Friday, December 19, 2014

Movie Review: Into the Woods

Into the Woods is a Disney film of a Stephen Sondheim musical. It intertwines four fairy tales, which probably isn't a great idea. I mean, when you watch Disney's classic "Cinderella," do you sit there hoping Jack and his Beanstalk will show up? Did "Rapunzel" leave you thinking, "Well, that was fun, but it would really have been great if Red Riding Hood had turned up"? Consider your wish granted.

Rather than try to psychoanalyze the characters, the film pretty much just throws them together. We don't get motivations or hidden feelings or any sort of depth: it's pretty much shallow conversations between simple people who haven't previously met. Exchanges run something like this:

RAPUNZEL: Hello little boy! What are you doing in the woods with a cow?

BEANSTALK JACK: I'm taking it to the market to sell. Gosh, you sure have pretty hair.

RAPUNZEL: Thanks. See you!


Roughly 90% of these conversations are about the woods. They're so dangerous, stay on the path, or stay out! Despite the talk, we don't really get the reason, because the woods seem to be full of simple people wandering about idly, resembling more of a dirty Bed Bath & Beyond than an actual forest. If this movie had taken place at the Glendale Galleria, it would have been eight minutes long.

For the first half hour, Meryl Streep and fourteen semi-celebs sing the words "Into the woods!" repeatedly. They don't just etch into your consciousness like the theme from "It's a Small World," They actually replace every message sent in your brain, bloodstream and nervous system. At four a.m. this morning I didn't get woken up by my urge to go to the bathroom: no, it was my penis' turn to solo.

The intro eventually ends, and a hundred intermingled stories start. The mood changes with each: Red Riding Hood is sassy, Cinderella is sincere, Beanstalk Jack is a Joey Lawrence-style idiot complete with bowl haircut. An initial encounter with the latter isn't exactly spine-tingling: he climbs up the beanstalk, climbs back down, and then spends twelve minutes singing about it. I'm not sure why: I mean, whenever I've recounted the story to children they've never asked me to repeat the entire thing but this time with a tune.

This is probably why I don't like musicals: they do stuff that people do in regular films, but then they stop and sing about it afterward. Is that really necessary? I'm pretty sure James Bond films wouldn't be quite as popular if he stopped to recap everything in song.

I drove my Jaguar very fast
with Blofeld hot on my tracks.
I would have had sex with Jill Masterson
but I thought I'd get paint on my slacks.

Cinderella's subplot makes even less sense. The prince's ball now lasts three nights in a row -- so for three nights in a row, she captivates the prince, she runs away, and he chases after her. She loses her shoe on the third night and he takes it throughout the countryside to find out who it fits.

I'm not sure I'm conveying just how stupid this is, so let's make up some details and dialog that the movie leaves out.

[NIGHT ONE] PRINCE: You are so lovely, mysterious maiden. Please, tell me who you are!

CINDERELLA: I cannot! But I've had a wonderful evening, and I must go!

She runs off. The prince chases but a handsome, fit male is no match for a chick in stilettos.

[NIGHT TWO] PRINCE: Thank goodness! I've found you again. This time I will never let you go. Please, dance with me again.

CINDERELLA: Okay. [THEY DANCE] This is like a wonderful dream! [SHE SPRINTS OFF] See ya, buddy!

PRINCE [SHRUGGING]: Goddammit. Not again!

She runs off again. The prince chases, this time even more desperately, but again he can't catch her. He's bereft. True love escaped him once more!

[NIGHT THREE] PRINCE: This is fuckin' amazing. I thought I'd lost you forever, but here you are again! My beloved. Life has regained its meaning and birds will sing again.

CINDERELLA: Yup. Good to see you too. [THEY DANCE, THEN SHE BREAKS OFF AND RUNS] Gots to scoot again, beeyotch!


The movie picks up during her third exit. The prince isn't quite as stupid as I've made him out, because he's covered half of the castle stairs with tar to slow Cinderella down. Sure, it would have been smarter to hire a guard, but these are troubling times in the kingdom, m'lord. Cinderella doesn't see the tar and her shoes get stuck. Oh, damn! Now he'll catch her for sure! She steps out of her shoes and then pulls them out. O...kay. She decides to leave one for the prince as a clue to her identity, and then she sprints off, running carefree through the tar.

Yes, the film definitely explores an alternative side of this fairy tale, because when you read the regular one you don't want to shout, "DOES SHE STICK TO THE FUCKIN' STAIRS OR WHAT?"

This time around we learn that a woman wearing one tar-coated stiletto is faster than our hunky prince. We almost wish the ball would go on for a fourth night, so the prince could lay nails across the exit and she'd step on them and her feet would get all bloody and we could all yell, "SEE IF YOU'RE FASTER THAN THE PRINCE NOW, ASSHOLE!"

Rapunzel is a shock on more of a visceral level. After fourteen people have sung about the glory of her hair, we see it looks like a bungee cord wrapped in a cheap weave. It's literally a matted yellow rope. If I fell into a tar pit and they threw me a lifeline of that shit, I'd be a really pissed-off fossil right now.

The baker is stupid and earnest, his wife is snarky. "This makes no sense!" she notices. "That's crazy!" she notes. She snidely remarks that somebody's wandered in from a different fairy tale. Suddenly we identify the movie's forefathers: we've got the style, though none of the charm, of Grumpy Cat's Worst Christmas Ever.

Towards the end you'll be delighted to notice that the observational songs -- classics like, "I Climbed A Beanstalk," "I Saw A Cow In The Woods," and "Man, That's A Really Big Wolf" -- give way to musical platitudes, and your heart races with hope that the end is near. Now all the songs are about hopes and dreams and you half expect a kitten dangling from a branch to sing a ditty called, "Hang In There!" I didn't get the closing song's words exactly but I'm pretty sure it went like this:

Dream a dream or wish a wish,
it is up to you.
But watch out for the dreams you wish;
Sometimes they come true.
If you dream upon a wish,
you get lost in thought.
Dreams and wishes get entwined
and that's one fuckin' knot.

1. You sit there and think, "Hmm. That scene wasn't great."

2. You sit there and think, "This scene was awful."

3. You sit there and think, "This entire movie is a massive piece of shit."

4. You sit there and think, "If I tell everybody Meryl Streep shoots Kim Jong Un in this, will they make it go away?"

5. Six days after you see the film you stop at a local store and buy cilantro. The clerk rings it up as parsley. You clutch your face, drop to your knees and scream, "OHMIGOD!!! IS THERE EVEN A FRAGMENT OF A BRAIN CELL LEFT IN THE WORLD???"

Into the Woods is the Bill Cosby of movies. Judging by the name you assume it'll be great, but even before you get comfortable you're overcome by some odd paralysis and all you can do it stare helplessly while a voice inside your head screams, "MOTHERFUCKER! MOTHERFUCKER!" You're left thinking of the trail this movie has blazed by shoving unrelated junk together. Instead of mashing together four fairy tales, how about one-liners? I mean, if they're funny individually, wouldn't they be hysterical en masse?

PRINCESS: I just flew in from New York.

GIANT: Really? I broke my leg in two places.

PRINCESS: My arms are so tired; is that your wife?

GIANT: Yes: feel free to take her! And maybe stay out of those places.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Davy and Debby Hoffman were furious. It was Thanksgiving and at the homes of all of their friends tiny elves were magically appearing on random shelves. Checking their own shelves, though, all they found were books and shit. They ran straight to their father Neal. "Why don't we have any elves sitting on shelves at our house?" they asked.

"'The Elf on the Shelf' is a Christian tradition," said Neal, "and we're Jewish. We don't believe in elves because we don't believe in Christmas because we don't believe in Jesus Christ."

"Oh," replied Davy and Debby. "That absolutely sucks."

Every day Davy and Debby whined a little more. They'd visit another friend's home and see a cute little elf on a book-free shelf, and then they'd go home and scream. "BUY US A GODDAMNED ELF ON THE SHELF!" they screamed in unison. "BUY US A GODDAMNED ELF!"

The last straw came when somebody told Davy and Debby that these little stuffed elves flew to the North Pole at night and talked to Santa about them. "We don't wanna be Jewish," they yelled at their father. "We don't want fuckin' books on our shelves. We want one of Santa's assistants to sit there and watch us!"

Their father shook his head. How could these children see that aside from being outside of their heritage this elf was basically a felt nannycam? Then one day a lightbulb blinked on above his head. "Why," he thought, "I'll make a Jewish version of that infernal toy! Who wouldn't love a little Jewish man hanging around their house keeping tabs on them?" Neal, a former toy company executive, stitched up a crude figure and kept his fingers crossed. Others might have called it a creepy copy of an semi-interesting toy but he dubbed it "The Mensch on the Bench."

