Monday, April 05, 2010

Soak It In, B&E Readers

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Just Another Reason to Hate the Phone

That's right, B&E readers. This is another complaint about cell phones.

Recently the smart phones have been advertising the ability to talk on the phone while simultaneously allowing the caller to surf the net or perform other smart phone functions.

Boy, that's just great. I love it when the people I talk to on the phone (and yes, I admit there aren't many of them) are doing something else.

We are breeding shorter and shorter attention spans and, if I may be hyperbolic for a moment, it will destroy our country! And the world! There will come a day when we can't do anything anymore because we're so easily distracted. I mean, I'd love to finish tying my shoes but ooooooooh! bunnies!

Smart phones will make us all stupid.

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Sunday, January 03, 2010

Bottle It Up and Be "Happy"!

Please allow me to draw your attention to Barbara Ehrenreich's fine essay, which is extracted from her book that lays into "positive thinking." Barbara relays her specific experience going through breast cancer treatment and how much the culture of positive thinking (i.e. "cancer is a blessing!") surrounded every step along the way. What she really wanted and needed was an outlet for her anger. Anyway, it's a good essay, and I encourage you to read it.

I have an amiable presence in general, so I think it comes as a surprise to many people, including good friends, that I have a pretty gloomy outlook on life. I don't always expect the best results or see the positive side of things. I find it difficult to visualize an ideal scenario, and when I do, that scenario seems totally out of the realm of reality. So yeah, I guess I'm a bit bleak that way.

That's not to say I don't set goals, make plans, or do any of those other things that people do to improve their lives. I have a Protestant work ethic. And I hope that I'm not so negative to be closed off to the opportunities that present themselves to me. But I tend to think that positive thinking is bullshit.

So I hope (and work) for the best and expect the worst. Truth be told, this approach has served me pretty well. I have a terrific wife and a happy marriage. I've been at a job for more than three years, and I actually still like it, something I've never been able to say before. I enjoy creative pursuits. I'm able to go on vacations and trips with the missus. I find genuine pleasure in good food and the company of good friends, even though I don't drink alcohol.

In other words, I'm happy. I don't want to be anyone else or have another life. My inability to think positively has not seemed to hinder me. And in fact I think that not forcing myself to be positive all the time gives me a full experience. I call it "life."

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

This is Front Page?

I don't read the New York Post, but I do occasionally enjoy its headlines. There have been a couple of real doozies over the years. Ones I particularly like include "Ku Klux Kloser" (about John Rocker's anti-7-train comments a few years ago) and "Red Prez Brezh Dead" (when, obviously, Leonid Brezhnev died).

This morning I caught this one: "Only in America: Spitz hooker's mom shocked he's back."

You see, Elliot Spitzer, who was caught with that prostitution ring a while back, which resulted in his resignation as Governor of New York, is thinking of running for office again. Maybe Attorney General, maybe state Comptroller, maybe something else.

I didn't read the article that goes with the headline, but apparently the mother of the hooker who Elliot frequented just can't believe it.

So a woman who was actually completely irrelevant to the original story about a governor and his penchant for prostitutes is shocked.

And does this really happen "Only in America"? Hell, man, when the former president of France Francois Mitterand died, his wife and mistress comforted each other at his grave. And what about that Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi? That guy seems to be about nothing but young, hot chicks. So I'm not sure "only in America" is accurate.

Of course, it's not like my expectations are terribly high for the New York Post, but how slow a news day does it have to be to give the mother of the subject of an old news story front page coverage?

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Choice

Don't worry, B&E readers. I'm not about to write about abortion, not that I feel the need to avoid the subject or anything. But no, I'm talking about the concept of choice.

Twice in the past few days I've heard clips of President Obama speaking, and on two separate subjects he talked about how something wasn't a choice but a necessity.

The first time I heard this, he was discussing the war in Afghanistan. "Remember, this was not a war of choice, but a war of necessity." (I'm paraphrasing quotes from memory.)

The second time had to do with the economic meltdown. I can't remember the specific context because I wasn't really paying attention until I heard the phrase, "We had to take the steps we did. It was not a choice but a necessity." I think he was speaking in response to how the deficit is worse than originally projected.

Jack Bauer, in the TV show 24, during particularly intense moments, especially if he's arguing with someone who doesn't want to be as ruthless as Jack does, will often growl, "You don't have a choice!"

I hate this. There's always a choice. Maybe you don't much care for the options you have, but yes, there's always a choice. You can choose to do nothing. You can choose to take action. You can choose from a variety of actions.

Even something as simple as eating... Eating is, I'm sure we would all agree, a necessity. But I still have a choice about whether or not I'm going to eat. If I don't, I'll die, so I choose to fucking eat.

Necessity is a point of view. What you deem necessary informs your choices. But regardless, it's a goddamned choice. Bailing out the banks is a choice. Creating a stimulus package is a choice. Going after al-Qaeda, bin Laden, and the Taliban is a choice. Continuing to fight in Afghanistan is another choice.

All of those actions take difficult choices. I can accept that. I don't even disagree with all of the choices you made above, Mr. President. But don't tell me you didn't have a choice at all.

There's always a choice.

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Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Where'd All the Hotties Come From?

Yesterday, the AC at my office blew out, so today I worked from home. The AC was fixed by 9:30 AM. I didn't see that coming.

But because I was working from home, I did what people who work from home are rumored to do: I worked from Starbucks for a little while.

Yes, Sunnyside has a Starbucks, and for what might be the first time ever, I chose it over the Grind, which continues its relatively hapless ways (under new management). Last time I went into the Grind (maybe two weeks ago), they didn't have AC, and I was hot.

I took no chances today. And Starbucks, that predictably well-run bastard, was cold. But really, that's not my point.

A few short years ago, when I rejoined the throngs of the Sunnyside commuters after a spate of freelancing from my sofa, I noticed a distinct uptick in hipsters on the rush-hour subway platform.

Today's Starbucks experience was something different. Almost everyone who walked in - male and female - was sorta hot.

Sunnyside is along the MTA's famed #7 train. The #7, as we all know, is the ugly train (except during the US Open). People who live in Sunnyside ride the #7 train, i.e. Sunnysiders ride the ugly train, i.e. Sunnysiders are ugly people.

These Sunnysiders were not ugly. They were hot. Many appeared to be on their way to the beach. Or perhaps they were just scantily clad because it's hotter than the opposite of a well digger's ass.

Today is Tuesday. What were these people doing during prime working hours on a Tuesday strolling through Starbucks in Sunnyside looking so damned hot? Do they think this is Manhattan or something? Manhattan is where the leisure classes go to look good while strolling around while the rest of us work.

I tell you what, B&E readers... This experience shook me. It shook me to my core. Time was that I was above average looking in Sunnyside. If these Sunnysiders are any indication, bald schlubbiness doesn't cut it anymore for looking good along the #7 train line.

This isn't change I can believe in.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

It's So Obvious!

Look, Jillian, I totally know why you've chosen Ed. It's so obvious. After all, he rejected you not once but twice! And how often do you get to choose the guy who doesn't even like you.

First, you give Ed a rose, which he accepts before leaving the show for his job (i.e. "You'll always be #2, Jillian"), and second, on your overnight date, he can't even get it up (i.e. "I don't think I want you, Jillian"). If you think that's a one-night problem, you're fooling yourself, girlie.

Your chemistry with several of those dudes, even some of the total jackasses, was way hotter than it ever was with Ed.

I think the missus is really hoping that Jillian turns up at "After the Rose Ceremony" with Reid later. She's got a lot to say about Jillian's body language with Reid in comparison to her body language with Ed. I'll let the missus be the expert on that one.

But Ed repeatedly rejects Jillian, so Jillian "loves" Ed. I keep saying that Ed's gay, mostly because it really ruffles the missus' feathers. No, I don't know that Ed is gay, but I sure think he is. But really, Ed just doesn't seem terribly hot for Jillian.

I'm telling you, lady. You only want Ed because you will never actually have Ed.

So get over your idiocy, stop being such a stereotype, and run off with Reid already.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Whew. I'm Now Combobulated.

My radio silence over the past few days can be explained by two simple words: Family Reunion! Wisconsin never had a chance...

Unfortunately, my camera died while the missus and I were in Scotland (I used my mother-in-law's camera for most of the trip), so I don't have documentation of any of the activities. But really there was only one moment in which I really regretted not having the sucker...

At the airport in Milwaukee, the missus and I went through security, and when we made it through, we noticed a sign: Recombobulation Area. It was not handwritten. It was a metal sign like all of the other signs around the airport. Someone designed, approved, and ordered this sign.

Discombobulated doesn't actually mean "not combobulated." Like uncouth, it is simply a word that sounds negative but isn't.

