Sunday, December 24, 2006

What You Can Do for Them This Christmas

Simple things. They can mean a lot.

There is so much talk about the meaning of Christmas, and I won't presume to tell you what the definitive answer is. I think it's fairly self-evident by the name; how you react to that is your choice.

There's also a lot of talk about the spirit of Christmas. Well, what does that mean? I think that what you say about the spirit of Christmas is insignificant when compared with what you do.

In other words, walk what you talk.

If you feel that it's about giving, then give. Without expecting anything back; that is the essential nature of a gift. Exchanging gifts can be lovely.... but not if it's merely barter and maintaining expectations and appearances.

If you feel that it's good will and peace towards mankind, wonderful! Do something to help foster it. Make peace with your life, create good will towards men. No, you can't change the whole world. But you can change yours. You can also change a moment of someone else's world by choosing to be kind and compassionate, instead of angry.... or indifferent.

If you feel that Christmas is about faith and hope, then don't let anything tarnish the ebullience of its light. Faith doesn't care what other people will think; hope doesn't see things the way they are. Hope sees things as they could be. Both faith and hope must be shared in order to matter.

If you feel that it's about love, then honor it. Act lovingly. Tell people, unashamedly, that you love them. Most of all, never confine love to special occasions like Christmas; living a life of love is daily work. However, once you get the hang of it, it doesn't seem like work at all.

If you think that it's about sharing, then do. But not just on December 25th or other special occasions. People have needs, material and emotional, every day of the year. It doesn't have to be grand or large; tiny little things, one at a time, can add up to have a tremendous impact.

If you are sure that it's about caring, then spread that care around, every day of the year. Especially don't forget about people who seem to have "fallen by the wayside" in your life. Ask yourself why? Reach out, take the initiative, and don't make caring conditional. Please, don't neglect people in your life who are sick, elderly, disabled, or perhaps dying. As incredible as it seems, people tend to disappear from such peoples lives just when they're needed the most.

If you're not sure what the spirit of Christmas is, or ought to be, then you're not alone. If that's the case, spend some quiet time, even just a few minutes, this December 25th to ask yourself what Christmas inspires in you. Not what it makes you think of, but what it inspires. Look beyond the surface, not only in yourself, but in others.

We live in troubled times, where there is little peace and not enough good will towards mankind. December 25th may quiet it down for a few moments, but that's all. If Christmas inspires any kind of vision of a better world, ask yourself what it would take for us to reach that world?

Mainly, ask yourself what part of what it would take are you willing to give? What you write on a Christmas card lasts perhaps a few weeks, then is thrown away. What you write on the lives and hearts of other people lasts forever.

So, on this Christmas, "write" something worth giving, and worth keeping forever. And may others do the same for you.

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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

What Can They Do for US for Christmas?

This time of year, many people make up lists of things they'd like to give to people in the public eye. Most of them are created with spite, mockery, and a certain measure of malicious glee.

The latter tradition, I don't intend to break. However, I think it's high time that THEY consider what they can give us, or what thing they can do as a gift for us, the worthy people who are generally screwed by life on the other 364 days of the year. Because we deserve it, dammit!

I know, I'm not supposed to be so curmudgeonly at Christmas, but spending the day cleaning up our screened porch for our Christmas party when it's 81 degrees outside with equivalent humidity doesn't put me in the best mood.

George Bush - You knew I was going to start with him. George, you can give us your resignation as the worst president in United States history. Yes, we'll accept it if it's written in crayon.

Congress - Barring the above, a swift impeachment of the dolt. More generally speaking, how about you guys give us something other than your bloody childish, selfish partisanship and consider doing what's right and best for a change?

Britney Spears - I know people who surf porn sites that think you're shameless. Get some underwear, and if you were to move your talentless self (including your latest "exhibition") to some cheap trailer court in Wetumpka, Alabama, we'd promise to ignore you in return. That's fair, isn't it?

The Lawyer that Dick Cheney Shot - Shoot him back! Delayed self-defense, pure & simple.

Donald Trump - Two things: First, we want an explanation for the hair. Enough is enough. Second, about this whole thing with Miss USA & Miss Teen USA making out.... what is the matter with you? Post the photos on the Internet! You could be making some serious money, and I'll only charge 75% for the idea. That's fair, isn't it?

Stupid Celebrities Who Go Into Rehab - Get over the idea that it's some kind of an excuse and that it makes whatever you did/said any better. Go somewhere more appropriate & experience some actual consequences for your actions; then, if you do really need some rehab, go. For some examples: Mel Gibson, anti-Semitism isn't nice. Being drunk does not turn you into a bigot, it just makes you shoot off your mouth about it. So, what you can give us is some postcards from your "rehab" with the Mossad. Nicole Ritchie - Grow up. Show some maturity to those girls who unfortunately think of you as a role model. Tell the girls that it IS all your fault. Turn in your driver's license, plead guilty, and go to jail. The rest of us can't get away with that crap, why should you?

Terrell Owens - A vow of silence would do nicely, thank you. We'd love that as a present.

The Republican Party - Yes, you largely got your butt kicked. While there are a great many things you could do to make our Christmas, how about you & your rich buddies all chip in and cover that immense deficit you built up? Thanks.