"The Mensch on the Bench is even more fun than the Elf on the Shelf," Neal told Davy and Debby, "because he's a nice Jewish man who watches you. If you do good, he's happy. And if you do evil, he's unhappy."

"Every night the Elf on the Shelf flies to the North Pole," said Davy, "to tell Santa if we've been naughty or nice. Where does the Mensch on the Bench go?"

Hoffman wracked his brain. "The senior center," he finally said. "He tells everybody's grandparents about you."

"Oh, okay," said the kids. And a Chanukah tradition was born.



Marcus and Augusta Agrippa were furious. It was December 17, the first day of Saturnalia, and all of their friends were hanging ornaments on trees, stuffing themselves with food, getting drunk and screwing and exchanging presents afterward. They went home and complained to their father Flavius. "Why can't we overeat and get presents?" they asked.

"Only the pagans do that," said Flavius, "and we're Christians. We don't celebrate Saturnalia because we don't believe Saturn is the god of the harvest because we believe in one true God."

"Oh," replied the Marcus and Augusta. "That absolutely sucks."

Every day Marcus and Augusta whined a little more. They'd look outside and see drunk people urinating in the streets before going home and giving each other The Clapper. At their house, meanwhile, it was all wrestling lessons and chiseling Latin words into stone.

Finally they threw a hissy fit at the Caesar's Palace Mall when they saw pagan children drinking Jack and Coke out of little sippy cups. "We don't wanna be Christian," Marcus and Augusta yelled at their father. "We don't have any fun. We don't have human sacrifices. We don't get to smash shit up. AND WHAT ABOUT OVEREATING AND GETTING PRESENTS?"

After one last, futile attempt to explain to his kids that only an idiot would celebrate the growth of corn, Flavius got a brilliant idea. "Why," he thought, "I'll make a Christian version of that infernal holiday! Who wouldn't love a religious celebration where you stuff yourself and then get cool shit?" Flavius decorated a tree, wrapped gifts and made green bean casserole, then fashioned a diorama of baby Jesus in a manger and kept his fingers crossed. He knew it was lame but he had high hopes. Others might have called it a creepy copy of a semi-interesting celebration but he dubbed it "Christmas."

"Christmas is even more fun than Saturnalia," he told his kids as they tore at their presents, "because instead of celebrating some stupid harvest, you're commemorating a really nice guy. See, Jesus died because he loved you, then he came back to life and now he and his father watch you all the time. If you do good, he's happy. And if you do evil, he's unhappy."

"Oh, okay," said the kids in unison, and that was the year Christmas was born.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Once upon a time, a poor bookkeeper named P. X. Warbie had a dream. He loved children, and wanted nothing more than to entertain them. "Why, I'll write a book," he thought to himself. He toiled long and hard on this book, and three years later he had a finished manuscript about a boy named Sammy Spatula who never grows up, wears lots of green, and flies a lot between his home Sometimesland and earth.

P. X. was very proud of his work; now he just had to get it out into the world. He approached his neighbor, Mr. A. McNutley, who happened to be the Editor-in-Chief of the Grimsby Times. "I've got a great idea!" said Mr. McNutley after reading the manuscript. "Why don't we print your book in my newspaper? Say, five hundred words a day? I think it would be a big hit with my readers."

As Mr. McNutley prophesized, the column was a smash. People raced to the news stand every morning to find out what happened to the boy who never grew up. They'd never read anything like it! It was wholesome fun and suitable for the entire family.

By the fifth day, the newspaper's circulation had tripled, but dark clouds had appeared on the horizon. In the latest extract, the three children of Fred and Ethel Sweetie have been put to bed in a middle-class apartment in the Bayswater suburb of London. Just as they start to fall asleep, though, they notice a mysterious light on their balcony. They run to investigate and discover the slightly-undersized, androgynous lad who is Sammy Spatula.

"Hey, kids!" Sammy chirps. "How about flying off with me to Sometimesland?"

"That's silly," says the eldest, a flame-haired cutie named Barbara Ann. "We can't fly! Now go off and bother someone else."

"Sure you can!" protests Sammy. "Anybody can! You just need to try. Ready? Just close your eyes and leap!" The three children are hesitant but finally take the stranger's word for it. They fling themselves off the windowsill and find themselves being lofted up into the stars by gusts of wind, zipping and spinning miles above the city behind their brand new friend.

The night this column appeared in the paper, though, two hundred children threw themselves out of their bedroom windows and fell to their deaths.

"Maybe make it a little harder," said Mr. McNutley. "Like, they can only fly on a certain day of the year. Or they can only fly if their middle name is Humperdinck."

"I don't know," said P. X. "I'll have to think about this." He thought long and hard, and the next time Sammy Spatula flew, observant readers noticed one very small change.

"Do you all want to go with me to Sometimesland?" Sammy asked the Sweetie kids.

"YES!" they shouted in unison.

"Well, then, think happy thoughts and let's go!"

"That's not actually better," said Mr. McNutley after discovering that this latest episode had prompted six hundred kids to plummet to their deaths. #287 was little Billy Damron, whose last words were, "It's my own fault. I should have thought about puppies instead of my little brother."

"Shucks," said P. X. the next morning. "I was sure that would work."

"Were you?" snapped Mr. McNutley. "Did you actually picture kids standing by their windows thinking, 'Wow, I sure wish I could fly but the newspaper says I have to think happy thoughts and I'm coming up fuckin' blank'? I've got ninety angry parents in my foyer demanding some kind of explanation, and aside from the fact you're a complete nincompoop I don't have a clue what to say."

"Give me one more try," said P. X. "I'll come up with something to make all the parents happy."

As the clouds parted, a crisp white beam of moonlight shone on a tiny figure dressed all in green perched on their windowsill.

"SAMMY!" cried Barbara Ann. "Please let us go flying again! Every time you've shown up in the last two weeks you've just talked about alligators and showed us how to fold clothes. Please say we can go flying again."

"We can!" crowed Sammy to the childrens' cheers. "But this part is very important: flying is very dangerous, and shouldn't be attempted by just anyone. Before we go flying, you have to tell someone."

Little Barney sighed. "But you said we can't tell our parents about you," he said.

"I've got it!" perked up Barbara Ann. "We can tell each other!" She turns to her little brother. "Barney, I'm going flying tonight!"

A grin broke out on Barney's face. "Crystal, I'm going flying too!"

Crystal giggled. "Barbara Ann, I'm going to fly all the way to Somestimesland!"

Sammy looked perplexed, but eventually he nodded his head. "Okay," he said, "let's goooooo!"

"I don't know why the fuck you thought that would solve anything," said a furious Mr. McNutley to P. X. as he pasted obituaries into the first twenty pages of his newspaper. "They don't even take it seriously in the fuckin' story."

"I'm sorry, McNutley," said P. X. "I just didn't think."

"No, you didn't. You blew it again. It's a shame: my readership was up five thousand percent." Mr. McNutley gazed sadly at the crestfallen P. X. "Okay, okay, one more go, but this time I make the rules: Kids can only fly if they have something that no English kid will ever have. Ever. Ever!"

P. X. nodded eagerly. "Thank you, sir," he said. "I'll get right on it." He wrestled with possibilities throughout the whole night, and as everyone who's read this classic of children's literature knows, in a close race between pixie dust and clean, straight teeth, pixie dust won out.


Monday, December 1, 2014

This is truly a great day for movie lovers. I don't understand the whole story but apparently Seth Rogen made fun of Kim Jong-un and in retaliation North Korea hacked the computers at Sony Pictures. They downloaded every film Sony has ever made, and they've put them all online. Everything! I must have copied a hundred movies, and I only got out of bed eight minutes ago. My favorite so far has to be Big Hero 6. It was great! While I love all of the characters, my favorite has to be Baymax -- you know, the inflatable robot that looks like the Michelin man. I was laughing so hard I could barely take notes, but here are some of my favorite bits.


BAYMAX: Master Hiro, overwhelming evidence suggests that Professor Callaghan set the fire deliberately. Then he stole your army of bots and used them to escape.

HIRO: He couldn't have. That's nuts.

BAYMAX [confused]: No, it is not. My senso-detectors would have registered the presence of legumes.


BAYMAX: My calculations have determined that there is a 99.9465% probability that the test pilot was Professor Callaghan's daughter Abigail, and his subsequent actions have been in retaliation for her death.

HIRO: What? I don't believe it. That's sick!

BAYMAX [confused]: I must respectfully disagree, Master Hiro. According to my calculation its immune system has not been invaded by either bacteria or viruses.


