Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Joy of Tech

Chalk it up to a talent for consistency if you like, but I've always been young. I'm going on a 26-year streak now so I predict the trend will go on indefinitely. But such perpetual youth is not free of pain and hardship. I speak - as you have no doubt guessed - of the lack of a decent smartphone.

Notice I say "decent smartphone," not "smartphone." This is because up till last month, I stood enmired in a 1 1/2-year codependent relationship with a smartphone that had clearly, in its youth, been emotionally wounded by a sadistic mother.*  The result was an amalgam of Tourette's, dementia, low battery, schizophrenia, night terrors and chronic dropped calls. I also eventually realized my phone was refusing to receive text messages people were sending me, and as we well know from helpful posters in bus stations, when your significant other won't let you talk to your friends, that's a sign of an unhealthy relationship. But I was in too deep to realize. (Remember I mentioned I am pretty young.)

This was all part of an inexorable cycle. First, I would threaten to replace my phone and/or flush it.** Then the phone would wail and whine at me to take it back, because THIS time would be DIFFERENT. Accusations flew back and forth; tears flowed; passionate embraces were exchanged, and finally we would have a long, gratifying round of make-up texting. Then everything would be okay for any a week.

Long story short, I finally saw the light and acquired a new phone, and I have never been happier. Gone are the bad old days of no connection and under-productivity; the new phone has ushered in a bold new era of constant connection and under-productivity at a much faster rate. Now I can verify, on the way to the subway, what celebrities are dead. I can avoid answering my email en route to my very own bathroom -- or someone else's bathroom, for that matter (although they often wonder who I  am, and what I am doing in there).

And let's not forget to talk about Swype. This is a delightful program performs the vital dual functions of allowing you to type misspelled words while getting smeary finger stains all over your screen. Why misspelled? Well, the smartphone is only so smart, which means much of the time your messages are somewhat compromised. For example, say you're trying to write the following:

Dear Stan,

I will be running a bit late. I look forward to seeing you shortly.

Nicola McEldowney

Before Swype, you would have had to type those words letter by letter, and you would have run the very real risk of spelling most of them correctly. But thanks to the efficiency of Swype, your message will look something like this:

Dear Arab,

I will be rubbing a nub large. I look forward to seeing you shirtless.

Bucks Microfiber***

See how handy it is? As a smug and entitled upper-middle-class white person, I heartily go on the record as saying everyone should have one. And I think it is fair to say that, if you don't get one, you're not a real person.

In any case, I love my new smartphone. I've had it for over a week now and our relationship has yet to turn to pure unalloyed crap, which is more than I can say for its predecessor, as well as a few other individuals. As a matter of fact, I think it may be "the one," but then God knows I've said THAT before.

But there is no need to dwell in such places right now. Now is the time to revel in my newfound ability to plumb the depths of BuzzFeed while riding a bus. Did I mention my capacity for under-productivity? It's at least as legendary as my talent for youth, and I dare say it probably has at least three times the staying power.

* I can't know, but I imagine she was a microwave.
** On which note, flushability would be a great feature in other kinds of partners, if you get my drift.
*** This is what my phone originally thought my name was. I think it would be a good stripper name, assuming (a) I decide to adopt a second career and (b) I don't want any clients.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Northern Exposure: An Introduction to the Bronx

Writing about geography holds a special place in my heart. This is because every time I do, I get irate comments from readers with severe issues and excessive spare time. "How DARE you suggest that Belgium and France are the same country?!!" they write. "I am APPALLED. On the other hand, what can you expect from someone who thinks the national animal of Kazakhstan is the chocolate bunny?" To which I reply: I NEVER said that! I said he was the prime minister. But choose to believe what you want, if it makes you happy.

Anyway, I do admit my grasp of the world is tenuous, which is why today I'm sticking close to home, with the following overview of:


The Bronx was created many geological epochs ago, when a Cro-Magnon workman named Unghh, who still works on 231st St., took a really big rock and banged it down hard to see what he would squish. This resulted in the shifting of the tectonic plates of the Earth. The Bronx split off in one big glob ("Bronx" is Cro-Magnon for "glob") from Manhattan, leaving untold thousands of Cro-Magnons without immediate access to artisanal coffee. Needless to say, they died instantly. The exception was Unghh, who lived on other Cro-Magnons.

That's how the Bronx got to be so far north. Most people don't even realize it exists. I know this because I used to be a student at Columbia, where it is de rigueur never to go further than your dorm bathroom, and some people never even bother with this. Columbia students believe the northern boundary of the known universe is Harlem, which they vaguely know to be a place we should all care about deeply but never go to. Whereas Harlem residents are a little more broad-minded. They believe the Earth terminates with Washington Heights. I don't know what Washington Heights residents think, but here is a simplified diagram of my best guess:


Well, I'm here to tell you that "tundra" is actually the Bronx. You probably don't know much about it because the Bronx doesn't have the best reputation. This is a shame, because every so often I need people to sublet my apartment and pay large amounts of money. So that's why I'm here: to stand up for my borough's somewhat crud-festooned integrity. 

