Why I Love The Onion, and Why You Should Too.

Recently there was a tragedy, occurrence, event, catastrophe, calamity–whatever you wish to call it or the politicians wish to name it with their rhetoric. Either way, there was an event in which people died; that we can all agree upon. Whatever you wish to call the shootings in Colorado Springs, it doesn’t change the outcome. People are dead, lives are forever changed, and like a pebble thrown into a placid mirrored pond, the ripples from that stone will affect the lives of so many within their communities, families, and circles of friends.

Only a day after the shootings on November 29th, The Onion, the online satirical news media website, openly satirized the shootings, well at least poked fun at a certain segment of the population that tend to act like ostriches, burying their heads deep within the sand. The writers of this online website did what they do best, satirize an event, while at the same time, making Americans scratch their heads, thinking, “is this supposed to be funny?” As a comedy website that has articles named “Realtor Was Not Expecting Such Hard-Hitting Questions About Water Pressure”  or “New Study Finds Box Still World’s Most Popular Container,” it is hard to think of these writers taking such a serious stance on an issue such as gun violence in America, but that is exactly what they do after major incidents like this most recent killing spree .

#MemeOfTheWeek: That Article From The Onion About Mass Shootings

In October NPR wrote an article titled, “#MemeOfTheWeek: That Article From The Onion About Mass Shootings,” illustrating the prevalence of mass shootings in the United States. NPR highlighted something that confounded some; that even a website like The Onion,–one who satirizes moms drinking wine, or dads feeling failure from daughter not being as boyish as the boy he wanted– that they are one of the few media outlets who really tell it as it is, and give their opinion openly on these tragedies. And yet, they are comedy, they are Tosh.O, they are South Park, they are Steven Colbert, they are the sarcasm that some of us love, the sardonic wit of twisted individuals, with their dark humor. I wonder….I wonder if everyone who reads The Onion, really understands what they are reading. That in these moments, in these articles, they are reading something so powerful, something so important, something about an event that has affected so many lives, and will affect so many more in the future.

Frustrated Gunman Can’t Believe How Far He Has To Drive To Find Nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic

After shootings at military bases, colleges, schools…. and the list goes on, and on, and on. But seriously, after so many shootings at so many different locations, we have our most recent shooting, at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Again, The Onion was there to bolster us up, to remind us, that there is life after tragedy, but tragedy should not be part of life. Instead tragedies like this are part of insanity and extremism, and should be abnormal, not the normal. On November 30th, the article “Frustrated Gunman Can’t Believe How Far He Has To Drive To Find Nearest Planned Parenthood Clinic,” poked fun at lack of gun control coupled with religious zealotry. You know who they are mocking, it is there under the surface. Hell, they even chose Texas as the state of location; I wonder why? The irony isn’t missed on me either, that while in our nation, we are deathly afraid of Islamic terrorists, but Christian warriors, who do God’s will, are not terrorists. Huh, interesting. Now you may think this is all too soon. But no, it isn’t. Instead you get a feeling, reading this article, there is a sense of helplessness, a feeling of frustration. However you feel about it being in poor taste, The Onion is creating open dialogue and conversation on this horrible event, while candidates running for president will not even  make statements, acknowledging something horrible occurred.

NRA Visits Colorado Police Evidence Room To Check Up On Rifle Used In Planned Parenthood Shooting

Within 24 hours this satirical newspaper posted two articles, poking fun at the extreme groups that have a tendency to rally around religion, guns, and fear monger the most, and didn’t think twice about openly mocking one of the largest lobby groups in the nation, The NRA. In one line, The Onion highlighted how the lives of Americans are less important than their guns, and how you cannot feel sympathy for one, without alienating the other. Silence descends upon the Republican candidates all vying for position as the presidential front runner, as this tragedy confuses and befuddles their emotions. How can you feel empathy for the families of these people, who sold baby parts? How can you tell Americans this was a tragedy, while having no solution, because a solution would alienate your own political party? And thus comes the conundrum, what is more important, gun rights or people’s rights to live, to a safe society.

In the wake of this most recent tragedy, I read the articles posted by The Onion  and I did not laugh, or feel anger toward their satirization of this event, instead, I was grateful that they have the conviction to highlight the extremist ideologies that are attached to such events. Hiding your head in the sand, or debating and argument with the answer, “its my right,” is not productive discussion, instead it is opinion and want; it is pure desire. So, I love The Onion because they make me laugh, they make me smile. Their sarcasm warms my heart like reading a David Sedaris book, but above else, they have the mettle to stand up for what they believe is right, when others fall silent.

Confessions from a Confessional

Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been…..almost two decades since my last confession.  Where do I begin? I guess, for this to work, you would have to actually believe in a god.

I  sat there in that stuffy confessional where the air hung like a thick miasma of dry heat and sin. The burgundy velvet cushion crushed under the weight of my knees, and as I knelt there, I stared at the silhouette through a gold colored fabric, sandwiched between two layers of wicker screen . The room was small, and the walls seemed to draw in on me, crushing my body in a vice of Catholic guilt. In that room of iniquity, that den of wicked transgressions, I raced my teenage mind for sins, and finding none, I blurted out lies.

