Monday, March 29, 2010

April 1st: Fools' Day

Yes, it was hilarious when Google spoofed the Web, saying it had begun a service of printing and manually delivering boxes of email to Gmail users. I laughed. You laughed.

But now that the year is 2010, can we finally acknowledge that the world is so abounding with fools, so saturated, lopsided and poisoned with fools, that we should devote one day out of the year to recognize them? Name them by name. Throw rotten vegetables at their cars and insult them to their faces.

Starting this week, we the good citizens who suffer with fools all the year round, should give our usual courtesy a break, our customary tact and aplomb a day off. And just as the rules of our social compact are relaxed on Hallowe'en, and the grinding gears of commerce take sort of a reprieve on Christmas, so too should all repercussions of facing our fools be suspended -- just for the day.

Imagine the catharsis. All those pent-up employees who -- one day a year -- could tell their hated bosses to go fuck themselves; tell that blow-hard neighbor he has the worldview of a defective vole. That we tell our clergy and politicians and puffed-up businessmen that we think they are knaves, shysters and miscreants.

I vote that we turn Fools' Day into a day of leveling -- bringing the lofty low, make the prestigious preposterous, the bellowing, insufferable daily asshole who makes every moment in their presence throb like a tension headache, be verbally tarred and feathered.

Then, on April 2, all would return to normal.

The social Scrooges would soon forget the events of the first, and return to their boorishness and buffoonery. But there may be a few souls to be saved. A few might awake from their stupors, mend their ways and rejoin the fold.

Playing practical jokes on the stiffs in our offices, homes and gathering places may be fun in the short term, but I think it's time to turn April Fool's Day over to those who cannot suffer fools.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The SoulMate

Grimjack was at the airport hours earlier than necessary to meet Tinka's flight. He sat in a fast food restaurant eating a meal that had been served in a paper castle.

He poked around on his cell phone, trying to bring up TMZ's Web site, but the device had been dropped once too often, and now played a fickle game with connectivity.

When he tried to bring up the Web site on which he'd met Tinka, his soon-to-be-arriving Malaysian mail-order bride, he dropped the phone on the tiled floor. He picked it up and saw the tiny display was frozen on his wireless plan's splash screen.

He pocketed the phone and looked at the tiled floor again. This could be interesting, he thought, Shot-on tiled floor, voices in the background . . . Pull back, and see we're either in a burger joint or the visiting room of a prison.

Grimjack was in television, part of a third rate production house. The company pitched between seventy and eighty "reality show" ideas a month to cable networks. A few of the concepts had made it to air. The disposability of the genre necessitated a chronic tick in the minds of people like Grimjack, looking at everything in their everyday lives for concepts.

He'd pitched some near-misses, or what his colleagues called "almost successes." There was Simmons and Simmons, a show that would have followed Gene Simmons and Richard Simmons as they drove cross country in a classic car, documenting the hi-jinx and "unscripted" moments along the way. Unfortunately, one or both of the Simmons' wasn't available -- and the model of car couldn't be agreed upon.

Then, in the spirit of the near-miss classic, Miss Captivity -- which would have been a weekly beauty pageant of women in prison -- Grimjack had hit upon Dancing With the Dregs, where homeless people would be plucked from streets and park benches and brought to a studio where they'd dance to severely dated music in exchange for cases of Thunderbird and Sneaky Pete.

"It has the feel of a modern Queen For a Day," Grimjack said during the pitch session. No one in the room was over the age of twenty-four, so his reference to the 1950s show Queen For a Day was lost on them. He was about to Wikipedia it when a faux-hawked producer had said, "We've already got a dance show lined up where kids who were given up for adoption dance with a group of older people and have to guess which are their biological parents."

"We're generating great buzz on that one," said a woman who appeared to be on a 300-calorie-a-day diet. Looking at her, Grimjack recalled another idea he'd had, years ago: vitamin cigarettes. People would always smoke regardless what the medical community said, so why not introduce some nutrition in those death sticks? He had been about to suggest it when everyone's cell phones rang.

Grimjack checked his watch and saw there were still two hours before Tinka arrived. He went for a stroll through the terminal.

As he walked, he wondered if there was a show in airports. Maybe have for long lost sweethearts show up -- one arriving, one to pick up the arrival. If they recognize each other, they win a honeymoon to Costa Rica.

Grimjack had said nothing about Tinka to his colleagues for this reason. He'd already thought of its reality show potential, but didn't want to jinx his marriage taking a chance the concept would be rejected.

Anyhow, he'd already pitched his last divorce as a concept. It was rejected.