TADASHI: Okay, Baymax, now wait just a minute. My brother Hiro gave you a polymantium exoskeleton, internal scanners and sensors, remote monitors, and jet engine feet. You have unbeatable skills in karate, tae kwon do, Western boxing, and Wing Chun. But you don't understand contemporary English? Jesus Christ, you are so freakin' lame.

BAYMAX: Thank you for your input, Master Tadashi. I will initiate a self-test of my lower limb interface.


HIRO [weakly]: I must apologize, Tadashi. I believe it was my oversight that put us in this position.

TADASHI [in one last spurt of fury]: You think? Like if you'd just bought a Slang Recognition Chip for maybe six yen and put it in Baymax, he would have understood what we were talking about and not completely messed up our plan? And maybe that's why we're chained to a wall of Adamantium crystals and we're roughly six seconds away from having our insides boiled like miso ramen? These may be my last words so remember this forever: you may be my brother but you're also an idiot, and your superhero friend is totally fucked.

BAYMAX [shrugging]: Well, I'll give it a try. But don't blame me if it makes me deflate.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

It's too bad my parents took me camping when I was a kid. Because after that, when all my friends wanted to be doctors or architects, I was just happy being indoors.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Coming Soon

Highlights from Musical Movies

Oh, this is the night,
it's a beautiful night
And we call it "Bella Notte."

Who can forget this immortal movie song from Lady and the Tramp? It's truly one of my all-time favorite movie tunes. It brightens a particularly romantic scene with its unforgettable melody, and the lyrics charm with their warm simplicity. If you don't speak Italian, here's a translation that doesn't lose any of the magic:

Oh, this is the night,
it's a beautiful night
And we call it "Nice Night."

I mean, what hard-hearted person could do anything but sigh when they hear that poetry? Of course we all know the songwriters, Frank Sandler and Jerry Wiebler, went on to pen a long string of hits after this. I'm sure every filmgoer can remember their Theme from Cabaret:

Oh, this is a man,
A really strange man
And we call him "Bizarro Muchacho."

Then there's their immortal Love Theme from Man of La Mancha:

Oh, that is a windmill,
A really big windmill
And we call it "Humungo Windmillo."

Sadly, the pair's popularity plummeted with the advent of rap music. They tried to join the trend in 2004 but most agree that even with Vanilla Ice performing it their swan song isn't their most popular work.

Oh, those are some buns,
Some fabulous buns
And we call them "Lotsa Buttockos."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Would you like to try my drink? [PAUSE] YOU BASTARD! SPIT IT OUT!

The Bad Manners cocktail at Nitecap, $14

Thursday, November 6, 2014

[T]he semi-naked waiters returned with phallic branches of Brussels sprouts, sprouting from you-know-where. They handed you a knife, and you had to shear your own.... The possibility of accidentally slicing off a waiter’s private parts—was purposeful, felt [billionaire Russian oligargh Maria] Baibakova.

“Art is supposed to challenge us,” she said. “It’s not supposed to be comfortable.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Hi. My name is Roman, and I'm the president of PWUTRASOUPANHCCBSHGAPOS ("People Who Used To Report All Sorts Of Inexplicable Phenomena And Now Have Cellphone Cameras But Still Haven't Gotten A Photo Of Shit"). Our group has gotten a lot of attention recently, and not in a positive light. If the angry mob would shut up for a second, I'd like to explain our side of the story.

Yes, it's true: in my lifetime I've seen some unnatural sights. In my lifetime, I've seen sixteen ghosts, eight UFOs, three werewolves, nine Yetis, and Jesus' face on four different types of toast (rye, whole wheat, challah, and raisin). Every one of these sightings has been publicized. "The Flying Cigars of Northern Vancouver" was actually made into a miniseries, "Space Alien Bar Mitzvah" was a special on Bravo TV, and #ChallahBreadJesus became a trending tweet. In my prime, I was averaging fourteen unexplained sightings a week, and that was before I started drinking Hpnotiq.

"Surely you've had a cellphone for the last ten or twelve years," you say. "So why haven't you gotten a photo of anything strange yet?" You roll your eyes and act like this odd lapse is conclusive proof that nothing paranormal exists, but I'm here to tell you that unlike the midget clown that hovered over me for most of 1972, there's a rational explanation for this.

First, you're probably aware of the biggest problem. A yeti runs out of the woods, I grab for my camera, and before I've even typed in half my password it's broken into my Fiero and then run off. It just isn't quick enough! My fingers shake and I'm typing, like, "1, 2, 3 -- " and before I see all the little app widgets he's gone back into the abandoned coal mine again.

"Roman," you say, "according to your eyewitness reports, every UFO you've ever seen either danced or hovered or hung in the air. Surely that would give you time to type in your passcode."

Well, in a perfect world, yes. But -- call me stupid -- I always make some kind of mistake. I actually did get video of Amelia Earhart's ghost eating nopales tacos at Machu Picchu, but just out of habit I turned my phone sideways to film it. It was crisp and perfect but I had to delete it. I knew that for every person who saw it and said "WOW! That's absolutely AMAZING!!!" I'd get a hundred going, "DON'T FILM IN PORTRAIT MODE, ASSHOLE!"

Sometimes I almost think there's an unnatural conspiracy to stop me from photographing this paranormal stuff. Like one afternoon a chupacabra ran by my window and I made a mad dash for my phone but at that very second it rang. I'm like "CALL BACK! I GOTTA GET A PHOTO!" and it's like, "ANSWER THIS CALL! FUCK THAT THING!"

Anyway, don't stop believing. Rest assured one day soon -- oh, shit. There's a crop circle in my back yard. Yes, a real crop circle, in my very own backyard. It's amazing, like an incredibly intricate fractal crossed with some fourth-dimensional M. C. Escher shit. Okay, I got it: type in password, don't use portrait mode, turn off flash --

Shit. Grass grows like fuck around here.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Ohmigod, I can't believe I almost missed an amazing landmark in history. Luckily I spotted a few proud headlines at various online news sites:

  • Rolling Stone announces that "Michael Stipe came out, identifying himself as 'queer,' two decades ago today."

  • Joe.My.God celebrates "Michael Stipe On 20 Years Of Being Out."

  • Salon blares, “Queerness is a state of mind: Michael Stipe on the anniversary of his coming-out."

Of course, it's possible these news sites might have missed this too had Mr. Stipe not reminded them. He thoughtfully recounts his groundbreaking admission in Britain's The Guardian newspaper. "It’s been 20 years since I announced to the world that I was queer," he opens, not shyly recalling his bravery.

Wow, I remember it like it was yesterday. As I recall, though, he didn't exactly say he was "queer." Or "gay." Or "homosexual." But I remember how brave we all thought he was to admit to the world that unlike 60% of America in the 1990s, he was definitely not entirely straight.

He was an "equal opportunity lech," he'd actually said, before refusing to define himself as gay, straight or bi. From that day forward it was like the world had changed. Michael Stipe had made history! Why, we'd never heard anything like it! He was the very first person ever who'd refused to define himself sexually as long as you didn't count Richard Deacon, Paul Lynde, Liberace, or any of the effeminate characters played by Edward Everett Horton or Franklin Pangborn in those 1930s films.

Mr. Stipe's announcement had such an immediate impact on my life. I was a fan of his who'd been out for years, and I'd had a crush on him. I'd heard the rumors and kept my fingers crossed. How the world spun on its axis when I realized that he'd actually kind of admitted that he'd once gotten drunk and spotted a guy that was maybe sort of hot.

I mean, put this into perspective. This was 1994, and there was a terrible danger to announcing sexual ambiguity: a performer could find himself almost too popular. Still, even the hetero singers risked it. Mr. Stipe's trailblazing came a mere twenty-two years after David Bowie came out as bi, fourteen years after Mick Jagger played an effeminate cross-dressing bisexual in Performance, and just twenty years after the New York Times declared Lou Reed to be "publicly gay." Just sixteen short years after the Tom Robinson Band sang "(Sing If You're) Glad To Be Gay," Mr. Stipe was singing, "Chicken trainwreck sombrero termites, ukulele marmalade cats."

I remember getting chills trying to imagine how things would change for the next generation! How emboldened they would be by a major star's admonition that he'd once seen a man who was kind of attractive and he told his girlfriend and she was like, "Whaaa?"

With this twentieth anniversary, Mr. Stipe cements his place in the queer history book, provided "queer" means "strange or odd." And clearly his selfless sharing hasn't been entirely altruistic. Age has brought him wisdom along with an almost poetic writing power. In The Guardian he shares how much that semi-coming-out changed his life, and it's remarkably powerful. I think we all secretly envy the man whose heart is an all-embracing, foundational tenet that accepted its own truth: that though it really, really loves women, there are maybe a couple of guys he'd kind of do.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Yup, those are definitely the symptoms for being either a terrorist assassin or an adult.