The Democratic Party - We'd like to see this plan you guys have been talking about. Seriously. Write it down & mail us all a copy. That way we'll know when you're screwing it up. Make sure that the cover is nice, and patriotic, too. How about a photo of Miss USA with Miss Teen USA in flagrante delicto? Now there's a coffee table book to go with Al's.

The Bush Twins - We worry about you. Honest. You two don't even seem to have jobs. So, do something nice for all Americans: Enlist. Be all that you can be, whatever that is.

Bill Gates - Bill, a lot of people are getting new computers for Christmas. I'm sure they'd appreciate a copy of Windows Vista that's actually been tested & is secure. It's Christmas, why should they suffer with another defect-ridden cluster-copulation like XP?

Jay Leno - Know what would really be keen? If you let Conan O'Brien take over the show now. I remember when The Tonight Show was funny. We'd love to see that again, wouldn't we, gang?

Ann Coulter - I have to hand it to you, you're one of the most steadfastly ignorant & defiantly hateful people in the world today. I think we'd deeply appreciate and cherish a video of you waving good-bye from the steps of a severely cloistered nunnery. Oh, you hate Catholics, too? What a surprise.

Barry Bonds - Just two things in writing, please: One, a signed confession that you cheated. Two, a letter to Cooperstown requesting that you never be considered eligible. Then maybe we'd have some respect for you. But, probably not.

Madonna - Look, do whatever you feel strongly about doing. However, do us all a favor and don't let the press know about it. They can't be trusted to handle it, and neither can the people buying all the tabloids.

Kanye West - You know, I was going to suggest that you check with your management team and moderate your comments before coming out and saying things so tumescently, but you know? I kinda like it the way you're doing it now. Pray, continue.

Well, that's enough for now.... but it was fun enough that I might do some more sometime. Who knows, I may even do a turnaround post and be really, really nice. That'd be fair, wouldn't it?

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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Her Big Break in Show Business

This is just TOO good!

Welcome to the wonderful world of live performance, where things don't always go right. As they say, the show must go on, but sometimes the answer to the problem isn't easy. This has to do with the production referred to in my last post, the Singing Christmas Tree.

Now, every year, the show features two children playing Jesus: One playing the baby, and the other playing the small toddler that He was when the Magi visited (Biblically correct; remember, they left when they saw the star marking His birth). Each year, the couples with babies are corralled (yes, these people are breeding. Try to sleep tonight knowing that), and signed up on a rotating basis to bring their baby in to do the Jesus, Mary & Joseph thing (not a scene, they come out in association with a song & do their thing silently).

Sooner or later, I guess, it had to happen. Last Wednesday night.... no baby. The parents & the baby didn't show up, we couldn't reach them, and there'd never been any call to have a "backup Jesus". "OK, we'll send one Savior, and a spare in case that one gets damaged." Yeah, He got damaged, all right. But I'm getting way ahead of myself.

This was the first time it had happened in all thirty-three years of the program. Well, what to do? One of the kids hanging around had a baby doll, so the costumer frantically tried to wrap blankets & such around it to make it look plausible. "Sally, you have to find something thicker! That looks like a 'preemie'!" Well, what choice did we have?

Meanwhile, one of our children wranglers was, no kidding, tiptoeing around looking into the audience to see if she could spot anyone who'd brought a baby. Imagine that; a complete stranger comes up to you & asks if they can "borrow your baby". Even if she found one, how could she get to them and ask without causing a distracting commotion?

Here is where Divine Providence set in. She went out one section, into the lobby, and was headed towards another when she ran into:

A young woman headed to the restroom to change her four-week-old baby.

What are the odds?

In spite of the fact that she didn't know us, and this was the very first time she'd ever been in the building and was a complete stranger (and we, of course, are fairly strange in ourselves), she listened to our plight. Bless her heart, she actually agreed to let us borrow her baby. So, backstage they got whisked, and just in time, too. The audience had no hint that anything was different than usual, but backstage, we were laughing and having a good old time at the improbable string of events. The song over, she puts her baby back in her own clothes, and heads back to the audience to watch the rest of the program like, oh, normal people do. The director not being there at the time, I thanked her profusely on behalf of the cast & said we hoped she'd visit us again soon. She was a very, very nice young woman, and we were lucky to have met her.

The pastor did catch her, though, and got some pictures for posterity with her. I'm sure she never conceived (well, except that one time) that her child would be making her stage debut at a mere one month's age.

That might have been the end of it, but when the pastor came out to give his very nicely brief conclusion, he asked to borrow the baby one more time, and gave her a special introduction, for which she got a standing ovation. He told the audience the whole story. Why would he do a thing like that, when it might make us seem kind of silly?

Because.... it was just TOO good!

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Monday, December 04, 2006

Gathering Round, and IN, the Christmas Tree

I'll bet my Christmas tree is bigger than yours.

It isn't mine, per se, but I feel as attached to it as anything in the world. You have a seven-foot tree? HAH! I laugh at your pitiful shrubbery! This sucker is thirty-five feet tall. No, I'm not cheating with an outside tree versus an inside tree (besides, there aren't any native Christmas-tree-like evergreens that grow anywhere near here. I don't blame them). This tree IS indoors. OK, it's not actually in my house, but still....

