Memes of New York

someecards meme creation for facebook

I have always been a big fan of the late, great Dave Barry. I say late because, as of the writing of this post, he is fifteen years late responding to my fan mail. Seriously though, his writing style has been truly inspirational to me. Every word so carefully crafted, it’s as if his filter was not a six pack of Budweiser, but a chain mail of brilliance. A lot of what made his writing so ingenious was his ability to pull together the most random of objects or discussion points, find a hidden link and tie them together to a wonderfully resounding denouement.

In the hopes of following in his steps, I want to talk about the memes that have recently been littering my Facebook news feed (I am referring to the images with a clever quote overlaid ..or something like that). Where did this phenomenon originate? Who came up with this crazy thing? To find out, I decided to use some investigative journalism. [Note to the IRS: Yes, it has been a long time since I’ve done any investigative journalism, but if you take a look at my previous articles, you will see I definitely do it for business reasons.] This time, my professional journalistic nature took me to the grand city of New York.

For those of you who have not yet been to New York City, let me tell you a bit about this wonderfully stuffed berg. It houses two of the most hated baseball teams in the Major Leagues and is the only logical city for Spiderman to sling around in. Let’s be honest – imagine if Spiderman lived in Omaha, NE. All he could do would be to spin a huge net between the Woodmen Tower and the First National Bank Building. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he’d be very effective that way unless criminals were sling shooting themselves through the air.

Back to New York. While there, I ran into the tremendously helpful Jolene Smithers. When asked about her knowledge of the funny card corporation, Someecards, she excitedly responded, “Who?” To help jog her memory, I told her I was talking about those funny cards that get passed around a lot on Facebook. Now clear on what I was asking about, she said, “Oh, I don’t do that Facebook thing. Sorry.” That confirms only 1 of the 18 million people living in New York are not familiar with these memes, proving these are obviously significant no matter where you live.

Why does this matter? It matters because these memes are so completely helpful to our daily life. Thousands of barely surviving business struggle on Facebook trying to provide relevant and informative information to their constituent base, but they’re not doing anything for the gazillion Facebookers out there; nobody cares about helpful information anymore – mindless entertainment is the way to go! I could not agree more, as I am certainly a huge fan of mindless entertainment. I must say though that I am not a fan of the letter games going around; I’ve spent all day trying to figure out how many states do not have any vowels and I’m now way behind on work.

That is why I am so fond of Dave Barry’s work; his mind is as disconnected as mine and he doesn’t use words more complicated than “potato”. I’m pretty sure if they had memes back in the 80s, he would have become a millionaire (but only if he had been the one to invent them). [Note to the IRS: I admit this does not seem like a lot of research for an entire trip to New York, but I can assure you that I have more crackpot investigations to come; such as, what would happen if the Incredible Hulk got trapped in the subway? Or, what exactly does crab juice taste like? Trust me, there is a ton more where that came from.]

someecards meme creation for facebook

Giving Thanks is Hard Work…So is Shopping

As we enter into another holiday season, we realize how easy it is for all of us to quickly jump into Christmas mode while the impact of Thanksgiving fades away with the tryptophan. While I enjoy cringing at the start of “The Christmas Shoes” as much as the next guy, it seems a bit unfair that our beloved turkey day gets left in the dust. Stores have traditionally never had respect for the holiday, decorating for Christmas while children were still out trick-or-treating. Yet each year the disrespect deepens to the point to where “Black Friday” has now officially become a higher priority than Thanksgiving.
Black Friday, the day where good people turn into vicious monsters, has gained fame in recent years with the growing bargains of retail stores. As stores compete for who can run out of merchandise the fastest, consumers are prodded with earlier open hours and larger percentage discounts. Only a few short years ago, early starts on Black Friday were 4am. Last year, 4am turned into midnight, and this year has turned into 8pm the evening of Thanksgiving.

As much as it pains me to admit this, the frenzy for bargain shopping and the response by the retail outfits is actually in line with the original spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday. As the pilgrims celebrated the first year’s harvest, each individual at that table was relieved and thankful, because their death inducing labor finally showed fruit. With the first Thanksgiving, early Americans could finally see a future to work towards. Survival would soon turn to growth, and growth would eventually give birth to a thriving national economy. We, the people survived. It was true grit and tenacity that saw to that.

It is true grit and tenacity that will ensure our survival through these difficult fiscal times. Whatever business you may be in, success means rolling up your sleeves and getting into the game. We know that – and we know that we cannot do it alone. The team is the golden egg; just as any team truly is. Companies that have close, tight-knit units will operate with power and efficiency; those that don’t…well, let’s just say it doesn’t matter how early they open on Black “Friday”.

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my wife and her willingness to do what it takes for others. I am thankful for friends and family, whether they have been around for days or years. I am excited and appreciative for every future opportunity and will continually be on the lookout for those whom we can help along the way.

The original settlers did what it took to survive and celebrated their success with thankfulness. Now, we do the same to survive in the mall. The times may look different, but the attitude of thankfulness stays the same. Let’s all hope that attitude is in full bloom when the shopping begins, as it is that attitude that made it possible.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Black Friday Mob

Image from Gengame.

Economy Booming for Make-up Artists

It’s no secret that the Dow Jones and NASDAQ have been hitting new highs lately. There are numerous reasons for this, such as the willingness for every American to continually pay higher prices so that they can fill their gas-guzzling, value depreciating, lemon-ed automobiles with combustible fuel. Of course, there are those who oppose the use of these fossil fuels because of the negative effect on the environment, i.e. global warming. Their viewpoint is that basically everything technological is causing invisible gases to rise up into the atmosphere and create a big hole in the ozone layer which basically means that the sunscreen manufacturers will enjoy profits not even the heads of Enron could have dreamt. Thankfully, the threat of global warming is now official; the committee for the Nobel Prize decided to award Al Gore the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring this potential tragedy into international spotlight. I think Vice President Gore won because he also invented the internet, causing a drop in international conflict due to readily available free porn all around the world.

