Saturday, December 19, 2009


These vexing little phrases creep into our conversations every day and refuse to leave. If you use any of these expressions on a recurring basis, make a sincere effort to stop or risk losing my support and approval.

“With all due respect." It's an empty expression since it not only shows no respect , it manages to stick its thumb in your eye.

Here's an example of how you could at least add some honesty to the glaring insult.

“With all due respect, sir, your thoughts and observations are the obtuse ramblings of a man on hallucinatory drugs who hasn't slept in a week.”

“Be that as it may.” This clumsy phrase goes all the way back to Chaucer's time and should have stayed there. Whoever is silly enough to use this old chestnut is saying that while your premise may be legitimate, I'm not buying it.

How about this? Just leap over this verbal baggage and land on the point you're trying to make.

“What goes around comes around.” This sounds like it might have been coined by Mary Poppins. This optimistic little phrase is meant to suggest that people who do terrible things to others will eventually have terrible things done to them. Yes, maybe in the land of Disney. But it's hard clinging to such a rosy vengeance if you read the daily papers and watch the evening news.

“It goes without saying.” If it goes without saying, don't say it.

“Do you mind if I ...” smoke in your home, flirt with your wife, swim naked in your pool, dress your dog up in sunglasses and a wig. The reason I dislike this phrase and usually the person asking the question is that it's so manipulative.

The one doing the asking fully intends to do what he wants, but is couching his request in a polite but phony framework. He knows the chances are pretty good that you're not going to say: “Yes, I do mind and I resent your devious behavior.”

“Bite me!” This rude and sarcastic expression means bite my ass. It's apparently replaced or greatly reduced the usage of “get lost” and "screw you."

I guess the more charitable expressions like, "leave me alone, creep" are no longer valid as they lack the edge and venom of a punch to the head.

"Let me be clear." Now that's a good plan and something different. Instead of your usual obscure, rambling and foggy gibberish -- try assembling a thought that makes sense.


Sunday, December 6, 2009


I've grown weary listening to phonies proclaiming to be humbled by a prize or honor that should make them feel superior, snobbish or even a bit arrogant about their achievement. No one could really blame them just this once for looking down their noses at the losers.

Instead we're bombarded with words of humility and a pretense of meekness, submissiveness, and low self-esteem. HAH! And double HAH!

The “humbled” routine usually occurs when someone is judged to be a better writer or politician, wins an MVP award, a Nobel Peace Prize, or turns out to be the team's best bowler.

Just once I'd like to hear the winner say, “I won because I'm the best.” Or “Thanks, there's nothing better than kicking the butts of your competitors.”

To me, it makes more sense to be humbled by some form of defeat – like not getting a passing mark in some easy subject.

“I am humbled by my flunking grade in gym.”

But there are other acts of duplicity that are equally bothersome.

“Your call is important to us.” Yeah, well if my call was important to you, you wouldn't leave me hanging on the phone for ten minutes while I'm forced to listen to music that should only be heard in elevators.

“I'm just happy to be nominated.” Really? And as long as you're nominated every year, you don't care if you ever win an Oscar, an Emmy, or a Tony. Besides, it's not winning that's important. It's being a contender and having the opportunity to dress up, walk on a red carpet, and mingle with other pretenders.

“Let's do lunch.” In truth, I would rather have a picnic by myself in the rain gnawing on a beef jerky than to spend an hour listening to your problems and watching food dribble off your double chins.

By the way, calling someone “disingenuous” is just a pleasant way of calling them a “hypocritical weasel.”


Monday, August 10, 2009


I have enormous respect for blind people, who despite being saddled with a terrifying affliction, manage with great courage to lead a fairly normal life.

I, myself, would remain at home petting my Golden Retriever and either whimpering constantly or cursing my life at the top of my lungs, “WHY ME @#$%&!”

A few years back I had read that I'd be surprised how many BLIND PEOPLE ARE NOW HUNTING DEER!

As unprepared as I was for this breaking news, I wasn't really worried about my personal safety.

I was comforted in the knowledge that they brought their sighted assistants with them. And that these highly trained hunters would at timely moments shout helpful instructions like, “Deer at 2 o'clock!”

But now there are blind folks out there who are LEARNING TO DRIVE! I must admit-- as much as I admire their pluck--my anxiety level went up by several degrees.

If you look at the papers or listen to the news at all, you know that car crashes and pedestrian injuries have escalated recently in crowded cities like New York.

More people are driving without licenses, driving drunk, driving high, or have just stolen the vehicle that totaled your new car or put you in the hospital with broken legs and assorted contusions.

Now let's get back to the blind driving and how it all happened. A rash and mindless team of engineering students at the Virginia Tech College of Engineering thought it would be cool to retrofit a four-wheel dune buggy that could be driven by people who can't see.

Exactly how these wonks accomplished this feat is a bit beyond me. But voice command software was mentioned, along with a vibrating vest, and a host of other sensory technologies.

Obviously the navigational details are not nearly as important as the fact that people unable to see a hand in front of their face are out taking a little spin and might be in your neighborhood.

The good news for the blind motorists is that they won't be able to see the extended middle fingers from the other drivers.


Saturday, August 1, 2009


It's quite evident that my group of worshipers are spiritually superior to your group.

Whether you belong to The Church of Spiritual Enlightenment, Church of the Bible Crusaders,The Most Holy Redeemer Church, St. Gregory the IIluminator Armenian Church, Church of the Crucifixion, the Tabernacle of Deliverance,the Church of the Holy Agony, the Temple of Understanding—or any other church, synagogue, or mosque—the chances are pretty good that you think you're better than the easily duped and pitifully misguided who have other religious affiliations.

