The LBB Virtues

NOTE TO THE READER: This entry is the conclusion of Benjamin Franklin Virtues, a previous post.

As I promised, here is a list of the LBB Virtues, with discussions and/or precepts following each.

Irreverence: match sanctimony with irreverence measure for measure.

In a world of deceit, irreverence is a virtue. There's a lot of bullshit out there and politicians, social activists, educators and advertisers are all bulldozing a mound of their particular brand into our homes and minds. Stay skeptical. Ask questions. Don't take anything too seriously. Remember: as a rule, the more sanctimonious the advocate, the more irreverence you should muster. Sanctimonious people are usually full of crap and their causes celebres as hollow as Nicole Ritchie's stomach.

One must distinguish irreverence from disrespect and resolve never to dabble in the latter. Irreverence is the hallmark of mental acuity. Disrespect is the refuge of twits. For example, I once attended a girl's bat mitzvah. A man (the Jewish version of a deacon. I think they call him a Deaconowitz) handed me a yarmulke which I dutifully donned. Watching the sermon (sermonitzvah?), I suppressed the urge to fling my yarmulke to my brother as a makeshift frisbee. Sure I was bored and the skull cap was messing my cool hairdo. But yarmulke frisbee in a synagogue would have disrespectful. So instead, I broke the stuffy atmosphere by telling the rabbi I would convert to Judaism because after seeing the dessert table as it would be worth all the chanting just for all those luscious patries! Those Jews know desserts (and a bargain)! Then I suggested to the rabbi that there'd be more Jews if you could get a yarmulke with your favorite sports team's logo embroidered on it. That would be really cool. The point is, I showed a religious ceremony the proper irreverence without being a douchebag. Irreverence is a fine and nuanced art.

Intemperance: if you're going to eat wrong, do it right.

With regard to food and drink, you can't get a little bit pregnant. You either have to eat until satiation, or else abstain, which is out of the question. Abstinence is for nuns and men still struggling against their gay urges.

If you try to eat “reasonable” portions of junk food, you'll either nibble and graze your way to obesity, or you'll drive yourself insane with abnegation. You know what I'm talking about. You start with “just three” Oreo cookies. Then you place the bag in the cupboard and pat yourself on the back for being “good.” You finish, but the residual flavor in your mouth tortures you. You can't think straight. You want more. Soon, your resolve fails and you sneak just a couple more. Bliss, but still not enough. It's like Chinese water torture. Alright, two more. Mmmmmm. One more. Ok, now three more, but that's it! OK, fine. I'll skip dinner tonight. The Oreos will be my dinner...

The next think you know, you've demolished the entire bag of Oreos, your teeth look like tree bark and your convulsing in the throes of insulin shock. The tragedy here is, had you given yourself permission to enjoy as many Oreos as you pleased from the onset, you would have enjoyed the experience much more. And in the end, you pump the same calories down your gullet either way.

The “serving size” on the bag is a ploy to present the food in the best possible light; that is, with the fewest calories, fat and sugar. Personally, I disregard the nutritional label. I don't care if they're putting shards of glass and plutonium in Breyer's Mint & Chip ice cream. I'm still eating the whole carton. I'll hit the gym when I must, but I'm eating what I want, when I want, as much as I want. No guilt, no anxiety, no self-loathing, no torture. No problem.

With regard to alcohol, I remind you that unless you drink to elevation, you shouldn't drink at all. Admit it, the best ideas you have are when you're “elevated.” Most of the fun you have, too, is while elevated on hooch. Only a great fool drinks alcohol in moderation. That's like having sex in moderation (I do it, but not often, and never to orgasm). Well then, what's the point?

Uninhibitedness: when you do it, let it all hang out.

Psychologists and neuroscientists teach us that the brain is very similar to a computer. My own observations confirm this. Unfortunately, our brains' operating system is a Windows-like clusterfuck instead of a smooth-running Mac. You have to use your mind in the same manner as your PC. To wit, keep as few programs as possible running. The brain is NOT a good multitasking processor. System resources are limited. The more processes running, the less quickly and efficiently each runs and the more likely a system freeze-up.