How far has the Bronx come since the Cro-Magnon days? Well, I will tell you: now we have an iHop, and one of these days soon we are getting a T.J. Maxx, so just chew on that, why don't you. Even these days, pre-T.J. Maxx, commerce is strong here. I speak particularly of the "iPhone" truck down by the high school. This is a truck that sells "iPhones," if you get my drift. It also sells "batteries," "chargers," and many other items that attract a vast number of consumers, if you continue to get my drift. This is why on any given day, a long queue of high-schoolers wait outside, demonstrating their profound devotion to phone chargers.

You know what would be really funny? If a person actually went up to the iPhone Truck in hopes of purchasing, say, a charger. I assume this has never happened. Such is not the way your savvy New Yorker conducts his business transactions. Your savvy New Yorker entrusts his business to trusted corporations. He doesn't go throwing money around at places with nice-sounding names that are obvious huge fronts for crystal-meth operations, such as "iPhone Truck" or "Columbia University."*

Nevertheless my point is that the Bronx's economy, despite the turmoil of the Cro-Magnon era, stands strong. And what's more, the Bronx has the further advantage of having - I want to be very clear about the magnitude of this - a comical name. You can't find that just anywhere in NYC, at least not at these rent prices. (You can find it in Long Island. Check out the LIRR callboard at Penn Station and you'll be entertained for days by places with names like Yankywanker.)

Last of all, I should like to close today's geography lesson by dispelling the long-held notion that the Bronx is far from Manhattan. On the contrary, travel a mere 20 minutes, and you will be in a really unappetizing part of Manhattan. You'll want to come right back to the Bronx, which luckily is only a hop, skip and a jump away.

So to summarize, the advantages of the Bronx are as follows: excellent local commerce,  a funny name, and convenience to places you wouldn't want to go anyway. Have I made my case? I think so, and now if you'll excuse me, I have to purchase an iPhone charger. Don't forget to attend geography class next week, when we'll discuss the Staten Island Chocolate Bunny Rebellion of 1915. The chocolate bunny is the official borough animal.

* If you didn't know this, you were kidding yourself.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

In Your Face

The other day, on the subway, I inadvertently smushed my handbag into some girl's face. She voiced her displeasure thusly: "You get your BAG outta my FACE."

You may sympathize with this reaction, particularly if you're the type who doesn't like handbags in your face. I, on the other hand, got mad, because I'm the type who doesn't like getting shoved.

Many might have crumpled before this show of aggression. However, I, an unrepentant Tough and Gritty New Yorker, was not about to back off. So I looked her squarely in her eye and I said  - and I want to stress this is a real thing I said -

"You COULD say EXCUSE ME. You DON'T HAVE to be RUDE about it. "

That's right.  

You DON'T HAVE to be RUDE about it. 

 All the bloodlust in the world, or at least the Bronx, coursing through my veins - and all I could manage was to sound like somebody's uppity granny. She should have slapped me around. I considered slapping me around. The words still replay in my brain daily, in all their gooky self-righteousness. You DON'T HAVE to be RUDE about it, my brain squeals, on medical appoinments, at work, at dinner with friends. The shame is real.

What is to be done about this? Well, the ideal would be to go around with a mental repertoire of scathing retorts at the ready. But if you're anything like me, you can't remember scathing retorts.  So your best bet is to carry a handy list. Then you will have conversations like this:

PERSON ON TRAIN: You get your BAG outta my FACE.
YOU: (Stand there blankly for a moment, because you remember faintly, back in some dark recess of your mind, that this is your cue to do something. You just can't remember WHAT. So, stalling for time, you reply as follows.)
Oh YEAH? ... YEAH? Well...
(Suddenly it dawns on you, and you fumble around for your list.)
Hang on a second.  
(You dig madly through your bag, throwing things every which way: a lipstick, a wad of receipts, a coupon for Chock Full o' Nuts-brand coffee, etc. Finally you locate the list of witty retorts.
A-HA! Here we go! Well, uh...
(You stare at the list.)
Um. I'm sorry. Can you start over?
PERSON ON TRAIN (having forgotten the whole affair): Huh?
YOU: Um, well, I mean, we've kind of lost momentum. Can you say it again?
PERSON ON TRAIN:  Say what again?
YOU: "Get your bag outta my face."
PERSON ON TRAIN (deeply affronted): My bag isn't IN your face.
YOU: No, no, no. "GET YOUR bag OUTTA MY face."
PERSON ON TRAIN: (shoots you at close range)

Naturally any thinking court would rule this a justifiable homicide. So now technically I've forgotten what my original point was, if I had one. But I do want to close, on this Thanksgiving, by offering this heartfelt counsel to all my brethren, human and train-travelers alike: don't shove people, because shoving makes enemies. Then the shoved enemy will write a totally anonymous blog entry about you that you'll never see, and boy will YOU be sorry. So be a lover, not a shover. OK?

And if you disagree with me, fine. But you DON'T HAVE to be RUDE about it.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Animal, Vegetable or Mayoral?

