Thursday, December 31, 2009

Slow, Ugly, and Flightless: The Animals We Turn Into Food

I was at the Outback Steakhouse the other night, enjoying a delicious filet of salmon, when an interesting question occurred to me.  Specifically, "How did mankind decide which animals we would use as our primary food sources?"  Why do we eat cows, but not horses?  Why pigs, but not raccoons?  Why chickens, but not yellow-billed cotinga?  I mean, have you ever TRIED yellow-billed cotinga?  For all we know, they're absolutely scrumptious.

After giving the matter some thought (yes, I do indeed think about these things), I've reached an iron-clad and irrefutable conclusion:

Human beings are lazy and stupid, so we'll only eat slow, ugly animals and birds that can't fly.

Yes, I realize that some people eat deer (cute and quick) and duck (flying), but you're not going to be able to get McVenison or a Jumbo Quack down at the local fast food chain.  Our major staples are beef, pork, chicken, and turkey.  Animals we can easily catch and that won't put up much of a fight.  You don't "hunt" cows, you round 'em up and slaughter 'em.  You don't go on a turkey "hunt", you go on a turkey "shoot".  As in, "There he is, Gomer, plug 'im!"

Speaking of hunting, where do we get off calling that a "sport," anyway?  Let's look at deer hunting.  Now, I've got nothing against hunting per se, if you want to take your rifle and blow Bambi's head off, that's your business.  But when your opponent's entire defensive arsenal is "run like hell", that's not really a sport, now, is it?  Oh, it might LOOK like a sport, but it's like entering gold-medal decathlete Bryan Clay in the Special Olympics -- it's going to be a completely one-sided event.  You want to make hunting a sport?  How about hunting tigers with a Swiss Army knife or going after mountain lions with a billy club?  Give the animals a fighting chance.  Hell, that's a sport I'd shell out a few bucks for on pay-per-view.

Which brings us back to why we eat the slow, ugly, and flightless.  We're wimps.  We're not going to try to mass produce lion meat, because there's a pretty decent chance that we'll be the ones that get consumed in the process.  Maybe barbecued lion ribs would be out of this world, but it's just not worth the risk.  So we go after cows and pigs.  They're slow, ugly, and non-threatening. 

Hey, I'm not complaining.  I love steak and chicken, and I eat them as often as possible, just like the good Lord intended. I know the whackos at PETA get all out of joint with the "God's creatures are not food" argument, but as far as I'm concerned, if God didn't intend for us to chow down on cows and pigs, he wouldn't have made them so damn delicious.  I'm no theologian, but I've never heard scripture quoted to the effect of "thou shalt not partake of In-N-Out Double-Doubles."  In fact, the only clear statement God has ever made on what we should and shouldn't eat has to do with FRUIT.  The first time someone ate an apple, boom, humanity was screwed for all eternity.  And yet the produce section remains well-stocked.

So anyway, just out of morbid curiosity and the desire to see a rifle-totin' redneck get mauled to death, here's what I'm suggesting.  Let's expand our food choices.  For every deer that a hunter shoots, he must also attempt to bag three other "non-traditional" sources of meat.  Providing the consumer with more options will allow us to finally answer the one question that's on all of our minds:

Does yellow-billed continga really taste like chicken?


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Too Much Information

 Here's a story I wrote a few years ago, intended for elementary school and junior high readers . . .

The bell rang as usual at 3:10.  I bolted out of Mrs. Riley’s 7th period history class.  I wasn’t rushing to get somewhere, exactly, but any place would be better than that class.  Nothing against Riley, she’s okay as far as teachers go, but U.S. History should be left as it is . . . history. 
So anyway, I was shuffling along with my head down, which I normally do to avoid eye contact with Jake Ratliffe, one of the mutant high school punks who just lives to torture us middle schoolers on our way home from school.  Ratliffe saw me coming and immediately started lobbing dirt clods at me.  I just kept walking until I got out of range.  Thankfully, he wasn’t in the mood to follow me all the way to my front door, hassling me like he usually does.  I was just about a block from my house when I noticed a cell phone lying in the bushes next to the sidewalk.  Nokia, early model, no camera, no graphics, nada.  Just your standard “we’ll get this one for the kids because they’ll lose it anyway” model.  And in this case I guess the parents were right because whatever kid owned this had indeed lost it.
I figured the least I could do was scroll through the phone numbers to see if I recognized a name so I could maybe return the phone, but there were no numbers listed.  But I did notice that there was a new text message that hadn’t been opened.  Of course, I opened it.  Wouldn’t you?   It was just one of those ads that the cellular company sends every now and then, “FOR INFORMATION, DIAL 411.”  Like who doesn’t know that, right?   I stuck the phone in the pocket of my jacket and headed home.
Later that night I was doing my algebra homework, and the phone beeped.  I picked it up, and there was a new text message.  This one read, “FOR INFORMATION, DIAL 411, REALLY, GIVE IT A TRY.”  I guess the folks at Cellmark were desperate for people to call information for some reason.  Since there was no one I needed to call, I put the phone back on my desk and kept working on my math. 
Sure enough, the phone beeped again with another text message.  “FOR INFORMATION, DIAL 411.  DON’T BE AFRAID, STEVE.”  Whoa!  How did Cellmark know my name?  Especially since this isn’t even my phone.  Creepy.  Curious, I dialed 411.
“Thank you for dialing 411 information, what can I do for you, Steve?”  A woman’s voice, kinda sounds like Angelina Jolie.  Nice.
“How do you know my name?” I asked.
“This is information.  We know everything,” replied the voice.  “Certainly you must need some information.”
“What, you mean like someone’s phone number or address or something?”

“Well, sure, that’s one possibility, but isn’t there some other information you could use right now?”  Man, her voice was hot.
“Oh, yeah, okay.  Let’s see.”  I looked at my math homework.  “All right, solve the following equation for X.  4x + 17 = 47 - 6x.”
“Simple, Steve.  X equals 3.  Have a good evening.”  She hung up.  
How cool is that!  Looks like ol’ Steverino might actually pass math this semester.  Just how much “information” did this phone have, anyway?  I dialed 411 again.
“Thank you for dialing 411 information, what can I do for you, Steve?”
“Who won the World Series in 1978?”
“The Yankees over the Dodgers, four games to two.”
“What happened to Han Solo at the end of The Empire Strikes Back?”
“He was frozen in carbonite, and Boba Fett took him to Jabba the Hutt.”
Okay, so the 411 lady was a trivia buff.  Let’s crank this up a little bit.  Time for some more specific info, stuff that she couldn’t possibly know.
“Alright, let’s see.  What is my favorite kind of ice cream?”
“Ben and Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.”
“What CD is in my CD player?” 
“An illegally burned copy of Linkin Park’s Meteora.”
“What is the name of the girl I have a secret crush on?”
“Cindi Lubanski.”
WOW!  This thing really DID have all the information.  I hadn’t told anyone about Cindi.  Heck, I don’t even think she knows I exist.
“What do I have under my bed right now?”  I asked.  That should stump her.
“Five MAD Magazines, a pair of roller blades, a broken X-Box controller, Monopoly, three dirty socks, and 138 chewed-off fingernail clippings.”
This was unbelievable!  That was exactly what was under my bed!  Well, I was taking her word for the fingernails, but I figured she was pretty close.  Bad habit.  I pressed “end.”  This was a lot to handle for one night.  I needed to consider the possibilities.  I could get straight A’s.  Know anything about anyone.  Hey, I wonder if it knows about the future.  Wouldn’t that be awesome?  I’d have to give that a try.  But it was time to hit the sack.
I woke up early.  I had already thought of what I would ask 411.  I dialed. 
“Thank you for dialing 411 information, what can I do for you, Steve?”  It’s official.  I’m in love with this voice.
“Okay, when I go downstairs in about fifteen minutes, what is the first thing my mom is going to say to me?”
“She’s going to say, ‘Don’t forget to clean your room after school, Steve, Aunt Tina is coming for the weekend.’” 
“Thanks.  Bye!”  I hung up.  This was gonna be interesting.  I took a shower, brushed my teeth, got dressed, gelled the ‘do, and packed my backpack.  Trembling with excitement, I went downstairs for breakfast.
“Mornin’ Mom.”
“Don’t forget to clean your room after school, Steve, Aunt Tina is coming for the weekend.”
“Okay, Mom, no problem.”  I was dying.  I held a 21st century, Nokia crystal ball in the palm of my hand. 
School that day was a breeze.  I got 100% on my math test (I had to whisper into the phone), I found out that Cindi Lubanski actually does know who I am and thinks I have a cute smile, I won five bucks from my best friend Noah when I told him exactly what he had in his lunch bag, and I solved the Dokesville Middle School mystery of all time, that yes, that is indeed Mr. DeCola’s real hair.
All in all, it was a great day.  Once I got home from school,I figured I’d start asking some much more important questions. 

