Sunday, October 29, 2006

It's Open Season on the Holidays!

October is nearly over.

It's nearly time for my annual abject October depression to fade. I get horribly melancholy in October because I'm living in Florida, and I get dreadfully homesick for the old Rhode Island stomping grounds (sometimes we walk, sometimes we run, sometimes we stomp because we're just in that kind of mood) and a genuine New England autumn. There's simply nothing like it; the scintillating colors of the turning leaves that can be so vivid, you feel like it will burn your eyes with their "flames" licking about in the wind. No camera can do it justice. Then, there's the crispness of the air getting colder, sometimes even bringing a frost at night; it's so crisp that it will snap your senses awake, making everything that much more intense. And the smell.... of the leaves, rain, wood smoke drifting around as fireplaces are put into use; to me, it feels like the first real air that I've breathed in months. It compels you to inhale it deeply, and though everything is gradually turning brown, it's some of the freshest air there is.

The depression just had a major relapse. Why, oh why do I torture myself so?

There's no autumn here, and I don't care what anyone says. This includes my wife, who is one of approximately three people who were actually born here. Having lived here all her life, she has no idea what four real seasons are like. "We have them, they're just more subtle here!!" she tells me. Balderdash! It's summer here practically all year! There's positively nothing that can be done here to replace the feeling of a New England autumn. The same goes for the rest of the holidays in the "Holiday Season". Heavy on the quotation marks, as it's anybody's guess as to when what holiday's season actually IS. If you follow the "logic" of retail stores, the Christmas season begins somewhere about two weeks before Labor Day.

Thanksgiving is fairly nebulous; it just isn't as significant to me as others. Maybe it's the detritus left from the large family gatherings on Thanksgiving when I was a kid. Plenty of servings of turkey, dressing, lima beans, guilt and mental cruelty. Somehow, I got the filthy memory-sludge off of the rest of the holidays, but for some reason, Thanksgiving still makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up (Note to self: Have back of neck waxed). Maybe it was the hypocrisy at the time; there we were, gathered around the tables (Man, I should never have left the "children's table", it was the only place where any fun occurred. I think my cousin is still coughing out black olives every time he drinks a glass of milk), and saying all the words and going through all the motions of being Thankful. Yet, the taste of dysfunctionality was so thick in the air, no amount of parsley, sage, or rosemary at the time could overcome it.

Don't misunderstand me; a LOT has changed, and gatherings of my family aren't like that at all now. Mind you, it wasn't easy undoing generations of skillfully not communicating, of lavishing non-attention on one another, and the garish masks and gesticulations that were supposed to mean that we were a family. You think A.R. Gurney makes up all the stuff he puts in his plays? Think again! I swear, he's writing about us. However, once my siblings & I grew into adulthood and scattered to the four winds, we began to question why the hell it was like that? We came to the conclusion that it was all a bunch of dragon fewmets. There's no good reason to believe in dragons, nor that they therefore leaves fewmets lying around. Similarly, there was no sensible rationale proving that there was a good reason to continue the family "traditions". Over time, we started from scratch and made a family, a real family, where one hadn't existed, time out of mind. We took the "unwritten family rules" out back, ripped them up, spat on them, burned them, and then buried the ashes just for emphasis. There's a rumor that some urination was involved, but I will not comment.** They had become un-unwritten, as my therapist from eons ago had me write them out; the rest of my immediate family was astounded at the list because it was so very accurate. Thus was the tide turned, and a lot of fetid, toxic sewage got swept out to sea, until it washed up on the shores of New Jersey, where nobody even noticed. Sure, we had to kill some of the extended family, exile a couple of others, and not leave forwarding addresses for one, but in retrospect, honestly, they had it coming. Hey, they had their chance:

"Do you renounce the family BS and all its ways, and will you sign this oath to become an honest and compassionate person instead?"
"I'm very disappointed in you and your behavior. Maybe if your father hadn't married so far beneath his station-"

What have we learned from all of this? That some family "traditions" not only should not be carried on, they should be introduced to some of the cherished traditions handed down from the Spanish Inquisition.

