Monday, December 31, 2007

Wayward Ring Returned to Distraught Cook

LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- A woman whose diamond ring vanished while she was making fudge for a bake sale was sure she'd never see it again. But Linda Vancel got a sweet surprise: a relative of the woman who bought the fudge found the ring when he bit into a piece.

"It renews your faith in people," Vancel said after hearing the ring would soon be returned.

The finder also offered to send back all the hair that had been on Ms. Vancel's hand.

Critic's Corner

Raoul is a master at hindsight. If he'd been on the Titanic, the first thing he'd have said in the lifeboat would have been, "That's why I wanted to take the bus."

His first words on leaving the movie last night were, "I told you we should have seen Sweeney Todd."

Me, I got fooled by the critics. Everybody gave it five stars. It's based on a classic story, an epic tale of how America was built.

Well, okay. So America was built by ambitious, eccentric liars who didn't sleep with women and may have touched a young girl inappropriately. I'll bet a clog-dancing Anabaptist had a hand in there somewhere, too, but I don't particularly want to watch that story either.

Rather than showing me anything new about America or Americans, this film teaches me only about filmmaking. That the director and the writer should go home in separate cars.

Now I'm thinking maybe Raoul is right: the signs were there. Maybe at some point "epic" was flattering, but during my lifetime it hasn't meant anything other than long. Plus, it seems symptomatic of the filmmaker's confusion that he took his title from an ad for Saw III.

Trust me: there will be sleep.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Words of Wisdom From a Master Tattooer

One thing most people don't know about me is I'm a master tattooer. I've been inking old ladies, drawing on anxious coeds, and leaving my mark on drunken sailors for close to four years. While some people think it's as easy as drawing a picture, there's a lot more to it than that.

You have to think long and hard before you tattoo somebody. Me, I ask myself a lot of tough questions, and I suggest everybody -- from the professional on Sunset Boulevard to the con who's made his rig from a guitar string and a WalkMan motor -- do the same before shooting ink into skin.

First, ask yourself if the subject matter is meaningful, because you don't want your customer regretting it in five or ten years. Their girlfriends, their parents, their kids -- all those can change from day to day, but a man never forgets his real love:

Second, know your strengths, and ask yourself if the tattoo is beyond your capability. Me, I specialize in portraits. When I draw a face on you, I know it'll be like a photograph, capturing the shine of their hair, the sparkle in their eyes, and maybe even the love in their hearts.

Third, now that you've settled on the tattoo, find the right place for it. Examine the shape of the body and the tattoo's flow. Mentally move it around until it's a perfect fit. It's surprising how the same picture can look totally different on different parts of the body. For instance, this tattoo wouldn't have anywhere near the same impact on, like, somebody's back:

Even an inch or two can make a difference. The dude was thrilled with this tattoo, but I'm thinking it's slightly off-center. I've got to buy a ruler one of these days.

Last, make sure you clear everything with the customer, because the last thing you want is an unhappy surprise. I violated this rule only once, when I had, like, a total flash of genius and knew the chick would be thrilled. She was this really cool college student, and she wanted a monkey on the small of her back. I said, wait, babe -- I got an idea. I got into this field to express myself as an artist, and I really feel like we can create something amazing here. She bit her lip and nodded, showing the most important thing a customer can bring to the job:


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Man Stuck Upside-Down in Septic Tank

And to think: I just spent the day getting shitfaced.

Man Stuck Upside-Down in Septic Tank

Where the Idiots Are

Everybody with even the tiniest conscience has a mental travel checklist. Boyfriend wants to go to the Caribbean? Not while they're greeting gay cruises with guns. Myanmar? Nope: torturing monks is sooo passé. Well, how about Fort Lauderdale?

Surely you're joking. Right?

Fort Lauderdale is right up there with Iraq when it comes to welcoming gay tourists. First a gay couple is greeted at the airport by a recital of Leviticus over the public address system. You know, that “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, they should be put to death" part. The straights search for their Samsonite luggage on the baggage carousel while the gays nervously eye the place for gangs of armed thugs. Next to a pina colada and a lei, that's how I like to start my vacations.

Then the mayor comes out swinging with both fists. He says the city's public restrooms are veritable hotbeds of gay sex. (They average three arrests a month for public lewdness, both gay and straight, so if we're really doing it everywhere the police must be even stupider than the mayor.) He opposes a public library's plan to collect gay books, and refuses to use the word “gay” because "most of them aren’t gay, they are unhappy.”

Naturally, reaction is swift. A San Francisco newspaper declares a boycott. Conventions are cancelled. The gays immediately change their vacation plans. Make it Palm Springs. Make it Cancun. Make it Puerto Vallarta.

But after an all-expenses-paid junket that includes an "enormous" hotel suite, a trip to "Butterfly World," and a ride on a Segway, one gay journalist isn't afraid to take a different stand.

Nobody there has even heard of the boycott, Neal Broverman says in the latest Advocate. Nobody cares. The mayor can rattle on and on about how we're ruining their city, but as long as there's hot men and alcohol there, we won't be able to stay away.

Uh, dude, thanks for that. Now I've got two questions for you.

1. Did you think maybe none of the tourists there have heard about the boycott because everybody who has is STAYING AWAY?

2. Next time you think about writing, why don't you lay in the sun and drink instead?

Where the Idiots Are

Monday, December 24, 2007

Holiday Snaps

Since I'm too busy freaking out with last-minute shopping to write anything, let's take a look at some pictures I took in Japan.

This advertisement on a passing truck pretty much explains why I don't eat at McDonalds.

This photo answers the question, why do tall people have problems with posture?

What do you mean, I can't bring my bird with me? And there's no way I'm leaving my exploding package at home.

A lot of the time I had absolutely no clue what I was seeing, but not here. Obviously this is a combination college/museum called "Green Peas World." Sure, the diploma is pretty much useless, but just imagine your GPA.

Okay, thanks. How long does it take if I skip all the way?

Apparently rats get annoyed when they find your old cigarette butts. Yeah, that's really eating away at my conscience.

Torii gates are symbolic of the entryway to heaven.

GOD: Honestly, dude -- it isn't even close.

