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Monday, March 31, 2003

 

Play Ball



Yeah, they played a game last night, but today is Opening Day.

Is this not the best day of the year? This is our universal American experience on Opening Day:

The grass is fresh cut and slightly greener, the air is a little sweeter, your friendly neighborhood Brazilian supermodel feeling just a touch more insecure and eager to please. On Opening Day she might just bring someone else along and make the usual, by-now-humdrum supermodel sandwich a triple-decker. The crack of the bats, the pop of a fastball in the mitts on the television are drowned out by the squeals and screams and laughter and vaguely dirty Portuguese stifled whispers of your eager, curvy partners fresh from a stint on the Sao Paolo runways. They twirl from the swing above the waterbed you reserve for Opening Day celebrations, asking quaint questions about what ERA means and why there are three outs not four as they nibble on your ear and talk back to the butler as he refreshes the champagne bucket for the second time this inning. They tell you how they like baseball players but they like freewheeling, globe-trotting, frequently intoxicated sellout writers better. You ask them how to say naughty baseball innuendo in their lilting native tongue. They giggle and come up with some intersting ones of their own. You fall asleep hanging off one edge of the bed, it gently undulating under your tired back, as the television crowd's seventh-inning stretch song lulls you.

It's snowing in Baltimore but it's ninety in Hollywood. Everyone's playing ball.

The Yankees win, the Red Sox lose.

There is order on Opening Day.


 

Weekend in the 'Dad Special



It's two a.m. Baghdad time and I've got my foot so far up Petey Arnett's ass that I have to ask him to open his mouth so I can tie my shoe. It's hard enough to play quarters at the local journalista watering hole with shit blowing up two blocks away, but Arnett thinks it's endlessly funny to flick our quarter off the table every time it lands in front of him. Koppel and I sort of laugh it off the first couple of times, Petey just being Petey with his naughty-British-boy-in-the-line-of-fire schtick. But after the tenth time, even Koppel, who's just been the picture of whimsy during this war with his photo-ops in front of various light artillery wearing ill-fitting helmets, warns Petey that I was just about to snap. And then I felt the obligation to snap, yanking his chair out from under him and giving him the Timberland refresher course in wartime drinking game etiquette.

Geraldo, of course, is drinking by himself in the corner. Well, not totally alone. He's subcontracted a ring of local beef to stand sentinel around him, because he got tired of the other reporters having five too many whiskeys, asking him if Barbara Walter's equipment tastes like sardines, then stubbing out their Lucky Strikes in his mustache. He looks over at our table like it's his fondest wish to bang some loose change on a table and into a pint glass.

Petey promises to play nice so I deign to remove my boot from the small of his back. Admittedly, I'm a little grouchy because I woke up on a transport plane two hours from touching down in Kuwait City following a drunken phone call to Rumsfeld asking him why we haven't won the war yet. He decided I should spend the weekend having a look-see, maybe spread the Total Fucking Victory love around the city's as-yet-undemolished taverns. Everyone knows that all great wartime movements start in the types of pubs where the toilet seats aren't just missing, they're being worn by the guy passed out in the corner.

But I'd told Rummy that I don't do war zones. Things are always blowing up and my chances of dying acrobatically between a pair of Argentinean cocktail waitresses are greatly reduced. He promised me I'd be getting plenty is-this-the-end-of-the-world play from nervous, fresh-from-college adrenaline junky field editors each night when the bombs rock the city. Just for the weekend, he said. Couldn't I just go to Kabul and do a softball piece on how well we're rebuilding Afghanistan?

Sure enough, during my first night in the 'Dad crews were leaving their cameras on tripods when the explosions started and the tracer fire rained in reverse into the sky and paired off like their names were drawn at Two Minutes in the Closet. Except I got Five Minutes Fumbling Around in a Sleeping Bag in the Bunker with a comely scribe from MSNBC who thought the hazard money would help her pay down her credit cards. I told her a little bit about the Total Fucking Victory campaign and she promised her crew would wear the T-shirts when they posed with the pile of rubble where Saddam's favorite squash court used to be.

After I let Petey up, I tell him about my romp in the sleeping bag. My stomach drops when he asks me which sleeping bag I'd used. When I tell him the red one by the back wall a smile rolls across his face like an armored column through the desert. He tells me the red one's where he zaps Christiane Amanpour and they tend to sweat.

If Rummy sends me back I'm demanding a sleeping bag. Maybe two so that Arnett doesn't get any ideas about performing additional weapons inspections in mine while I'm busy chatting up some Australian humanitarian nurses who'd heard that I'm the man behind Total Fucking Victory. I tell them that they should watch the lightshow with me on the roof of our hotel before I catch the first transport plane back to the States in the morning. I ask the tall one who looks like "Uptown Girl"-era Christy Brinkley to bring her own sleeping bag, just in case we feel like sleeping up there.


Friday, March 28, 2003

 

"Absolutely...Travolting"



There's nothing to cleanse the palette of a quality moviegoing experience than by viewing something that features John Travolta.

Today, some of you may fork over approximately ten U.S. dollars to see the new JT vehicle, "Basic."

And normally, I'd discourage you from doing so. But today, with this whole war deal dealin' on, I feel there are bigger issues to tackle. Let's just go straight to the source and try to break America of its Travolta habit.

And normally, you'd expect to see this in the form of a conversation transcript between me and the Erstwhile Vinny Barbarino.

Not this time.

So a friend and I were walking out of "Basic" (you can exhale, it was free), and tried to recall a worse movie. I immediately used my estimable powers of induction to postulate that the reason that "Basic" failed its mandate to entertain was the presence of one John Travolta above the title. My friend agreed. I felt it necessary to explore this further, and we wondered what the last good Travolta movie was.

"Lucky Numbers?" my friend asked. It should be noted that this friend is Jack Nicholson, and that we were on our way to a surprise birthday party for three of the Laker Girls.

But I think you are starting to see my point.

It is said that great actors disappear into their roles.

It is now said that great movies disappear into the cavernous expanse of Travolta's head, which is perhaps why that bloated thing that sits atop his neck is starting to take on the shape of a burlap sack stuffed with genuine Idaho potatoes. Every moment that you watch Travolta stretched across a movie screen, you are acutely, presently aware that you are watching Travolta, and not the cop that plays by his own rules, or the lovable scamp with a half-baked plan to take something over, or a ten-foot tall space alien proselytizing for a scary semi-religion. It's just Travolta, doing his Travolta thing, which is chewing the scenery like the muff of the wife of a convicted man on his last day before a life sentence in Prison Rape Penitentiary.

Excuse me, my cell phone is ringing.

"You're not being very nice."

Sigh. Travolta.

"Excuse me, but I'm in the middle of a perfectly good ad hominem attack."

"Did you get around to the part where you make fun of me for naming my son Jett?"

"No, this purely covers bad movies that you made."

"I will defend 'Battlefield Earth' to the grave. You know, it actually made money overseas."

"There is a joke about France and bad taste there, which would be especially poignant given the rising tide of anti-French sentiment here, but I will refrain. Instead, I will counter that Scientology tithes do not count towards box office results."

"Touché. But you've already been to the Scientology well already."

"You didn't give me a chance to say that we should send your movies to Iraq to loosen up the entrenched soldiers in downtown Baghdad. I don't have the wording quite worked out yet, but that's the gist."

"That's really unfair. I support our troops. Look at how many times I've played the renegade military lifer who still essentially believes in the system."

"Uh huh. Well, I've really got to go. Gotta hit Google and find an unflattering picture of you to run with this piece."

"Ooh. Be gentle. You know how sensitive I am about how big my head's getting. See you at Nic Cage's pad later?"

"Yeah, but I'm going to avoid you."

"Do what you have to. I'm not getting into a Harrison Ford thing with you."

"OK, stop making movies. Hello?"

He hung up before I could predict a return to talking baby movies. Strictly speaking, he would counter, they were "thinking baby" movies, since the babies didn't actually speak.

And I would say, I think you see what I'm getting at.


Thursday, March 27, 2003

 

Flipper's a Pussy Dept.



Earlier this week, it was revealed that the U.S. military is employing Atlantic Bottle-Nosed Dolphins to ferret out mines along the coastline of captured Iraqi port city Umm Qasr. I sat down with "Barry," one of these aquatic patriots, and international box-office superstar Harrison Ford at the local Legal Seafood at Umm Qasr and talked about the war, this low-tech approach to mine detection, and the recently-passed awards season. Ford sipped on a martini as Barry tranquilly floated in an aquarium beside our table overlooking the harbor.

Bunsen: Barry, so how did you come to join the war effort in the Middle East?

Barry: I was raised in captivity by the United States Navy and specially trained to detect aquatic-based explosive charges. That being said, it's always been my dream to help save American lives.

Harrison Ford: That's really noble.

Barry: I've heard you fly helicopters.

Ford: I do.

Barry: That's amazing.

Ford: It's really not all that difficult. Nothing like sniffing out a mine in the Persian Gulf.

Barry: Please. It's almost instinctual. I just use my God-given sonar. But you, man...people weren't meant to fly, and you overcome that. It's awe-inspiring.

Ford: I'm just an actor. You're a real patriot.

Barry: That's kind of you to say.

Bunsen: Excuse me, Indy, but let's steer the conversation back to Barry.

Ford: That's what I was trying to do. And please, enough with the Indy stuff. You know perfectly well that's not my name.