Start all over again! Make up new traditions. I know, that's a contradiction in terms.... but it beats trying to pretend that the sweet potato dish with the burnt marshmallows on top that one relative kept bringing that was mmm-mmm good. No, no.... it was so awful, the fact that Tang was one of its ingredients was actually one of its best features, .

So, this Thanksgiving, give your first thoughts and prayers to the billions of people who are less fortunate than you are. Not out of obligation because "that's what you do at Thanksgiving", but because you have some compassion. Consider doing something, however small, to make a difference. However small it may be, and even if nobody else but you knows about it, it matters. It truly does matter.

Then, take a gander around the table. Be genuinely thankful for the people who make a big difference for the better in your life. But, if there's anyone there ruining it, or that you just can't get yourself to be Thankful for on Thanksgiving because they're the same rotten way the rest of the year? Politely, but firmly banish them from the table (What did God make basements for, after all? Which is another thing wrong with this place, there aren't any basements!)(But I digress), and enjoy the meal peaceably. No false fronts, and let's not be so formal that we pretend that stealth-flipping peas at one another with a spoon isn't as damn funny as it really is.

Laughter, genuine smiles, and warmth; those are things that are worth giving thanks for, and making memories of. Really, we should keep Aunt Betsy from drinking too much wine; a mere one glass is all it takes to get her to maniacally giggle every time someone mentions the word "giblets". Nonetheless, tradition demands that we give her the second glass; her resultant "Dance of the Razzleberry Dressing" is an hilarity that makes us all feel like it's a real celebration. And it reminds us of one more, small thing to be thankful for:

Video cameras.

**Absolutely needless footnote that could ruin the warmth of this whole story, so read it at your discretion:

A friendly reminder: It's not a good idea to urinate on something burning, no matter how appropriate it is symbolically; the resultant smell is even worse than that of the accursed sweet potato dish with the burnt marshmallows on top. The hint of scorched, deep-fried Tang that will haunt you for the rest of your days.

If you just read that and it ruined the ambiance of the story, don't blame me! I warned you, after all; be Thankful for it!

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Monday, October 23, 2006

Ever Closer to the Edge of "Shear" Madness!

I knew it was coming. It didn't matter how stupid the idea was, nobody seems to have been able to stop this madness. Oh, it could have been halted, but the brown-nosed sycophants in corporate America will say yes to anything. It's too late now, they've gone and done it.

The miserable troglodytes mailed me a new bane of existence, addressed to me personally. I guess I'm supposed to be grateful, but I feel more along the lines of grated. I shall explain:

I cry unto you this: When they came out with the double-bladed razor, it seemed to make some sense; indeed, it did deliver a closer shave. All well and good. But these people just can't stop themselves, can they? It took a few years, but then we had the triple-bladed razor foisted on us, partly on the excuse that the head would swivel and follow the contours of your face as you guided it along with your hand. All well and good again.... mostly. The third blade didn't really seem to do anything, but it did deliver a more consistent shave over more areas of your face. That is, unless you are "of my people", those oppressed by the dawn: If you were not a "morning person", you could cut yourself like Sweeney Todd and bleed to death before the coffee kicked in and informed you to stop the bleeding, as you are not good to the last drop. On one spectacularly klutzy morning, I cut my chin; reacting automatically to the pain, I moved my hand to cover the wound quickly. It was a bad decision to have done so with the hand holding the razor, for on its way back, it lacerated three deep gashes into my ear. I bear the ignoble scars to this day. And still, I never understood why three blades were necessary; I could hurt myself nearly as badly with just two.

At this juncture, you might reasonably ask me "Why in hell don't you get an electric razor?" Reason Number One: My father used an electric razor, and therefore it's for "old guys". Reason Number Two: I don't like the way it leaves my facial skin looking & feeling. Reason Number Three, and the paramount: You think that you can't gouge out hunks of flesh with one of those things? HAH! I can't see the advantage of having a cross-cut pothole dug into my flesh over a razor cut.

