Sunday, January 31, 2010

Blog-Off 2010, Semi-Finals: In the Style of Dr. Seuss

Welcome to the Semi-Finals of Blog-Off 2010!  This week's category is "In the Style of Dr. Seuss."  Each of our remaining bloggers will put a Seussian spin on a topic of their choosing.

Pay our contestants a visit, then come back here and cast your vote over in the sidebar.

We're down to the Final Three, and this week we'll eliminate one more blogger, setting up the head-to-head showdown in next week's finals.  Voting closes on Wednesday at 6:00 PM Pacific Time.

Here are your FINAL THREE!

365 Days of People
Life According to Candice
Too Many Mornings

Pay them a visit, then come on back and cast your vote.  Every vote counts!


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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Boeing 747 vs. Georgia-Pacific Compact 3000

One of the great conundrums on Gilligan's Island was this: How was it that the professor could build a fully-functional communication system using nothing but coconuts, vines and bamboo, yet he couldn't patch a two-foot hole in a boat?

Well, I've got news for you.  It wasn't just the professor that had paradoxical mechanical skills.  That same type of inconsistency still exists, and it's rampant in modern society.

Let's start by taking a look at one of mankind's most magnificent creations, the Boeing 747 airliner.  The mission of the 747 is quite simple; to flawlessly transport millions of people to such glamorous destinations as Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Hong Kong, and Buffalo.  From pre-flight maintenance to safe landing, intricate systems run like clockwork on thousands of flights every day.  Engines engage, landing gear retracts, auto-pilot systems keep the jet on course, and various navigational systems operate efficiently.  All along the way any number of things can go wrong, from the most insignificant (wobbly tray table) to the catastrophic (engine bursting into flame).  But time and again, the Boeing 747 has proven to be one of the most dependable machines on Earth.

On the other hand, I present you with the Georgia-Pacific Compact 3000 toilet paper dispenser.

While the Boeing 747 requires precision on many different levels, the Georgia-Pacific Compact 3000 has but one function -- holding a roll of toilet paper in such a way that the paper can be torn off efficiently.  This isn't a complex task we're talking about here, yet the folks at Georgia-Pacific have managed to develop a product that fails to clear a bar set even that low.

Allow me to elaborate.  The men's room at my place of employment features the Compact 3000 in each of the stalls.  Just the other day I was doing my business and, when finished, I attempted to pull off the necessary amount of toilet paper.  Now, I'm a fairly big guy, and I'd eaten a decent amount of roughage during the preceding 18-24 hours.  The resulting download required, in my estimation, at least 8-10 squares of two-ply to get the job done.  I grabbed the end of the toilet paper, pulled gently, and one solitary square ripped off in my hand.

The Compact 3000 loads two rolls at a time.  Due to a severe design defect, there is not enough space between the two rolls to allow free-rotation of the engaged roll.  There's also the issue of side clearance.  At any rate, it is virtually impossible to get more than two squares on one tug, even if you're careful.  I defy anyone to execute a thorough ass-wiping with two measly squares of Charmin.

Okay, so there I was, sitting on the throne, with one slightly torn square of toilet paper in my hand.  I gave it another tug.  Rip.  One more square.  I could have continued this one-by-one process until I had enough paper for the job, but as everyone knows, ten individual squares are not nearly as effective as one ten-square strip.  It's a matter of tensile strength.  So now I had to use a two-handed approach.  The Compact 3000 is mounted on the left wall of the bathroom stall, so from my seated position I had to lift the top roll with the back of my left hand while pulling the toilet paper from the bottom roll.  It worked, but the task required much more effort than one would expect.

Ironically enough, the toilet paper dispensers on the Boeing 747 are much more efficient.  Usually, it's just one simple bar built into the front sink panel.  Simple, efficient and effective.

I'd like to suggest that the people over at Boeing diversify just a bit and use their experience to develop toilet paper dispensers that work every time.  Maybe get the landing-gear guys involved.  Install a button on the toilet, and when pressed, a roll of toilet paper extends out from the wall, right in front of you.  Tear off the needed amount, press the button again, and the toilet paper roll retracts.  Voila!  Call it something like Boeing Extension Mechanism Number Two.  For the mechanics at Boeing, it would probably be a piece of cake.

Hell, the professor probably could've made one out of banana peels.


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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Blog-Off 2010: Round Four Results

Well, it took four rounds for us to have our first controversy.

I was going to go off on a couple people for pissing in the punchbowl, so to speak, but after thinking about it, it's just not worth the time.  No matter the situation, some people just won't be happy unless they can find something to bitch about.  Suffice it to say, the decision of the judges (me) is final, and I thought all the entries met the criteria of observational humor. 

Okay, enough of that.  Here's the results:

As I said, this week we're only eliminating one contestant.  After the closest vote yet, we sadly must say goodbye to Mariann at Blogged Down at the Moment.

As evidenced by the first four rounds, Mariann is an outstanding writer and could easily have advanced further in the competition.  You might also want to check out Mariann's interactive humor site, Humor Me Online.  It's a lot of fun.

Anyway, it's a talented field that remains, and it basically comes down to a matter of personal preference, ie. whatever your opinion is of "potty humor".  To each his own.

Round Five begins on Sunday, January 31 at 9:00AM Pacific Time.  The next category will be very entertaining, as our remaining bloggers will be asked to write a post in the style of Dr. Seuss.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they come up with!

Come by on Sunday for the links, details, and the ballot!


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Monday, January 25, 2010

What Ever Happened To . . . The Cowardly Lion?

Cowardly Lion moved to Emerald City in 1939, after escorting a Kansas farm girl named Dorothy Gale, two other acquaintances, and her little dog, too, on a journey from Munchkinland.  Gale, Scarecrow and Tin Man were on a quest to meet the Wizard of Oz, hoping that he would help Dorothy return to Kansas, give the Scarecrow brains, and the Tin Man a heart.  Hearing their story, Lion decided to join the merry band of travelers and ask the Wizard to give him courage.  After overcoming many challenges along the way, the Wizard granted the quartet's wishes and Lion received his courage.