Every so often, I decide it would be fun to put enormous amounts of stuff in a suitcase and lug it between Maine and New York at considerable expense. This is just one example of how human beings are criminally insane compared to animals. I cite as scientific evidence my cat, Danny, whose undertakings differ from mine as follows:

Me: Lug enormous amount of stuff from Maine to New York at considerable expense
Danny: Sit on couch. Occasionally lick self. Communicate with unseen Zen master.

Me: Go to meetings.
Danny: Sit on couch. Occasionally lick self. Communicate with unseen Zen master.

Me: Attend professional "networking" events.
Danny: Sit on couch. Occasionally lick self. Communicate with unseen Zen master. 

Me: Attempt to socialize with the opposite sex.
Danny: Get neutered at a young age.

I think the animal advantage is clear here, which is why it baffles me that we keep selecting humans for - to take just one example - high office, when we could instead have, say, Labrador retrievers. Sure, there would be enormous amounts of butt-sniffing, and periodic humping orgies, but in other ways the government would be very different from how it is right now. For example, Congress would frequently be adjourned for a rousing round of Fetch.

What I'm getting around to here is - obviously - the impending New York City mayoral race. Right now we have two candidates, Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota, both of whom are widely suspected to be humans. This would appear to be a classic case of speciesism. That's why I'm urging you, my fellow voters - New Yorkers and otherwise (hey, why not?) - to write in an animal as an alternative candidate for mayor. Of course you don't get to choose just any animal. No, it must be an indigenous animal current with the Concerns of the People of New York. That's why I've taken the liberty of narrowing it down to the following three:

1. A cockroach named "Roscoe," formerly of my building in the Bronx, at least until my roommate and I - I admit to this - actually caught him in a cup and set him free outside, because we lack the moral strength that would allow most thinking persons to stomp him to a stain. Who knows; perhaps as soon as Roscoe was released, he was squooshed by another enterprising foot. But more likely he is out there happily spreading disease to cute children. Assuming Roscoe lives, he is on my short list.
- ADVANTAGE #1: Stalwart citizen of the Bronx; of sufficient mass to carry his own personal Bronx ZIP code.
- ADVANTAGE #2: Carries slightly less bacteria than Anthony Weiner.

2. The rat I once saw scampering around in the tastefully arranged garden square outside of Bergdorf Goodman. On the other hand, given its real estate, this individual is probably a Republican. So forget it.

3. A small, yappy, vicious dog such as is found in the dog runs of Riverside Park, when it is not being casually consumed by German Shepherds as an hors-d'oeuvre. I'm suggesting these dogs because they never get a chance to shine. Granted, this is because they are basically little hateful walking wads of hair, fangs, poop and evil. But these qualities are of great advantage to a mayor.
- ADVANTAGE #1: These dogs are invariably owned either by Paris Hilton or elderly ladies named Edna, which means that - presuming the owner were appointed city energy czar, and evil could somehow be harnessed for "green" energy - we'd have enough energy to power all Brooklyn, or one Trump bathroom.

Okay. Let's get ready to cast our primary votes! Think carefully, now. Ready?


Good job! I've tabulated the votes, and here's how the city voted, borough-by-borough:

BRONX: Too pissed off at you, personally, to vote; ask again later; will still be too pissed off later.
BROOKLYN: Recused itself. Thinks it remembers hearing that all three animals were involved in a non-fair-trade coffee enterprise awhile back.
QUEENS: A nice place to visit, but you wouldn't want to live there.
STATEN ISLAND: Unnecessary.
MANHATTAN: 13% for the dog; 15% for the cockroach; 9% for the Bergdorf Goodman rat; 25% remind us it's all Bush's fault; and the remaining 38% say HEY! WHADDAYA LOOKIN' AT??!! YOU WANT ME T' TEAR YOU A NEW ONE?!! I'MA RIP YOUR FACE OFF'N USE IT AS A POTHOLDER! STANCLEARADA CLOSIN' DOORS! I SAID STANCLEARADA CLOSIN' DOORS, #@$!%&-HOLE!!! HAVE A NICE DAY. OH YEAH? YOU 'N WHAT ARMY? And meanwhile, the one remaining resident, loveable mensch Milton A. Frumpklein of Chelsea, says shyly that he knows of a really good place to get bagels.

Personally, I think - and I know you were wondering - that Roscoe, the cockroach, is the obvious future of the city. But you may disagree with me, and in that case, if you think I give a rat's ass, that would be very interesting. One way or another, I look forward to seeing how this city decides. Say what you will about our system of democracy; it always brings a tear to my eye. And just wait'll I get into what they do in France.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Every so often, you may find yourself in a state of pure inner peace and contentment. This is unnatural to anyone who is not deeply disturbed or my cat. Fortunately, there is a remedy. I speak, of course, of a visit to my neighborhood post office.

Take last Tuesday for example. I woke up feeling like a shiny new penny.*  This is not my natural state; my natural state is one of perpetual, knuckle-popping aggravation at mankind and fellow subway riders alike. So I went to the post office to set myself straight. I knew my needs would be met, for the postal clerks are tireless in their efforts to bathe your day in enmity. They take no breaks except to eat their young.