No doubt, you can become discombobulated going through security - removing of belts and shoes, getting felt up by security... These things can be discombobulating. No doubt.

But once discombobulated, I'm afraid you can't just become recombobulated so that you're back to being in the normal state of combobulation.

On the other hand, I really like the word recombobulated. So I sort of hope it catches on.

Well done, you combobulated Wisconsinites with your recombobulation signs to discombobulate travelers.

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Forty Years

It was 40 years ago that people first walked on the moon.

Yes, I remember it well... My mother was pregnant with my older sister, and it was a world of infinite possibility.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Yuck. Oh, and Yuck.

Hey, B&E readers! You know what's disconcerting? I'll tell you what's disconcerting. Having someone else's shower come up through your bathroom drain: that's what's disconcerting. And when someone else's shower is coming up through your bathroom drain, and suddenly you hear a neighbor flush, causing your toilet to start regurgitating: well, that's really disconcerting.

I think maybe my bathroom was 20 minutes from full meltdown/overflow when the super made the executive decision to shut the building's water off. The water sitting in my tub and toilet was full of a sediment, the color of which I've never seen. Peanut butter that's been soaking in the sink too long might be similar.

It didn't stink or anything, so I'm pretty sure no actual raw sewage found its way into my tub. Still, watching brownish, cloudy water coming up from the drain in the bathtub is mighty disconcerting.

The super called the plumber, who came and took care of business by the early afternoon, but I tell you what B&E readers...

Waking up to see your neighbor's shower coming up through your bathroom drain... Well, it's pretty fucking disconcerting.

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Saturday, May 02, 2009

I Got My Eyes Checked Today

Spring is in the air, B&E readers. It is May, after all.

A few weeks ago I got that note on the Brooklyn Bridge (you better believe that I revisit that experience any time my ego needs a boost and tell every single person I've ever met), and I think my eye doctor was flirting with me this morning.

Doctor of Optometry Young Lady laughed a little too hard at the things I said (easy there, doc, this isn't even my A-Game) and complimented my consistent test-taking, which she called "remarkable" for a test that's supposed to be subjective.

She also seems very impressed by the hole in my retina, particularly the scar tissue that formed all around the hole, thereby keeping it from growing, detaching completely, and causing me to go blind. That shit is hot.

But it all went a little too far when everyone at the office was putting a lot of pressure on me to get my eyes dilated.

Well, I'm sorry, ladies, I can't let you do that unless my wife is around.

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Morning Boehner

Ever since John Boehner was elected House Republican Leader in 2006, I've been having a good adolescent chuckle at his name. A couple of examples from other B&E entries:

John "Crap, I'm Losing My" Boehner
John "Lobbyist-Paid Travel Gives Me A" Boehner


Heh. I'm twelve.

The Perfesser (if that is indeed his name) responded once with his own set of Boehner jokes, which I reproduce in its entirety here:
It's up to Boehner to erect a new standard for the Republicans - a flagpole, if you will. Boehner must stiffen the base's resolve; Boehner cannot have the flaccid support of a bunch of sad sacks. Boehner needs action now without DeLay.

Boehner must penetrate deep inside the dark mysteries of Congress. It's all up to Boehner.

Boehner should be out in the open for everyone to see. Few Americans, in this conservative climate, want to have a Boehner sneaking up on them from behind.

I'm glad to see so many Republicans proud of their Boehner. I hope this Boehner is around for a long time.
Oh, man, it just doesn't get old.

More recently, Boehner came (heh) out strong against the stimulus (heh) package (heh) because it included funding for contraception (heh).

I think Politico might be equally excited (heh) by Boehner's name, because they were responsible for an article about how turned off (heh) Boehner was by Obama's package (heh), which made me giggle back in January.

And Politico is back at it again with an article yesterday called, Boehner Slams Obama.

Seriously, this is getting nuts (heh)!

A colleague at work found this article yesterday before I did. He was like, "Really? Slams? Boehner??" I said something about how Boehner's nickname in the House was "Semi" before he discovered Cialis, an admittedly lazy and predictable joke. My colleague's response:

"If your filibuster lasts more than four hours..."

Zang! Zzp-POW! Wocka-wocka-wocka!

Yes, that's right. This is how I acknowledge the first 100 days of the Obama presidency: dick jokes!

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Friday, April 17, 2009

New York Announces... HEY, TURN OFF YOUR FUCKING CELL PHONE!

So Governor Paterson, annoyed that New York has somehow become less gay than other states, has announced legislation to legalize gay marriage. At the announcement, Paterson was joined by a coalition of New Yorkers who support the measure, including Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who was once a Democrat, became a Republican to run for mayor, became an Independent while in office, and now may run as a Republican again.

He's as fickle as an experimental lesbian at Sarah Lawrence College! (I can say that because I went there. Or maybe I can't because I'm not a lesbian. Any lesbians out there want to confirm whether or not I can make that joke? You wacky lesbians.)

Anyway, during the press conference, Mayor Mike stopped everything to humiliate a reporter who had an electronic device of some sort going off. (I just saw this on NY1, of course.) Mayor Mike said something about this whole thing being way too important for interruptions, and he put the presser on hold for about a minute until the reporter could get it to stop making noise.

Well, it turns out that the reporter is a disability rights advocate everyone at City Hall knows well and, especially since it was actually another reporter who caused the problem, Mayor Mike now looks like a complete prick for bullying a dude in a wheelchair.

The most obnoxious part of the whole thing, however, is that when NY1 played the clip of Governor Paterson making his part of the announcement, Mayor Mike was sending a message on his fucking Blackberry. Too important for interruptions indeed.

Mayor Mike, you hypocritical, bullying douchebag. Shame on you.

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

Trouble During the Sabbath

A curious thing happened on the way home from another delicious meal at the missus and my favorite local haunt...

A hefty fellow wearing a yarmulke was seated seemingly comfortably in the middle of a crosswalk on a small residential intersection. It had rained a little, so his ass must've been getting wet.

Nearby, a younger fellow, also in a yarmulke, stood between the man and the random turning vehicle.

Also, a group of about a half dozen concerned women wearing hijabs (and a few children) stood around the man, making casual conversation.

Concerned Woman in Hijab 1: You should get up.

Man on Ass: It's the Sabbath, and I can't make a call, so I guess I'll just hope that a policeman comes along.

Woman in Hijab 2: But you can't just sit here.

The situation was clearly under control, so the missus and I kept walking.

I love New York.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Origami. The Answer Is Always Origami.

Trolling other people's messaging boards is not usually something I do or recommend, but this conversation offers valuable information for us all to live by. I've edited the material down and, of course, removed the names to protect those unaware I was looking in. (Based on their experience, which you will read below, it would be unfair to call them innocent.)
Subject: pencils for psychiatric patients
------------------------

From: Forum Starter
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 8:56 AM
To: Group

A quick question: I'm starting a journaling program on an acute inpatient unit and was wondering if anyone knew of any resources where I could order pencils or other writing utensils that would be realitively safe for patients to use independently (if they are not judged a suicide or assault risk), I'd appreciate it.

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From: Responder 1
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 9:38 AM
To: Group

Just a suggestion.....consider using any felt tip markers instead of pencils. They are less likely to pierce skin or contribute to serious self injury. They also won't require a sharpener. It is difficult to predict behaviors of in-patient populations.
Good luck.

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From: Responder 2
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 10:14 AM
To: Group

What is your concern about pencil safety? I use pencils with children all the time.

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From: Responder 3
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 10:30 AM
To: Group

I currently provide services for individuals diagnosed with a severe and persistent mental illness and I have never had any problems with providing them with pencils. If you have a concern, which you really shouldn't, incorporate and educational segment into your group demonstrating the proper use of pencils.

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From: Responder 4
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 10:40 AM
To: Group

I treated a boy who did in fact stab other children and adults with pencils and did kill his cat with one. Your instincts are right to be concerned regarding inpatient treatment, pencils and safety.

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From: Responder 5
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 11:00 AM
To: Group

Although I don't know where to find them, special small flexible pens are available. They have been used inside the max prisons. I have seen them in prisons I have worked in. They are supposed to be safer because they bend under the slight pressure. I have used them and the flexible and the small size can be annoying and takes a bit of getting used to. If you feel concerned about supplying regular pens or pencils, these may be an option.

Here is a tongue-in-cheek article that actually has a link to where one can purchase these pens. However, at $10 each, I doubt any Dept of Correction is paying that much. Maybe try calling prisons to request more information about this. Good Luck.

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From: Responder 6
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 11:02 AM
To: Group

Hi may I suggest offering oil pastels as an alternative for your patients to use independently. That way you'll sleep better!