It was that very courage which led to his untimely death.

On the morning of September 22, 1951, Courageous Lion (as he was now known) was standing in line at Emerald City National Bank when a trio of flying monkeys swooped in the front door and ordered the customers to get down on the floor.  While two of the monkeys held the terrified citizens at gunpoint, their leader approached the window and demanded that the tellers fill several bags with unmarked, non-sequential bills.  Courageous Lion attempted to negotiate with the monkeys, suggesting that they let the customers leave and keep him as the lone hostage.  The monkeys, not speaking English, chattered angrily and fired their weapons into the air.  Lion took this as a "no" and, in an attempt to overpower the monkeys, was shot several times and died instantly.  He was 22 years old.

In the twelve years since he'd first arrived in Oz, Courageous Lion owned and operated Lionheart Security Service, providing protection to citizens and businesses of Emerald City.  His participation in the 1939 assassination of the Wicked Witch of the West had made him a local celebrity, so his untimely death caused great sadness and grief throughout the Land of Oz.

"He was wonderful," remembers Dorothy Gale.  "When I first met Lion, he was afraid of his own tail.  My dog Toto terrified him.  But he overcame his timidity and proved to be a very brave and loyal friend.  I'll miss him terribly."

Lion's friend Scarecrow, chairman of the philosophy department at Emerald City Institute of Technology, pointed out the irony of the situation.

"Prior to our appearance before the benevolent Wizard, Lion possessed a disproportionate level of trepidation, particularly for a member of the species Panthera Leo.  Normally one would expect to see excessive aggression in a specimen of his size, but he was quite subdued.  However, once the Wizard bestowed a medal upon him, which was actually a psychological ploy, Lion began to assert himself and displayed the characteristics and behaviors more typical of his feline heritage."

When asked to explain that again in plain English, Scarecrow replied, "Oh, right, sorry.  Before we met the Wizard, Lion was a big ol' chicken.  After the Wizard gave him a medal and said that it meant he was now courageous, Lion started acting brave."

Tin Man no longer lived in Oz at the time of Lion's death, and therefore could not be reached for comment.  After receiving his heart, Tin moved to Los Angeles and became an adult film star.  He is best known for his work in the underground cult classic Tin Man's Got a Massive Heart On.

Lion's last public appearance was as a guest on the OZTV talk show Afternoons With the Lullaby League.  He told the show's host Missy Munchkinella, "Yeah, it's sad, believe me Missy, when you're born to be a sissy, without the vim and verve.  But I knew that I could show my prowess, be a lion, not a mou-ess.  You know, if I only had the nerve.  The Wizard unlocked a certain confidence within me, and from that point on I knew that I had to remain in Oz and defend its citizens whenever I could."


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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Blog-Off 2010, Round Four: Observational Humor

Welcome to Round Four of Blog-Off 2010!  This week's category is Observational Humor.  Each of our remaining bloggers will point out some absurdity from the world around us.

Pay our contestants a visit, then come back here and cast your vote over in the sidebar.

We're down to the Final Four, and this week we'll eliminate one more blogger.  Voting closes on Wednesday at 6:00 PM Pacific Time.

I'd like to encourage all of you who have been voting for blogs that have since been eliminated to keep coming back and voting for the remaining contestants.  Coming down to the end, it's still anyone's ballgame.

Here are the links to this week's entries:

365 Days of People
Blogged Down at the Moment
Life According to Candice
Too Many Mornings


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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Just 'Chute Me

I'm not a particularly adventurous person.  My idea of "roughing it" is staying at a hotel where the room service menu doesn't include shrimp cocktail.  Vacations are for relaxing, not for pitching a tent and hanging bags of food in trees so the bears don't eat your Mallomars.

Not everyone shares my cautious attitude, however, so travel agents have discovered another great way to separate vacationers from their money -- provide them with unique and challenging ways to kill themselves.  Rock-climbing, skydiving, and ceremonial fart-lighting while chugging Budweiser from a beer bong (yes, Alabama has a Department of Tourism too) all attract and gloriously cripple thousands of tourists every year.  For thirty bucks, you can even buy a framed action shot to share with loved ones as they stand around your hospital bed.  But, like I said, such treacherous pastimes aren't for me.

Except once.

I was on a Mexican cruise, and the ship docked for the day in the beautiful resort/dump of Puerto Vallarta.  I spent the morning taking the official city tour, which consisted of a high-speed foray in a beat-up '72 Volkswagen Beetle driven by Paco the Tour Guide.  Paco quickly pointed out the carnicerias, which is Spanish for "store that sells fly-infested pig heads."  We saw many of Puerto Vallarta's other lovely attractions too.  I'd be happy to tell you about them, except I was too busy vomiting out the rear window to notice what they were.

The tour ended (perhaps by accident, but let's give Paco the benefit of the doubt) when the VW's right front tire blew out shortly after we'd run over a flock of wayward chickens.  I headed back to the dock with three hours left to kill, and since the ship's casino was closed while in port, I tried to find something "touristy" to do.  I bought a couple packs of Chiclets from the kids on the beach, and that's when I noticed a cardboard sign propped up against a sleeping "extra" from The Three Amigos.  The sign read "Parasailing: $20".

Parasailing is really quite simple.  A crew from the Mexican Navy straps you into a parachute, which is tethered to a speed boat.  The boat heads out to sea, and as it picks up speed, you run along the beach and gently rise into the air.  The captain pilots the boat in a large circle while you enjoy the breath-taking view from an altitude of about three miles.  After a while, the boat comes back to shore, and you return safely to the beach, your life forever changed.

I can give that a go, I thought.  Before fully committing, I decided to assess the risk by watching a few other tourists take their turns.  I popped open a Corona and took a seat at a nearby picnic table.  Over the next forty-five minutes or so, I saw a little kid, an old lady, and a morbidly obese gentleman in an unfortunate shirt and Bermuda shorts have the time of their lives.

If they could do it, I reasoned, so could I.

So I handed my twenty bucks to a guy named Jorge.  His two partners got in the boat as Jorge helped me strap on the parachute.  Jorge then gave the captain the high sign, and we were off.