Could they leave well enough alone? Of course not! "Why, if three blades with the special pivoting head are better than two, then, by all the syphylitic concubines of Bangkok, four must be even better!" Why is four better? Be reasonable, follow along with me here: The idiotic thing has four straight-edged blades, and now the height of four of them stacked was about 3/8 of an inch. A man's face is curved in a lot of places. All this fiendish scam was good for was raking a trench on your jawline, or cutting off part of your nose when trying to get the high reaches of the philtrum. I wasn't falling for it, not this time. "I'll stick with your tri-machete version, thank you very much!" said I.

Naturally, they would have none of this. Gillette cheerily mailed me a free quadrophonic razor handle & blade, and then did the dastardly deed: The three-blade refill cartridges disappeared from the store. I'm sure that it didn't escape the attention of the rest of you studly chaps out there that with every additional blade, the price of the refills doubled over the last. I was getting sick of this idiotic overkill, but I was trapped; I could not switch to an electric razor, not even one of the newer & kinder models. That would mean that I'd become an "Old Guy"! Not only no, but hell no!

At this juncture, you may well be asking yourself why don't I grow a beard and be done with the whole stinking business? Actually, I have one more than half the time, but I still have to shave around it to make it look swank, sexy, and make women want to run their fingers through it. I'm a real enthusiast of letting women run their fingers through the hair on any part of my body.

Aha, but this time, I figured out a way to foil them! It took an additional cup of coffee before I shaved to gain the consciousness & dexterity, and I dipped the razor into another cup of coffee, just to be sure. Holding it just right, I could manage to have just two of the blades touch my face at a time. HAH!! Now I'm making your ultra-premium refill blades last twice as long! Take that!!

Surely, this time, the one-more-blade-upsmanship had reached its zenith. Surely, the market would not tolerate any more gimmickry. Oh, how wrong I was! Because today was the day.

I went out to get the recycling bins in (I re-use them, don't you know), and Al, my mail carrier, drove up at the same time. He personally handed me the goods for the day, saying "Looks like you got a razor." No! NO!!" I thought to myself. "It CAN'T be!" I looked down & saw the word "Gillette" on the side edge of a rambunctiously red box. Fearing the worst, I turned the face up towards me. Sure enough. The "Gillette Fusion" with FIVE frigging blades!! FIVE!!! What's their excuse this time, I wonder? The package claims that with five blades, you can reduce the pressure that you use to move it across your face, and golly gee, it'll mean less irritation and more comfort. I can't believe it; I couldn't take it in, especially knowing that they're going to get away with it again. Young guys want to seem cool & sophisticated; middle-aged guys are in the dreaded mid-life crisis, and a five-blade razor is the depilatory equivalent of a red Ferarri. For the elder set, the evil geniuses are packaging the razors & blades with Viagra & Cialis. So now, the senior men out there are being duped into thinking that they're gonna get laid more than they ever have before in their lives. I haven't asked them about it, and I don't want to know! Especially if it's working.

Oh, but wait, it goes one absurd step further: They've already snuck the SIXTH blade onto the thing. Ah, but this one's different! It's on the back. Why? What for? The package explains: It's a "precision trimmer blade", and allows you to neatly trim sideburns, go at the philtrum safely, and even shape facial hair. "Wow, that's some blade!" I said to myself. And then it hit me:

This is a versatile blade, this posterior loner. Ah, but blade-manufacturing technology has advanced over the years, so it's probably the best blade-edge they've ever made. "Yes!", I hear their voices in my head say; "So you understand why the refill blade cartridges cost $8.00 apiece. Aren't you worth it?" Maybe, maybe not, but it was then that I realized the insidious nature of the whole conspiracy: ONE of these new-age blades could probably shave as close as the best two-blade razors from back in the day! The razors that actually had a discernible difference, the ones I liked & was happy to pay slightly more for. But now, why, this one blade could probably do the job all by its lonesome! Which leads to the big question, men:


Other than the fact that we're given little choice, I had a sneaking suspicion.... I checked the stock reports today (which I'd rather punch myself in a kidney than do), and there it was: Who's raking in even more obscene profits than the oil companies? You got it.