He'd pitched his dating life as The Middle-aged Bachelor. That went nowhere.

He'd even tossed out the idea of a show based around his experimenting with being gay, called Switch Hitter. Grimjack wasn't gay, had no homosexual tendencies, as far as he knew, but the lifestyle had come so far in being accepted by society, he saw a foray into gay romance as something akin to Super Size Me, or an extreme make-over show.


He passed more fast food places, magazine and coffee shops. As Grimjack went by an alcove that looked to be for maintenance personnel, something caught his eye.

A vending machine.

He did a double-take. The vending machine sold portable MP3 players and cell phones, BlueTooth ear pieces and digital cameras.

"Now what the hell is this?" Grimjack muttered to himself.

He couldn't believe it -- there was a credit card swipe off to the side and buttons for patrons to key in which item they were purchasing.

Visions of the candy bar and potato chip machines at work, malfunctioning and seeing Butter Fingers and Doritos hanging in a maddening limbo from the rows from which they were to drop, stuck, and some stressed out, hungry employee rocking the machine back and forth.

Grimjack had once read that half a dozen people were killed each year by vending machines falling on them. He briefly wondered if there was a show in it.

Who'd take a chance on the phone or camera not coming out? he thought. The machine seemed better engineered than the candy bar and potato chip machine at work, but if the mechanism that pushed the MP3 player or BlueTooth box to the edge of its row simply didn't work, the customer would be S.O.L.

Then Grimjack thought about his own sputtering cell phone, and suddenly felt the urge to check his email, check his voice mail, see if anyone had texted him. On any given day, he and his company had dozens of concepts on production staff tables, and word of success or the need for a chance could come at any time.

Web phones had pretty much kibashed Internet cafes. For a fleeting moment, Grimjack wondered if a stranger walking past would allow him to use their phone. Technology Candid Camera he thought. There's always room for another hidden camera show. But his job came so much inherent rejection, he didn't need any more of it on his own time.

He took out his credit card, swiped it and selected a Web phone called The SoulMate.

There was stinging moment of anxiety where nothing happened, but then the row he chose came to life and the box containing the phone tumbled to the bottom. He reached through the slot and pulled it out.

For the next two hours, Grimjack got to know his new phone. He was surprised to find that it came already charged and ready for us. He popped in his SIM card and he was checking voice messages a minute later. There were none. Checked his email. Nothing. No text messages waiting, either. But the screen resolution on his favorite porn sites was amazing!

Grimjack was so enthralled by his new SoulMate, that there was almost a sense of anticlimax when Tinka's flight arrived.

Like a kid pulled away from a new toy on Christmas morning, he met Tinka. She didn't look much like her picture on the mail-order-bride Web site, but years of Internet-dating had bred a certain acceptance of such discrepancies once the person Grimjack set out to meet was before him in person.

"Hi you!" she said, followed by a wide smile and, "Ell-oh-ell!"

They collected her bag -- a duffel that Grimjack later found contained an assortment of wigs -- and went back to his place for three hours of tantric sex.

Tinka knew little English, other than saying "Hi you!" and "Ell-oh-ell!", often with no discernible instigation. Grimjack had bought her a laptop, set it's language default to Malaysian and turned her loose on the Internet while he worked. He worked mostly from home.

When he needed to communicate with Tinka, he typed what he had to say, and then used Google Translate. Whether he asked a question about dinner, or if she wanted to go shopping or simply to begin laying the groundwork for when she would learn English, Tinka's response to everything he translated into Malaysian was the same: "Hi you! Ell-oh-ell!"

One day, after she'd been with him a month, he received an email message from the mail-order-bride service where he'd found Tinka.

It turned out the woman living with him wasn't Tinka, but a woman named Hi-yu. The agency claimed they'd attempted to inform about this sooner, but their emails to him bounced back.

Grimjack wasn't bothered. Tinka-- err, Hi-yu, was companionable and pleasant. She was great in bed and didn't seem to understand what a mall was. So, that was fine. But when he tried to reply to the agency email with a brief, but definite "np" for no problem, a problem arose: Grimjack's SoulMate died.

It didn't seem possible. He'd taken pristine care of the Web phone since buying it at the airport. For the first time in his life, he read the accompanying instructions, followed its procedure for letting the initial charge in the battery run out entirely before charging it for the first time.

"I've done everything right!" he bellowed at the SoulMate. Tinka-- that is, Hi-yu, looked up from her Web surfing on the couch.