What sticks out most in my mind, is how strange the experience was of confession, and the church where we asked forgiveness. This was not the normal church we attended mass, and that always struck me as odd. It was uncomfortable to be in this strange church, as if I were a visiting football team changing in the home-team’s locker room, only feet away from their school’s seal painted on the floor. That grand church with its vaulted ceilings, the saints and archangels staring down from the ceiling, their painted eyes passing judgement before I made it into that wooden box of guilty admission, was hot. Too hot. I can remember the steam radiators lined against the outer walls clicking and hissing as steam passed through their iron gills. It was like a well versed interrogation tactic. Get the sinners in the church and sweat them, make them uncomfortable, so they spill their sins like diarrhea of the mouth, just so they can make a quick escape into the chill of autumn, or the unbearable humidity and heat of a Long Island summer. But there was something else I noticed, something that made me cringe every time we made our pilgrimage to this house of the lord. The acoustics were great.

Seriously, who wants to confess their deepest, darkest sins, when everyone in the whole church can hear it. So there I am, a young kid, kneeling in a church pew, ten, twenty pews away from the confessional booth, and I can still hear everything the sinner is relating to the priest. Most of us whisper, some don’t, but for the most part every one’s guilt catches up to them, and they try and whisper, so as to avoid the rest of the judging Catholics’ eyes as they exit the booth. It is like a walk of shame when that door opens. Instead of absolution, you feel dirtier, as if you bathed in your sins a second time, wallowing in the muck of Satan’s deeds. Just moving on the kneeler in this church, with only a dozen repenters to dampen the echoes, makes a noise that garners the attention of anyone within its four walls. So you sit still, quiet, hoping that your uncomfortable shifting does not interrupt the strange rituals that occur behind closed doors. And then it is my turn.

Standing in line against the wall, the wall where radiators click and hum. The wall which feels like a blast furnace from hell, perspiring my body head to toe. Standing against that wall, I get closer to the booth, and peoples sins are now transmitted crystal clear, finding their receiver in my ears, and I cringe, knowing everybody will hear my sins. And then, before I know it, I find myself in the confessional.

“Bless me father for I have sinned. It has been–a long pause ensues–two months since my last confession.” Imagine a drawn out upward inflection after the pause. A question more than a statement. I have, and never will, been good with remembering time and events in relationship to a calendar of dates. My timeline floats somewhere in space, it is neither linear nor regressive, but instead jumbled, chopped, fragmented, and only assembled when need be. Already off to a good start, lying about the last time I had confession. So there I was, sitting there in that booth, the heat overwhelming and uncomfortable, but I haven’t even told you the weirdest part about all this, the wall which hid your face, was open on the left vertical half of the wall.

That’s right, open. I sat in that booth, while I could see the priest’s legs crossed, as he bobbed his feet up and down in the air. His face was behind the screen at least, but from his knees to feet, I could see those black wool pants that were always part of the uniform. Let me illustrate this for you. I could have reached my hand around the wall, and waved at myself, seeing the silhouette through that thin veil of a privacy screen. On some occasions, the priest decided to sit the other way, so you could see his face. Face to face confession! Come on. Really. So I sat there, melting into the corner of that booth, trying to squeeze as far into the opposite wall as possible, so the angle of his sight and my eyes might not meet, blocked by the wall that only obscured half the priest, only this time not his head. And then we spoke.

“Tell me your sins,” he would say. Tell me your sins? My sins? I would race through my mind, thinking, hemming and hawing. I had rehearsed this when I was in line against the horrid wall of radiator hell, but now I froze, like a teenager having recited how he would ask his crush out, only to get up to her and drown in a sea of self-conscious uncertainty, mumbling something incomprehensible and then running away in an awkward fashion. Whispering as low as I could, knowing everyone out there in line would hear my confession, I started. Of course he always told me to speak up, and I would just continue to whisper, like a passing birds call on the wind miles away.

My sins. I questioned so much as a teenager, as a child, I didn’t really believe in god, finding my the answers to my questions only created more questions. I was probably fifteen when I really committed to that, and for the next three years found myself just going through the motions. So here I was, thinking of sins that I didn’t believe I committed, and I was supposed to come up with something, anything. So, I did what any self-respecting teenager would do, lie. I created sins on the spot. I spewed forth a whole host of venial sins. Sins that were pathetic. “I lied to my parents about going out with my friends; I stole chips and cookies from the pantry when my parents had already said no; I said the lord’s name in vain,” you know, things like that. There I sat, lying to a priest about my sins, making them up as I went along. The coup de grâce of this act was always, “I lied.” Which I had just done. So yeah, confession was somewhat of a mockery for me, but what was I to do, I was a good kid.

I really was a good kid. I didn’t do much to incur the wrath of my parents. I was liked by my teachers. I didn’t really cause trouble in school. My rebellion was philosophical, my differences were and are with society, rules, religion, discrimination and a whole host of other inequalities; hence being a humanist and atheist. But Catholicism makes you feel guilty, as if sin from oozes your pores. If it is enjoyable, it is a sin. That is my take on religion. Now don’t get me wrong, I am glad I was raised with religion, it taught me valuable lessons that, and I have a strong understanding of right and wrong, morals and ethics, but that is where my appreciation of religion ends. I was strong enough not to drink the Kool-Aid, and as a result, live a very fulfilled life without someone else informing me how to function.