Gentlemen, there's no avoiding it: Whatever our individual merits may be, collectively, we're a bunch of suckers.

However, don't get altogether crestfallen; these same minions of the devil managed to drag the women to an even more bizarre extreme. Having foisted upon women the pain of the Epilady, the personal care product manufacturers now have them convinced that it's a good idea to have hot wax poured onto their bodies near a place that is precious and should never be recklessly endangered; and then, that it's "so totally worth it" to then have it ripped off of them. It is true that it does a pretty thorough job; it glues itself to body hair so well that it actually rips out a lot of follicles along with the hair. In some cases, women with particularly deep follicles have had bones come flying out. However, they tell us, with righteous indignation, that we'd better be glad that they care about us so much, they'd go through this ordeal just to look good for us. Are they in league with Gillette and the other criminals? Surprisingly, no. No, this process has allowed the women to "sell" us something that they prize even more than huge profits:


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Friday, October 20, 2006

A "Nucular-Free North Korea" and Other Exploded Myths

In this time of heightened international tensions, we might be overlooking something very serious. With Kim Jong Il trying to deal with his severe "overcompensation" issues, and the idea of Iran developing atomic bombs, I'd like to call this question to your attention:

Should we, as a country, allow someone to have the secret codes that can be used to unleash the destruction of part or all of the world via nuclear weapons when he cannot even pronounce the word correctly??

Nobody write in and tell me "It's a regionalism, not a mispronunciation!" No, it isn't. I know people from Texas; they don't say it that way. I know Southern people; they don't say it that way. Face it, Dubya ain't a rocket scientist, and ain't a nuclear scientist, either. Former President Jimmy Carter? Now, he was a Southerner, and an actual nuclear scientist. He called them "Nuclear weapons", and shuddered a bit every time they got mentioned, because he knew his stuff. Check out his Navy service record, he was a nuclear engineer. "Service record", another term with which Dubya isn't well-acquainted.

This brings back memories from my youth, in days when a lot of people who could pronounce the word "nuclear" were playing a game of stare-down with one another with their fingers hovering over buttons that would launch a horrible deathstrike against the enemy, just itching to prove how big their "arsenals" really were. Missiles are phallic symbols. COINCIDENCE??!!

Yet, we were told to relax, because darn it, we were America and we'd WIN! And that we could handle their "much smaller missiles" easily by taking some simple steps. Civil Defense during World War II was a serious business. In the 50s & 60s, they used that mentality against us to try to con us into believing that things were still under control. See, I'm just old enough to remember the totally absurd nonsense they were putting out at the time. I had a keen memory at a very young age. Not quite as keen as my brother's, who as a child swore up and down to people visiting the house that he could remember our parents' wedding. My parents had fewer & fewer people visit over the years.... COINCIDENCE??!!

But, I digress.

People today look back at things like the infamous "duck & cover" commercials and laugh. I hate to be a killjoy, but the scary part is that the government at the time actually thought that people would believe those commercials, take the "information" seriously, and feel reassured because they could act & have some control in a scary period in our history. I'm not sure when they stopped doing it, but we deeply-scarred children of those years remember getting under our desks at school, covering our heads with our hands and squeezing our eyes shut during air raid drills. The US and USSR had enough weapons to kill every person in both countries 16 times over, BUT, don't worry, kids, covering your head was going to save you! "Remember to cover your head with your non-writing hand!" Yah. I still remember "duck and cover", and the moronic commercials with the turtle. My particular favorite was the one that had a family out picnicking, seeing the bright flash of a supposed hydrogen bomb from off-camera, and the beyond-credible idea of getting protection by hiding under their picnic blanket. "Darn it, Meg, those Commies ruined your perfect egg-salad sandwiches! But, hey, look! At least the ants are dead!" Considering how young I was at the time (though always overly inquisitive), when you're grossly insulting the intelligence of a 4 year old, you've gotten down to a level of idiocy that almost, almost, approaches that of the Bush Administration.