“Thank you for dialing 411 information, what can I do for you, Steve?”

“What am I going to be when I grow up?”

“You’re going to be a salesman for a major computer company.”

Boring.  Oh well.  Hey, maybe it could tell me how old I’ll be when I die.  Yeah!  I dialed 411.  Wait!  I hung up before she answered.  Do I really want to know this?  I mean, what if she says, “seventeen.”  I’d be in a panic for the next four years.  Even if it were older, I’d know when death was coming.  I think I’ll pass on this one.  Oh, I got it!  I dialed.
“Thank you for dialing 411 information, what can I do for you, Steve?”
“How old is Jake Ratliffe going to be when he dies?”  At least I could torture him with that information.
“Ninety seven.”
Figures.  Great people die young, and Jake the Brain-dead Neanderthal is going to be watching Super Bowl CXX with his great-grandkids.  But just thinking about Ratliffe gave me another idea.
“What is the worst thing that’s going to happen to Jake Ratliffe?”
I looked at the phone.  It read, LOW BATTERY.
Oh NO!  I hadn’t thought of that.  I didn’t have the charger. I quickly ran downstairs to get my mom’s.  No good, hers is a different brand.  It looked like I only had time for a couple more questions. I asked again.
“What is the worst thing that is going to happen to Jake Ratliffe?”
The voice said, “He’s going to spend three years in Juvenile Hall and then go to prison.”
AWESOME!  I kept at it. 
“What crime will he commit?”
MURDER?!?  Oh my God!  He’s a killer!
“Who is he going to kill?”  I had to know, so I could warn the poor schmuck.
“He’s going to kill YOU, Steve.”
“ME?!” I shrieked.  “WHY’S HE GONNA KILL ME?”
“Well, Steve,” replied the voice.  “He knows that you found the phone he lost, and he’s desperate to get it back.”

I looked down at the screen.  The battery was dead.  And so am I.


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Sunday, December 27, 2009

What Happens When Her Water Breaks?

According to a recent article, Mackenzie McCollum, a student at Arlington Heights High School in Texas, has been benched by her volleyball coach because she is pregnant.  Naturally, Mackenzie and her mother are quite upset because the poor girl's rights have been somehow violated.

Don't you love how the coach is automatically accused of being unfair?  I'm thinking that it's possible that Mackenzie's been benched because the coach doesn't want to risk her health or that of her unborn child.  Or perhaps he decided that Mackenzie's condition would limit her ability on the volleyball court.  I seriously doubt that the coach based his decision on something like, "Wow.  One of my players is a friggin' slut.  Better sit her ass on the bench to teach her a lesson."

And I just love how Mackenzie's mom, Brenda Horton, is handling the whole thing.  Rather than assume some of the responsibility for her daughter's actions, she's taking a stand against tyranny and injustice toward unmarried pregnant teenage athletes everywhere.  She's quoted as saying,  "My goal is for [the school] to include and nurture pregnant athletes."

Include and nurture pregnant athletes?  Is it THAT big of a problem?  Do we have legions of knocked-up softball, volleyball, and field hockey players nationwide that are being oppressed?   How exactly would a coach "nurture" his pregnant players?

"All right team, I understand that some of you girls are not pregnant right now.  In order to be sensitive to the needs of your child-bearing teammates, I'm asking you all to go out this weekend and find a suitable young man to impregnate you.  You didn't hear it from me, but there's a killer frat party at the Gamma House on Saturday night.  Go get 'em, girls!"

Opposing coaches could develop a whole strategy for playing against a team of moms-to-be.  Hit it to the girl whose contractions are only two minutes apart, or schedule games for nine in the morning to take advantage of morning sickness.  How hard could it be to defeat a team of preggos, regardless?

There's another potential problem that Mackenzie's team faces, though.  What happens if they're playing against some Catholic school in the Bible Belt who's coach is one of those "right to life" folks?  I can see it now.  The opposing coach claims that Mackenzie's unborn child is in fact a life, and as such, should count as one of the players on the court.  Arlington Heights would have to pull one of its other players off the court, essentially putting them one player down.  I'm assuming, of course, that the fetus would be ineffective as a volleyball player.

Look, Mackenzie, here's the deal.  You made the decision to have unprotected sex and, surprise surprise, you wound up pregnant.  That means you're going to have to give up a few things for the next nine months, and volleyball is probably one of them.  No one's trying to infringe upon your rights or discriminate against you.  Since you and your mom obviously place your high school volleyball career above the safety of both you and your child, you should be grateful that your coach cares enough to step up and assume that responsibility.  And let's be completely honest here, the minute you dive for a ball and miscarry your child, your mother's gonna be calling a lawyer and filing a lawsuit against your coach, your school, and anybody else she can think of.  Just go home, relax, take care of yourself, and I hope you have a happy and healthy childhood.  Volleyball can wait.


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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jiffy Pop Roasting on an Open Fire

Well, here it is Christmas Eve, and I'm officially sick of Christmas music.  It's been on the radio since Halloween, and in early December I made my cheery yuletide iPod playlist full of the holiday classics.  Winter Wonderland, Sleigh Ride, fa la la la frickin' la.

If you listen to these songs long enough, the lyrics get stuck in your head.  I've actually started to analyze the meaning of some of these tunes, and I'll tell ya . . . it's starting to annoy me.  First of all, what the hell is figgy pudding?  And those little bastards singing, "we won't go until we get some", well, guess what kids?  I have no fucking figgy pudding, and if you don't go right Goddamn now, you'll be singing All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth, because I'm gonna bust you in the chops with a petrified fruitcake.

My favorite Christmas song of all is The Christmas Song by Mel Torme.  I have several versions of this one on the aforementioned iPod playlist; Frank Sinatra, James Taylor, Vince Guaraldi.  By now, I've heard it so many times that I've probably over-thought the implications set forth in the lyrics.

Let's take a look, shall we?

The Christmas Song 
by Mel Torme

"The" Christmas song, Mel?  Really?  Isn't that a bit cocky?  I mean, I love ya, but there are lots of Christmas songs more popular than this one.  Some would consider Jingle Bells to be "the" Christmas song.  Others might go with Santa Claus is Coming to Town.  The point is, there are lots of classics and it's pretty much a matter of opinion as to which is the quintessential holiday ditty.  You'd have been better served to call this "A" Christmas Song, or simply Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire, which is what most people think the title is anyway. 

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack Frost nipping at your nose

Okay, show of hands, who has ever actually roasted a chestnut?(1)  Marshmallows, of course.  Hot dogs, absolutely.  Jiffy Pop popcorn roasting on an open fire is simply divine.  But chestnuts?  And Jack Frost nipping at your nose?  If you're sitting in front of an open fire popping Jiffy Pop, the searing flame and popping embers will ward off any potential nose-nipping.   

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

First of all, I think we're calling them Inuit-Americans now, aren't we?  And I've never seen a picture of an Inuit-American dressed in a red sweater with a goofy reindeer on it, or wearing a scarf festooned with puffy balls and jingle bells.  "Folks dressed up like friggin' dorks" is more like it.  Anyway, yuletide carols are more typically sung by little kids and drunken co-workers than by choirs these days. 