Okay, maybe the free porn hasn’t yet put an end to all wars, but it has given countless wives good reasons not trust their husbands even when they are thousands of miles away in a desert where any woman that crosses their path is wearing more clothing than an average Eskimo. Yet this has not answered the big question of Gore’s future: will he decide to run for President? Common sense would say, “Didn’t he already lose once?” which is technically kind of the right answer. But, with the Nobel Prize behind him, his chances to win the popular vote might actually lead this time to the Presidency. Thus, I would like to offer a few helpful hints to anyone seeking a run at the Presidency (my nephew might even get a few votes this time around). The first trick it to make sure that you hold strong to the positions that you carry. Conservative author Ann Coulter does a very good job at staying true to her beliefs. In a recent New York Times article she was repeatedly questioned about her belief that Jews are inferior to Christians. Despite countless people calling her bigoted and a Neo-Nazi, she held strong and kept her opinions clear. “‘We just want Jews to be perfected,’ Ms. Coulter said, explaining why she thinks a Christian America would be ideal.” This comes from an article written in yesterday’s paper by Sarah Wheaton. Later she was asked if she meant for her comments to be offensive. “No. I’m sorry. It is not intended to be. I don’t think you should take it that way, but that is what Christians consider themselves: perfected Jews. We believe the Old Testament. As you know from the Old Testament, God was constantly getting fed up with humans for not being able to, you know, live up to all the laws. What Christians believe — this is just a statement of what the New Testament is.” Shouldn’t the next President be as unabashed and willing to say their mind no matter who they hurt as Ms. Coulter? I would consider that to be a truly refreshing trend in the Oval Office, and it would certainly make for interesting party discussions, especially the debates on where the U.S. is going to build their next prison camp. I vote for northern Indiana – then Notre Dame could throw their football coaches in their as well – we could kill two birds with one stone.

Maybe blatant offensive comments are not the best way to win a crowd; but I definitely know what will make anyone a Presidential front-runner: a proper make-up job. The current trend today is that you must always look your best, no matter if you are running for President, picking up your children from soccer practice, or smuggling cocaine into the United States. Believe it or not, looking your best is important to everyone, just consider the article from today’s Times, discussing the recent arrest of Sandra Ávila Beltrán, better known as the Queen of the Pacific. She has been a high level drug dealer all across Central America and is wanted for extradition to the U.S. for smuggling drugs into Florida, where cocaine has become the new flavor of menthol. “On Sept. 28, more than 30 Mexican federal agents swarmed into a diner where she was having coffee and arrested her. She coolly asked the agents to let her freshen her makeup before the police filmed her transfer to jail. On the videotape, she tosses her hair and smiles for the camera, strutting in tight jeans and spiked heels, on the arm of an agent.” Even notorious criminals can positively impact their reputation with the right look. Mrs. Clinton herself has even given credit to the beauty industry by publicly thanking her hair stylist for her new look and keeping her from making similar bad hair decisions like the ones she made in the past. I don’t think Mr. Gore’s hair has moved since 1990.

What can we learn from today’s headlines? How you look in public is much more important than what you say, and that still holds true if you host a radio show or write articles, because appearance is everything. That is why it is a completely tax-deductible expense for me to go to the ritziest hair salon in town; I have to look my best so my readers can fully enjoy my columns. Also, go out and support your local beautician; they may be overpriced and haven’t attended school since the second grade, but they know what’s best for you and your campaign. After all, we want to continue this economic spiral upward, so at least when the rest of the nation crashes, everyone will be looking their best; let’s just hope that it isn’t the sunscreen manufacturers that are going to push the free market past its breaking point. I’m not sure Mrs. Clinton would look so good as a piece of bacon.

Human Funniness Hormone

Recently, I reported on a ground-breaking story that had the potential to change the face of editorial pages around the globe. It concerned the invention of a new steroid; one that could make a non-humorous person the life of the party. This substance is referred to as HFH (Human Funniness Hormone) and is injected into the rear of the candidate. This injection would cause inhumane amounts of pain, often forcing the candidate to scream random phrases in an un-detectible dialect. Many highly-trained comedians (when I say “highly trained” I mean “largely intoxicated”) considered this panic-induced yell to be an immediate onslaught of Turrets’ Syndrome, rather than a humorous gesture. Thus voting members of the American Association of Silly Simians (AASS) have declared this steroid illegal and punishable by a five year banishment to Des Moines area comedy clubs. When Dave Barry, founding father of AASS, was asked to comment on the severity of the punishment, he offered only a short reply: “I think Des Moines is in Iowa, but I’ve never been on the Artic Continent, so I can’t tell you much about it.”

In an effort to inform readers of this controversy, I intended to write a thorough and well-researched article that would be regarded as the highest output of journalistic integrity that I’ve manufactured to date; so I went straight to the phones and called a few well known comedians for interviews about this controversy. First on the list was Jerry Seinfeld. When questioned about his alleged use of HFH, Mr. Seinfeld replied curtly: “Who are you? How did you get this number?” For the sake of America’s youth, I cannot disclose the remainder of his comments, as his momentary outburst of uncontrollable swearing is still giving me night-sweats. After my discussion with Jerry, I phoned the loveable Danny Tanner; known by his real life name—Bob Saget. His comment was even more vicious and flatulent, yet at the end he muttered that his “hiny” was sore and had to find a soft pillow on which to sit.