Oh, we had acronyms like "WMDs" back then, too, except that they referred to things that you could actually find and see. "MLF" sounds wonderfully dirty, but stands for "Multi-Lateral Force". That meant "Our friends have got nukes, too, and they'll get you five times badder if we don't!" Great Britain was one, of course, but consider how well we were really being protected when I tell you that one of the others was France. Then there was the MAD-ness of "Mutually Assured Destruction". This philosophy, tightly bonded to the term "Overwhelming Nuclear Deterrent", was that both sides built up systems so vast, so varied, and so widespread, that even if they fired everything they had at US, we'd still get enough firepower to land on them to destroy them at least four times over, probably five, and the warning that "If you don't think we're serious, go ahead and try!" was the official United States plan for "defense". Obviously, this was before they'd come up with an effective cure for rabies.

I'm getting a mental image of George C. Scott bellowing: "We'll show you Godless commies! We'll incinerate your asses! THEN, we'll incinerate the ashes! THEN, we'll nuke your burnt ashes so hot, they'll melt into lumpy glass! THEN we'll blast the glass into Kingdom Come! THEN we'll nuke the little teeny particles that got blown into the air! THEN, they'll fuse together again, fall to the ground like a bunch of frozen piles of borscht-guano, and they'll break and fly all over in jagged pieces, which will slice right through the atoms of your shards of your nuke-dusted glassed-over ashes from the FIRST time we incinerated you! And THEN, we're gonna get nasty! And THEN, Jack-ski, you're really gonna be sorry!"

At the time, I believe they called it "Foreign Policy". What's really said is that looking at the insanity of that time, and then comparing it to our "approach" to the rest of the world today?

George C. Scott and the "Duck & Cover" turtle made a lot more sense.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

It Just Goes Against Migraine

Not tonight; I have a headache.

My mission, if I choose to accept it: Try to write something amusing, at least interesting, under the influence of a severe migraine.

I was at the always-entertaining physical therapy for my neck yesterday; one more session to go. And let this be a lesson to everyone: Never, never sew carelessly. The therapist, who is very nice and sympathetic (a cunning mask he uses to conceal his gleeful sadism), asked some of the usual questions:

"Oh! Have you had migraines before?"
"Bad ones?" I arch an eyebrow at him, which is pointless, as I'm laying on my stomach. I really, really want to ask him what constitutes a good migraine.
"Yes. Very bad."
"Oh. How long do they usually last? Mine quit after about two days."
"Lucky you. This one's going on six."
"Six days? Oh, that sucks."
"No, no.... in February, it'll be six years."
"Wait a minute; are you telling me you've had a migraine going on continuously for.... since...."
"Right. Thanks. That's impossible."
"Oh, is it? Great! I feel much better!"
"You don't have to get sarcastic."
"Oh, don't I? So, when did you graduate from medical school?"
"Well, obviously you'd have to be a doctor to know that it's impossible, wouldn't you?"
"It's not impossible?"
"It's just possible."
"Are you being sarcastic again?"
"What are you saying?"
"I am saying that it's quite possible that it's not possible for you to know that it's impossible, and possibly that the possibility of it being positively possible, is extremely possible."

A silence descends between us; he is momentarily syntaxically stunned. And yes, I really say things like that. Unfortunately, he feels compelled to pursue the matter. I thoughtfully stroke the blade of the axe that I just happened to have brought in and hidden under the table, and wondered if a jury would let me off on the same excuse again.

"Why don't you see a doctor about that?" For a moment, I am the one who is stunned into speechlessness. As a matter of impartiality, I put the question to you: Isn't that just about the most idiotic thing he could possibly have said? It's way up there in second place, right behind "So, do severe migraines make you chronically, intensely orgasmic?"