Don't say 'Ell-oh-ell!', don't say 'Ell-oh-ell!', say 'Ell-oh-ell!' he thought. Hi-yu turned her attention back to BukuWajah -- Malaysian Facebook.

Have I just been screwed out of four hundred bucks? he wondered, sick.

This couldn't have come at a worse time. A new concept he'd created -- Black and Black -- had cleared its first hurdle: Jack Black had agreed to drive cross country with Conrad Black, upon Conrad's release from prison. Conrad Black's people had reservations pertaining to the "dignity" of their client. To which Grimjack's boss had said, "Dignity? He's a pseudo British Lord sitting in an American jail! He should pay us to be on this show!"

"There's no way to get this puppy through the birth canal from a gawddamned laptop computer!" he groused. Nobody can create reality shows without a Web phone!" Hi-yu looked up from her laptop. Her neon smile had vanished. She heard the anguish in Grimjack's voice. "It can't be done!"

The failure of the SoulMate hurt almost as much as when his fourth marriage soured. The unfairness of it all. The left-fieldness.

"What am I supposed to do now?" Grimjack mourned. "Go back to the airport and wait by the SoulMate vending machine for the guy who replenishes it to come around? What's he gonna say to me? 'Jeez, who the hell buys a Web phone out of a vending machine?'!"

He powered off the phone and tried turning it back on. Nothing. He tried it again; the Web phone going blurry before him as tears came to his eyes.

He thought to smash it on the tiled floor. The Web phone had betrayed him. It deserved that.

Then a warm, delicate hand touched his shoulder. Hi-yu. He looked up into her pretty face. She regarded him as a zoologist might look upon an errant, lost, rare frog: with pity and reverence. "Di sini, biarkan aku mencoba," she said.

Grimjack did not speak Malaysian, but something about the tone of her voice conveyed her meaning unadulterated to him. "What can you do?"

She held out her hand. "Delicate hands know many things," she said.

He handed her the phone. She turned it over and showed him a small label on the back. It read: Made in Malaysia.

Sudden, dawning realization hit Grimjack. For the first time in minutes, he felt hope.

Hi-yu sat down at the dining room table, which Grimjack used as his home office desk. She handled the phone like a rare, exotic animal. "Aku akan memerlukan beberapa hal," she said.

"Of course," Grimjack said, rising from his chair.

"Pembuka botol," Hi-yu said. "Pisau, pulpen pena, sopir sekrup kecil Flathead."

The corkscrew was no problem. He even had an old fountain pen in his junk drawer -- one of the few things his third wife had left behind. As for the small flathead screwdriver, he didn't have any tools in the house. Not so much as a hammer.

Instead of a small flathead screwdriver, he brought over a small souvenir spoon from Newfoundland, Canada, from when his mother visited there ten years ago. Its ornate top was tiny and flat.

Hi-yu spread the items before her on the table.

"Ketika saya masih muda, aku menghabiskan masa lapan tahun bekerja di kilang SoulMate di desa saya. Mereka mengalahkan kami, membayar kami tidak praktikal, dan memaksa kami untuk bekerja 12 jam hari dengan hanya satu hari libur per bulan," said as she worked.

"That's terrible," Grimjack breathed.

With a few deft moves, she took the phone apart and probed its innards with the tip of the corkscrew.

"Aku menjadi mail-order bride kerana aku tidak boleh lagi hidup dengan penghinaan dari kilang." She looked at Grimjack. He saw wisdom in her eyes that transcended her nineteen years of life. "Aku bersumpah bahawa aku akan suatu hari punya dendam atas SoulMate -- yang berjiwa syarikat."

"Yes," Grimjack whispered. "Yes."

Hi-yu worked on the phone for five minutes. She then reaffixed its back panel and handed it to Grimjack.

"Is it fixed?" he said.

"Hal ini untuk anda sekarang untuk mencari tahu," Hi-yu said.

Grimjack powered on the Web phone. The screen lit up like an Asian sunrise. The phone came to life like flowers in spring. His phone plan's splash screen appeared like a mother's face peering over the edge of a crib down at her baby.

"It works," he said, his vision going blurry again with tears -- tears of joy this time.

There was a text message waiting for him saying that Black and Black was shot down for good. Such news would have sent Grimjack into Häagen-Dazs binging frenzy. But tonight he was renewed.

With the skill and speed of a thirteen year old who could run up a $20,000 texting bill, he pumped out a new idea for his company's pitchman to consider: White and White, in which Vanna White and Jack White drove cross country in a classic car.

He hit SEND and rose from the table. He extended his hand to Hi-yu.