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright

I've always had a problem with the phrase "everybody knows".  People are generally stupid, so I don't think we can assume that EVERYBODY knows anything.  EVERYBODY doesn't know that you shouldn't drive 45 miles an hour in the fast lane.  EVERYBODY doesn't know that if you let TV and video games raise your toddler he's going to be eating paste in kindergarten.  EVERYBODY doesn't know that if you fuck around on your hot blonde wife with an endless parade of cocktail waitresses and then proceed to leave voicemails on their cell phones, you'll eventually have to forfeit a bazillion dollars in endorsement money and give up golfing for a while.  While some people are indeed aware that turkey and mistletoe help to make the season bright, I wouldn't dare assume that EVERYBODY knows that. 

Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
Will find it hard to sleep tonight

Well, sure they will.  They've been scarfing candy canes and sugar cookies since Thanksgiving.  They'll find it hard to sleep until March. 

They know that Santa's on his way
He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh

When I was a kid, we'd always put a long pause after "he's loaded" to make it sound like Santa was on dope.  We cracked ourselves up.  The question here, though, is this: Is it, in fact, Santa himself who is in charge of the toy-and-goodie-loading?  It's always been my understanding that Santa's elves are the ones who do the heavy lifting.  Let's give those pint-sized lackeys some credit.  They're the ones busting their yuletide butts every year. 

And every mother's child is gonna spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly

We've already established that they "know that Santa's on his way", right?  Well, if the kids are buying into the Santa thing, they may as well go the whole way and believe in the flying reindeer without having to go all James Bond and spy on them.  Just go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt.

And what's with the "every MOTHER'S child?"  What, fathers don't count anymore?  What do moms have to do with Christmas, anyway?  They do the shopping, fine, but what woman is going to complain about "having" to shop?  It's what women do best!(2)  It's the fathers who have the real chore at Christmas, assembling bicycles, hanging the lights, and scraping unpopped Jiffy Pop kernels out of the fireplace. 

And so I'm offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two

Apparently, Kirk Douglas and Olivia de Havilland can go screw themselves.(3) 

Although it's been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you 

Have a great Christmas, you Knuckleheads!  You know I love ya!

(1) Put your hand down, Moog, those aren't chestnuts.
 (2) Okay, it's what MOST women do best.  I'm sure there are exceptions.  Relax, ladies.
 (3) Kirk Douglas (b. 12/9/16) and Olivia de Havilland (b. 7/1/16) are both 93 years old.


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Monday, December 21, 2009

The Ghost of Christmas Presents

As far back as I can remember, Christmas has been a magical time of year, where we celebrate the joy of crowded shopping malls, the Yuletide glow of sky-rocketing Visa bills, and the youthful choir of children's voices singing out, "I didn't get what I REEEEEALLY wanted!"

As I reflect upon the Christmases of my childhood, I remember with fondness the presents I received under our family's Christmas tree.  While our holiday was always filled with gifts and stockings full of candy (as well as socks, walnuts, and oranges, yes Mom, I remember) there are a few presents that stand out in my mind.

When I was about six, Santa brought me a Spirograph.  It was basically a pad of paper, a package of colored pens, and lots of plastic disks.  Using this high-tech graphic arts equipment, I was able to draw swirls of all shapes and sizes.  I think I spent about an hour on Christmas morning working on these designs, and never touched the thing again.  Well, that's not entirely true.  My brothers and I used the plastic Spiro-disks as weapons, chucking them at each other and leaving them on the floor for my barefoot dad to step on in the middle of the night.  Dad hated Spiro-disks, Legos, and plastic army men for that very reason.

A couple years later, I got my first full set of Hot Wheels cars and tracks.  Now this is something that got a lot of use around my house.  I'd set up a series of loops, curves, and hills, and send my Hot Wheels cars zooming around the track for hours on end.  One of the sets had a station where you could press a button to propel your car every lap around the track.  We'd have tournaments, stunt shows, we'd even race for imaginary "pink slips" where the winner would keep the loser's car.  Oh, the merriment!

But there was a dark side to our Hot Wheels sets.  It didn't take long for my mom to discover that an orange Hot Wheels track makes a damn fine weapon for beating a kid's bottom.  One night, my brother Eric and I were in our room racing for "pinks", and he'd just won the rights to my candy apple red 1967 Ford Mustang.  I wasn't happy about it, so I grabbed the car back from him.  He pitched a fit, hollering something about "winning it fair and square", and Mom came upstairs to see what the problem was.  By the time she got there, Eric and I were throwing cars at each other and wrestling around on the floor..

Without a word, Mom disassembled the front straightaway and whipped me across my pajama-clad butt with it.  A new day had dawned in punishment-land.

Every Christmas, we'd get new "add-ons" for our Hot Wheels collection.  While we loved the cars and tracks, there were always mixed emotions when we unwrapped them.  Sort of a "wow, that's gonna be fun . . . but the banked corner is gonna HURT!"

One Christmas, I got a Joe Namath football uniform, complete with jersey, pants, shoulder pads, and helmet.  Sadly, it did not come with the Joe Namath-approved accessories -- a bottle of Jack Daniels and two gorgeous up-and-coming actresses.

I liked the present anyway.

I wore the complete outfit all day on Christmas, including the helmet.  It wasn't easy to eat dinner that evening, but I managed to get the fork between the bars of the facemask without making too much of a mess.

Incidentally, this is the very same "not a protective helmet" that rose to fame the following spring when my friend Mike the Whip wore it while doing his best Evel Knievel imitation.

I outgrew the Jets uniform rather quickly, so a couple years later my Dad bought Eric and me brand new football gear.  I got a Redskins helmet and jersey, and Eric got the Steelers.  While I liked the colors, I never was a 'Skins fan, so I peeled the logo off the helmet after a week or so and had my dad paint the number 23 on it instead (matching the number on the jersey).  It ended up looking like the Alabama Crimson Tide uniform.  My brother Eric, on the other hand, instantly became a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and remains one to this very day.

In the 1970's, there was one game that every boy between the ages of 7 and 16 had to have: Electric Football.  This classic included a vibrating metal football field and two teams of tiny players affixed to miniature plastic bases.  We set up our teams for each play, turned on the field, and away they went.  The play ended when the ball-carrier's base was touched by a defender's base.  The format of Electric Football really emphasized the running game.  Each team came with a separate quarterback/kicker, so you could try a pass, but it was almost impossible to fling the felt football from the quarterback's plastic hand with any accuracy at all.

Also, you couldn't really control the direction that your players ran.  More often than not, my running back would head straight for the sideline and bump against the metal frame.  Or just spin around in circles.  Or fall over.

Still, it was a lot of fun, and that game stuck around for years.

Which brings us to my family's very first video game.

It was called Odyssey, and its main feature was a version of the classic arcade game Pong  You remember Pong, right?  Each player controlled a white rectangular "paddle" and attempted to hit the blip/ball back and forth.  Well, not only did Odyssey have Pong, you could also play Haunted House, roulette, hockey, and even football.

Sounds amazing, right?

Uh, not so much.

You see, every Odyssey game had the same basic "look" to it -- a white square moving around or a white paddle hitting some sort of blip.  To play the different games, you had to tape a cellophane sheet over your TV screen.  There was a haunted house sheet, a football field sheet, a hockey rink sheet, etc.  They were pretty lame, so my brothers and I simply played Pong all the time.

And to think, nowadays kids complain if the Playstation image of Peyton Manning has a bigger nose than the actual Peyton Manning.  In my day, Peyton Manning would've been a white square.  Which, come to think of it, he kinda is.

There are a few other toys I need to give a nod to here, kind of like a list of "honorable mentions".  In no specific order, these would be Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots, Simon, Slinky, Lite Brite, and Trouble.  Remember those?

I can't help but look at the gifts I've gotten for my kids and wonder, will they look back at their Nintendo Wii the same way I remember our Odyssey?  Will their Madden Football games seem as cheesy as Electric Football?  Of course, even forty years later, there's one present that has remained constant.

The Hot Wheels sets.

Because you can't spank a kid with a Playstation.


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Friday, December 18, 2009

The Unreasonable Cow

Palomino Ranch was a wonderful equestrian community.  Every family of horses lived in a comfortable stable, they had spacious fields to roam and trot, and they were surrounded by hundreds of friends.  The horses of Palomino Ranch had been together for many generations, and over time they'd developed an almost human-like civilization.  Over the years, they developed many sacred traditions,the most celebrated of which was a festival in honor of Native Son, the greatest horse who ever walked the earth.
Back in Native Son's day, many centuries ago, stables were hard to come by and when he did manage to find a place to spend the night, it was usually cold and leaky and food was scarce.  But Native Son overcame these obstacles, performed wondrous deeds for all members of the animal kingdom, and became a shining example to horses around the world.  Even now, hundreds of years later, stories of this fine stallion are told and passed along from generation to generation, and the Native Son Festival every December remains the grandest event of the year.  Everyone looks forward to it; stallions and mares, colts and foals.