"I'm seeing the doctor on November sixth; I will get my 'treatment' then."
"That's three weeks from now!"
"Nothing gets by you, does it?"
"Can't you get in sooner?"
"Yes. It's just that the insurance company won't authorize it until then. As usual, I'm Blue-Double-Crossed."
"So, in the meantime, you just have to suffer?"
"More or less. Sometimes, I share the suffering; delegate it to other people."
"That's impossible."
"Do NOT start that again! The readers will never buy it!"

A pause. Not as long as a Pinter pause.

"How can you delegate pain to other people?"

Once again, my finger tests the edge of the blade of my axe. It's somewhat ragged, only sharp in a few places, and rusty. Just the way I like it. But, should I? Is it right? I wrack my brains, and send my synapses a-snapping to that part of my brain which holds The Eye Wit's Book of Etiquette or the Lack Thereof. I home in on the table used to calculate the "Stupid Question Event Horizon", come up a tad short, and decide to do the sensible thing and fudge the numbers.

"Tell you what: As soon as we're finished, take a break, we'll go out back, and I'll give you a cutting-edge description of exactly how it works."
"Do you think I'll get it, that it'll sink into my head?"
"Oh, it's quite possible. Quite possible."

Oh, yeah....

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Friday, October 13, 2006

The Writer's Garret is Aubergine

"What does that mean?" you ask.

Go ahead. Ask, I can wait.

I have a nickname for my computer/music room, which is under the roof of the house, but not connected by any interior doors. It is, among other things, my "writer's garret." Your more classic writer's garret is a room above a garage, or a room in a the quietest corner of the second story of a house in New England (call me prejudiced in that regard) overlooking inspiring scenery, like the autumn leaves that I miss so much during the month of October. Whimper.

Well, I'm not in New England at present, we have a carport, not a garage, and no second story. However, I do have my separate place, and I call it "The Aubergine Enclave". Why "Aubergine"? Is it just to use some arcane word with which to make it sound mysterious and classy? Yeah, partly. I will not, at the moment, tell you what it means. It's more fun for me that way, and will entice you to return to my site because your curiosity demands it. I hope you return for better reasons than that, but it's a start.

However, it's been a rough few weeks, writing-wise, in the Enclave. I've started a lot more than I've finished, written parts of the book that I'm not satisfied with, can't get away from being depressed over the whole "October" thing, wrote a poem in honor of a very nice young woman's wedding that I'm not at all happy with yet.... But, I finally wrote the "September 12" article. It took time to sift out what I wanted to get at, and it hit me unexpectedly a few hours ago, and FINALLY, I have the first & complete draft. I feel greatly relieved. It can really bother a writer to have something nagging at them that they just HAVE to write (whether or not they actually want to) and not get it out of their bloody system.


Great; now all I have to do is go back & revise & edit it until it's just right. Or, at least as close to "just right" as I can render it.

Man, I hope you think it's worth the wait and the build-up. However, if I'm not willing to put myself on the hot seat and point to center field, I won't know if I can actually hit the home run to back it up. If it means I have to shamelessly mix metaphors like that, then, by God, I'm going to do it!

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Eye Wit's Book of Etiquette or the Lack Thereof: Your Guide to Grabbing the World by the Short Hairs

Once again, I reach into the burgeoning, aromatic mailbag, and try to answer a question about life.... The universe.... Anything. Most of the letters begin with the phrase "What the hell should I do? For God's sake, please help me!"

Why exactly that keeps happening is still a mystery to me. It has been suggested that many of the people asking for wisdom from The Book had been drinking heavily at the time. Preposterous, I say! Why, most of the letters I receive smell like the great outdoors, not Southern Comfort.

So, to whom shall I try to provide comfort this evening? To advise them, so that they know, with full confidence, that they're getting the best bloody etiquette advice in the world? You see, the problem with most etiquette books is that their essential aim is about how the world "should be". All very nice and well, Emily Post (Oh, she was a real bitch in person. Everyone in the Newport mansions used to say so, and would comment in the most graphic of terms about her chronic flatulence)(But I digress). The Eye Wit's Book, while it does try to create a framework for a more tolerable world, is heavily based on the world as it really is. There's no sense pretending that anyone nowadays cares if you use the wrong fork at a formal meeting of the Akron Cannibal Society. There's not a lot of sense in pretending that many people care about Akron, either.