It has a steel superstructure, plywood platforms a mere foot in depth, two sets of stairs that only a crazy person would climb, I forget how many tiers, perhaps a hundred square yards of greenery, and more lights & electricity running through it than my old stomping grounds in Middletown, Rhode Island (I told you before, we stomp whenever we darn well feel like it. I stomp here, too, but it's not nearly as satisfying). Let's not forget about three dozen microphones, and that it holds about 110 people. Empty, it weighs 6,000 pounds. With all those people on it, I'm not sure, as it would involve asking a lot of women how much they weigh. The Eye Wit has enough wit to know better than that, but surely, we're talking around another 15,000 pounds, easily. So, this is a tree that overall weighs in at eleven tons (or more, if you have the guts to ask the women. Good luck with that).

What kind of Christmas tree is THAT?? Those of you who've seen one of these beasties have likely already caught on. If not, man, you don't pay much attention, do you?

So, have you ever heard of a "Living Christmas Tree" or a "Singing Christmas Tree"? That's what I'm describing. They look something like this:
This is a picture of our actual tree at FirstSarasota Church (not recent enough, blast it, it was switched to mini-lights years ago). That's the 26-piece orchestra at the bottom, and another tier has been added at the bottom to accommodate the singers you see standing. In between, you can make out the upper level of the stage area; that's where I make my contribution. One of the things that makes the FirstSarasota presentation different than most is that in the roughly one hour & forty-five minute program, we have what amounts to a thirty-five to forty minute one-act play running through it (usually broken up into about eight scenes). Instead of the classic Christmas pageant thing, a fine gentleman by the name of Skip Martin writes & directs an original script every year. It focuses, usually, on one person's life and their struggle to come to know what Christmas is really about, what it's not, and why it's so important that God sent His Son. This year, it's about a turn-of-the-twentieth century woman who's so wrapped up in the activities and festivities around Christmas, that she's completely lost touch with why, supposedly, she does all those things. Too busy during the holidays, no time to think & reflect. It hits home with a lot of people. I play a minister who helps her understand what she's missing; by the end, she's decided that her perspective needs altering, and that all the parties & such were fine.... but not if one is doing them for the wrong reasons. And she does something about it.

"Would that life was that simple" you may say. In a lot of ways it is; the things that are most fundamentally important are choices, choices that we have to reaffirm daily to hold onto. One example is the unfortunate number of people that have no concept of how my spouse & I have been married over twenty-four years, especially considering that there have been some terribly difficult circumstances to deal with (read: me). It's because we keep choosing to love one another on a daily basis. the same goes for getting carried away with what the commercial world has made of Christmas. Go ahead, get caught up in the rush, go into debt, and exhaust yourself if you want to.... and not enjoy a single moment of the season. Or, draw some lines, and don't feel like you owe everyone an explanation. I realize that is isn't easy, especially to keep it that way.

Therein lies one of the best gifts of participating in this large program, with beautiful music (played & sung), soloists, an Ensemble, various combinations of singers, Celtic dancers some years, and the play, and all backed up by a very professional technical staff and wonderful volunteers.... We perform this over the first two weekends in December. Naturally, the heaviest rehearsals come right after Thanksgiving, so the participants are gladly giving up a good chunk of the "Christmas season" to do this. I know I'm worn out & have to rest up for days afterwards by the time we finish (four performances in the last two days). It dominates my Christmas, and keeps me focused on the simplest, truest, and most enjoyable aspects of the season. Sure, I miss a lot of parties, I am chronically a bad shopper, and lots of other things. No regrets whatsoever. It's a time to give, and the giving can help you receive far more than you "put in". That's true of every day, of course, but we traditionally (Christians & non-Christians alike) make a big deal out of "presents" this time of year.

But what are the best presents? The ones that are "just right"? The ones that last the longest? I say no to those and similar questions. When all is said and done, it isn't the physical gifts that you give that matter when it comes time for you to leave this world & see the next. No, what matters is what you've written on other peoples hearts. And that is precisely why the Singing Christmas Tree exists. We want to write something that counts, something that lasts forever. What better way to celebrate Christmas?

The heroes of the whole program are the people in the choir who sing up on that thing. First off, they've rehearsed for months, and memorized a LOT of music. It's very uncomfortable to be up there; you have to climb narrow, steep stairs to get to each tier. What you stand on is a plywood (sturdy stuff) board that really is about a foot from front to back. If you aren't six feet tall, the "standard" height, then you're handed a block of dense Styrofoam that's about twelve by eighteen inches to stand on, on top of the skinny board. It's cramped, you can hardly move, and if you're tall and have a chest that measures more than 40 inches, the steel bar in front of you presses into your chest. Then there's the heat of the lights; miniatures or not, they cast off a lot of heat. They spend about fifty-five minutes per performance up there (indeed, part of the genesis of the play was to cut down the amount of time they're on the Tree). All while smiling and singing very beautifully. They must love other people a lot to suffer through that, eh? Yes, they do. Ask them why, they'll be glad to tell you.

Me, I'm better off on the floor. Not because I'm unable or unwilling to get up on that thing (honestly, I'd rather not....) or don't have a good singing voice; it's just that my special area of expertise is acting. However, as I try to point out to people, this is a project that's the product of a lot of peoples efforts. I'm not more important than anyone else, I'm just more conspicuous. However, I do generally have more of a chance of ruining the show than most others. Eh, that's what I do. God ain't gonna let me let the rest of the people down and let us let the audience down.