In the end, Catholic guilt still sticks with us all, even if we are recovering from our early years indoctrinated in the church. As my friend’s pointed out in my early college years , I draped–and still do–a napkin over any unfinished food on my plate. This act is not conscious, but subliminally done, and when I realized I did this, it became apparent that you can’t strip away all the years of sinful regret in such a short time. Because, some where in Africa, there is a starving child that would eat that food.

Five Things You Cannot Un-see at the Mall

The other day I went to the mall. It is a rare occurrence, but occasionally I will find myself plying the wares the many different stores offer in their glass cubicle enclosures, like human fish tanks of consumerism. As I wandered down the antiseptic looking open corridor which runs down the center of the structure like a spine, all the wings just ribs connecting this concourse of pedestrian traffic, I saw many sights and wondered how this ever appealed to my youthful self years ago.

When I lived in Old Town, Maine over ten years ago, it was, and still is, the edge of civilization, the last bastion before the frontier. If you traveled any farther north on Interstate 95 you would travel miles upon miles before passing an exit, and even then, there was no guarantee a town would be waiting for you. So the Bangor area was where masses congregated, the night life of the air, the pulse of the great white north. It is where people from all Northern Maine shopped, because, lets be honest, if you’ve been to areas like Fort Kent and Presque Isle, you would understand. With that said, if you were bored and had a lot of time on your hands, you might just find yourself becoming a mall-rat at the Bangor Mall…and unfortunately, I had a lot of time to kill.

So as I walked around the Maine Mall in South Portland the other day, I had a lot of time to kill, and observe the tomfoolery that occurs in these bastions of retail panacea, and cringe at many of the sites.

Before I even entered the doors to the mall I noticed an unusual character worth note, and is number five on my list.

5.) Oddities

Like entering a circus or an old fashioned carnival, the mall seems to attract the characters which PT Barnum would have drooled over. Although it is not my intent to judge or make light of certain fashions, I noticed the mall seems to attract a certain demographic in large numbers. The individual I noticed the other day would stand out anywhere he went, but it wasn’t for his dress, but the whole package. As he stood outside the food court entrance, his baggy pair of basketball shorts falling off the second pair of basketball shorts underneath, and the long baggy tank top that he wore, the outfit was three sizes too large for his wiry muscular frame. His hair, standing straight off his head about nine inches, as if gravity had stopped working and was now operating in opposite fashion, was dark brunette in color, and looked like Eraserhead from David Lynch’s cult classic about a dystopian dark future. But again, this was not the oddest thing, and neither was the child size backpack he wore with both straps fastened. No, it wasn’t that at all. What struck me as odd, the strangest things of all, was how he walked around with a fifteen pound hex dumbbell. And along with carrying this weight he performed sitting tricep presses straight up into the air high above his head. It seemed irrelevant to this young gentleman that everyone in the food court was staring at him as he performed a workout with a single weight, and the whole time I observed him, he never switched arms, but continued on the left arm, over and over again.

4.) Where have all the arcades gone?

One of the best things about hanging out at the mall was the arcade games. I grew up during the revolution of gaming. Pong and Atari, Colecovision and Commodore 64, Nintendo and Sega, these were the gaming systems that defined my generation’s gaming experience. 8-bit arcade games were everywhere, and even in bars, adults found themselves drawn to their flashing lights, the idea of gaining top score stroking many an individuals ego, their initials forever etched in the memory of that cpu, like George Costanza and his obsession with Frogger. So why is it all the arcades have disappeared? Is this a telling trend that video games are  only to be enjoyed in the home atmosphere, where teens shamelessly down bottles of Monster Energy drink while chowing down on some cheese curl?. I know that bars like Arcadia in Portland, Maine and many others in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, find an audience swarming their bars to play retro arcade games that harken back to our childhood. I still find myself playing 8-bit games at home on my computer, or try to beat Zelda in record time, finding all the hidden extras, or defeating it without any. Even to this day I try and beat Contra without the secret code that we all have ingrained in our memory– more vivid than that first time we kissed or took that first fateful shot of rotgut stolen from our father’s stash of whisky. So where have all the arcades gone? They are not at the mall, and that is something I envision every time I walk past the crappy retail store which now occupies the space that was once painted with black walls and ceiling, the dark lights glowing on the walls, illuminating neon paint, as the sound effects of tie fighters blowing up the death star rang through the air.