According to The Official Mexican Parasailing Captain's Training Manual, the take-off procedure requires the boat to stay parallel to the shoreline to provide a sufficient "runway".  Once the parasailer is airborne, the captain then -- and only then -- heads out to sea.  That's how it's supposed to work, and that's exactly how it DID work with every single person I watched go up.

That's not, however, how it worked this time.

As the boat accelerated, I trotted along the beach, waiting to be lifted into the air.

And waiting.

And waiting.

I ran faster and faster trying to keep up with the speedboat, which was now approaching the speed of sound.  Before long I lost the race and gravity took over. I plunged face first into the sand and got dragged about fifty feet.  Fortunately, I came to a quick stop.  Unfortunately, it was because I slammed sideways into a pile of large boulders.  Jorge was yelling at the top of his lungs, "PARE EL BARCO!  PARE EL BARCO!" (in English: "Get your asses back here, this stupid gringo is about to die!").

The captain turned the boat around and returned to shore.  I picked myself up off the ground and assessed the damage.  Banged up hip.  Scraped up knees.  Bump on my forehead.  "Uh, I think I'd like my money back, Jorge.  I'm done."

"Sorry, amigo, no refunds."  At least, that's what I think he said.  It was hard to hear him clearly with my ears full of sand.

Since I didn't want to resort to fisticuffs over a matter of twenty dollars, I decided to give it one more shot.  We secured the parachute, backed up to the original starting point, and tried it again.  This time, the parachute filled with air and off I went, into the wild blue yonder.

It was not comfortable.  I wasn't simply hanging from the harness, I was also "sitting" on a rope "seat" that was digging and chafing its way into the "back of my thighs".  After about fifteen seconds, I was ready for the whole debacle to be over with.

They kept me up there for a good ten minutes, which seemed much longer and resulted in the rope "seat" finding its way into my butt crack.  Given my lack of confidence in Jorge's parachute maintenance skills, I was reluctant to shift around to try and remove the rope from my keester for fear of unhooking myself and plummeting to an embarrassing and watery death.  So I dealt with it.

Eventually, we headed back towards the beach, and I landed without further incident.  Jorge helped me out of the chute, shook my hand and said, "Amigo, chu want to go 'gain?  Only ten dollar dees tine."

"Hell no," I said, as politely as you can say "Hell, no", and I walked back toward the street to get something to drink.  I bought a Corona, and when I turned around I saw Paco's VW, complete with a repaired tire.  I said hello but I don't think he recognized me, which is understandable given my facial lacerations and swelling.

"Welcome to Puerta Vallarta, senor," he said.  "You want a tour of the city?"


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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Blog-Off 2010: Round Three Results

Well, we're getting down to the nitty-gritty here, as we're narrowing the field to just four bloggers this week.  During our "parody" round, our top two vote-getters were Life According to Candice and Blogged Down at the Moment.  If you haven't read their entries yet, drop by their sites and check them out.  You won't be sorry!

And now for the hard part.  Time to say goodbye to this week's bottom two.  Despite their very funny pieces, Of Cabbages and Kings and The Wizard of Otin received the fewest votes and are, therefore, eliminated from the competition.  They're not eliminated from the blog-world, though, so please visit them often.  They're both outstanding writers and deserve your attention.

Round Four begins on Sunday, January 24th.  The category will be observational humor, and the entries will be posted at 9:00 AM Pacific Time.  Stop by then for the links, details, and of course, the voting ballot.

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Monday, January 18, 2010

When SNL Stars Go Bad

Saturday Night Live has the unique distinction of being both the funniest and the most tragically un-funny television show in the history of entertainment.  During the show's first five seasons, it became a main-stream classic that has remained a pop-cultural icon ever since.  Everyone of my generation remembers the phrases "Cheeseburgie, Cheeseburgie, two chip, two Pepsi", "It's always something," and "Jane, you ignorant slut."  Comic geniuses with names like Belushi, Aykroyd, Murray and Chase launched careers that would make them legends.

The show has been on for over thirty years now, and it's never re-captured the level of outright hilarity of the early years.  Oh, there have been some great casts along the way.  The Eddie Murphy-Joe Piscopo years had their moments, with running sketches that included Murphy's "Mr. Robinson's Neighborhood" and Piscopo's spot-on Sinatra impressions.  The cast that featured Phil Hartman, Mike Myers and Dana Carvey was probably the second-best ever, and the Sandler-Spade-Farley group was hilarious as well.  But the last several line-ups have been, more often than not, painful to watch.  For better or worse, though, Saturday Night Live will always be the standard by which all sketch comedy is judged.

As great as the show was, the actors have proven time and again that what works as a ten-minute skit does not necessarily translate into a good movie.  Many have tried, but only two films with SNL roots, the Myers-Carvey film Wayne's World and the original Blues Brothers, would be considered good movies by reasonable viewers . The failures, which far outweigh the successes, include:

The Coneheads:  The Coneheads were among the most popular and beloved characters ever to appear on Saturday Night Live.  Dan Aykroyd, Jane Curtin, and Laraine Newman starred as Beldar, Prymatt, and Connie Conehead, immigrants from "France".  The sketches were hilarious.  But the characters' quirks and personalities wore thin over the course of a 90-minute movie, and the result was an embarrassing bastardization of one of the best SNL ideas ever. 

It's Pat:  Even on SNL, Julia Sweeney's androgynous character was a one-joke wonder.  "Pat" would be surrounded by friends, co-workers, and acquaintances who would try to figure out (but never ask) whether Pat was a man or a woman.  The sketches were reasonably funny, especially considering that Sweeney made no attempt to make Pat remotely likable.  He/She drooled, hacked up mucus, and whined his/her way through each situation.  Why anyone thought that the public would pay money to watch over an hour of this is one of the entertainment industry's great mysteries. 