So, why do I ramble on so about this? It's not just another "gig", it's a very special part of my life, and a rare opportunity to bring some light into a lot of peoples lives. And I do mean a lot. Our average total audience in any given year is around 11,000. That's a very large audience for just nine or ten performances. That's just for starters....

I've had the enormous privilege of being a part of this wonderfully positive experience more than once. In fact, this is my thirteenth year out of the thirty-three years they've been doing it, which is beyond my ability to describe how happy it makes me. By the end of our run next Sunday, the cumulative audience who've seen me in the Singing Christmas Tree will number somewhere over 140,000. Wow!

So many stories go along with it, but the best part is this: Every year, whether I travel or not, I always get to spend Christmas with family. A very big, wonderful, loving family. It's the best Christmas present I've ever had, and being there to be a part of it? I think it's the best Christmas present I know how to give. Come see it; you really have to be there.

Lucky me; I am.


PS - I have turned off the "comments must be approved before posting" setting, so any comments you'd like to add from now on (even going back to previous posts) should appear shortly after you enter them. I do welcome your comments & feedback, as well as your ablity to trade comments with others who post. I'll deal with any "problem children" who stir up trouble. My only hard & fast rule: I will not permit personal attacks or abuse of any sort. I value the trust & comfort of you, the people to whom I am so grateful for coming here & reading my ramblings.

So, let the conversations begin!

One other thing: I recently switched to the new version of the blog program. I can't post to it using Internet Explorer anymore; if you've tried to add a comment & it didn't work, it may be an IE conflict with Blogger, (a Google operation). If so, try logging into a G-mail account (if you have one) in another window, then adding the post. Alternatively, use Firefox (which is what I do) or Netscape to open this window. Perhaps IE7 can talk to "new Blogger", but I removed IE7 after I found that it interfered with a lot of my computer's functions.

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Never Trust a Wrap Artist

They're scary. They have mystical powers. They suck you into their evil purview and trick your mind into doing things and accepting results that no sane person would be sucked over.

Who are these people? Why should you fear them?

Every year, and cunningly do they show up earlier & earlier, as do the rest of their ilk. Frequently, they'll cloud your mind so that your senses will tell you that it's a bunch of innocent little old ladies from the Ectwa Shuffleboard Club who only wield scissors on Sundays. Or, they might mesmerize you into thinking that they are Boy Scout Troop 362436, who've taken the place over because they refused to help the little old shuffleboard ladies across the street to the mall.

Don't fall for either trick. I don't know if these things are even human.

I'm speaking of (I pause to check to each side and behind me) the people in the booth who wrap presents in the mall. Not the ones in individual stores, no; those are store employees. Go on, stroll down to the mall management office (it'll be tough to locate, since they don't want people to know where to file complaints) and ask them who they are. They won't know. "They just show up and say they're from a charitable group, so we give them the booth outside the Sauerkraut On A Stick shop because no one else wants it."

And these are the people who talked you into giving them the Nintendo Wii that you waited in line for two days to get for "a couple of hours", trusting them to actually give it back to you later?

HAH! Don't say I didn't warn you.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Death to the Oven Vulture!

Thanksgiving, already??

Granted, this is the earliest date upon which it can occur, under the formula devised by FDR when under the influence of too many martinis. In his defense, were I married to a woman who looked like Eleanor, I'd drink, too. Poor guy,many's the night he started an evening of romance (in the dark, of course), only to find out that he'd been slipping Fala, their dog, some overly-deep kisses. I know, I know, that's gross, and surely he could've told the difference if the lights were on. Fala was much more attractive, had straighter teeth and better breath.

But, I digress.

Now, we begin the roughly six-week period from which therapists derive so much damn money the rest of the year. Yeah, everyone's "supposed to be happy", and "it's the holidays, cheer up!". Listen, your friends who seem to be depressed and lonely the rest of the year? Guess what? It doesn't take a holiday during the holidays. It's worse, even though they're doing their best to pretend. Pay them some extra-special attentiondurin
g this time. Invite them to Thanksgiving dinner. Find them a special & individual Christmas present; something you made yourself is especially good. Lots of torrid sex can be great, uh, depending on the circumstances. Like, if you're likely to get caught.

Still, I committed digression at that point, as I did brave the kitchen for the several rounds of cookery. That's right, kids, the Eye Wit cooks! I do theturke
y, stuffing & all that. Since some people insist on having the Thanksgiving meal at bloody NOON, it necessitated me getting up at 6:00 a.m. to get the 18 pound monster stuffed & going. I am emphatically not a morning person; people have died horrible deaths for crossing me before I'm really awake. At least, so I'm told, as I really don't remember much of what I'm doing until I've had that magical 14th cup of coffee (which always tastes stronger). I think I killed the bird a few extra, redundant times just to get back at it. All I know is that is was darn good eating.

Now, in short order, as opposed to SOME people dragging it out for a ludicrously long post, which NEVER happens to me....

I'm not naming any names, but her initials are Mariann Eperjesi.