In the interest of honesty, forthrightness, and calling a spade a spade – I would like to start a church that comes right to the point and avoids the hypocrisy of piety and pretense.

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to THE CHURCH OF HOLIER THAN THOU.


Friday, July 10, 2009


Every year a sizable collection of imbeciles gather together to take part in the traditional running of the bulls in Pamplona.

Injuries are inevitable and every so often a tragedy strikes. Somebody is fatally gored while other nitwits, in the spirit of good will and sportsmanship , pull the bull's tail and strike him with rolled-up newspapers in order to divert his attention.

The rolled-up newspaper, by the way, is the only defense the rules allow against a thousand-pound beast on a mindless rampage.

This Spanish Fiesta, which began 400 years ago, was made famous by Ernest Hemingway in his book, “The Sun Also Rises”-- the classic story of Jake Barnes and his pilgrimage to Pamplona.

“Papa” Hemingway was a hell of a writer, but a ninny when it came to sensible solutions. Instead of backing my statement up with several examples, I'll just leave you with this. He solved his problems with a shotgun blast to the head.

The Bull Run contestants are not, as you might suspect, limited to a family of first cousins. This is a week-long event involving hundreds of runners from around the world.

To clinch my lunatic theory, many of the misguided machismo elect to drink all night prior to their early morning run through the crowded and dangerous streets.

The poor dumb bulls are simply rushing to get to the bull ring, where they will be slaughtered-–much to the delight of the simpletons watching-–by dolts in tight pants waving red capes.


Thursday, July 2, 2009


There are people walking among us who stuff themselves with a food whose consumption should probably be avoided entirely or sampled rarely at baseball games with a cold beer.

But instead, franks are wolfed down by these grandstanding hotdoggers in staggering numbers.

The best place in the world for binging on hot dogs is Nathan's Famous on Coney Island. In 1916, Nathan Handwerker borrowed $300 from two famous friends, Jimmy Durante and Eddie Cantor, to open a hot dog stand and unknowingly set the stage for a lasting Independence Day ritual.

The frankfurter tradition supposedly began on July 4th of that same year when four immigrants decided to have a hot dog eating contest at Nathan's.

The story goes that they were trying to settle an argument over who was the most patriotic. A determined Neer Sengal won in dramatic fashion. In a bizarre twist of reasoning, Neer proved his loyalty to America by downing 13 franks.

Now, every Fourth of July, Nathan's has a contest to celebrate our holiday. And what better way to commemorate our nation's freedom than to show grown-ups scarfing down red hots as rapidly as possible.

It's difficult to grasp why contestants would be motivated to test their stomach-expanding skills and pummel their digestive systems as if they belonged to people they couldn't stand and needed to punish.

Training for such an event is brutal and the disciplines vary. Some of the contenders don't eat for days. Some drink a lot of water prior to the gorging. Others feast on cabbage, a training technique that expands my diaphragm just thinking about it.

There was talk of one enterprising adversary who tried to reach his pinnacle of gluttony by engaging in eating races with his dogs.

Some 45,000 people attend this annual spectacle and over a million have watched it on ESPN television. I guess because of the training involved, the physical effort, and the crowds it attracts, ESPN considers it to be some kind of sporting event.

Although roughly twenty people compete, two main showoffs have emerged.

A fiercely competitive and surprisingly slim contender from Japan named “Tsunami” Kobayashi–who will apparently travel a long way for a bloated abdomen and a wicked case of indigestion–first appeared at Nathan's on July 4th in 2001 and owned the hot dog eating record for six consecutive years.

You might want to add to these impressive credentials that he also won both the Alka-Seltzer Open and the highly respected Glutton Bowl.

Then in 2007 a professional overeater showed up named Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, who took away Tsunami's beloved and bejeweled Mustard Belt by eating 66 hot dogs and an equal amount of watered-down buns in just 12 minutes.

Joey, who won again in 2008, is also well-known for devouring enormous portions of deep-fried asparagus, chicken wings, pretzels, waffles, burgers, pizzas, and matzo balls.

Another serious rival of both Joey's and Tsunami's–and one to keep your eye on–is Pat “Deep Dish” Bertoletti, a chef from Chicago. So it looks like this year's “smack down” on Coney will be more dog-eat-dog than ever.

In the interest of a healthier and safer Fourth of July, I hereby propose that somebody sponsor a Broccoli & Cauliflower Eat-Off.

While this veggie concoction won't be as tasty or patriotic as the good old American hot dog, it will certainly be more nutritious and no doubt prevent people from eating to excess.

Note: People who enjoyed this post also read War and Peace, Moby Dick, Ulysses, The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Lolita, The Sun Also Rises, Lord Jim, Great Expectations, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, and Goodnight Moon.


Monday, June 22, 2009


Knots start twisting in my stomach when I hear that odious expression.

Those two little words fill me with dread, contempt, and an urge to curse at anyone who aims them in my direction.

When someone suggests that you go back to SQUARE ONE, they're really saying you're a loser and that your plans and hopes are idiotic and pointless. All of which may be true, but they don't have to wave it in your face and rub your nose in it.

And it wouldn't surprise me if they shamelessly borrowed the lyrics from a popular old song just to finish you off and reduce you to an inert lump.

So take a deep breath,
Pick yourself up,
Dust yourself off,
And start all over again.

For centuries, mathematicians have used the term, “Squaring The Circle.”
Years ago it was proven to be a mathematical impossibility. The term now refers to someone undertaking a futile task-- like Don Quixote and his arch enemies, the freaking windmills.