3.) Kiosks

I am not sure when Kiosks became a year round occurrence. I am sure if I kept a journal throughout the years I could pick out a time and watch the spread from there. Like a virus, the kiosks spread from one end of the mall to the other, as these itinerant peddlers of crappy wares found space in the center concourse of the mall. Cutting this pedestrian area in half, it is now a gauntlet of heavy pressure salespersons constantly honing in on those who seem the weakest and most likely prey of consumerism in our society. Locking eyes with one of these displaced hucksters is certain doom, and their brain focuses on you like a homing beacon, leaping in front of you as if throwing themselves in the path of a bus to save an elderly woman crossing the road further down the line. You are filled with self loathing and regret that you did not just dodge or dip out of the way, a quick pivot like a basketball player with the smoothest of moves. Instead they trap you in their toothy smile like a tractor beam, and you become hypnotized by their sales pitch. It is not yourself you have to worry about, but who you are with, your hope that they have enough fortitude to fight off the barrage of congenial platitudes that swirl around their head in a dizzy mist of obfuscation. It is like they are Jedi’s telling you these are not the droids you are looking for, but instead you need a buckwheat neck pillow or you should buy a calming mint liniment. You walk away dizzy and confused, but somehow you now own a collection of standup comedy DVDs from Bob Marley, even though you think his acts are boorish and crude.

2.) Foodcourt Food

I remember when the foodcourt had places you looked forward too, because, hell, when you are bumming around the mall, Sabarro or Taco Bell is the way to go, along with a big Slush Puppy from Auntie Em’s or Orange Julius. A tall Mountain Dew and crunchy taco used to get me by for hours, but now, fast food chains I have never heard of dominate or local food joints. I don’t know, I love sushi, I eat it at some of the best places I can in the greater Portland area, but there is something unsettling about buying sushi at the mall. This is not a judgement against the workers or owners of these locations, but it just seems wrong. A big triangular slice of greasy cheese pizza is what is called for when palling around the mall. What about a hotdog from Orange Julius with a slice of american cheese and bacon? Or how about just an Arby’s Big Montana sandwich, replete with the Horsey Sauce and potato cakes, all completed with a side of uranium yellow dipping cheese sauce–now that was classic mall fair. But now we find sushi restaurants, local soup joints, fast casual burger shops, and local Italian fair taking over the perimeter of the seating area. It is as if they are trying to give the mall a conscience, giving it the ambiance of Portland, even though the mall is in South Portland. Let’s be honest. I don’t go to the mall to eat at one of my favorite restaurants from the Old Port and gentrified Portland. If that was the case I would get in my car, drive back north, and swing into Pai Men Miyake for Sushi and Campari. When I go to the mall, I want the guilty pleasure to be just that, guilty, but I guess we can’t have that anymore, so I will save my slice of cheese pizza for another location, and not the pizza place that is no longer Sabarro.

1.) Black Friday (aka Consumer Insanity)

When did Black Friday begin? The crazy lunacy that encompasses this crazy-ass holiday of its own, seems to have spun to a legendary status that is an accepted part of society. As if people need the newest television or a DVD marked down five dollars, they become rabid animals, foaming at the mouths, throwing all convention of politeness out the window. It seems that people are hard wired to search out deals and purchase, or execute, with no question on whether or not they really need it or even want it. What happened to the Sear’s Catalog Wish Book? I remember pouring through page after page, putting a circle around what I wanted, and my brother the same, our initials next to our wishes so my parents knew who wanted what. There was no guarantee that we would get what we wanted, but we wished for transformers, G.I. Joe figures, or those awesome D battery powered robots that just wheeled around the hardwood floor–and you better hope you have a hard surface for it to operate on. Now, we have the ultimate devolution of humanity as people scrap and fight over  televisions and DVD players in big box stores, while the snarl of parking begins on Thanksgiving night, that holiday now nothing more than a prequel to Christmas Consumerism. I have visited the mall a few times on Black Friday, and it was interesting, depressing even, and as throngs of people crowd stores, I am reminded that the weightlifting Eraserhead, thin man, sitting in the foodcourt, pumping a weight over his head clearly out of place outside the context of the gym, is the normal one while the hoards of people threaten each other over the newest toy their child needs.

Malls, like video games, were great in the eighties and early nineties, but as time moved on, and the consumer evolved, so too do this space, and it became less and less appealing to me. I guess I will just buy my clothes and L.L. Bean, at least the animals there are taxidermied.

Political Buzzwords of the 2016 Presidential Election

Well, it is not even officially summer yet of 2015, but sooner than later we will be inundated with the political process of the 2016 presidential elections, oozing into every pore and crack of our daily  lives. Like a toxic waste spill, poisoning all it touches, our television programming will be filled with mud slinging, political rhetoric, and fear mongering as talk, comedy, news, and opinion-based talk programs and commercials bombard us, sucking the souls from our bodies, like a miasma vaporously seeping from our eyes. I think I speak for a majority of Americans when I say that I am sick of this polarized political process, and already cringe knowing that it is right around the corner, starting earlier and earlier every election cycle. Just when you thought it was safe to turn the television on again, you will begin to hear lies, not knowing what to filter from your mind.

So, as we listen to misleading information, straight-out lies, and the occasional truth, here is a list of political buzzwords that will barge into your life, like the Kool-Aid Man busting through that brick wall, yelling ‘oh yeah.’ And remember, as the season goes on–the longest of any season we know–it is perfectly acceptable to vomit in your mouth, when you hear some of these incredibly pandering and condescending terms.

1.)  Pledge

The definition for pledge, is a solemn promise or undertaking. I guess most candidates have never read a dictionary–do fingers crossed behind the back count. Maybe at all future debates, the moderator should ask the candidates to have both their hands on their podiums at all times.