You too might do well to pay a visit if, like me, you find yourself out of sync. So here's a handy-dandy guide to the experience. You're welcome.


Step 1. First, you shall join a line of 56,000,000,000,000 wretched, defeated customers who have been waiting in line since the Crusades, which would have been preferable. Every so often, people's body parts fossilize or turn to goodge. Some individuals have turned altogether to flesh puddles with bifocals floating around in them, but BY GOLLY THEY ARE GOING TO WAIT IN LINE UNTIL CALLED. And so are you, because that is the kind of spunky New Yorker you are, goddammit.

Step 2. While still spunky (a period lasting 22 seconds), you entertain yourself by dreaming up creative ways to kill those ahead of you.

Step 3.  Meanwhile, you observe there are twelve service windows, two of which are staffed by snarling, hate-crazed, froth-spewing beasts ready to impale you on their digi-pens at a moment's notice. Even the courtesy sign says so ("PLEASE WAIT TO BE CALLED, OR THE FROTH-SPEWING BEAST BEHIND THE WINDOW WILL IMPALE YOU ON HER DIGI-PEN").

Step 4. Now it is your turn to approach the window. Genuflecting and offering up your firstborn without even being asked, you move one nanometer closer to the window, whereupon the cashier, in a voice that could vaporize Russia, utters the traditional federal pleasantry: "YOUGETBACKINLINE!!!"

Step 5. You are formally called to the window.
Step 6. That was a daydream. You are still waiting while the cashier counts her skin cells.

Step 7. Meanwhile -- anyone in the Gronx may feel free to back me up on this -- additional people, meaning people who weren't even in line until now, appear around you. Apparently these individuals have been belched forth from the walls. Naturally all of them get called to the window before you.

Step 8. Finally you really are called up to the window, and as it is your lucky day, the postmistress decides to go easy on you by not incinerating you with a single glance. 

Step 9. The two of you lock gazes in a death battle. Her bloodshot, sideways eyes dare you to carry out your transaction; yours say, Bring it on, baby. Just as she prepares to electrocute you telekinetically, Pokémon-style, you make the bold, unprecedented move of actually whipping out your wallet. That's right. You're gonna complete your transaction and you're not backing down. Whoa-ho-HOA! Betcha didn't see THAT one coming, now, U.S. Postal Harpy, didja? Do your WORST! BOO-yah!

Step 10. Only momentarily stunned, your opponent quickly regroups, retaliating with one swift, hostile gesture that means you must open the postal sale window. You accept the challenge; there's no stopping now. You open your window. She gives you the Death Look that means close it now or else. You do so, whereupon she opens the corresponding window on her side. Out of sheer spite and bravado, you open yours again. She slams hers down, a warning to quit playing with the big girls now or else. But you just slam yours down again. So she slams hers down again. And on you two go, SLAM, SLAM, SLAM, SLAM, back and forth, until finally you two are slamming to the exact rhythm of "Mars, Bringer of War" from The Planets. This slam-a-rama could go on all night.

Step 11. At last, you are done. She let you off easy when she realized you had not, technically speaking, brought anything to mail, having accidentally left it on your kitchen table. But such details are minor to you, the victor of the day, because your opponent did not win. Visibly shaken by the experience, she eats only half a child for lunch.

Step 12. And finally, secure in the glory of a mission accomplished, you wend your way home. Sure, you may not have actually mailed anything; but you have done the impossible in emerging with all your original extremities. So go home, pamper yourself, and rest assured of a job well done! Take the rest of the day to kick back and luxuriate. It will be ages before you realize you forgot your wallet.


* Which is to say, round and brown with Abraham Lincoln on my front.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Tale of Two Fringes, Part 1: San Diego Edition

For those who don't know (and I assume there are a few members of the Amazonian Pirahã tribe who don't know), my musical Aisle Six recently made it into two Fringe Festivals.

 Q. Are you saying "French" or "Fringe"?  
A. Yes.

Q. Okay, so what is the "Fringe"?  
A. I'm glad you asked. The term "Fringe" comes from the Latin fringum (first use, year XIII), which can be used two ways (not at once, and not while pregnant or nursing). One of its uses was to indicate bodily harm, as in, "I hear Grumio the serf got a boo-boo on his fringum." The other meaning was, "Theater that will one day be performed on the Lower East Side, though God only knows why you'd want to go there, since it's the year XIII and there are no decent tacquerias." This is the meaning of Fringe that we preserve today. Plus now we have decent tacquerias.

Actually, the first of my two Fringes took place not on the Lower East Side, but rather in San Diego, California, which has had good tacquerias since the Precambrian Era. This is pretty darned impressive when you consider there weren't even any humans yet.*

The San Diego Fringe Festival was new to its city** this summer, joining the ranks of other cherished San Diego traditions, most notably:

 1. The Comic-Con, an annual event during which the San Diego Convention Center emits clouds of ecstatic nerd testosterone so powerful their fumes fell bison in Yellowstone, and
2. The yuk-a-minute gag of airplanes flying so low they routinely land on your head and kill you. This is a practical joke by the fun-loving San Diego-based air personnel, intended to liven up the "laid-back" atmosphere, and/or cull the herd.