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From: Responder 7
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 11:17 AM
To: Group

I am aware of an woman who stabbed herself with a pencil and another woman who rubbed her skin raw with the eraser; scars remained. Both were inpatient at the time. If you are working with folks who self-harm, some will find most any way to self-injure.

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From: Responder 8
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 11:22 AM
To: Group

I think Responder 1 & Responder 6 have some good suggestions, as this is a valid safety concern on an inpatient unit... Soft Pastel pencils, may also be an additonal option to consider.......

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From: Responder 9
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 12:53 PM
To: Group

I worked with inpatient children and adolescents and this was always a concern. Before and after group sessions, I always counted my pencils to make sure no patient took one. They were only allowed to use them during structured group with supervision. A fellow staff member was stabbed with a pen, and adolescents had stolen pencils in the past to cut themselves with the metal that held the eraser. You can NEVER be too cautious on an in-patient unit. Always yield on the side of safety.

------------------------------
To: Group
From: Responder 1
Date: Thu, 19 Feb 2009 14:38:43 +0000

Just a suggestion.....consider using any felt tip markers instead of pencils. They are less likely to pierce skin or contribute to serious self injury. They also won't require a sharpener. It is difficult to predict behaviors of in-patient populations. Good luck.

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From: Responder 10
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 2:27 PM
To: Group

We use the small miniature golf pencils on our psych units because a previous patient stabbed a dr. in the ear w/ a regular pencil. I will give the pts., crayola markers (fat ones) as they are not sharp and wash off the walls w/ soap and water; pencils and crayons do not.

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From: Responder 11
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 4:21 PM
To: Group

I understand the concern, but I do end up using regular pencils. Another option is golf pencils, kind of too short for really effective stabbing and without the metal at the end that could be removed and potentially used for cutting.

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From: Responder 12
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 4:25 PM
To: Group

You might try woodless pencils if you are looking for something erasable. You can get them at the art supply store near the drawing pencils. They might be a little thick for writing, but there is no metal or wood. It might not be ideal, but they can be sharpened enough just by rubbing the side of the pencil on the paper. If you broke them in half they would be pretty safe.

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From: Responder 13
Date: Thu, Feb 19, 2009 at 11:43 PM
To: Group

Just a quick side note regarding giving patients markers vs. pencils. We once discovered that a pt was given markers to use in his room unsupervised and later discovered that the pt put a marker in his anus. I do not allow pts to have anything unsupervised with the exception of golf pencils. However, having said this, I have never had such an experience like this before or after this particular incident.

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From: Responder 14
Date: Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 7:22 AM
To: Group

THanks for everyone's ideas about the pencils. I am enjoying this
conversation about materials.

What's so special about golf pencils? I believe you could put one in one's anus or stab someone with them. I often work with drawing materials. For drawing I tend to use markers, oil pastels, charcoal, or crayons, regular or super fat for kids. I suppose in a hospital setting, almost anything is possible to use for some abusive purpose to self or others.

I've been wondering for some time how to safely use fingerpaints, even in a private practice setting, without ending up with a huge mess - thrown paint comes to my mind. (My space has a carpeted floor.) Maybe it has to be used in a space where a water based clean-up of EVERYTHING is easy.

THanks again to all for their input and ideas.

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From: Responder 15
Date: Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 5:20 PM
To: Group

One thing to consider regardless of the art tools used is that if there is a real concern with a patient using them then you should get the psychiatrist to write an order allowing the use of such tools. That way the doctor, and hopefully the treatment team, would be aware of what you're doing. Plus it would probably get you off the hook if something were to happen.

---------
From: Responder 16
Date: Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 5:54 PM
To: Group

Markers... patients in psych setting will swallow them. It does a real number on them too. I really love those peeling crayon pencils. I think in the catalogue they are listed as crayons, you could also get grease pencils. Stay away from the charcoal, the noise would drive you nuts. For journaling the golf pencil might be the least frustrating for them.

----------
From: Responder 11
Date: Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 6:23 PM
To: Group

it's only that golf pencils are short, and this makes it harder to grip them as one would have to in order to use them as a stabbing weapon it's true, if there is a will, there is a way...one can make weapons of many things

----------
From: Responder 17
Date: Sat, Feb 21, 2009 at 6:36 AM
To: Group

I noticed that so many people responded to Forum Starter's questions, which I found very important. I have been working for adult psychiatric inpatients for a while. Thus Forum Starter's question is not foreign to me. My experience resonate with some of your responses as well.

There are few things that I consider when I pick art materials for acute, psychotic patients with unpredictable behavior. Of course we can not work with them unless their doctor believes that person is ready for therapeutic activities and treatment. It may depend on where you work.
1. How many people in your group or individual?
2. Functioning level of the person in your group, individual session?
3. Is there any system for calling for assistance? Do you work with another staff member or assistant?
4. Combination of group members. (What kind of unpredictable behavior may happen?)
5. Facility policy on safety. (Only use of nontoxic materials ...)
6. What material you find comfortable to use?
7. My ultimate suggestion is just use paper, which people might swallow, or get paper cut but less hazardous comparing traditional art materials. etc.

I found it useful to use Origami as a tool for my patients which may not suit you and your population. It seems, touching colorful paper has soothing effect also. If only you know how to fold origami and you are comfortable presenting...
I'm not sure that origami is ideal for journaling, which was what Forum Starter was initially asking about, but Responder 17's heart is in the right place.

What's amazing to me about this exchange is that these are legitimate, professional concerns for some people in the world. At my job, I sometimes wonder if I've brought enough food for lunch. Occasionally, clients aren't crazy about what I've written for them. My computer crashed last week, and I've felt a bit discombobulated this week, while we worked toward a solution.

I never - never - look at my Slinky full of pens and wonder if I should stab a cat or shove one up my anus (although now it'll be hard for me to resist thinking of those things, even if I still have no desire to actually do them). If I did, I'm not sure my colleagues would be equipped to handle it like the fine professionals above.

But I finally understand why they use golf pencils at country clubs around the nation: they keep stabbings to a minimum.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Paramilitary Aggression, Rebranded

If your company produces a crappy operating system that the public largely rejects, you can either fix the operating system, which is really hard, or you can create a marketing campaign to convince people that there is no problem with the operating system. This is hard, too, but perhaps not as hard as making a better operating system.

If you're a soft drink company with flagging sales, you could either come up with a drink that tastes good and doesn't cause diabetes, which is really hard, or you could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new brand identity. This is hard, too, but perhaps not as hard as making a better beverage.

So naturally, if you're Blackwater, known around the world as a brutal, merciless, and violent military contractor, you can change the culture and approach of your work (or get out of private warfare altogether), which is hard, or you can give your brand a complete overhaul. This is hard, too, but perhaps not as hard as stopping the killing.


This above is the until-recently logo. This logo was "refined" in late 2007 from an earlier version that was even more obvious in its cross-hair approach. The refinement apparently didn't have the desired effect, since it didn't change their reputation as an unaccountable killing machine.

So the next logical step is to change everything. Remember Phillip Morris? They created a parent organization called Altria to give the company a friendlier face to investors who didn't necessarily want to hold shares in a company producing cancer sticks.

Blackwater is now Xe (pronounced like the letter z in America, not like zed in Britain). And because the new State Department says it will not renew its contracts with Blackwater, Xe will also be shifting its focus away from "private security."

Xe will be the parent brand for all of Blackwater's sub-brands, none of which will include "Blackwater" in the name.

I can't seem to find the new logo online yet, but if it's still in progress I've got some ideas. I'm envisioning a family of dogs, riddled with bullets, puppies bleeding profusely. Underneath, the name and tagline: "Xe: the softer side of private warfare" or something along those lines. I'll keep working on it, but I think I'm onto something...

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Just For Men Gone Wrong

This morning at my place of work, I saw a well-dressed man with a cane walking down the hallway. Under his hat, little tufts of gray hair were poking out. He had a pencil thin mustache that was jet black. Jarringly so.

This is a man who really trusts Keith Hernandez, Walt Frazier, and Emmett Smith when they say, "No play for Mister Gray."

Someone should tell him that, if he's making the commitment to dye his facial hair, he should really do the same with his head hair. It's like the male equivalent of the carpet matching the drapes.

Now I'm thinking about this old guy's carpet, which I really don't want to do. Dear Lord, save me.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Heh-heh. Heh. Heh-heh-heh.

During a meeting today, while Republicans were telling President Obama that they have some issues with his economic stimulus plan, Obama replied that he'd had these debates with John McCain already, and "I won." Lefty blogs were linking to various stories repeating the "I won" story, but my favorite was the reporting on Politico.com, and I pull this section directly from the article:
“We expressed our concerns about some of the spending that’s being proposed in the House bill,” House Minority Leader John Boehner said after meeting with Obama.

“How can you spend hundreds of millions of dollars on contraceptives?” Boehner asked. “How does that stimulate the economy?”