Superstar: To her credit, Molly Shannon made a valiant effort to create a character even more repulsive than the aforementioned Pat.  Mary Catherine Gallagher, an outcast Catholic school girl, had two defining characteristics: unbelievable clumsiness and the habit of jamming her hands in her armpits and then smelling them.  This was painful to watch as a five-minute skit, let alone a full-length movie.  I, of course, didn't actually watch the movie, but I did watch the Oscars and since no mention was made of this film, I'll just assume that it sucked monkey ass. 

A Night at the Roxbury:  This is an entire movie based on head-bobbing.  Granted, other movies have succeeded with this formula, but they're all pornos, not main-stream comedy.  Besides, this flick can be summed up in six words:  "Starring Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan".  It was destined for floptitude.

Curiously, the stars of Saturday Night Live themselves only had marginal success in the film industry, and almost NEVER when asked to carry a film on their own.  This is disappointing to me because everyone I'm going to list here was absolutely brilliant in the context of SNL.  I'm not going to bother with those who were worthless even on the show (I'm looking at YOU, Chris Kattan).

Let's hand out some report card grades, shall we? 


Bill Murray: He carried Groundhog Day, and was outstanding as part of a larger cast in Caddyshack and Ghostbusters.  He's made a few clunkers (Scrooged and What About Bob? come to mind), but overall his body of work is solid.  Grade: B 

Adam Sandler: While I'm not a particular fan of his early work (Little Nicky and Billy Madison, in my opinion, stunk), his recent efforts are terrific.  The Wedding Singer is probably his best, but Happy Gilmore and I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry are pretty good also.  Grade: A 

Mike Myers: Other than So I Married an Axe Murderer, Myers's resume is probably the most impressive of any former SNL'er.  The Austin Powers series, Wayne's World, and his voice work in Shrek are all top-notch.  He also seems like a decent enough guy, which helps.  Grade: A 

Eddie Murphy: I wish this guy had just quit while he was ahead.  Trading Places, 48 Hours, and Beverly Hills Cop were classics.  But it's been downhill ever since.  Coming to America, Bowfinger, Daddy Day Care, any movie where he plays fourteen different roles, they're all pure horseshit.  Axel Foley, we miss you.  Grade: Pre-1990, A+; Post 1990: D-

Chevy Chase: Other than Vacation, depending on your opinion of The Three Amigos, most of Chevy's work has been pretty awful.  Fletch is marginal, and movies like Funny Farm and Cops and Robbersons are simply abysmal.  Grade: C (because I loved Vacation)

John Belushi: Belushi was a genius who, predictably, died far too soon.  I would've loved to have seen him in the Murray role in Ghostbusters with Murray taking Aykroyd's part and Aykroyd taking Harold Ramis's.  I'm going to pretend that Animal House was the only film Belushi ever appeared in and give him a solid A.


David Spade: Spade is pretty much a one-trick pony, but that one-trick can be pretty funny.  He's at his best as the cynical and sarcastic buddy, as fans of Tommy Boy and Black Sheep will be quick to point out.  Even his lead role in Dickie Roberts, Child Star was surprisingly enjoyable.  He's never risen to greatness, but I'm hard-pressed to think of a movie that he was terrible in.  Grade: C+

Chris Farley: See "David Spade", except Farley was the lovable buffoon.  Still, Beverly Hills Ninja was an abomination.  But whenever I think of Chris Farley, I think of Matt Foley living in a van down by the river, and it makes me laugh.  Grade: C 


Will Ferrell: If I had my way, Ferrell would be banned from ever appearing in another movie.  I'm convinced that he's on a mission to make every one of his movies even worse than the one that preceded it.  After watching the first fifteen minutes of Step Brothers, I promised myself that I'll never watch anything else this guy appears in.  Talladega Nights, Anchorman, that basketball one, it's just one pile of shit after another.  I'd rather spend two hours French kissing Mary Catherine Gallagher.  Grade: F- and a kick in the balls.

Rob Schneider: At least Schneider is reasonably funny as a minor player in Adam Sandler movies.  But come on, anyone who starred in a movie entitled Deuce Bigalow, Male Gigolo (and a sequel, for God's sake), can't be taken seriously.  Grade: F

Dana Carvey: I love Carvey, I really do.  The Church Lady, Wayne's pal Garth, his SNL work is terrific.  But his foray into movies, and I can only think of Master of Disguise and Opportunity Knocks, has been woeful.  Never has a nicer guy been so unwatchable.  Grade: D


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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blog-Off 2010, Round Three: Parody

Welcome to Round Three of Blog-Off 2010!  This week's category is Parody.  Each of our remaining bloggers will give an existing song, story, etc. their own unique twist.

Pay our contestants a visit, then come back here and cast your vote over in the sidebar.

We're down to six remaining bloggers, and this week we'll eliminate two more.  Voting closes on Wednesday at 6:00PM Pacific Time.

Incidentally, this is the last round in which we'll eliminate TWO bloggers.  Starting in round four, it's only the single lowest vote-getter that goes home (metaphorically).

Here are the links to this week's entries:

365 Days of People
Blogged Down at the Moment
Life According to Candice
Of Cabbages and Kings
Too Many Mornings
The Wizard of Otin

Good luck, contestants!


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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Brotherly Pranks, Part Two: April Fool's Day

April Fool's Day, 1978.  It was a Saturday.

I was in the kitchen preparing my usual breakfast -- chocolate fudge Pop Tarts and Nestle's Quik.  I was mixing in another spoonful of the chocolate powder when my brother Eric came in and opened the refrigerator.  He had a smirk on his face like he was up to something.

He took out a bottle of Heinz catsup.  Or if you prefer, ketchup.  I've never been sure of the official spelling but, either way, I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about.

I got a Crazy Straw from the cabinet, stuck it in my chocolate milk, and took a sip. "What are you doing with that catsup?" I asked.

"Playing an April Fool's joke on Mom," replied Eric.

He took off the cap off the catsup bottle and applied a rather large glob on the palm of his left hand.  He distributed it between his fingers, on the back of his hand, and let it ooze down his wrist and forearm.  It looked like, to quote Lenny Small, "he got his hand caught in a machine."[1] 

"So, what's your plan?" I asked.