But in all seriousness, the first thing you notice in San Diego, in between ducking and covering, is the kindness. San Diegans, as a general rule, are gifted with a warmheartedness so sincere, so profound, that it can only be caused by large quantities of drugs.

No! Just kidding.*** My point is, whatever the cause, San Diegans tend to be full of happy, positive energy. You take the first read-through of my play. I wish you could have been a fly on the wall. I appeared on Skype from Maine, while the rest gathered in a room in San Diego, alternating between reading and dissolving in laughter. It was the most fun read-through I've ever done - and not just because I never had to leave my bed.

So - as I ask myself upon any unexpected event, good or bad - what the heck happened? These people didn't already know each other, weren't friends seeking to have a good time around friends. The norm among strangers is diffidence and tightness - especially when those strangers are asked to do an awkwardly soul-bearing thing like read a play aloud. Yet instead, every single one of my San Diego actors came in ready to rock and roll, as if absorbing the positive energy from each other, then expelling it with interest. I'd never seen anything like it, but I hope I will again.

What's more, it continued like that. From the first rehearsal to the last performance, the whole production experience was filled with such intense, heartfelt positivity that it could only have been fueled by drugs.

No! Sorry. Only joking.**** Didn't mean that. Whatever the reason, the cast took on the play as their very own and made it soar. They provided Aisle Six with the kick-start it needed, the launching pad for its future success wherever it goes. And I can't thank them enough.

I think theatrical experiences like mine at the San Diego Fringe come along only once in a blue moon. I've had maybe one other like it, where the cast came in with open minds, fitting together, bouncing off one another's personalities and individual energies, totally in tune with each other and the piece. What this does is elevate the piece, giving it new and often unexpected life, raising the bar for every production to come. There's no greater gift this cast could have given Aisle Six. There's no greater gift they could have given me.

Except, of course, for some of their drugs.

* Though as you can imagine, the service was lousy.
** San Diego.
*** Maybe.
**** I think.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tumblin' in the Wind

Hey hey, everyone! I made a Tumblr for my musical. Check it out here:

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Aisle Six at the Fringe... and the Fringe... and the Fringe.

Hello, all.

With apologies for all the dust circulating on this here chunk o' blogosphere these past months, I hereby present ... one of the very reasons for said dust:

That's right. My musical Aisle Six has been accepted to not one, but *three* Fringe festivals: Portland, ME; San Diego, CA; and New York City.

On which note, I would appreciate immensely if you'd take a moment to consider my Indiegogo fundraising campaign, as seen below. I would like nothing better than to be able to compensate my cast and crew for their time and talent, among other things (see link).

Many, many thanks - and clean-up in Aisle Six.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Popeless Case

Image via Middle Ages for Kids
As part of my ongoing effort to provide you, the public, with the latest hard-hitting world news, I want to draw your attention to two recent items. First, on Feb. 9, a man left his estate to two forgotten heartthrob actors from the '70s. Then, on Feb. 11, the pope resigned.

Don't try to tell ME these are unconnected.

Let's go back and examine these events in more detail. First, consider the man - the late Ray Fulk, 71, of Lincoln, Illinois - who willed his estate to the actors. This is a highly suspicious event if ever there was one. It would be one thing if the actors were still-beloved stars of bygone days, but these were actors so forgotten they don't even remember their own selves. The only possible explanation is that the deceased selected his beneficiaries based solely on degree of comical hair, with bonus points for each undone shirt button, and extra credit if a gleaming chest is involved.*

Obviously this is very troubling, because think about it, what have forgotten heartthrobs from the seventies done for YOU lately? When was the last time Jeff Conaway, from Taxi, shoveled your driveway? The eleventh of NEVER, that's when, and he's never going to, either, a fact hardly excused by the fact that he is dead. Honestly, you would think the late Ray Fulk would at least have left his worldly goods to a more promising heir, such as his tapeworm.

This event was so troubling that - you guessed it - it caused the pope to quit.

You can see how this would happen. I mean, put yourself in the Pope's shoes** for a moment. Here you are, the leader of the global Catholic Church, just minding your own holy business - namely, rearranging your holy Netflix queue while picking your holy nose - when all of a sudden, the news comes to you, via your right-hand man,*** that the late Ray Fulk, 71, of Lincoln, Illinois, has left all his riches to twerpy actors who once - and I don't care if this was just a phase - had mullets.

"Consarn it!" you would say, in Latin.**** "I've stuck it out through wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; I've sat tight while mankind butchered mankind the world over; I kept on going through the whole Lance Armstrong thing, but only in a godless world would this kind of [UNPOPELY WORD REDACTED] go down."

To which I say - in the language of the Vatican - darn tootin'. After all, there is an old saying that goes: "The day that the actions of Ray Fulk, 71, of Lincoln, Illinois, make you question your role as a major spiritual leader, maybe you had better stop being a major spiritual leader."

Fortunately, Pope Benedict XVI (not his real name, speaking of the highly suspicious)***** has other bright career prospects ahead of him. Sources close to the Vatican indicate he was last seen flopped on his bed enthusiastically reading a big pile of Amway training pamphlets.