While all this has little to do with my SQUARE ONE story, I thought the diversion might be of interest to those captivated by SQUARE trivia.

And just so you know, I have no problem with SQUARE JAWS, SQUARE KNOTS, SQUARE DANCES, SQUARE DEALS, SQUARE MEALS, being ON THE SQUARE, SQUARING off, or even being a SQUARE.

But now let's rejoin SQUARE ONE. What does it really mean and why are we always going back to it? The term originated with board games that had numbered squares. When a player made a mistake of some kind, he was advised to return to his starting point, or SQUARE ONE.

Naturally, this is a lot easier to do in a board game than it is in real life.

Let's suppose the shape on those aforementioned board games--instead of being square--had been triangular, rectangular, or circular?

Would we be going back to TRIANGLE ONE? RECTANGLE ONE? Or ROUND ONE?

My money would be on ROUND ONE, given that starting over is a battle and you could easily get hurt. Speaking of boxing rings, why is it called a ring? Obviously, it's a bloody SQUARE !


Friday, June 19, 2009


TV commercials enjoy screaming at us. And we respond by having conniption fits. It's been that way for as long as I can remember.

Back in the early 80s, they had some ruling by the people in charge of cockamamie rules. It said that commercials couldn't be louder than the programs they appeared on. Oh yeah, that'll work.

Of course, that rule was ignored immediately by the advertisers paying big bucks for the programming.

My current theory, if you can identify with it, is that today's commercials are louder and more frequent than ever. I'm sure, unless you're lightning fast with the remote or make frequent trips to the bathroom, that you've noticed it too.

And those shrieking hucksters, the guys who often make $400,000 a year to shout their product messages, aren't helping with stuff like this:


Since I did voice-over work for three years after my copywriter phase, I know that even in soft-sell commercials, a certain amount of energy is required to put your story across in an engaging way.

But with hard-sell announcers, any attempt at charm or being cool or friendly is thrown out and replaced by YOU CAN'T IGNORE US SO DON'T EVEN TRY!

If you contacted a TV station, they would look you straight in the eye and tell you that the commercials are no louder than the programming. And by some warped standard of measurement, they're telling the truth.

But there's a loophole in their claim you could drive an SUV through. It seems that every program has different audio levels – soft, medium, loud and loudest to build or sustain the dramatic or comical effect.

The savvy advertisers, not big on nuance or subtleties, electronically process the audio track and crank it up to its legal limits of loudness.

At times the decibel level of a commercial can be jarring to the nerves. Especially if one of those BLOW-OUT SALES comes on after a tender scene with critically-ill Timmy kissing his mommy and daddy goodnight and both of them praying that he survives the evening.

If you're one of those people who needs an upbeat ending, I read recently that Dolby Laboratories is busy developing technology that would put a lid on commercial abuse, or at least soften it enough to keep us from flinging bric-a-brac at our TV screens.

If you require more than that, I'm at a loss.

P.S. In an effort to minimize hypocrisy and bring some truth to advertising, I must make one confession. A dozen years ago, when I was still writing ads, I wouldn't have cared if my commercials were loud enough to shatter your favorite wine glasses.


Thursday, May 21, 2009


There's a quote from Tinker Bell, the little sprite from Peter Pan, that helps underline my point about clapping and why it should be avoided.

“Clap if you believe,” she says to Wendy.” Upon delivering the line, little Tink flies away leaving a trail of pixie dust.

This crock of twaddle, this meaningless flight into Never-Never Land reminds me of the Wall Street crowd. Watching CNN the other day, with the Dow down 400 points, the Wall Street goobers were furiously clapping at the closing bell like something good and magical had happened.

What is wrong with these people?

“Hey guys, put your hands together and applaud. The poor slob investors have lost a ton of money and they're watching the little savings they have left go down the drain."

To give the devils their due, they're not clapping because the Dow is down. That would be stupid and cruel. They're clapping because it's a Wall Street tradition to clap when the market is closed for the day.

What kind of mind comes up with a tradition like this? The concept of clapping wildly when something is finished should be ended.

You don't clap when sex is over. At least I hope you don't. Come to think of it, maybe the Wall Streeters could just sit there and puff quietly on their cigarettes when the bell rings.

If there's a need to be more actively engaged, let them whistle and cheer when the market rises, boo and hold their noses when the market tanks.

I don't even like clapping when a play ends--even when the story and acting are first rate. When done vigorously and for an extended period of time, clapping hurts the palms and pains the ears.

Besides, if I'm still sitting in my seat after the last act, that's praise enough.


Saturday, May 9, 2009


For those of you who have not yet reached the b's in your dictionary, a brouhaha is a sensational event involving scandal, commotion, or turmoil.

It's my belief that tacking the extra “ha” onto the end makes a sham and a mockery out of a noun that takes itself quite seriously.

To maintain the intent and integrity of the word, simply lop off the final “ha” and shorten it to brouha.

And there you have efficiency achieved with no sense of loss and no need to suppress a snicker.

While doing research, I discovered that this French word (so often at the root of our problems) was used in early French drama to depict the devil laughing at misfortune by crying out “brou, ha, ha!”

Sacrebleu! I say we change the word now and to hell with the French.

Here's a thought, perhaps an idiotic one, but a thought nonetheless. Let's change the name to brouhoho. My new dictionary for the absurd and the foolishly inclined defines the word with an example: Santa, having a bad day, gets in a tiff with his elves. Or how about brouteehee? An encounter that breaks out between a stand-up comic and a belligerent heckler.