In the next year we will hear thousands of pledges, spoken down from candidates’ bully pulpits as they tell us what they intend to do, while never explaining how then intend on doing it. Here’s my pledge. I pledge to you I will not drink any beer for the next year. Seems as legit and believable as most of the promises candidates make.

2.) Endure

America must endure! Because, you know, we aren’t doing that already. I guess they mean we must remain as polarized in politics as we are today, and continue to not work together. Or maybe they are saying, that our senators and politicians must remain part of the 1%, while they represent blue-collared working and middle class citizens, because, they know what it feels like to live paycheck by paycheck. How’s that Bentley treating you? Is that America’s endurance?

3.) Take Back America

Now in this scenario, who are we taking America back from? Shouldn’t this be the slogan of the Native Americans? I mean, didn’t we take America from them. Oh, that’s right, I forgot. Some historians–who politically lean a certain way–would posit that since Native Americans didn’t believe in ownership of the land, rather they practiced usufruct rights–the ownership or rights, not the physical land, to resources in areas and regions which they held control over–we didn’t take land from them, because they, themselves, believed they didn’t own it. Because, that’s a legit argument…for Victorian times…as a white British imperialist, wearing a pith helmet and all out khakis, as he plods his way through the jungles of borneo, believing his white superiority over the black natives–savages according to his mind–as he commodifies his expeditions for future colonization. But, I digress.

Again, I ask, who are we taking America back from? The migrant workers who pick the lettuce and vegetables in fields for us? Rake blueberries in the fields? Pick our strawberries? Alright, send them back, so we can eat ten dollar bags of lettuce. Yep, solid argument. Yeah we can live on bags of cheap Doritos. Who needs vegetables and fruit? We should totally take our country back from those social system abusing immigrants. Because, you know, none of us or our families, were ever immigrants in this nation. Maybe hypocrisy should be a buzzword used during campaigns, American Hypocrisy. Perfect.

4.) Transform

Like a self-conscious woman who feels she needs plastic surgery, because the film industry can’t deal with crows feet around the eyes, or the man who goes to the gym every day, two hours a day, to keep his six-pack abs rock hard and defined, America must transform. We must transform to mirror the image of what our rich senators say we should be. We must transform our nation to represent what rich, blue-blooded, deep-rooted, American families envision for us, because, they are in touch with the majority of Americans.

I always imagine the family from Wedding Crashers the Clearys, as our politicians. So out of touch, on their southern plantation, having their yacht transport them for a weekend gathering. In my mind the Clearys represent true American politics, “two of the great American families, the Clearys and the Lodges, will finally unite.” Let’s play some touch football…and go quail hunting…and sail the yacht.

5.) Transparency

Like a piece of saran wrap, politicians want American government to be as clear as can be, except when its their own past, finances, and records in the Senate. I think wax paper is a better representation of the transparency which is really fought for, a little foggy, yet you can tell vague shapes through the slippery, filmy piece of kitchen paper, like a slime or a scummy film, coating the piece of paper.

6.) American Exceptionalism

I had to leave this one for last, being my favorite of all these listed. This is the phrase I loath the most. I regurgitate my lunch whenever I hear this bantered around, used like post-modern is as an adjective. This phrase is a favorite of many politicians because it paints a GREAT American narrative. Well, there are segments of American history that represent a great narrative, this is true, except that this idea of exceptionalism ignores the darker side of our history. Hey, I’m not anti-America. There are good and bad sides to all history, and by ignoring the dark side, it doesn’t make it go away. Hahaha, lock that creepy uncle in the closet, he doesn’t fit in with our family’s aesthetic, he’s more an artist.

As I hold back the vomit writing about this term, I must think that you have to be a great snake oil salesperson to peddle the rhetoric that most politicians sell to us. To an extent, they have to believe what they preach to us, or it wouldn’t be believable to most constituents. So, in the end, when a politician tells you they believe in American Exceptionalism, that means they want to turn history into a comic book, where only supermen exist, women are ancillary characters–most of the time as sexual characters–and people of other ethnicities kind of exist in the background, rarely playing the lead role, having very stereotypical roles.

So in the next year, as our politicians try to sell you the American narrative, I say, screw them. We write that story everyday. Their buzzwords and rhetoric tell us nothing, but what they are trying to sell, and like a used car salesmen, they will say anything to get that flood-damaged, bought-at-auction car off their lot.



Happy Zed Day!

Today millions of people celebrate Easter. Let’s take some time to reflect back on what this day means, shall we. Today Christian’s celebrate the original zombie. I applaud you for recognizing that zombies deserve their own holiday. In fact, the Catholic church really was a trend setter. Instead of jumping on the current zombie bandwagon, they set the trend. So raise a glass to all zombies, and toast George Romero. Who knows what society would be like without this genius, the man who filmed that low budget, black and white film, so many years ago now.

So, Happy Easter! The day where a zombie bunny rabbit, bit a man named jesus, which raised him from the dead, turning him into a zombie as well. Oh, and just to be clear, Cadbury’s false and misleading adds, for over thirty years, have taught children deceiving information. Bunny rabbits and chickens do not sound the same. I repeat, even though it has been beaten into our heads, bunny rabbits do not sound like chickens. That is all. Breckenridge.