Inhibitions are psychological processes competing with one another. Close down any superfluous or competing programs. For example, let's consider the task of dancing. Everybody has a dancing “program.” Some people's run smoothly, others produce results similar to transient cerebral palsy. The problem isn't the dancing program. The problem is, the OS (brain) can't run it smoothly because a huge amount of system resources are running the “Everybody's Watching Me and I Suck” program. Often, one can close EWMAIS with sufficient amounts of alcohol. However, this launches another program called “Alcohol Countermeasures,” which works to prevent the biological hardware from stumbling, passing out, mumbling incoherent drink orders, or servicing the bar restroom's “glory hole.” The more alcohol consumed, the more system resources AC commands, and the dancing program performance degrades. I once had a friend whose AC was working so hard that his dancing program had him mount an imaginary bull on the dance floor. He proceeded to ride the imaginary bull, cowboy-style, for 7 seconds, whereupon the bull bucked him laterally and he collided with a group of several African American patrons, who dragged my friend into the parking where they performed a “hard-switch reset.”

Stay vigilant. Whatever task you're performing, keep your system clear of competing programs. Be on the lookout for the following resource-hog applications: “If I Do That, They'll Fire Me,” “I Look So Fat Today,” “Musn't Offend Anybody,” “Is This Legal?” “I'm Not Good Enough/Smart Enough,” and the biggest resource-hog of all, “Earn Others' Approval.” Should you discover any of these programs running in the background, Control-Alt-Delete those motherfuckers at once.

Finally, “reboot” your mind often. Sleep, eat and play often. You just won't be at your best if the “SYSTEM MUST REST AND REBOOT” dialogue box keeps popping up.

Here are some other Virtues I've identified. They're self-explanatory. Each has a little precept annexed to clarify the Virtue:

Deniability: do your dirty work in the dark; always have a rock-solid excuse cooked up ahead of time.

Suspiciousness: Nobody is more honest or selfless than they seem, and they're lives are more jacked-up than they first appear.

Impatience: waiting is for gentlemen foolish enough to date Catholic girls. Now is all that matters.

Looseliptitude: Say what you feel at once and without reservation. Ninety percent of our regrets are things we should have said and didn't.

Complacency: Ambition is the playground of the Devil. Consider that most of what you attempt will either fail, backfire or underwhelm, whereupon you'll spend precious time undoing whatever you did that was such a great idea at first andhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.bold.gif now just a mess. Better find contentment in your current situation, however pathetic.

Frugality (also a Franklin Virtue): it's probably a piece of crap so don't buy it. Plus, they'll renege on the warranty. Finally every dollar you spend is a dollar-sixty you'll have to earn at work (yuck!) and paying Uncle Sugar. Frugality is freedom.

Immodesty: you're headed for a fall anyway, so live it up. Nobody else is going to toot your horn. And those breasts are going to sag when you hit your late thirties, so shake those money-makers while they're still at eye-level.

Anonymity: remain anonymous to upper-management, your neighbors, law enforcement, creditors, government agencies and the IRS. None of them are “here to help.”



I'm still working on the Virtues. They'll be up next post. In the meantime...

*Here's a tip in case you're ever choking on a Cheerio: Don't panic. Just breathe through the hole. This also works for Froot Loops. If you're choking on Corn Flakes or a wad of Grapenuts, you're screwed.

*It's illegal to touch yourself in a public restroom. Stupid law. You HAVE to touch yourself a little bit if you want your aim to be true. Also, that thing isn't going to shake itself.

*Gosh, that Fergie doesn't lack for self-esteem. She's almost as conceited as that “my-milkshake-brings-all-the-boys-to-the-yard” girl.

*We're always going to war in places where there's oil, which I think is fine. We need oil. But I was thinking. If we go to war with Canada and we win, we could take a bunch of first-rate ski resorts.

