Lexus, who refuses to use a turn signal: the world already knows all it needs to about you. You are either:

A. An idiot
B. An arrogant a-hole
C. Both A and B

And it’s important to emphasize that none of these are good.

After all, there can be only a few reasons for you burning up the road blinkerless and brainless. And they all boil down to this: you don’t know or you don’t care.  

Here’s what we can assume you don’t know:
  • The basic rules of the road
  • Where the turn indicator lever is
  • Where you’re going
  • Where you are
  • What a major ass wipe you are

Perhaps you didn’t know the car was turning. Cars are, however, seldom known to do that on their own. Perhaps you didn’t realize you were not driving Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Maybe you didn’t know you weren’t being chased by mobsters with tommy guns. Using turn signals while being chased by mobsters would be pretty dumb. Or maybe you didn’t know we all shouted, “Simon says, ‘Use your blinker. (Goddammit.)’”

This is beyond being a pet peeve. According to the Society of Automotive Engineers, failure to use turn signals results in 2 million accidents a year.  Also, environmentalists have proven that you non-blinkers contribute to global warming because you cause motorists to gasp an extra 20% carbon dioxide. … This is not true. But now you can say you read it on the Internet—and that’s good enough for cable news.

(Speaking of pet peeves, note to self: name the next cat you own “Peeve.” I would introduce her as my pet Peeve who scratches the furniture, meows too much, and yaks often on the carpet. Seems apropos.)

So, dude in the silver Lexus, I don’t accept that your blinkers are broken. Or that they work on the inside. I don’t accept that it doesn’t matter. And I certainly don’t accept that you are above the law … or the parameters of common courtesy.

Your attitude is unacceptable. Turn it around. And when you do, use the friggin’ blinker.

Monday, July 16, 2012

It's not the heat, it's the lucidity.

The cat spread out on the patio like peanut butter on toast.  The hotter it got, the wider and flatter she became. I wondered how much the mercury would have to rise before she ended up pooling up—a melted milkshake with a tail.
“Would mercury work on the planet Mercury?,” I asked my imaginary friend.
“A Mercury doesn’t work on Earth; those cars are pieces of crap,” he said.  A blue dragonfly darted near him, then buzzed through his imaginary head.  My friend was wearing a fuzzy pink bathrobe and sipping a mint julep from a plastic Slurpee cup.  He glanced at the dragonfly and gestured the universal sign language for “shoo.” But as the dragonfly lacked my imagination, it flew away out of simple boredom.  
“No … I mean mercury in a thermometer.”
“I don’t know,” my tutelary admitted. “I’ve never been to Mercury.” He paused, perhaps to ponder the boiling point of mercury—or perhaps to burp. “But if you think this is hot, you should go to Venus.  It’s nigh on 900 degrees out there, rains sulfuric acid … and forget about getting a decent cannoli.”
“You can’t get a decent cannoli here. If you haven’t noticed, we’re out in the middle of nowhere!”
“Yeah, but you know what we have here?” he asked. And with that, he stood up, winked, and shed his fuzzy pink bathrobe. Before the terrycloth hit the deck near the melting cat, he transformed into a winged jaguar and hovered—with deft flaps—ten feet above the patio, waiting for my answer.
“Good mushrooms,” I replied. “Good mushrooms.”

Note: the boiling point of mercury is 674.1° F. Temperatures on Mercury can fluctuate bewteen -279 and 801° F.  We can assume, then, that a mercury thermometer would not be pratcical on Mercury--as would very little else. It's also interesting to note that, although farther from the Sun, Venus is much hotter because it has an atmosphere comprised mostly of carbon dioxide. So write your legilsature; global warming is real, man. I would also suggest that, if women are really from Venus, they're messed up. Sulfuric acid rain? C'mon, ladies, why you gotta hate like that?   

Friday, July 6, 2012

The scoop on what will kill you

A few weeks ago, I wrote that hot sauce brands were trying to kill you. Whereas, I do not wish to be a mouthpiece of morbidity, I am finding out daily that there are a lot of things that want to kill you.

(Incidentally, if you want to see a real mouthpiece of morbidity, go to the attic and pull out your old pacifier from the box marked “keepsakes.” That bulbous piece of plastic binkie probably had BPA, ortho-phthalates, lead paint, asbestos, and two forms of tuberculosis all melded into a baby ball gag that would shut you up. But hey, you’re still alive!)