Crime Watch

A 25-year-old woman took an Australian tourist’s $25,000 Rolex and hid it in her vagina after an early morning hookup in a Manhattan hotel room, officials said.

Brenton Price was getting a massage from Shacarye Tim when he noticed his Rolex missing. Tims tried to run off but Price caught her in the lobby. He held her for police, who saw her take the Rolex “out of her vaginal cavity."

I'm thinking Rolex should start using another watchmaker's motto. I mean, this thing definitely took a licking and kept on ticking.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

WalMart's "Big And Tall" Men's Pants: 38 Choices For Fat Dudes, 0 Choices for Tall

Give them a look here.

The Catholic Church is acting weird again. Considering that Jesus died about two thousand years ago, it's odd that everything they stand for keeps changing every five minutes or so. In the case of marriage equality and/or gay rights, it's like they're playing Good Cop/Bad Cop with us. "Everybody's cool!" says the Pope. "Everybody is part of God's kingdom!" "Except for the homos!" add the Cardinals.

Last week a press release made clear just how far we'd come. An interim report, supposedly directed by the Pope himself, showed a sea change in the Church's attitude toward gays (though of course they don't actually use that word):

Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community. Are we capable of providing for these people, guaranteeing [...] them [...] a place of fellowship in our communities? Oftentimes, they want to encounter a Church which offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of this, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?...

Without denying the moral problems associated with homosexual unions, there are instances where mutual assistance to the point of sacrifice is a valuable support in the life of these persons. Furthermore, the Church pays special attention to [...] children who live with same-sex couples and stresses that the needs and rights of the little ones must always be given priority.

Naturally hysteria ensued soon after, and literally minutes later that study was being disavowed by literally anyone with a hat or red Prada slip-ons. When this report surfaced next, the message seemed markedly different. I haven't been able to find a translation for the Italian but some maintain it doesn't include quite as much acceptance for the LGBT community as the original version.

E 'un abominio! Si Dio desirio l'uomo di sexo que l'uomo, Dio ha manufatturo Adam e Steve! Glorioso Dio, los homos! Lo qui fucko, fucko, fucko, sempre droppa di soapa. Uno e per eternite, el reigno del Dio es tutto "no homo." Progresso (non la zuppa) esta uno slopo slipperio. Le mondial requisite duo-l'uomo esposo como un Ferrari requisite un transmision automatique. Que es prossimo? Le chien esposo el pollo? El gato esposo la pesce? Non requisito uno Einstein a comprendere: el buttocks molto "EXIT ONLY."

In breve, donne-moi un fuckin' break. Es claro como mi Baccarat cristallo: Il Glorioso Dio desirio sexo sameo matrimonio que il Papa desirio Payless hueraches.

Halloween Costume Ideas For Gay Men

Sexy Superhero

Sexy Gladiator

Sexy Astronaut

Sexy Zombie

Sexy Animal

Sexy Adam and Steve

Sexy Beer Pong

Sexy Pizza Box

Michael Keaton Finally Has A Reason To Get Up And Wear A Scarf Again

Friday, October 17, 2014

I'm not a real superstitious or optimistic or pleasant person but I got a letter in the mail today that's got me really excited. I mean, ordinarily I'm a skeptic, but everything in the letter sounded true, and it got me wondering. Could something so simple change a person's life so drastically? It seems like it did, just judging from news reports. Here's what it said:

Today is your lucky day. While the other mail you receive will just be junk or bills, this letter brings you something far more exciting. It has been touched by fourteen people from Liberia and may be teeming with the Lucky Ebola virus.

You will receive good luck within four days provided you rub this letter against yourself and then send it on. BUT copies of this letter must leave your hands within 96 hours.

A United States Air force officer received this letter and didn't send it on. John A. Elliot didn't receive a promotion because he broke the chain. In the Philippines, Genio Welsh threw away this letter without reading it. Three days later his dog was attacked by a skunk.

Photocopy this letter twenty times and rub it against the original to transfer the Ebola magic. Then send the copies to friends and associates. After a few days you will get a surprise. This is true even if you are not superstitious.

Dr. Nancy Snyderman never got a fair shake. While other celebrity doctors were jetting around the world to fashionable London or Paris, NBC made her go to Liberia. After her cameraman came down with Ebola, though, the pitiful pumpkin turned into Cinderella. Almost overnight she went from wandering through dirty, dangerous streets to sitting in an ultra-luxurious car getting food from one of New Jersey's most popular restaurants. "I'm not a superstitious person," she admitted, "but even I became convinced of the awesome magic that is Ebola. Just think: two days ago I was wandering a Godforsaken cesspool of disease and today I'm in a Mercedes eating some of the most delicious clam chowder on the East Coast!"

As a hospital nurse, Amber Vinson treated the first man to die in the U. S. of the disease. And just one day later she was jetting across the country to make wedding plans. "I still can't believe it," she gushed. "All I had planned for this weekend was feeding my cats and reading Hello! magazine. But then I touched the Lucky Ebola and now I'm trying on wedding dresses in Cleveland's most popular wedding shop!"

Just days after coming into contact with the bodily fluids of an Ebola victim, a Texas health-care worker found herself on a Carnival Cruise ship sailing the Caribbean. "I was a skeptic too," said the anonymous lady as she readied herself for another quick zip down the ship's water slide. "I've spent most of my life carrying around sick peoples' piss and poop but last night I was in the ship's nightclub boogeying the night away!"

What wonderful fate will befall you if you share the magic Ebola with your friends and neighbors? Possibly nothing. But you just might end up on a surprise trip. You just might find yourself on a crowded cruise. And you just might find yourself in a Mercedes eating soup. Scoff if you want about this letter, but you cannot deny the awesome power of the Lucky Ebola.

It truly works!

Anyway, wish me luck. Call me crazy but I'm rubbing the letter against my pants as we speak. Because what's the harm in trying? Cross your fingers and I just might not be here next week.

Friday, October 3, 2014

I'm a huge fan of Max Garcia's Between the Lines, a comic strip that runs daily in the New York Daily News. I mean, just when you think you've seen the last of Princess Leia running around with cinnamon buns on her ears, there she goes again. His remarkable teenaged brain runs the gamut from Batman references to Superman references. (His farts have gotta be epic, amirite?) Count on Mr. Garcia to reinforce all the best gender stereotypes, whether it's the wimpy tattoo artist who's going to get creamed by a hunky bruiser for tattooing GREG instead of MEG on his arm or how all those bitchy dildo-wielding women dump us nice guys for being shrimps downstairs.

Today, though, Max goes above and beyond. He wisely waited a few minutes until domestic violence faded from the headlines to print this hysterical strip. A man sees a cow wearing a skirt and decides to kill it with an axe. Because sometimes you just want to kill a female cow with an axe. Is the cow heading to a local boutique? Waiting for a bus? We'll never know. And she'll never see that axe coming either! Ha!

Anyway, I had to share it because I enjoyed it so much. Skirt steak! Such a great turn of phrase: it's gotta be what frat boys call sorority sisters before they drug their drinks. On his Facebook page Mr. Garcia says, there's "[n]o such thing as bad publicity," so I'm hoping, like his dead skirt-wearing cow, he'll be in heaven today.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Ever since I was a kid I wondered about natural gas. First, what's up with the name? Is there an unnatural gas? I don't recall the last time somebody invented a new one. I thought we were pretty much stuck with the ones that have been around since the Big Bang.

Plus, it strikes me as a right-wing kind of name. It posits itself as the one correct gas, while subtly calling all the others inferior. When United dubbed itself "The Friendly Skies" it implied that all other airline flight attendants were backstabbing bitches. When Bounty called their paper towels "The Quicker Picker-Upper" it made it seem like you're going to sit there and whistle while waiting for Brawny to work. We're the natural gas, they're saying. Like all the other gasses have been hanging around dark alleys looking to bugger Nancy Boys.

What about methane? Argon? Neon? Helium has been around since the beginning of time, accounting for 24% of the universe, and it hasn't exactly been loitering by the docks waiting for ships to come in. Why isn't it "natural" gas?

This "natural" gas is the stuff that's piped into our homes to power our stoves and our water heaters. It's cheap and flammable, so it makes sense for all those controlled fires we need. Back in 600 BC the Chinese stuck bamboo poles into the ground to channel the stuff into their kitchens, and basically that's still what we're doing today. One characteristic of natural gas, though, is seen as problematic: it's completely odorless. Which seems like a good thing, because I don't necessarily want to pipe stuff that smells like rotting wombats into the vicinity of my new Zwilling saucepans. But when gas pipelines inevitably leaked, nobody knew. There was no telltale sign. Everything seemed perfectly fine until somebody lit a match and the whole neighborhood went boom.