"I'm gonna go around front and come running inside, acting like I cut myself."

"I can tell you right now that Mom is NOT gonna think that's funny."

"It's gonna be great.  Just watch."

Eric was only nine years old at the time, while I was thirteen.  While Eric was completely oblivious to the outright panic he was about to inspire in our mother, I knew exactly what was going to happen.  If I were a thoughtful, well-meaning brother, I would have calmly explained the situation to him, and talked him out of his ill-advised prank.  

But c'mon, I had to see this for myself.

Mom was sitting in the living room, watching television and doing needle point.  She reminded me of a deer standing peacefully in the woods, not realizing that a hunter was about to blow his freakin' head off.  Meanwhile, Eric went out the back door and walked around the side of the house.  From my vantage point in the kitchen, I watched him stagger up the front steps, screaming in mortal agony.

"MOM!  MOM!  HELP!" 

Detailed analysis of the Zapruder film[2] reveals the following: 

Frame 112: Eric is opening the front door with his "good" hand, holding the "bloody" hand in the air.

Frame 124: Eric has entered the living room, Mom has clearly reacted to the situation and has just released her needlepoint.

Frame 131: The expression on Eric's face has begun to change.  His mouth remains open in a scream, but his eyes convey just a bit of humor.

Frame 140: Eric is clearly laughing.  Mom has a puzzled look on her face.  She hasn't figured out the joke yet.

Frame 150: Eric seems to be speaking, eyes aglow with mischief.  An eyewitness later confirmed that Eric was shouting the phrase, "APRIL FOOL!"[3] 

Frame 152: Eric's lips are puckered, pronouncing the "oo" in "fool".  Mom's arm is in full swing, open hand headed for Eric's right cheek. 

Frames 154-170: Mom slaps Eric firmly.  Eric's head is seen clearly snapping back . . . and to the left. 

In the aftermath, Eric tried to explain that it was only a joke, that he didn't mean to scare our poor, dear mother, and she sort of forgave him.  However, when she noticed me standing in the kitchen laughing my ass off, she turned her attention my way.

"Did you know he was going to do this?" she asked.

What to do, what to do?  I figured that if I told her the truth, she'd play the "you're the older brother, you should have known it was going to upset me" card and I'd get in trouble.  But if I lied, Eric was sure to seize the opportunity to rat me out and deflect the blame from him.  At that point it would be my word against his, and his bright blue puppy dog eyes and pudgy cheeks gave him a clear advantage.  Then I'd get in trouble for allowing it to happen and then lying about it.  I opted for the lesser of two evils.

"Yeah, I knew about it but I told him not to!  I knew you'd get mad, but he didn't listen!"

Mom looked at my brother.  "Eric, is that true?  Did he try to stop you?"

Eric batted his eyes (still teary), quivered his lower lip and said, "No, Mommy.  He told me to do it in the first place.  I didn't want to but he made me."  I think it was the cheeks that sealed my fate.

I pleaded my case, but Mom was still feeling the residual effects of her initial panic.  This, combined with the guilt she felt for swatting my "innocent" little brother, inspired her to sentence me to the usual household punishment.

The Hot Wheels track.[4]

[1] It's from Of Mice and Men.  Read a book, people.
[2] Okay, you caught me.  There's no sequel to the Zapruder film capturing my brother's joke on Mom.  It's just a comedic device I'm using here.  To be perfectly honest about it, they did the same thing on "Seinfeld" when Kramer got spit on by Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez.  But the hell with it, Larry David can kiss my ass. 
[3] Actually, he only made it as far as "April Foo..." 
[4] As I wrote about in a piece entitled "The Ghost of Christmas Presents", orange Hot Wheels tracks were my mom's disciplinary weapon of choice.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Blog-Off 2010: Round Two Results

Round Two is in the books and, as expected, we saw some great work by our contestants this time around.  Our top two vote-getters were Life According to Candice and 365 Days of People with 25% and 15% of the vote, respectively. 

Once again, though, we have to eliminate our bottom two.  Sadly, this week we say goodbye to:

Confessions of a Reforming Geek:  "Reffie", as she's known in the blogosphere, put forth a great effort this week, but unfortunately it was not enough to keep her in the running.  Don't let that stop you from visiting her site regularly, it's always worth the trip.

Mr. Condescending:  Although it's still early in the competition, this is one elimination that can truly be called an "upset".  I had Mr. C pegged as a shoo-in for at least the Final Four, but alas, it was not to be.  Apparently his 300-plus followers couldn't be bothered to come over and vote, and for that they should be strung up by their least comfortable regions and flogged.  Mr. C, we hardly knew ye.

All right then.

Round Three of our Blog-Off starts this coming Sunday, January 17th.  The category for this round is Parody, which is sure to inspire hilarity among our contestants.  Details, links, and the voting ballot will be posted here on Knucklehead! on Sunday at 9:00 Pacific Time.

Good luck to our contestants!


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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sharing the Love x 200

Over the weekend, Knucklehead! notched its 200th follower.  To say that I am humbled by this would be understating it by a wide margin.  I just wanted to take a quick second to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to read, laugh at (I hope), and comment on my writing.

When I started blogging a little over a year ago, I had no idea what I was getting into.  To be honest, I'd only vaguely heard the term "blog" and had no idea what they were or how to create one.  Then I discovered that an old friend from high school, Peter, had a blog called Plastic Bubble World (you should visit, he's a good guy . . . a little quirky, but a good guy nonetheless) and I thought to myself, "Hey, that looks fun."  I'd always enjoyed writing, and this seemed like a great outlet.

Little did I know.

For about a month, I had two followers.  Peter, and another friend of mine.  I kept writing, even though I knew that hardly anyone was actually reading my stuff.  One comment here (thanks, Pete), no comments there, I was hearing cyber-crickets in my head and pondering the old "tree falls in the forest" analogy.

Well, one day I was writing a piece called "Mary Ann or Ginger".  It sucked, which is why I didn't bring it over here from my original blog.  But while writing that piece, I Googled "Mary Ann or Ginger" to make sure I wasn't just rehashing someone else's work (I kind of was, but I'd added enough original ideas to not feel too guilty about it, and besides, no one was reading it anyway).  One item that came up on Google was another blog.