Happy Zed Day!

A Grocery-Cart Stoplight

Realizing that this is my platform to capture people’s attentions, even for the most mundane, everyday occurrence, I will take full advantage of this. Since when has it become mandatory to have the plastic divider on the conveyor belt at the grocery store, before you put your items down. I have noticed in the past few years, with increasing curiosity, that using this has become an unwritten rule in our culture? When did the plastic divider become necessary?

Standing in line, I notice the stench of B.O. emanating from the large man in front of me. His Mossy Oak head to toe camouflage outfit seems to ooze this stink about the customer line, as if peeled onions are shoved into the pockets of his coat. If this isn’t enough, I could reach over and grab his hair, and probably wring out enough oil from his hair to deep fry a whole chicken, but hey, who am I to judge. We all have our bad hair days, all have those times when we have woken up, hungover, face peeling off the floor where we passed out the night before, stumbling to the commons on campus in our pajamas, the stink of whisky, cheap beer, and vomit lingering on our lips, so again, who the hell am I to judge. I’m older now, cleaned up, well-dressed, but hey, I was there once, and now I stand in line, waiting to check out.

My food lays on the conveyer belt, next to the bright foil bags filled with corn chips and triangular shaped nachos. And then I see it, the look, the look of death. As if somehow my food will infect his, I see it, the casual flick of the hand, sending the little plastic bar, the guardian of groceries, to land atop my pile. All I receive is a gruff, “use it.” Choking back any snarky comments that would fly from my mouth toward this man who has not seen a bar of soap in weeks, I casually take the divider, and place it between our foods. This bar somehow delineates food property, conveyer belt real estate. The six inches between our two piles, somehow is not enough of a demarcation between the differing purchases. The fact that my food is, well, much different than his, or maybe, just maybe, the fact that the cashier saw me place my items on the belt isn’t good enough, no, he has to make sure that it is known to all, those few piddly items of food are his.

So, ok, one time doesn’t make this a thing, but so many times I have noticed customers standing behind me, not placing their items on the belt, without that plastic bar up there. I will sometimes wait so long without placing that divider up there, just to see people’s reactions. I have almost had all my groceries in the express line rung up, before the person behind me grasped the divider with an annoyed look, placed it on the belt, even though almost all my items were gone, and then took their groceries out of their basket. This whole thing is puzzling to me, it is an enigma, an odd phenomenon.

Maybe people are afraid of food touching. I mean I wouldn’t want that cheap ass Natty Light touching my craft beer, it might instantly skunk it. Or maybe they are afraid of the devious ones in society. I think it would be great. You can let random items spill into other people’s groceries, stand there with Depends adult diapers, and just let them mix into the pile in front of mine, looking at the cashier with a face of pure innocence, “They’re not mine. No, I didn’t put them up here. It’s ok, it happens to the best of us. You’ll persevere.” Maybe, people are afraid, that for some reason we are going to sabotage them, placing high end foods in their pile, which the average, unsuspecting American, would never notice until they got home. You would never return it, because we all know it is tacky to return food to the grocery store. Yeah, I need to bring back these two bunches of grapes, they weren’t up to my standards–Can you return produce?

Anyway, when the hell did this little plastic divider, that people are so afraid of, become king of the conveyor belt. Since when did this divider become the absolute dictator of when to put your food down for checkout. Seriously, I wonder, if you drew a red line on the floor in the grocery, right before the checkout line, people would stand behind it, waiting to be waved on from the cashier, without ever being told what it was. Like a dog confused at the other canines on television, people would stare at this line, touching it with their toes, as if it would turn green, a grocery cart stoplight. I say screw the divider and go for broke. Throw your groceries on top of the other customers, and purchase the whole lot. It will be exciting when you get home, you won’t know what you bought, till unveiling the purchase in the safety of your own kitchen. Surprise, tampons. Surprise, capers. Surprise, coconut. Ah, what a great dinner this will be. So, next time you’re at the grocery store, don’t use the divider, and put your items as close to the other customer’s, just to watch the look of absolute concern wash over their face, as fear of grocery integration swirls around their imagination.

A Muse of Utter Convenience

Goddamn you Muse. Goddamn you. You touch my shoulder and whisper into my ear at the worst times. You tickle my neck with your verbose lips as you run your soft fingertips through my hair. But why, oh why, must you do this while I am driving. Why must you visit me when I am entrenched in work, elbow deep in blood, or in the heat of a blazing inferno. You entice me, and force your words into my thoughts, but I sit there impotent, unable to act on your foreplay. You fill my mind with beautiful prose, multisyllabic lines with such deep enthralling content, and I am afraid of losing it forever, vanished inside my alcohol addled brain.

So you are a tease, a constant tease. I sit, staring at the screen, typing away at the keyboard with droll content barely eking from my mind, but when I am walking through the woods, with no implements to write or duplicate my thoughts, you come to me. My hands firmly grasping the wheel of my vehicle, plying the interstate at high speeds, you sit in the passenger seat, just rambling on and on, never halting your speech for even a breath. Why must you be so difficult?