Boehner said congressional Republicans are also concerned about the size of the package.
Oh, man. Where to start? Boehner? Contraceptives stimulating the economy? Concerned about the size of Obama's package?

This article is a joke set-up machine! Wait, scratch that. It's making the jokes for us already! Just sit back, tap into your inner 7th grader, and get to giggling, dear B&E readers!

Thanks to tidbits like this and President Obama's references to our "duty" in his inaugural address, I'm looking forward to a little pleasant tittering for a while instead of the if-I-don't-laugh-I'll-kill-myself humor of the last eight years.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Sober

I've noticed a number of news outlets calling Obama's inaugural speech sober, or that the work he faces now is sober or sobering.

He's not Gerald Ford, for crying out loud. Just how drunk do they expect him to be?

Zang! ZzP-POW! Wocka-wocka-wocka!

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Stupidity Is the Best Birth Control?

So perhaps smarter men have more sperm.

But if idiots have got such namby-pamby sperm counts, how come so many of them knock up so many ladies all the time? And how do you explain those families with more than a dozen kids? I mean, that's really not smart. But the sperm is clearly strong and wise.

Hell, I'm gonna leave these hard questions to the smart, fertile people and revel in my tiny intellect/sperm count.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Death to the Arts!

So I had occasion to peruse the National Endowment for the Arts website the other day, and was drawn to a bit of curiousness.

At the bottom of their donation page (apparently government organizations can accept tax-deductible donations from the public), it reads thusly:
Please note that mail sent to the Arts Endowment is frequently delayed due to security screening procedures, including irradiation. If you mail a contribution, please allow 3-4 weeks for a response.
Really? Irradiation? Are we afraid that terrorists are going to bomb/anthrax the National Endowment for the Arts? "Death to the Arts in America!"?

Look, terrorists. This is America. We're killing the arts just fine without your help, thank you very much.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

You Know What? Screw the Children, Too.

I know we've got a real "fuck 'em" attitude toward the incarcerated in this country. And I'm not one to try to understand law, lawyers, judges, or sentencing. But this sentence of Nixzaliz Santiago, a.k.a. the mother of Nixzmary Brown, sounds downright counterproductive to me.

What happened to that little girl was truly horrible, and you won't find me defending the terrible violence. (In case those readers outside of NYC haven't heard about the case itself, the short version is that a 7-year-old girl lived a life akin to torture, primarily at the hands of her stepfather Cesar Rodriguez, until she was finally beaten to death. Rodriguez dealt the final blow, and Santiago did nothing. Yes, truly horrible.)

Santiago's defense centered at least partially around that she too was a victim of Rodriguez's violence, which tends to be a rationale I believe. This judge and jury didn't, and they gave Santiago more years in prison than Rodriguez. But even this isn't even my biggest problem here.

As long as Santiago is in prison, she's not allowed to see her other children. Her children can't visit her for 43 years. This is a punishment for her children as much as it's a punishment for her. Why should her children be denied what little love their mother might be able to provide from prison?

And if we accept that the purpose of prison is rehabilitation, how is cutting Santiago off from the love children offer going to help that process?

I mean, really, I'm cynical. But our prison system is utterly lacking in hope, if not downright destructive and nihilistic.

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Monday, October 27, 2008

A Giant Vat of Stew

As some of you may recall, I have this ridiculous tendency to make giant quantities of food. I don't know how it happens, except that I'm usually cooking for two and many recipes are feeding families of four or more.

In an attempt to save money, I've been using this "leftover" food to feed myself and the missus during our workday lunchtimes.

But I don't know what we're gonna do with the giant fucking vat of stew I made this weekend. I found this recipe on, of all places, the lid of a jar of natural peanut butter. It sounded delicious, and because it actually seemed quite small and sensible, and because I wanted a few lunches for us, too, I was foolish enough to double the recipe. I think maybe that's where it went so wrong.

It's difficult to present scale in the photo, but that's one of the larger Le Creusets available on the market today. To give you a sense of size, the kettle behind it is about six feet tall.

Yes, it's a lot of food, the missus and I will be well fed, and by the end of the week, we will never want to look at West African Peanut Chicken Stew again.

But at least if we want to stretch it, we can serve it over rice!

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hello?

Here I am at work, plugging away on one of my tougher assignments, iPod earbuds oozing out the somberly poppy and Norwegian sounds of Sondre Lerche's Faces Down album, and when I look up from my computer, every single one of my colleagues has gone. I'm here totally alone.

That shit will freak you out if it happens unexpectedly.

On the plus side, I believe one of the aforementioned colleagues will be returning with my lunch.

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

SCOTUS Just Set Up Mitt's Next Run for the White House, Among Other Things

Commenting on decisions handed down by the Supreme Court of the United States (or SCOTUS as the kids like to call it) can be tricky when you're a layperson, i.e. one who tries in general to abide by the law but does not write, enforce, or interpret the law.

But hey, that doesn't mean I won't give it a whirl.

Limiting use of the death penalty was a pleasant surprise. Before I get into that, though, let me state the obvious, although I really shouldn't have to: I will not, and never will, defend child rapists. But state sponsored murder (i.e. capital punishment, the death penalty, etc.) is wrong in general. So I'm glad the Court found an excuse to limit it. Of course, they've also motivated a bunch of lawmakers who want to expand the death penalty as far as they can. So that's nice. Oh, and Judges Scalia, Thomas, Alito, and Roberts were in the minority, ready to sponsor as much killing as possible. Those four are dangerous justices, B&E readers.

Cutting the punitive damages on the Exxon Valdez case? Dick move, SCOTUS. That Alaskan community has been decimated, and although ExxonMobil's recent record profits shouldn't necessarily be considered relevant to the case, they fucking earned the requested $2.5 billion in less than a month last year. Shame on you, SCOTUS. This decision was 5-3, with Alito having to recuse himself because he's sitting on a tanker's worth of ExxonMobil stock. Justice Souter demonstrated his New Hampshire libertarian roots by siding with the majority on this one.

The guns ruling today? I don't really know what to say about this one. Gun owners own guns because they're really fun to shoot. Gun control advocates never seem to factor this into their arguments. I'm a supporter of gun control, but it's an issue I gave up on years ago. So today's decision... Surprising? You tell me: our Vice President shot a man in the face and got away with it.

Then there's this campaign finance case. They made some sort of decision that eases restrictions on rich candidates. Mitt Romney, for example, had to disclose a lot of extra information about his run for the White House because he was largely funding it himself. Apparently, those restrictions were limiting his speech. And here I thought his vast personal fortune was what gave him the platform in the first place. I look forward to having my choice in candidates limited solely to entitled, rich bastards.

It's clear now what the Roberts Court is all about. It's stacked with a bunch of right-wing freaks. Adding a touch of reason to SCOTUS sure would be nice. If anyone out there isn't yet sold on Obama over McCain, please take a long look at Justice John Paul Stevens, pictured above for your reference and enjoyment. He's 88. He's almost out-lived a piano keyboard. I don't know how much longer he can hang on.

On the other hand, he's a Cubs fan, and all those old Chicago guys are determined to see the Cubs' next championship. Jesus, if the Cubs win this fall and Stevens kicks it a happy man, we're totally hosed, SCOTUS-wise.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

The Angry Side of Funny

My early friends (and family) didn't have much of an edge, so my comedy upbringing was fairly limited. Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor didn't get much play among my people. We got a little Bill Cosby from time to time and a touch of Robert Klein.

And somehow George Carlin sneaked in there. He had the silly stuff that I liked (I remember him talking about drowning Rice Krispies with whole peaches) and the political commentary that my parents appreciated (and that I appreciated later).

One of his albums (and I can't even tell you which one) was on constant play in my college social circle, and it got funnier with every play somehow. His social commentary was razor-sharp. And he was angry, which helped him keep an edge. He stopped talking to my parents and spoke to me.

My dad lamented that Carlin got "too angry" and therefore wasn't funny. But for me his comedy was a welcome coping mechanism for all of the social ills that seemed (and seem) so fucking unfair. And Carlin, the self-described "disappointed idealist," turned that unfairness into biting humor. It was very funny. My dad, for all of his wonderful qualities, didn't handle anger (even funny anger) very well.

I found myself the target of his routine once. He was railing against white dudes who shave their heads. Guilty as charged. I disagreed, of course, but it was still funny.

So no, I didn't much care for waking up this morning to the news that George Carlin died. He was bald (even with a ponytail). And he was very effective.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bruce LeeRoy vs. Chow Yun Fatchmo!

Once upon a time, in South Africa, Chinese immigrants were known as Chinese immigrants. Then, with the establishment of apartheid in the 1940s, the Afrikaner government classified the Chinese as "colored." In the 1970s, Taiwan established economic ties to South Africa, and Taiwanese immigrants were "honorary whites."