Well, let's see what I draw....

Dear Eye Wit,

My wife and I just adopted a baby boy, and she insists that he ought to be circumcised, because no decent man should arrive at an orgy and "still be wearing his coat". I'm not very comfortable with the idea. I mean, who wants a razor-sharp blade aimed at their-- Look, what I want to know is: Who ever thought to start circumcisions, and what is the exact purpose of the procedure?

-J.W. Bobbitt

Well. Didn't see that one coming.... but, it's a very good question. Naturally, in its voluminous pages, the Book has the answer:

Dear J.W. Bobbitt,

The practice of circumcision goes far past the limits of recorded history. Cave drawings have been found in Luxembourg depicting the practice in its earliest known form. This consisted of several men holding the circumcisee firmly against a tree. The next drawing shows what is believed to be the village wise woman inserting the circumcisee's member into the mouth of a goat. Alas, the rest of the pictogram is lost to history; as any zoologist will tell you, the guano of the Luxembourg Smallberries Bat is the most corrosive in the world. The earliest known written reference is a frantic inscription on the edge of the Rosetta Stone that said "Take your damn hands off me, and touch not my foreskin, as I was planning to use it later!"

It is generally accepted that the practice was not, at first, voluntary.

To most males, this is not a surprise. Among Indo-Europeans, circumcision was a tradition practiced upon warriors who were called "The Losers". This occurred during the Bronze Age, when metal tools were not as sophisticated; many times, the incision of circumcision lacked precision or supervision, and the excision exceeded the mission. In these cases, the ones called "The Winners" would engage in a ritual called "Knee-slapping". This practice was followed by many cultures for thousands of years, since the Indo-Europeans were widely regarded as "The Most Hip" in ancient Europe. The ethnic group that was on the cutting edge of this "custom" were the Jutes; the reason being, that the Jutes were chronic members of "The Losers" faction. Feeling that they had little more to lose (at least, that they cared much more about), they eventually settled in the area now known as Denmark. This was the beginning of the biggest economic boom in the history of Sweden, just across the Baltic Sea. The Swedes were most famous at that time for their "Swedish Dikini Team", which always made them swell with national pride. This was key to their learning of the Jutes' shortness of pride, and their subsequent offer to the Jutes to assist them (for the right price, of course). The Swedes were also known as skilled healers, surgeons, and especially massage artists. While they had not developed a way to un-circumcise "Losers", they proffered a more radical approach: keep right on cutting, and create the semblance of a very ugly but somewhat "functional" Jute woman from the pitiful remains of a Jute warrior. The Jutile men, desperate for anything to grasp onto, drove in sails- wait, sailed in droves to Sweden. The Jutiful women, who hadn't quite gotten the point of the project, excitedly met the returning ships at Copenhagen, expecting to see their men restored to their glory and ready for some "invasion" in their own country. Imagine their disappointment when they were greeted not by their men, but by strangers to them: a new type of Jute woman. It was a bitter day, indeed; not only had the women NOT regained the services of their men, but the new "women" were more attractive than they were.

To this day, asking someone for a date in Denmark is a risky business.

The next major phase in the history of circumcision, of course, was the introduction into the Mosaic Law of the Hebrews that all males were to be circumcised as a sign of being of the Chosen People. Some of the Dead Sea Scrolls shed some light on this, describing a heated argument between Aaron and Moses.