Bunsen: Very well. Barry, how do you feel about the numbers of early casualties the Allied forces have suffered?

Barry: It's tough to hear. Each life laid down in the name of freedeom is precious. But such is the price of Total Fucking Victory.

Bunsen: That's mine, you know.

Barry: I know. Just throwing some props your way. I didn't want you to get jealous because Harrison's here.

Bunsen: I wasn't jealous, I was just trying to keep the conversation on track.

Ford: I'm sure you were.

Barry: You know, "Six Days and Seven Nights" was really underrated.

Bunsen: Oh, come on. This is really undignified. You're a war hero, for Chrissakes.

Ford: I've always defended that film.

Barry: Did you zap that wacky Heche chick?

Ford: I've got a girlfriend now...

Barry: You can tell me. (Motions toward me with a flipper) He'll keep it on background.

Ford: (smiles sheepishly) Well, then yeah, I might have.

Barry: That's so hot.

Bunsen: (clears throat) Barry, what do you think of some of the protests that have erupted back home?

Barry: People have the right to express their opinions. But regardless of their feelings towards the policies of the current administration, they should support our troops.

Ford: I totally agree.

Barry: Hey, how about that Adrien Brody ramming his tongue down Halle Berry's throat at the Oscars?

Ford: That was really something.

Barry: You zapped her too, didn't you...

Ford: A gentlemen never discusses --

Barry: You fucking dog!

Ford: Shhh! (motioning towards me) He's got this all on tape.

Bunsen: I ran out ten minutes ago. Don't worry, Indy.

Ford: (glowers at me, then to Barry:) I so fucking zapped her.

Barry: Dog!

Bunsen: Why don't you ask him about the time he er, zapped Benjamin Bratt?

Ford: I never did that.

Bunsen: That's not what I heard.

Barry: You're being really petty.

Bunsen: Believe what you want.

Ford: (to Barry) Let's you and me talk about this over a couple of pops at the Chi Chi's across the street.

Barry: They have great margaritas. Let's bolt.

Bunsen: Good luck with your duties in the Gulf, Barry. You're an important cog in the Total Fucking Victory machine.

Barry: Fuck off. Tomorrow I'll probably be all hung over and accidentally bump my nose into a mine and wind up as tuna food. You'd like that, wouldn't you?

Bunsen: Of course not! Just because I thought you're being slightly fawning around Indy...

Ford: You've upset him. We're going to leave now.

I watched as Ford rose from our table and wheeled Barry's tank out of the restaurant, pausing only long enough to cast a pointed glance over his shoulder back at me, sneering.

The waiter brought the check. Ford and the dolphin hadn't left any money. I knew that back in the States, I'd be spending some time in the office of my editor at the Washington Post, getting a lecture about trying to expense alcohol. I tried to explain this to the waiter. But he only asked, "Wasn't that Harrison Ford pushing a dolphin tank?"

"No," I said. "That was Harrison Ford pushing a war hero tank."



Wednesday, March 26, 2003

 

Three Little Words: Bigger and Better Section


I cannot lie to you.

Total Fucking Victory is a huge hit.

So big, in fact, my trademark application for it stipulates that anyone using the phrase must not abbreviate or otherwise foreshorten it. No TFV, no Total F'in Vic, none of it. The three hottest words in this still fledgling Operation Iraqi Freedom must be allowed to unfurl like the original Stars and Stripes over Fort McHenry in 1814, only this time it flies above the rubble of a five-century old mosque mistaken for a telecommunication center. From three thousand feet, a minaret looks a lot like an antenna.

Such are the costs of Total Fucking Victory.

Rumsfeld's press conference couldn't have gone any better even if it had been presided over by Don King and featured two heavyweights in a choreographed eruption, diving over mic stands and press tables to demonstrate the ferocity of their rivalry. In fact, King was in attendance. But without a pair of boxers at weigh-in, he looked a little lost. I'd overheard him trying to convince Rummy and Secretary of State/Dove Milquetoast Colin Powell to just take a fucking run at each other, but Rummy knew that the numinousness of this martial catchphrase would carry the day on its own. He merely needed to step aside and let Total Fucking Victory do its job.

The event was somber and dignified. A giant plasma TV descended from the Pentagon press room ceiling, and a PowerPoint slide show displayed a montage of great American military triumphs, punctuated with images of a nighttime Baghdad spectacularly aflame. The score, by frequent Oscar nominee John Williams (who, sadly, failed to achieve victory of his own this past Sunday) rose to a crescendo of sweeping, majestic strings and a chorus of ululating Turkish folksingers. Then came a sound effect suggesting a cartoon anvil being dropped onto a baby grand piano, before the otherworldly voice of James Earl Jones intoned, "Total. Fucking. Victory."

The effect was mesmerizing, so I decided to let the unapproved punctuation slide, for now.

Confetti cannons sprayed the conference room with the "Surrender Now!" leaflets that have cascaded over the Iraqi countryside by the millions upon millions, promising a future of sock-hops and jukeboxes filled with Elvis tunes to all who turned their backs on Saddam.

A spread featuring roasted garlic hummus and some pita bread was overturned by a phalanx of heavily-armed members of the National Guard, and a new table featuring cheeseburgers, pizza, and apple pie was set up in its stead.

For perhaps the first time in recorded history, the nattering of the press corp was hushed for a full fifteen seconds -- until a reporter for the Sacramento Bee began to chant the three words that will turn the tide of the war and international public opinion toward America, the soon-to-be-triumphant hyperpower:

Total Fucking Victory.

Michael Moore, who up to this point was stewing at the back of the room, joined the chant. He hastily scribbled "I *Heart*" over the blood-red "Fuck" above an unflattering image of our Commander-in-Chief he'd pasted to the sandwich board that girded his Borscht-belt midsection. His megaphone rang not with protest, but with the three words that force the Iraqi dictator from his compound to the surface streets of Baghdad like a stick of dynamite in a Good Ol' American Fishin' Hole.

Total Fucking Victory.

The t-shirts were silk-screened and of high, Hanes-Beefy-T quality, and there were plenty to go around.

In between mouthfuls of pizza, Don King discussed with me the possibility of formulating three words for an upcoming Lennox Lewis fight. I jokingly suggested Big British Pansy, and we shared a knowing laugh. A retainer changed hands and we agreed to talk once the war is over, once Total Fucking Victory is achieved.

And once Total Fucking Victory is deployed to the front lines like a divinely-sanctioned sandstorm, that shouldn't be long at all.




Tuesday, March 25, 2003

 

Three Little Words Dept.



If there's one thing that you must know about me by now, it's that I'm a gambling man. I've yet to meet the wager that I won't stare down, kick in the shins, and then throw gum in its hair while it writhes in pain.

And I thought I'd met my match in Rumsfeld. We rendezvoused in a little-used suite of offices in the level-5 sub-basement of the Pentagon to shoot some dice between press briefings. I'd been ghostwriting his spots ever since the first Mother of All Bombs (MOAB) dropped on the Iraqi high command's pajama party last week. The usual two-button-suited, Kennedy school updates were wanting for sizzle. And I brought the grease and the skillet to his stand-ups before the White House press corp.

Shock and awe? Yeah, that was mine. And it's already played. Next week's phrase is going to be big.

But now Rummy was blowing across the dice rattling in his hands like Saddam's rusty sabre. I threw a pile of twenties at his feet.

"You know, if you were to watch the news, you'd think we were losing this damn war," I said as he prepared to roll.

"Whatever." He rolled. Snake eyes. I picked up my money. "What do they know? MSNBC puts our own helicopter crashing by accident on a loop and neglects to mention that we've ground up the Imperial Palace like coffee beans."

"If I were a betting man, I'd put some serious money down on this turning into another Vietnam," I said, handing the dice back to him.

He rolled again. Snake eyes again. I take his money, again.

"Fuck you."

"If we're so damn tough, why don't we just roll over Baghdad tomorrow? Call in the airstrikes, light up the whole damn city like a book of matches in a fraternity bathroom. Get it over with."

"I could do that if I wanted to. But you know, those embedded reporters might notice a million charred bodies," said Rummy. He held the dice up to his forehead, trying to will them to boxcars. "Burned up civilians really luminesce on those night-vision cameras. PR nightmare."

He rolled again. You know what happened. Money changed hands Bunsen-ward. Rummy removed a wingtip and slammed it against the wall a dozen times, the slapping of his shoe-leather echoing through the empty hallway.

"No, you maniac, don't go barbecuing innocents" I said, flipping through my fattening stack of Andrew Jacksons. "You just need a new catchphrase to see you through the first round of casualties. Three words."

"'Shock and Awe?' We already did that."

"That's played." I waved a fan of twenties under his nose, knowing that makes it angrily, involuntarily vascular.

"Then what?"

"It's going to be fucking huge. Are you ready?"

He slapped my winnings away from his face. "Stop screwing around and tell me already."

"Three new words: 'Total Fucking Victory.'"

Rummy took the dice and heaved them down the hallway. I had the feeling that they landed out of sight, single white dots pointing north.

"I like it," he said. "That'll play in Tallahassee. Hell, that might play in Amman." He started to peel off more bills from his bankroll. Then, thinking better of it, handed me the whole thing. "That dove motherfucker Powell's gonna shit himself!"

"He just might."

"Total Fucking Victory. Man, that's just fun to say. I'm going to go call a press conference. No one will even think about the stubborn resistance in Nasiriya."

"OK, just don't go nuke Baghdad."

"Wanna bet I don't?" he asked.