Let me resolve the issue, the eternally vexing question: Is it "stuffing", or is it "dressing"?

The answer is: Yes.

Both are correct, it simply depends on what you do with it. Stuffing is anything that you cram into the bodily cavities of whatever creature has been ritually slain for your festivities. There it cooks, and then you eat it. I'm aware of all the panicky "warnings" about it. Look, just follow thepoultroon -handling guidelines, and use your meat thermometer to make sure that the center of the stuffing is 160 degrees F, and you're fine.

Dressing can & often is exactly the same preparation (as is the case in Turkey a Bucko), with the key difference being that it isn't crammed inside any part of any animal, until you stuff your personal face with it. It may be cooked one of two ways: One, in a separate baking dish. Two, some few people actually surround the turkey in the pan with it, adding it about a hour before the oven vulture, as we like to call it, is finished cooking. I don't recommend it, as it will absorb a lot of melted fat. OR, it is also "dressing" if you take the portion cooked in the pan, and artfully circling the gloriously-brownedturkle on the serving platter, thus "dressing" the entree. It's all about presentation.

The fact that people in/from New Jersey can't understand this simple concept is not my fault. Any New Englander could tell you, as, you might remember, we invented Thanksgiving. So don't argue with us.

So, it was all very nice, polite, and no nasty arguments. Good thing, because, as I pointed out before, we don't have a basement.

People write a lot about Thanksgiving, along the lines of reminding you to be thankful for all of the good things, the advantages, and especially, the special people in your life. That's certainly a worthy thing to do, and to take the occasion to thank (again, if it's the case) those people who have brought you good times, feelings, and help when you really needed it in the last year.

I'll end with a different proposal: Look back, and think about the times and occasions where did something that made another person thankful. Include those things that you did that the beneficiary might not even know about. But you do. So does God. Think about how good it made you feel to be of value, and to make a difference for the better for someone else. Then, as you do that, you're almost certain to come across times where the opportunity passed you by, or you chose to pass it by. Do it without beating yourself up unnecessarily about it, but learn from it; consider how much more thankfulness in others you'd like to look back at next Thanksgiving.

Then do it. Do those things, take more of those opportunities. The thing about giving thanks is that it's ever so much sweeter when it's a shared experience.
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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Gentlemen, It's Only a Matter of Time

Time is not generally considered a friend by most people; at least, not where their appearance is concerned.

Since most of my fellow Baby Boomers are older than I am, I feel perfectly well qualified to point out how incredibly vain many of them are. The amount of money and trouble being expended on maintaining the appearance of youth is mind-boggling. I'd love to have a piece of that action. Hey, I could become a day trader and flip investments between companies like Revlon, Gillette, Mary Kay, Clairol, you name it! However, that's really stressful and would probably take ten years off my life. Call me crazy, but I'd rather live those ten extra years than look ten years younger than I do and bite it sooner.

Maybe it's cockeyed optimism, or maybe it's a protective defiance in the continuing onslaught of new products that take the degree of astounding excess another league's distance further, all while you're waiting twenty minutes for a prescription. Just sit in the waiting area, it's not safe out in those aisles. You'll be rendered into a quivering mass of insecurity faster than a speeding pullet (which are over in the meat section, but they aren't very fast any more).

You know, one of the worst things about all these glorious inventions is that we CALL them "product". "Your hair's a bit unruly; are you using product in it?" On a technical, grammatical basis, you can phrase it that way.... it's just that it sounds so bloody inane. I'm not totally without some concern for my appearance (in spite of what my appearance suggests); I admit, I have a few "product interests". For instance, I have "combination skin"; it's kind of oily in places, and prone to dryness in others, and manages both in a few spots. Now, I WOULD ask when they're going to come out with a "combo skin" product for men, on the argument that our skin is completely different from women's skin. I'll go along with that to the extent that I'd rather be running my hands over a woman's skin than a man's. Are there such products? Naturally, a whole shelf has evolved (Damn Darwin!); however, the lovely hand-made glycerin soaps (with manly scents, too!) that a friend of mine makes do the job extremely well, so screw that shelf full of $12.00 an ounce snob-appeal tomfoolery. However, when picking up some razor blades recently (as if THAT didn't make me angry enough; see post below), in the "men's care" section, there were THREE new variations of a product I'd never seen before: Towelettes for bald mens heads. Now, granted, I have no grasp of the needs of a bald head, but it seemed a bit weird (other than the one that's a sunscreen). Still, are we so lazy that we HAVE to have them in the form of individually-packaged pre-moistened towelettes? I ask you...

If I really need some moisturizer, I need only ask "Mrs. Eye Wit", or more likely, "Miss Eye Witette", for some of the 641 bottles of moisturizer that are crammed into the bathroom cabinet. If you visit me, do NOT open a cabinet, as it may be the last thing you'll ever do. You will, however, look and smell great.