The only individual who would give me an honest reply was former Vice-President Al Gore. He offered a very informative discussion in which he expounded on the negative effects of HFH, such as impotence and the loss of an inner monologue. After about forty-five minutes, I thanked him for his time and quietly hung up the phone. He had just finished explaining that if a person were to use his invention known as the “Internet” to look up jokes and research the art of being funny, one could become the life of said “party” (quotations are his) without resorting to intravenous drug use. After my short parlay into the political realm, I still needed more information, so I continued down the list of compatriot comedians. I asked each of them if they had at one time succumbed to the temptation of HFH, and their replies were almost identical: “Call again when you get published!”

My research for this well-informed article was coming together, but I needed a scientific opinion. I considered performing an old-fashioned science experiment wherein I compile a list of poor folks (also known as college students) who would be willing to be injected in the glutinous region with a large needle containing a mysterious clear liquid for a small amount of money. However, I was rejected by every individual questioned (except for Dave Chappelle, he’ll try anything). The majority of respondents thought it was some practical joke by the Commissioner of Major League Baseball, Mr. Bud Selig. I tried to convince them that Mr. Selig has never told a joke in his life, but no one would listen. My last option to provide scientific data for this article was to break into the lab that developed HFH and take snapshots of incriminating data. This plan failed for two reasons: 1) I don’t have a camera; and 2) I’m not sure what the word “incriminating” means.

Despite my inability to complete the story with that final, incriminating piece of evidence, the information speaks for itself. HFH does cause immediate bouts of voracious swearing fits followed by painful swelling in the rear end. I have no idea if it actually makes you funnier. While we’re on this topic, let me take a moment to educate you by discussing a phenomenon that is absolutely not funny. While performing tax-deductible research for my story at a baseball game—I wanted to see if the painful side-effects of HFH injections were similar to the steroid injections used by baseball players—I overheard a conversation between two young girls. One of them made a sincere effort at a joke, and if I were a thirteen year old boy with a face that looks like a pickle, I might have chuckled a bit. The other girl found the comment quite funny, but instead of laughing until milk squirted out of her nose like teenagers did in my day, she said, “L-O-L”. It was more meaningful to spell out the acronym L-O-L (internet lingo that stands for “Laugh Out Loud”) than to actually laugh out loud. This confused me terribly. Has society deteriorated to the point that we speak personally to each other in the instant message language? I’m not sure I can handle this. The next thing you know I’m going to be at a book signing at Barnes and Noble when a person comes up to me, and instead of speaking to me, writes a note that says, “Who r u? What do u no bout LOL?” My only comfort will be in knowing that my chair is heavily padded.

This on-going trend towards futuristic living deeply confuses me, not only when it comes to human conversation, but also everyday living. I’m very concerned that one day Dippin Dots will take over as the main source of ice cream in the U.S., probably due to a hostile takeover at a dairy farm. Coke floats will lose out to the newly popular “vegetable float”, a drink that combines pureed veggies with a non-fat sherbet. And quite possibly the most horrendous development of the future concerns the early season success of a women’s high school basketball team in South Dakota, known as the Jack Rabbits–“Jacks” for short. The Lady Jacks should not be getting off to a good start.

Reality TV Bites

I decided that I’m going to do something purely in the interest of cultural edification. And not solely for the tax-deductibility reasons either! You may be asking yourself if I have completely gone whacko or if I’ve finally decided to grow up and do something for the good of humanity. You’re thinking I could do something like donate my savings to charity, become a volunteer coach at a boys’ club, or join Green Peace. If you guessed any of those options, you don’t know me at all. Those of you who know me a little better are probably hoping that I’ve decided it would be in the public’s best interest if I took a rocket to Mars. I’m sorry to dash your dreams, but I’ll be staying on this planet until they figure out how to transport us to Saturn. I’ve always wanted to get a close look at those rings; plus, I’m dying to ask someone there how they mastered the art of low pressure car sales!

Instead of giving my time and money to a cause that merely helps people, I’m going to do something that will impact this world on an even larger scale. I’m going to write a television show! Don’t go all negative on my idea yet; just because you’ve read my writing doesn’t prove that I’m a horrible writer. Besides, thanks to the wondrous invention that is reality TV, creativity and the art of writing are no longer necessary! I have a wonderful idea, too, and it’s a ton better than any show Fox (Any Show You Can Do, We Can Copy) can put out. Most people are beginning to think that ideas for reality shows are being quickly exhausted and are becoming wary of shows that pay people to eat bugs, pay people to make fun of them, and pay brides to let people watch them get dumped while standing on an Alaskan shoreline. At least those shows are better than the ones that follow a neurotic cosmetics owner whose lesbian daughter just got dumped by the man of her dreams while at the same time finding out that she got pregnant by her girlfriend’s husband. The woman later finds out that her daughter isn’t really her daughter; but her long lost half-sister who is out to avenge the murder of their estranged father. I apologize to any All My Children fans for giving away the story.

Despite the gruesomeness of many reality television shows, it is currently a very popular genre; thus it is a very profitable genre. Consider some of the reality shows on TV this season: So You Think You Can Dance (which Fox stole from a Saturday Night Live skit starring Chris Farley), The Gauntlet (MTV may have created the original reality series—but they killed it with this one), and Fear Factor (poor Joe Rogan must have become afraid of acting). After careful consideration, I have developed my idea into a stunning presentation for any of the major networks, except for Fox. They’ll just steal it a year later anyway.