Because no one could tell the difference between the Taiwanese and the Chinese, things got a little easier for the Chinese in South Africa. They still had no rights, mind you, but they also had the honor of sharing the white facilities with a bunch of racist, cracker-ass bitches. Lucky, lucky Chinese.

So when apartheid ended in the 1990s, the Chinese were lumped together with whitey and therefore denied the benefits available to other "colored" groups.

Well, no longer. On Wednesday, Chinese South Africans were reclassified as "black."

Maybe this explains why there are suddenly so many Chinese Soul Food restaurants cropping up in New York City.

(Thanks to my esteemed Chinese-American Art Director at work for the link and the ensuing smartass IM conversation. Bruce LeeRoy was all him.)

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Don't Much Care

I've had from a few sources that those cell phone corn popping videos are faked and, in fact, viral advertisements.

But as far as I'm concerned, cell phones are killing bees, causing ear cancer, and making the single largest contribution to global warming.

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

I'm Sure Those Cell Phones Are Perfectly Safe

As most B&E readers will know, I'm not the biggest fan of cell phones. Maybe your cell phone isn't actually killing bees as I suspected last year (and still do, not so secretly), but maybe they're killing us instead.

[Full disclosure: I now have a cell phone, but in my defense, it's never on, and I don't know the number.]

But this evening the missus showed me a series of YouTube videos with pretty much the same content in various languages. I chose the Japanese version for your viewing pleasure. And if this doesn't make you want to keep your phones away from your brains and balls, I don't know what will.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Torch Trouble in Europe

There hasn't been a great deal of press surrounding the many protests in the direct vicinity of the Olympic torch, but that doesn't mean they're not happening.

As you probably know, the Olympic torch circles the globe en route to being lit for the Olympic games, which this summer occur in China. Usually, this is a peaceful, ceremonial relay with a few cheering people celebrating the local celebrity athletes who get selected to run a portion of the thing.

Protesters in London and Paris have been less impressed with this year's torch relay.

What are they protesting? China, apparently. Something about human rights violations, an occupied Tibet, and the Chinese plan in 2012 to colonize America. OK, so that last one is actually just a random paranoid theory I heard about over a brunch a while back. The short of it is that the Chinese outgrow China and head east, taking over America, and there are just too damned many of them to stop it.

So that's something to look forward to. In the meantime we'll enjoy the Olympics.

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Some Things I Might Have Discussed

When I see a news story I think I might want discuss on B&E, I usually email a link to myself as a reminder to do it when I have a moment. I had no moments this week to comment upon any of the following items:

1) Clarence Thomas
Clarence Thomas hasn't asked a question during a Supreme Court case in more than two years. You see, most of those judges really enjoy legal banter, arguing, and probing deeply into the issues that shape our legal lives. Not Clarence. The article quotes Clarence: "We are there to decide cases, not to engage in seminar discussions." So wait. Who's the Decider? Is it Dubya or Clarence?

2) Recession?
Speaking of the Decider, our fine, once-elected-twice-serving President declared this week that we are not in a recession. Since he said it, it must be true. He never lies. Never.

3) Incarceration rates
More than one in one hundred people in the United States are in prison. The article is interesting, but one of the things I find most interesting about it is its focus on the strain its having on state budgets. Yes, we're Americans so everything comes down to money, but the Pew Center on the States, which conducted the study and put out the press release, points out something important largely ignored by the Associated Press. The very first sentence of the press release says:
For the first time in history more than one in every 100 adults in America are in jail or prison—a fact that significantly impacts state budgets without delivering a clear return on public safety.
The emphasis is mine because it sure wasn't the AP's.

That's not to say that cost is insignificant. When there are states spending more on corrections than education, there are some serious fucking problems.

But when you realize that these enormous costs don't necessarily make us any safer, how can you view it as anything but an astounding waste of money?

A better use of that cash might be the funding or creating of some treatment programs and an investment in our under-served communities. Get to the root of the problem? Hello? Anyone? Are you there, God? It's me, Dan.

And while we're at it, once people who've served their time get released, how about giving them back their rights to vote? Why should we further disenfranchise people we should be helping to get their lives back together?

4) Barry Bonds' unsealed testimony
I haven't really spent any time with this yet, but you have to figure that Barry Bonds in court won't be much different the Barry Bonds in general. Assholes are entertaining, assuming they're assholes from afar. If you want to read his testimony, the Smoking Gun's got it for you.

5) The Oscars
They were tedious as always, so I probably would have only discussed my uncanny ability at predicting winners across the board. There is a certain Oscar pool I have the tendency to win, and although I was unable to attend this year's watching party, I sat at home and wowed the missus with my talent. I think I missed the two actress categories (but who didn't?) and short documentary, but got everything else, including all that technical shit no one cares about. Alas, though, no pool, no money.

6) Leap Year
It comes around as often as inauguration day, and yet everyone can enjoy it. I hope all B&E readers had a good one. A couple friends of mine got hitched (and interviewed), and my grade school classmate Dusty turned nine. Wonder where he is now.

So yes, with a little bit of more time this week, I might have discussed one or two of those six topics.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

It Makes Me Happy

A special shout-out to Titivil, who pointed his readers (including me) in the direction of this video, which has made me happier than just about anything else this week.

It only gets better and funnier on multiple viewings.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Heart

A moment of exposition for you non-NYC-dwelling B&E readers: One sees homeless people every day in New York City, on and off the subway. It's a semi-regular occurrence for one of those homeless people to be exceptionally stinky. Particularly potent cases can clear subway cars. That's a fact, not a judgment.

Today, on the platform at Grand Central sat two homeless men. One--or both--was particularly stinky in that way that clears space.

A hipster woman standing near me got that look--the look that says, "Where's that coming from?" She then did what I don't expect hipster ladies to do: She went over, gave each of them a dollar, and had a short chat with one of them. It wasn't forced, she wasn't making a show of it, and it wasn't remotely uncomfortable. I've seen hipsters (almost always men) strike up conversations with homeless people, and it's always seemed somehow... I don't know... false.

As the train arrived, she moseyed away from the homeless man to continue her commute. I noticed a button on her jacket: "I [heart] my cunt."

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Jury Duty, Emphasis on Duty

I had jury duty this week. Queens works a little differently than the other boroughs (I think) in that everyone's on telephone standby. So beginning last Friday, I called in after 5:00 pm to see if I needed to report the following business day. I finally had to go to the jury room yesterday (Friday), on the last day I was eligible. Bummer, man.

Jury duty gives me mixed feelings. It's a time suck and tedious, but it's also a fascinating study of your fellow community members and a glimpse into the system (which I just accidentally typed as "symptom," a potentially interesting Freudian slip, if I'd had enough coffee to examine it).

This was Civil Court of Queens County out in Jamaica. Non-New Yorkers should be aware that Jamaica, Queens has little relation to the island of Jamaica, except perhaps that both are populated primarily with people of African descent. Jamaica, Queens (and there's just no other way to describe it) sucks. Especially once you venture off the main artery on which several court buildings reside, it's just not a place you want to be. Go to a Popeye's in another neighborhood if you've got a hankering for Popeye's.

Mostly you sit in the jury room with hundreds of other people who don't want to be there. In Jamaica they play movies. Over the course of the day I saw parts of Father of the Bride II, Sister Act, and Batman Returns. I'd say that this is an improvement to sitting through daytime TV, except that movies are actually harder to ignore. And even though Batman Returns is rather enjoyable, I was trying to use the time productively, and the movies sort of pissed me off.

Shortly before lunch, I got called as a potential juror. About 25 of us or so were to be interviewed by plaintiff and defense attorneys so that they could determine whether or not we'd be fair and impartial in deciding the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit.

The two lawyers embodied why lawyers have such a bad reputation in our country. The plaintiff was disorganized and (I'm sorry, but there's just no other way to put it) stupid. The defense was aggressive and smarmy. Both lawyers also wore the ugliest wedding rings I've ever seen. I could barely keep my eyes off of them, and I never did come to a decision about which one was uglier. I wonder what this says about me as a potential juror.

They drew names out of a wooden BINGO spinner, and I was the second person chosen. (They interview six at a time.) The plaintiff's attorney (who I will now call Repeat Questions, Esq.) asked each of us many questions, often more than twice each. His questions were unclear and vague, and I think he kept repeating them because our answers were only as clear as his questions. Repeat Questions, Esq. was asking us questions off of four different pieces of paper, like these were the questions some other attorneys had asked their potential jurors and had then provided Repeat Questions, Esq. with copies. By the time we broke for lunch he had gotten only through the first two of us.

After the lunch break it all continued. By this time the room was pretty hostile to Repeat Questions, Esq.