Before I could answer, Rummy was dancing off up the hall, scooping up his dice on the way to the elevator.


Sunday, March 23, 2003

 

Frivolous Accolades Special Fold-Out Section



Baghdad is on fire. Our troops are under sniper fire on the advancing desert front. Helicopters are crashing to the scorched sand.

And then they go and roll up the red carpet at the Oscars.

Five of tonight's Oscar nominees and I commandeered a booth in a darkly-lit corner of legendary Musso and Frank's restaurant, just a couple of Hollywood Boulevard blocks up from Oscar's Kodak Theater, and talked awards turkey privately. We didn't need the tacky red carpet spectacle, just a couple of bottles of Maker's Mark and a plate of fried calamari with a healthy garnish of those lemon wedges in their mesh lemon-wedge protectors. Nobody needed a wayward sour blast puckering a pristine, ivory eyeball when Oscar might come calling in mere hours.

As can be expected, some proverbial fur flew, blows were exchanged, and the sit-down resulted in conciliatory tears and hugs. Well, except for Nominee X, who wound up urinating all over our table and stalking out of the restaurant in unbridled pique. But these are stressful times in Tinseltown. Allowances are made.

In the interest of not sensationalizing this pre-ceremony event between some old friends in the wake of these most somber world affairs, the nominees' names have been excised from this report.

"Isn't it great how ________ is getting some recognition?" asked Nominee #1, a director. "I've always admired her work from afar." He was wearing one of those Groucho Marx disguises, trying to hide and yet flaunting his presence to those who might want to turn him in for the small matter of an outstanding warrant for his arrest, confident there were no rats in Musso's.

"I want to scratch that skanky bitch's fucking eyeballs out with an oyster fork. Just because she gets a cellphone commercial and somehow backs into a nomination, it's like she's queen of the world. She was unbearable on the set," said Nominee #2, an actress. "And she lies about her age. You like 'em really young. She's not for you." #2 scooped a handful of the calamari into her mouth.

"Leave some for the rest of us, would you?" asked Nominee #3, another actress. "I know you're trying to put on some pounds for the sequel to your diary movie, but save it for the post-show buffet."

"Sorry," said #2. "But you know I'll do whatever for a role. Go up three dress sizes, learn an accent, deal with McConaughey's gropes. Not all of us can just slap on a rubber nose and be worshipped, you know."

"Touché," said #3.

"I love it when the claws come out," said Nominee #4, an actor, jabbing a bony elbow into my ribs. "This shit's going straight into my spank file. I'd go take care of it right now, but I don't want my tux pants tenting out on me." He continued as I tried to listen to #3 dish about her ex-husband, an anecdote involving a certain pop-singer, some rope, and a bunch of bananas. But #4 revels in amusing himself. "I mean, I could really use a twin right about now, you dig? I could be bending ______ over the sink in the employee bathroom right now, and the twin could go and sit in that fucking horrid ceremony. Been there, done that, got the naked gold guy. You dig?"

"I dig," I said, leaning in a little closer to #2, who I think was vibing me during #4's onanistic tirade, probably thinking that we were talking about how hot she is. Yeah, she was eating now, but I think she'd just got off a role as the lead mop handle in the live-action "Bedknobs and Broomsticks." There's something about taking a shag with a size -2 that makes me feel like I'm playing Pick Up Sticks.

"Miramax leaked that DreamWorks was whisper-campaigning that the piano in "The Pianist" had keys made from the bones of victims of Dachau," said #1. "I should have threatened to leak that myself in exchange for final cut. The three-and-a-half hour version is even more majestic."

"That's funny because I felt a little off about even coming here tonight. But H____y W____stein told me that if I didn't show up and support our movie, he would use my bones for piano keys. It's interesting to see the genesis of creativity, isn't it?" asked #2.

We all nodded, except for Nominee #5, a writer. He just stared at an autographed picture of Errol Flynn, arms crossed, not listening to anyone. He'd told me earlier that all of this was bullshit. He just wanted to sit and listen to the bullshit so that he could write about being above the bullshit but at the same time being guilty of the bullshit for Vanity Fair. But he copped to being "extra psyched" about the $70,000 gift bag he was getting at the ceremony.

I felt a kick under the table. #2 was staring right through me as she popped a crunchy ring into her mouth, rolling it around with her tongue before biting it.

"I think it's time to go," she said. "You wanna help me get into my dress?"

"Sure," I said. She got up from the table and walked towards me.

#4 stood up and intercepted her as she crossed over.

"I'll zip you up," he whispered to #2, just loud enough for all of us to hear. "Then I'll fill you up."

She looked coyly over the tip of her nose at him, then took his hand. They disappeared through the kitchen door.

"I think that about says it all," said #3. "See you at the theater." She and #1 threw some bills on the table and filed out of the restaurant.

#5 rolled his eyes. "Tough luck. That guy picked off so much p from me on the set. It's such bullshit."

I nodded and figured out my part of the tab. #4 had, predictably, stiffed us.

"Such bullshit," I said.


Friday, March 21, 2003

 

Dept. of Civil Disobedience



San Francisco protesters sick over the war

When I heard that people in San Francisco were gathering to vomit to protest the war, this was my first thought:

Silly hippies.

My second thought was:

I gotta get in on this.

I decided to practice my vomiting in the cramped restroom on my Southwest flight from LA to the Bay Area. I downed several fistfuls of the tiny bottles of Absolut that the stewardess kept bringing me as fast as I could pour them down my throat. Then I slipped away to the rear of the aircraft and barricaded myself in the lavatory and thought about the war.

No vomit was forthcoming. Was I a warmonger? Last week I'd cursed out a protester who took a little too long crossing against a light on Hollywood Boulevard, but I had managed to refrain from smearing her under the tires of my SUV even though I couldn't catch the green.

So I waited ten minutes, availing myself of someone's abandoned three-week-old copy of People magazine with Ben and J-Lo on the cover. No dice even though the feature story on the impending celebrity power-nuptials contained multiple references to the pink diamond Ben gave to Jenny from the Block that is roughly the size of the entire South Bronx.

Other passengers grew impatient, no doubt straining under the pressure of pulsating bladders struggling to contain the lethal combination of free Cokes and single-serve bags of Chex Mix. But I was holding out for a little turbulence. Even the headache I developed from the pounding on the bathroom door by the cross-legged bargain-flying masses could not move me to sick.

I must really like war, I thought.

I conjured a breaking-news tableau where Dan Rather and Tom Brokaw detail the carnage wreaked by a bunker-buster mistakenly finding an orphanage. This made me sad, but my stomach was still cast-iron and unshakeable. Then I thought about the storied anchormen going at it like they're stuck in the corner booth with the town slut at last call after bragging to their buddies that they're going home with the next living thing that makes eye-contact.

A confusing collage of alcohol-fueled imagery, but no nausea. I was starting to feel mighty right-wing. I couldn't even puke on a cocktail of collateral damage and septuagenarian newsman homoerotica.

I slid open the lock on the restroom door and returned to my seat with the outdated People magazine. The rest of the flight was uneventful, but I did learn how Nicole Kidman spends her down time between movies. It involves knitting.

I knew that I would never join the stomach-voiding protest. I passed the time waiting for a standby flight back to LA in one of those airport watering holes with all of the characters from Cheers bronzed onto barstools for eternity, amiable sitcom golems willing to share a drink no matter where you're flying to. I put away beer after beer while watching that CNN night-vision war footage where the black sky is turned the same shade of green that the protesters had spilled on the San Francisco streets.

Somewhere around my tenth pint of Foster's, I joined the antiwar movement all over Cliff Claven's lap. Happy as always, the statue mailman raised his mug in a toast, though whether to war or to peace I can't say.


Thursday, March 20, 2003

 

Ten Miles Per Gallon is No Way to Go Through Life, But It's Great Way to Go Through L.A. Section



The night began like any other. Bad Company was feeling like makin' love on the radio, my gas tank was perilously empty, and we had just started bombing the holy living shit out of Iraq.

I pull into my favorite gas station just as The President began a little speech letting everyone know that someway, somehow, Saddam Hussein had neglected to accept his polite invitation to exile himself to avoid very large bombs raining on his head.

I look up at the prices above the gas pump. $2.25 a gallon for the 89-octane. The oil companies are really holding a a machete to the underside of our balls here in Los Angeles. I'm still deep on the wait-list for an electric-hybrid car (running at 375 miles per gallon), even though I let Ted Danson's clingy assistant tie me up and she's supposedly pulling some strings for me. In the meantime I'm forced to feed the 35-gallon tank of my extremely thirsty Expedition.

On the radio, Bush tells us that we're at war. I remember all the CNN smart-bomb footage from the first go-around in the Gulf, remember being impressed. I wonder if now, a decade later, we have bombs that sneak in through the mail-slot, creep around in the shadows, and tap a soldier on the shoulder before blowing his regiment into fleshy confetti while simultaneously building new schools in the slums of Baghdad.

I look back at the gas prices. The 89's up to six bucks a gallon. And we're only at code orange.

But as I reach into my wallet to deal a serious deficit to my debit card, I notice something. There's a gold card behind it, blank but for a magentic stripe on one side. And then it all floods back: the Cheetos, innumerable Red Bull and vodka cocktails with the President, an unequivocal victory at Indian leg-wrestling on the Oval Office's fine Persian rug. Bush had told me that he'd left his bankroll in his other suit, so instead he handed me this gold card. I'd asked what it was, but he pressed a finger across my lips. You'll know what it is in time, he'd told me.