"Hi-yu," he said. "You are my SoulMate. You complete me."

"Ell-oh-ell," she said.

They went upstairs for a few hours of tantric sex.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Creationism/Intelligent Design graduates hit the workforce

Texas Board of Education cuts Thomas Jefferson out of its textbooks

Texas Textbook MASSACRE: 'Ultraconservatives' Approve Radical Changes To State Education Curriculum

Thomas Jefferson No Longer Worthy of Study

The Texas Textbook Debate

Conservative Vision Ascendant In Latest TX History Textbooks Draft; Gingrich, Schlafly Back In

The Inside the Hotdog Factory time-machine was recently put at the disposal of freelance journalist, Reck Philips. He took it to the year 2021 in order to observe the results of graduates from Creationism/Intelligent Designs schools entering the workforce.

Here is his report:
Ever since the great Texas Textbook Controversy of 2010, educators, sociologists and political commentators of all stripes have been curious to see how children educated in systems heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian religion, Creationism and Intelligent Design would perform in the market-place-- excuse me, in "free enterprise."

My first stop was with born-again brain surgeon, Dr. Nevaeh Elijahson. After observing her performing surgery, I had a chance to sit down with her.

RECK PHILIPS: "Dr. Elijahson, how long have your practiced medicine?"

DR. ELIJAHSON: (thinks) "How long has malpractice law been abolished?"

RECK PHILIPS: "Four years."

DR. ELIJAHSON: "Then, four years."

RECK PHILIPS: "I'm not a physician, but I was under the impression that surgeons were supposed to 'scrub up' -- wash their hands -- before entering the operating theater."

DR. ELIJAHSON: (laughs) "It's not a theater! It's a room -- what we do in there is real!"

RECK PHILIPS: "Yes, but, the point is, neither you nor the surgical staff washed up before --"

DR. ELIJAHSON: "That's proven to be unnecessary because we each said a prayer before operating."

RECK PHILIPS: "I'm sorry?"

DR. ELIJAHSON: (laughs) "We prayed! Those who pray are cleansed in the Blood of Christ, and you can't get cleaner than that!"

RECK PHILIPS: "Be that as it may, I also witnessed a strange practice -- you smeared mud all over the patient's head. There's no way that can be sterile."

DR. ELIJAHSON: (heated) "That mud is from the Holy Land!"

RECK PHILIPS: "What is the patient's prognosis following surgery?"

DR. ELIJAHSON: "Prog-- what?"

RECK PHILIPS: "Will the patient be well following surgery?"

DR. ELIJAHSON: "Oh, the patient didn't survive. His faith wasn't strong enough."

* * *

Elsewhere, I observed other members of the community.

There was Isiah Ezekiel, an Ohio paramedic. Whenever he's called to an accident scene, he immediately drops to his knees and prays for the dead and injured.

There was Nevaeh Abraham, a born-again history teacher who taught in Topeka. I had a chance to observe her in the classroom:

NEVAEH ABRAHAM: "Class, who was America's greatest president?"

CLASS: "Jesus!"

NEVAEH ABRAHAM: (beaming) "That's right! And who was the second greatest president?"

CLASS: "Ronald Regan!"

NEVAEH ABRAHAM: "That's right!"

* * *

There was Nevaeh White, a born-again driving instructor who brought a very unique style to her job: As her student haltingly lurched out of the parking space, and was alternately too heavy on the accelerator and too heavy on the brake, Nevaeh closed her eyes and prayed in tongues.

* * *

Finally, Intelligent Design mathematicians were hard at work calculating the next date on which the Rapture would occur. The years 2000 and 2012 didn't work out, nor did:
  • 1792 - date calculated by the Shakers.

  • 1844 - William Miller predicted Christ would return between March 21, 1843 and March 21, 1844, then revised his prediction, claiming to have miscalculated Scripture, to October 22, 1844. The result of their being no second coming was referred to as the Great Disappointment. Miller's theology gave rise to the Advent movement.

  • 1977 - William M. Branham predicted in 1962 that the Rapture could take place by 1977

  • 1981 - Chuck Smith predicted that Jesus would probably return by 1981.

  • 1988 - Publication of 88 Reasons why the Rapture is in 1988, by Edgar C. Whisenant.

  • 1989 - Publication of The final shout: Rapture report 1989, by Edgar Whisenant. More predictions by this author appeared for 1992, 1995, and other years.

  • 1992 - Korean group "Mission for the Coming Days" predicted October 28, 1992 as the date for the rapture.