One summer, many years ago, a family of cows wandered onto Palomino Ranch.  There were no other cows for them to live with, but that didn't present a problem at all, because the horses welcomed them with open hooves.  The two leaders of the horse community, Guiding Star and Evening Silence, made sure that the cow and her two calves got the nicest stable, and that they were fed and cared for.  And before long, the cows blended right in and were treated as equals.

Winter came, and with it the preparations for the Native Son Festival.  The horses decorated their quarters with flowers and ribbon, and hung the traditional Silver Horseshoe from the large oak in the meadow.  When Betsy, the mama cow, noticed the trinkets and baubles that festooned the stable, she approached Guiding Star.

"What's with all the hoopla?" she asked.

Guiding Star was more than happy to explain.  He enthusiastically told Betsy the story of Native Son, how the legend had been passed on for centuries, and about how his deeds served as an example for all horses to follow.

"So what does that have to do with all these fancy-schmancy decorations?" asked Betsy.

"Well," said Guiding Star, "the Native Son Festival is a time for us horses to reflect upon what Native Son means to each of us.  The ribbons and flowers that we hang represent the joy and kindness that Native Son brought to the world.  The Silver Horseshoe symbolizes the hard work and sacrifice that he made for all of horsekind.  It's one of our proudest traditions, and we'd love to have you and your calves celebrate with us."

Guiding Star had never discussed Native Son with a non-horse before, and he was absolutely glowing with pride.  But that would change immediately.

"Oh, I don't know about that," scoffed Betsy.  "That's a lovely story you've just told, but I don't believe a word of it.  That horse, Native Son?  Maybe he existed, but I don't believe that any one animal should be exalted above all others.  And I certainly don't want my calves to hear such nonsense."

Guiding Star was a little disappointed in Betsy's closed-minded attitude, but he understood completely.  "I understand completely," he said.  "We certainly don't expect you to decorate your stable, and if our songs and celebrations bother you, we'll just hold them over in the barn so you and your calves won't be disturbed."

"I'm not sure that's good enough," said Betsy.  "We live at Palomino Ranch just like everybody else, and I find this whole Native Son business offensive.  My calves are sure to ask questions and they'll feel left out when the little kid horses - "

"They're called yearlings."

"Whatever.  My calves will feel left out when their friends are celebrating.  Can't have that."

"Oh, that's no problem at all!  They're more than welcome to join in."

"You misunderstand me, Guiding Star.  My calves are NOT going to participate in your nonsense. I don't want them exposed to it, and I certainly don't want them to feel like misfits on their own ranch.  I'm telling you to take down the decorations and do away with the celebrations and parties."

Guiding Star didn't want to argue with Betsy, but he felt the cow was being unreasonable.  "Betsy, please try to look at this from our point of view.  The festival is important to us.  If it's that much of a problem for you, there's a dairy farm just a little ways down the road, and I'm sure they'd welcome you and your family there.  Maybe you'd be happier living with other cows instead of us horses."

"Oh, no," said Betsy.  "We're very happy here at Palomino Ranch and we love our comfortable home.  I don't think we should have to leave just because we don't believe in Native Son.  Please think about what I've said.  I'm going to go feed my calves now."

Guiding Star was frustrated.  The horses at Palomino Ranch and around the world had held the Native Son Festival for centuries with no problems at all.  It was always a time of great joy.  Guiding Star decided to talk with his friend and confidant Evening Silence to see if they could come up with a solution that would make everyone happy.

"I don't know what Betsy's problem is," said Guiding Star.  "I invited her and her calves to participate, I offered to move our celebrations to the barn, but nothing seemed to be good enough.  What do you think we should do?"

"Well, I certainly don't think we should just do away with our most important holiday," replied Evening Silence.  "The story of Native Son is too important to our community and our culture.  If you ask me, there's only one reasonable thing left to do."

And from that day forward, in addition to the decorations, songs, and celebrations, the Native Son Festival included a traditional feast of beef ribs, sirloin steaks, and veal cutlets.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

What Ever Happened To . . . Mayor McCheese?

Michael McCheese was elected mayor of McDonaldland in November, 1972 in a landslide over the little-known and long-since-forgotten incumbent Mayor Vincent Vatagrese.  McCheese served as mayor for sixteen years, bringing about great change in McDonaldland, including drive-thru windows, the Egg McMuffin and, of course, the ever-popular McRib.

But despite his many accomplishments, the McCheese Administration was fraught with scandal and controversy.

In 1974, McDonald's arch-rival Burger King launched a national advertising campaign, encouraging its customers to "Have it Your Way." In an effort to put the brakes on the competition's rising popularity, unidentified McCheese staffers bugged Burger King headquarters, hoping to steal recipe secrets and advertising strategy.  A Burger King security guard discovered the break-in, and several McDonald's officials were implicated. McCheese denied any knowledge of the incident, however, investigators found a recording of McCheese and Grimace talking about using Officer Big Mac to obstruct the FBI's investigation of the Burger King break-ins.

McDonaldland Post reporters Bob McWoodward and Carl Burgerstein continued to uncover evidence that supported claims that Mayor McCheese was involved in the cover-up.  The scandal became known as "Burgergate" and many of McCheese's advisors encouraged the mayor to resign before he was impeached from office.  This, however, would prove unnecessary when Burger King dropped all charges against McCheese and his associates in exchange for a large sum of cash and the recipe for McDonald's french fries.

Burgergate was not the only scandal to rock the mayor's office.  In 1988, McCheese was accused of sexual assault, allegedly accosting a young fast-food entrepreneur at a restaurant convention in New York.

"All I wanted to do was say hello," remembers the victim, known only as Wendy. "I'd always admired Mayor McCheese and the McDonald's corporation, and I was hoping to get some ideas for my own restaurants.  I approached him in the hotel lobby and introduced myself.  To my surprise, he said that he was familiar with my restaurants.  He told me that he'd like to get to know more about my buns, and I expressed interest in his Big Mac.  He also mentioned that he was looking into a concept known as super-sizing, which sounded like a great idea.  We talked for a few more minutes, and he suggested that I come up to his room so he could show me his recipe for special sauce.  Well, once we got to his room, I suddenly realized that only one of us had been talking about hamburgers."

Humiliated, Wendy didn't mention the incident for almost six months, but by then it didn't matter anymore.

Shortly after the incident with Wendy, McCheese traveled to Los Angeles for a "business meeting."  While in L.A., McCheese took the opportunity to see his favorite musical, Cheeses Priced, Superstar.  An unidentified assailant approached McCheese's box from behind, put a gun to his head, and pulled the trigger.  Due to the hilarious yet freakish composition of McCheese's head, paramedics on the scene had difficulty identifying what was blood and what was ketchup.  At one point, a frustrated EMT was heard yelling, "Well, why don't YOU taste it if it's so damn important?!"

McCheese was rushed to Sesame Seeders Sinai Hospital, and a team of surgeons and neurologists worked to save the mayor's life.  Extensive cranial damage forced the doctors to remove McCheese's patties, buns, cheese and condiments.  The operation was technically a success, but all that remained of the mayor were pickles, tomatoes and onions kept alive in a refrigerator.  McCheese remained in this vegetative state until 1990 when his family finally permitted doctors to pull the plug.

The gunman was never apprehended, although several witnesses reported seeing a clown-like figure with an abnormally large head leaving the theater shortly after the attempted murder.


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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lucifer's Grandma

I was sitting on my couch plowing through a carton of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream and watching The Biggest Loser when it occurred to me that maybe it's time to do something about my eating habits.

On the TV screen, a 420-pound behemoth named Danny was wheezing his way through a one mile "run".

Jesus, how can someone just let themselves go like that? I wondered, as a shoveled another spoonful of ice cream into my gaping maw.