Aaron declaimed: "What kind of crazy idea is this? Cannot our God choose some OTHER way for us to have a sign marking us as the Chosen People?"
"I'll tell you what, Aaron: You go up Mount Sinai, and you tell Him it's a bad idea."
"Well, it simply isn't practical, Moses! What, are we supposed to approach the heathens in battle, and 'whip it out' to show them that they'd best not touch us because this is the mark of our Mighty God?"
"Practical, schmactical! Aaron, God just wants to know if you're really, really serious."
"I'm plenty serious! You see this ephod? Do you know how much it COST?"
"As I recall, it was made out of gold and gems we took from the Egyptians."
"That isn't the point! Every time I go outside, somebody tries to mug me and swipe it! And I would not have time to disrobe and show the assailant the reason for which he should not transgress! So, thank you very much, but I don't need you waving that sword at me with the intention of swiping my-"
"Aaron, stop kvetching and hold still! You want I should slip?"

And there the fragment ends. History proves to us that Moses apparently won the argument. The next reference in the timeline was uncovered recently in the archives of the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines were fascinated by style, and would adapt nearly anything to their culture that they thought might make them seem (and this is the first historical reference to this word in this context) "cool". Well, one of their kings, Bezelskrotum, was hosting an orgy in honor of the visit of a unnamed king from the Steppes. Bezelskrotum, having heard of this VERY exclusive practice among the Hebrews, decided that he just had to have it. On seeing the evidence at the orgy, the other king asked incredulously what the hell he'd done to his "purzansker", as they called it at the time. Bezelskrotum laughed mockingly and said "The joke's on YOU, dung-breath! Look! It makes 'mine' hang lower than 'yours', and we all know what THAT means!"

What it meant was a horribly bloody war between the two peoples, which plunged all of Asia Minor into such abject destruction that a rogue group of Far East adventurers rode in and took over, establishing the Wangg Dynasty. In intervening years, circumcision continued to be a hotly contested practice. The Teutons let it be known through fierce fighting and incendiary comments about their foes' mothers that nobody was going to touch THEIR "geshtungas". In the Russias, it fell largely out of practice, because cold things contract, and there were too few people with steady hands. In Morocco, they adopted a law that allowed males to perform the mandated circumcision on themselves, as long as they brought the "evidence" to the priests, who were also the communal cooks. This, in turn, led to a deception where some men would cut the pizzle-swaddling off of a camel to present to the priests. The camels did not react well to this, and killed or maimed most of the men who attempted it. Thus did circumcision once again escape the Sword of Damocles, though the Sword was a damn foolish thing to use to try to perform a circumcision with anyway.

Cultural mores regarding circumcision came and went. Women in many cultures complained that they always came too soon, and before they'd even noticed that anything was going on. However, in the "modern era", if we have the hubris to call it that, we have primarily British physicians to "thank" for its continuation. The official explanation was that it led to a more sanitary life. The REAL reason, and why it continues today, is that it gives them something else to charge their patients for. Although it is a fiercely protected secret, the excised tissue is spirited off for a secret ritual practiced by the Freemasons.

The practice is in very common usage in America to this day, although there is no longer any connection to the Freemasons. They have been far too busy in recent years lobbying the author Dan Brown, pleading with him to write something conspiratorial and sneaky about them to give the public some reason to pay attention to them. Stupidly, the purpose behind that is that if people do start asking probing questions of the Freemasons, they'll refuse to answer.

Now, as to the question of your son: At this point, it truly is optional. Some doctors expound upon the advantages of circumcision, but most of those doctors are Toastmasters. There's not a compelling social reason, either, though you should be aware that many women have a decided preference between "cut" and "uncut", and in some cases, "cold cut". Whatever choice you do make, keep in mind that your son will eventually be the one to have to deal with it. However, in order to settle the issue between you and your wife amicably, I hope, I offer two suggestions:

-Tell her that the chances of him ever encountering some pillaging Assyrian soldiers, and needing to wave his denuded wand to scare them off are practically nil.

-Take a survey of what's currently popular, and make a calm agreement between yourselves that whichever option is most in vogue, that is what you will follow. This way, it's strictly a numbers game.

To do this in the fastest possible way, I recommend that you search the Internet. You'll need to find a lot of porn sites depicting naked men. Although I'm not an authority in that area, I can refer you to someone who knows a lot about the Internet and penises:

Former Florida House Representative Mark Foley, Republican.

I hope that helps.

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