*They've sold musical greeting cards for years. They're surprisingly affordable. What I wonder is, why haven't they installed this same technology in baby diapers? Every time the kid drops a deuce, the little diaper plays a song: “You dropped a bomb on me, baby. You dropped a bomb on me.” -- The Gap Band.

*Everybody's concerned about the upward spiral of healthcare costs. I have the solution. The money-back guarantee. If you die, your healthcare is free. Think how many outrageously expensive, life-saving measures performed hours or even minutes before death, fail. If I buy an iPod at Target and it doesn't work, I get my money back. Shouldn't something as important as healthcare have the same policy as a discount retailer?

*I recently dined at a local restaurant. I drank water and devoured the complimentary bread and chips with salsa. When the waiter arrived, I explained that I was happy with the bread and chips and that I wouldn't be ordering an entree. This puzzled and vexed him. “But sir, you haven't ordered anything. There's no check.” “Bingo, gringo.” “But sir, you can't just...” “Relax,” I responded. “You'll still get your 15%. Hell, make it 20%.


Benjamin Franklin Virtues

When I was younger, I read the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin lead a fascinating life, of course. But most of the book was tedious to me, the authorship exceeding my reading level, which the public school system left at about the 8th grade level. Plus the book kept digressing to boring anecdotes about the birth and development of America, the ideals of our Founding Fathers, our early struggles with nationhood, blah blah blah. Who gives a crap? If I wanted to know about American history, I wouldn't have smoked so much weed before class and spent the period coloring the logos of my favorite rock bands into my American history book while my wrinkled prune of a teacher droned about the Louisiana Purchase. Incidentally, why on earth would we purchase Louisiana? Do you think it's too late to return it for a refund?

One portion of the book, however, fascinated me. In his Autobiography, Franklin touched on an idea that even then, as a high school student, I intuited; that achieving the correct virtues leads to a rewarding life. Franklin enumerated for his posterity 13 Virtues he maintained were necessary to decent living, happiness and fulfillment. He shared as well his regimen for mastering these virtues and invited the reader to do the same, so that he, too, might profit from their practice. I devoured Franklin's discussion on the Virtues. I read it several times. Finally, I resolved to master each virtue in the same manner as Franklin. I reasoned that whatever was good enough for BF would be good enough for me. Imagine my excitement. Here was one of the most successful and influential men in history passing down what was essentially a little instruction book on life! This was one time I'd actually read instructions.

My plan eroded quickly. But it wasn't for lack of resolution. I began suspecting the Virtues weren't virtues at all, but rather pain-in-the-ass, arbitrary rules that with the passage of 20 generations became obsolete, assuming that they were ever useful.

Like Franklin, I began with Temperance: Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

What the heck? Eat not to dullness? Dullness is how I know I'm done eating. If you do it right, you shouldn't be able to walk upright for an hour or so following a meal. After an outing at The Golden Dragon Buffet, I'm so dull I can't even speak. I just drool. All I can do is blink at the waitress in Morse code that, yes, I'd like a refill on my diet soda.

Don't drink to elevation? That's the whole point of drinking – to elevate oneself. In the case of men, drinking elevates one's estimation of his athletic prowess, boxing skills and his charm over females. In women, drinking often elevates them from the floor to the table, where they dance and from time to time elevate their skirts and blouses.

I discarded the virtue of Temperance and proceeded to the next.

Silence: Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

Anyone who reads this blog knows my chances at achieving Silence are as good as Steven Hawking winning on American Idol.

Blogging is nothing if not trifling, which is not to suggest it lacks virtue. Some of the best conversations of my life have been trifling. Give me a good post about how badly one's day at work sucked, or how dysfunctional one's family members are, or a misanthropic rant on the idiocy of the general public, and I'm in heaven. All trifles, all riveting stuff!

Having failed the virtue of Silence, I moved down the list.

Franklin's list identifies the virtue of Frugality, and this may be my favorite. I don't waste anything. The way I see it, every dollar I waste is a dollar-sized unit of time I must spend working at my job. That means bottled water, Glade Plug-ins and “oxygen bars” are out of the question. In fact, when I contemplate a purchase, I ask myself whether this item, service or commodity is worth the commensurate time I must spend at work, earning the funds. Many people spend $40 on surf and turf. I spend one hour's worth of catheterizing-orifices-and-meddling-in-bodily-humors. Remembering that every dollar wasted commits you to additional servitude will make a frugal person of a drunken sailor.