Speaking of silly words, what about shibboleth? A word used by an ancient tribe as a test word or password to separate the right tribe from the frauds who couldn't pronounce the sh and said sibboleth. “Oh, I'm sorry. Thanks for playing 'Say It Correctly.' You've been a good sport. But that faulty pronunciation is going to lead to your immediate demise.”

Hullabaloo is another word that sounds like it was hatched after a heavy night of drinking. A word that means “uproar” could just as easily be a new dance craze or a monetary exchange in a land not yet discovered. “Man, I'm so broke this week. I'm down to my last hullabaloo.”

How about bosoms? Now there's a word that removes all prurient interest from one of nature's glorious gifts. And then there's Uvula, which smacks of romantic possibilities, but is simply a dangling piece of flesh in the back of your throat.

Kerfuffle, a silly word used mostly by the Brits, is a disturbance or confusion of some sort. But it could just as easily be a board game, a card game, or a plump exotic bird with an extended beak, more feathers than you've ever seen, and legs the thickness of match sticks.

That about wraps up our nonsense words for today. Should you have any silly offerings of your own, don't be shy about submitting them. If I like them, I'll pretend they're my own, and give you no credit whatsoever.


Wednesday, April 29, 2009


People who have anything to do with singing, acting, comedy, juggling, magic tricks, working with trained animals, or any other facet of show business are not the least bit hesitant about changing their names.

They are convinced, or are convinced by somebody, that the clunker of a name they were born with-–which hangs around their necks like an anchor--is keeping them from becoming the star they were meant to be.

I'd like to begin my case with Alan Alda. A funny, talented actor with a name that's simple, direct, uncomplicated. But his real name is layered with intrigue, complexity, power. Alphonso D'Abruzzo. The mere sound of it--if not sending chills up your spine--insures your immediate respect. Of course, it also guarantees that you would never sit near a window with him while eating at an Italian restaurant.

Albert Brooks--who I loved in Broadcast News, Defending Your Life, and Lost In America--is a brilliant comedic actor. But he might have been even more brilliant if he had kept his original name, Albert Einstein. I'm not saying he would have unraveled the string theory or solved the mystery of crop circles. But it might have inspired him to greater heights.

50 Cent. He could have called himself 10 Cent or 25 Cent, but for some reason he opted for 50 Cent with no s on the end. And why 50? Why not 75 Cent? Or something more upscale, like 50 Dollar? Personally, I like his actual name, Curtis Jackson. It sounds grounded and real. And not like someone who's fixated with bad grammar and chump change.

Cher. One-word names like Cher, Sting and Madonna are probably used because they're easy to remember. But they have no depth or sense of history. Cherilyn Sarkisian has the ring of a woman with substance and should have been Cher's pick for stardom. But if Cher were stubborn and insisted on sticking with a one-word name, I think Sark would have been a more provocative and perhaps career-extending choice.

I can't even understand wives taking the names of their husbands. What about husbands taking the names of their wives? Am I out of line here? Will there be scolding letters of indignation? Or better yet, Why don't each of them just keep the names they started out with?

But to be fair and balanced, I can certainly understand criminals changing their names to make them harder to catch and imprison.

And then there's Doris Day, whose birth certificate says Doris Von Kappelhoff. There's no question in my mind that she had every right to change her name and I think we're all in agreement here.

To take it one step further, I hope she did it before entering grade school.


Sunday, April 19, 2009


When it comes to celebrities and the people who love them, it seems the deader the better.

Elvis, James Dean, Anna Nicole Smith, and Marilyn Monroe were all bigger than life. But they became even bigger when their farms were bought and their buckets kicked.

Unfortunately, this ongoing trend is in no danger of dying. It's borderline pathology to spend years worshiping a collection of dead people known for wearing dark glasses indoors and doing their best to avoid photographers.

But why such reverence? Why the burgeoning fan clubs? What the hell is going on? THESE PEOPLE ARE DEAD!

Is it a backlash to our own lack of permanence? Is it the scarcity of star status that is driving the nuts among us to extend their glorification of celebs long after the obituaries have been written?

Those who claim to know about such things say it's not a mental disorder – as I claim it is-- but rather an exuberant and lasting fascination with the rich and famous who just happen to be six feet under.

Perhaps these fans should get a life. Or at least a hobby that doesn't involve things no longer breathing.

The Elvis “sightings” are still more proof that some fans don't accept the finality of a death certificate. There is even some wacko with a website preaching that Elvis was sent by God to elevate our spiritual values and fight organized crime in Las Vegas.

If people need a fan club for the dearly departed, what about Socrates, Einstein, Edison, DaVinci, Mozart, Lincoln, Ben Franklin, Helen Keller, or my fave, Mark Twain?

I fear that the future wave of stars we bereave and exalt might be the likes of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Britney Spears.

I can't speak for others. But I see no reason why we should limit our adoration of the deceased to the twits and the ditsy.


Saturday, April 11, 2009


I don't trust speed readers.

It creeps me out when the main goal of reading a good book is how fast can you finish it.

I have a theory that a man so inclined would make a lousy lover. Myself, I like to pore over a chapter, linger lovingly on a passage or well-turned phrase, be touched by a stunning metaphor, or even roll a perfectly chosen word around on my tongue.

Hell, you can't do all that when you're zipping through a story at 1,000 words a minute. If you're an average reader, you cover maybe 200 words a minute, which is nothing to be ashamed of. But neither is ending a sentence with a preposition -- despite what your third grade teacher said.

Let's say you were speeding through a book by Mark Twain and you missed a classic line like: “I was seldom able to see an opportunity until it had ceased to be one.”