Catch you all Wednesday. Have a great holiday.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Who says gays aren't inclusive? Looks like Urban Outings has all the bases covered, whether you're looking for an attractive young baby-faced white guy, or an attractive young baby-faced white guy with glasses.

Diana Not Pregnant at Time of Death, Court Told

LONDON (Reuters) -- Holistic Healer Myriah Daniels, who treated Princess Diana just days before she died, said Diana was definitely not pregnant at the time.

Daniels treated Diana on the al-Fayed family yacht while they were sailing in the Mediterranean, and told a British court, "She was not pregnant. Period. I am working on her cramps and she is bleeding while I am working on her.

"Can we give her a little bit of respect and privacy please?" she pleaded.

Brava! A woman who recognizes the need for a little decorum in this world. I mean, I've got hemorrhoids hanging from my butt like jalapeno Christmas lights, but you're not going to hear it from me.

Diana Not Pregnant at Time of Death, Court Told (Quote has been pulled by Reuters.)

Bride Ties Knot in Toilet Paper Dress

NEW YORK -- Here comes the bride, all dressed in white . . . two-ply, extra soft toilet paper. When Jennifer Cannon and Doy Nichols of Lexington, Ky., got hitched on Wednesday she wore a gown fashioned from glue, tape and Charmin toilet tissue.

The intricately detailed dress was designed by Hanah Kim, winner of the 2007 Toilet Paper Wedding Dress Contest, sponsored by

The wedding ceremony took place at the temporary Charmin restrooms in Times Square.

"I've never been so happy," the bride declared, just automatically wiping her eyes from front to back.

Bride Ties Knot in Toilet Paper Dress

Lou Reed Keynote Speaker At Music Festival

NEW YORK (Billboard) - Lou Reed will serve as the keynote speaker for the annual South by Southwest Music Conference, which kicks off in Austin, Texas, on March 13.

SXSW will also feature a screening of the Julian Schnabel performance documentary "Lou Reed's 'Berlin."'

Reed's publicist has already released a transcript of the speech, which reads "Hello, I'm -- will everybody shut up? Will all you assholes SHUT UP? Okay, I'm fuckin' out of here."

Lou Reed Keynote Speaker At Music Festival

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Woman Accused of Ringing Santa's Sleigh Bells

DANBURY, Conn. —The Santa Claus at the Danbury Fair mall said a woman sat on his lap and groped him. "The security officer at the mall said Santa Claus has been sexually assaulted," police Detective Lt. Thomas Michael said concerning the complaint.

Sandrama Lamy, 33, of Danbury, was charged with sexual assault and breach of peace. She was released on a promise to appear in court on Jan. 3.

"It's all a misunderstanding," the woman maintained. "I felt that big fuzzy sack and thought there might be presents in it."

Woman Accused of Ringing Santa's Sleigh Bells

Oh. My. God.

I do not believe this.

"Get a Life!" Protesters Picket "Fire Isiah!" Protesters

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pic-Snapping Surgeon: Whatta Bonehead!

PHOENIX—A surgeon faces a disciplinary hearing for snapping a photo of a patient's tattooed genitals during an operation and showing it to other doctors.

Mayo Clinic Hospital administrators said Dr. Adam Hansen, chief resident of general surgery, admitted taking the photo with his cell phone while performing a gallbladder operation. The tattoo on strip club owner Sean Dubowik's penis reads: "Hot Rod."

Dubowik said he's just happy the doctor didn't notice the tattoo on his perineum reading, "This Way to the Gas Tank."

Pic-Snapping Surgeon: Whatta Bonehead!

Vatican Blasts "Golden Compass"

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican on Wednesday condemned the film "The Golden Compass," as "the most anti-Christmas film possible" and said that "when man tries to eliminate God from his horizon, everything is reduced, made sad, cold and inhumane."

The Pope would have seen the movie earlier but after all the payoffs from priest molestations he's confined to weekday matinees.

Vatican Blasts "Golden Compass"

Britney's Sister Is Pregnant at 16

NEW YORK (AP) -- Jamie Lynn Spears, the 16-year-old ''Zoey 101'' star and sister of Britney, told OK! magazine that she's pregnant and that the father is her boyfriend, Casey Aldridge.

''It was a shock for both of us, so unexpected,'' she said. ''I was in complete and total shock and so was he.''

Spears is 12 weeks along and learned of the pregnancy from an at-home test and subsequent doctor visit, she told the magazine.

When contacted by reporters, Britney expressed happiness for her sister. "It's real good timing," she declared. "A couple weeks from now and she'd be old enough to drink!"

Britney's Sister Is Pregnant at 16

Fire Burns on White House Grounds

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A fire is burning at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds.

Television images show firefighters breaking windows in offices where flames are clearly visible inside. Smoke is rising above the building.

"This is why we're fighting the terrorists," the president said at the scene. "Because a man's popcorn isn't even safe in a microwave oven."

Fire Burns on White House Grounds

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Before It Disappears

The New York Times has an article in Sunday's Travel section that struck me as particularly strange. It's titled "Before it Disappears," and it talks about visiting endangered locations before they disappear once and for all. What with global warming, air pollution, and acid rain, the world is changing, and we're losing some incredible, one-of-a-kind spots. They mention the Galapagos Islands, the Arctic, and the Amazon, but all I could think of was, uh, dudes, did you miss the obvious?

Like, what about New York? It's losing its soul like Pete Doherty is losing teeth, but the Times is oblivious to that.

I mean, sure, it's sad the ice in the Arctic is melting. But every day another gay dive closes, to reopen as a dress studio run by some overprivileged white girl who's seen "Project Runway" twice. Maybe she's talented and really loves clothes, but no checkered dirndl is going to help us out when it's three in the morning and we need to be pounded like a nail.

Okay, it's awful that all the coral are dying in the Great Barrier Reef. But what about S&M clubs with torture racks? Both Hellfire and the Lure were replaced by upscale Italian restaurants. Now if we want to get abused we have to order decaf espresso at Starbucks.

And granted, the atolls in the Maldives aren't long for this world. But what about the Chelsea piers, a recently-demolished playground for homosex? Now where will we find a warehouse full of jock-strapped guys with paddles, and more steamed buns than you'd find at a Chinese bakery? Williams-Sonoma isn't open twenty-four hours a day, you know.