At that point, a friendly little gnome named Irony tapped me on the shoulder and whispered, "Uh, dude, you're not exactly svelte yourself.  How's the ice cream?"

In my defense, I'm nowhere near 420 pounds, but Irony's point was well-taken.  Time to start eating better and visit the gym more often.  I've been down this road before.  I'll get in shape, then put on some weight, work it off again, etc., etc.  It's not hard for me to lose the extra poundage once I make the commitment, but it's that first step that's the toughest.

Okay, so I've been on this diet for a couple weeks now, and it's driving me crazy.  I rarely eat breakfast anyway, so that's not a problem, and for lunch I'll have a salad and for dinner some chicken or steak and veggies.  No snacking, and that's the tough part.  Long story short, I'm friggin' starving all the time.

The other day for lunch, I went to the grocery store to buy my usual chef salad and low-fat dressing.  I parked my car and started walking through the parking lot, heading for the entrance.  Since I was malnourished with visions of cherry tomatoes dancing in my head, I wasn't really paying attention to where I was going; therefore, I did not see the little old lady and her shopping cart full of cat food crossing in front of me.

I walked right into it.

Unfortunately, grandma's 20-pound bag of Meow Mix had been precariously balanced on top of the cart, and when we collided, the bag of cat food fell to the ground and, I'm not exaggerating, EXPLODED on the pavement.  Kibbles skittered under parked cars, bits bounced haphazardly into traffic, the great taste cats love was scattered as far as the eye could see.  The sweet gray-haired granny surveyed the situation, her lower lip quivered, she looked me in the eye and politely shrieked:


What the?  Did that decrepit old cat lady just drop an F-bomb on me?


Thank God the lady didn't have a cane, or she'd probably have beaten me to death.  I tried to calm her down.  "I'm sorry, ma'am, that's my fault -- "


"Please calm down, ma'am, I'll take care of it.  Let me go inside and talk to the manager and I'll see if they'll replace the spilled food.  If not, I'll just buy you a new bag."


Clearly, I was getting nowhere trying to reason with Lucifer's grandmother.  I flagged down one of the store's shopping cart wranglers, and he came over to help.

"Maybe you can help us," I said.  "I just ran into this lady's cart and -- "


"Right," I continued, "so I was wondering if we could get her a new bag."

"That's no problem at all, we'd be happy to take care of it."

I looked at Granny.  "Why don't you put the rest of your things in your car, and I'll go in and get the cat food and bring it out to you.  Sound okay?"

"Damn right."  She seemed to be calming down a little, now that she knew Cleopatra, Fluffy and Mr. Mittens weren't going to miss their dinner.

I followed Stan the cart man over to the pet aisle and got another bag of Meow Mix.  He filled me in on a couple things.  "Yeah, that lady's in here all the time," he said.  "She's a whacko.  Last week, one of our checkers told her that her coupons were expired, and I thought she was gonna snap."

Well good, at least it's nothing personal.

Stan got the okay from the manager to replace the cat food, and I carried the bag out to Granny's 1971 Chevy Impala.

"Here you are, ma'am.  I'm really sorry about that."  I put the bag in the trunk.

"Yeah, well, be more careful next time."

As I turned to walk away, I swear I heard her mutter . . .


I got in my car, and as I started driving away, I realized that in all the commotion, I'd forgotten to buy my salad.  Well, fuck it, I'm not going back to the store.  So I hit the drive-thru at In-N-Out Burger, picked up Double-Double and some fries, and went back to work.  The diet can take the day off.

I blame Danny, the 420-pound Biggest Loser.  If it weren't for him, I never would have been at the grocery store that day to begin with.


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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

About Knucklehead, Because You Were Mildly Curious

I'm going to change things up a little bit today.  Instead of the usual semi-humorous story or twisted observation, I'm going to take a few minutes to help you get to know me a bit better.

Lucky you.

I've received several questions from readers, and I'll get to those in a minute.  But first, here's a little bit about me.

I was born in 1965, so for you non-math majors out there, that makes me 44.  Some days I feel younger than that, other days I feel much, MUCH older.  I live in Southern California but I grew up in New Jersey so I'll always consider myself an east coast guy.  I'm reasonably happy with my job, although there's the usual amount of crap that we all have to deal with.  But on a day-to-day basis, it's a lot of fun and extremely rewarding.  Why am I not going into specifics?  Keep reading.

Knucklehead is actually my second blog.  The first one was created in November of 2008, and was not a whole lot different than this.  In fact, when I changed over to this one in September 2009, I brought a lot of my old material with me.  Those of you that have been along for the entire ride know why I made the change, so I won't rehash that whole debacle here.  The end result is a virtually identical blog that allows me to keep my anonymity, which why you won't find my real name or occupation listed on the site.  This also, unfortunately, eliminates a bulk of material for me because my workplace is full of absolutely riotous nonsense.  It's a drag, but I find ways to dress up those stories to make the source less obvious. I apologize for the "distance" that the anonymity might create, but it's a necessary evil.  Thanks for understanding.  I'm always happy to communicate with readers via email, where I can be a bit more candid.

On to your questions.  Some of these are pretty friggin' bizarre, which you'd kind of expect from the reader pool that exists over here.  But I'll give it my best shot.  Enjoy!

Q: What major malfunction in your personality, psyche, upbringing or education made you decide to become a writer?

First of all, I'm not really comfortable calling myself a "writer."  I'm more of a guy who happens to write things down and hope that people are interested in reading them.  I enjoy the process of writing, editing, and revising and I do take it seriously, but being called a writer is unduly complimentary.  That being said, as far back as I can remember, there was a lot of laughter in my family.  My dad and brothers are hilarious, so dinner time always provided us with a forum for sharing our funny stories.  My mom's sense of humor is more subtle, but she picks her spots very well.  I was also very lucky early on in that most of my teachers tolerated my wise-cracks and bantering back and forth with them.  As a result, I got to be the class clown a lot.  Over the years, that's evolved (or devolved, perhaps) into the written format.

Q: Okay, since you don't consider yourself a writer, who ARE some of your favorite writers?

There are probably hundreds, so I'll just pick a few in each genre.  In the humor realm, I'm partial to Tim Dorsey, Carl Hiaasen, and Chris Moore.  I enjoy the cop/legal thrillers of Michael Connelly, John Lescroart, John Grisham and James Patterson.  Greg Iles and Dean Koontz are difficult to pigeon-hole as far as genre, but they're both fantastic.  For narrative style, Stephen King and Stuart Woods are top-shelf.  And I love the sportswriting of columnist Rick Reilly.

Q: What popular entertainers, other than writers, have influenced your writing style?

It's always hard to talk about one's influences without giving the impression that you're comparing yourself to these people, so I'll start with that disclaimer: I'm in no way comparing myself to the talented individuals I'm about to discuss.  That would be absurd.

Since the question says I can't use writers, that leaves me pretty much with standup comics.

I started listening to my friend Matt's Bill Cosby albums when I was in high school.  I was taken in by how Cosby simply tells his stories in a hilarious fashion.  Even his "contrived" material, like the classic "NOAH!  I WANT YOU TO BUILD AN ARK!" bit is told in a narrative style.  More currently, comics like Ron White and Mike Birbiglia use this technique with great results.  Find Birbiglia's story about his worst show ever, and you'll see what I'm talking about.

For observational humor, Brian Regan is my absolute favorite.  "There's actually a list of instructions on a box of Pop Tarts.  What, people can't figure out how to partake of a Pop Tart?"  Regan takes simple, everyday things and looks at them in a completely different way, and he's a riot.  "The guy who invented the 'blank inside' greeting cards must wake up laughing.  It's a picture of a tree, with nothing inside.  You're buying a CREASE." 

Finally, for a completely absurd look at life, I love Steven Wright and Mitch Hedberg.  My favorite Hedberg line is, "I like escalators, they can never break.  They can only become stairs.  You'll never see an ESCALATOR OUT OF ORDER sign.  Only, ESCALATOR IS TEMPORARILY STAIRS.  SORRY FOR THE CONVENIENCE."