My idea came from a very simple revelation. I was in a meeting with my new boss and all of a sudden I thought it would be funny to dare him to sniff paint fumes. I thought he might go for it, considering he had recently moved to Iowa. Unfortunately, we didn’t have any paint in the office, because he was actually interested! Since then, he’s encouraged me to be creative in the ways that I make fun of him. One time I asked him for payment if he wanted to hear my latest crack; he pulled out his wallet. This got me to thinking, what if there was a show where people come on it and pay money to get made fun of? You may not think that will work, because who would want to pay to go on television to get made fun of? You probably wouldn’t come on my show, but you probably also wouldn’t go on the Jenny Jones show and tell the world about your compulsive shoplifting addiction either. I’ll tell you who will come on my show: Canadians. There are nearly thirty-three million people living in that country and each one of them would pay handsomely to come on my show. We’ll tell them there is a prize for whoever is the butt of the funniest joke. That’ll work, and they’ll take up at least a few seasons. Minnesota will be right behind them.

In order to prepare for the creation of my show, I am going to have to perform many hours of pain-staking, tax-deductible research doing grueling tasks such as going to comedy clubs, reading books by funny authors and watching hour after hour of The Weakest Link. I’ll make sure to keep those pesky IRS agents busy by keeping meticulous accounting records with the help of my administrative assistant and pet fish, Cash. I’ll also receive countless applications from my readers in hopes they will get to take part in my show. The application consists of three questions:
•Have you ever paid anyone to make fun of you before?
•Are you able to count all the way to ten?
•On average, how many beers do you drink in a five minute span?

If you would like to be considered for the show, please mail a self-addressed, stamped envelope along with your name, your answers to these questions, and a cashier’s check for five hundred dollars to Phil Stalnaker, P.O. Box 3862, Omaha, NE 68105. Anyone who laughed at my column need not reply. And rest assured that all profits I receive from the success of this show will be donated to the charity of my choosing: it’s called the “Phil Fund”.

Healthcare and Horses

I can’t tell you how nice it is to receive so many letters of care here at the Bureau for Horse Recovery Center Institution Office and Sledding Museum. Everyone is so worried about Barbaro (the horse known for winning the 2006 Kentucky Derby, also known for inventing a new hair removal therapy), that we have received literally tens of letters of support. I also want to express extreme appreciation to all who have sent in money to help provide for his health care. In your letters you all acknowledged that since Barbaro was a horse (and thus only slightly human), he might not have enough funds saved for expensive surgery and recovery. And it means so much to us that you decided to give your hard earned money to him instead of something unimportant and fleeting, such as world peace, a better mouse trap, or salary raises for Congress, etc…
It’s true that Barbaro went through a very difficult procedure. His surgery lasted over six hours, taking the expertise of fifteen well-trained surgeons, thus costing over fifty-seven million dollars to complete. And that was just Sunday. For the next several months, this poor horse will undergo a series of very intense and painful (thus expensive) therapy sessions where the end result will be the ability to walk again, or at least a gentle trot. No matter the result of his recuperation, Barbaro will never race again. He is now retired and the focus for the rest of his days is being put out to stud. His owners will sell him out to high bidders so that he can impregnate young mares (known as female horses or heavy metal bands). That doesn’t sound like much of a retirement. He’ll be working harder than he ever has before, keeping all those fillies happy.

And it’s for that very reason we are spending so much time and money to make sure Barbaro has a full and complete recovery. If he is going to be what we in the horse world call “a male escort”, then he is going to need all his strength. It has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that each of us in the Bureau (HoMu for short) stands to make about sixty-two thousand dollars per hour. Of course it may seem that the healthcare business is stringing you along with high-priced promises of a full recovery while actually keeping you ill so that they can collect kickbacks from the drug companies, but it’s just an illusion. We are actually more interested in getting money from the insurance companies, not the drug reps.

I’m sure you don’t want to hear about your doctors, though; who by the way, I totally admire and respect. That is one industry that knows how to keep their client base. And it’s so simple; at any time they might need to “run some more tests” on you, thus turning your retirement account into their vacation fund. And what are you going to do—say no? You can’t do that, because the doctors are probably right. Have you ever tried to outsmart a doctor? It doesn’t work; they’ll just give you two bills and tell you to pay them in the morning. And don’t ever tell a doctor that they are wrong. One slip up like that will follow you for the rest of your life (that’s what medical records are for), making your average waiting time go from the length of the Jurassic age to eternity twice over.

Thankfully, that’s not the way it works for us in the veterinary field. Since animals have no concept of time, we can make them wait forever and they are content sniffing each other’s behinds and rolling around on the floor while trying to eat their tail. But you’re not interested in the waiting room habits of animals; you want to hear the details of Barabro’s condition. In layman’s terms Barbaro suffered a severe fracture of the right-hind leg bones known as the lower leg bone and the other lower leg bone. He did this by running in a race that he was expected to win, and about an eighth of the way through it, he landed on his leg awkwardly, thus snapping it nearly in half and speeding his pace up to about zero miles per hour. I guess he thought that was a good strategy to win the Preakness. It’s a good thing I only bet my car on him.

Yes, Barbaro has been in a lot of pain recently, but take solace in knowing that he is being taken care of by the best vets available (only thirteen of the fifteen surgeons bet on Barbaro for the race). We are confident that even though his chances of survival are currently only twelve percent, Barbaro will pull through. Let’s just hope none of his doctors took out a second mortgage on the race. And during the recovery phase, he will be working very hard to heal. This will include an intense schedule of sleeping, eating, and pampering for at least twelve to fifteen weeks. After of which, assuming he fully heals, he will return to his pasture and begin a lucrative career as a stud.