In short, all the "tourists of doom" should head straight for New York City before it's completely sanitized. And if they've got a ball gag, a raccoon suit, or an inflatable Abe Vigoda doll, they'll want to bring them along.

Before It Disappears

"Rachel Ray Back For Seconds At Food Network"

She's on TV twenty-four hours a day. I see her more than my arms. What exactly does Rachael Ray have to do to get Reuters to spell her name right?

"Rachel Ray Back For Seconds At Food Network"

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Bad Egg

Babette turned up like a bad penny mere seconds after Dad got his own place. I wondered where he'd found her: was there some dark lounge in the San Fernando Valley where pinch-faced French hags hung out, waiting to get their claws into middle-class, middle-aged American men?

She was prematurely wrinkled from too much sun, now orange-brown with a simulated tan. Her hair was pulled back in what she dubbed a "chignon," and her nose and chin were sharp enough to double as woodworking tools. The first Saturday Dad brought us to his new house she dragged him over to the piano bench. "Tell me again," she wheezed, flailing her cigarette holder in our direction, "what are they doing here?"

Dad explained the whole custody thing to her, but it just deepened the lines on her face. We decided to buy lunch at the supermarket and then have a picnic in the park. Actually, I should say "they decided," because the only difference between this outing and an afternoon in hell is that in hell all the Frisbees are melty.

After a few long hours had elapsed we wandered back to the house, with strict instructions to stay away from Babette. We watched TV with the sound turned down, afraid even to gesture to each other. When the sun went down, though, Babette's privilege expired, and Dad coaxed her into the kitchen. No matter if they're French or just met the kids, all wives become moms after dark.

Babette shrugged and scanned the cupboards for something simple. She dumped a can of split pea soup into a saucepan, then added a can of milk for each kid. She poured the lumpy liquid into bowls that she set in front of us before settling down to Stouffers herself. Capri pants crossed, she alternated between bites of food and puffs on her cigarette, exhausted from the strain of staying chic.

Dad applauded her effort, lapping up the soup like it was five-star fare. He snapped at any hint of dissatisfaction, mouthing the usual parental words: be grateful you have anything, there are starving kids in India, blah blah blah. I choked on the pale-green slop as I tried to defend her for providing a meal whose food group count stood at two.

I didn't actually dislike Babette: she was far too mysterious for that. She created humorous cocktail napkins for a living, specializing in a couple of big-eyed, uterus-bound fetuses named Egbert and Egberta. Every napkin featured a scene with the two of them squished in their tiny elastic home, and at the bottom was a line of dialog:

"I don't know about you," Egberta announced, "but I'm thinking about breaking out of here."

Babette had a son from her first marriage who was my opposite. Two years older than me, Vince was handsome, popular, and heterosexual. He had all the butch accoutrements: a baseball glove, a Farrah poster, muscles. He even had the Iron Ring of Death, an expensive plastic wrestling toy manned by an army of wrestlers. I couldn't grasp the concept: I mean, how is molded plastic supposed to engage in competition of any sort? But they were nearly-naked and bulged just about everywhere, so I figured I should give them a chance.

Vince played with the thing ferociously, forcing me to stay back. The wrestlers had macho names like Crusher and Bruiser, and they slammed into each other with all the brutality Vince could raise. They'd hammer each other to the plastic mat, then pound until their extruded limbs snapped. I watched wide-eyed as Crusher got maimed: Bruiser (read Vince) screamed, "I'M GONNA RIP YOUR FREAKIN' ARM OFF AND BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH IT!"

Which he then proceeded to do.

Vince was so butch even puberty bent to his will, giving him more chest hair than Robin Williams by the age of ten. He discarded his toys and started playing with girls, running through the bases in the family car while it lurched and squeaked in the covered carport. The Iron Ring went ignored until my birthday arrived: I opened my present and there it was.

"Isn't that fabulous?" Babette growled from inside a cloud of Viceroy smoke. "Vince had so much fun with it. Isn't it a wonderful gift?"

Not particularly, I thought, fingering the maimed action figures, "Antiques Roadshow" graded somewhere between Miserable and Trash. And certainly not suitable for this boy, whose first instinct was to sew them sexy clothes, then take them in for couples counseling.

Still, as I looked at the figures laying at the bottom of the box, they almost seemed to whisper to me. I pulled out Bruiser and laid him on the shag carpet, then set Crusher by his side. Now that they weren't in the ring their thoughts turned from fighting, espousing feelings that had been buried deep.

BRUISER: My friend, methinks it's time to bury the hatchet. The sun is out, and we can all work on our tans.

CRUSHER: What a terrific suggestion, buddy! I'll slather sunscreen on your back with my one good hand, and perhaps you'll do the same for me.

BRUISER: I've been meaning to apologize for pulling your arm off. My only explanation is that my brain was hobbled by all these chemicals that we're forced to take.

CRUSHER: I don't blame you. I blame the patriarchal system that deifies hypersexualized masculinity , forcing us to alter our bodies into bloated balloons barely recognizable as human form. Besides, Bruiser, I find it easier to relate to the world's disabled now that I have a disability myself.

BRUISER: Please, call me Rupert. What a great attitude you have!

CRUSHER: I'll call you Rupert if you call me Marco.

Hearing the chatter, JOHNNY DIAMOND poked his head out.

JOHNNY DIAMOND: Call me Johnathan! Look -- I can fly! I can fly!

BRUISER: In my heart I believe we are all disabled. Flaws in the American educational system combined with substandard parenting renders us the barely-literate, ultraviolent idiots that we are today.

JOHNNY DIAMOND: Wheee! WHEEE! Look, I'm like a giant butterfly, a giant purple butterfly, fluttering all around! Hey, Rupert! Hey, Marco! Who touched your ass? Who touched your ass?

I noticed the room had gone quiet, and when I looked up everybody was staring at me. My sisters were exchanging horrified looks, Dad had a sick expression on his face, and Babette was too startled to move the Pernod to her lips. Still, she was the first one to speak.