The industry's brilliant solution? Make natural gas really stink. Then a leak becomes obvious, and the pipe can be fixed before anybody gets hurt. Utility companies started adding a chemical odorant called “mercaptan” to natural gas. It smells like rotting cabbages and smelly socks, and is one of the chemicals responsible for the foul smell of bad breath and flatulence.

Which raises an important question. How are you supposed to smell it in New York?

I ask this with utmost sincerity, as buildings explode around me left and right. Maybe in the rest of the world these disgusting scents would make one stand up and take notice, but in New York one simply has a fleeting thought that Big Orphan Annie walked by their window again and then their house goes boom.

If anybody in my neighborhood ran around screaming, "IT'S A HORRIBLE SMELL! I SMELL A HORRIBLE SMELL!" every single person would think they were crazy. It's like screaming, "OHMIGOD! I SAW A LIBRARY!" or "THAT MAN'S GOT A PONYTAIL!" It's not news. It's not out of place. At best, one helpful soul might say, "I'll bet the Food Bank is handing out asparagus again."

The overwhelming city odors are the worst in summer. Everything dead in the streets thaws out, and everybody even reasonably athletic breaks out their tank tops. The stink isn't quite as bad in winter, but gangrene can't exactly hop a plane to Florida. Even then, I can't imagine a whiff of rotting cabbage prompting action, or smelly socks raising an alarm. It'd be a never-ending cycle: somebody calls 911 to report farting, the farter calls about their bad breath, and so on. Five minutes later an overloaded phone system causes all the lights to go out and then cars start careening off the Brooklyn Bridge.

My solution? Make natural gas smell good. Sweet. Perfumey. We're five minutes away from New Jersey, and there ain't exactly rose gardens and Twinkie factories around here. Make natural gas smell like chocolate chip cookies. That's a smell we don't get. Mrs. Fields and Famous Amos hit the road back in 1972 when even eighteen bucks a cookie wasn't enough to pay the rent.

The best part is, it automatically creates action. It enlists the city's bored teenagers into Certified Leak Detectors. They'll smell the cookies and wander through the house trying to find the source. "Hey, mama!" they'll shout, "When are those cookies gonna be done? I want a cookie. Give me a goddamn cookie." Their mothers will shout back from the couch, "What the fuck are you talking about? I'm not making any goddamn -- RUN FOR YOUR LIFE! THE WHOLE PLACE IS GONNA BLOW!"

Sure, people could abuse it. People who know how slow the police usually respond would whip up a batch of cookies to get a car to their house stat:

PERSON #1: Ohmigod! I've been stabbed!

PERSON #2: Nooo! Quick: bring me half a pound of butter and two eggs.

Of course, scamming the system like that could lead to complaints.

POLICEMAN: You've really got to stop doing that.

STABBING VICTIM: Faking an emergency?

POLICEMAN: No, putting pistachios in these.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why I'm Not Going To See "The Judge" Starring Robert Downey Jr.

Scene From The Judge (Paraphrased):

LAWYER: I'm trying to find the best jury possible to try my father, who's been wrongly accused of a crime, so I'd like to know a little bit about you. Do you have any bumper stickers on your car?

POTENTIAL JUROR #1: "Wife and Dog Missing. Reward for Dog."

POTENTIAL JUROR #2: "Gun Control Means Using Both Hands."

POTENTIAL JUROR #3: "I'm Still Missing My Ex-Wife, But My Aim's Getting Better."

LAWYER: Thank you. You are all excused.

Scene From Real Life:

LAWYER: I'm trying to find the best jury possible to try my father, who's been wrongly accused of a crime, so I'd like to know a little bit about you. Do you have any bumper stickers on your car?

POTENTIAL JURORS (in unison): Nope!

LAWYER: Oh. Okay.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Yesterday I went to Philadelphia with my sister, who's visiting from L.A. She's never been there, so we did the usual tourist stuff. We had cheesesteak sandwiches, we saw the Liberty Bell, and we went to Independence Hall, where -- oh, I don't know -- I guess somebody signed something.

Why do I have this gap in my knowledge? I went to school in California, where "history" involves vanishing orange groves, racist Disney movies, and 1967 Chevy Impalas. I got tickets for a tour at Independence Hall hoping to fill in some of these gaps, like how we broke away from England, how the colonies united into a single country, and how Washington became our first president. Unfortunately, the tour guide was a volunteer, and he was worth every penny they paid him. I wish I'd transcribed his fascinating rantings, but instead I'll offer you what must be his recipe for chicken tacos.

Chicken Tacos

So, in the end we have chicken tacos on a plate, and we're putting hot sauce on them. How did these chicken tacos get on the plate? Flashback fifteen minutes: you're chopping lettuce. You're frying tortillas. How many types of tortillas are there? That's right, two.

Jump ahead six-and-a-half minutes. You're chopping onions. You're grating cheese. How many types of cheese are there? That's right, sixty-three. You're grating cheese, and you're probably thinking, "Wait, I haven't started the chicken yet." You look over at the stove and what do you see? That's right. There's no chicken on it. So let's start the chicken now.

Flash back six months. There's a big white egg. Maybe a chicken is sitting on it, maybe not. What is the farmer saying? "I'm not waiting around for this thing to hatch; I'll going to sell it now."

There's a whole intricate series of steps here which I don't have time to explain, so let's just say somehow your egg gets to the store. It's in a carton with eleven others, each separate eggs from different chicken parents. How many types of chickens are there? That's right, fourteen. They have nothing in common except they're all in the same cardboard carton. If you had to put one of these eggs in charge, which would you choose? The biggest? The whitest? That's the puzzle our Founding Fathers faced. They had the eggs, they had the Hollandaise, and they had the last bitter scraps of a tyrannical English muffin.

They put them together on a plate. And that's it. Isn't it glorious? Eggs Bened-- Chicken Tacos. Thank you for coming!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I don't mind getting older. I don't give a damn about gray hair or wrinkles. I don't like the crazy new attitudes, though, that seem to accompany them. I'm barely in middle age and suddenly my younger friends act like I'm going to need them to help me cross the street.

When you're young and you stagger, your friends laugh. You collapse drunkenly into the street and after dancing around you they roll up your coat and jam it behind your head so you won't get gutter water in your ear. Now that everything's cool and you're comfortable, they hop in a cab to head to another club.

When you're old and you stagger, though, they take your arm and talk like you'd talk to your grandpa. "There, there," they say, "don't overexert yourself. We'll just go to the end of the block today, and maybe tomorrow we'll try to get all the way to the store."

When you're young and you do something slightly odd everybody takes it in stride. They think of excuses for you that don't include a stroke or Alzheimer's. When you're young, there's a whole world of excuses for weird stuff.

Somebody comes over while you're cleaning and they notice you're using oven cleaner on the bathroom floor. No problem. Maybe you don't have bathroom cleaner. Maybe you can't afford forty specialized cleaning products. Or maybe your bathroom floor is so fucking dirty it takes toxic chemicals to clean it.

Once you hit thirty, though, that grace period is over. All of a sudden every possible explanation is medical. Instead of wracking their brains, they're searching WebMD. "Maybe he's had a stroke," somebody says. "Does half of his face look like Grumpy Cat?"

You go on and on to your friends about how much you love Jenny Lewis. Such a talent, you say. Absolutely unbelievable, you say. I'm even starting to get a little crush. In fact, sometimes when I touch myself, I think about --

And then you notice everybody is staring at you weird.

What's their fuckin' problem? you wonder. Oh, wait -- I said Jenny Lewis, right? I didn't say Jerry Lewis?

If I'd done this a few years ago, everybody would have laughed and talked about brain farts and alcohol. But now everybody's screaming just in case I suddenly caught deafness to go with the Alzheimer's. They leap right back to basics. "WHAT'S YOUR NAME?" they yell at me. "HOW MANY FINGERS AM I HOLDING UP?"

Still, I'm a glass-half-full kind of guy. I don't want to sound like some cheery Suzanne Somers sap, but there always is a bright side. The good news is, now I just have a grab onto a random parking meter and somebody'll run to get me juice and cookies. I just have to shiver a little to have somebody fetch my favorite sweater. Now if I could just figure out a way to get somebody to sort through my boxes of old Reader's Digest magazines and find that article on computers I know my favorite nephew would enjoy while I take a little nap.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hipster Goldilocks

Once upon a time there was a hipster named Hunter, though his real name was Curtis Alan. He lived in an area called East Williamsburg by real estate agents despite the fact Spike Lee shot fourteen movies there. One morning, while he was walking home from his CrossFit class, he accidentally wandered into a neighborhood where hipsters don't often go. He was very frightened, but then he saw a friendly little brownstone in the distance.