And then there are those nights, those dark, cold nights, when you slither into bed, curling up next to me, whispering sweet loquacious sentences into my ear. You curl your warm body against mine, interjecting the most garrulous topics into my dreams, which render down to beautiful stanzas and prose. In a stupor I sit up, grasping at the last lines remembered in the painterly visions of my sleepy hallucinations, clinging at hope that I can scribble the pleonastic utterance of my mind’s characters.

Oh, Muse of mine. Let’s set a date, a schedule on my calendar. We can meet on the days I am free to write, or you know, just drop by whenever the feeling strikes you, like when I am walking through a museum, engrossed in the quietude of art, you know a time of utter convenience. Please, come to me whenever you feel like, but I would prefer you to schedule your visits in advance. Oh, and next time, bring a bottle of wine. I prefer red.

Holodeck from Hell

As my friend, Tom and I, were driving back from Brooklyn on I-678, we had enthralling conversation that lasted till we reached I-91 in Connecticut–if you are familiar with interstates in southern New England, you would know that is a pretty long stretch of driving. This conversation was one of importance that parallels politics, global warming, and indigenous rights to natural resources of postcolonial nation-states. Our minds drifted through childhood television programs, and the likes of MASH, Rescue 911, and Unsolved Mysteries graced our thoughts, as we spoke of shows that we vividly remembered. We talked about these shows, recalling our affinity towards Star Trek: The Next Generation, and reminisced about one thing, that even then, when we watched the show on primetime, we made note of this egregious writer’s faux pas, the ever destructive Holodeck.

Now I can appreciate that writers of sitcoms cannot fill every episode with plot enhancing stories, which further the underlying objective of the starship Enterprises’ mission, and they cannot keep finding planets and new civilizations every episode, because, lets be honest, the solar system would then be teaming with so much life that it would seem a little ridiculous. Bantering our theories back and forth, we came up with a consensus on a this topic of conversation, and it did not bode so well for the creators of The Next Generation.

First off, the writer’s of the show needed filler, and with the creation of the holodeck, they had enough filler to last a lifetime. Like I said before, they could not stumble upon a new civilization every episode without it seeming ridiculous. Or neither could every episode take place on the bridge of the enterprise, knowing sheer boredom would emerge from this, so what is the writers best tool, a trope that gives them unlimited ability to create stories that have no connection to the underlying plot line of the series. Think about it, the writers are all huddled in a room, and one of them has this genius idea, “What if we create a room? And in this room, they can replicate environments and scenarios, like watching a movie, but they are part of it. It will be interactive…I mean its the future, why wouldn’t they have this? And this way, we can write in episodes that have nothing to do with the plot of the show. You know, filler episodes.” I can see them all, shaking their heads, agreeing with the greatest tool ever given to the writer of a sitcom, unlimited possibility. But wait, heres the kicker.

So the holodeck seems a legit idea for the future. In fact, it is probably the most sane thing they could have ever done for that crew. Think about it, you’re trapped on a starship, millions of lightyears away from earth, the same environment seen day in and day out, and the only chance of touching your feet to a planet’s surface is by joining the away team, that, well, if you are not one of the main characters, than you are sure to die–we will address that in a future blog. So this holographic room of recreation has its merits, I will definitely make this concession, but that is where my praise ends.

You are the captain of a starship, and your crew keeps getting locked within a room which seems to want to malfunction and kill you, don’t you think you might do something about this? So why is it that EVERYONE, at one point or another on that damned show, has been trapped inside the holodeck?  Don’t you think, that at some point, you would say, “Hey, maybe we should put an out of service sign on this thing?” Better yet, why would you constantly keep going in there after you’ve been stuck inside many times before. Ok, human nature aside of a propensity for sheer stupidity, it just seems a little over the top. Especially, when  a crew member does become trapped inside this hellish room, the rest of the crew searches for them and never thinks to check the holodeck, as if they wouldn’t inspect the one room that seems to want to kill people. At this point, this all seems illogical. But wait, there’s more.

Can you imagine the Federation of Planet’s contract bid process. You’re a company that has holographic room technology, and you wish to install your product on the ship, securing a strong monetary contract for your company. You know you have competition though, two other corporations are waiting to one up you, stealing the contract from you, and walk away a rich happy firm, lining their pockets with the good taxpayer’s dollars. The government agent leans back in his chair, and confidently asks why your product stands out amongst the rest. With a dry smile and straight face you lean forward and say two words, “lethal mode.” Ok, seriously, lethal! You have an option for your holodeck to be lethal. In what application would this ever be necessary or acceptable to use. How does this, in anyway, make practical sense? I see the government agent standing up in a burst of excitement, “Brilliant, that’s just the kind of innovative spirit we are looking for in a company. You have the contract.” So it is not stressful enough, being so far from home on a star ship, but then you have to wonder if this holographic death box of a room will malfunction and try and kill you every time you use it, which seems pretty damn often.