"On second thought, maybe it is an awful gift. Let's go get you something else."

We piled into the car and I shook with excitement all the way to the toy store. I picked up literally hundreds of things: Creepy Crawlers, a snap-together Wolfman kit, an erector set, a sketch pad and pastels. As we rode home I drew a picture of Babette from the back seat of the car and I thought, maybe this could work out after all. Despite the cartoon characters she hung out with, she wasn't such a bad egg.

Mario Batali is Ready for a Throwdown!

The Food Network is a disaster these days, a steaming pot of chocolate ratatouille. They've dumped their best chefs -- adios, Sarah Moulton! ciao, Jamie Oliver! -- and even cancelled semi-educational crap like "Emeril Live" in favor of showcasing big-titted women whose main qualifications seem to be that they're sleeping with their producers.

And now, depending on who you listen to, either the Food Network turned down Mario Batali's new program or he didn't give them a chance to buy it. Seems like the latter is probably true since the show — a food tour of Spain with Gwyneth Paltrow — will air on prime time PBS.

Naturally the Food Network claims it's the former. "It was not the right fit for us," declared Bob Tuschman, senior VP and ubiquitous judge of folksy debacles like their Extreme Fortune Cookie Challenge. Seems like he's forgotten their soon-to-debut "Rachael's Vacation," which will follow you-know-who around the world with the guy who gossips say likes to wizz on girls.

Leave it to Mario Batali to clean up this mess. “They don’t need me," he admitted. "They have decided they are mass market and they are going after the Wal-Mart crowd,” which he said was “a smart business decision. So they don’t need someone who uses polysyllabic words from other languages.”

Bravo, Mario. We love your food and we love your plain-speaking. Your clogs, not so much.

Mario Batali Is Ready for a Throwdown!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas Shopping in Gale-Force Storms

I feel sooo stupid.

Yesterday we had the worst storm ever in New York. It starts off with hail, then sleet, then a pounding onslaught of snow, and the wind is blowing so hard it's decimating umbrellas. Inside I'm warm as toast, but then it hits me: I forgot to order that self-help book for Dad.

Against my better judgment I put on a coat and gloves and scarf and fight my way through the monsoon to Barnes & Noble. I can just barely find the place buried eight feet deep in slush, and by the time I stumble through the door I'm so frazzled I'm literally crawling up to the Self-Help section to find the book.

I fight my way back, slipping and sliding on the black ice, soaked to the skin and dripping icicles, but finally make it home -- four hours after I left. I pull the book out of the bag so I can wrap it, and then I notice I've made a horrible mistake.

Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.

Public Address Karaoke Scares Teacher

ROXBURY, Conn -- Police say the teacher at Booth Free School barricaded herself inside a classroom Wednesday when she mistook someone singing a Guns N' Roses song over the public address system for a threat.

She was working after hours when she heard someone say over the loudspeaker that she was going to die.

Six troopers and three police dogs showed up and found three teenagers, one of them a custodian. They admitted singing "Welcome to the Jungle" over the public address system, including the lyrics "You're in the jungle baby; you're gonna die."

Police say this also explains the previous night, when they discovered the teacher walking like an Egyptian.

Public Address Karaoke Scares Teacher

Whole Lotta Whites Make Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

NEW YORK -- Five white musical acts -- including Madonna, John Mellencamp, Leonard Cohen, Dave Clark Five, and The Ventures -- will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008.

Performers not making the cut include disco queen Donna Summer, funk group Chic, and rap pioneer Afrika Bambaataa.

"The five inductees we're very proud of," said Joel Peresman, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation president. "It really truly represents . . . what rock and roll is all about."

"Stealing music from the black man," he declared before sending Little Richard to fetch his car.

Whole Lotta Whites Make Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Baseball Braces for Steroid Report

A report on performance-enhancing drugs in baseball is expected to be released today, including the names of players suspected of drug use.

The report is said to be highly critical of Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, who stated in 1995 that “If baseball has a [drug] problem, I must say candidly that we were not aware of it."

By 2003 Selig was singing a different tune: “The fact is, we had a problem. The fact is, we’ve done something about it. We have done now as much as we can do.”

When reached for comment, World Wrestling Entertainment chairman Vince McMahon said, "Wow, it's like the whole thing is fixed!"

Baseball Braces for Steroid Report

Study Finds Gay Gene in Fruit Flies

CHICAGO -- Researchers at the University of Illinois have discovered a gene that identifies homosexuality in fruit flies.

Biologist David Featherstone says that fruit flies with a certain gene mutation cannot tell the difference between male and female pheromones, causing them to be attracted to both males and females.

The "gay" gene? "Homosexuality"? Well, I guess if Republican congressmen can hang around men's rooms and still be heterosexual, then "gay" flies can do chicks as well.

Study Finds Gay Gene in Fruit Flies

Japanese Eel Wishes You An Electric Christmas

TOKYO (Reuters) - A Christmas tree at a Japanese aquarium is being powered by an electric eel.

Two aluminum panels inside the eel's tank work as electrodes to catch its power. Cables attached to the panels are connected to the lights on the nearby tree.

The ACLU immediately filed suit to force the eel to light up a menorah as well.

Japanese Eel Wishes You An Electric Christmas

Liza Minnelli Collapses During Show in Sweden

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) -- Veteran entertainer Liza Minnelli collapsed on stage a few songs into a performance in Sweden's second city and was taken to hospital, a concert promoter said.

Tests will be performed to diagnose Ms. Minnelli's condition the second her "jazz hands" stop.

Liza Minnelli Collapses During Show in Sweden

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Use a lot of AquaNet, Trent?

A New Yorker in Japan

I wanted to write more about my trip to Japan, but every time I try I burst into tears. It was just too perfect. The people, the cities, the countryside. . . . When I returned to the crapfest known as Brooklyn I knew I'd made a horrible mistake.

The Japanese realize that life in a big city is difficult, so they've developed strict rules of etiquette that make it easier to bear. They don't talk on cellphones in public, because they know it's annoying. They don't eat in public, since it's messy and causes litter. They wait their turn to get on a subway car.