  • 1993 - Seven years before the year 2000. The rapture would have to start to allow for seven years of the Tribulation before the Return in 2000. Multiple predictions.

  • 1994 - Pastor John Hinkle of Christ Church in Los Angeles predicted June 9, 1994. Radio evangelist Harold Camping predicted September 27, 1994.

  • 2011 - Harold Camping's revised prediction has May 21, 2011 as the date of the rapture.

  • 2060 - Sir Isaac Newton proposed, based upon his calculations using figures from the book of Daniel, that the Apocalypse could happen no earlier than 2060.
But Sir Isaac Newton's calculations don't count because he was an actual scientist.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Supreme Court of Break-away American State, Philistinia, Proclaims Constitution "Unconstitutional"

Making news for the first time in more than 72 years, the little-known break-away American state, Philistinia -- comprised of three neighborhoods on and around the Michigan/Ohio border -- has recently jumped to the fore.

Philistina's Supreme Court, today, proclaimed the much-quoted, much-referenced, much-hyped, much-beloved American Constitution to be "unconstitutional."

The Philistinians -- most being a supra-conservative, right-wing Calvinist sect -- believe that only Gawd has the authority to make laws, and that man, in his infinite sinfulness, is at base unworthy and incapable of creating and enforcing laws.

In a 19-0 decision -- the Philistinian Supreme Court has more than double the number of Justices than the American Supreme Court -- Justices Egregious Scalia and Scrotum Thomas wrote concurrent opinions that the United States Constitution is a fallacious document created by fallible, "sin squalid" men, and therefore ineligible to guide the laws and government of Gawd's Chosen.

No media was allowed to attend the presentation of the Court's decision.

The press was notified by the Philistinian tradition of the news being written on dried pig skin, the pig skin then wrapped around a brick, and the brick thus hurled through the front window of the nearest newspaper, the Gomerstead Galloper.

There has been no response so far from the Obama administration, but legal scholars predict several long days and nights lie ahead for the Justice Department as it examines and tries to pick apart the 777 page opinion.

In other news, Sarah Palin was voted Ms. Poodle Shampoo Beauty of Gomerstead, 2010.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Stupid is the new normal

Dear America:

My condolences that health care reform was passed. It'll no doubt sink the United States.

How can a country look after its citizen when it should be buying more battleships?

All I can hope for you is that President Platitude's conscience will revolt against actually winning a fight in Congress and that his guilt will make him veto this destructive law.

What is the country going to do if all these sick, uninsured people get care and regain their health? There aren't jobs for all of them! Shopping malls and theme parks aren't set up to handle an influx of suddenly healthy, curious former shut-ins. Transit systems will collapse. How will the stock market react?

And you know what's been forgotten in the morass of the health care debate? Pharmaceutical company executives. How is Congress going to explain to the innocent, wide-eyed children of these executives that they may not get that new desert island for their birthday? Or that new jet, or have the latest winner of American Idol perform at their birthday party? These people have lifestyles to maintain!

This is exactly why sick people are called sick. Because they're sick to suddenly want to get well. Society's learned to not only function without them, it thrives on their absence.

What'll this do to climate change? Were the polar ice caps mentioned once during this year-long torture session in Congress? No!

That T-shirt party better get itself mobilized and come up with new and better chants like "Bombs! Not Band Aids!" "Nukes! Not Nurses!" "Wars! Not Wards!"

"Palin 2012! Not Patient Care!"

This may all too soon become a thing of the past. What would Ben Franklin say?

The First United Church of Tiger Woods

It has been George Etfo's lifelong dream to minister to people. After failing to complete divinity school, and being asked to leave a Catholic seminary, he feared his dream would never come true.

Then he hit upon an idea. "It's our dreams that make us holy," Etfo said in a recent interview with Inside the Hotdog Factory. "And it's my ability to dream big that makes me perfectly suited to be a church leader."

Over the past 10 years, Etfo has worked tirelessly to bring his dream into reality: The First United Church of Tiger Woods.

Etfo planned the grand opening of his church -- spending thousands of dollars of his own money in advertising, mailings, sky-writing, etc. -- to open on November 28th 2009.

"But when Elin Woods smashed up Tiger's Cadillac Escalade with a golf club," Etfo says, reflectively, "she may as well have smashed out the stained glass windows of F.U.C. Tiger Woods."

The star to which Etfo had attached his dream had suddenly fallen.

"You see, F.U.C. Tiger Woods is about perfection," Etfo explains, "not forgiveness, as many other religions are based upon. It's the tenet of F.U.C. Tiger Woods that Woods is perfect at what he does, and thus should be worshiped."