It was called Suldog.

I visited that site, and was captivated.  Not only did I see that his bit about Mary Ann and Ginger was considerably better than mine, I enjoyed reading his other work as well.  And I noticed that Suldog had about a bazillion followers and was getting a boat load of comments on every post.  "Hmm," I thought, "this guy seems to have it figured out."

I sent Sully an email, and he gave me some advice on how to build a readership.  He also told me he's a Red Sox fan, which called into question his overall character, but advice is advice, so I listened anyway.  It worked, and before too long I was visiting other blogs, leaving comments, and little by little my readership grew.  So thank you, Jim, I'm grateful.

And now we're two hundred strong and growing, which begs the question:

What the hell is wrong with you people?

Nah, just kidding.

I never imagined that so many folks from around the world (I've gotten several hits from Africa, which is just absurd) would be even marginally interested in anything I have to say.  Like I said, I'm humbled, and I appreciate all of you more than I can ever express.

I hope you'll keep reading, commenting, and e-mailing for a long time to come.  I'll do my best to keep you entertained.

Once again,  thank you.


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Monday, January 11, 2010

Lazlo Riddle, Episode 3: Take That Silver Spoon and Shove It

To read Lazlo Riddle, Part Two click here.

Laz entered his apartment and, as usual, saw his roommate Brad planted in front of the computer.

"Hey, Laz, whattaya think?  Should I go with Williams or Houshmandzadeh on Sunday?"

"What the fuck is a hooshmanzada?"

"A wide receiver for the Seahawks.  I gotta get my lineup set for fantasy football this week."

Fantasy Football was Brad's latest addiction.  He roamed the Internet for hours trying to get a leg up on his opponents.  Laz, however, couldn't care less about football.

"I couldn't care less about football," said Laz.  "Here's your motorcycle helmet.  Thanks for letting me borrow the Harley."

"No sweat.  How'd it go with the ankle-biters?"  Brad was referring to Laz's day as a substitute teacher.

"Oh, it was a blast.  This mucus stain is never coming out."

Laz picked up the pile of mail that Brad had left on the kitchen counter and took it into his bedroom.  A few bills, a grocery store flyer, and what looked like a birthday card from his parents.  He opened the envelope, and read the inscription on the card.


We hope you have a wonderful birthday.  As always, we sent a donation in your name to the Special Olympics.  Take care of yourself.

Mom and Dad

The donation in lieu of a gift was a Lazlo-imposed birthday tradition.  When Laz was a child his parents, Preston and Janet, gave him everything his heart desired.  The newest electronic games, fancy stereo equipment, spending money.  Preston Riddle was a partner at the Riddle, Redd, Reiden and Hood advertising agency, pulling in well over seven figures a year, and he was more than happy to throw money at his only child.

When he was a kid, Lazlo loved being a modern-day Richie Rich.  But as he grew older, he started to realize that Daddy's generosity came with a few strings.  "This is the private high school you're going to, Lazlo."  "This is the kind of car I want you to drive, Lazlo."  "Here's the well-to-do cheerleader that you're going to date, lose your virginity to, and get dumped by, Lazlo."  Laz wanted to make some choices for himself, but Preston wouldn't hear of it.  "Trust me, I know what's best for you," was simply, to Laz's ears, "Fuck you, son."

By his third year in college, at a university he never would have considered attending (it was Harvard, but still, the kid had a point), Laz decided that he was done being a cardigan-sweatered puppet controlled by his father.  The last straw came in November, when Laz received a check from his father for a thousand bucks.  The check was accompanied by a letter strongly hinting that Lazlo was expected to fly back to California and spend the four-day Thanksgiving weekend at home with his parents.  I sure could use your help building the new deck, the letter read.

Laz had already made plans to take his girlfriend Angela to New York for Thanksgiving.  Since Angie was not a Preston-approved companion, Laz couldn't very well explain the situation to his father.  They argued on the phone for an hour, and finally Lazlo relented.  He cancelled his plans with Angie (leading to the first of several break-ups in their touch-and-go relationship) and did what his father wanted.  Again.

On the flight from Boston to Los Angeles, Laz made himself a promise.

The day after Thanksgiving, while they were working on the deck, Laz explained, "Dad, here's the deal.  I don't want any more of your money.  I appreciate everything you've done for me, but I'm a nobody.  I've never had to worry about things, never had to work . . . "

"Yeah, you poor thing."

"Dad, c'mon.  My life's been easy, but it's not MY life.  Your gifts always have a catch, and I haven't been able to say no to you because I don't want to seem ungrateful.  So the only thing I can do is to say thanks, and tell you that I don't want anything else from you."

"That's not gonna happen, Lazlo.  I'm your father.  I'm not going to sit back and watch you struggle, see you with the wrong crowd, or have you disgrace the family.  You'll have everything you need, and you'll listen to what I tell you."

Although Laz hated being under his father's thumb, he had always used Preston's money for the purposes it was intended.  Tuition money went for tuition, not his bar tab.  In order to move on, Laz decided to give his dad an ultimatum.

"Okay, I'll tell you what.  Every time you send me money, I'm spending it on drugs, booze, and whores.  That's a promise."

A week later, back at Harvard, Laz received a Christmas card from his parents.  The card read:


I know you weren't serious about the money.  Please use this check to buy yourself something nice for your apartment and a few Italian suits.  Dress to impress, son.

Mom and Dad

The check was for ten thousand dollars.

Two days before Christmas, Preston Riddle received a card from his son.  It was a picture of Lazlo standing in front of a Christmas tree.  The tree was decorated with beer cans and miniature liquor bottles.  The branches were frosted with cocaine.  Laz was dressed in a Santa Claus outfit, surrounded by eight hookers wearing reindeer antlers and strategically-placed jingle bells.  Scrawled on the back of the card was simply:

Ho.  Ho.  Ho.


Preston didn't send any more checks.