In New York, on the other hand, people seem to be proud that life is hard. We throw ourselves onto subway cars the second the doors crack open, then race to any available seat. We break out the KFC, blithely tossing the bones on the floor, and afterward we trim our fingernails, floss, fart. Complaining is a sign of weakness. You can't take it? Toughen up!

If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, we proudly proclaim. Instead of trying to make it, like, nice.

Within three minutes of setting foot in Tokyo I learned how different it was. A businessman approached me, just out of the blue, and proclaimed in broken English:

BUSINESSMAN: Hello! Are you American? Would you like to take a bath with me? Red Sox!

Naturally I was horrified. I was seconds away from smacking the guy, then calling Jacoby & Meyers. A bath? With a stranger? He noticed my horrified look and laughed. The Japanese don't do body shame, he explained. Their baths are communal meeting places, like Starbucks, except with cheaper drinks and cleaner seats. He'd lived in Manhattan for fourteen years, and just wanted to reminisce.

Compare that to the first thing somebody said to me when I moved to New York:

STRANGER: Hey, it's your own fuckin' fault. Didn't your mother ever tell you not to get between a spitter and the street?

Rudeness in New York is practically institutionalized. Here's the greeting you'll get when you walk into a New York store:

CLERK 1: Get out. We closed. We busy. We don't wanna serve your ass.

CLERK 2: Come back when you're wearing better clothes.

Here's what they say when you walk into a store in Japan:

CLERK (bowing): Welcome to our store.

See the difference? It's subtle but it's there.

The more you get to know them, the more you admire the Japanese. Forget your coat at a restaurant and when you return hours later it'll still be there -- if somebody hasn't already delivered it to your home. The NYPD just completed a sting where they left wallets on subway seats, then arrested everybody who picked them up. Some of the people insisted they were going to try to find the rightful owners, but the police carted them off anyway. Because nobody in their right mind believes New Yorkers, right?

The Japanese work ethic looks positively otherworldly to American eyes. I get to a bank before opening -- and they unlock the door for me. While the bullet train is in the station, the cleaning crew literally runs from one end to the other, dustrags in hand. "Little time," one tells me, out of breath. "Much to do."

As opposed to the Manhattan post office, where the clerk watches the line grow long as she moves tai-chi slow and chatters idly with another clerk. She glares daggers when anybody complains. "What do you think we are," she snaps, "robots?"

Still, I try to brush back my sadness and concentrate on what I've learned. Even if I can't change society, I can make positive changes in myself, and this experience can point the way. Because who knew about the transformative power of a bright outlook? Who suspected that friendliness could be a stronger force than anger? Who'd have guessed that an open smile, a cheerful demeanor, and a warm handshake could get even the toughest New Yorker naked?

Hello. Are you American? Would you like to take a bath with me? Red Sox!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Nun Reads List of Curse Words to Kids

GROSSE POINTE PARK, Mich. -- Sister Kathy Avery won't put up with swearing. And just to make her policy crystal-clear, the principal of St. Clare of Montefalco Catholic School called the students into assembly and read a list of the words and phrases that were banned.

Cuss words aren't the only things that set Avery off. She also banned the words "stupid" and "boring."

Students later described the nun as "very," "completely," and "incredibly."

Nun Reads List of Curse Words to Kids

Half Full or Half Empty, It's Still a Better Cup

PHOENIX — Former pro baseball player Mark Littell has invented a better way to protect himself, and he's showing it to millions on YouTube. Clad in a t-shirt, underwear and his "Nutty Buddy," Littell is shot head-on with a fastball to the groin. He emerges with a smile.

Littell got the idea when he worked as a pitching coordinator. "I asked my pitchers, how many of you guys don't wear cups? And half of them raised their hands."

The Nutty Buddy

Littell recommends the device for baseball players, soccer players, and anybody who checks out an athlete's pants and then asks what he's got in there.

Winter in New York, Take Two

Winter has covered New York like a fluffy white blanket. Everywhere children are bundled in their warmest clothes, playing "King of the Hill" on icy mountains left behind by the plow, chattering ecstatically and shaping snowballs to fire at their friends. Two of them scamper into the video store, where multicolored lights sparkle in the foggy window.

BOY: I am sooo gonna get "Superbad."

GIRL: I'll probably get "Knocked Up."

Monday, December 10, 2007

The New York Times Tells Us Where to Go

Since my daughter's nanny had the day off, I spent most of yesterday locked in the drawing room, planning our upcoming holiday. Luckily the New York Times printed their picks for the top vacation destinations of 2008, so I relied on that. Here are some of their choices along with the reasons they got picked, and where I decided Madasyn and I would go.

1. Laos, home of the "seriously upscale Résidence Phou Vao." This is a definite finalist! Nothing says war is over like a three hundred dollar massage.

2. Lisbon: "Designer hotels like Fontana Park and Jerónimos 8."

3. Tunisia: "A new wave of stylish boutique hotels . . . drawing increasing numbers of well-heeled travelers." Oh, puh-leeze! It takes more than overpriced hotels to draw my friends' attention: we need a Gordon Ramsey restaurant too.

4. Mauritius: "new hotels are opening up, including a Four Seasons resort." Tempting, but I'm not going anywhere I can't find on a map unless Angelina's bought a kid there.

5. Mid-Beach, Miami: "Future [hotels] include Gansevoort South, a W Hotel and [an] outpost of the members-only Soho House."

6. South Beach, Miami has "a red carpet of designer hotels." I totally agree with the Times: two of the world's ten best destinations are in Florida. Now I betcha they go and spoil it by building a museum there.

7. Maldives: "Among the high-end hotels expected to open next year is a Regent Hotels & Resorts with 50 villas. . . . "

9. Courchevel: "Le Padisha ups the ante with rustic-chic apartments starting at . . . $1.95 million. . . . " Well, the price is right, but Madasyn convinced me to cross this place off the list, saying "rustic" probably means "no concierge."

10. Libya: "Luxury hotels and golf courses are planned. . . ." Now, this is a refreshing thought! Some people are mad because the Libyans bombed some plane, but frankly I'd rather plummet to earth than eat another one of United's in-flight meals.