Therefore, we at the HoMu want you to be reassured that Barbaro will be just fine. He was a joy to work with and could tell a joke better than most dental practitioners. Don’t forget to come by and visit him, and while you’re here be sure to check out the sledding wing of the museum; there is a great exhibit called “Anatomy of a Tree Trunk”. You should stop by. Let’s all just band together and hope for the recovery of a beloved horse. Anyway, it’s been fun, but I’m going to let you go because one of the other surgeons just invited me over to his house for a special steak dinner. He said it’s a delicacy.

3 Days in Texas—3 Years to Recover

Allow me to begin this column by officially stating that my recent trip to Texas was solely for research purposes and therefore is completely tax-deductible. I would absolutely hate for Uncle Sam to get the wrong impression and think that this trip was fun—I needed a stunt double for most of it. Oh, and let me state for the record that everything I say in this column is true; in fact, each and every one of my columns are thoroughly researched and written with the fullest of journalistic integrity. That is, if you define thoroughly researched as made up in my head and journalistic integrity as writing after having a minimum of three beers. Those of you who know me know that I never make anything up; ever. So now I will begin to tell you about my Memorial Day weekend trip to the greatest state in the world—Iowa.

Now that you have all had a solid chuckle, only about an hour of my time was actually spent in Iowa. Any longer and I might have had to cut off my nose to save my face. The State of Iowa is one giant mass of pig farms, and the stench is so potent that individuals who have been dead for centuries in Europe have covered their skeletal nasal cavities for relief. I feel horrible for all those poor souls who don’t have room enough in their caskets for arm movement. Thus, thankfully, only one hour of the eighty-billion that were spent in my car this weekend was spent in Iowa. The rest of them were spent in Texas (as well as the two northern Texas colonies that call themselves states).

That’s right; Texas is huge. And it’s true what they say, everything is bigger in Texas. For example, Texas is the only state in the country to fly the state flag at the same height as the American flag, both of them being the same size. Not to mention that the state capital dome in Austin is the only one in the country that is larger than the dome in D.C. Everything in Texas is bigger; but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better (Texans, please put away your shotguns). After careful consideration, I’ve decided to recant my last statement out of journalistic integrity for those Texans with big shotguns and agree that everything is better in Texas also.

Where else would you find the state’s community for the blind conjoined with the state’s regional lottery community? That is a genius development strategy (or, in the words of their famous hometown President; strategery). The Dallas Cowboys have figured out a better way to get a new football stadium. They refused to perform any upkeep on their current stadium so when voters voted on whether to grant the Cowboys a new stadium, all they saw was a badly dilapidated football field. But those are only Texas landmarks; their people are simply remarkable.

The idea for this trip came from a very good friend of mine named Steven. He graciously invited me, along with a few other friends, down to his parents’ beach house that sits on a large lake on the northern border of Texas. Thanks to my particular strategery of financial planning, one compatriot and I decided to head to this beach house by way of a road trip. That means we spent twelve consecutive hours (each way) in a construction nightmare so bad it would have given R.G. LeTourneau the shakes. Despite the numerous attempts made by construction crews (“On Call 24 Minutes a Day”) to thwart our efforts, we made it to Dallas in enough time to sit in rush hour traffic. And this was all a wonderful experience, because after sitting through one Dallas traffic jam, I’ll only need to continue therapy sessions with my psychologist for an extra twenty-seven years. Somehow, though, we made it to the lake house.

This is where the fun began. In the three days I spent at the lake house, I received enough injuries to take down King Kong. Because the water was too choppy on the lake for water sports (and by the word sport, I mean ways to kill yourself), so we thought it would be fun to play games. One friend thought up some new rules to the well known sport of ultimate Frisbee. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let me say this: the main rule change consisted of the need to use your head in order to score. As if I haven’t killed enough brain cells already, I joined right in to see how quickly I could knock a few more screws loose. After that, I played a few other dangerous games, escalating to the climax game that we called “Hammock Toss”. That is where one person lays in the hammock and holds on as tight as possible while the others try to spin it as fast as possible hoping that the magic of entropy would hold true and keep the unfortunate rider in the hammock. It didn’t. Despite the fact that I probably lost two years of college education for all the damage to my brain this past weekend, I was not the craziest person in the group.

I could tell you about my buddy Steven, who though knowing that the lake water was even choppier the next day, decided anyway to take us all out and show us how to ski with one ski (though not on purpose), or how to shred all the skin off your inner arm by holding on to an inner tube being pulled behind a wave runner at forty-five miles per hour; but not even he was able to match the veracity of his older sister. I think that she is perhaps the most remarkable, yet most dangerous and scary person that I have ever met.

The day before arriving at the lake house, Becky, a young doctor just starting her own small town practice (while also being a mother of three young children) broke the pinky toe on her left foot. It was a totally freak accident, but one that would cause a normal person to take full advantage of the temporary handicap and force everyone around them to play the part of Geeves. Not Becky. On Saturday, she played kickball and had the best wipeout in our hammock game. On Sunday, she water-skied and practiced skeet shooting, and on Monday she ran the Dallas Marathon. Okay, not all of that was true. She had the second best wipeout in Hammock toss. And by the way, during the kickball game she, as pitcher, caught a ball that she had to dive for all the while holding her youngest child in her arms. She made the catch and the young boy didn’t even wake up from his nap. She either needs to be given a medal for bravery and effort or checked over for severe craziness.