I sat on the jury of a civil trial about six years ago. We found for the defense. (The jury agreed that the woman probably had a case, but her lawyer hadn't done a good job of proving it. So we felt bad but we did our duty as the law required.) Repeat Questions, Esq. didn't ask me specifically about the case (maybe he wasn't allowed), but he asked if money damages were awarded in the case. I said no. He never asked if it was because we found for the defense, but based on the repeat questions Repeat Questions, Esq. asked me, I'd guess that he thought I was somehow in favor of tort reform.

This is where it started getting ridiculous. He'd mention (repeatedly) the idea of tort reform. Honestly, I think the vast majority of the room didn't know what tort reform was (the women on either side of me didn't). But he didn't actually ask me what I thought of tort reform. I'm against it, which I think he'd have liked. Instead he asked, after mentioning tort reform, if I had a problem awarding money damages based on the merits of the case. I said no each time. Then he'd ask someone else a repeat question, only to turn back to me and say, "So we've mentioned a little about tort reform..."

I was practically begging him to ask me my opinion of tort reform, but in spite of Repeat Questions, Esq.'s repeat questions, he never did.

Every time the lawyers left the room to confer, people would turn to me and say, "What is it with you and tort reform?" "I have no idea. He's not even asking if I'm for or against it."

It was exceptionally frustrating, and all I could think was that the plaintiff was truly screwed. Through stupidity and tediousness, Repeat Questions, Esq. was alienating his potential jurors. When Repeat Questions, Esq. finally finished with the first six (a couple of hours later, and I'm not exaggerating), the defense attorney (Smarmy Aggressor, Esq.) took over.

Now I'm under the impression that they're not allowed to argue their cases in front of us during jury selection during which a judge is not present, but Smarmy Aggressor, Esq. spent most of his time disputing the claims of Repeat Questions, Esq. He even disagreed with Repeat Questions, Esq.'s interpretation of the blindfolded lady holding the scales of justice outside the building.

Finally, Smarmy Aggressor asked each of us leading questions to which there was only one right answer (e.g. "You can do that, right?") and spent a little time buttering each of us up.

On my turn, for example, he said, "Your wife is a music therapist, right?"
"Yes."
"Have you seen her at work?"
"Sure. Actually, I'm not sure." (Sessions are, after all, confidential and private.)
"They do amazing--AMAZING!--work. I have a disabled son, and his music therapist has worked MIRACLES! with him."

Sounds nice, right? The problem is that I can't quite capture Smarmy Aggressor, Esq.'s tone. It was smarmy and aggressive. So I quietly agreed with him that yes, the missus does amazing work.

"You really have to--HAVE TO!--watch her work some time."
"OK." (I didn't mention that sessions are confidential and private.)

A moment of levity during Smarmy Aggressor, Esq.'s questioning: He was trying to make sure that the jury wouldn't be prejudiced against a medical expert who was being paid to take the stand. "If you understand that the medical expert is being paid for his TIME! and not his OPINION!--being paid for his OPINION! is WRONG!--would you have a problem with his testimony?"

The woman sitting next to me, a fellow Sunnysider to whom the question was not directed, muttered, "Is he getting more than forty bucks a day?" (That's the daily juror's payment, in case you don't get it.) Smarmy Aggressor, Esq. laughed, although he did it in a bit of a smarmy and aggressive way.

Once they were done interviewing the first six of us, they went into the hallway to converse. They're each allowed three dismissals without explanation. So if a Klan member is suing the insurance company for damages suffered to his burning cross, the Klan member's attorney can dismiss the black juror and doesn't have to say that it's because he's black. This gives the lawyers some latitude to follow their instincts and prejudices.

When they returned, they pulled my juror card (and one other) out of the paper clips on their clipboard and dismissed me. "What'd I do?" I asked. They didn't answer. I'm guessing it had to do with tort reform, not that I was ever once asked about actual tort reform. I took my stuff and went back down to the jury room to await the next potential trial.

And it never came. It was about 4:00 pm at this point on the Friday before a holiday weekend, and the next time my name was called it was to dismiss me from jury duty for the next six years. I called in for four days, served one day, and that's my duty.

Heh, I said duty.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm Surprised by Some of Obama's Posters

Barack Obama should perhaps begin exploring a broader range of visuals, but I don't mind telling you that I'm rather tickled his messaging is so B&E focused. And yet each poster speaks to the qualities that makes a good president.

This one, for example, keeps it simple, but I appreciate the respect. See? He's not bigoted!


My, oh, my, Obama. Truer words were never said. See? He's got impeccable taste!


And even while on the campaign trail, Barack has had a chance to keep up with recent postings. See? He can multi-task!


I'm still reeling from last year's spectacular Mets meltdown, but Obama gives me hope for the upcoming season. See? Optimism!


Those little hedgehogs in the UK have clearly made an impression on Barack. See? He's got heart and cares about the environment!


If Obama wins the election, I'm hoping we'll see a little less from the Dickheads. See? He can stand his ground when he has to!


Yes, sir. Yes. Sir. See? Yessir.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Who's He Competing Against Again?

During that ugly South Carolina primary, people began to wonder whether Barack Obama was competing against Hillary Clinton or Bill Clinton. The answer, of course, is both.

For the presidency, Obama is running against Hillary. We don't know yet whether he will be victorious.

Obama's victory over the former president, however, is complete. Last night, Obama won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word album for his recording of The Audacity of Hope, defeating Bill Clinton's own recording of his most recent publication Giving.

And as we all know the Grammy's are totally legit and not at all full of crap, to which Milli Vanilli's Grammy sweep from a few years back can attest.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

Groundhogs - Pennsylvania vs. New York

Yesterday was Groundhog Day.

Punxatawney Phil resides in Punxatawney, Pennsylvania. That cowardly groundhog came out of his tree stump or whatever, saw his shadow, and ran back into this tree stump or whatever. Six more weeks of winter, says that crying douchebag.

Staten Island Chuck resides in Staten Island, New York. Chuck came out of his shrub or whatever, didn't see shit, popped open a cool Coors 16-ouncer, smoked a couple of Kents, and said, "Bring on the warm weather, bitches."

Phil had a movie made about him. Chuck was too busy shooting up heroin to care.

Phil has apparently been right about 35% of the time, while Chuck has about a 70% accuracy rate. This is, of course, according to a New York news crew.

I'm going with Chuck, pictured here eating a PCP-laced carrot stick.

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Friday, February 01, 2008

Lubing up the Economy and Screwing It

Yes, dear B&E readers, it remains a good time to be in the oil business.

Yesterday Shell announced that 2007 was its best year ever, with more than $27.6 billion in profits. CEO Jeroen van der Veer said in his understated (read: Dutch) way that these results were "satisfactory." Trade unionists in Britain called the amount "obscene," and suggested that perhaps they pay a windfall tax.

Not to be outdone, on Friday ExxonMobil said, "You don't know obscene," and announced the most profitable quarter and year of any U.S. company in the history of the entire world. That's $11.66 billion in one quarter, friends, and more than $40.6 billion for the year.

Proving the Bush administration theory that we all benefit when the free market is given free reign to make as much money as possible (and the people who profit most from these corporations are given generous tax breaks), payrolls are dropping and the economy is in a tailspin. Oh, wait. I'm sorry. That disproves the theory. My mistake.

And I'm sure that getting a windfall tax passed in a government owned by Big Oil (and Big Industry in general) will be no problem at all. None. Nothing will ever be easier. Especially if no one ever proposes the idea.

In related news, most of you are already aware of an old B&E posting of mine, which named former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson Dickhead of the Week. Yes, it remains a popular destination for new readers, most of whom anonymously invite me to have sex with myself for misspelling Mobil or for being jealous or for being a prick.

I'd like to draw your attention, then, to a comment that arrived today, which I quote in its entirety:
I would like to say to Rex Tillerson and the people who are defending him what about the exxon-valdez oil spill? I am a wife of a fisherman and i think it is about time they quit being greedy pigs and pay what is owed us after reading there profit shares i want to puke BOYCOTT EXXON MOBILE
Randa
Well put, Randa, and I would like to thank you for reminding all B&E readers that ExxonMobil has still not paid a single penny of what they owe for the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. That spill was back in 1989. Unconscionable.

ExxonMobil: Redefining "Dickhead."

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Saturday, January 19, 2008

A New Approach to Hands-Free

Anyone who knows me knows I'm not the biggest fan of cellular telephones. The hands-free telephones freak me out. People in New York already walk around like lunatics, but when you see seemingly normal people talking to themselves, it's disconcerting. They gesticulate wildly while they talk and you can't tell they're talking to someone on their nearly invisible phones until they're upon you, at which point you're convinced that they're going to yell at you or throw punches. Everyone feels that way, right?