I slide the card through the reader on the pump. Remove nozzle, lift lever. I fill the tank.

Total sale: $0.02.

An attendant approaches me. I hand him two pennies. He gives me a plastic bag full of Slim Jims and instant-win scratch-off cards.

I take another coin and scrape the silver box off a card with a cartoon of a slot machine on it and instantly win a hundred bucks.

The attendant returns with a c-note and I hand him the spent card. He winks at me. I notice for the first time that he is not of Middle Eastern abstraction. In fact, he's a little Waspy for this part of town. And what's with the ascot?

Back in the car, the President is wrapping up his address. May God continue to bless America, he says.

I paw through the bag of scratch-offs and Slim Jims, wondering what mystery the suddenly-discovered V.I.P. pass to Hooters holds for me. The radio rejoins Bad Company rocking on with their bad selves, the smell of gasoline on my hands as I start the car.


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

 

Manifest Destiny Dept.



There won't be a post today.

OK, that's not entirely true. There's another installment of the kind of glorified free-associative celebrity-humping that you've come to expect from me, but it's appearing on another website.

Starting today, this site will present a new weekly feature at the web's favorite destination for satire not named after a tear-producing vegetable, Bob From Accounting

.

Yes, I know, you don't even like what's on this site, so why would you want to click an extra link?

Money, that's why. Bags of Bolivian currency, delivered straight to your door by one of the most popular Brazilian supermodels in the world. The whole endeavor is all very beautiful and South American, trust me.

Just click and check it out, or Bob and I will pin you down and staple your tie to your nipple, and we don't want a repeat of what just happened with Mel Gibson, now do we?

What happened to Mel Gibson, you ask?

Shhh. Let's just say that Mad Max might be an areola short this morning.


[Drop a comment here and let me know what you think of this exciting time in American history.]


Tuesday, March 18, 2003

 

More Strikeout Fun Special



[The following was originally published on...well, it's obvious, isn't it?]

WFOoBH will be adopting an abbreviated publication schedule this week LAST NIGHT due to the Thanksgiving ST. PATRICK'S DAY holiday. The staff of WFOoBH apologizes for any inconvenience this might cause. The onerous demands of a near-daily publication schedule cannot be met without a full staff.

We all have friends and family that we would like to see over the holiday, with whom we'd like to have turkey BEER and all the seasonal accoutrements. Yes, there might be some alcohol involved. But who doesn't sit down and have a couple of beers while watching the big Thanksgiving ST. PATRICK'S DAY footBASKETball games (a fine tradition), after a couple of mimosas while watching the Macy's parade? And who doesn't have a cocktail while eating hors d'ouerves, waiting for the turkey BEER to cook? Then there are a few glasses of wine over dinner, to complement the flavor of the turkey BEER, stuffing, and cranberry sauce. There may even be a nip of bourbon in the coffee during the delicious dessert. And because Thanksgiving ST. PATRICK'S DAY is a time to get caught up with family and friends, a trip to a local tavern for a nightcap might be on the agenda. They're probably featuring a pumpkin ale from the local microbrewery, or maybe a Christmas blend with cinnamon overtones delightfully playing against its hoppy flavor. And nothing helps cleanse the palate like a small helping of one's favorite flavored liquer in those cute little glasses; given the approaching holidays (don't forget, Friday after turkey BEER Day is the busiest shopping day of the year!), peppermint schnaaps will have your tongue dancing in anticipation of candy cane treats soon to come. By now, the bartender's been well-tipped and is feeling a little generous. He gets the next round, serving up a line of "turkey BEER Tequila" shots for you and your family and friends. One of your friends from Massapequa is so excited, he may want to share a favorite from his hometown, the Long Island Ice Tea. By now, an ice tea sounds very refreshing and a chance to take a breather and loosen the belt tightened by one-too-many helping of yams. The tea goes down smoothly and quickly, and maybe another one is ordered -- Thanksgiving ST. PATRICK'S DAY digestion is a thirsty business. In the corner, the jukebox might be playing Springsteen's classic "Glory Days," and you and your friends engage in a merry singalong, clapping each other on the shoulder as you harmonize. One of your friends has always misheard one of the lyrics, mistaking the actual lyric "speedball" for "fastball" (yes, you realize baseball is out of season, but there are no good footBASKETball songs), and you gently correct him. He insists he's correct; he's never been good at admitting he's wrong. You are probably ready to let it go, but your glass is full again, and it's always nagged at you how he sings the wrong lyric, every single time. You offer to play the song again and have everyone listen, but the juke's already stuffed with holiday dollars, so you'll never get to hear it again. He'll just have to take your word for it. He more strenously insists that it has to be "fastball" -- what the hell's a "speedball," anyway? There's no pitch called a speedball. A speedball's for cocaine. Maybe the song's all about a coke binge now, huh? You counter with the "suicide machine" in "Born to Run" -- there's no real suicided machine on Highway Six, you don't have to be so literal. Springsteen's a poet, and "speedball" is much more evocative than "fastball." You tell him he's got no poetry in his soul; after all, he's an accountant, and there's not a lot of room for creativity on an Excel spreadsheet. He probably answers that since you don't actually have a job right now, that you have plenty of time to look up Springsteen lyrics and think about what words for pitches are most provocative. You retort that he doesn't know the difference between "evocative" and "provocative" (your glass is again full of refreshing iced tea) and that a guido from Long Island is probably too busy stirring his mama's pasta sauce to try to have an intelligent thought about music, and perhaps his St. Christopher's medal is a little bit too tight around his neck. Maybe he gives you a shove. Your pussy Hollywood ass has gotten a little soft, hasn't it? he asks. How's the screenplay coming? with a derisive laugh. Oh, it's coming along just fine, you fuck. You should work on one, then maybe you can move out of your parent's house and learn to do your own laundry. Hey, fuck you, I'm saving for a condo. Yeah? I hope it's got two bedrooms so your fat fucking ass will have a place to sleep. Did you just try to hit me? Nah, I was just brushing something off your face. Here, I think there's a little gravy on your lip, let me clean you up, you piece of shit. I'm surprised you missed a spot, you usually eat all the way down to the fucking tablecloth. Fuck you! I'm going to your house and fuck your mom on top of some leftovers in ten minutes. Yeah, my face is leaving in five -- tell your mom to be on it.

Maybe your friends calm you down, take you into the bathroom to splash some water on your face. You're looking for your tea. There's ice in it to help cool you down. Your friend from Long Island is in the next stall, crouched over the bowl and coughing loudly. You think to yourself, at least I can hold my booze. You get dropped off at home shortly afterwards, after a couple of apologies and a hearty hug from your temporary adversary. His breath smells vaguely of sick. You'll see him tomorrow night at Riley's O'REILLY'S. When you get home, there's leftover turkey BEER in the fridge. It makes for a nice snack before bed.


Monday, March 17, 2003

 

Green Beer, Midnight Bombings, and CNN Dept.



BY THE TIME anyone reads this, we may already have been treated to a press conference by our President announcing that the Day of Reckoning (inconveniently coinciding with St. Patrick's Day) for Iraq has come. In anticipation of the ultimatum and whatever the aftermath of this deadline, I flew to the White House to have a sit-down with the POTUS himself. We discussed the delicate situation wrought by Saddam's stubborn "thumb-in-the-eye" noncompliance in the face of an unprecedented [note to self: check this fact before you get too drunk] military buildup in the Middle East over a bowl of Cheetos and Red Bull and vodka cocktails.

"Mr. President, you realize that I am going to write that you joined me in several cocktails during our discussion, despite the fact that you've been sober for several years. I've got a date later this week with a hot fact-checker from Mother Jones and I want to make sure she's impressed by my depiction of you as a drunk, power-mad rageaholic."

"Do what you must. I've never been one to cock-block," said George. I was there for five minutes and already on a first-name basis with the most powerful man in the world this side of Kim Jong Il. He raised the cocktail to his lips and took a long swig, then chucked his glass against the wall. He's got a good arm. "Hope you score, Butch." In five minutes I'd also acquired one of his pet nicknames. Things were off to a magnificent start.

After I'd finished my drink, I produced my Risk game board, then asked him to show me how our first attack might unfold.

"George, I hope you realize that I'm going to write that you put all of your red Risk pieces in a circle surrounding Australia," I said. He nodded and carefully measured out the game pieces in a proportion of one token per ten thousand U.S. soldiers, placing them in a neat ring around the Australian continent. "I may also throw in something pithy about you being sick of that Russell Crowe or Crocodile Dundee."

"And I suppose you might say that I made whistling, 'bombs away' noises while dropping peanuts representing bombs all over Australia."

"I suppose I might. You want another pop?" I asked, pouring him another cocktail before he could respond. He took a long sip from his glass, then suddenly swept the game pieces off the board and onto the floor.

"So we're really going to do this, huh?" I asked.

He looked over at a Secret Service agent who'd been quietly standing by one of those hidden bookcase-doors. I could see the hinges between copies of what looked like the 1974 Encyclopedia Britannica, and wondered if The Button was behind that door, or if a Button really exists. I imagine that there's an apparatus inside a briefcase that involves the synchronized turning of keys to launch a tactical nuclear strike, but there's something romantic about unleashing havoc by smashing a drunken fist down on a big, red button. And something far more exciting about thinking that the man sitting across from me was one more White Lightning away from doing precisely that, showing those pussies from France, Germany, and Russia what American power is all about.