Naturally, the pope cites "health concerns" as the reason for his resignation, but now just who is going to believe that? Just because he is a 956-year-old man doesn't mean we have to buy this flagrant balderdash. This makes me wonder how the last pope to resign (six hundred years ago, when Benedict was a mere young pup of 356) handled his early exit. Two weeks' notice, is my guess. They had more class back then. They also had pet dinosaurs.

Nevertheless, the world goes on. You and your friends will go about your business; Ray Fulk of Lincoln, Illinois will continue being dead; and Pope "Benedict" may well soon appear at your door to sell you cleaning products. Meanwhile, pretty soon we will get a new pope, which is like getting a new doggy except not interesting. No one can say just who that will be, although I can think of two actors recently back in the limelight who may want to submit their headshots.

* Preferably emitting little cartoon sparkles going, quote, "PINGGG."
** Needless to say, these are Air Jordans.
*** Guido.
**** "E pluribus unum!"
***** His real name is Pope Benedict XVI Henderson. He shortened it, like Beyoncé.

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Can't Get No Satisfaction

So I hate to be the one to break it to you, but it seems our job market is poor. Barely a day goes by you don't see a headline like this:

[Your Name], Personally, Will Be Forced to Eat Own Fingers for Sustenance

Naturally this has me concerned. Not because of the lack of jobs, but because I fear that if this state of affairs persists, our society will lose track of something fundamental. We will lose track of the fact that jobs suck.

I think we can all agree that job hatred has long been the backbone of workplace culture. If you don't believe me, you can test out my claim via the following scientific experiment: first, walk into a familiar establishment, which we shall call T.J. Marshall's Lots Mart Store Place ("Crap for Less - Crap for You"). Now, study the employees, and you will notice a universal trait: they are all named Kayla. Is this strictly necessary? 

But never mind. I have strayed from my original point, which is this: they are all sullen and surly and consumed by job hatred violent enough to cause severe weather damage in Galveston, Texas (and you are located in Maine). If you dare to ask them a question, such as where to find the stationery,* they will leap forth roaring, hyena-style, in a concerted effort to eat your forearm whole. Assuming you escape unscathed and make no further moves toward the employee, s/he** will then calmly retreat to her own quiet corner, growling softly, to resume munching on her wildebeest carcass. 

And now we are facing the very real possibility, with the winnowing of the job market, that job hatred may itself die out. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in that world, and I don't want my children to know it either.*** There are precious few things we can count on in this world, aside from surly employees, infomercials for things only the severely troubled would ever purchase, and Dunkin' Donuts. These are our national security blankets, our collective snuggle bears. It would be a massive rip in the fabric of our society were we to lose any one of them.

But I'm afraid the scarcer jobs become, the rosier and more romanticized our perceptions of them, until finally we long for them with the same sort of passionate yearning normally associated with hot burnin' monkey love, or sweet potato fries.

As far as I can see, there is but one solution to this problem: overcompensation, in the form of zealous job satisfaction. Before I go any further, let me clarify my position: I am sitting on the blue chair in the living room with one leg up and the other down. Now that we've cleared that up, I want to make clear that I am actually in favor of job satisfaction. I don't believe you should actually go around hating what you do, so much as I believe it's an integral part of workplace culture, like the water cooler in the hall that goes BLURP BLURP BLURP and the oft-opaque but viciously stated item of gossip about a co-worker ("OHMYGOD, DID YOU HEAR BETTY? SHE LIKE THINKS SHE'S ALL THAT").

Nonetheless, job satisfaction might be the way to go. Since this is on my mind lately, I've been going around taking notes, in hopes that I might improve the situation by sharing them with you, my public. Here they are. You're welcome.

1. You would probably do well to start finding mundane things unbearably exciting. There's a conductor on the Orange Line in Boston who seems to have this down pat. The other morning, he was announcing each station as if it was more exciting than Space Mountain and sexier than lust itself. Here is what he sounded like (I have done my best to transcribe accurately): "Lllllladies and gentlemen ... coming up .... our next stop ... DOWWWWWWWWN ... TOWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN ... KERRRRRRRRRRRRRRR-ROSSINGGGGGGGGGGGGGGG!" Needless to say, this visibly cheered up the passengers, who were made to look upon arrival at Downtown Crossing as a major event in the history of the cosmos, at least until .05 seconds after they stepped off the train. I didn't stay on much longer myself, but I assume the conductor kept topping himself with each stop, until with his announcement of Forest Hills he made a multiple orgasm seem like a tetanus booster.

2. This is one I came up with myself. If you work in the post office, which has got to be one of the most grueling and unappealing jobs on Earth, especially if you are dealing with customers like me ("Don't you think that "Media Mail" stamp might be a tad sub-par? Maybe you should stick some clear tape over it so as to prevent further smearing"), you should feel free to "let loose" every so often. One good way would be to come to work one day (I suggest this be a summer day) wearing nothing but postage stamps covering every nanometer of your body, then run around the P.O. roaring at top volume: "I ... am ... STAMP-MAN!!! For JUSTICE!! For LIBERTY!! FOREVER!!!"**** I guarantee you will experience job satisfaction from that moment till the last breath you take at Bellevue.