Very quickly, here are some things that want to kill you: al-Queada, al-Shabaab, al-Cohol, al-Imony, al-Zheimer’s, al-Igators, al-Abama, and Al Pacino (“Say hello to my little friend!).

And I’m not even out of the A’s. But for now, let’s skip the B’s and go straight to the C’s. … The Big C—not cancer. Nay, I’m talking about Capital C; that rhymes with “see” and that stands for “Look, a cat.”

Your cat wants to kill you.

Scoop my litter--I command it! 
And she is recruiting some dangerous friends. Not al-Qaeda, your el gato has recruited an equally dangerous partner, the toxoplasma gondii parasite. (This is not to be confused with Toxic Plasma Gandhi, the name of my punk Bollywood fusion prog band … which I have not yet formed.)

According to a recent study, the t. gondii parasite residing in your cat’s gut and litter box may make women more prone to suicide.

This is, no doubt, in cahoots with your cat, who wants to eat you.

The study of 45,000 women in Denmark apparently shows that exposure to the parasite causes changes in the brain. It concluded that women infected with t. gondii are 1.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than—say—women infected with t.e. lawrence.

There are, however, some flaws in this study. First of all, it was done in Denmark, dank dark Denmark, where suicide is a national sport. (Note: this is not statistically true. Denmark often ranks as one the happiest nations in the world. But I simply refuse to believe that and your complaints will not change my mind.)

Second, it’s not parasites in your cat litter than make you want to kill yourself.  It’s just the cat litter. It’s the drudgery of scooping your cat’s waste—the realization that you currently live in a Turd World country—that makes you ask, “Is this all there is?”  To be or not to be. To scoop pee or not to scoop pee.

I can't believe I ate the whole human. 
There’s something rotten in Denmark, indeed. And it needs to be scooped.

Your cat knows this. And teaming up with a parasite makes perfect sense—more carcass for kitty. Make no mistake, your cat would sell you out to a tiger or mountain lion if it meant it could eat at least a bit of you. But it would rather have all of you.

In the meantime, Mr. Mittens will kill you with cuddles until the parasite takes over. A mountain lion, however, will kill you with gnashing teeth and claws.   

They say, if you encounter a mountain lion in the wild, you’re supposed to open your jacket to make yourself look bigger. Yeah, right. This is akin to a cow walking up to you and exposing its psoas major (filet mignon city) to make itself look cuter.

You will find these parts particularly tasty. 
Rather than exposing all your soft and juicy parts to a cougar, I suggest you poop your pants. No mountain lion will want to get near that … and—you got it—risk getting a parasite. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Fox and the Sour Grades

There once was a fox, who having lived to the ripe old age of three, decided to write his memoirs. He thought about calling it You Might Be a Fox under the pseudonym Jeff Redneckworthy. But, as sly as that was, the old Reynard did not think highly of pseudonyms … because he thought higher of himself.

So he decided to call it Fox Tales by Fox. 

Inspired by his future fame and fortune, he wrote furiously and furrily. He did not stop to proofread or to check if he was mixing his metaphors—after all, he was weaving pearls.

When he finally finished, he printed off copies and mailed them to his friends Raven, Hound, and Goat.

Eager to hear the pending praise, he first visited the bird.  “What did you think of my memoirs?” he asked.

Raven, a creature proficient in many languages and a maven (as most ravens are) of fine literature, hesitated. “It was interesting,” he said. “But I noticed a few typos.”

“Typos? Are you sure?”

“Well,” sighed Raven. “For example, it says you were born in 2090.”

“I merely meant I was born before my time,” said Fox. “Obviously.” 

“And what about that bit with the ‘sore grapes?’” asked Raven. “I assume you weren’t talking about an unfortunate bicycle accident.”

“Look,” puffed Fox. “Let’s set the record straight. I didn’t want those grapes to eat in the first place. I merely wanted those grapes so I could pelt my critics with staining pellets. And if I hit you with a grape, you’d be sore; I can guarantee you of that. ”

And with that, he flung a grape at Raven. “See? I got a hold of some.”

Raven caught the grape in his beak, flipped it high in the air, and deftly swallowed it upon its return. “Suit yourself,” he said. And with a mighty flap, he was gone.

Fox next stopped by Hound’s house. “Are you leashed?” he shouted from the bushes.