All in all, I managed to return from the trip safe and sound. Granted, I have about three thousand dollars in doctor bills for patching me up from all the crazy stunts I pulled (such as nearly flipping a four-wheeler and a wave runner in the same afternoon). And believe it or not, I even helped the environment. I put enough sun-screen on to protect me and anyone else within a five mile radius from any UV exposure for the next sixteen years. At least now I know what it takes to get a good tan. I’ll make sure to repeat that next weekend, on my upcoming tax-deductible research trip to St. Louis (at least supply a little bit of journalistic…something to the masses). I’ll be trying to answer the age old question of whether or not it’s possible to buy a Miller beer at Busch Stadium, or if they arrest on request. Of course I’ll be doing it while wearing a Chicago Cubs hat, so I’m sure my chances to make friends will be plentiful. And, by the way, I can’t wait until my next opportunity to visit Steven and his family again at the lake house. I haven’t had that much fun trying to kill myself in years—but that’s because I’m a smart guy—this head of mine ain’t just a hat rack!


2006 Summer Movie Preview

I am so excited over this summer’s movie outlook that I may wretch. No, really. Originality rules in this season of blockbusters. And it all starts with Tom Cruise’s (“Marrying a daughter near you next!”) new movie, in which he stars as a secret agent trying to keep corrupt antagonists from taking over the world. Included in the film will be explosions, car chases, gun fights, and sex. That’s never been done before! As the days get longer, the hot, new idea of making sequels will push the envelope of moviegoer patience, and will end late this fall in a brash array of explosions, car chases, gun fights and sex. I don’t want to spoil the surprise finale of this season’s big budget melodramas, but let’s just say that this movie’s leading man drinks a lot of shaken vodka martinis.

When was the last original Hollywood movie? After much extensive research, I found that it was made in 1594. It ended up flopping, but that’s just because it was pitted up against the second James Bond movie on its opening weekend. America, this is a problem. Year after year we are fed leftovers from so-called creative geniuses claiming that this season “is the best ever!” In an effort to learn from our repetitive diet of gruel, let’s discuss what we’ll be viewing this summer.

First up after Mr. Cruise is the finale of the X-Men trilogy. People with super powers will be trying to kill other people with super powers. Soon after that, the Man of Steel will make his long-awaited return to the silver screen, this time played by a former soap opera actor wearing a costume that looks more like a gigantic condom than the much beloved blue tights and red underwear. And lastly we anticipate the return of Captain Jack Sparrow, a fruity rock star turned pirate who searches the Caribbean seas for ways to be a good man and a pirate at the same time. I’m sure it will be a swashbuckling adventure with him fighting alongside Legolas (sporting short, brown hair and badly sparse facial hair), our elfin hero from the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As we can see, Hollywood (“Striving to bring you the same movie again and again”) is lacking for original content. Thus, I am going to break out of my journalistic routine of criticizing everyone else while sitting here typing in my underwear and give our famed movie makers a new idea. I’m still not changing out of my underwear, though.

Picture an office on the ground floor of a dilapidated office building on the south side of Chicago. Inside the office sits a man, wearing a leather fedora and who hasn’t shaven in days. On the office door hangs a sign that reads “Lt. Hugh Cruise, Private Detective”. Enter the voluptuous blonde.
“Hello there, ma’am, may I help you?”
“Yes, I’d like a Big Mac extra value meal with Diet Coke and a salad shaker.”
“I’m sorry, but McDonald’s won’t be in business for another fifteen years. This is the olden days, and I am a private detective.”
“Oops! I apologize; it’s just that I haven’t eaten all day! I’m on the run from my husband, the violent drug lord Al ‘The Pacino’ Luthor. If he finds me, he’ll surely kill me! Can you help me?”
“Of course I can, but I’don’t come cheap. I have to pay rent, you know.”
“My husband has all my money. Would you like me to make love to you instead?”
“No! It’s not that kind of movie. Well, at least not until the final scene. You see, we’ll be on the beach laughing about how your dead husband killed himself while trying to kill me. Then we’ll make love under the moonlight on top of his pile of money that he foolishly left to you in his will. Why don’t you just take me out for a drink; I’m in desperate need of a Roy Rogers—shaken, not stirred.”

Our ruggedly handsome and witty protagonist rushes to the airport for a flight to British Columbia, the winter home of the notoriously evil Al Luthor. He has kidnapped his wife and is holding her for ransom until Detective Cruise turns himself in, allowing for a very elaborate and easily escapable death scene.
“Hello, and welcome to ‘No Fly Air’. May I help you?”
“Yes. I need to get on the next flight to British Columbia.”
“And which country is that in?”
“The home of the only country who failed to win a gold medal in the Olympics they hosted.”
“I’m sorry, but we don’t fly to Canada. We only have flights departing from Canada, since no one wants to go there. The lady at the next counter might be able to help you.”
Trotting over to the next counter, Hugh repeats his question. “Do you have any flights to BC?”
“We do sir. We have one departing in about an hour. One ticket will cost you $5,384,586,657.99. Would you like me to book you a seat?”
“If I have to. Do you take credit cards?”
“Yes we do.”
“Here’s my Discover card.”
“I’m sorry, we don’t take Discover.”
“American Express?”
“Fine. Here’s cash.”
“Thank you sir, have a nice day.”
Forced to run through the gigantic labyrinth of airport concourses, Hugh barely makes it to the gate by the departure time. Unbeknownst to him, the flight has been delayed for two weeks.