The friendly little brownstone belonged to three Italians who'd lived in the neighborhood all their lives. One was a great big Papa Italian, one was a middle-sized Mama Italian, and one was a tiny little Baby Italian. That afternoon, the three Italians decided to go for a walk while their spaghetti was cooling. It was just too hot to eat!

Right as they left through the back door, Hunter came in through the front door. The first thing he saw was the spaghetti. “I sure am hungry,” Hunter said. “I’ll just have one bite.”

First, he tried a spoonful from Papa Italian's great big bowl. “Yeesh!” he yelled, “Somebody should be arrested for Attempted Murder by Oregano.”

Next, he tried a spoonful from Mama Italian's medium-sized bowl. “Horrible," he whined. "Overwhelming in its sheer tomatoey-ness. Would it kill them to squirt in a little sriracha?"

Finally, Hunter tried a spoonful from Baby Italian's tiny little bowl. “Oh, what the fuck,” he cried. “But wait'll the folks in my Artisanal Pasta class hear about this." Hunter ate the entire bowlful.

After doing squats in the gym all day, Hunter’s calves were sore. “I need to sit down for a little while,” he thought.

First, he sat in Papa Italian's great big armchair. “HOLY FUCK!” he screamed. "Did they outlaw lumbar support around here?"

Next he sat in Mama Italian's medium-sized chair. It was so soft that he sunk in! “That's why friends don't let friends shop at Ikea,” he complained.

Finally, he sat in Baby Italian's tiny little rocking chair. “I'm really enjoying the ironically-childish lines contrasting with the crudely-cut wood," he said, and he rocked until the chair broke.

With nowhere to sit, Hunter climbed up the stairs to find somewhere to sleep. He was still very tired.

First, he tried Papa Italian's great big bed. “Jesus Christ!” he shrieked. "I didn't think they made thread counts under twelve."

Then, he tried Mama Italian's medium-sized bed. “You're fuckin' kidding me!" he snapped. "It's like this memory foam has amnesia!"

Finally, he tried Baby Italian's tiny little bed. “Eh,” he said. "They couldn't get eight bucks for this shit on Airbnb." But Hunter fell asleep and soon was dreaming of duck confit tacos with kale ice cream.

A few hours later the three Italians returned home. While walking, they'd decided to visit Papa Italian's sister-in-law. Now their ears were ringing and they had Maalox stains on their clothes. They saw forks in their spaghetti and were very surprised. “Who’s been eating my spaghetti?” asked Papa Italian.

“Who’s been eating my spaghetti?” asked Mama Italian.

“Who’s been eating my spaghetti and eaten it all up?” cried Baby Italian.

Then the three Italians saw that their chairs had been used. “Who’s been sitting in my chair?” Papa Italian howled.

“Who’s been sitting in my chair?” wondered Mama Italian.

“Who’s been sitting in my chair and BROKEN it?” squeaked Baby Italian.

The three Italians ran upstairs to check their bedrooms. “Who’s been sleeping in my bed?” Papa Bear roared.

“Who’s been sleeping in my bed?” growled Mama Italian.

“Who’s been sleeping in my bed and is STILL HERE?” Baby Italian screamed. She said it so loudly that she woke Hunter up.

Hunter was so frightened that he jumped out of bed, ran out the front door, and raced through the streets until he found a hipster coffee shop that looked like a Gold Rush saloon but was built by an ex-Google employee in 2013. "Thank God," he said with a sigh, dodging a miniature, laboratory-formulated Shih-Pug. He hung up his coat, hand-woven from organic cotton and sustainably-dried beef jerky, on a taxidermied meerkat and ordered a cold-dripped Japanese frappospresso from a barista with a tattoo of a cigarette-smoking ghost on his forehead and a handlebar mustache in the shape of Kelly Ripa's eyebrows. "I thought the whole world had gone nuts."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

My sister Christine and I jointly own a condo that we inherited when our mother died. We rent it out, but that's gotten increasingly difficult. Our first tenant stayed two years. The second stayed one. The third wanted out after four months. Could we accept a month-to-month tenancy? he asked. We'd long since abandoned any hopes of self-respect. NO! we barked. Once he was in, he wasn't ... getting ... out.

Eventually reality smacked us in the face: our condo was horrifying. It was last decorated in 1972 when shag carpeting and earth tones were in vogue. We'd never even tried to find a cool tenant: no, we blanketed Craigslist in search of somebody who'd move in before they had a chance to think.

Since the condo is in L.A., where Christine lives, and I live in New York, I hoped she'd answer our tenant's complaints and upgrade the place. It's not exactly fair, but I'm hardly going to fly in to do a couple of odd jobs. Unfortunately, she wasn't up to the task. Whereas New Yorkers start off fast and ramp up to insanity, Los Angeleans have only one speed: crawl. Christine gets up at 8 a.m. so she can stretch, feed her feral rescue cats, cook a Tofurky breakfast sausage, and post a new petition on Facebook about climate change before driving her Prius to work around 4:45. It's very Joni Mitchell mellow, and it makes me want to shoot myself.

I prod and cajole and cheerlead and eventually she caves. She agrees to some miniature task. And without fail, every time, something goes horribly wrong. I don't get it: she's an adult. She holds down a full-time job. She must have some modicum of common sense, right?

But every other month there's one small step forward accompanied by fifteen steps back.

The tenant says the lock on the sliding glass door is broken. No problem, Christine says. And two months later she calls and says she bought a lock but it didn't fit. So there goes April, there goes our tenant's hopes, and there goes fifty bucks.

Our tenant decides he doesn't like the eight dead, oversized plants the last guy left on the balcony. I convince Christine to hire some random Hispanic dude in front of Home Depot to carry them to the condo dumpster. The first guy to approach her car, though, is seventy years old and has a limp, but she doesn't want to question his fitness and possibly damage his self-esteem. While she's driving him to the condo he admits he can't actually lift anything, so she buys him a sandwich, gives him two hours' pay, and drops him off back to the store.

There goes June, and there goes sixty bucks.

The refrigerator no longer gets cold, the tenant says. No problem, replies Christine. And two months later I hear that:

  1. She bought a Kenmore at Sears, because the place where your parents bought a tufted-vinyl wet bar is the place to go for quality appliances.
  2. While the rest of the kitchen is beige, the new Kenmore is arctic white.
  3. The Kenmore doesn't exactly fit, but you can still get into the kitchen without hurting yourself.
Before I give up once and for all, I try to subtly instruct her in the art of competence. She takes offense. What am I insinuating? Why, she's a strong, capable single woman! She can do as much as any man! She can work a full-time job and work towards preserving the environment and still put on make-up and keep her hair looking nice.

I consider arguing but I'm pretty sure you can't criticize somebody into self-confidence. Instead, I think of another odd job that would give her the chance to redeem herself. The bathroom lamp is a bizarrely ostentatious row of six giant globe bulbs on a chrome strip that looks like a makeup mirror in a Broadway dressing room. I don't care if she buys a flashlight or a kerosene lantern: it's be a major improvement if we could replace it with anything. We just need a handyman, I suggest, and then I back away even from that. We just need a dude, I say. Christine reluctantly agrees, like she'll need eight pounds of tofu and three Sting CDs to properly complete the task.

And the next time I talk to her, it's done. The new lamp isn't terrific -- the style is old and feminine, evoking a brothel during the gold rush -- but at least nobody's going to hang around the door waiting for Cher to come out. I pile her with accolades but she continues to drop odd little facts. Found the electrician through a local newspaper. We were desperate. It was probably a good idea. I bat them away until an errant pitch wallops me in the side.

"It was a little expensive," she admits. "Six hundred dollars."

I think she must be mistaken, but she doesn't correct herself. "Six hundred dollars?" I repeat. "To change a lamp?"

"The electrician quoted seventy-five an hour," she says, "and said it would take two hours."

I nod. That sounds reasonable to me.

"But I didn't know he'd have to bring a supervisor," she says. "And that guy didn't do ANYTHING."

Friday, August 29, 2014

One reason I'm not Republican is because their entire platform seems based on returning America to its alleged former greatness. As the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer says, "It is no exaggeration to say that the Protestant faith, particularly its moral values and its work ethic, made America what it became," indicating that a mass return to religion is required to make this U-turn.

I won't argue that the world is a swirling cesspool of idiots and assholes. However, it's pretty easy to prove there used to be faaar more.

My mail carrier has a cleft palate. Great guy, very friendly, cleft palate. Every time I see him I think, "Ooh, there's a dude with a hare lip. Hey, that's Mike!" I don't mean to be rude; it's just automatic. It's what people were like before political correctness.