I DO salute the great advances in sunscreen, uh.... dammit!.... products. Here is a genuine cosmetic concern of mine. I'm white. Painfully white. I'm Irish-American, and so sensitive to light that I can burn in the glow of a 60 watt light bulb. Actually, first I'll break out into an epidemic of freckles, then move quickly to a painful burn, and right on to sun poisoning. All before I even actually leave the relative safety of my 60 watt bulb and go out into actual sunlight. Thus have I generally avoided having unprotected "relations" with the sun for most of my life. One result of this is that my skin looks much younger than most men my age (so bite me, Proctor & Gamble!). However, the problem used to be that good sunscreen only came in the form of a thick, greasy white goo that you had to try to spread evenly to avoid the embarrassing "splotch burns" where you missed. Look, I'm on the "furry" side; all you get when you try to rub that stuff in is a slimy foam that the seagulls will come and peck right off of you. So, whoever invented the quick-drying spray-on gel that is so easy to use & works so well? Faboo work, and I'm happy to pay the $12.00 an ounce for it.

Mind you, I'd initially learned of it from a magazine ad. Actually getting it was another story.

After my first aggravating search for it among the aisle that is now fully devoted to men's "products" of all kinds (and how long is it before they come out with some sort of "masculine hygeine pad" or such? Would they be "brief liners" or "boxer liners"? Will they have both? Would you please not tell me?!), I went to have a word with the grocery store manager. Oh, it's not enough to have this population explosion of "product", they have to include the senseless practice of moving everything around every other day. Things used to be easy to find, but now you have to surf the constantly-being-rearranged "men's care" section to locate my desired sunscreen and, for example, the damn generic brand of aftershave I use, which suits me just fine. So, this somewhat prissy fellow who seems more than a little concerned about his outward appearance (whatever, if you have the patience, money & desire) smilingly pointed to the trendy new name-brand aftershaves. I said, no, I didn't ASK for that, I want the store-brand equivalent of this one here that costs more than twice as much and is clearly made by the exact same manufacturer. Still, he tried to convince me that "these are better and will enchance your personal grooming experience!" I stood my ground, so finally, he stuck his hand way down to the back of the bottom shelf, pulling out what I wanted which was obviously hidden to con me into buying the pricier, more fashionable scents. As he did so, a brown recluse spider bit his hand, as they like dark places where things are stashed away. He cursed me and my pedestrian taste as he went quickly over to the pharmacist for help, but not before stopping and asking me to accessorize better the next time I came into the store.

Stuff like that is so maddening, and creates so much negative energy, that it can make you old before your time. And that is precisely why they do all of these things; sure, it's on purpose! Are you getting old before your time with rage over this mass-marketed idiocy?

Great! That means you'll be buying yet more "product"!

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Terribly Trite & Terpsichorean Tale of Toby

It was a Tuesday.
The garbage cans were emptied. And the baby was thrown out with the bath. Was it an accident? Mr. Pershing didn't think so. "That's the third time this week," he muttered to himself.

Meanwhile, in the fourth star to the left in Magellan's Cloud, known by some as Fresno. But to most of the galaxy, it was called Drachma. Because from space, it looked just like a Greek coin.

A tall man with a tattered newspaper and moose dung on his shoes. This man, by the way, was no ordinary man. He wasn't your average everyday reptile. He was a man of the cloth. In this day and age, meant that he was a pimp. For on this far planet, sex was religion. His name: Gouda Ramirez Fritz O'Henry. An interesting man, yes....

What a pity he has nothing to do with this story.

Meanwhile, back in Pershing's home town (wherever that may be), a faint cry. But no one heard. They were all in church, making love. While a man named O'Henry-- no, that's another story. But back to a fetid dumpster.... Inside, the remains of a cheap dinner party. Empty buckets of the Colonel's chicken (extra crispy) abounded. Crammed into one of those buckets was a small, writhing kitten. (The narrative here pauses for the requisite "Awww!") But this was no mere mundane kitten. This was not Mr. Pershing's kitten. It wasn't O'Henry's kitten (obviously, since he isn't in this story). This was the kitten of Toby, the small and pitiful paraplegic dwarf. A quietly contented man (he was mute) who made a living as a ballet dancer. He played the toad stool in Swan Lake (and excellently, I might add). In secret, he was actually an operative for the Zambezian spy network. Zambezia? That's the third star to the left in Magellan's Cloud. Which is irrelevant, immaterial, fleeting, and has nothing to do with this story (Explanation? I'm paid by the word). His code name: "Toby." His mission: to destroy and seek out (not necessarily in that order) strange new girls; to white out the unwanted Black Plague.

Toby's kitten mewed again and died. The tiny, telltale green stamps apparent on his stomach as the Black Plague made itself known in an impolite fashion. And obfuscatory, too. Toby sobbed, but still had the presence of mind to cut out the green stamps. He knew what he had to do. He went back to his sleazy apartment and did two things: First, he pasted the green stamps in his saver book (he was saving for a new auto-erogenizer. After all, not many girls went for paraplegic dwarf ballet dancers, because they thought they were gay). Second, he cooked the remains of the kitten for dinner. But how? That's a very difficult question. It wasn't that it was morally questionable, nor grossly unsanitary; it was simply that on Drachma, culinary secrets were among those most closely guarded. He picked up the phone and immediately dialed his friend, who was annoyed by being dialed and asked him to use the phone next time. Then it wasn't not now later, but only presently back then when the mosquitos returned to Capistrano, where they bugged the hell out of a lot of sparrows. "Damn Indians," remarked the janitor.