Finally arriving in BC, Hugh manages to find the secret hideout of Al Luthor. It’s at the neighborhood Applebee’s.
“You made it, Mr. Cruise. I’ve been waiting for you. For a long time, actually; I was beginning to think you weren’t going to make it.”
“Of course you’d think that, Luthor, but I’m here and I’m going to stop you this time.”
“You say that every movie. Just once, I’d like to see you actually keep me from getting away.”
“Fifteenth time’s a charm.”
“We’ll see about that. Henchmen, come here!”
At Luthor’s call, two evil henchmen enter. The first, a chubby fellow wearing a running suit that looks like a tuxedo enters, brandishing a gigantic sea bass as his weapon. He has a laser beam attached to his head. The second, a woman wearing only green body paint and can transform herself into any tax law since 1996, came in with the voluptuous vixen clawed in her grasp.
“This movie’s henchmen won’t get me either, Luthor!”
“No, but they’ll temporarily capture you and lock you in an escapable cell which you’ll break out of quickly, assuming you have your pocket knife and a pair of tube socks.”
“I also brought some duct tape.”
“Away with him!”
As predicted, our hero broke out of the cell and tracked Al Luthor to a cliff overlooking the sea. The two evil henchmen tried to stop Hugh Cruise, but he outwitted them with a card trick. The vixen was thrown aside, and the two main characters prepared for the final showdown.
“You know, Hugh, before I kill you, there’s something you should know. I am your father.”
“No you’re not. My father died last year of consumption.”
“I know I’m not technically your father, but I was best friends with your real father while we grew up. I am your Godfather.”
“Face it, it is true. Now on your guard!”
Al Luthor attacked and missed, plummeting himself off the cliff. The climax had ended and it was time for the sex scene finale. Tired and beaten up, Hugh walked over to the rescued damsel. His shirt was torn, revealing the chest of a twenty-year old body builder.
“Hugh, you’re hurt! And you have the abs of a gymnast!”
“I may be sixty-five, but I’m still making movies.”
“It’s almost sad my husband died. He was scheduled to receive an honorary doctorate in evil from Harvard next month.”
“There’s no telling if he’s dead, my lady. In fourteen previous movies, I’ve been unable to actually kill him. But that doesn’t matter; it’s time for us to make love.”
“Not yet! We forgot the explosion, car chase, and gun fight, not to mention the mandatory two hundred and seventy-seven curse words.”
“We’ll worry about that in the next movie.”

Skewers, Popcorn, and Other Things to Tar and Feather

Lately I feel as if I am in a rather intense malaise. There’s nothing right now to fight for; nothing to stand up against. Of course, I could choose to fight the good fights, against such evil foes as world hunger, terrorism, or the boy band epidemic, but to be honest those topics have become a kind of “old news”. What I need is something I can sink my teeth into—something more interesting than the zany exploits of the late Rosa Parks (I believe she’s scheduled for a sit-in at Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s house), but not as controversial as the European dollar (I’ll show them what they can do with their multi-colored money). No, I need to pick up the fight against something that really matters; something that will make people stop on the street when I pass by and say “Who is that?” I’m going to stand up for the fight against the terrible injustice of fiction.

Recently, an alert reader sent me an article from Fox News about the upcoming movie, The Da Vinci Code. “Anger over ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ premiering Wednesday at the Cannes Film Festival, escalated Tuesday as Christian groups from South Korea, Thailand, Greece and India planned boycotts, a hunger strike and attempts to block or shorten screenings”. It appears that numerous Christian groups are attempting to block the viewing of that movie in their respective countries. To them I say “Who are you?”

In some countries, they have even gone to the courts to try and force this movie out of the theaters. I think it’s wonderful that these groups have found something so worthwhile to spend their time on. Since the story is fictional, thus made up entirely in the author’s head, it should be banned from all places public and Dan Brown (the author of the book) should be strung up by his code-breaking fingertips to be tarred and feathered. I’ll be there, standing in the front row eating popcorn. But not the plain kind, I prefer my popcorn with salt and extra butter.

And I won’t be coming alone to the lynching either, I’ll be bringing the real culprit of this movie fiasco—Richie Cunningham. To some of you he might be known as Opie Taylor, Ron Howard, or that annoying guy who directed Russell Crowe in that movie about a crazy mathematician who won a noble prize for being a boxer during the Great Depression. But then again, Mr. Howard’s just the director. I’m personally outraged that Forrest Gump would abandon the flattop and don a shoulder-length poof as main character in The Da Vinci Code. Besides, who’s going to believe that Forrest is actually that smart? “Breaking Bible codes is like a box of chocolates; you never know who’s going to get tired of this movie quote.”

As disturbing as that news is, there are even more important things to fight against, such as the growth of the evil empire known by the public as Fox News. It’s owned by a man named Rupert Murdoch (a.k.a. Darth Vader), who is known internationally as the only man who can belch the entire alphabet while bankrupting millionaires, and break-dance to a Justin Timberlake song all at the same time. Then again, no one is really sure whether he is actually break-dancing to the song or undergoing a series of violent seizures due to intense shudders from hearing something so unmusical. Yet it’s common knowledge that Mr. Murdoch is very multi-talented. In fact, he has been very busy these days acquiring the rights to own things such as the personal web-page phenomenon Myspace (“Satisfying the porn market for the age 6-12 demographic”) as well as purchasing Hillary Clinton. The transition from Democrat to Republican just got expensive.