I saw Mike yesterday and thought, "Ooh, dude with a hare lip. Hey, that's Mike!" and immediately felt guilty. I decided it was time I parceled out the blame. I mean, at some point in the history of time, a doctor -- a well-bred, upper-class, educated white man -- delivered a baby with a cleft palate. He'd probably treated the family for years, maybe even delivered the mother herself. With heartfelt empathy and a bedside manner honed from years of experiene, he looked at the baby, then looked at the mom and dad and said, "Whoa! Looks like you two are the proud parents of a fuckin' bunny rabbit!"

The mother must have freaked out. Surely she sought out other medical help. Maybe she complained further up the ladder, and brought it to the attention of the American Medical Association. Maybe they convened a committee to discuss the malformation, and eventually they reached a conclusion. "We have looked through all the literature and discovered that this condition afflicts a significant portion of newborns yet has not been given a name. With all the gravity this august body can muster, we're going to call it a hare lip, because c'mon, that kid's begging for a carrot, right?"

"That doesn't seem particularly scientific," the mother might protest. "You're naming a medical syndrome after a subjective observation and offensive slur?"

"Look on the bright side," another doctor might offer. "Maybe he'll get extra chocolate at Easter time."

Then there's Mongoloids. That's what people with Down Syndrome used to be called. With the intelligence and compassion their field is noted for, a doctor declared that a child born with a birth defect looked like somebody Chinese. And for years his observation was gospel. "Pronounced supraorbital ridges, post-orbital constriction, protruding occipitals," a delivering doctor might note. "I don't want to scare you or anything, but how do you like the name Ching Chang Fong?"

WOMAN: What?

DOCTOR: And I thought I'd have to wait until lunch to get Chinese take-out.

Later in life if one suffered a head injury, that person was declared to be a vegetable. Say a young man is hit by a horse-drawn carriage and thrown into a coma. His parents rush to his side, but he doesn't wake up. He doesn't respond. Eventually the doctor turns up to give them the grim prognosis. "I'm very sorry to tell you," he says, "that your son is a vegetable."

The mother stares at him in confusion. "Can you narrow it down? Is he corn? A rutabaga? Oh, God -- don't tell me he's -- " She cringes here as she can barely whisper the words: "Brussels sprouts?"

What were they thinking? Why would a brain-dead person suddenly become a vegetable? Do they now contain extra iron? Do they start bathing in butter? Are they suddenly something you avoid until Thanksgiving comes? It makes just as much sense to say they're now a doorstop, or an enormous rock, or a giant hunk of cheese.

Still, I'm not going to argue with Bryan Fischer. If he says the Protestant faith made America what it became, I won't dispute it. However, I will thank heaven that there were smart atheists around to fix everything they fucked up.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Yet Another Gay Survey Wants To Tell Advertisers How Much Money We Spend

I got excited when I saw that Metro Source magazine wanted to know what I thought. Ordinarily I delete email surveys, but in this case I'd be happy to oblige.

Metro Source says their obscure gay publication is a "glossy lifestyle and entertainment magazine geared towards the modern metropolitan gay community." Which apparently means pushing overpriced designer shit to insecure boy toys with more money than sense, and reinforcing the idea that gays have carloads of disposable income to heterosexual bigots. For page after page they blather on about the newest trends, whether it's a new wi-fi Blu-ray John Varvatos bathmat or the Gucci Cadillac that comes with a monogrammed Shih Tzu carrying case.

Their "Health" section, naturally, is a euphemism for plastic surgery and electrolysis. One column warns that you need to prepare in advance for your Instagram photos. "The good news is: You don’t need major surgery to look good," though you will need professional help. Um, that's good news? I was hoping I could just dim the lights, or apply the Daguerrotype filter. On another page they insist you'll cry tears of joy after your beard transplant.

The "Gourmet lifestyle" column recommends Paiche, a neo-tapas restaurant where one Yelp user "had lunch for $80 ... and still felt hungry," and another called the prices "elitist and absurd." Metro Source says "there’s no limit to where [the chef] may take his food next," though at $20 for an appetizer I'm pretty sure it'll be driving in a Gucci Cadillac.

When I spotted the survey, then, I leapt at the chance. I wanted to tell them that they're the most irritating magazine in existence, and I read Conde Nast Traveler. I wanted to tell them that their focus on luxury and materialism was disgusting, and that I was much more interested in social reform, income inequality and LGBT issues.

I answered question after question until it dawned on me: They didn't want to know what I thought. They wanted to know how rich and dumb I was so they could sell more advertising. My first tip-off was the list of ways in which they thought they might influenced me. Had I eaten at a restaurant they recommended? Had I stayed at a hotel they loved? Had I bought a car after reading their publication? I wanted to say, "Uh, girlfriend, your infotorials are so sketchy I wouldn't buy lemon Skittles if you praised them." Their list included everything short of "Do you masturbate to our publication?" which again isn't very likely unless one is aroused by $27 guacamole.

I checked "None of the above."

Next came another long list asking what I buy, and how much do I spend. I can read between the lines. I know what they really want to ask. Would I consider spending $3,000 on sandals? What if they were made from baby quail, and had the word PRADA on them? Would they make me feel better than everybody else?

We're one-quarter of the way through the survey when we hit this question: "What is the total amount spent on watches in the last 12 months?" Now, I don't know about you, but I'm thinking that the main issues involving the gay community don't involve whether you're strapping Timex or Tag Hauer to your wrist. That's when I decided to fight back against LGBT commodification. That's when my new persona popped in my head.

I was no longer RomanHans. Suddenly I was Billy Bob Budlacky, an 18-year-old gay man in Butcher Holler, Kentucky. Billy Bob is out and proud, but he hasn't had much schoolin'. The last thing he bought was some Elmer's glue to patch his overalls. He shares a small shack with six of his cousins and he makes $1,400 a year whittling hog calls.

Billy Bob has something to say.

What does Billy Bob drink? The choices lean toward upscale alcoholism but he writes in "Cousin Zeke's corn squeezin's." He's definitely not going to spend "$1,000 or more" for a watch. In fact, he wants to write in, "When I need to tell the time, I draw the numbers one through twelve on my wrist, and then I hold a toothpick in the middle and stand in the sun." This time, though, there isn't an "Other (Please enter)" field. He goes with "I haven't bought a watch."

How many trips has he made in the last year? Well, he nearly went to visit his Uncle Cooter a couple of weeks ago, but he just lives on the other side of the tracks. Are they talking about getting on one of them silver sky birds? He's still waiting til they get all the bugs ironed out.

Spend any nights in a hotel or motel? They break it up into business and personal columns, but whittling hog calls doesn't exactly call for a trip to Vienna.

What types of doctor has he visited? Billy Bob is shocked at all the options. Along with Plastic Surgeon there's three varieties of Nut Doctors. He doesn't need any of them. There's a reason the Butcher Holler General Store has a whole shelf of Colonel Beauregard's Mustard Seed Poultice.

"Do you personally have, or have you had, any of the following ailments in the last 12 months?" The list runs around like Uncle Floyd after drinking bad moonshine, with "Hair Loss" and "Wrinkles" tossed in there with "Cancer." There's no entry for "Yodeler's Throat" so Billy Bob checks none of the above.

The next question is about cigarettes, both regular and electronic. That's a great marketing opportunity -- selling cancer to young gay men. That'll get them perusing those doctor ads! Billy Bob wonders if they make electronic chewing tobacky but just checks "None of the Above."

"Do you rent, own, or live rent-free?" Billy Bob never thought that last one was an option, but he's got one big eyebrow. He definitely doesn't belong to a country club, own a weekend home, or have boat owners' insurance. If his canoe sinks, it sinks. Does Billy Bob own a smartphone, an e-reader, a 4K Ultra HDTV, or a VOIP subscription? Billy Bob doesn't subscribe to VOIP, but he's pretty sure he's hidden a copy of Playgirl in it while killing time at the General Store.

I finish the survey with my fingers crossed. I don't hold out a lot of hope. I know there won't be ads for Gulden's mustard in the next issue, but maybe they'll have second thoughts about $329 letters that let you spell your name on your living room wall or "bespoke chairs" named after dudes like Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood who'd tell them to fuck off.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Breaking news from the Los Angeles Times. What, you wanted to read stuff written by journalists? Christ, grandma, you know we've got electricity and smoothie bars these days. Keep checking back for more fitness band news updates. This is probably a spoiler alert, but tomorrow three guys in Sacramento get erections!

As I watched the MTV Video Music Awards an inescapable thought lodged itself in my brain. It wasn't "What kind of idiots watch this crap?" or "Holy God, is Beyoncé still on?" No, it's this:

Why don't men empower themselves by showing off their penises?