Tiger Woods worshiped?

"The market has spoken," Etfo says. "The man is a billionaire."

So, all billionaires are worthy of worship.

"Only those who've become billionaires by playing golf," Etfo says. "Tiger Woods has accomplished that -- probably the only person who'll ever accomplish that."

Has Tiger's fall from grace left Etfo's church in Limbo?

"Not at all," Etfo says with confidence. "Tiger Woods has apologized for his actions. When he gave that moving, heartfelt apology, I felt like he was speaking directly to me. In fact, I'm having a life-sized replica of him at that podium made as we speak. It'll stand above the altar -- which is a putting green."

Has F.U.C. Tiger Woods opened yet?

"No, the doors will open after Tiger glorious victory at the Masters!" Etfo says.

And if Tiger doesn't win the Masters?

"The church will open, anyhow. Because if there's one lesson we can all take from Tiger Woods it's that reality doesn't matter. It's what we believe that matters."

"This aggression will not stand!" -- Campus cop is sent away wearing only his trousers

From The Windsor Star:
WINDSOR, Ont. — Dozens of union members descended on the University of Windsor Monday morning after the campus police union chairman was suspended and apparently had to leave work shirtless.

CAW 195 president Gerry Farnham said the university has refused to tell the union what prompted the suspension. Stan Venerable was suspended Friday and apparently told to hand in his badge, keys and uniform, even though he had no other clothes with him. Protesters at the rally said Venerable took his shirt off, but walked out with his pants on.
As he was escorted off campus, students witnessed Venerable's sizable beer belly straining over the waist band of his trousers -- confirmed to have a delusional 32-inch circumference -- and are now undergoing grief counseling.

"I can't unsee the bad man!" cried first year nursing student, Kristi Nunac. "I had no idea the human body could take on such disfiguring form! I'll probably have to change my major to in geography or business. Anything so I won't ever have to see a human body again!"

Second year kinesiology student, Katie Tittinger, remarked, "I can't unhave the nightmare. I may never have children now. How can I ever look at a man's body again?"

It remains unknown what offense Mr. Venerable committed that necessitated him being dismissed so abruptly, but we at Inside the Hotdog Factory can only think the worst. Was it murder? Rape? Indecent exposure? Inappropriate texting on a university-issued device? We can only hope.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Humpty-Dumpty Phobia, or How I Learned to Quit Worrying and Accept Baldness in My Fellow Man

When I was a little kid -- aged three, four and five -- the worst injury my friends and I could ever conceive of happening to a person was "cracking their head open."

We somehow understood that the human head was important to a person's well-being. We also intuited that the head was not impervious to injury. I'm unsure exactly when the scientifically accepted term for our fear -- "cracking your head open" -- became part of my lexicon, but I always recognized it as a phrase of weight and gravity.

There were vague stories from friends' old siblings who went to school, about kids cracking their heads open in the asphalt school yard, or on the tiled gymnasium floor. The mental image I had of someone cracking their head open was nothing so simple the cranium crumpling like an egg shell.

No, I realized the human head was pretty solid and sturdy, which only added to the lofty seriousness of someone cracking their skull open.

In kindergarten, while sitting making crafts one day, a girl seated at my table revealed her plan if she ever cracked her head open. She said, "If I ever crack my head open, I'll do this --" and pantomimed dipping her first two fingers in the crack of her skull and bringing those fingers to her mouth. She went back and forth a few times, showing how she'd save her own blood by cleverly putting it back into her body via her mouth.

It seemed like a good plan to me -- at the time.

There was a time when I witnessed a pair of kids crack their heads open.

I was on vacation with my parents and my Uncle Rollie's family in Clearwater, Florida in the winter of 1974. There were a few hundred yards of beach between the front of our modest hotel and the Gulf of Mexico. Where the sand began, there was a concrete pad on which some rudimentary playground equipment was set up for children to play on: a covered slide and some monkey bars.

My family and I were eating lunch at a picnic table near the playground equipment when some kids playing on the monkey bars fell off. Of course, the monkey bars were positioned so that anyone falling off of them had a good chance of landing on the cement lip of the expansive patio in front of the hotel -- which, of course, was half a step higher than the cement pad of the playground. It was the 70s, when safety was optional: many cars still didn't have seatbelts, people smoked in hospital and on air planes, aerosol cans were the disco of the cleaning and hygiene aisles of supermarkets.

The kids fell and each cracked their heads open on the edge of the cement patio.