Well, that's all I got so far. I hope I've done my part toward stabilizing our workplace culture even in these trying economic times. I know I was concerned.

* Wouldn't you like to know.
** I know you are wondering, and yes, the males are named Kayla too.
*** Fortunately, they're not born, which pretty much takes care of that.
**** Hahaha! See what I did there? "Forever"? Stamps? ... Never mind.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Singing Puppets in Gotham...

Happy news: in April, I'll be performing in a musical in The New York Children's Theater Festival! It's called "Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater" and it is performed, of course, by puppets.

Here is the Kickstarter page (I'm playing the yellow girlie, though not in this video). If there are those among you with a buck or two to donate to puppet theatre, we'd all be much obliged.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

A Love-Skate Relationship

I went ice skating for the first time in seven years, and I'm pleased to report I have retained my form. Granted, my form consists of lurching around spasmodically like a deranged prehominid with a severe nerve disorder. Still, form is form.

I have done exhaustive soul-searching as to why I am like this (bad at skating, but dangerously beautiful). Sometimes I meditate on it for nearly as long as it takes the Keurig to spit out the next cup of coffee. I've concluded that my skating ineptitude (defined by Merriam-Webster's as a "lack of eptitude") can be put down to a variety of reasons. These are as follows. (You know you want to know.)

First of all, there is the matter of my height. Generally speaking, I stand about five foot five, except for the year I was thirteen, at which time I stood 7'1" and liked a boy who was 4'2". But outside of those golden days I have always maintained my petite stature. Well, the moment I stepped on the ice, that changed. All of a sudden I reverted to a seven-foot behemoth, and my center of gravity, which usually stays in its proper spot like a good girl, shot up around my jawbone. This left all body parts below to flail around comically, no two flailing in the same direction. In fact, I believe that at one point, while my arms and legs were flailing at center rink, my torso was seen getting refreshments at the snack bar.*

A second reason for my ineptitude is: small children. On any given day, there are many of these at the rink, all of whom have already learned to do graceful layback spins and majestic jumps, and all of whom are uppity little snots. You may dismiss this as "sour grapes" if you like, but I assure you I base my dislike of these children on a highly mature and balanced rationale: they suck. Clearly they are out to give me an inferiority complex, or rather, to infuse my pre-existing inferiority complex with steroids until it makes the late Marlon Brando look like Lamb Chop.

The thing is, I could learn to skate too, if I were two feet tall like those children and Regis Philbin. They have nowhere to fall. The ice is right there, located at a nice, safe, comforting distance, right at child- and Regis-level. Whereas giantesses like me are doomed, per the laws of physics, to fall and break and groan and die. As you will no doubt remember if you too once briefly and vaguely studied physics without ever truly giving a shit, a falling body (mine) is governed by evil little forces called "newtons" that are named after the fact that they resemble Wayne Newton. The way it works is, the heavier the falling body in question, the more newtons there are involved in the fall. For instance, if you drop a saltine cracker, there are only about 18 newtons to speak of, whereas if you personally fall, there will be a billion gazillion skintillion little tiny Waynes involved.

So we can also attribute my skating deficiencies to the fact that the ice is too far away. If they ("they" is, or are, the Gods of the Ice)** would just move it closer to my center of gravity, we'd be in business. While I'm at it, I also move that the ice be transformed into a softer substance. Tapioca comes to mind.

Finally, I attribute my failings to delusions of grandeur. When I was little, I followed the sport of figure skating (I still do, with the kind of ferocity normally associated with a hyena at lunchtime) and I somehow believed that whatever I saw top-flight skaters do on TV, I could do too. This is of course true, assuming that we are talking about when they wipe their noses. But I truly believed I was headed for the Olympics by age 8, although I guess I would have been willing to settle for age 12.

I'll tell you something else that does nothing to extinguish these delusions. When you are at a public skating session and they play some sort of high octane, bumpa-bumping song sung by someone like Beyoncé - well, this is dangerous stuff for those of us as tend toward being demented. We immediately believe, on some wack-a-doodle level, that we are performing a frisky and rip-roaring exhibition number - no matter how pitiful and flea-bitten the level of our actual skating.

Thus we can see what a sorry state of affairs we are up against, and that's without even considering world hunger or poverty.*** Fortunately, I have a few brilliant suggestions for how to salvage the situation. Don't thank me.

1. We mandate universal enrollment in a harsh, rigorous, "tough-love" Learn-to-Skate program, wherein if you do well, you get a shiny new toy; and if you do badly, Nancy Kerrigan will bite you. This should separate the "men" from the "boys."****

2. Alternatively, you could enlist actual prehominids to skate around you, so as to level the playing field. These individuals can be found at your local GameStop establishment.