Aside from comics, the only other possible influences are my favorite sitcoms.  Currently I'm stuck on The Big Bang Theory and Two and a Half Men, but in my opinion, Taxi is the greatest television show ever.  Jim Ignatowski and Louie Depalma are the funniest characters ever created.

Q. Who's number one in your spank bank?

I'm not even sure what that means, but for the sake of argument we'll go with Sandra Bullock.

Q. If there's one thing you hate more than anything else and would move Heaven and Earth to never have to deal with again, what would it be?

There's so much to choose from here.  My first instinct is to say Will Ferrell movies, but they're easy enough to avoid while still leaving Heaven and Earth in their proper places.  I could also do without freeway traffic.  But if I can pick just one, I guess I'd have to go with pathological complainers.  You know, those douchebags who never have anything positive to say, aren't willing to help solve problems, and just want to bitch and whine about everything. They're just a gigantic pain in the ass, and should be forced to spend eternity sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic watching Will Ferrell movies.

Q: How the heck did you end up on the inferior coast, and would you move back east if you had the chance?

When I was in high school, my dad's employers transferred him from their offices in New Jersey out to Fountain Valley, California.  I'd just finished my sophomore year of high school, not the best time to be uprooted, but I got over it after, oh, a couple years.  I still consider New Jersey "home", and I'll always be an east coaster at heart.  Go Yankees!  To be completely honest, Southern California is overrated (except for the weather), and has no culture of its own to speak of.  And you can't find a good pizza or hoagie anywhere.  Regarding the second part of the question, I would absolutely love to move back when I retire.  I'm thinking Connecticut or North Jersey.

Q. What do you miss the most about the New York/New Jersey area?

There are a lot of things.  I miss Mike's Sub Shop in Dunellen, Mr. Assante's Pizza on Route 22, Stuff Yer Face in New Brunswick.  I miss being able to go to Yankee Stadium regularly.  But if I had to pick one thing, I think it would be the overall "attitude" of the culture back east.  New Jersey gets a bad rap from people that have never lived there, but what is seen as snarky and rude by outsiders is just the way Jersey folks banter back and forth.  The way they connect with each other is funny and friendly, and gives the east coast its character.  

Damn, now I want a sub sandwich.  I wonder if Mike's delivers to the west coast.

Q: Do you have any ambition to become a paid writer?

I AM a paid writer.  According to Google AdSense, I made seven cents last month.  Seriously, though, while I have the desire to make writing a full-time gig, I don't currently have the time to focus entirely on that.  I'm still enjoying my "real" job too much.  Maybe after I retire.

Q: What was your purpose for starting a blog?

Oh good, back to a simple question. I would eventually like to write novels, so I thought that blogging would be good "practice", and at the same time provide me with feedback from actual readers.  It's worked out pretty well so far, I think.  When I first started blogging, I had no idea that such a wonderful community of writers and assorted whackos (I'm looking at YOU, Suldog) existed, and these connections have been as much fun for me as the actual writing.  So thanks, all of you!

Q: Why does the sun set in the west?

Because it prefers spending the morning on the east coast, munching on bagels and lox at Katz's Deli.  

Q: Where did Knucklehead come from?

Knucklehead the person (me) came from New Jersey.  Knucklehead the blog comes from the dark corners of what passes for my mind.  Generally speaking, this blog can be broken down into three types of writing: "based on a true story" anecdotes (all my childhood stuff, for example), satire (What Ever Happened To . . . ), or observational humor.

Regarding the true stories, I will admit to a certain degree of artistic license.  All of these tales are based on actual events, but some are more "true" than others.  For instance, and I hope I'm not bursting any bubbles here, the post entitled "The Parker School Merry-Go-Boom" is about 60%  factual while "Helga and Me" is practically verbatim.  A lot of it depends on how well I remember the actual event.  The merry-go-round thing happened when I was in third grade and involved a head injury, so my memory of specific details is probably a bit hazy.

Well, that was fun.  Thanks for your questions!  Keep them coming, the weirder the better, and maybe this can become a semi-regular feature.

Until next time . . .


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Sunday, December 6, 2009

All I Really Need to Know I Learned on Saturday Morning

Perhaps you're familiar with the Robert Fulghum book entitled All I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.  Well, with all due respect to Mr. Fulghum, that's a load of crap.  All that I learned in Mrs. Fisk's kindergarten class was that musical chairs is the worst game ever invented and, while tasty, craft paste is not food.

Not exactly life-long lessons, those.

I learned a hell of a lot more from watching Saturday morning cartoons.  The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Hour (...and oh what heights we'll hit.  On with the show, this is it!) was an outstanding teacher, as were the Flintstones, Popeye, and the rest.  If a kid paid attention, all of life's most valuable lessons were right there in full-color animation.

Here's what I learned: 

Lesson One: Always listen carefully.  When engaged in conversation, it is critical to pay careful attention to what the other person is saying.  This way, you'll be able to understand his point of view and formulate an appropriate response.  The world is full of manipulative schemers, and the ability to identify important information while discarding the jibberish is essential.  Take, for example, the banter between Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck in the classic episode Rabbit Seasoning:

Bugs (to Elmer Fudd): Okay, Doc, you got me.  Would you like to shoot me now, or wait till you get home?

Daffy: Shoot him now!  Shoot him now! 

Bugs: You keep out of this, he doesn't have to shoot you now.

See what Bugs did right there?  By changing the word "me" to "you", he's turned the situation on its side, making Daffy the potential target for Elmer.  Daffy doesn't pick up on this, and falls right into the trap: 

Daffy: Well, I say he DOES have to shoot me now!  So shoot me now!

Of course Elmer, ever the obedient sap, takes aim and fires, blasting Daffy in the face and causing his beak to spin 'round and 'round.  If only Daffy had listened carefully, he could have avoided such humiliation.

Lesson Two: There's a fine line between perseverance and foolishness.  Everyone's heard the inspiring phrase, "If at first you don't succeed, try try again."  Most of the time that's pretty sound advice, but if one keeps failing over and over again, doesn't there come a point when giving up is the best option?  If you're a complete failure, just come to grips with it and change your course entirely.

To illustrate this point, let's use Wile E. Coyote.  Wile's one and only goal was to catch, and presumedly eat, Road Runner.  At first, his focus and determination were admirable.  He developed a plan of attack, made use of all available resources (mainly Acme products), and didn't let a little failure get in his way.  But let's be realistic here.  How many times does one have to be hit by a train, flung from a catapult, hurled off a 200-foot cliff, engulfed in flame, rocketed into the side of a mesa, or smashed by a falling boulder before he says, "fuck it, I'm going to Denny's"?

What we can learn from Wile E. Coyote is that sometimes you have to admit defeat and move on.

Lesson Three: Maintain a healthy diet.  This one is pretty simple.  Big Macs, Snickers bars, and Dr. Pepper do not a healthy body make.  If you want to grow up big and strong, you have to eat right and exercise.  Who demonstrates this concept more clearly than Popeye the Sailor Man?

Freakishly muscular forearms aside, Popeye did not cut an intimidating profile.  He was much smaller, for example, than his nemesis Bluto.  Early in every episode, Bluto would get the better of Popeye, pushing him around and stealing the inexplicably-in-demand Olive Oyl.  When his frustration reached a certain point, Popeye would break into song, eat a can of spinach, and proceed to kick Bluto's ass.  He was strong to the finish, 'cause he ate his spinach.

Got that kids?  Eat your veggies.

Lesson Four: Cleverness is more important than brute strength.  To illustrate this one, we'll go back to Bugs Bunny.  Bugs was a scrawny rabbit, incapable of surviving on strength and power.  He had to use his cunning to deal with such villains as the Crusher, Giovanni Jones, the Gashouse Gorillas, and the ever-present, shotgun-toting Elmer Fudd.

In Ali Baba Bunny, Bugs is confronted by an enormous, sword-wielding oaf named Hassan, a middle eastern sociopath who terrorized intruders with the battle cry, "HASSAN CHOP!"  To elude said chopping, Bugs had to not only deal with a greedy, narrow-minded companion in Daffy Duck, he also had to figure out a way to outsmart Hassan.  Certainly, Bugs was incapable of engaging him in hand-to-sword combat.