13. Sylt: “[the] Hamptons of Germany”

14. Prague: "[B]ohemians have left for cheaper rents, and youth hostels are being squeezed by luxe hotels." Well, that's two feathers in its Louis Vuitton hat, but I'm guessing it's still foreign and really old.

15. Quito: "[A] crop of upscale hotels has arrived. . . . "

17. Munich: "[There's a] posh new hotel in the heart of the city. . . . "

18. Iran: "Upscale tour operators are tiptoeing [in]. . . . [T]he luxury cruise liner Silversea will make stops. . . ." Something about Iran scares me, though I can't put my finger on it. I'm thinking Madasyn and I would want to stay on the ship along with all the gays who didn't want to be killed.

19. Tuscany: Madasyn will be pleased to know there's a new golf course, since she says those lavender hills are tired tired tired.

20. Anguilla: "[T]he Viceroy Anguilla . . . will have 172 luxury accommodations, a 15,000-square-foot spa and beach clubs set along 3,200 feet of private waterfront."

21. Bogotá: "A new Hilton hotel is being built. . . . " A Hilton? Is that the best they can do? I'm not fighting some bitch with a security wand unless I know there's at least a W waiting when I land.

22. Playa Blanca, Panama: "Nikki Beach, the très chic beach club in South Beach and St.-Tropez, is opening a gated resort. . . . " This made my list of finalists. Madasyn has a hard time relaxing when she knows the natives can get close.

23. Alexandria: "a new Four Seasons"

24. Mazatlán: "A half-dozen resorts are now in the works, including Diamond Beach, a $1.2 billion development with high-rise hotels, a golf course and condominiums." Cross off this one, right off the bat. Accent e, it's near Gay Paree. Accent a, it's down Mexico way.

25. St. Lucia: "[B]ig-name resorts with $1,000 rooms are on the way."

26. Oslo: "[Set to open next year are] two new design hotels: Thon Hotel Gyldenlove and Grims Grenka Hotel." Definitely a no-go in this upper-class household. "Grims Grenka" sounds simply dreadful, and "Gyldenlove" sounds Brokeback-Mountainy.

28. Rimini, Italy has "designer hotels [like] the new DuoMo hotel."

29. Malawi: "[T]he luxury lodge Pumulani is set to open 10 villas. . . ."

30. Roatán: "[T]he Westin Resort & Spa Roatan [is] scheduled to open. . . ."

31. Mozambique: "High-end lodges . . . are being built along the Bazaruto Archipelago. . . . " Here's another finalist. Little Madasyn is sooo eco-conscious. She just loves playing with endangered species.

32. Kuwait City: "[A] slate of opulent hotels [is opening]. The most talked-about is the Hotel Missoni. . . ." Well, what people are saying is, "Bring fireproof clothing," but you didn't hear it from me.

33. Verbier: "Verbier will get decidedly more upper class when the Lodge . . . opens. . . . The nine-bedroom chalet [will cost] well over $70,000 [a week]." Madasyn's daddy would not be happy about that kind of bill. He wouldn't even pay for my Escalade until I told him I needed the money because Madasyn fell off a horse.

34. Lombok: "There's already an Oberoi and other high-end hotels are on the way." An Oberoi in Lombok? Sounds like the complications I got when I had my Vaginoplasty.

36. Easter Island "is getting its first luxury resort. . . . A three-night stay for two people starts at $3,588." It's a step in the right direction, but I'm not setting foot in the place until they give all those big stone things brow lifts.

37. Virgin Gorda: "The Aquamare is set to open in March with . . . weekly rates starting at $12,500."

38. Namibia: "Many lodges have just been refurbished with stylish décor and matching rates. . . . Kempinski Hotels is planning five luxury hotels to open in the next few years." Awfully tempting, but I think I'll pass until Oprah says it's safe.

41. Itacaré, Brazil: "[T]he Warapuru, a lavish eco-resort, is expected to finally open next year." Here's another "almost." I find ecoconservation perfectly acceptable as long as it's done on a lavish scale.

45. Málaga: "The southern coast of Spain is not just about high-rise hotels and water-gulping golf courses." Hmm. Wondering why it made the list.

47. London: "[S]upertrendy restaurants like Acorn House [have] local foodies in a tizzy. Next up? A Renaissance Hotel with a ballroom." The words "ball room" give Madasyn nightmares, ever since she went to a school chum's birthday party and they took her to a Chuck E. Cheese.

48. Vietnam: Not for me. Four new golf courses, it says. How ridiculous, recommending a sedate, serene little country for its golf courses. What's the shopping like?

49. Essaouira: "[W]ell-heeled Europeans are heading [there]. . . ."

50. Las Vegas: "In case you missed those big gold letters, Donald T-R-U-M-P is coming to the Las Vegas Strip." And so are we! It's about time Madasyn met D-A-D-D-Y.

The 53 Places to Go in 2008

Friday, December 7, 2007

Go on Vacation, Spend Less Time in Purgatory

VATICAN CITY - Catholics who visit the supposedly miraculous shrine at Lourdes within the next year will spend less time in purgatory, according to a declaration by the Pope.

To commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Virgin Mary's appearance to a peasant girl, special indulgences will be granted to visitors of the French shrine between December 8, 2007 and December 8, 2008.

And the pope is supposed to be the personification of Jesus on earth? Call me crazy, but I don't think Jesus ever said "Tell you what I'm gonna do."

And then Jesus said to the assembled multitudes, "Book by midnight tonight and we'll throw in this 'Giants of Doo-Wop' cd for just a small shipping and handling charge."

Grossest Moments in Cinema History

I really don't know what to say about this. Add another entry to the list of grossest moments in cinema history.

Marlon Brando sticks butter in Maria Schneider's hoo-hah. Uma Thurman plucks out Darryl Hannah's eyeball and squishes it beneath her feet. An alien explodes out of John Hurt's stomach. Hannibal Lechter feeds a guy his own brain.

You need to watch this for yourself. Not while you're eating, though.

Grossest Moments in Cinema History

NASA Tests Sex in Space

PARIS (The Guardian) -- NASA has been conducting super-secret tests of sex in space, says Pierre Kohler, a respected French science writer.