The agent began to pick up the game pieces from the carpet.

The President picked up the receiver of The Red Phone on his desk, mumbled and few words into it, then gently hung it up.

"Yeah, we're really going to do this."

"I'll probably say that you stopped to call Dick Cheney and ask him if we're going to invade, right after some digression about The Button and what pansies the Europeans are."

"Go for it. They are, you know."

"I'm sorry?"

"The Europeans are pussies. Even Blair. He's all worried about getting reelected now."

"I see." My glass was empty. There was nothing left in the large snack bowl but the orange residue of an army of Cheetos sent marching to their death down the President's gullet.

"I guess that covers it," I said, turning off my tape recorder.

The President, a man I'd called Georgie at least three times during our detente, snatched it away and threw it against the wall. It was quickly followed by the mostly-empty bottle of Grey Goose from which he'd been sipping.

"I hope you tap that ass from Mother Jones, Butch," he said, slapping me on the back as he showed me to the door.


Sunday, March 16, 2003

 

Make a Wish Dept.



WFOoBH: Answering the search engine wishes of Googlers since May 2002.

Today's wish granted: "pictures of red-assed baboons"

Enjoy.


Also:

haiku: a baboon
Red-ass'd and fancy free
but for the arrow.


Friday, March 14, 2003

 

Freedom Kisses Section



"Going to war without France is like going duck hunting without your accordion."
--attributed to US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld

"How true," I thought. "And how funny."

So I took the marble notebook in which my jokes are birthed and went down to the local brassiere to have a cup of coffee and formulate my own set of anti-French and/or German jokes. I'm nothing if not an interpreter/Channeler of the zeitgeist, and the prevailing mood is that right now we hate the Froggies and the Krauties, who say mean things behind our backs and sabotage our attempts at bombing the living shit out of a bad guy surrounded by thousands of human shields with similarly amusing mustaches.

As Marie, my lovely French waitress took my coffee order, I scribbled:
Going to war without France is like fucking a French waitress before she brings your baguette.

I thought she might have seen my scribblings after I chuckled to myself. So I crossed out "France" and "French" and replaced them with "Germany" and "Germans." Realizing "baguette" is a little nonsensical in its new context, I crossed it out and replaced it too.

Then I read the edited result aloud, in hushed tones, as if absentmindedly forgetting that Marie was hovering nearby:
Going to war without France Germany is like fucking a French German waitress before she brings your strudel.

She laughed, then grabbed my pen and made her own edit:
Going to war without France Germany is like fucking a French German waitress before she brings your strudel concentration camp.

I laughed and crinkled my nose. "I get where you're coming from, but how about this?"
Going to war without France Germany is like fucking a French German waitress before she brings your strudel concentration camp ten-seater oven.

Marie nearly spilled the coffee she'd brought me. "Your English is much better than mine." Her lilting French accent was sexy and endearing.

"I would hope so. I've been practicing since I was thirteen" She laughed because it was obvious I'd grown up in America and had been speaking American since about two years old, just like any other child without severe developmental disorders.

She again took my pen and made an edit:
Going to war without France Germany is like fucking a French German waitress before she brings your strudel concentration camp ten-seater oven The Germans, under Hitler, tried to extreminate the Jews, killing six millions before falling to the Allied Forces in World War II.

I nodded and laughed at her spelling mistakes. Again, I took the pen. My edit:
Going to war without France Germany is like fucking a French German waitress before she brings your strudel concentration camp ten-seater oven The Germans, under Hitler, tried to extreminate the Jews, killing six millions before falling to the Allied Forces in World War II. Making love to a French waitress is like seeing the world with the eyes of a newborn baby, after she brings you a baguette.

Marie read this sentence solemnly and left the table. I turned back to my notebook.

Then she returned with a baguette and a come-hither stare that was particular to neither the American nor the French culture. It was a look owned only by those about to be joined in a passionate coupling.

We left the baguette and the notebook and secreted off to the employee washroom, narrowly avoiding being discovered by several pastry chefs in tall white hats. I nearly tripped over the bidet as I fumbled with the buttons on her blouse.

The French's refusal to get on board with our war plans was the furthest thing from my mind.

I wondered if my trip to the Bavarian beer hall up the street would end with a similar sense of international cooperation.

Go America.


Thursday, March 13, 2003

 

'Iraq N' Roll' and Other Belabored Puns Dept.



US could abandon second Iraq resolution

So I'm at this bar last night. It's one of those places that doesn't have a name. Or if it had a name, I didn't know it. All I know is that one of the lady bartenders had a black eye and the other one had a busted lip. But that's neither here nor there.

Someone handed me a flier for a antiwar benefit concert or rave or party. How a bunch of kids on E bouncing up and down and drinking a lot of water helps stop the war is not immediately obvious to me. That's neither here nor there as well.

The flier depicted a bomber dropping some vinyl on Iraq. A payload of records.

This could work. Why not drop some tasty tunes on Saddam? Couldn't this thing be over in a matter of minutes if we did that? They're a little technologically backwards over there. They probably have record players, and not because they're sort of retro cool. They just haven't gotten as far as the eight-track tape yet. At least that's what I'm assuming.

But we can drop a little American-style rock 'n roll on them, our Music of Mass Destruction. The only artform both born and perfected in our country. OK, there's jazz, but I can't all psyched up about throwing some Charlie Parker on the Middle East. This is about rock.

No disco either. Just rock. "It's Raining Men" or "I Will Survive" is not going to wreak the amount of havoc that "Born in the USA" or something more current, say like The White Stripes, would. Sort of like those 7-11 owners who play Beethoven or Wayne Newton to drive away skate punks or hip-hoppers, but kinda sorta in the general vein of the reverse.

Let's load up the B-52's (please--the plane, not the lame-ass band. We're not throwing an 80's thing there) and the stealth-bombers and the whatnot and get the party started and give those 300,000 troops something to do.

Oh yeah: No country music either. Unless it's Johnny Cash. Maybe we could drop The Man in Black himself.

That would rock.


Wednesday, March 12, 2003

 

Early Adopter Section



I finally broke down and did it.

I adopted an Asian orphan.

Well, three, actually.

I know that I've been threatening to do this for some time. Those ubiquitous stories about infant Asian girls being left exposed on the sides of Asian mountains as a crude form of "population control" tied to that culture's value of male heirs horrified me, just as I am sure they disgusted you. With the constant does-North-Korea-have-long-range-nuclear-missiles talk has made this issue far more pressing, and now was the time for me to act. I can't stomach the thought of tiny little babies crying on the sides of mountains being instantly vaporized after an unprovoked nuclear strike. And out here in Hollywood, celebrities have already blazed the trail for the adoption of Asian babies -- Angelina Jolie and Calista Flockhart have taken the plunge, and its widely rumored that Julia Roberts is ready to start a family non-biologically. I can hardly find a bar that doesn't have a corner booth with some actress bouncing an adorable Vietnamese bundle of joy on her knee as she sips an apple martini, flanked by a coterie of young, childless, utterly hot high-fashion models.

I had to get in on this.

So yesterday Hwan-Yi, May-Jin, and Que-Lan joined my family. Infant supply from the Far East so far outstrips Hollywood demand (though this won't be the case for long--don't you remember the pashmina shortage of two Christmases ago?) that the adoption process has been quite effectively streamlined. My pager blew up on my hip, I called the number, and an hour later I was ushered into the back room of a Venice Beach tattoo parlor sifting through bassinettes brimming with the cuddliest babies imaginable. After a cursory finger and toe check, my girls and I were on our way; the adoption agency even threw in a three-seat stroller, a fully stocked baby bag, and a complimentary tattoo. I wheeled the girls to the front of the parlor to have their names etched into my bicep in Chinese characters. I found the ink to be a fitting metaphor for parenthood, a symbol of the commitment and deeper-than-flesh bond between parent and child. I misted up as Stain's mechanical needle stabbed, scores of times a second, a permanent reminder of the great sacrifice I had undertaken.

The girls and I decided to celebrate our instant family at the poolside bar at The Standard Hotel in West Hollywood. The girls squealed with delight as I cannonballed into the pool, splashing their stroller with a wave of refreshing, perfectly chlorinated water. Surely, they'd never seen a swimming pool before. They were learning about their new land, where they enjoy unlimited possibility. The gleam of delight in May-Jin's eyes as I did my "pool shark" routine is an image I will take to my grave. Que-Lan took an instant liking to the miniature umbrella from my Mai-Tai--there was something delightfully Oriental in the tableau of my new daughter and her tiny parasol, bathed in the twilight of a perfect setting sun. And when I emptied my drink glass, Hwan-Yi licked the melting ice cubes to ease the ache in her teething gums.

It didn't take long before we were surrounded by an adoring circle of young lovelies staying at the hotel. They could hardly believe me when I told then that I'd just adopted all three babies. Amy, the most comely of my family's new fans, repeatedly expressed her admiration for my taking in all three girls, keeping the "triplets" together rather than allowing them to be scattered in America. I did little to disabuse her of the notion that the babies split from the same egg. For all I knew, they weren't even from the same troubled country. Things were chaotic in those back-room bassinettes at Venice, and I hardly had time to conduct a survey of their parentage. I was more concerned with rescuing them from the cruel traditions of Laos, or Thailand, or Upper Manchuria.