According to the Seattle Times, “Media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News Channel and other conservative news outlets have been skewering Hillary Rodham Clinton for years, will host a summer fundraiser for the Democratic senator, mystifying some observers and enraging others.” This absolutely drives me batty. Who does a skewer anymore? Everyone knows that barbecue is all the rage today. If his fundraiser is going to be successful, he better take the skewer off the menu. Concerning the choice of menu, Liberal blogger David Sirota complained: “The brazenness of this move is almost too much to stomach.” Oh well, I guess that’s what you get from a man who break dances to Justin Timberlake.

Now that I think about it, my malaise is simmering down to a low-level boredom, yet which can easily be brought up to a boil at the mere thought of getting on another airplane. Where else are Americans willing to pay so much to be herded in and out of tiny cylindrical tubes with wings, all the while at the leisure of the flight attendant? This topic may just be enough to make me explode, but that would cause quite a mess. I’ll save that for another column, but before I go, let me persuade you to join the fight for the most important cause known to humanity—something that effects more Americans than can be counted: spontaneous combustion. It can happen anytime, anywhere, and for seemingly no reason at all (yet I would avoid lighting a match near Aunt Betty after she spent two hours in the bathroom turning her hair into a permanent sculpture). It could even happen to…..BOOM

Phil’s Guide to Dating and/or Pet Grooming

Note: Do not try these activities at home; certain death may occur.

Let me begin this week’s column by stating that I am currently single and in no way bitter—I look forward to owning a dog in the future. But I do consider myself somewhat of an expert in these topics, as I have personally broken-up with many women and managed not to kill any of the pets I’ve had (unless you count fish; as far as they are concerned, I’m the kiss-of-death). Yet I have stared certain doom in the eye numerous times in both arenas, and I am here to tell you they are not all that different. Chances are you will have permanent scarring due to your counterparts excessive use of claws (just keep them away from your eyes). And ladies, this advice is for you as well, as men’s claws can be just as sharp if not trimmed properly.

At this point, you are probably thinking I am a total loon for suggesting that the pre-marriage ritual in humans is the same as grooming your domesticated animal. You’re right; I am a loon. But that doesn’t change the fact that they are similar activities. Here are some examples: 1) the end product is never the same as the plan you set out to create, and 2) you’ll always smell different at the end of the night. Before you brand me a lunatic, let me explain. It all starts a long time ago, around the same the Christian conservatives popped on the scene.

Back in the days of Emperor Constantine, the thought of having an animal in the house was a crazy notion. So was dating. But one day, one of the Emperor’s wives decided she was lonely and wanted to have a companion. Yet since there was such a strong economy for eunuchs, unemployment was low and there were none available. He decided instead to have his servants tame a fox that had been caught while hunting for rabbits. At the same time, Emperor Constantine thought it would be a good idea to become a Christian (“Controlling Your Government for You”) and change the face of politics for the rest of eternity. This conversion angered one of his other wives, who was upset because that would mean she’d have to start cooking beans so they could go to the church pot-luck dinner. That made the Emperor wish he had actually gotten to know his wives before marriage through casual, social experiences instead of arranging the marriages with other foreign heads-of-state. Thus, the concepts of dating and pet grooming appeared almost simultaneously.

The next big wave of changes came in the middle ages when a leader of an Amazonian tribe decided to get married. Soon after the honeymoon, she became annoyed because her home always smelled of elderberries after her husband returned from a hunt. She figured it was because of the dog that never left her husband’s side. As an idea to help fix this problem, she implored her new man to bathe his hunting dog and clip its hair to a shorter length, hoping that would alleviate the odor. This allowed her to be in the same room as the dog, but her husband’s smell grew to resemble an old bowling shoe left in overly humid conditions. She quickly began to wish she had found a mate via the help of her friends—or at least an online dating service—instead of making a political deal with the neighboring tribe to marry their leader’s youngest and sloppiest son. Dating and pet grooming have come a long way since then, both becoming very popular rituals (except in Canada, where both Amazon women and soap are illegal). There would not be another major trend shift until the late 1990s, when a man named Joshua Harris revolutionized the world of dating. His work had absolutely nothing to do with grooming your pet, but groomers didn’t have to wait long for changes of their own.

Mr. Harris did this by writing a book. I won’t reveal the name of that book, but let’s just say he’s kissed dating good-bye forever; though I am sure not by choice. He wrote it to be a guide to dating for Christian teenagers, but its impact has permeated through the fabric of society’s relationship habits. His book proposed a new idea to dating, which is to not date anyone at all until you get married; and only then under close supervision. A person first decides exactly what they want in a partner, then waits for that one person to hit him or her over the head and drag them home. His belief is that you can determine your life partner, not by getting to know them, but by observing them from a distance (preferably with binoculars). There should be absolutely no physical, visual, audible, or emotional contact until the veil is raised. The only thing he left out was how many cows you were to receive in the dowry.

That same trend has appeared in pet grooming as well. It used to be that a woman would get to know her pet before choosing a trendy seasonal outfit to put on it (before you label me a sexist for saying that only women buy clothes for their pets, I ask you to show me one receipt of a man buying a Halloween costume for his dog—in an all male world, he would be placed in front of a firing squad). Now, instead of basing the outfit on the personality of the pet, today it’s popular to pick out pet clothes before you get the pet. That’s like buying a computer game before starting a new job (you should at least know what kind of computer you will have at work). I would like to thank Mr. Harris for this. Seriously. Personally, I think this is pointless, and have thus decided that I don’t want to date anymore; I have too many doggie sweaters in my closet already. One of these days, I’m just going to find a woman, make her my best friend, and marry her. Maybe her father will offer me his old doggie sweaters as a dowry. I’ll just add them to my own collection.
Or perhaps I’m better off just getting a dog. A boston terrier would look really cool in a leather jacket, don’t you think?