In 1996 a project code-named STS-XX rated sexual positions according to their suitability for a weightless atmosphere. Two volunteers then attempted these positions in real zero-gravity conditions, and the results were videotaped.

"It was sooo hot," one of the volunteers announced.

NASA Tests Sex in Space

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Barbie and I Are Turning Into Peacocks Vanity Playset

Oh, puh-leeze! I did eighty-something hits of blotter acid while I was in college and I didn't do anything near this weird. What's wrong with little girls, and why are we encouraging them? They want to be princesses. They want to be ballerinas. And now they want to be giant peacocks too. Honestly, if I were a policeman and I saw this thing coming at me, I'd shoot it faster than a black guy with a hairbrush.

What's next? Kittens? Monkeys? Sea cucumbers? "Look, Barbie!" she'll squeal. "You and I are warty leeches that keep the ocean bottom clean of fish feces!"

Frankly, I pity the heterosexual male who ends up marrying one of these nuts. "I realize you used to be a princess and a giant peacock, sweetie," he'll say to his future wife, "but I can't do all the cooking and cleaning forever."

Still, I'm a realist: I know what little girls are like. If this gets them to spend more time outside, sitting on the roof and calling out for a mate, maybe it's not such a bad gift.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Chimps Have Better Memories Than College Students

NEW YORK— Researchers pitted young chimpanzees against college students in tests of short-term memory -- and the chimps won.

Various memory tests were performed and while the chimps were no more accurate, they were markedly faster than the students.

Well, sure. But let's see how well they'd do after a semester of eating nothing but Hot Pockets and smoking Red Lebanese three times a week.

Chimps Have Better Memories Than College Students

"The Golden Compass" is Badly Protracted

The first rule of fiction is to set high stakes. "The Golden Compass" opens with a boy being kidnapped and forced to write a letter home.

This isn't torture: it's summer camp. What, next they'll make him glue macaroni to a board?

The movie, then, becomes less a drama than a series of errands to be run. You get two minutes of Daniel Craig -- sitting at a dinner table, then at a desk. Six minutes of Nicole Kidman -- when you'll wonder what the hell happened to her. Like she took a picture of Michael Jackson to her plastic surgeon and said, "Give me some of that!" The voices of Ian McKellan, Ian McShane, and Kathy Bates -- which make you sad they didn't sign on to a real movie.

Save ninety minutes of your life and read this condensed version instead.

LYRA is a poor but tough British girl, meaning by the end we'll find out she's really a wayward princess. Judging by her accent, her societal status lurches between a Cockney and Madonna. Her best friend is named Roger, even though there are no Rogers in England because it's like naming an American kid "Buttfuck."

LYRA: Roger, I promise if anybody ever kidnaps you, I will rescue you.

ROGER: Gosh, Lyra, you're my absolute bestest -- ULP!

LYRA: Roger? Roger?

Forgetting all about him, LYRA sneaks into a castle where she meets her uncle, DANIEL CRAIG. After someone tries to poison him they decide to stay for dinner, presumably because the food looks really good. LYRA sits across from NICOLE KIDMAN.

NICOLE KIDMAN: Hello, little girl! I'm going on a trip. You want to come?

LYRA: Sure! I trust you completely even though your dress is transparent and you can't move your face.

WIZENED OLD MAN: You know, little girl, there's only one Golden Compass still in existence. It knows all the mysteries of the universe, and will answer any question you ask. You want it?

LYRA: Yeah, sure!

At NICOLE's house, while they prepare for voyage, the Golden Compass tells LYRA that something's wrong. She rummages through the trash and finds a crumpled piece of paper that seems to confirm its warning: "I'M THE ONE WHO'S BEEN KIDNAPPING ALL THE KIDS," the paper reads. "SIGNED, NICOLE KIDMAN." LYRA flees and encounters a friendly WITCH.

WITCH: The prophecies have long foretold a special little girl who will change the course of history, and methinks you're her! Prove it to me: use that Golden Compass to describe the last guy I boffed.

LYRA: Sure. (Spins Golden Compass.) I see butt-ugly.

WITCH: You are the enchanted one! But hey, he used to be hot. If you ever need me in the future, I will race to your assist! Not including the forthcoming bridge collapse.

Next LYRA runs into the COWBOY.

COWBOY: Hello, little girl! Want to see my enormous zeppelin? Look at how big and swollen it is, and how it lurches about. I'm old and unshaven and slightly creepy, but I can follow you around if you want. Wait! Don't go! At least go ask the Coca-Cola bear if he'll accompany you on your journey.

LYRA runs off to find the bear.

COCA-COLA BEAR: Hello, little girl! I should be the Bear King, but I was tricked out of my rightful throne so now I make documentaries about global warming. I mean -- now I'm an alcoholic. I'd like to help you on your journey, but I can't even find my armor!

LYRA: (Spins the Golden Compass.) It's over there.

CCB: Oh. Whaddaya know?

The bear gets his armor back and accompanies LYRA. They run into a narrow ice bridge that spans a mile-deep crevass, but it cracks under their feet.

CCB: You go first. I mean, because my weight would probably break it.

LYRA is halfway across the bridge when it snaps. She scurries across the disintegrating ice cubes to the other side.

CCB: Don't worry! I'll find another way to get across that'll make everyone wonder why we didn't just go that way in the first place.

LYRA: I don't know where we're going and I'll freeze to death if I get lost but I think I'll wander on ahead.

LYRA finds the bear kingdom, then CCB reappears. He fights the king to regain the throne. LYRA watches in horror while everybody in the audience wonders why she doesn't use the Golden Compass to see how it ends. CCB wins.

CCB: I win, so I'm king now! Hurrah! Okay, what else do you wanna do?

LYRA: We have to find Buttfu-- I mean, Roger.

LYRA pulls out the Golden Compass and sees Roger is nearby. She rescues him, but then the bad guys literally appear out of nowhere. Just when things look bad, everybody she's met in the last eighty-nine minutes shows up. The COWBOY. The WITCHES. A wandering troupe of GYPSIES. In fact, everybody short of the VILLAGE PEOPLE and the TRAVELOCITY GNOME.

They fight. It's like all the characters from SHREK suddenly turning into ninjas. The good guys win. Everybody hugs.