Anyway, since coming back from Scotland, I've seen an approach to this hands-free cellphone talking I can get behind. Most of you probably know what a hijab is. I've pictured one here for your reference, in case you don't. Don't worry, the woman wearing that one is not real.

Here in Queens, we've got a large Muslim population, and hijabs are pretty common. Ladies, if you're thinking of wearing the hijab, I can add to your list of pros. You can tuck a normal cellphone against your ear, and your hijab will hold it into place. Hands-free! And you won't look like a lunatic because a casual observer can see the phone!

I'd never seen this approach to hands-free talking prior to our trip to Scotland, and in the last two weeks I've seen three different women with cellphones tucked into their hijabs.

Hell, man, if I didn't hate talking on the phone in general and cellphones in particular, I'd get myself a hijab to leave my hands free for knitting, reading books, trying on pants, or any other of the plethora of subway activities I enjoy.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How Many Five-Year-Olds Can You Take?

I can take twenty-four.

A colleague said I'm a heartless prick because I was willing to use a five-year-old as a human shield. "Look," I said, "I'm taking out five-year-olds. I'll put one on my front and one on my back if I have to. I'll wear armor made of dead five-year-olds if that's what it takes."

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Saturday, January 05, 2008

A B&E Woodwindist

The other night, the missus and I went to a little jazz basement here in Edinburgh with two of her brothers and her sister-in-law. It was a perfectly pleasant night on the town, and we were all in agreement that the band was quite good, while the singer was a little on the ridiculous side. He was one of those singers who won't listen to his accompanying band because he loves the sound of his voice too much. That's especially a problem when the voice is only OK to begin with.

Anyway, one of his featured musicians was a bald woodwind player. He played the saxophone and the flute very skillfully. This in itself might have qualified him for a Bald & Effective label.

But then, about three songs into the set, we noticed that he was missing the ring finger on his left hand. He compensated by playing with two different knuckles on his middle finger. Try bending your middle finger at both knuckles separately. I'm telling you: his lack of finger slowed him down not one iota. The man was impressive.

The double bass player was excellent, too, but he had all his digits and all his hair, so who cares?

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Friday, January 04, 2008

Iowa Caucus Results!

Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee win Iowa!

Here, in Scotland, the media seems quite excited to be reporting this news of "change" in American politics. We've seen some clips of the acceptance speeches, and one thing is for sure:

Chuck Norris has some white choppers.

(If you haven't seen them, find some video of the Huckster's victory speech in Iowa. You can't escape the glow of Walker, Texas Ranger's pearly whites.)

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Monday, December 17, 2007

New Jersey is Awesome

The missus will occasionally make the above declaration when she seeks a chuckle from her audience. And rightly so, because New Jersey is a comedy location. If a character in a movie comes from New Jersey, expect him or her to be a comedic buffoon. If a punch line is "New Jersey," it's much more likely to get a laugh than, say, Connecticut. There's nothing funny about Connecticut.

Yes, it's fair to say that we New Yorkers tend to look down our noses at the Garden State (that's New Jersey, for those who haven't seen the Zach Braff movie). Even The New Yorker (that's the magazine) once featured a cartoon that included a caption that was something along the lines of, "It was disappointing to learn that the light at the end of the tunnel was New Jersey."

And yet New Jersey provides much of New York City's power from over the Hudson River. So we're picking on the people that give us light. Yeah, we're real bastards here in New York.

Anyway, I thought it high time that I give a special shout out to New Jersey. Today, upon Governor Corzine's signature, New Jersey repealed the death penalty, the first state to do so since 1976, when the Supreme Court botched their decision allowing the states to start killing people again.

Way to go, New Jersey. Civil unions, and now abolition of the death penalty: Yes, I think it's fair to say that you truly are awesome.

No irony.

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

NYC: The Clunkiest City on Earth

New York City has a new logo. It was first seen around town on our yellow cabs. When I first noticed it, I was like, "That sorta blows. Looks like the Taxi & Limousine Commission really screwed the pooch on that one."

It now appears, however, that the NYC portion of the taxi logo is becoming a standard for city agencies. So I did a little poking around online to see what I could discover about this disastrous city branding decision. There's this little ditty from the New York Times about its use on the taxis. In the article, the writer (presumably a real reporter and not a reporter on reporting they way that I am) says that the new NYC logo was designed by Wolff Olins.

Wolff is one of those designers/design companies whose work you're probably aware of even if you don't know anything about design, branding, logo development, etc. Remember the (RED) campaign from the Gap last Christmas? That was Wolff. Pretty effective stuff from a marketing perspective.

Unfortunately, the NYC logo is much more akin to Wolff's London 2012 Olympics logo, which has received nothing but the poorest possible reviews since it was introduced to the public. And rightly so. What a nightmare.

Maybe Wolff Olin is a genius. He probably is. Who the hell knows?

New York City is big, yes. But it is also sleek, classy, classic, and refined. And this new NYC logo is none of those things. If one assumes (as I certainly do) that New York City is one of the centers of great design in this place we call planet earth, I tend to think that someone else in town probably could've done a better job.

Wolff Olins has agencies in both New York and London. Maybe he's too close to his subjects in those cities.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

It's Sort of Like "The Daily Show" on Strike

Oh, it is "The Daily Show" on strike.

A couple of days ago, the striking "Daily Show" writers posted a little YouTube goodness that is both entertaining and informative. [Because I first saw it while perusing The HuffingtonPost, I'll link you to their story on the matter.]

I've said it before and I'll say it again: GO WRITERS!

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Stupidy Stupid Stupidhead Stupidcock

Today Michael Eisner demonstrated his completely--completely--unbiased point-of-view on the Writer's Guild strike:
This is a stupid strike. It's a waste of their time. [The studios] have nothing to give. They don't know what to give.
Well, look here Stupid Stupidhead. I think the writers want to get paid when their material appears online or on other electronic media. You can't pretend not to make money from those television episodes that appear on your websites.

I know you must be amazed, Mr. Stupid Eisnerhead, but writers want to get paid for their work.

The studios have money to give. They know to give money. Who's stupid?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

Striking Writers

As some of you may have heard (or will notice during your Daily Show reruns this evening), members of the Writer's Guild went on strike today. I'm a writer (although I'm not a member of the Writer's Guild), and I'm staunchly pro-union. So yes, I support the striking writers wholeheartedly. Go get what you deserve, writers.

By the way, this is the first in a series of Hollywood-related contract endings, so the negotiations with the Writer's Guild will largely determine how things turn out with, for example, the Screen Actor's Guild as well.

This is appropriate. You see, first the writers create the story. Then everyone else interprets it.

GO, WRITERS!

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Saturday, October 06, 2007

A Bald Monk and Engaged Buddhism

Thich Nhat Hanh is a bald, Vietnamese Buddhist monk who teaches and practices a little something called Engaged Buddhism. At its simplest, Engaged Buddhism is the practice of mindfulness in all daily activities.

I don't know that much about Buddhism. My religious upbringing has left me, in general, simultaneously drawn to and wary of religions. The missus is a big fan of the Buddhism and even has a meditation chair (Merry Christmas, missus!), and with my ongoing struggles against high blood pressure, my doctor has suggested that I start meditating.

A couple of months ago, Thich Nhat Hanh spoke in Boston. I don't particularly care for Boston but the missus loves her Thich Nhat Hanh, so we drove up in the morning, heard the bald monk speak, and drove back late that night.

I rather enjoyed his talk, which rambled on for more than two hours. Because his English is spoken in a relatively thick (Thich!) accent, listening requires great focus. But hey, as long as you're practicing Buddhism, you can focus on things.

Thich's talk was called, "Walking the Path of Love in Muddy Shoes." Well, the missus and I wouldn't know anything about that. And oddly enough, he made reference neither to muddy shoes nor to the metaphor in general. So I've decided that it's not a metaphor at all. There is a path called love somewhere and people get their shoes muddy while walking on it.

He told two tragic anecdotes about how a lack of communication caused death. Both anecdotes featured men who thought they'd been cuckolded by their wives but in fact had not been. If only they'd said to their wives, "Darling, I'm suffering" -- and if the wife in turn, upon poor treatment, had said to her husband, "Darling, I'm suffering" -- death could've been avoided.

Needless to say, perhaps, the missus and I now often say to each other, "Darling, I'm suffering." We're not quite ready to die.

Buddhism, and perhaps religion in general, is difficult for me because of a lack of irony. Spiritual practice inherently requires earnestness, and I strive to be a removed observer in life. It's why I write, after all.

So this idea of Engaged Buddhism came up again this morning, as I was doing some catching up on current events (unrelated to baseball). Over at The Nation magazine online, a fella called Andrew Lam has written this little ditty about the Buddhist monks in Myanmar.