It was time. Time for time. But- did Toby have the time? Would he take the time? Or would he have to buy it? A timely question. So answer it yourself. I don't have the time.

There was one chance, though. Myrna still had the baby. She was giving it a bath, amid his protests that he wasn't thirsty. "Just throw the damn bath out," said the baby. And with that, she did. Pershing frowned for the fourth time, and belched his disapproval. Could it have been that the baby was somehow involved in the spreading of the Black Plague which Toby and Myrna had fathered? And were also trying to escape? To Equatorial Drachma, where they would unwittingly meet O'Henry, who isn't in this story. Or was it all just the result of a mushroom-induced hallucination?

In a small-time bar in Newark, the phone rang. It was the baby. He had the wrong number. And the bartender was very annoyed at having been dialed. Pulling his pants back on, he noticed a wide red lipstick stain on his lover's cardigan sweater. "Have this cleaned immediately," he said. Toby was the bartender's lover. All those girls were right. All right. "All right," sneered Toby, "I've had enough of this fascist dictatorship! You and your crummy Nazi friends are never going to be able to paste green stamps on innocent kittens again! And take a bath, for crissakes." With that, Toby thrust two of his personal appendages through the pinned sleeves of his cardigan. "I'll bet you didn't know I was armed!" he laughed hideously.

"Put them down," said the bartender. "You offend...."
"But I use Orinade No-Plague...."
"You offend...."
"The phone's ringing...."

As the bartender turned, Toby saw his chance. He made a mad dash for the men's room, where he immediately asked one of the urinals out for a date. Pretty good for a mute guy. The urinal said yes, flushing with delight. He hoped Myrna didn't find out, otherwise she'd be pissed off. Scrawled on the wall in trashy handwriting was printed "Sitting Bull goes here" and a phone number, which turned out to be that of the church pastorized by O'Henry, which possibly explained his shoes. This little literary gem was perpetrated by the janitor, who was on vacation from Capistrano. Some of his best friends were sparrows. He was always talking about birds. And since we're on the subject, Toby put his away and gasped, for he had caught himself in his zipper. Which was pretty hard to do, considering it was on the side. All those girls were right. Toby, however, was a dwarf in only some respects.

Meanwhile, in the Knesset, Myrna was worried (Knesset is the second- oh, nevermind. It's not in the- never mind!). Golda hadn't shown up for years; the last anyone had seen of her, she was going to the corner drugstore to buy some bobby pins. What was keeping her so long? Was it international subterfuge, or merely an incompetent clerk? Nobody knew, and nobody cared. Except perhaps for Falawful, who ran the local deli. He needed the bobby pins.

In Geneva, there was a convention of Truffles, which are kind of like the Knights of Columbus or the Kiwanis or some such crap as that. With one notable difference: their noses are broader and flatter. As are their women. They were about to perform the traditional rite of printing green stamps. These, they then sold to unscrupulous Nazis. With the money they made, they amassed the largest stockpile of Lacy Underwear in the Western world. Excluding the edible kind. For as we all know, Luxembourg has that market cornered. The Russians panicked; because Lenin had once said, "In the twenty-third century, no one will ever suffer from the pain and discomfort of jock itch." Did this mean the end of Cossack sex as they knew it? The bartender didn't know, but he disposed of all the vodka he had within two days. He sold it to an unsuspecting widow who thought it was for bathing babies. Until one morning when she was found in a 1971 Toyota, dead, with all of her bodily orifices sealed tight with green stamps. And just because she was a paraplegic. Whatever happened to freedom of religion?

In the Knesset, Myrna sent out for lots of bacon. Golda hadn't returned, but she had already sent a telegram to the king. It read: "Toby armed. Beware. Is in alliance with Walt Disney Productions. Watch out for seven dwarves and some bitch with an apple." Myrna panicked. She couldn't read. "George," she whispered, "that doesn't sound like Golda. It doesn't even look like her. She's a lot fatter and smells like the great outdoors." But before George could answer, the doors to the Knesset squealed on their hinges as Toby swung in, hanging from some very thin piano wire, which promptly cut his hand off. With his remaining hand, he fired several warning shots. Which were ignored. He then fired with all he had, and shot the bird, too. The janitor was grief-stricken. He went back to Capistrano, where he bugged the hell out of a lot of mosquitos. Toby suddenly grew a beard, and started to sing "Heigh Ho." Myrna screamed.

"Golda's warning! She was right! Call out the Truffles!"
"You can't! Switzerland is neutral."
"I know! I've been out with Swiss men!"

By this time, Toby had retrieved his other hand, and, with a sewing kit, did a neat embroidery job on his boxer shorts. This being done, he glued his severed appendage back on, thereby becoming a handyman. Myrna watched in fascination and felt the pulse of the familiar dry heaves that she got whenever Toby did do that voodoo that he did do so well. The fetish didn't even have a name, but Myrna didn't care! Nay, she let her freak flags fly. At this, the peak of the crisis, Golda suddenly arrived, clad only in a girdle and earmuffs. Toby fainted at the sight. As did the rest of the Knesset. Thinking quickly, Myrna pretended to be doing aerobics. Pretty good for one who has just fainted.