ROGER: Okay, what should we do now?

LYRA: Gosh, there's so much! We have to save DANIEL CRAIG! He's in horrible danger, and I'm not just talking career. There's a parallel universe that the bad guys will destroy if -- Wait, ninety minutes is up and everybody in the audience is asleep, so let's talk about this in the sequel.

ROGER: Oh. Okay!

Cue LYRA'S THEME by Kate Bush to sum up exactly what we've seen:

Your heart, it burns like fire-a.
This song is really dire-a.
The plural of "papyrus" is "papyra."


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

O.J. Simpson Pays His Respects at Sean Taylor Funeral

MIAMI — O. J. Simpson spoke at the memorial service for Sean Taylor, the University of Miami football player who was killed by intruders last week at his home.

Simpson expressed sympathy not only for Taylor and his family, but also for the four suspects charged in his death. "That's four other lives that are gone," he said.

"It's such a tragedy when a meaningless, horrific crime ruins the lives of more than, like, two," Simpson declared.

O. J. Pays His Respects at Sean Taylor Funeral

Drunk Driving Suspect Flees, Then Reports Truck Stolen

STOYSTOWN, Pa.(AP) — Police said a man fled a traffic stop, went home, shaved his mustache and changed his clothes, then reported the truck he was driving as stolen.

Robert Sadlon, 50, was stopped for a broken taillight on Thanksgiving night and he ran off. Later, the same officer went to Sadlon's home near Stoystown to investigate the reported theft. There, he found a just-shaven Sadlon in different clothes.

Sadlon is charged with drunken driving, escape and related charges.

The policeman plans to explain how Sadlon got away in the first place once he thinks of an excuse that doesn't include the words "out of shape," "older," or "drunker."

You Can't Catch Me! Hic!

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dear eBay Buyer:

I live in a cramped New York apartment. It's so cramped that whenever I buy anything I have to toss something out, because I just can't cram in one more thing. Last month I bought a new lamp, so after careful consideration I decided a pair of pants would have to go.

I decided to sell those pants on eBay.

Now, the pants weren't in very good shape. The knees were baggy, the hems were frayed, and there was a quarter-sized hole in the seat. There was no way I'd wear them again, but with all the talk about reusing and recycling I just couldn't toss them out. I listed them with a starting bid of $1 and hoped somebody less fortunate would find them.

When somebody bid a dollar, it made my day. I'd done my part for the environment, and helped some poor person on a budget. When the bidding went to $10, my heart was full. It meant somebody truly appreciated these pants, and they'd take good care of them. Plus, it paid me back a bit for the time I spent photographing them and writing up the description.

Then one morning I turned on the computer and discovered the pants were going for thirty-five dollars. This literally knocked me for a loop. I mean, the pants didn't cost that new, so there was no reason they should command that kind of cash after I'd worn them a few years. There were four bidders involved, so I thought maybe they got carried away by the excitement. I thought about cancelling the auction, since a mistake had obviously been made, but figured it'd be a good lesson for all concerned.

The next day, when the bidding got up to sixty dollars, I got angry. Clearly there was more to this than just a simple pair of pants. Now there were nine bidders duking it out, and twelve people added the sale to their "Watch" list. This proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that something unseemly was going on.

And then it hit me like a bolt of lightning that almost made my breakfast come back up. I'd heard about vending machines in Japan where they sold the panties of schoolgirls, and realized the same sort of feckless perverts were fighting over my pants as well. My stomach churned as I imagined what the winning bidder would do to them: would his tongue explore the crotch like Lawrence explored Arabia? Would he suck every ounce of my sweat from the faded fabric? Would he pore over every nook and cranny searching for wayward, discolored spots of my bodily fluids? If his magnifying glass chanced upon a a hair from the nether regions of my body, would he press it to his face in ecstacy as he performed some vile onanistic deed?

Over the next few days, though, my anger ebbed, and when the pants hit $110 I turned flattered. I mean, indigent perverts are tawdry and disgusting, but now there were clearly professional people involved. I pictured these men -- accountants, lawyers, stock brokers -- sitting at their computers after a long day at work, ties loosened and Brooks Brothers boxers tenting at the thought of winning my tight, tight jeans and caressing them in their manicured hands. They'd press their faces up against their computer monitors and run their eyes across the outline of my muscular legs in the fabric, faded like the shroud of Turin. Then one lucky man would win them, and get to feel the warm cotton himself, left alone to his own perverted ends. It was sick and it was depraved and, by God, I couldn't get the thought out of my head.

When you typed in that $140 offer, I became a walking pool of turgid testosterone, ready to pounce on anything that moved. I couldn't rest until you had my pants in your determined hands. Were you hunky and continental, like Antonio Banderas? Were you a stylish, manly gay with a dark streak, like Tom Ford? Or were you a billionaire entrepreneur like Ted Turner whose wealth gave him the opportunity to play out his every demented desire? As I packed the pants into the box to ship, I pleasured myself as I pictured you.

Given the circumstances, then, I think you can see why I threw in the underwear. After I wiped myself clean with them, it occurred to me that you might appreciate something I'd worn even closer to my skin. I pictured you with my grubby shorts plastered across your face, wearing a look of pure erotic bliss, and I felt a bond of kinship between us, separated by space but joined together by kink and a tiny pair of striped bikini briefs dotted with pee. And that's when I wrote that little note.

So, I'd like to offer you a profound, heartfelt apology. I had absolutely no idea they were vintage Levis worth twice what you paid for them, and that nobody but me had anything untoward in mind. Please, burn the note, and toss the underwear straight into the trash. How horrified you must have been to pull them out of the ziploc bag and hear them crackle in your hands. I didn't realize some of the bidders were women, let alone elderly and Mormon.

In closing, I'd like to make it clear that you are certainly not a disgusting little pig who should be bent over my knee and paddled until your buttcheeks are red and burning with a heady mix of pain and pleasure, and, had I known you were a pillar of the Salt Lake City community, I would never have ordered you to suck the man-juice out of my filthy ball-rag.

Please, tell the police this was all a horrible mistake and I promise I'll never eBay again.

Your Loyal ex-eBay Seller,