Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I heard good things about a band called Lower, so I went to Spotify to check them out. I typed "Lower" into the search box, and got the following results:

LOWER THAN ATLANTIS
MARK LOWER
LOWER CLASS BRATS
"Lowering The Tone" by THE BRAD PITT LIGHT ORCHESTRA

Okay, I thought. It's an obscure band, and Spotify can't have everything. But just to double-check, I typed in the record name, "Seek Warmer Climes."

ALBUMS: "Seek Warmer Climes" by LOWER

Got that? The band was there. The record was there. Spotify just assumed I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT I WAS TALKING ABOUT.

The same thing happens on Google. I type in "band lower" and the top five links are for Low and Lower Dens. Before the band Lower actually turns up, in fact, I'll probably see Flower, the skunk from Bambi, and a line drawing of someone's intestine.

All of a sudden it hits me. The internet thinks I'm dumb.

It's perfectly obvious in retrospect. Websites are ignoring what I type to give me more popular returns. They're thinking, "He typed in the name of an obscure, hip rock band, but he must not mean it. He's probably looking for this popular, lousy one." I don't know why nobody else is complaining about this, because it certainly wouldn't fly in person.

FRIEND: I got so sick from a chigger bite yesterday.

ME: That's interesting, but I'm pretty sure you mean a chalupa from Taco Bell.

FRIEND: I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art the other day.

ME: That's interesting. However, I know you inside and out, so I'm guessing you went to Mickey D's.

FRIEND: I'm so excited! I just got a copy of the London Philharmonic playing "Les Sylphides."

ME: Dude, I've been reading everything you've typed over the last fourteen years. You said syphillis wrong.

The last time I looked on my computer, I had 14,357 cookies. They contain everything from my name and email address to my height, weight, and how many dates it'll take for me to go down on a dude. (SPOILER: That cookie only needs to be one bit long.) Why, then, can't I have a cookie that says I'M NOT AN IDIOT? Something that says, "HEY, WHEN THIS DUDE TYPES IN A WORD, THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT HE MEANS"? Instead every website thinks, "I'll bet he spilled his Big Gulp on the keyboard. He's probably looking for the Frozen soundtrack."

It got me to thinking: there are thousands of cookies on our computers, all in the service of various companies. Why doesn't somebody write some GOOD cookies that'll be in service of US?

  COOKIE
    NAME
                        MEANING
NO SKIGOLF User doesn't click on things that assume he has a retirement plan.
OWWW Even twenty seconds of Seth Rogan getting hit in the crotch will not sway user to see one of his films.
NO SLIDES Better put that shit on one page, because user isn't clicking through forty pictures to see Brooklyn's best pies.
NO PROACTIV User spits up a little when he sees Young Adam Levine's faceful of zits.
NO PIRATE BOING User occasionally downloads movies but never clicks on animated gifs of topless meth-heads.
NO RUBE No matter how fast your ad flashes, user will not believe he's the millionth visitor.
CMYKNO User knows the print cartridges are running low and doesn't care if everything is printed in turquoise, for fuck's sake.

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Holler If Ya Hear Me" In Five Minutes Or Less (SPOILERS)

A couple nights ago I went to see Holler If Ya Hear Me, the new Broadway musical based around the writings of Tupac Shakur. If you don't have two hours and a hundred dollars to blow, it went a little something like this.

SETTING: Five brownstone stoops, a vintage Cadillac, and lots of linoleum. JOHN enters.

JOHN: Hi. My name's John, and I'm just out of the slammer. Dudes around here know not to fuck with me, as you can tell from the way I barely move my mouth when I talk. Here are some of my friends in the neighborhood: Vinny, Benny, Ginny, Lenny, Minnie and Kenny.

VINNY, BENNY, GINNY, LENNY, MINNIE AND/OR KENNY: Yo, my man! Good to have you back. It's not gonna be easy to forge a new life here, because life in the hood is cheap. We're tough as nails, and we don't take no shit, because it's eat or be eaten. Here to sing about it is a fat white guy with an acoustic guitar.

JOHN: In the slammer I came to a realization. God has a higher calling for all of us, and it does not involve violence! We all have meaning! We all have purpose! Me, I like to draw. Look, here's a picture of a hamster on a pogo stick.

VBGLMK: But John, we're in trouble! The Four-Five Gang says they're gonna kill us all unless we pay them $3,000 a week. We need to start thinking about where we'd get that kind of money, but if that white guy is gonna sing another number, I guess we could dance around the car.

JOHN: Guys, I'd help you out, but I'm not going to back to jail. I'm gonna get a job and make something of myself. What? My paycheck is only fifty dollars? That's it! FUCK THE MAN! I'm not gonna take this kind of abuse, even though he specifically warned me that as a trainee my wages would be low.

VBGLMK'S MOM: We ghetto mothers are a proud and honorable people. Worrying about my children makes me tear my hair out, so it's a good thing he left $2,500 in the mailbox for a new weave.

JOHN: What can I do? I'm being sucked back into ghetto life. Once again I'm in the throes of hopelessless and despair. And once again I feel like it will be best expressed by the fortieth song Tupac wrote about his mama and God.