Lam discusses these Asian monks who are not necessarily anti-violence. It's just that they practice mindfulness in their actions. Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh's Engaged Buddhism, they are (mindfully) telling the Myanmar government to go fuck themselves.

These are not monks who are sitting in the woods, peacefully reflecting on the beauty of a flower or the softness of the dew. These are monks who self-immolate.

This, dear B&E readers, is Engaged Buddhism. And these monks are badasses.

So I'm coming around to an idea related to Engaged Buddhism. Perhaps I can be removed and observational and, dare I say, ironic, as long as I'm mindful in my practice of such things.

I'm not setting myself aflame, but I'm living the way I know how.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

It Takes Some Murders...

Some readers may recall the fond days at B&E when I would update this lovely site almost every day, sometimes more than once a day. But then I went and got myself a real full-time office job. (Can you believe it's been a year already?)

Anyway, Blackwater is a topic worthy of B&E, and in my old life, I would've addressed this several times over, months and months ago. Even before the Iraqi government (such as it is) banned Blackwater for unprovoked murder without taking steps to actually ban them. Also amazing about this past week is that there are allegations about Blackwater smuggling weapons into Iraq.

Jeremy Scahill is The Nation magazine's resident Blackwater expert, and has been writing actively about this privatization of the US Army since 2005 at the earliest. I can't recommend this series of articles enough (more than the ones above, which are really just for reference, in case you're not up on the events involving Blackwater):

This one offers a fantastic overview (its role in Iraq, the political connections, the lack of governmental oversight).

If you think that Kenneth Starr has been sitting tight doing nothing since he so determinedly got to the bottom of the blowjobs in the Clinton Oval Office, you'd be missing that Ken is now defending Blackwater in some wrongful death suits.

Blackwater is a "security firm." No one needed security more than New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Here's some video! Jeremy Scahill gave testimony before Congress, as an expert on Blackwater, having researched the company for years, which culminated in his book, Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army.

And here he is on CNN after the "ban."

I implore you to take some time to get to know Blackwater. They are yet another reason to oppose BOTH the war itself and its management. The future implications of the war's management is terrifying, embodied by Blackwater.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

That Other B&E

Two words for you today, B&E readers: Bald Eagles.

Some say bald eagles represent America. But it's so much more. Bald eagles are the symbol of all things bald. They represent total liberty from hair. Freedom from follicles spread across their wings like peanut butter across a slice of Wonder Bread.

And good news! Now, bald eagles off the endangered species list.

It's grand that bald eagles are making a comeback. But the truly good news is that I can have one of these fellas in my home. I just have to go out and shoot the shit out of one, get it stuffed, and staple it to the wall.

As a bald man, I've earned a bald eagle. Hell, I've earned as many bald eagles as I can kill. They represent me. I am a bald American.

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Another Epic Battle Between Good and Evil

So I finally did some research about this other New York baseball team I'd been hearing rumors about. Turns out they're called the Yankees. They're not doing so well this season, except during one stretch when they were super-hot. During their hot stretch, the New York Mets were particularly cold.

I also discovered a Mets/Yankees prediction made by Sybil Trelawney (stored in the Department of Mysteries), who said, "Neither can live while the other survives."

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Grind vs. Starbucks

As I've mentioned before, my neighborhood coffee joint, the Grind, struggles to be a quality coffee joint. And I've also mentioned that my neighborhood finally got its inevitable Starbucks.

The Starbucks has been open for nine months or so, and I finally went there for the first time a couple weekends ago.

But it's OK, I have an excuse!

For reasons too complicated to explain, I had to be out of my apartment for a couple of hours, and I was running errands right near the Starbucks when it started to rain.

Jesus, they were good. It was almost like I had an "I hate Starbucks" sign on my forehead, and they were determined to change my mind. Three different people made friendly, unforced chit-chat. I got my iced coffee in less than a minute, and when she handed it to me, the cute barista called me "darlin'." The music was just low enough to keep me from being distracted. I'm telling you, even in Sunnyside, Starbucks does it right.

Which is such a disappointment.

Meanwhile, I haven't had much occasion to visit the Grind of late. I have my coffee and breakfast at home before leaving for work, and by the time I get back to the neighborhood, it's too late for coffee.

Some of my friends haven't given up on the Grind, but they report back numerous failings in the service department.

But I noticed some guerrilla marketing in the form of colored chalk scribblings on the sidewalk promoting Thursday night stand-up comedy at the Grind.

From what I can tell, the only thing that's funny is that it still takes the Grind a half hour to get you a coffee and a bagel! Zang! ZzP-POW! Wocka-wocka-wocka!

Actually, that's just sort of sad.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Your Cell Phone Is Killing Bees

As many of you may know, it is my goal to be the last New York City resident without a cell phone. I've been accused of being stupid, Luddite, contrary, and (perhaps most frustrating to some) unreachable. The only reason I don't want a cell phone is that I don't like them.

I have myriad reasons for not liking cell phones: I don't like talking on the phone in general, I want to be truly unreachable sometimes, I believe in making plans, the worst pedestrians are usually on the phone, there's no goddamn peace anywhere a phone is allowed, cell phones kill bees, and more.

That's right: there's now some hard evidence linking radiation from cell phones to Colony Collapse Disorder, which has wiped out between 60% and 70% of apiaries on both US coasts. Watch the price of honey explode first. Then sit back in wonder as the pollination process declines. As the article points out, Albert Einstein said that once the bees disappear, humankind has four years of life left. Good times.

And as if I needed more reasons to stay away from cell phones, the bottom of the linked article also proposes still-unproven theories (only because long-term effects can't be known yet) of health problems caused by handsets, including brain tumors, low sperm counts, the death of brain cells resulting in early senility, and "text thumb."

Text thumb? Text thumb?!

It's only a matter of time before cell phones are proven to cause homosexuality, premarital sex, and abortion.

Enjoy your cell phones, everybody! You can reach me at home on my goddamn land line. Although I probably won't pick up. So email me instead.

Aw, crap. I bet my wireless internet is killing bees, too. I'm going back to bed.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Now That's Rock-n-Roll

Dude. Keith Richards snorted his father.

He's still got it.

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Friday, March 30, 2007

Putting the Pot in a Pot of Coffee

So I've got this afternoon ritual at work. I go outside and get a cup of coffee. Usually I walk the extra couple of blocks to the good place. Today, I was in a hurry and went to Starbucks.

My coffee tastes like pot. And when I asked my colleague if hers tasted like pot, she admitted that it does. I had one more colleague taste my coffee, and she too agreed that it tastes like pot.

This proves two things: 1) my coffee does indeed taste like pot, and 2) I work with a bunch of stoners.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Better Than the Iditarod

The missus' godfather is doing what has to be one of the coolest things on earth right about now. It's called Finnmark 2007. While on its dog-sledding trek across the Lapland of Scandinavia, the team will be focused on studying the early victims of climate change, i.e. the Sami. The human response to the effects of global warming, after all, will become increasingly important to understand.

A secondary purpose will be to record snowflakes for NASA's snowflake database. How badass is that?

Be sure to check out the diary of the ride, which has just begun and continues through April 10. The photo of the Northern Lights is pulled right from the diary, and the missus' godfather is one of the regular bloggers from the expedition. The man is sixty-five. While he's got more hair than me, I would consider him bald. His effectiveness is without question.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

What I Did Today

I tell you what: I've got one goddamn giant fucking pot of chili on the stove right now.

I was going to amuse you all today with a posting about how bald people are being stereotyped as evil in this season of 24, but instead I made this goddamn big fucking pot of chili.

I was also going to work on one of the writing projects I've got going in perpetuity, but nope: I made a goddamn gigantic fucking pot of chili.

I was also going to take a big chunk out of the novel I'm currently reading and maybe get started on the relatively new Mao biography, but instead I gots me a goddamn enormous fucking pot of chili on the stove.

If you think I'm not going to enjoy my goddamn massive fucking pot of chili this week you are sorely mistaken. It's a goddamn large fucking pot of chili, and it's going to be goddamn bloody fucking delicious.

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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Arctic Air From Canada

No, that's not a metaphor. I'm talking literally about the Arctic air coming from Canada.

Beginning tonight, New York's finally gonna get cold. I don't mean, "normal highs around 34-degrees," as they like to say on NY1's Weather on the 1's. I'm talking about high temperatures that may not get out of the teens.

I like it. Obviously, if we had ten days of deep freeze in a row, I'd probably get tired of it. But cold weather that cold makes you feel alive. At least until you freeze to death.

Plus, I like impressing the masses by demonstrating how (while walking the Brooklyn Bridge) I can work up a sweat in any weather. My bald head steams like an Icelandic hot springs, and it makes people happy.

Let's hear it for the cold!

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