So what did Bugs do?  He crammed himself into a bottle and pretended to be a magical genie.  Hassan released Bugs from the bottle, and faster than you can say "Iggity aggity oop, ah ah," Hassan was foiled.

Sure, being able to rip one's enemies limb from limb is a wonderful skill to have, but a sharp mind is even more valuable.  Remember, John Gotti wasn't a big guy either.  He simply used his brain.  Well, his brain and a virtual army of neckless goombahs, but I think you see my point.

Lesson Five: Be prepared for unforeseen circumstances.  As any good Boy Scout knows, being prepared is the key to success.  In the world of Saturday morning cartoons, it is Foghorn Leghorn who provides us with the best example of this.  On at least three occasions, Foghorn gets himself into situations where his feathers are completely blown off of his body.  Embarrassing, to say the least.  But instead of wandering around the barnyard buck naked, Foggy proudly declares, "Luckily, I keep a spare in my locker for just such an emergency."   He zips up the spare, and he's good to go.  In another episode, in a similar situation, Foghorn states, "I always keep my feathers numbered, for just such an emergency."  Numbering one's feathers?  That, my friends, is preparation.

The wisdom of Bugs Bunny, Foghorn Leghorn, Popeye, and many others serves as a blueprint for a lifetime of success.  Even the hapless Wile E. Coyote provides us with a clear example of what not to do.  So the next time you're feeling down or you need some emotional guidance, there's no need to panic.  Just turn on the Cartoon Network.  I'm sure you'll find the words you need to pick yourself up and move on.

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Monday, November 30, 2009

A Heapin' Helpin' of Leftovers

Every once in a while, the staff here at Knucklehead! (okay, it's just me . . . play along) come up with a few ideas or witticisms that just don't fit into the context of a regular post.  Instead of letting these leftovers go to waste, we'll share them here.  Just scrape off the mold and enjoy!

Charlie Brown and the gang are sitting in their junior high school history class.  The teacher has just assigned each student a country to write a report on.

Linus: I got Switzerland.
Schroeder: I got Portugal.
Lucy: I got Norway.
Charlie Brown: I got Iraq.

This morning I noticed a gray hair growing out of my ear.  I'm not sure which part of that sentence troubles me more.

I was at Denny's the other day, and I ordered synonym toast.  The waitress said, "Don't you mean cinnamon toast?"  I said, "No, I don't.  I mean synonym toast, because I like my toast with jam and jelly on it."

Speaking of food, I've figured out a great diet.  Every day for lunch, I'm going to eat a half-pound of pasta.  Then, for dinner, I'm going to eat a half-pound of antipasta.  They'll cancel each other out, right?

Back in medieval times, the king's army would travel from village to village, conquering new territory.  While in the village, the soldiers would often find a fair maiden to "conquer" as well.  Hence the term "One knight stand."

Whoever wrote the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears clearly had no understanding of physics.  If the porridge was the same temperature to start with, there's no way that the medium-sized Mama's bowl would be "too cold" when the larger Papa's bowl was "too hot" and Baby Bear's was "just right".

The NFL would be a lot more exciting if each team were allowed to have an actual one of whatever their mascot is on the team.  The Chicago Bears, for example, could have a 700-pound grizzly playing linebacker.  The Dallas Cowboys could have a dude named El Paso Slim running an incredibly literal version of the shotgun offense.   There's be no stopping the New York Giants' ten-foot tall running back.  It would be awesome.  Unless you're the Arizona Cardinals.

More on team names: Given the prevalence of corporations buying the naming rights of stadiums and arenas (ie. Coors Field, Honda Center), I think we're about ten years or so away from teams actually being named for companies instead of the cities they play in.  Don't be surprised to see teams like the Pepsi Cowboys or the Labatt's Maple Leafs.  Of course, with some teams, the marketing tie-in would be perfect.  We could see a World Series between the Fruit of the Loom White Sox and the Miller Lite Brewers, or an AFC West battle between the MasterCard Chargers and the Ford Broncos.  You heard it here first, people.

The only difference between clairvoyance and paranoia is the degree of accuracy.

I always take the phrase "with the great taste dogs love" with a certain amount of skepticism.  My dog eats his own poop.

I think that any NFL quarterback who "slides" to avoid contact should be forced to play the rest of that game wearing a skirt and lipstick.  I'm looking at YOU, Tom Brady.

Do players on losing teams blame Jesus?  I mean, if you're gonna give Him credit when you win . . .

Show me someone who thinks that kids don't understand the value of things, and I'll show you someone who has never been inside a school cafeteria.  "No way!  I'm not giving you my Hostess apple pie for your baggie of carrot sticks!"

The terms "self-explanatory" and "common sense" have no business being in the English language.

A pamphlet on "nutrition facts" at McDonalds?  What's next, safety instructions on the electric chair?

I'm really glad that my last name isn't an actual word.  I doubt that I could resist the temptation to name my kids something like Candy Caine or Sandy Beech.

Writers who struggle to come up with witty metaphors are like elephants without surfboards.

I think someone should rewrite the Ten Commandments as haiku:

Thou shalt not covet
Thy neighbor's smokin' hot wife
Thou shall fry in hell

Hope you got at least a few chuckles here . . . now if you'll excuse me, I think there's still a Tupperware container of potato salad in the back of the fridge.


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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What Ever Happened To . . . Curious George?

Bozi Kima was abducted from the jungles of Africa in the early 1940’s, and brought to the United States by a man named Steve Durango (aka. The Man in the Yellow Hat). Durango changed Bozi’s name to George, and attempted to raise the monkey as a pet. Forced to adapt to the hazards of New York City, George’s childhood was filled with adventure. He learned to fly a kite, visited a farm, and even worked part-time as a paperboy. More often, however, his cultural disorientation and the lack of proper supervision led to trouble. One morning, in the autumn of 1941, Durango left the apartment leaving George all alone. George found a puzzle that Durango had carelessly left on his desk, opened the box, and swallowed a puzzle piece. This resulted in a visit to the emergency room to have his stomach pumped.

On another occasion, once again while left completely unsupervised, George escaped from the apartment and frolicked around Manhattan, somewhat at random. An inexplicable chain of events led to his employment with a window washing company and while climbing down the outside of a 38-story building, George plummeted to the ground and snapped his leg.

Clearly, Steve Durango didn’t have sense enough to raise a goldfish, much less a rambunctious primate, but we’ll get back to that shortly.

George simply did not possess the experience, training, or instincts to survive in the most dangerous city in the world and this, combined with Durango’s lackadaisical attitude toward parenting, left the poor monkey at the mercy of the streets.

“You know, I picked up that ‘Curious’ label early on,” recalls George. “But curiosity had nothing to do with it. I had no idea what was going on. I mean, one day I was swinging in trees and eating bananas, the next day I was dodging taxicabs. Maybe they should’ve called me ‘Confused George’ or ‘Displaced George’. ‘Scared Out of His Fucking Mind George’ probably says it best.”

By the mid-40’s, the terrified monkey had become a weird sort of New York City icon. He was a renegade monkey on the loose, and every couple months the papers would scream out a new headline:




In 1949, George was taken by ambulance to Lenox Hill Hospital after getting his tail severed by the uptown D train. Thanks to the quick work of surgeon Dr. Sidney Fishman, George’s tail was reattached and steps were taken to ensure his future safety. After the subway incident, Dr. Fishman placed a call to the New York Department of Public Safety.

“We’d seen a lot of that poor little monkey,” Dr. Fishman explained to the police. “Concussions, broken bones, stab wounds, the works. Every time we treated him, we’d contact his guardian Mr. Durango, and it was always, ‘Oh, I don’t know how he got out this time,’ or ‘I’ll be down to pick him up after work.’ He didn’t seem concerned at all. It got to the point where I felt the need to report him to the authorities.”

Durango was arrested, and eventually convicted for child endangerment, cruelty to animals, and kidnapping. As he left the courthouse after sentencing, animal rights activists pelted him with banana peels and monkey shit. Durango served a 20-year sentence at Bayview Correctional Facility, where he was known simply as The Man in the Orange Jumpsuit.  He was released in 1971, and lived in Rochester, New York until passing away in 1988.