VBGLMK: Wow! This is gonna be one hell of a rumble. I'm gonna arm myself with a knife, a gun and another knife. They're gonna talk about this forever: The Four-Five Gang versus A Bunch Of Nice People Who Just Happen To Hang Out Together.

JOHN: Though the Man has done me bad, I refuse to debase myself by fighting. What? You too? And you? Wow. I'm so proud of all of you. Now nobody can say we're ripping off West Side Story, because this rumble is gonna be boring as shit.

VBGLMK: Though we dodged death today, we are certain to face it again in the future. But why are we forced to carry guns like this? Are all blacks doomed to be killed by the police, or by rival gangs? Because what kind of sad fate would that -- Oops. Sorry. Well, I guess that settles that!


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

You know you're too nice when good deeds take up most of your life.

Yesterday Danny wanted a letter printed, because he's young and popular and has better things to do than make sure there's ink in his printer. Rachel wanted a photo of her cat scanned. It was a second in a series of favors for Anthony: first write up an affidavit saying his marriage to Mai Ling wasn't a citizenship scam, and then get it notarized. I asked if Tiffany, his lawyer/fiance, could do the latter, but he said she's way too busy.

Still, I drop everything when my neighbor David knocks. He announces he's getting a colonoscopy tomorrow, and though he made the appointment months ago, he didn't realize he should have prepared. The only thing he can eat today is Jello, and now he's too weak to go to the store.

You know, I nearly say, I'm weak too. I haven't eaten yet. It's a hundred degrees outside, and it's like walking through fire to get to the closest market. I get home and I'm too exhausted to do anything, so I haven't actually gotten anything done in a week or two. Sure, I'll go pick up Jello, but there's half the day shot because I'll need to spend three hours afterwards drinking water and mopping my head with a cold towel.

"Don't worry," I say. "I'll make you some Jello. I'll drop it off in an hour or so."

New Yorkers don't publicize one of the problems with living in the city: you just can't own a car. Insurance is crazy, parking is a nightmare, and there are literally two gas stations in the whole town. The subway is great for getting us into Manhattan, but since the grocery stores there sell bread for twelve dollars a pop, we confine ourselves to our neighborhood shops. Unfortunately, they're fifteen blocks away, and since we can only buy what we can carry, we end up shopping every other day.

So, I go to the store -- the same store I'll return to later this evening to scrounge something for my dinner. I buy David a box of lemon Jello, and half an hour later I'm only semi-exhausted as I start making it. I dump the powder into a bowl and boil the water. I get out the measuring cup: one cup of boiling water, one cup of cold water. Since David is already weak, I thoughtfully add a tray of ice to a pitcher of water so the Jello will set extra fast.

There's a knock at the door, and it's David again. I've done so much, he says; he can't just sit around idly. He'll finish making the Jello. In a flash fourteen previous afternoons with him deluge my brain: "I can barbecue chicken!" he announces right before turning my chipotle-marinated boneless breasts to charcoal. "I can transplant thyme!" he says as he rips the roots off my year-old plant.

Still, I appreciate his enthusiasm, and like a parent with a child, I cede the counter to him. Isn't it an even bigger favor if he actually learns something? Won't I eventually be left alone if I teach my friends autonomy? I watch as he measures a cup of boiling water and adds it to the Jello powder bowl. "Stir for two minutes," I say, and I set the timer. I head off to my work table to sort papers as I pat myself on the back. That wasn't so bad. I'd done a good deed. And had it really put me out that much? No! Sure, it'd sucked up an hour or so, but it's not even two o'clock and I can still get my stuff done.

I sort and file and notice the kitchen is suspiciously quiet. Just to reassure myself, I circle back and see David stirring a piss-yellow liquid in my eight-gallon punch bowl. "Are you sure that was only a cup of water in the pitcher?" he asks, and I grab my sunglasses and go back to the store.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Steve Martin To Star in "Father Of The Bride" With Gay Wedding

I just heard about the next Father of the Bride installment, and I'm absolutely thrilled to announce that it will be gay-inclusive. Progress! According to Joe.My.God, in the second sequel of the series, George Banks (Steve Martin) is "thunderstruck and speechless" when his son announces he's going to marry another man.

Is that hysterical? I applaud the filmmakers for doing something so unconventional. I mean, usually Hollywood comedies feature people pooping in their pants, or tossing dogs out of windows, or spreading sperm in their hair. Needless to say I'm thrilled they're finally going to argue whether Gay is Okay.

In fact, I don't think I'm overstating this to say they're creating a whole new genre: Gay Blockbuster Comedies. I mean, this isn't just a straight comedy with the sexes changed: this is a whole new mousetrap. I don't know of any straight comedy where there's been a serious debate of world issues. Characters learn to love, or to share. They learn who their friends are, or they learn that the world is a nice place. I never saw either of the previous "Bride" films, but I'm relatively sure it included things like a French wedding planner whom no one could understand, a florist who delivered Calla lilies instead of roses, and a reception guest who ate tainted shellfish and projectile-vomited while doing the Chicken Dance.