Uncle Rollie was up from his seat in an instant. I don't believe I actually saw the kids fall, and I don't think I even knew what was happening until I focused on why Uncle Rollie -- a school teacher -- had raced off toward the crying that suddenly came from the playground area. He and another man -- possibly the kids' father, though I don't know for sure -- each picked up an injured child and ran with them. Where? I have no idea. There might have been some sort of medical facility nearby, or maybe they raced the kids to the father's car so he could get them to a hospital.

I never asked and it was never explained to me.

I do recall Uncle Rollie returning to our picnic table and wiping blood from his fingers with a napkin. There was a fair amount of blood on his hands; more than I'd seen on any of my scraped knees or elbows up to that time.

* * *

It was seeing Vincent Price in the 1960s Batman series, as the bald villain, Egghead, that put a whole new spin on my fears of cracking one's head open.

His bald head seemed so horribly vulnerable to injury. Sure, Egghead's henchmen took the bulk of the beating at the hands of Batman and Robin, but all it would take was merely tripping Egghead to make him crack his head open. His episodes in the series were excruciating for me.

Another TV bald guy who caused me anxiety was Telly Savalas, star of Kojak. I wasn't old enough to watch the show, but Telly Savalas was on the covers of magazines and in Diners' Club Card commercials. I also came to know of him through general television osmosis and seeing ads for the next episode of Kojak.

I wondered if, while running around, chasing crooks, Kojak ever fell down a flight of stairs and cracked his head open. (That was another apex of injury: falling down stairs. It was the worst thing I could imagine happening to a person. Not being shot, not being ravaged by disease, or hit by a train, but falling down a flight of stairs.) It wasn't long before I was obsessed with the idea of Kojak injuring his painfully vulnerable scalp. In fact, I soon became consumed with worry about all bald men.

I mean, what in the world would happen to a bald guy if he fell down a flight of concrete stairs?

The thought was more than I could handle. It gave me the same kind of morbid chill as contemplating what it would be like to drown.

It got to the point where I became afraid of bald men because their hairless pates were just waiting to be cracked open. If I saw a bald man in the grocery store, I'd cling to my mother's leg, or grasp the strap of her purse. and turn my face away from the poor, doomed man and his hairless, time-bomb skull.

At some point, I came to believe that as men went bald, they became more careful, agile -- like the way a blind person's hearing improves with the loss of their sight. This helped me with my Humpty-Dumpty phobia.

Soon, I came to not only see the grace and dignity of baldness, I coveted it. My Uncle Don was bald and by the time I was five, I thought that was the coolest look imaginable. So cool, in fact, that one day I took a pair of scissors from the kitchen drawer, grabbed a handful of hair at the front of my head, and cut it off. I planned on replicating Uncle Don's pattern baldness had my mother not halted me with a shriek of horror.

She asked what in the name of gawd I was doing. To which I replied, "I want to look like Uncle Don."

For some reason, my mother didn't cancel our appointment later that week at Sears Portrait Studio where my brother and I had our pictures taken. There I was, with sizable chunk missing from the front of my hair.

But in that photo, I smiled as though another piece of 1970s marketing wisdom had dawned on me: "Hair is for protection!" And for the foreseeable future, I had a prodigious mop wreathing my head, standing between me and cracking my head open.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

The Roman Catholic Church is a Gawddamned Cesspool

From "I have been deeply disturbed by the information which has come to light regarding the abuse of children and vulnerable young people by members of the church in Ireland, particularly by priests and religious," the pope wrote.

Absolute bullshit.

Pedophilia is so pervasive in the Catholic church that it's pretty clear abusing children is merely one of the "perks" of being a priest. The rape of children is institutionally embraced by the Catholic church, from its highest levels.

"The Vatican instructed Catholic bishops around the world to cover up cases of sexual abuse or risk being thrown out of the Church."

They won't throw out pedophiles -- the Catholic church will throw out those who refuse to protect pedophiles.

Pedophilia is institutionally accepted, propogated and protected by the Catholic church.

If it was anything but the abuse of children, I'd be happy to watch the church's death throes go on through a protracted, humiliating, ignoble devolution. But people's lives have been ruined. Kids raped, abused, used, handed around like a bottle at a frat party.

Now, the wounds are opening in a country that I love as much as the one in which I was born -- Ireland. To the point where a headline on reads: "'Ashamed to be Irish' -- Abuse angers nation".

The Irish have nothing to be ashamed of. The Church of Rome has been a blight upon the earth since its inception, and it was its priests who have perpetrated these crimes; its priests and bishops and cardinals (and pope) who have covered up these crimes. This is a Roman Catholic plague, not an Irish one.