A few more Franklin virtues proved virtuous, indeed. Cleanliness brings great joy to life. Nothing is worse than suspecting you're less than clean during social engagements. I'd rather catch on fire than have a particle of food between my teeth or body odor. And I'll shake my weener like Pee Wee Herman in an “adult-themed” theater after a trip to the urinal, lest a residual drop soil my BVD boxer-briefs. I use aftershave, hair gel, body spray, mouthwash, wax, body “groomers,” anything that helps me not look, feel or smell like the Neanderthal I am. One must hold fast against the human body and its unyielding effort to embarrass the owner.

Humility, too, is virtuous. It only takes me so long to fuck something up, whatever the endeavor. I find I have less distance to fall if I don't first put myself up on a pedestal. Scaling back expectations – a crucial exercise of Humility – helps, too. After all, how many of our lives worked out as planned? I swear every high school should have the edict Young Person: Prepare thyself for disappointment” chiseled in stone above the career counselor's office. With regard to scaling down expectations: as a rule, if I don't maim or kill myself, delve into bankruptcy or prompt a warrant for my arrest, I've succeeded to a reasonable degree. This thought brings me solace.

Franklin hit a bullseye when he identified Chastity as a virtue. Some of you will be surprised to learn that I embrace Chastity. I find most of the pickles I've put myself in began with a suggestion my penis made. Perhaps you've noticed the same, should you reflect on your own life. Let me assure you that the only sexual relationship worth pursuing is one bounded by commitment and matrimony. Separate checking accounts help, too.

I am most skeptical -- in fact, contemptuous -- of Franklin's call for Industry: Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions. It sounds great. But even a casual investigation of this virtue exposes it for rubbish. The most rewarding times in life are when we're being unproductive, when we're anything but useful. To my way of thinking, the single greatest index of wealth is the amount of leisure time at one's disposal (barring poverty). I take great joy from being useless. I've made an art out of minimizing employment without discarding it altogether. If my schedule at work has me working too many days consecutively, I become suicidal. Remember the ultimate goal of every endeavor, whether you're pulling weeds, saving for retirement, cleaning, exercising, organizing, whatever, is to get to a place where you don't have to do anything. One of the most magical feelings in the world, to me, is late at night, when it dawns on me that I have nothing to do the next day. Bliss.

I met Franklin's list of Virtues halfway. But the philosophy giving rise to Franklin's Virtues, the notion that achieving the proper virtues are necessary to happiness and fulfillment, is worthwhile. I've spent half my life contemplating what these virtues might be, trying this one or that on for size, and observing the results. I'm always refining my list based on results. But I'm making headway. In the next post I'll enumerate my list of Virtues and discuss each. I hope you'll come back to visit and comment. Maybe you can share a few of your own!



*Today I stood behind a uniformed fighter pilot in McDonald's (I live near an Air Force Base). He just received his food order. So I sneaked up close to him and shouted “STINGER MISSLE: SIX O'CLOCK!!!” Startled, he dropped his tray. He turned and gave me a contemptuous look. I lightened the situation with some humor. “Hey,” I said. “You know how in Top Gun, the friend, Goose, gets power-ejected into the flight canopy? I hope that doesn't happen to you someday. You can't even handle a box of McNuggets.” The store manager invited me to leave.

*Once in a while you'll read about friends and family members of a cancer patient who shave their heads to give their loved one a sense of solidarity. It's touching. But if you really want to show a cancer patient that you share the plight, why not induce vomiting 17 times a day? Stick your finger down your throat. Show some camaraderie. Maybe they should get fitted for a sympathy colostomy bag, too. I just thought of something. You know how some states allow you to smoke medical marijuana once you've caught cancer? I'll bet plenty of friends and family come to the patient's bedside then, seeking only, of course, a chance to show their solidarity. Pass the ganja, cue ball.