I don't think Steve Martin's character declared that his future son-in-law was an abomination in the face of God who shouldn't be allowed to anally penetrate his daughter.

But Roman, you say, will it really be funny? How could it not be? I reply. I'm sure we've all laughed at smart, attractive people like Martin saying gay sex is repulsive. And who hasn't chortled at the whole "Biblical damnation" thing? I know I'll probably fall out of my seat when George's son announces he's getting married, and George's excitement turning to disgust when his son adds, "... to a man."

As a writer, I'm already making up scenes in my head, and laughing myself silly. I sure hope the real thing includes the title character saying gays always die by the age of 37, and the anus is exit only. And I personally wouldn't mind if this hot new trend spread to straight comedies, and they started tackling serious issues. I mean, just think of how much funnier those classic old comedies would have been if they'd had dialog like this:

"Gosh, Ron, you're a swell anchorman, but I have a hard time dating somebody who thinks Mexicans aren't good for anything but having kids."
"He's not just a 40-year-old virgin. He also thinks blacks and whites shouldn't intermarry."
Harry: You realize of course that we could never be friends.
Sally: Why not?
Harry: You don't have the blood purity I appreciate in the Aryan race.
Hitch: No matter what, no matter who, no matter when, any man has a chance to sweep any woman off her feet. He just needs the right broom and a diamond ring he bought from a Jew.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


Reallly, RNC? Trying to sway voters with kittens? I don't think I've ever seen anything so hairball.

Monday, June 9, 2014

After Years Of Having No Idea That Their Clothes Are Made At Sweatshops, Walmart Now Has No Idea That Their Truck Drivers Go Days Without Sleep


Story.

Poetry Corner

I am focused.

I sit bolt upright, as if waiting for a job interview.
I am alert to the smallest detail.
My peripheral vision shows me stories others would miss.

I can smell change coming in the wind.

My clothes are crisp.
My eyes are bright.
My smile is wide, with a nervous edge.
My mind patiently awaits my prompting, ready for any interaction.

I am the opposite of stoned.

Justin Bieber: "I Just Got Baptized So You Can't Touch Me, Bitches!"


Story.

Monday, June 2, 2014

I'm concerned about the devaluation of saints. In the old days, saints did impressive stuff. St. George killed a dragon. St. Joseph of Cupertino could fly. Even after St. Longinus had his tongue cut off and his teeth pulled out, he continued to preach the word of God.

Sure, maybe they didn't have the best documentation back then. The Guinness World Record folks weren't around to double-check. And God knows, people weren't particularly smart. They thought earthquakes were caused by armadillos that lived underground. They thought health problems were caused by demons rather than that eight-foot pile of poo standing next to their cutting boards. But the unlikelihood of these things happening was undeniable.

Over the years, though, miracles have been devalued. First, now they take place after the saint has died. Because even if dude is one of God's favorite people, how can you expect him to do something incredible in his life? We've got to add that open-ended infinity thing to give a guy a running chance.

And second, modern-day miracles just aren't as good, mostly consisting of nuns healed of health problems. Sister Bertrille had a stomach ache that vanished after she prayed to some guy. Sister Margaret had a bad cough that went away. Needless to say, these miracles are inherently questionable, because somebody who exists to serve God isn't exactly an unbiased observer. They go into the convent kitchen and see the dishes are washed, and they'll assume St. Matthew of Pecorino did it.

Besides, health-related miracles are the hardest to prove. Some people are hypochondriacs. Sometimes doctors make mistakes. And sometimes people, you know, get well.

It seems to me like the Vatican does it backwards. They don't see somebody who does saintly things and beatify them: no, they decide who they want to beatify and then fire up the old phone bank. They call every nun around and ask if they've ever prayed to the dude and gotten better. It's like an Avon lady going door to door selling cosmetics. Sure, a lot of people are going to turn her down, but eventually somebody will cave. "Oh, what the hell," they'll say. They don't actually want these products: they're just feeling sympathetic for the poor lost soul. "Put me down for -- I dunno -- do you sell hand cream?"

Of course, Catholics aren't alone in this field. I've never been impressed with the Jewish miracle of the oil. I mean, at least with Catholic saints either a doctor made a mistake or a disease went into remission. With the miracle of the oil, it's more like an accounting error. If I was expecting to find two chicken legs in the fridge but I found six, I wouldn't require future generations to recite this story over bad wine for eight days every year.

But mere facts won't stop the Catholics. They even maintain that miracles still occur, like the miracle of St. Januarius. Eighteen times a year his dried blood becomes liquid again, despite the fact it's scientifically impossible. It sounds interesting, but I'll reserve my actual praise for after they've set up a webcam.

Plus, you know, there are tons of possibilities for actual miracles that'd make skeptics like me believe. Somebody could produce another hit record for the Tom Tom Club. Somebody could make the Kardashians go away. Those are the kinds of things that'd get me wearing a medal around my neck. Instead it's always, "Oh, there was a nun with a blister on the sole of her foot, and with prayer and Gold Bond it's almost healed." Even St. Longinus would say, clear as a bell, "Oh, you can go fuck that shit."