Or maybe in your rush to finish a book by Churchill you ran right over this zinger: “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

Not slowing down to enjoy the moment is like somebody telling you they're too busy to watch a gorgeous sunset sinking slowly down a sky of pinks and purples.

I can imagine two bookish speed freaks trying to outdo one another in a bar. The first one says, “I read War and Peace on my lunch hour.”

“Not bad,” says the other one, “I finished Moby Dick on my 10-minute break.”

When I'm reading a book that I own and not one from the library, I do something that many consider criminal, or at least of questionable taste.

I underline words and phrases and sometimes even whole paragraphs that I admire and want to save and look at later.

This act of “defacing” is done out of respect. And respect for something superb or exquisite shouldn't be hurried or skimmed.

Skimming, it seems to me, should be restricted to flinging thin flat stones across a calm body of water.


Friday, April 3, 2009


I'm here to blow the lid off The Wizard of Oz.

Oh, I know the movie has been around for 70 years, and a lot of people are going to be ticked off by my brutal assault on their cherished classic. But this cautionary tale of family values has been hoodwinking children of all ages for too long.

It's time we took off the rose-colored glasses and looked at your beloved film under the harsh and glaring spotlight of truth.

Auntie Em Was A Bit Of A Witch

Let's face it, she was mean and bossy. She was always too busy to give Dorothy the time of day. About the only nice thing she did was hand out crullers to Hunk, Zeke, and Hickory. But she only did that because they couldn't work their butts off on an empty stomach.

When I found out she ended up a total recluse in real life and eventually committed suicide, it wasn't exactly a surprise ending.

Many Munchkins Had Criminal Records As Long As Their Arms

Known as the Singer Midgets, a bus load of them had once mooned Manager Lee Singer on the corner of 68th and Central Park West for what they called a questionable business deal. In the movie, one of the munchkins (probably high on drugs) once mistakenly shouted out “Judy” instead of “Dorothy.”

Another one supposedly hung himself during one of the difficult dance numbers. And several of them made their living by begging, pimping, and other deeds too unsavory to mention.

Poppies Is A Poor Floral Choice When Pushing Family Values

Running through a field of poppies is a little too hip and druggy for a G-Rated film. For my money, lilies would have been a wiser and purer choice for impressionable youngsters, some of whom were no doubt aware of the blatant symbolism.

Scarecrow Should Have Returned His Diploma

There's a scene when Scarecrow gets handed his diploma and starts excitedly reciting the Pythagorean theorem – the sum of the squares of the lengths of the sides of a right triangle is equal to the square of the length of the hypotenuse. Somehow, inexplicably, he gets this simple theorem wrong and nobody corrects him. This could prove troubling to a child years later when he learns that Scarecrow really had straw for brains.

The Mighty Oz Was A Big Lush

The Wizard, Frank Morgan, was drunk half the time on the set so he might have been seeing a horse of a different color without the assistance of movie magic. No question he was charming. But he could have pumped up his own balloon with all that hot air.

He claimed to be a good man, but a bad wizard. Wrong. Besides being a blustering humbug, he wouldn't grant Dorothy and her pals their wishes until they wasted the witch and brought back her broom as proof.

Returning To A Tacky Farm And A Bunch Of Oafs

In the final scene, when Dorothy wakes up and returns to her pathetic black & white existence, all the hayseeds were falling all over themselves about Toto. Was he put to sleep for biting Miss Gulch? Did the sheriff sentence him to the dog pound? We're never given the truth about Toto.

I can imagine kindly Auntie Em explaining it to Rainbow Girl: “Yes, there's no place like home, Dorothy – even though you'll never see your cute little dog again!”


Monday, March 30, 2009


Can somebody please explain camping out?

I read where 49 million Americans camp in the wilderness every year. How can such a large segment of the population be out of their minds?

It might make sense if a husband and wife were desperate to get out of a crowded city filled with people who shout and shove and occasionally unleash abusive comments and middle fingers for no apparent reason.

Or a couple needed, for sanity's sake, to temporarily expand the confines of their 2-bedroom apartment or 3-bedroom home.

Or both of them use it as an excuse to separate the kids from their computers, video games, and various electronic gadgets.

But for the most part and for reasons that defy logic, families actually go away together to large wooded areas for extended periods of time.

Instead of relaxing in the dwelling they're working so hard to pay for, they choose to abandon civilization, modern conveniences, and common sense to live out their twisted, primitive fantasies.

Maybe those travel brochures cast some kind of magic spell on them that sucks out their powers of reasoning.

“Get back to the joys of nature, enjoy spectacular scenery in the wooded wonderland of your dreams.”

What these brochures fail to mention is the bugs that eat you alive, the lack of toilet facilities, the possibility of being visited by bears, screaming kids that can't be sent to their rooms, and the likelihood of at least one torrential downpour that will leave you dripping, shivering, sneezing, and wondering why the hell you ever dumped your creature comforts.

Whenever I get the urge to rough it, I go out in the backyard and lie in my hammock for an hour. Sometimes I don't even bother taking the radio.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


One of the endearing traits about children is that when they make a mistake or do something bad, they have the decency and transparency to say, “UH-OH!”

The “UH-OH” factor recedes and sometimes disappears entirely when people grow up and become politicians, bankers, insurance giants, or athletes. Spins and cover-ups have turned the concept of honesty into an antiquated notion.

Newspapers, magazines, and TV are filled with examples of people with big jobs doing terrible things-- things that often affect all of us – and not having the stones to admit it publicly.

Athletes, for example, looking like The Incredible Hulk, might claim they work hard, eat right, take plenty of vitamins, and get 8 hours of sleep a night. If strong evidence suggests otherwise, the athlete might say, “Gosh, I had no idea what that needle in my butt was for.”