3. Or you could just learn to be confident in your own skin.

4. Hahahahaha, I didn't think I could get through that one with a straight face.

Oh, but take heart, my fellow clumsy ox.  For no matter how non-existent, how pathetic, how jaw-droppingly miserable your skating skills, if you continue your efforts with sheer, dogged persistence - never for one moment allowing your mind or body to stray from your cherished goal - then there can be no doubt that one magical day, in one shining moment, you will get royally pissed off and quit.

That's fine. There's no shame in quitting. All I can say is, some of us are quitters and some are fighters. I myself pledge to "keep on trucking" until the bitter end. I plan to do this via the strict regimen I have been following all along: namely, going skating only once every seven years. At this rate, I am sure to be ready for the Olympics at age 864. Age 868 at the latest.

* Of course it was flailing too. What did you think?
** Queen Frostine, from the Candy Land board game; and Phil, who drives the Zamboni.
*** Because, let's face it, when was the last time anybody followed these sports at the Olympics?
**** Or at least from their "fingers."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Exit, Pursued by a Dalek

I just found this item on Facebook - reaffirming my long-held belief that, for sheer guts'n'gore, no one can touch old Titus A. For readable type, the original (bigger) post is here, on Pinterest.

And speaking of fundamental British culture, it turns out Royal Mail is going to be issuing a set of Doctor Who stamps. They say this is to commemorate the 50th anniversary, but frankly I think they've just been waiting for any excuse to put a Dalek on a stamp.

Also, this:

So nobody better ever try to tell ME the government wastes its money.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

So This is New Year's

New Year's Resolution #1: Spend more time with that most beloved junk drawer of my life, The Snark Ascending. So here goes.

A year ago this time, I rang in the New Year 2012 on an airplane. I was attempting to get from Boston back to Paris via Dublin on a flight populated by staff wearing comical New Year's headgear. Somehow this made me uneasy. I believe that on some primal, deeply human level, we don't want our aircraft personnel clad in novelty gear from iParty. We want our aircraft personnel crisp and professional and 100% non-fun, or, failing that, swarthy and barrel-chested and possibly named "Raoul." But maybe that's just me. Honestly, I've been slightly on edge about air travel ever since that one time, pulling into a gate at Dulles, I looked down to see two air-traffic controllers, with their lights, re-enacting a saber fight from Star Wars. The Aircraft Personnel of America: keeping you safe. Or at least keeping the force with you.

This time around, New Year's Eve night once again involved long-term public transportation, but with significantly less distance involved. I was on my usual Amtrak commuter train, only attempting to travel about 80 miles, but I might as well have been trying to get from Boston to Dublin to Paris to Reykjavik to Lincoln, Nebraska via Botswana with a layover in the South Pole. Technically it wasn't Amtrak's fault - there was a freight train broken down in front of us, so we couldn't move. When you can't move, you become a pile of blob, and I hate being a pile of blob. You get all bogged down in your blobby inertia and suddenly can't move yourself to do anything more mentally complex than pop your knuckles (well, some of them; doing the full set would be too ambitious). By the time you arrive at your destination, approximately 83,000 hours later that night, you are a big amorphous puddle of protein and clothes, and you have to be removed from the train with a wad of Bounty paper towels.

But I'm wrong for complaining about this sort of travel. After all, I could be complaining about much worse travel. I am thinking here of a certain nightmare airplane ride back in the spring of 2008. First we departed Raleigh-Durham, which you'd think would be a good omen. But then the Gods of Air Travel, who clearly get their inspiration from MTV, decided to make like Ashton Kutcher and "punk" our aircraft. First it got caught in various patches of "turbulence," which is a nice little word for what happens when the heavens get sudden-onset Irritable Bowel Syndrome. After getting whacked and whupped* about the solar system for some 45 minutes, once being catapulted as far as Alpha Centauri, our plane began - and this kind of thing can really get on your nerves, if you're the uptight sort - to shed plane parts. This is true. The plane was molting, like my childhood hermit crab, Regis, with the only difference being that Regis was slightly less prone to cruise at 33,000 feet. Fortunately we lived, although given that we had to land back at Raleigh-Durham, I wished in a sense that we had not. Also they didn't give us any plane vouchers ("Good for ONE (1) life-threatening Death Flight from Hell anywhere in the continental..."), whereas Amtrak always does, or at least they give you a complimentary mug.

So now that I'm looking at last night's train ride in a positive light, I'd like to start the new year off with some magical thinking. Here goes: last year started with that comical plane ride - not just because of the party gear, but also the amusing added detail of John Lennon piped in over the loudspeaker, singing "So This is Christmas" on New Year's - and then the year ended up bumpy, lumpy, strange and sad in places. Not that it was all bad; in fact, 2010, 2011 and 2012 have all been years for the books, in different ways. So I'm hoping 2013 continues the trend, and that the aggravating train ride was only a weird, bass-ackwards harbinger of excellent things to come. So I wish you exactly what I wish myself: may your 2013 be full of trains that actually move, and may your air traffic controllers resist the urge to re-enact Star Wars scenes until the plane has finished pulling in.

* These are different. To whack is an ablative conjunctive verb, as in, "Willa Jean done whacked him around and stuff." Whereas to whup is a dative urogenital dysfunctional verb, as in, "Whuppa whuppa have a cuppa."