It seems like just a few years ago both sexes were ashamed of their bodies. They thought flesh was a tool of the devil and a doorway to sin, which subsequent TV movies and Prince records seemed to confirm. But then women took a giant leap forward with the suffragette movement. Thousands of determined young women fought and suffered and went to jail solely for the right to bounce their tatas in our face. They tore open their high-necked crinoline petticoats and shook their Jello pillows and said, "THESE ARE MY BOOBS AND I WILL NOT BE ASHAMED, ESPECIALLY IF YOU STICK DOLLAR BILLS IN BETWEEN THEM!"

Just think -- what a radical notion! It totally transformed the world. That was the heterosexual version of Stonewall, except instead of equal rights now women have dresses held on with double-stick tape. Just imagine what the world would be like without this grass-roots activism! I don't know about you, but my life would have been a hollow shell without the underboob and sideboob trends. Baywatch would have been a show about a has-been German singer with muffin-top.

Men, though, didn't have an equivalent movement. Ironically, it's because they were too busy working! They didn't have time to burn their underwear and chant slogans, or parade back and forth down Main Street with their proud penises straining at cantilevered pants. Their shame remains intact up until today, which explains why despite my fervent emails Jockey still hasn't added bungee cords or jelly pouches to their underwear. While women's red-carpet costumes frequently consist of two post-its and a Dorito, men still hide their best parts in shame, and not just the bent or pencil-dicked ones. They have to console themselves with thoughts like God made them and God doesn't make ugly, or at least they're 94% of the employees at Facebook. Is that just a wrinkle or is Idris Elba happy to see me? I don't even need to see the picture to tell you what the answer is.

Of course, this dark cloud isn't without its silver lining. I speak, of course, of Jon Hamm, who is doing what Rosa Parks would have done if she'd had a huge rod and giant sack. He proudly and unashamedly shows off his genitalia to a chorus of offended catcalls. But let's make this perfectly clear: His penis isn't the problem, though if he's like me there are six-week periods where it is. No, it's the bitter people looking at it. (Though even some on our side quibble that he could take a stronger stand. He seems reluctant to say "I'm proud of my penis!" let alone when he has a drip spot on the front of his pants.)

So while there is a faint hint of sunrise on the horizon, we need to face reality. We men will have to bow to penis shame for many years to come, contenting ourselves by showing off intellect and initiative and drive and determination and other traits you can't fake even if you suck off a plastic surgeon. I personally think there won't be full equality between the sexes until we turn on the VMAs and say, "Holy God, would you please get all of those giant dicks out of my face?" Which sadly won't be happening any time soon.

J. LO: What is that? Why are you painting a red stripe on me? It looks like my hips are on the warpath.

STYLIST: Girlfriend, it's supposed to be a muscle.

Friday, August 22, 2014

I hope there's a sequel called, "Why Does Daddy Look Like Mommy With A Mustache?"

Thursday, August 21, 2014

According to TMZ, Mariah Carrey and Nick Cannon are filing for divorce. They say she's mad that he publicly admitted he had sex with Kim Kardashian, but a little bird tells me the split is over the names they gave their kids. They went with Nick's picks, Moroccan and Monroe, but Mariah never forgave him for ignoring her choices, Yes ... It's the Diva Sharlamayne Marie and Introducing Me I Used To Be A Baby Mm-hmm.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Last night I had a very weird dream. I was walking to the neighborhood grocery store when I noticed a road I'd never seen before. I thought that was odd: I've lived here for years, so I knew all the streets, but somehow I'd missed this one. I decided to follow it and find out where it went.

The road was very quiet, like nobody else had found it either. There weren't any signs, or houses, or cars -- just trees on both sides and wide, clean sidewalks. As I continued walking it sloped uphill as it curved and gave me a nice view of the city.

I'd only been walking about ten minutes when I saw a brightly-lit building in a dark clearing. The low wooden forms flanked the grassy hills, and crystal lights sparkled through the full-length windows. The building was surrounded by shiny, expensive cars, and every once in a while attractive people in fashionable clothes would exit to the sound of flirty giggles.

I'd barely set foot inside when a handsome waiter approached. "Good evening, sir," he said. "Can I get you something?" I told him I didn't have any money, and he laughed. "Everything is on the house tonight," he said.

He brought my drink with a smile, happy to serve me, and I wandered around the posh club. Everyone I bumped into either said hello or made small talk or flirted with me, the women all fit and pretty and the men v-shaped and well-groomed. I'd decided that I'd stumbled into heaven when I realized I had to use the bathroom.

I left the flagstone-lined lobby and passed a walk-in fireplace, spotting a bank of wooden phone booths. That's probably where the bathroom is, I thought, but instead there was a single elevator. The doors opened as I approached, so I got in.

"No harm in looking," I thought, so I gave a random button a push.

The doors slid closed and the elevator descended, and when they re-opened the scene had completely changed. Wood and brass gave way to linoleum and plastic. Craftsman lamps became dangling lightbulbs. Framed artwork became ads for stores that were opening in the fall: Pretzel City! Sandy's Sweater Shoppe! Aunt Frannie's Funnel Cakes! Zala 21, designer clothing knock-offs "For when you need attention even more than you need money!"

I poked my head out, drawn like a gay moth to a Kmart flame. Overweight families stomped by like zombies holding cotton candy and helium balloons. They'd pause at the Couch Potato store to watch a giant-screen Mario Batali braise a porterhouse, then stumble to the food court again.

I turned to go back to the elevator and discovered it wasn't where I thought it was. Had I turned a corner? In its place was an Anthropologie store lined with antique French armoires painted with giraffe spots and 1920s beaded handbags that had been turned into Victorian soap hammocks. I took a couple of steps in the direction I thought I'd come from, but as the scene turned utterly unfamiliar I realized that I was lost.

Three chubby, middle-aged men in oversized shorts and sideways baseball caps were headed straight at me. They clearly knew their way around. "Excuse me," I said to one. "Do you know of a really nice restaurant around here, I think upstairs?"

He screwed up his face in an effort to think. "The people are attractive," I added, trying to jog his memory. "They wore real clothes. Nobody's fat?"

He shook his head and prodded his pals toward the Plastic Container Store, where a sign prompts shoppers to "Ask Us About Polycarbonates!" Feeling increasingly agitated, I ran up to a heavily-rouged woman whose hairstyle looked like she'd propped a monkey on her head and snipped around it with pinking shears. "Where is the elevator?" I asked.

"Elevator?" she repeated. "This mall only has one floor."

"No, it doesn't," I insisted. "There's an upstairs. Where women know how to apply makeup, and hire professionals to cut their hair."

Her eyebrows furrowed and I realized I'd hit a dead end, so I ran over to two girls in crop tops. Each wore tiny velour workout shorts with words spelled out on the butt in Swarovski crystals: one read SLUT, and one read WHORE.

"Excuse me," I said with increasing desperation. "I've got to get upstairs!"

"Upstairs?" one replied after struggling to decipher the odd concept. "What's upstairs?

"It's incredible," I said, with a mix of envy and desperation. "Everybody's stylish. People are intelligent. Nobody's even remotely gross."

They both stared at each other as I realized they probably weren't familiar with the neighborhood. I wandered toward a booth that laser-carved positive affirmations into decorative rocks and realized I'd reached the end of my rope. I spun around but all I saw were chubby legs and the drips of multicolored dipping sauces. "I HAVE TO GET UPSTAIRS!" I yelled. "HOW DO I GET UPSTAIRS?"

A mom-type approached in boob-high jeans, zipping closed a plastic baggie full of Froot Loops. Behind her she dragged three hyperactive kids on the ends of retractable plastic leashes. "What's upstairs?" she asked.

I randomly waved a hand around me. "Cocktail chatter! People with jobs! Kids who aren't going to be on Jerry Springer in about six minutes!" She scowled at me, and suddenly I noticed everyone was headed toward me. Their wide faces were frozen in anger and determination, so I started to run. "IT'S INCREDIBLE!" I yelled. "THERE ARE NO IDIOTS! KIDS ARE ALLOWED TO ROAM FREE! THERE ARE GROWN MEN WHOSE PANTS REACH THEIR SHOES!"

Despite the fact they could barely move their legs, the crowd was gaining on me. Wielding their corn dogs like weapons, they cornered me in the scented bathmat aisle of Pier 1. Just as an oversized Skecher was about to kick me in the ribs, I woke up shaking, drenched in cold sweat. It took me two hours and three cups of tea to calm down, and to stop expecting zitted faces to pop up in every window. In my next dream a theater burned down that was playing Star Wars so at least I woke up with a smile on my face.