People in high places declare wars that can't be explained without a little smoke and a lot of mirrors.

We're told with a straight face that pork-filled budgets are a necessary cost of doing business. We learn that the top AIG executives, the lying weasels who ran the company into the ground and needed billions in bailout money, have a legal contract and are still entitled to millions for doing a lousy job.

Then there's Bernie Madoff, betraying good friends, and ruining their lives and perhaps the lives of their children. The following could be construed as being unkind -- but may he rot in prison and have a cellmate named Bubba.

Diogenes, the cynical Greek philosopher who lived some 300 years before Christ, was famous for carrying a lantern in his continual search for an honest man. If he were alive today, he'd need a search light, and it still wouldn't be enough.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009


It's not my intention to trash a classic American character, a comic strip beloved by millions, and a legend for years among followers of the funnies.

But if Daddy Warbucks is supposed to be one of the world's richest men, why won't he buy her a new outfit? Some snappy little number for Annie in puce, fuchsia, cerise, or some other modern shade that doesn't show up on the color spectrum.

What's the problem? Is the artist concerned about breaching some kind of fashion statement? Do they think we won't recognize her in new threads?

How many carrot-topped, 12-year-olds have a dog named Sandy that barks ARF ARF?

I say we spruce up the 83-year-old moppet. And while we're at it, let's get her to stop staying "leaping lizards" every time she gets excited. First of all, the lizard is a form of reptile so they're not big on leaping.

Maybe Annie could say "slithering snakes" when she gets charged up and needs to verbalize her tensions and retain the alliteration.

Then there's the eye thing. The poor orphan has no pupils, only vacant white circles. WHY? Did this famous and respected cartoonist think that nobody would notice? Or did he just forget to dot the eyes?

If Annie is being forced to watch out for gangsters, spies and saboteurs--at least give the kid some pupils.


Saturday, March 7, 2009


Standard Time is an ancient and ill-conceived ritual that was inflicted on this country in 1917 while we were busy fighting the Nazis. It automatically and arbitrarily legislated that we turn our clocks back one hour every fall whether we wanted to or not.

This tyrannical practice might not have been such an ordeal in the early 1900s when alarm clocks and pocket watches were all you had to worry about.

But today we've got to change our wrist watches, phones, answering machines, coffee machines, clock radios, oven timers, microwaves, VCRs, car clocks, and a bunch of other electronic devices that serve as reminders of all the time we're wasting changing clocks.

More and more countries around the world are now on Daylight Saving Time, and it's about time we were one of them. This year DST officially starts on Sunday, March 8th at 2 AM and stays with us until November 1st. While it's comforting to have an extra hour of light for 8 months, it would be even better to have it year round.

Ben Franklin first suggested the idea of Daylight Saving to the citizens of Paris back in the 1700s. He thought he could cut back on the use of candles by giving the people an extra hour of sunlight. And frankly, I think Ben was on to something.

Not only does Daylight Saving Time give us more sun and by extension Vitamin D, it reduces the load on electricity and cuts down on oil costs, possibly even our use of candles.

It's bad enough we have 8 time-zone changes in this country. We don't need the further complication of Eastern Time and Daylight Saving. So let's just dump FALL BACK and stick with SPRING AHEAD.

Instead of obsessing about the knots in your stomach over Madoff, Wall Street, bailouts, plummeting housing costs, and the crisis of confidence regarding your future … write a cheery letter to your congressman instead.

Tell him you just want an extra hour of sun all 12 months and that you're tired of changing timing devices twice a year for reasons that make no damn sense.


Monday, March 2, 2009


It seems like I'm always in the bathroom when the phone rings. It never rang during those 3 hours when I wasn't in the bathroom. But now that I'm in the bathroom relaxing, it rings off the hook.

Of course, it stops ringing the minute I run out to pick it up. Hello! Hello! I sometimes wonder if the “bathroom phone show” is being videotaped and will appear later in the day on Letterman.

I've been working on ways to improve my chances of getting those missed phone calls. Here's my latest. Step into the bathroom, slam the door, turn on the faucet, and flush the toilet. This should trick the phone into ringing. When it does, make a mad dash for it.

For added reality, make sure you're naked.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Call me paranoid, but I think that smokers who cluster in front of buildings are plotting against us non-smokers. Usually they herd together like penguins on an ice floe and speak in whispers. No doubt planning the overthrow of nicotine infidels by whatever means necessary.

I realize it's difficult to be told by your boss to leave the comfort of your workplace and take your filthy, disgusting habit outside – especially in the dead of winter. But you made your bed, my friend, now you must smoke in it.

I am currently working on plans for survival in the age of first, second, and even third-hand smoke. Here's plan number one.

Next time you pass by a group of smokers huddled together outside a building and looking furtive, try to get close enough to hear their plans.

The best approach is to light up a cigarette, making sure not to cough like a rank amateur, and infiltrate their ranks. A miniature recorder, easily hidden inside your coat, jacket or baseball cap, can be purchased at any local spy store.

For your own protection, this message will self-delete two minutes after you read it.


Sunday, February 22, 2009


The vitamin people would probably tell you they stuff cotton in their bottles to cut down on breakage and muffle the sound of pills rattling around needlessly.

Sounds logical enough. But here's another logical theory. They want to save money by cutting down on the number of vitamins they sell.

Now I'm not suggesting the cotton wad is a scam.