George and Golda got married. They had the baby who disappeared earlier in the story. "I understand now," said Toby, "it was you who, through dishonest manipulation, got a great reputation for, you know..." Golda smiled knowingly. She knew. That was how she got her reputation. George was stunned. He left Golda and founded a home for the tragically dismantled and hard of hearing. With Toby, who vowed never to see the bartender again. The urinal was happy, at least when last seen; it had plumb disappeared. Myrna subsequently became a terpsichorean ecdysiast. And the baby inexplicably disappeared, until one dark afternoon, when he was found unconcscious, on a serving tray at a nearby McDonald's. Green stamps lined his diaper, one of the new "Superfund" brand. With nothing else to be done, the police took him down and cashed him in for an iPod Nano. As for the rest- well, who really cares, anyway?

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Best Laid Plans of Lice & Men

It's really going to bug me to say this....

The "9/12" piece & I have been chasing each other for quite a while. I put myself on the spot by saying that it was coming. I still intend to finish it, but my recent work on it had gotten tied in the the upcoming elections; this was a very natural association. However, it is now, technically, Election Day. The version I have now is keyed to be read before Election Day. Heavy sigh.

This is an article that I really want to hone finely, but my chronic migraines are severe and long-lasting. I still have it going, though relief is in sight. I've simply been unable to concentrate enough to hammer and refine it into what I want it to be. This is extremely frustrating, but it's yet another of Those Things That Taunt Writers. Sometimes, the hardest thing is having an idea that is wonderful in your head, and you get that zing and cry "YES! That's great! I can hardly wait to get it down on paper!"

I know... what paper? Don't nag me with details. You know what I meant. Well, except maybe for Linda, and I don't even want to go there.

Well, sometimes that works, and sometimes it doesn't. In this case, it hasn't worked to my satisfaction, and I'm not posting it until it does. Yes, I'm still going to work on it; what happens tomorrow, and the results of the election, can still be tied in with my central theme. No, I won't just give up on it. Because I'm really, really stubborn, among other reasons. But, it's just going to have to wait until I'm feeling well enough to do it.

Back to silliness and rant for a while; those are much easier to do.

Meanwhile, talk amongst yourselves. Here's a topic: Who's the worst movie/TV actor of all time, and why?

Don't mind me, I'm just feeling a little verklempt.

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Saturday, November 04, 2006

A Brief Commentary: About Comments

I welcome comments to be added to any posts on my blog. A few things to point out:

-Anyone can comment; you don't have to have a Blogger account or a Gmail address.

-Please don't be discouraged that your comment does not show up right away. I have my settings programmed to 1) Require you to type in the "word verification" code, and 2) They come to me for review before they're actually posted.

Allow me to explain why:

The word verification is a good and protective tool offered by Blogger. Not everyone uses it. The reason that I do is that it's extra protection against automated spamming and hackers. Call me crazy, but I don't enjoy dealing with either.

Why do I review them before posting, and does this mean I'll "censor" you? Actually, I'll generally put any comment through, unchanged, even if it isn't complimentary or says that the person commenting hates everything that I write, and that he/she/it wishes that I'd take up knitting instead. Of course, there IS a limit; I'm not going to allow genuinely offensive comments to show. One reason is that I'm trying (no, really.... you should see some of my other stuff) to keep this site oriented to a general audience.

The other reason.... out there in Cyberspace, there are certain people who find their life's joy by being annoying, deliberately stirring up trouble, and making very personal attacks on others. They have no place here, nor anywhere else; I've no desire to "meet" any more than I have in the past. I had the misfortune of crossing paths with a few involving another site. They did enough cumulative damage that the site in question, a forum, is now all but dead (I will not give names or specifics, even if asked; it's over, in the past, and staying that way). The atmosphere was sufficiently poisoned that most people stopped finding it enjoyable, including myself. What a shame.

Well, I'm not going to subject you or anyone else to that, and I have had bloody well enough of it. So, please understand and be patient; I DO want to hear from you, and I'm sure that other people are interested as well. I usually check twice a day, and I also have it set to send me an e-mail notice when a comment is entered. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, and I will not be reticent to pass on critical remarks; I'm quite content to let my writing stand or fall on its own merits. I can certainly take constructive criticism, and I might learn something valuable. LOL Also, as is evident, these are mostly "casual" stories, off-the-wall rants & such (Though I do occasionally have a topic about which I really want to say something). I do have "serious" writing projects that I'm working on, and they get the lion's share of my attention. This site is here as a pleasant diversion. I hope. It is for me, anyway. Yeah, the posts tend to be kinda long, but I AM Irish, after all.... I can't help it, honest!

You have three options as to how you want the post to show you as the "Sender":

1) You can log in with a Blogger or Gmail ID; in turn, it will automatically include a link back to you, your ID and/or your site.

2) You can log in with some other ID that has an Internet connection. If you have a website that you'd like people to see, this option will also provide an automatic link to it.

3) You can comment anonymously.

Pick whichever you like! You can also e-mail me, if you like, at

I'm glad to say that I've been getting lots of "hits", but few comments. I just wanted to make sure that you all know that the "welcome mat" is out. It's at the top left; it says "Cead Mil Failte". That's in Gaelige (Irish), and it's pronounced 'KAY-ed meel FALL-chu'. It means "One Hundred Thousand Welcomes!"

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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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Monday, October 16, 2006

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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