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Blog-Off 2010, Round Two: Childhood Anecdotes

Welcome to Round Two of Blog-Off 2010!  This week's category is Childhood Anecdotes.  Each of our remaining bloggers will share a tale from their youth.  Last week's top two were Candice and Mr. Condescending, both of whom put up impressive numbers.  One can only conclude that Candice has a drawer full of compromising photographs of citizens in the greater San Antonio area, and Mr. Condescending has somehow threatened the blog world with intense bodily harm.

Whatever works, I guess.

Anyway, take a few minutes to visit our contestants, then come back here and cast your vote over in the sidebar.

We're down to eight remaining bloggers, and this week we'll eliminate two more.  Voting closes on Wednesday at 6:00 PM Pacific Time (that's 9 PM on the east coast and sometime in between for most everyone else).

Here are the links to this week's entries:

365 Days of People
Blogged Down at the Moment
Confessions of a Reforming Geek
Life According to Candice
Mr. Condescending
Of Cabbages and Kings
Too Many Mornings
The Wizard of Otin

Good luck!


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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Brotherly Pranks, Part One: The Sandwich

It was a Saturday afternoon, the year was 1977.  My brother Eric and I were in the kitchen whipping up a couple of baloney and cheese sandwiches for our lunch.  Mom was at work, and Dad was in the cellar working on something.  Our youngest brother Bobby was lying on the couch, recovering from the common cold.

"Dad!  Can I have lunch?" Bobby yelled.  It was a small house.  Voices carried, even down to the cellar.

Dad called up, "Are you guys in the kitchen?"

"Yeah!" I hollered back.

"Make Bobby a sandwich, would ya?"

There's no way to sugar-coat this.  At the age of seven, our brother Bobby was a little shit.  Being the youngest, he took a lot of crap from me and Eric, but he dished it out pretty well too.  And now, with the support of our father, he had us doing his bidding.  He was more than eager to take advantage of the situation.

"You heard him,  slave boys.  Make my lunch."

Eric and I looked at each other.  "I'm not making it, not if he's gonna be a jerk," said Eric.

"Don't look at me, I'm not making that little twerp a sandwich."

"And hurry up about it!"  Bobby ordered.

Eric slammed his green army hat to the floor, and stomped over to the top of the cellar stairs.  "Dad, Bobby's being a jerk!  Do we really have to make his lunch?"

"Just do it, please!" Dad replied.

"Yeah, slave boys," said Bobby.  "Just DO it!"

Eric came back to the kitchen.  "This sucks."

By this point, though, a thought had occurred to me.  Dad didn't exactly say what KIND of sandwich to make for our smart-ass little brother.  "So, Eric," I said.  "Just what kind of sandwich do you think Bobby would like?"

"I don't care, baloney?"

"Okay, anything else you want to add?"

Eric's eyes narrowed, and a smirk crawled across his face.  "Uh, yeah, I think he might like some peanut butter on it, too."

I spread a thin layer of Skippy on the one slice of bread.  "What next?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Eric.  "Maybe some mustard?"

Out came the Heinz Spicy Brown.  We took a quick inventory of the refrigerator.  Catsup.  Horseradish.  American cheese.  Grape jelly.  Hey, with a name like Smucker's . . .

By the time we finished, Bobby's sandwich was loaded up pretty good.  We went extra heavy on the horseradish around the edges of the bread, so that first (and probably only) bite was going to be a doozy.  Then we used lettuce leaves and a couple extra slices of baloney to make the sandwich look "normal".  We put it on a paper plate, garnished it with some Lay's potato chips, and delivered it to our sickly brother.

"About time, slave boys.  Now get me a Dr. Pepper."

"Anything you say, your majesty," I answered, stifling a chuckle.

Eric and I went back into the kitchen and waited.

"AAAAGH!  What is this?!?  This is DISGUSTING!"  Ah, the joys of horseradish.  "DAAAAAAD!"

Our father thundered up the cellar steps.  "What's going on?" he asked.

"They made me a gross sandwich!"

We were still giggling when Dad confronted us in the kitchen.  "What did you guys put on his sandwich?"

"Actually, Dad," said Eric, "it would be easier to tell you what we DIDN'T put on his sandwich.  Milk."

We knew we were in the clear when Dad cracked a smile.  "Okay, okay, maybe he asked for it.  Can you guys make him a baloney-and-cheese-and-nothing-else sandwich now?"

"No bread?" I asked.

"Uh, yeah, bread too."

So we did.  You've never seen a kid eat a baloney and cheese sandwich more carefully.


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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Blog-Off 2010: Round One Results

Wow!  I am completely blown away by the voting turn-out!  Looks like we're well on our way to an exciting contest.  Sadly, though, we have to say good-bye to our bottom two this week, and the voters have spoken.  So, with heavy hearts and deep sorrow (you're gonna have to fake it, Candice, but you're good at that from what I hear) we bid a fond farewell to:

The Surly Writer: Michelle is truly a great writer, and I'm sure she'll rebound from her departure in much the same way that Jennifer Hudson went on to great fame after being ousted from American Idol.  She may be leaving the competition, but hers is a blog you should visit often.

Welcome to My Life: Becky's is one of the more recent blogs I discovered, and she's very funny.  Keep visiting her site, she deserves your attention!

(cue exit music . . . "So you had a bad day . . .")

Congratulations to the bloggers who advanced to the next round.  Round Two submissions will be posted on the contestants' blogs Sunday, January 10th by 9:00 AM Pacific (that's noon Eastern, and sometime around 10:23 in Texas).  Stop by Knucklehead! sometime after that for links, details, and the sidebar ballot.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Knucklehead.


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Monday, January 4, 2010

What Ever Happened To . . . Miss Piggy?

By the late 1970's, the name Miss Piggy was synonymous with show business. She co-starred on The Muppet Show, a showcase for Piggy's many talents. She performed operatic masterpieces, displayed her acting skills in a variety of comedy sketches, and even dabbled in ballet. Miss Piggy was the quintessential diva -- a swine of a thousand faces.