I certainly wouldn't want any trouble from those vitamin people. Just because I once heard they were tied in with the New Jersey Mafia doesn't mean it's true. And I sure don't want to end up with broken ribs and busted kneecaps. Let's just say I'm leaning in the direction of skepticism.

In fact, I'm more than leaning. I'm convinced that this vitamin mob is trying their best to pull the cotton over our eyes.


Friday, February 13, 2009


The key to the city opens nothing. Getting one is an honor. But unless the Mayor is in a generous mood, the key itself won't get you a good meal at a fancy restaurant, a pair of tickets to a top play or sporting event. Or even a name-brand suit at a prestigious clothing establishment.

The big key is a gala ritual in which a person or group of people are honored for achieving something worthwhile.

There is little in life that is more useless or less practical than getting a key to the city. The custom began in New York City in the 1800s and became a symbol of the Mayor's wish to open up the city to its distinguished recipient.

For reasons that escape me, the rock star Ludacris was given a key to the city of Atlanta in 2004. The year the New York Giants won the Super Bowl, Plaxico Burress got one. I understand that Madonna is also being considered. So obviously the fame aspect of the key can fade quickly, and in some cases, disappear entirely.

The least the city officials could do when presenting their big key is to bring a modicum of honesty to their ersatz ceremony.

I, Mayor Culpa, along with my esteemed colleagues, would like to present this worthless key to you as a way of recognizing your unselfish and outstanding achievements. So here is your big key. It unlocks nothing and impresses no one. But it's our way of saying thanks and also getting all of us some well-deserved publicity. Oh, and don't bother putting your key on E-bay. Nobody will buy it.


Sunday, February 8, 2009


Coaches are always saying they expect 110% effort from their players. Obviously none of these coaches has ever taught math.

"They came to play” is another sports favorite. Like a team really needs to be reminded of their intentions. Otherwise how would they know what they were doing at the game wearing those numbered uniforms and seeing a stadium filled with drunk and screaming fans.

"Wait till next year.” What makes this expression so durable is that the team in question doesn't have to concern itself with the abysmal statistics of the current season.

But the sports platitude at the top of my bone-head list would have to be “playing one game at a time.” Is there really a choice here?

I understand the message coaches are making to their players – that they should concentrate on the present, and not worry about the games ahead of them.

Still, if only to make their jobs more interesting, I'm amazed the sports interviewers never call them on it.

"I find your one-game-at-a-time concept fascinating. But playing two games at a time would be more efficient. And, as an added bonus, give you a shorter season.”


Thursday, February 5, 2009


It's hard to say why so many men are so dense when it comes to women. But all my research indicates that it's some kind of faulty genetic wiring. Although I wouldn't completely rule out the asshole theory.

Men know that a woman likes her man to be caring. However, if there's a hint of crying on the first date, there may not be a second. Speaking of first dates, no woman wants to hear a guy's entire life story over a cheap meal at Wendy's.

And here's a helpful suggestion for all those guys who promise a woman they'll call and never do, or wait a month because they think it's cool – get lost or grow up!

I could be wrong, but I believe there's a reason why some husbands can never find their gray socks, special underwear, favorite tie, driving gloves, golf clubs, old catcher's mitt, lawn mower, or even the orange juice in the fridge.

It's the same reason that some guys can never do simple chores around the house without screwing them up -- these losers have wives or girlfriends to find stuff and bail them out.

Regarding the fragile male ego, don't be afraid to get beaten in golf, tennis, bowling, or even checkers by a girlfriend or wife you claim is your equal. And should you do something sappy – and we all do– just admit it.

Don't try to make up for it with a floral arrangement you bought in a place that also sells cigarettes, soda, beef jerky and newspapers. Understand she's hurt and insulted that you didn't give her credit for being able to see right through your flower plot.

Another annoying guy thing. If a man weighs 285 pounds, is slightly taller than a fireplug, and has never lifted anything heavier than a beer stein-- he has no right to criticize his girlfriend for putting on a few pounds over the winter or any other season.

And when you tell a woman you love her – and you're both in bed shagging on your third date – don't be surprised or offended if she's not buying it. Hey, I'm a guy, too. And some of you out there are embarrassing me with the crap you pull.


Thursday, January 29, 2009


For my money, the world is divided between decent people who return phone calls and the bastards that don't. A conservative guess is that 80% of Americans don't return their calls.

This irritation came up recently when somebody called me back, and I found myself praising the guy. And I thought to myself, what's going on here? What's prompting this fit of uncontrolled affability?

People not calling back in droves is what's going on here. Being a putz instead of a stand-up guy is at the crux of my agitation.

And how do you know the person who called isn't about to offer you a good deal on that painting you wanted, or the crap in the garage you wanted to sell, or a tip on some fabulous vacation spot that nobody knows about yet. Or just some good news about somebody you actually care about or maybe even love.

But since most of you don't plan to return your phone calls, you'll miss out on all this good stuff. And that, if you want to know the truth, cheers me up immensely.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009


Why are some people so obsessed with scaring themselves silly?

In the case of amusement parks, we will travel considerable distances to wait in long lines and spend money for the thrill of riding the roller coaster, or some other adrenaline-rush device that has us screaming at the top of our lungs like 10-year-olds.

Others are driven to sit through 2 hours of a scary movie, which might mean seeing fiendish flesh-eating monsters wreaking havoc, or watching people endure loathsome acts of violence or degradation.

People also climb treacherous, snow-covered mountains and sometimes they even ski down them without knowing if they might fall off a hidden or unknown precipice at any moment.

There are hundreds of things people do to risk breaking their necks when they could just as easily sit in a comfortable chair and read books about spine-tingling menace and perilous escapades.