Amy nearly fainted when I cradled all three babies in my arms, a move I'd perfected moments earlier. I looked like a poster on a freshman girl's dormitory wall, a fever dream cooked up in Anne Geddes' photography studio. I'd always suspected that instant fatherhood would suit me.

It may have been all the Mai-Tai ice cubes I'd let the babies play with, but they calmly endured being passed around a circle of aspiring actresses, au-pairs, and hotel service staff. They insisted on feeding and burping the girls as I laid back in my deck chair, recounting to Amy the horrors the children would surely have faced had they not been smuggled out of their backwards homelands to the golden coast of Southern California and the total safety of a foster home within the upper echelon of the entertainment industry.

After what seemed like hours, the babies finally started to get a little cranky. I couldn't blame them; we'd all had a long, important day. I checked them into The Standard's excellent child-care facility and retired to my suite with Amy and one of the au-pairs who’d been impressed with my parenting style, which she’d glowingly described as "European, naturalistic, and hands-off.” I returned the compliment by ordering a third bottle of Moet to my room.

I drifted off to sleep in a tangle of soft, female limbs and satin sheets, thinking about the utter joy of parenthood that had been awakened in me.

The next morning, Amy, the au-pair and I drove to Malibu for some brunch. Two miles into the Pacific Coast Highway, with its sweeping ocean vistas, my cell phone rang. It was The Standard's child-care service. They wanted to know when I would like to pick up the girls.

I told them to have them sent up to Susan Sarandon's room. She'd stopped by the pool and had gone ga-ga over the babies' beautiful, alabaster eyes.

She'd make a wonderful mother, I'd always thought.


Tuesday, March 11, 2003

 

Contract Law Dept.



It seems perfectly apparent to me that Clay Aiken, "American Idol" contestant and "Mayberry RFD " extra reincarnate, has entered some sort of pact with the Devil himself, wherein the honkiest man in the land offers his eternal soul to the Dark Lord in return for the singing voice of Marvin Gaye.

Have we so soon forgotten Rick Astley, Clay's British forebear and signatory of a similar soul-for-soul-pipes agreement?

Rick Astley: Where is he now?

In hell, I suppose, reaping the infernal harvest of his "Top of the Pops" /American Bandstand appearances, being poked with a toasty pitchfork by Beezlebub while forced to croon his single "Never Gonna Give You Up" to the freshly damned. Like Fred Rogers.

You never would have expected that Mr. Rogers was in hell, would you? Had he not openly worshipped the graven image of that silly little trolley to the Land of Make Believe, he wouldn't be roasting over an open hellflame like so much suckling pig, awaiting Clay Aiken's special rendition of "I Will Always Love You," Official Theme Song of Poetically Ironcial Tortures.



 

Just Desserts Special



Too hot for Zagat

If you've ever found yourself tempted to pen some colorful invective on one of those restaurant comment cards, follow the link above.


 

New Poll Time



US may revise draft resolution on Iraq

God, I love it when I get all topical and junk.

Look to the left-hand column.

Vote and let your opinion flap in the breeze like certain unmentionable parts of an octagenarian sprinter running against a stiff wind.

Vote and let your voice be heard, because you're sick of having to always repeat yourself five times at the drive-through window just to make sure you get the rings and not the fries. Because you really want the rings.

Vote and put your money where your mouth is, before quickly realizing that the dollar bill now on your tongue was probably stuck in some Ft. Lauderdale-area Chippendale's banana hammock by a housewife who can't remember the last time she had an orgasm that wasn't while watching Dr. Phil. Rinse throughly with a minty mouthwash.

[Last poll result: Mike Tyson will devour his own children on Pay-Per-View. They had a good run while he waited for them to ripen, I suppose.]


Monday, March 10, 2003

 

Commerce Dept.



Female Escorts Advertising in the Back of an Alternative Newsweekly, Listed by Sales Tactics



Alliterative:
-Abbey: adorable & affordable

Boastful:
-Sabrina: The ulitmate experience.
-Melissa: I have mastered the male erotic zones.

Desperation:
-Linda: I'm a sure thing!
-Devon: I don't say no!


Explanatory:
-Caitylyn: exchange satisfying time for $$

Explicity Blond(e):
-Marilyn: They say blonds r [sic] more fun.
-Kaitlyn: Naughty blonde

Factual:
-Sakura: I work Alone.
-Sasha: Actual Photo

Inquisitive:
-Lolita: My Place or Yours?
-Heaven: Need I say more [question mark ommitted]

Misspelled pun:
Porscha: Playful Porscha call for a ride!

Similarly driven:
-Kimberly: I know what I have to do to get new friends.
-Kelly: New in town. "I know what to do to get new friends."

Value:
-Leah: No rip-offs
-Michelle: All night discounts available
-Deanna: Get more for your $$$


 

Productivity Section


Doing things is hard.

Sometimes I think that it's a miracle that I ever accomplish anything, especially once I adjust the degree of difficulty of doing things to include procrastination.

I remember reading somewhere that a way to make completing tasks easier is to break down larger tasks into smaller ones. That way you're constantly reaching incremental goals en route to your final one.

This doesn't work. Even the simplest of jobs becomes an infinite regression of baby tasks; the effect is not dissimilar to pouring water on cute little Gizmo and winding up with a phalanx of slimy, hissing Gremlins that want to eat your socks and swing from the ceiling fan while blasting Alice Cooper on the stereo.

To whit:
"Make some coffee" becomes:

1. Turn off alarm.
2. Pull aside covers.
3. Get out of bed.
4. Walk over to kitchenette.
5. Open freezer.
6. Retrieve coffee.
7. Open drawer.
8. Take out filter.
9. Put filter in coffee maker.
10. Scoop out coffee.
11. Put coffee into filter.
12. Dump out yesterday's coffee.
13. Wash out coffee pot.
14. Measure water for coffee.
15. Pour water into coffee maker.
16. Put coffee pot onto burner.
17. Turn on coffee maker.
18. Wait for coffee to brew.
19. Wash coffee cup.
20. Pour coffee into cup.
21. Wash spoon.
22. Add sugar to coffee.
23. Add creamer.
24. Stir coffee.
25. Drink coffee.

Contrast with:
"Watch TV" becomes:
1. Sit on couch.
2. Turn on TV.
3. Watch TV.

What if I were feeling a little randy after waking up instead of in need of a caffeine fix?

"Have morning sex" becomes:
1. Wake up.
2. Realize dream of showering with Jennifer Love Hewitt was not real, at least not last night.
3. Get out of bed.
4. Rummage around under bed for contraband Xerox copy of Charlie Sheen's little black book, won in lieu of Sheen's pinky in Hitchcock-style game of finger-chicken with a meat cleaver.
5. Begin in "D" section; it just feels like a day for a Deana or a Diana more than a Kitty or a Maxine.
6. Make awkward phone call trying to explain how I got the number, where mentions of "bets," "finger-chicken," and "meat cleavers" do not help cause.
7. Give up after seven calls despite some intriguing offers involving where to put my cleaver or alternate definitions of "finger-chicken."
8. Call Sheen and demand his pinky since black book is not working out like I'd hoped.
9. Have pleasant chat with Denise Richards as she calmly explains that I can't take Sheen's pinky.
10. Resist urge to tell Denise that she only rated four of a possible five stars in Sheen's black book despite being married to him, and that most five-star entries refer to Heidi Fleiss girls that "used [his] ass as a trumpet" or were versed in the obscure "Hungarian Birdbath."
11. Log on to internet to check bank balance against possibility of obtaining five-star morning company.
12. Resign self to inability of affording to find out what a "Hungarian Birdbath" is, or even unraveling the mystery of the more pedestrian, three-star "Reverse Mudflaps."
13. Call Sheen back and ask for loan against results of next "finger-chicken" game, in which I have posted record of 32-0 against Estevez clan.
14. Desperation trip to "Sure Thing" section of black book.
15. Listen to busy signal on Drew Barrymore's line.
16. Dial unnamed two-star number from black book, labeled only "In Case of Emergency."
17. Listen to surprisingly seductive message on Andy Dick's machine.
18. Screen call from caller ID reading "Dick, A" and listen to sing-songy entreaty to pick up the phone.
19. Cower in corner while sucking thumb.
20. Sigh.
21. Put on Al Green CD.
22. Notice week-old TJ Maxx circular has lingerie section.
23. [censored]
24. Cry.
25. Make some coffee.


Friday, March 07, 2003

 

Lost Post Fold-Out Section



Now that the shine has worn off the new job apple, I come here to mourn the death of unemployment. My only regret is that it had to die before I could truly appreciate it.

Unemployment is the condition of infinte possibility. When you're unemployed, you are paradoxically "on call" for any opportunity that the universe might throw your way. On any given day, as you sit in your apartment in your underwear, having risen late enough in the day to be officially reclassified as a nocturnal organism, head pounding from last night's debauchery, you are a lightning rod for what Could Be. There could be a knock at the door. On the other side of that door could be three tweaked Swedes looking for directions to the Disease-Free Unreconstructed Sex Addicts Convention. Yes, they are female. No, they are not stewardesses. They are massage therapists. Also, they scrub bathrooms because they are touched with low-grade obsessive-compulsive disorder, where sex makes them feel gloriously dirty and they need to make something clean again.

When the Swedes leave, and you are collapsed in a heap like a oily rags in the corner of a garage and the commode is sparkling like the eyes of a young Shirley Temple, there could be a ring from the telephone. The voice on the line is authorized to pay you one million dollars per week if you are sitting in your underwear. After collecting your bank account information for an immediate wire transfer of your first million dollar disbursement (it is tax-free), the voice on the line could ask, "Is someone knocking on your door?"