In 1977, at the peak of The Muppet Show's popularity, Piggy married the show's host, a dapper young amphibian named Kermit the Frog.  To the public, this seemed like a match made in Hollywood heaven.  Two rising celebrities whose personalities complemented each other perfectly.  Piggy was outgoing and impulsive, Kermit was laid-back and rational.   Piggy thrived in the limelight and actively courted the media, Kermit preferred to limit his public persona to what viewers saw on television.  Opposites, as they say, attract.

Right up until the time that they don't.

According to Rolf, one of the couple's closest friends, Piggy became increasingly unhappy in the marriage.  "One day, after we'd finished filming the show," Rolf says, "Miss Piggy just started unloading on me about how disappointed she was with Kermit.  She went on and on, complaining about their sex life.  She'd always known that Kermit was somewhat reserved, but she hoped she'd be able to loosen him up a little bit in the sack.  One night, Piggy suggested that Kermit try something new, something that would really turn her on.  Turns out, though, that Kermit is Jewish."[1]

Miss Piggy's frustration took a violent turn in September of 1978.  According to the police report, Piggy and Kermit were having dinner at Elaine's in New York City and Kermit caught Piggy flirting with their waiter.  The couple began arguing back and forth until, finally, Miss Piggy lost her temper and decked her husband with a series of karate chops to the head.  Kermit told the officers that this was a relatively common occurrence in their relationship.  Kermit refused to press charges, however, with the condition that Miss Piggy enroll in an anger management class.  She was happy to be getting a second chance, and the couple continued to work on their relationship.  For a while, things seemed to be getting better.

But then, all hell broke loose.

In 1979, while in Los Angeles shooting their first feature film The Muppet Movie, Kermit wanted to surprise his wife with flowers and jewelry.  He showed up unexpectedly at her trailer and knocked on the door.  Getting no answer, he tried again.  After three attempts, he opened the door and walked in, only to find his wife getting enthusiastically gang-porked by all five members of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.  Even the chick.

Without a word, Kermit stormed out of the trailer, walked off the set, and spent the next two weeks holed up in the Beverly Hilton hotel eating chocolate-covered flies and drinking cheap whiskey.  The Muppet Movie was put on hold until Kermit's friend and advisor Scooter was able to help him regroup and return to work.  Once the shooting wrapped, Kermit filed for divorce, which was finalized in late 1980.

Although the Muppets continue to make movies and television specials, the relationship between Miss Piggy and her ex-husband remains chilly.

"Oh, they won't even talk to each other," says Fozzie Bear, a Muppet co-star.  "Even when they're shooting a scene together, they'll communicate through others.  'Tell that fat pile of raw pork that she's over-acting,' things like that.  It's pretty awkward for the rest of us, but since they're the stars we just have to put up with it."

When asked about his personal feelings toward the couple, Fozzie says, "Kermit has always been one of my best friends.  He was there for me when I was a struggling stand-up comic, and he gave me my first real break with The Muppet Show. Nicest guy you'd ever want to meet.  I tried to tell him that Piggy was nothing but trouble, but he didn't listen.  He was way too good for that whack-job, didn't deserve the hell that she put him through.  As for Piggy, you can stick an apple in her mouth and call her a luau for all I care.  Wocka, wocka, wocka!"

In 2009, Miss Piggy published her autobiography This Little Piggy Had None, detailing the actress's piglethood, show biz career, and her tumultuous relationship with Kermit the Frog.  While working on this project Piggy's co-author, Jim Sullivan, got an up-close-and-personal perspective on what the diva was truly like.

"Miss Piggy is unlike anyone I've ever met in my life," Sullivan says.  "Based on what I knew from reading about her in the papers, I assumed she was going to be a raving bitch, a prima donna, and someone who was a total pain in the ass to work with.  Well, she's all of those things and more.  For example, she's also a violent psychopath.  Every time I suggested putting something in the book that reflected negatively on her, she'd shriek 'HIIIII-YA!" and karate chop me.  After a couple times, I just said 'fuck it'.  As a result, the finished book is a steaming pile of pig shit with a thick sugar-coating."

Asked why he continued to work with such a demanding and difficult co-author, Sullivan explained, "The sex was outstanding.  Ever heard of a snout-job?  Trust me, it's a pretty effective motivator."

 Miss Piggy continues to find sporadic work in television, including a role on the upcoming season of The Surreal Life.  She lives in Hollywood with her fiance Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.

Kermit the Frog remains single, and lives in Manhattan.   He still appears on TV from time to time, and is always open to new Muppets projects.  As he said in a recent TV interview, "The Muppets are my life.  I've developed lifelong friendships with Fozzie, Scooter, and the rest of the gang.  My closest friend in the world was Jim Henson, rest his soul, a guy who I could always count on to give me a hand when I needed it.  Everything I have is because of Jim, and I'll continue to work hard to preserve his legacy."

When asked about his ex-wife, Kermit simply replied, "I see her as little as I have to.  Other than that, I have no comment."

[1] They don't eat pork.  Get it?




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Sunday, January 3, 2010

Welcome to Knucklehead's "Blog-Off 2010"!

Just for a bit of fun, and to shine a light on some of the best humor blogs out there right now, I'll be hosting a six-week Blog-Off competition.  Every Sunday, from January 3rd through February 7th, our contestants will post their entry and you, the readers, will be asked to vote for your favorite (the ballot is displayed on my sidebar here at Knucklehead!).  Posts go up on Sundays, and the voting each week ends Wednesday mornings.  Each round will feature a different writing genre, to recognize cleverness and versatility.  Please take some time to read our entries and vote for your favorite!

The topic for Round One is satire on a current event.  Here are the contestants, and the link to their entries:

365 Days of People
Blogged Down at the Moment
Life According to Candice
Mr. Condescending
Of Cabbages and Kings
The Reforming Geek
The Surly Writer
Too Many Mornings
Welcome to My Life
The Wizard of Otin

After you've checked out their work, come back to Knucklehead! and vote over in my sidebar, no later than Wednesday, January 6th.  The bottom TWO vote-getters will be eliminated, and results will be posted Wednesday evening.

Good luck, contestants!


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