“Aren’t we all?” said Hound.

“I’m asking in a more literal sense,” said Fox. “Are you presently tethered? I like you, Hound. But I don’t trust your instincts.”

“I am, indeed, shackled by an oppressive regime,” admitted Hound. “But what are you worried about? In your memoir you waxed on about how you—as a quick red fox—jumped over the “lazy brown dig.’  I assume that was a typo … and that you’re confident you can outrun me.”

“Ah,” said Fox. “I merely meant that as an agile denizen of the woods, I am nimble enough to evade ill-thought slurs—particularly by brown bears.”

“So you weren’t calling me lazy?”

To avoid the question, Fox hurled a few grapes at the hound and dashed off into the scrub.

“Thanks,” shouted Hound.

The fox then snuck to the back of the barn where he ran into Goat. “Ahoy hoy, Goat! Did you get my manuscript?”

“I did,” bleated Goat. “I loved it!”

“You found no typos then?”

“Absolutely not. … I can’t read.”

“But you said you loved it.”

“Yeah I did. It tasted great.”

“You ate my manuscript?”

“Every page.”

“So, what you’re saying is that rather than being a voracious reader, you’re simply being voracious.”

“Yeah, I have no idea what that means.”

“No matter, Goat. You’ve been a great help and a true friend.” And with that, he rolled some grapes toward his bearded pal.

A week later, Fox self-published his memoirs—typos and all—with a special endorsement embossed on the cover.

I ate it up!—Goat.”  

Moral: Proofread. Schmroofread. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Our branding will get you in the end

Let’s say you own a hot sauce company. (C’mon, say it.) Forget everything you learned about advertising and branding.

It won’t work.

After all, in the immortal words of Don Draper, “Advertising is about one thing: happiness.” And branding is supposed to reassure your customers they made the right choice, right?

But that’s not how it works with hot sauces. Hot sauce companies want to kill you. Moreover, they want you to want to be killed. ... Oh, they understand your "pain points." And they want to twist the knife in them. 

This much is self evident on the grocery shelf. Take a look at the following hot sauce labels.

How do you choose between Anal Angst and Butt Pucker?  I guess if you're more of a Hamlet type--or if you just worry your ham isn't lethal enough (with all that sodium, nitrates, and trichinosis)--you'd go with the Anal Angst. But, if you're more worried about how many angstroms your anus is, you'd pucker that bad boy with the XX-tra hot stuff.

Either way, I can guarantee you'd regret your choice. (Even more than I regret the SEO I'll garner with "anal angst" and "butt pucker" now associated with my blog and good name.)

More to the point, Professor Payne Indeass, purveyor of such fine sauces, can guarantee it, too. You'll hate this stuff. Or at least your butt will.

But will it kill you?  I'm not saying The Sauce That Killed Kenny will either. But it did, at least, kill Kenny. Maybe it's really just the "dip" that kills cartoon characters on Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

To take away any doubt, top those nachos with a little I Can't Believe It's Not Gasoline. Because gasoline will not only ignite your nachos and taste horrible, it will kill you. Just ask Fabio! And really? A cartoon Fabio? Wouldn't have Freddy Krueger been a better choice?

From Freddy to that pesky World War I Jerry--feeling nostalgic for the good old days of chemical warfare? According to Wikipedia, "the skin of victims of mustard gas blistered, their eyes became very sore, and they began to vomit." Why, that's the perfect name for a hot sauce. Well done, Crazy Jerry's Mustard Gas. We'll get those doughboys yet. 

And as for those who buy the hot sauces dubbed Pain 95% and Pain 85%, I have only one thing to say to you: wuss.

Mel Gibson would go for the full 100%. Don't you want to be more like Mel Gibson? 

And now we come full circle--now a rather uncomfortable metaphor for this post and many a consumer's uncomfortable nether circles--back to the Professor and his Sphincter Shrinker. This is a nuanced beneficial difference from the aforementioned Butt Pucker. Apparently, you pucker your butts when you want them to kiss. You shrink them when you want to hug the robed wraith of Death himself.

So can other brands learn anything from this? Should Apple rebrand the iPhone the diePhone? (Me: "Siri, will I get a brain tumor? Siri: "What? I can't hear you. Hold the phone closer to your head.") Should Coke just admit it's dissolving the lining of your stomach--nay, shout it! 

Heh, why not? It should spice up things.