There very well could be a knock at the door. The Swedes again. They claim to not be able to read the directions you scrawled on a Post-It Note. It's clear they never read the directions, because you sent them on a route that would return them to your door after you had sufficient time to recover from your first encounter. They've brought two more of their girlfriends. There's a distinct chance you may experience diminishing utility of Swede, but you can't be concerned with this.

There is another encounter.

Afterwards, it's the bathtub that's white like a newborn's teeth. Newborns do not generally have teeth, but you are too spent to think up a better simile.

There could be another knock on the door, the phone could be ringing. But you don't answer. Your chest rises and falls to the rhythm of possibility, the sound of scrub brushes on ceramic tile having lulled you to sleep on this, your last night before your new job kills the opportunities of unemployment.


[Originally, and quite briefly, posted a week ago by techincal error.]

[Another and more egregious error brings it back. With a not-so-nifty graphic!]


Thursday, March 06, 2003

 

Married by the Mob Dept.




I remember the time I was married by America, in front of and chosen by a national television audience. It did not turn out well.

To be fair, it wasn't my first trip down the aisle that was voted on by the general public. I'd been a ten-time loser at the matrimonial mercy of various radio call-in shows, magazine contests tied in with product promotions (let's hear it for Massengil's "You Can Marry a Douche Bag" sweepstakes), and an internet poll back in the days where everyone claiming to be an attractive female was, in fact, a less-than-female software engineer. Luckily, Mexico doesn't check under the hood when you sign your marriage license and I was able to collect my prize money, and later, my dignity when our neighbors to the south were equally inattentive with the annulment papers.

If there was some mechanism for taking the soulmate decision-making process out of my hands and a small monetary reward for my faith in their system, they had me at "I do."

But doing it on television was a big mistake.

Sure, the prize money was good. It wasn't Fox-getting-Superbowl-ratings-with-dumb-guys-and-greedy-sluts good, but I had rent to pay and a bookie salivating at the prospect of feeding my kneecaps to his favorite crowbar. So I found myself pursued by a camera crew from a a cable station easily ranking among the top 300 on the digital channel lineup. All I had to do to collect my appearance fee was attend (on-camera, of course)several support-group meetings for women mourning the recent loss of spouses as the star of "Second Husband: The De-Widowizer."

My mission was to try and ease the pain of freshly-minted widows by offering to take the place of their lost husbands. According to the rules, it was acceptable for me to approach a woman that was sobbing. But once our encounter began, she was disqualified if the crying commenced anew. The first twenty "contestants" spanning eight different support groups washed out in the first five minutes of conversation. Once the producer stepped out from behind the camera brandishing a neatly-pressed hanky and a release form at the first sign of tear-duct leakage, I was whisked off the next challenger. If any chat lasted a sob-free fifteen minutes, I was compelled to immediately and abruptly swing the talk to a marriage proposal, prompted by a pointed clearing of the throat by the clock-watching producer. These attempts inevitably led to a negative reaction; there were slaps, screams, explosive grief displays involving mucus and clumps of shed hair, and the worst--a single tear rolling down a cheek like the first snowball of an avalanche, landing squarely on the wallet-size picture clenched in the hand of the the neophyte widow, showing her and the recently-deceased frolicking with the polio-stricken newborn that daddy had just left behind.

That clip made the highlight show, Surprisingly, it did not take long to resuscitate her after she collapsed.

Perhaps I shouldn't have mentioned how happy they'd looked in the picture.

After that, I was nearly ready to give back my fee and move on. But the quick-thinking producer used the troubleshooting skills that had catapulted him to the top of the reality-television pile. He offered me double the money to pretend to go along with my televised quest for eternal love of the second-time-around variety. And we'd stage the whole thing with one of his production assistants. He didn't exactly have an understudy to take my place and he needed the nuptial money-shot. It was clear none of the previous contestants were ready to bury their grief by walking down the aisle with the man the promotional materials described as "America's Most Eligible Multi-Divorcee."
As smoothly, wonderfully, and empathetically I'd handled my fragile crop, marriage was just not on the horizon. My pockets were stuffed with phone numbers, but it wasn't my last name that they were seeking.

The producer worked tirelessly behind the scenes to salvage the show by rigging the telephone vote, the live internet polling, and the audience reaction to ensure that America chose to have me assuage the existential grief brought on by the expiring of Tracy the Production Assistant's high-school sweetheart, Troy. Clever editing by the producer made the choice a clear-cut one for the living rooms of America as Tracy carried the day by a margin of 45%. The genuine widows came across as melodramatic shrews who'd chased their harried loved ones into the sweet release of prostate cancer, brain aneurysms, and skydiving accidents. Meanwhile, Tracy's impressive emoting made our United States (and later in international syndication some 75 countries) believe in the possibility of the rebound marriage as spiritual redemption and a second chance at happiness.

The live series finale drew 52 million viewers to witness "America's Greatest Wedding Celebration!" (exclamation point theirs). Tracy and I strolled down the aisle of the world-famous Notre Dame cathedral, as the correct Catholic palms were greased to ignore my previous marital failings (and to look the other way when she and I were discovered in a confessional fumbling with the needlessly-complicated tailoring of her connubial undergarments). The ceremony was beautiful. Charlotte Church sang the opening hymn as Billy Joel accompanied on the massive pipe organ. P. Diddy waited patiently at the back of the church with a pail of rice, and Pope John Paul II was holding on a cell-phone to give the closing blessing.

I knew the whole thing was a sham. But still I allowed myself to believe in the healing power of television with high production values. My heart lurched inside my Armani tuxedo as the priest droned through the sacred rite. I could see that Tracy's eyes were quivering with emotion through her veil. Even the impressively stoic Vera Wang, who was attentively holding the train of the exquisite dress she'd hand-sown for the occasion, began to mist up. Roy, the steadicam operator, got a beautiful shot of Charlize Theron hiding her runny nose behind a Kate Spade bag.

Then came the fateful phrase the sowed the seeds of my undoing, the undoing of America's greatest marital triumph: "Let whoever objects to this union speak now or forever hold his peace."

I was thrown; I'd seen the script, and the priest was clearly caught up in the moment and was going off-book.

The celebrity-strewn pews hummed momentarily like an old t.v. set warming up before springing to life. Elton John and Eminem exchanged glances, then shrugs. We had their blessing.

And then, the voice from the back of the church, strangled and distant at first, but then stronger and more insistent as its owner came storming down the aisle.

"You can't marry him! He's still married!" A thousand heads on swivels panned to the protest. At first I didn't recognize him, but it didn't take long for his face to click in my memory. It was Wilton, the PASCAL programmer I'd married (and supposedly annulled) in Mexico in the early Internet contest conducted on a crude text Compuserve electronic bulletin board, a sick joke perpetrated on me at the dawn of e-mail by a cadre of hackers who didn't like my screen name. I knew what was coming next.

"He's married to me!" A hush. Gasps. Billy Joel's stunned elbows slipped onto the keys of the pipe organ, issuing forth a dissonant chord. Wilton held in his hand the Tijuana marriage license he'd promised he was keeping only as a souvenir. The bouquet in Tracy's hand fell limp as we were circled by the camera crew. She ran. I could hear shouting in the producer's headset as he swooped in to do damage control. He covered his mic with a cupped hand and whispered in my ear, "There's going to be a marriage today, motherfucker. Can you say 40 share?"

I clutched my head and lamented how I'd let Wilton keep that damned document at the low price of two shots of Patron. Then it dawned on me.

I was set up.

The big ratings are reserved for that once-a-year football game or an event with a suspenseful twist. A big twist.

I looked back at the Jumbotron behind the altar. It flashed a question: "Should this couple renew their wedding vows?" Real-time results spun like fruit on a slot machine as the television audience phoned or beamed in their votes over the internet.

It was a landslide. Wilton and I were going to make what was old new again in the eyes of God and the viewing public. In the third pew back, Tom Green and Marilyn Manson high-fived. The producer pumped his fist and disappeared from the altar.

The priest continued. This time, there were no objections before the "I do" exchange. Those two little words stung freshly. They hadn't had meaning the first ten times I'd said them to cash a prize-money paycheck. But in front of millions upon millions of viewer eyeballs, this time they had weight, rolling around in my mouth like a pair of jawbreakers.

We processed out of the cathedral onto a red carpet throng that was parted by the camera crew, documenting our march into married life. The last thing I saw before the limo door slammed shut was the shit-eating grin of Matthew McConaughey hovering above an enthusiastic thumbs up,

I didn't speak to Wilton as the car pulled away from Notre Dame.

I knocked on the divider. It slid down and the driver's face came into view. I tossed a roll of hundreds into the front seat.

"Don't stop driving until you get to Amsterdam. You can buy anything there." I said pointedly in Wilton's direction. "Like a quickie divorce."

Wilton sighed and crossed his arms. I pulled down the LCD screen for the DVD player and cued up a copy of "The Wedding Singer," laughing softly to myself.

I knew that in the next week I would intentionally throw making the finals of "Marry an Incapacitated Heiress."

Right after the first check cleared.


Wednesday, March 05, 2003

 

Coming to a Beer Commercial Near You Section



It wasn't until the third pair of exposed breasts that I realized today is Mardi Gras. Initially, I was a bit baffled. Although I'll admit that it wasn't the first time that the woman behind the cash register at the gas station Sip N' Go flashed me some nipple, I just paid for my Peach Snapple and ten bucks of 89 octane and drove away scratching my head.