My family knew a hapless, fatherless, only-child Irishman in the 1950s with the unlikely moniker, Pug McCluskey. He was the original Ne'er Do Well. He never worked, but spent his mother's pension cheques drinking at local watering holes.

One day he approached an uncle of mine, asking if he'd co-sign on a new suit of clothes for him. The anniversary of Pug's father's death was coming up and it was long-suffering Mrs. McCluskey's wish that Pug attend his father's anniversary funeral mass. Pug got his suit -- he never made a payment on it, so my uncle the co-signer ended up paying for it -- and was in the bar the day of his father's mass.

At some point, the bartender said, "Pug, aren't you supposed to be somewhere today?"

"Ah, Christ, sure I am," Pug slurred and lurched out of the bar.

Mr. McCluskey's anniversary mass was halfway finished by the time Pug kicked open the door of the church. The priest was giving his homily, and watched with dawning horror as Pug slumped down the middle aisle.

Mrs. McCluskey looked up and there may have been a moment of relief, of inchoate joy that, for once, Pug had not let her down. If there was that moment, it was fleeting.

Pug slouched past the row in which his mother sat and came to a stop about fifteen feet from the priest's podium. And there, in front of the dozen people who occupied the cavernously empty church, Pug looked at the priest and raised a quivering finger at him.

And addressed him thus: "The Roman Catholic church is a gawddamned cesspool!"

Then he turned and left the church, returning to his bar stool down the street.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

WHO Releases New Report: "Human Beings Found Not to Be Cost-Effective"

The World Health Organization released a report today that may help clarify the health care debate currently raging in the United States of America.

A hush-hush, decades-long study performed by the WHO has found that human beings are not cost-effective.

Lead researcher, Dr. Fritz Hangemann expanded upon the findings: "Human beings need food, shelter, hydration, psychological stimulation, sexual gratification. The study's findings bear out our worst fears: that human beings just take, take, take and have very little to offer in return."

A drastically different interpretation of the study's findings is put forth by Gloria Allright, of the Human Beings Are Just Great Coalition, "This cost-effectiveness model is ludicrous! Human beings are terrific and any findings to the contrary are specious, spurious and frankly, bullshit."

The study's findings are broken into categories, showing that some segments of human beings are, actually, more cost-effective than others.

"For instance," says Dr. Hangemann, "coffee shop wait staff are enormously cost-effective. They give much more than they take. Some auto mechanics, data processing personnel, prostitutes, exotic dancers and brewmasters."

Topping the list of least cost-effective human beings.

"Corporate executives and politicians, with a bullet," Dr. Hangemann says. "Followed by bureaucrats, middle-management personnel of almost any corporation, news media, corporate consultants."

What will be done with these findings?

"Oh, they'll probably be buried."


"Because topping their very own list," Gloria Allright says with more than a hint of derision, "of least cost-effective people are the sorts of researchers who compile these studies."

Monday, March 08, 2010

Benefit Dinner -- prose poem

Accompanying my wife to a benefit dinner, I bristle within my suit and wince at the executioner's grip my belt has around my waist. In my nervous discomfort, I quip, "I don't see why they raise money for Children's Diabetes. Instead of giving kids diabetes, we should be working to prevent it." My bon mot tumbled into a void galactic silence.

On my first venture to the bar, I was plunged into a nightmare of faces from my past, seeing a slew of girls with whom I'd gone to high school. O gawd, I was the most internally, infernally frenetic bundle of mis-wired nerves when I was in high school. I can't imagine how I came off to people. If I was remembered at all, it was no doubt as a budding clocktower shooter.

That was not surreal enough, however, for the chuckling deities. No. No, I actually saw the girl who was my first girlfriend back when I was eleven years old. She was absolutely gorgeous all these years later. She'd be thirty-seven or thirty-eight now, and she kept herself together marvelously: hermetically sealed in Plexiglas on her off-hours, bathed in a marinade of placenta and vitamin E, with pure arctic oxygen pumped in.

Meanwhile, there I was trapped in my Sumo wrestler body suit; erratic cowlicks in my gray hair. Walking past the mirrors in the restroom, I looked like a Yeti, and generally resembled an "after" picture of a Temperance League tract.

I said no hellos, but ogled from afar. It was like being an extra in a Philip Roth novel. Times like that, I wished I carried copies of my books to show that the damage done to myself occurred in literary pursuits, that I have cultivated the inner me, that I have done more in life than become an accomplished onanist.