Dr. Fishman escorted George back to his native Africa in 1955, reuniting him with his brothers and sisters. George went back to using his given name of Bozi Kima and lived a peaceful and injury-free life. He found a mate, fathered seven young monkeys of his own, and died of natural causes on April 2, 1967. He was 29.

Universal Pictures purchased the rights to Bozi Kima's story, and the resulting motion picture, The Abduction of Bozi Kima is scheduled for release in 2011.  Mel Gibson has signed on to play Steve Durango, and Matt Damon will star as Bozi/George.


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Sunday, November 15, 2009

This One Time, at Band Camp . . .

There was trouble at band camp.  Ray Flack had gotten himself into a bind, but the rest of us freshmen didn't feel all too sorry for him.  In fact, we thought that he kinda had it coming to him.

Let me tell you why.

One of the universal truths about band camp is that the freshman boys are going to take a sousaphone-load of crap from the upperclassmen.  During rehearsals, the aforementioned crap was limited to innocent tasks like carrying the bass drums for the senior percussionists, being the last ones dismissed for water breaks and lunch, and having to address the seniors as "sir".  This was the natural pecking order of high school hazing rituals, simplified for us freshman as follows:

Seniors haze, juniors help, sophomores laugh, and freshmen, well, receive.  Being forced to schlep equipment and pay the proper respect was one part of it.

The extra-curricular torment was another.

It started the first day, following the afternoon rehearsal.  The seniors, led by Phil Cleary and Andy Gallardo (tuba and bass drum, respectively), burst into our cabin and hauled us out into the woods.  We became the victims of a modern-day tarring and feathering.  Only instead of tar, they had Barbasol shaving cream.  Instead of feathers, they had grass and leaves.

The shaving cream came first.  They lined up all the freshmen and pretty much covered us from head to toe.  Then, once the first coat had congealed, they pelted us with the leaves and grass.

But the fun didn't stop there, oh no.  The upperclassmen weren't content to keep our embarrassment to themselves.  They paraded us through the girls' camp.

Once our walk of shame was complete and the seniors went about their business, we showered up and reconvened in our cabin.  Most of us just wanted to forget about the humiliation and move on.  But not Ray.

"This is bullshit!  They can't do this to us!"

"Um, Ray," said Eddie.  "I don't know if you've been paying attention, but they just did."

"Yeah, well, we gotta get back at them."

"Sure, Ray," I said.  "We'll just go over there and trash their cabin and maybe rough them up a bit.  Let me go get some bass drum mallets and we'll pummel the shit outta those bastards."

Ray bitched and complained a little while longer, and we figured that was the end of it.  But during dinner, Ray got up and started to leave.

"Um, where are you going, Ray?" asked Eddie.

"I'm gonna get even with those assholes.  You coming with me?"


He looked at me.  "What about you?"


"Fine, you pussies.  I'll do it myself."

"Ray, come on.  It's just the initiation thing.  It happens to freshmen every year.  Next time, we'll be on the other side."  Eddie's last shot at reasoning with the guy.

"I'm not just gonna sit and take that crap.  See you guys later."  He left.

After dinner, we headed over to the rec hall to play video games and shoot some pool.  At first it was just the freshmen and sophomores hanging out, but after a while Phil and Andy and the rest of the seniors and juniors showed up.

"Some freshmen just can't deal with the fact that they're freshmen," we overheard someone saying.

"Man, what a dick that guy was."

That sure didn't sound good.  We looked around and came to the obvious conclusion that since Ray was the only freshman not at the rec hall, he must be the dick in question.

"We better go check on him," said Eddie.

We hiked back up to our cabin, where we found Ray blindfolded and duct-taped to a tree.

"Hey, who's there?" he called out.  "Guys, is that you?"

"Jesus, Ray, what happened?" I asked.

"The seniors caught me in their cabin."

"What the hell were you doing in the seniors' cabin?"

"Filling their bunks with shaving cream."

"You filled all their bunks with shaving cream, Ray?"

"Well, no, actually.  They caught me in the middle of the second one, and then they dragged me out here.  Get me down!"

As much as we wanted to leave Ray up there for a while longer (he did ask for this, remember), we peeled off the tape and got him down.  We probably should've thanked Ray for his stupidity because, while we all still had to deal with various initiation rituals for the rest of the week, the seniors saved the worst of it for Ray.  They stole his shoes and put dirt in his shampoo.  They stripped him down to his underwear, wrapped him in a blanket and carried him down to the lake at midnight and then took the blanket away.

It was a long, cold walk back for the poor schmuck.

I'd like to be able to say that Ray learned a valuable lesson from this experience, that he came to the realization that sometimes your station in life requires you to take some shit from those higher up on the social food chain.  But he learned nothing.  Every time he took crap from the seniors, he tried to exact his revenge.  Even after the mile long semi-nude hike back from the lake, he tried to even the score.

He failed every time, and the torment continued.  In fact, the upperclassmen made a special exception for Ray.

The next year at band camp, he was the only sophomore to go through the initiation process all over again.

The rest of us sophomores, enjoying our new place in the pecking order, did exactly what we were supposed to do.

We laughed.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Lazlo Riddle, Episode 1: Another Tequila Sunrise

I don’t remember eating chili dogs, thought Lazlo as he examined the vomit dripping from the dashboard of his 1988 Ford Pinto. He looked at his watch. Five-thirty in the morning. Slept in the car again, but at least this time he'd managed to get the thing parked before he nodded off. He peeled off his Red Hot Chili Peppers t-shirt, cleaned the puke off the gauges, and started the engine.

That’s when he realized he was parked in his usual space at his apartment complex.

“How ‘bout that,” he mumbled. “I made it home.”

It was Monday morning. Laz had made the three-hour drive home from Vegas on Sunday evening. It had been an exceptional weekend for him, as he managed to lose five hundred dollars and his girlfriend. He entered his apartment, and found it just as he’d left it. Beer cans strewn about, dirty laundry piled on the couch, the lingering scent of marijuana. The phone rang.

“This is Laz.”

He listened to the voice on the other end.

“Yeah, okay,” he said. “I’ll be there.”

He slept for about an hour, dragged his ass out of bed, and took a quick shower. The hot water made him feel somewhat human again, though the hangover hadn’t completely dissipated. He dried off, popped four Advil, shaved, and did what he could with his hair. He put on a reasonably clean pair of cotton slacks and a rugby shirt. All things considered, he cleaned up pretty well.

Laz was on the short side, barely five-seven, and thin as a rail. With his blond hair and devilish smile, friends often told him he looked like the actor David Spade. He didn’t know if he should take that as a compliment. He’d always thought that Spade was probably an asshole.

His roommate Brad had woken up, and was at the computer. “What time’d you get home, man?”

“Just rolled in,” said Laz, popping open a Monster energy drink.

"How was Vegas?"

"Shitty. Got my ass kicked at the tables, and Angie dumped me again."

“Ah, she’ll get over it. What’d you do this time?”

“Best I can remember, it was something about hookers in the hotel room.”

“Unreasonable bitch.”

“I know, huh? I’m runnin’ a little late for work, can I borrow your Harley?”

“Sure," said Brad. "What's wrong with your car?”

“I yakked all over the dashboard. I’ll clean it up later, but I gotta roll, man.”

Brad tossed him the keys to his motorcycle. “Helmet’s in the closet.”

“Thanks, see ya.”

Now that the sun was up and Laz was conscious, it was turning into a pretty nice Southern California morning. Temperature in the mid-seventies, cloudless sky, hint of a breeze. He enjoyed riding Brad’s Harley, especially when you compared it to his piece of shit Pinto. Even when puke-free, that car was a heap. He made it to work with about ten minutes to spare, parked the Harley, and walked into the office.

The secretary, Leslie, greeted him with a scowl. “Well, well, if it isn't Mr. Riddle," she said. "I didn't think you were going to make it in."

“Yeah, well, here I am. Elsa said it's a kindergarten class today?”

“Yep, you're subbing for Mrs. Livingston in room three. Good luck."

Laz hated it when the secretaries said "good luck". It just meant that the class was full of juvenile delinquents or borderline psychos. For a hundred and fifty bucks a day, though, he could plod his way through. A couple shots of Jack at recess often helped. And really, these were kindergarteners. How bad could it possibly be?

Famous last words . . .

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