The girl on the elevator at work asked me what floor, I told her three, she pressed the button. Then she hooted like a Bears fan after a touchdown and yanked her shirt over her head. Before I had time to sort this out, the doors opened and she hopped out. My lucky day, I thought.

The comely Sandwich Artist at the Subway up the block wanted to know if I wanted the six inch or the footlong. I told her the smaller, and before I could tell her I wanted it on wheat her green polo shirt became a turban. Again, with hooting. The classic BMT was delicious, but I kept one eye on her as she slathered the bread of other men with various condiments waiting for another bare-chested eruption that never came. On my way out, she shouted after me, "You forgettin' something?"

"I don't think so."

She reached up to her neck and fingered a string of shiny purple beads.

Ah. Mardi Gras.

I made a detour to the Party Emporium before heading back to the office. Fifty bucks bought me a Hefty bag full of Los Angeles' finest currency this side of a producer's couch, legal tender with a 24 hour half-life.

I wouldn't make it back to the office. I strolled down the street, twirling a fresh string of beads on an outstretched finger. Shirts flew off torsos as if caught on the wrong end of a deep-sea fisherman's line. Shirts rained from the sky, a torrent of baby-doll tees and peasant blouses fluttering to the pavement . Hollywood Boulevard was crackling with unleashed womanhood as I tossed handfuls of beads skyward as quickly as I could scoop them from the bag. Cars screeched to a halt. Motorists hiked up shirts and joined the parade, our hooting and woo-hoo's and fuck-yeah's drowning out the angry horns of those who couldn't, wouldn't join the Fat Tuesday party.

I launched the last handful of beads into the air. Greedy hands from all directions snatched them in mid-flight. I turned my bag inside out, as a beggar might his pockets to show the world insolvency. Shirts swept across chests like curtains after the actors' bows, like blinds drawn once the sun peaks over the house next door. People got back in their cars, necks heavy with costume jewelry.

Beers are poured into the street and course through the gutter.

On the elevator, back at work, I eyed the woman as she pressed the button for my floor. She smiled, white blouse tucked into black skirt. My hand ran over a smooth string of beads in my pocket as I exited on three.


Tuesday, March 04, 2003

 

Crazy Person Breaking Newz Flazh



Vanity Fair: Jacko paid 150K for voodoo curse on Spielberg

Someone up there really, really likes me.

Or maybe they hate me, because I would have vastly preferred to have made this up.

But it seems that the Jacko Insanity Tour has sold out a few more arenas, bringing us a fresh installment in the sublime sideshow that is his enormously warped and fascinating existence.

It would seem that this action firmly establishes the market value of an A-list Hollywood director, as 42 cows were slaughtered in the voodoo ritual intended to put an end to the movie mogul's life -- in addition to the reported $150,000 Jackson paid for the filmmaker snuff.

WFOoBH has obtained the price list from Baba, Jackson's voodoo practitioner in Mali:

--Hobbling Russel Crowe: 15 lobsters and $45,000
--Muting Robin Williams: 4 dozen pheasants and 3,000 shares of Microsoft common stock
--Sterilizing Mick Jagger: 6 cockatoos and front row seats to an Elton John/Billy Joel show
--Fattening Calista Flockhart: 10 scratch-off tickets and a box of Choco-diles
--Giving Cancer to Tommy Mottola: Signed copy of "Thriller" and Janet's phone number
--Getting Dell Dude Busted: Free with a purchase of equal or lesser value
--Making Mr. Rogers Cry: A striped tiger and a million lira (tragic exchange rate mishap)


 

For the Common Good Section




Sarah Silverman is co-hosting "Jimmy Kimmel Live" this week. If you know what's good for you, you'll tune in to see the funniest person in America sit next to Kimmel and make television seem shiny and new again.

[Maybe one day Sarah will stumble upon this sight while Googling herself, then recoil in horror as she realizes "Sarah...Googling herself" is the absolute hottest kind of innuendo an internet asshole can throw out there well past midnight. The gossamer subtlety of it all is almost overwhelming, isn't it? Like a fork in the jewels.]

[And classy, too. I'm starting to feel a little like one of those Star Trek guys who start online shrines to Jeri Ryan. But not so much like one of those guys that I can't ever get laid again.]

[I hope.]


 

From Your Motorola to God's Ears Dept.



Church says: Thou shalt not take confessions via SMS

--blss me fathr 4 ive sind
--how lng has it bin since ur last cnfssin?
--like 7 mos
--tell me ur sinz
--ok i didnt go 2 mass 4 3 weeks
--ok
--took gods name n vain
--ok. n e thing else?
--ummm
--its ok god forgives all
--ok i touched myself
--ok
--is that bad
--god forgives
--i do it a lot
--its ok god forgives.. go on
--i do it like 3 timz a week

At this point you are all expecting that this is going in a particular direction. I am not personally comfortable taking this in that particular direction. Hasn't there been enough piling on the Catholic Church for the acts of a few and then the subsequent cover-ups and lookings-the-other-way and reassignments-of-offenders-to-places-with-a-fresh-crop? I can see all of you now, sharpening your long knives at the prospect that this would be the next line in this SMS exchange:

--what are you wearing?

And then there would be more in that particular suggestive vein. You think it's going to turn out like this:

--its ok to have secrets
--it is?
--well you cant tell anyone but god

Have any of you even seen a confessional? If you had you wouldn't be expecting that anything lascivious possibly could be happening when two people sit in adjacent dimly-lit boxes with a sliding screen obscuring their faces. This is about cell phones, so even if you could conjure something inappropriate from the "dark adjacent boxes" image, you fail to realize that the above SMS conversation would be taking place across an all-PCS digital network, with the principals perhaps thousands of miles apart, and that it takes only one hand to send a message. The free hand would no doubt be on a bible where confessor and priest would be reading a penitential rite.

And none of this takes into account that the Church says that you can't take confession this way in the first place, so let's abandon this whole ugly scenario. Didn't you read the story that's linked?

Now -- all of you -- write "I'M SORRY, JESUS" (we don't care what faith you follow) and fax it to the Vatican. You'll get a confirmation via e-mail shortly, assuring your forgiveness so that you can get back to the business of sinning as soon as possible.


Monday, March 03, 2003

 

Somewhere in the Fifth Circle Section



When I go to hell, it's going to be like this:

"Hey, B, you gellin'?"
"What?"
"Are you gellin'?"
"I don't know what that is, I'm sorry."
"I'm gellin' like a felon."
"OK"
"I'm so gellin' I'm like Magellan."
"Fine. I'm gellin'."
"You're gellin'? You want some melon?"
"No, I'll pass.'
"But, yo, you're still gellin'?"
"I suppose that I'm still gellin' despite not wanting some melon, yes."
"Nice. I'm tellin' that you're gellin'."
"Do what you have to do."
"Yo, B's, gellin'!"
[A CHEER FROM THE CROWD.]
"Thanks, everybody."
"You're so gellin' you're spellin'. Check it: G-E-L-L-I-N'."
"You should probably spell out the apostrophe."
"I'm gellin', no need to whip me with a flagellum."
"That doesn't rhyme."
"Yo, I'm gellin' and then I'm gonna write this on some vellum."
"That rhymes with flagellum, but not 'gellin' '."
"I'm gellin', but I'm not buyin' what you're sellin'."
"I have to break some bad news to you. I'm actually not gellin'."
"You're not gellin'?"
"Indeed, I am not."
"But you said you were gellin.'"
"I was just playing along,"
"Hey, everybody, B's not gellin' "
[A DISAPPOINTED "OOOOOOH."]
"Sorry."
"Now you want some melon since you're not gellin'?"
"I still don't want any melon, irrespective of the disposition of my gellin'."
"Yo, you're gellin'?"
"No, I'm --"
"Hey, everybody, B's gellin' like a mothafuckin' felon!"
[A CHEER FROM THE CROWD.]
"I AM NOT FUCKING GELLING."
[A DISAPPOINTED "OOOOOOH."]
"No need for yellin', you're upsettin' Helen."
"Tell Helen I'm sorry, but I'm not gellin'."
"Hey, Helen, B says he's not gellin'."
HELEN: "You're not gellin'?"
"No. Not gellin' like a felon or in a more law-abiding fashion. I am not gellin' at all. Not even a little."
HELEN: "You're a creep. He told me you were gellin'. And how come you don't call me anymore?"
"I've been really busy."
HELEN: "Right. I thought we had something special."
"Well, I don't think that things were quite working out."
HELEN: "I didn't tell you this, but I went to the doctor last week and I have genital warts."
"What?"
HELEN: "Maybe if you had called me, I might have told you that I slept with somebody that night we had the big fight and he gave them to me I guess. So you might want to see someone about that."
"You slept with someone? You little --"
[HELEN THROWS MELON IN MY FACE, THEN STOMPS OFF.]
"Yo, that shit was harsh. Hey, B, you gellin'?"
"Maybe I should start."
"Sorry, there's no more gellin'. We're fresh out. Try back tomorrow."


Sunday, March 02, 2003



About this site

This is the internet home of Mark Lisanti, a Los Angeles writer sometimes known as Bunsen. He is the founding editor of Defamer, a weblog about Hollywood, where he now serves in the nebulous capacity of "editor-at-large."
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