Other risk takers join the police force or the fire department or invest in a plummeting stock market.

I have no valid explanation as to why people like scaring themselves. Perhaps it's a macho thing. It could be the challenge of trying to overcome something you'd normally run away from. But I wouldn't rule out some kind of freaky-deeky turn-on.

Or maybe it stems from a sadistic kindergarten teacher. A soft-spoken, hair-up-in-a-bun, mousy type with thick glasses who once told the kids just before a nap that they were pathetic little wimps.

She probably said this: “Are you kids content to play with your stupid blocks and draw your silly pictures when you could be parachuting into a dark forest and trying to survive on nuts and berries while attempting to find your way back to your parents and civilization?”


Saturday, January 17, 2009


In order to lower the number of deaths and surgical complications – like cutting off the wrong leg – hospital teams from 8 hospitals around the world now go into surgery with a checklist.

Some genius has figured out that the doctors and nurses introducing themselves to one another before the operation will dramatically reduce the number of tragedies and botched jobs.

Apparently when a surgical team knows the names of those they're working with, there are fewer mutilations and lawsuits.

“Hand me the forceps, Fred.”

“I'm Agnes. I know the masks and funny hats can be confusing. Jane here is the gal you want.”

Using a 19-item checklist, the death rate fell enough to encourage the continued use of the idiot-proof list.

My favorite item on the list is that everything in the operating room should be kept sterile. Eureka! What a concept! Cleanliness in a place where you use sharp instruments to cut people open!

Also making the list: All the equipment needed for the operation must be in the operating room. This way, you won't have to go running all over the hospital looking for something while Dr. Carver is slicing and dicing and wondering why he got stuck with such a collection of incompetents.

Here's another key item to consider before an operation. Make sure you know the name of the patient and what he or she is in for. If she's in to have her tonsils taken out, for example, you don't want to remove a kidney.

Although I've not been privy to everything on the checklist, my gut tells me the average operation begins with the doctor making sure everyone is wearing a new pair of Latex gloves. But maybe my gut is overly optimistic.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009


For those of you who still read the newspapers – and who can blame you if you don't, given the steady barrage of bad news and the advent of online coverage – you may have noticed a portion of the paper referred to as the "Corrections" section.

Essentially it lists the factual errors that the paper has made on the previous day and asks your forgiveness for their carelessness.

My take on all of their minor lapses (or peccadillos if you happen to be reading the New York Times) would have to be, "who gives a rat's ass?"

First of all, nobody really cares about yesterday's blunders. And you'll notice they never point out their colossal mistakes, just insignificant ones like the following:

"Yesterday, Mr. L.J. Smith's picture was mistakenly reproduced in reverse image. So the watch you saw on his right wrist was actually on his left wrist."

Come to think of it, something was bothering me about that picture, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

But now, thanks to "Corrections," my mind is at ease and I can sidestep the usual tossing and turning generated by such oversights.


Thursday, January 8, 2009


There's something about a woman's butt that makes it want to change seats when it comes into a restaurant.

I doubt that one woman in a hundred will walk into a restaurant, pick a table, and sit there for an hour or two through all the courses. I don't know what the record for change is, but three times would be a safe bet.

She could be facing south when she wants to face north. It could be too sunny. It might be too dark. Too near the kitchen. It could be too drafty. Too near a crying baby. Or a wheezing, coughing old man. Somebody could be staring, sneezing, yawning, or laughing too loud. Maybe she's spotted an old boyfriend that she hopes to avoid.

It could be as simple as the hunter, gatherer thing. The guy (the hunter) is in a restaurant. He spots his prey (the table) and heads in for the kill. The woman, however, has far more on her plate than a place to sit and look at a menu.

She's gathering information, namely where's the perfect place to sit for maximum dining pleasure.


Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Train schedules annoy me.

Actually it's not the schedules so much as the ninny pods behind the schedules. Let's say I'm taking a train out of Grand Central Station in New York City where the trip begins.

My imaginary train is scheduled to leave at 5:03 or 6:01 PM. Would it not dawn on the feeblest of minds that this numerical choice makes little sense and is of no practical value?

Why wouldn't it occur to schedulers to have the train leave the station at 5 or 6 o'clock? Just round it off to the nearest hour and be done with it. If you like, I'm open to leaving every half hour.

Train people have got to stop messing with our minds.

And does one person make these scheduling decisions? Or is a small clueless committee formed to figure out the times of our departures and arrivals? In short, how many people does it take to change a schedule?

Once they decide on this, we're all stuck with the arbitrary times that we're supposed to believe is carved in stone. THE 6:01 TO SUNNYBROOK WILL BE ARRIVING AT 7:03! No, it won't! It will get there at 7:10 or 7:20 or whenever it gets there.

Another galling thing about trains you might want to unravel. Why are the schedules changed 3 or 4 times a year? Do the train people have trouble filling their day? Do they find it amusing to waste paper? Why can't we make one sensible schedule and stick with it for five years?

WHAT A WAY TO RUN A RAILROAD may be a tired old chestnut. But it's a chestnut that's hard to poke holes in.


Thursday, January 1, 2009


This is not a typical Thistle post in that he is not ranting – he's raving about his pet posts. For the record, it's not easy to pick your favorite children, even when most of them are ill-mannered.

If you think his selections are off the mark, let your thoughts be known. A convincing case might get Thistle to reconsider his choices. But I doubt it.



  3. CATS DON'T FETCH – Aug. 29

  4. ASKING FOR HER HAND – Aug. 24



  7. HOTEL BIBLES – June 17

  8. TOP TEN CRIMINALS – June 12