So, if you are a person who loves to watch reruns of television, and a tendency to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation, the next time you watch the show, think about the ridiculousness of the holodeck. Think about the fact that the ship has a room that can kill you, locks you in about twenty-five percent of the time, and then malfunctions and tries and kills you. Oh, and yes, I forgot, has the ability to make an evil sentient being, that then could leave the holodeck and plot to destroy the ship. Yeah, those writers were geniuses. Geniuses I tell you, “Hey, what do you think this episode should be about? Hmmm, let’s do a Sherlock Holmes episode on the holodeck. You know, filler.” Genius.


Today is the Day

I think I’ll write today. That’s it, I’ll write the book to end all books, the book which will get me published, my manuscript will ooze literary savant. I will sit down and words will pour from my fingertips as I furiously bang against the keyboard at a such a speed that my fingers will blur in my sight. I will examine the meaning of life, and put such deep philosophies into print, that my characters will be the most insightful, yet flawed, in the whole existence of history, and prehistory for that matter. Oh, it will be glorious.

I can see the scene set. The environment, the smells, the touch, the emotions, I will make all these things so believable, as I paint the canvas with my thoughts, that when the reader puts down the book, they will be distraught at how fake reality is. Today is the day that I paint my grand masterpiece. Today is the day.

Kissing my wife on her forehead, I relayed the news, and with an excitement bordering on neurosis, closed the door to my office. Coffee cup in hand, steam rising from the molten onyx liquid, which could make a boulder jitter, I took the first lip burning sip, and sat down to work.

Adjusting the lamp in my office–or as I prefer to call it, writing sanctuary–I flicked it off and on, off and on, listening to the click of the round nob, affixed to the brass, 50s, banker’s desk lamp. Staring at the white screen in from of me, I proceeded to fix the keyboard so as to have the maximal typing angle for my wrists. I then adjusted the seat, and analyzed the positioning of my arms, postulating the length of writing time, versus muscle memory, and comfortability of this posture.

Satisfied with this, I now stood up, and looking out the window, saw a flock of turkeys, eating seed from underneath my bird feeder. Their plumage was gorgeous as the sunlight reflected off their feathers, and I wondered how much bird feed in a week was consumed by these birds, and whether or not we should be putting seed down specifically for them, since it would be unfair feeding all the other smaller birds which fly to our feeder, but leave these poor turkeys to scratch up the snow for the leavings and unwanted seeds. These birds found themselves under my feeder for some time, little over a half hour, and then they trotted down the hill, meandering in the lower part of the woods for another hour.

As I sat back down at my desk, I looked around the room, and thought, how distracting all the clutter was. So, I set to work, moving this object here, and that object there. Well, that certainly helped my writing, because after all the organizing, and tidying, I typed a whole paragraph before it was time for lunch. Finding myself a bit peckish, and thirsty, I suggested to my wife we have a light lunch, because work was to be done.

Pawing through the fridge I found condiments, beer, champagne, mead, wilted lettuce–which I placed back in its spot to wilt some more–and various assortment of cheeses. This, being  insufficient a lunch to aid in the endeavors of writing, with a swift step we made our way to the local brewpub. As always the waitress was friendly, and plied her wares upon us, with a quick friendly efficiency, which any salesperson would be jealous. I don’t recall how much we ate or drink, but I believe it was merely a snack.

Making our way back home, we took the dog for a walk, because it would be cruel not to, and then I went right back to my manuscript which would be the benchmark for all literature in the future of known civilization. I then noticed that I had not checked my email in a few hours, and found many adds which could aid me in my quest for great writing. The advertisements of certain travel companies, promising me cheap discounts to Belgium and Ireland, certainly could aid in the prose of any author. Why these countries could be the locations for such stories, or muses of sorts.

This led me to a frantic search for discount travel books on Western European travel, and I came across many that were outdated by a few years. This being insufficient, I found one recent copy on eBay, which just so serendipitously was ending in only an hour. I made a bid, and was instantly outbid, so I put in an outrageously fair price, and then went back to writing.

Not wanting to miss out on such a great opportunity this cheap travel guide was, I clicked the mouse over, just a few times, to my open web browser, hidden behind my almost blank literary canvas, just to make sure I wasn’t missing out on such a good deal. I sensed I was to be the victor of such an auction, and resigned myself to set aside my literary genius for a moment, and not pass up such an instrumental opportunity, that could forever change my life. If I won this guide I could travel Europe unhindered, having the knowledge of which all the locals had, for the subtitle even said “All the tourists know, and the secrets the locals keep for themselves.” I mean, how could someone pass on that.

The victor, last minute sniping, and bids well suited for the cost of such a book I could buy at the local bookstore with no shipping and handling attached to its price–I knew this accomplishment was big. In fact so big because of what it meant for my writing. I sat back, tilting my chair on two legs, and imagined the characters I would develop in Beligium, the bars that would become settings in stories, and the medieval churches, which would be the allegory for so many conflicts the recovering Catholic main character would encounter. Oh this all swirled in my head, and looking outside I realized that the earth was taking on a grey pall.

Opening the door to my office, I looked back inside, and satisfied with my days work, I stepped out into the warmth of the living room, standing next to the wood stove. I rubbed my hands together, warming them after all the hard work, satisfied with my day of writing.