*If you were in a new rock band and all the members decided to name the band after one of the 50 states, would you choose Kansas?

*You know you hate your job when you're commuting to work and you see a fatal car accident on the freeway, and the victim is still under a sheet, and you think to yourself for a split second, “Lucky bastard – he doesn't have to go to work.” That actually happened to me two weeks ago while I was commuting to work on I-10. I envied the dead. Then I remembered we were having a potluck at work and felt sorry for the dead guy.

*I don't understand this Fantasy Football betting system. Everybody's doing it. “Hey, I've got so-and-so in my Fantasy Football League.” “Oh, really? Well I've got what's-his-name in my Fantasy Football League.” Hey, I don't give a crap which football players you're fantasizing about. If you're fantasizing about football players, guess what. You're queer. If you must fantasize about football, do what I do. Masturbate to the cheerleaders.

*I like to “spoon.” Sometimes I like it so much I pop out a butter knife, if you know what I'm getting at.

*The unseasonably warm spell in New England “proves” global warming in the same way fossilized fish bones in Kansas “prove” the Bible's recount of The Great Flood.

*How does a Chinaman take notes? Imagine drawing all those little pictures during a history lecture. I'd have developed arthritis by the time I was 12. I hope there's such a thing as Chinese shorthand. After all, they have their own version of handcuffs and checkers.


Musings on Heavenly life

I'm living my life in a manner that maximizes my chances of getting to Heaven after I die, or after completing the terms of my purgatory obligations. I spend a lot of time wondering what Heaven is like. Speculating on Heavenly life is both fun and prudent. I hate surprises. I want to arrive at Heaven prepared. The last thing I want to do is stand out like a dipshit tourist. The French angels will mock me behind my back! Up yours, St. Pierre.

I'm confident Heaven is a beautiful place and that if offers residents peace and fulfillment in quantities unknown to earthly existence. But I'm skeptical that Heaven is a Utopia. It can't be perfection. Heavenly life cannot indulge every whim and desire. Remember, God is watching. Moreover, He's closer than ever! Certainly He has rules. Rather than Utopia, Heaven is much like a classy resort where you'll enjoy yourself as long as you adhere to the club rules. Should you trample on the rules, which exist for all the guests' enjoyment, the Manager (i.e., God) will need to have a word with you.

Heaven has its perks. For example, you can drink all the root beer you please and your teeth will never rot. God would gladly allow sugarless root beer to taste as good as the real stuff. But surely you're not bedding down with 72 virgins. I'm not a Biblical scholar, yet I'm confident God would put the kibosh on orgies. You'd have to marry those virgins before you consummated the unions, and then you've got a whole new dilemma on account of the multiple wives. So forget about the virgins. You're pushing your luck just lusting for your favorite movie star up in heaven. And don't even think about self-gratification.

Also, you'll have to clean up after yourself in Heaven. My version of Heaven involves a lot of food. To wit, my Heaven serves barbecue ribs. In fact, let me assure the reader that Heaven is chock full of barbecue ribs - and not those "St. Louis Beef Ribs" that Tony Roma's tries to sell you for 17 bucks a plate (Tony Roma will burn in hell for that!). I mean baby back pork ribs. Anyway, when you're gnawing through the ribs, you can't just toss the bones to and fro like you're Ghangis Khan. You have to show some respect for your host. You have to clean up after yourself. Show some class. Wipe your hands and fingers clean and give the table a once-over. You'll be in luck because unlike here on earth, in Heaven there's an endless supply of wet-naps. That's one difference between Heaven and earth: endless supplies of wet-naps miracled right the fuck into your BBQ-soiled fingers. Imagine the convenience of endless, easily accessible wet-naps - especially if you do have sex with the 72 virgins.

What do you suppose lodging arrangements are like in Heaven? Do you get a dorm room? Is it like a YMCA? Let's say you get your own house. Is there an HOA? I hope so. I don't want to get to Heaven only to have to look at my neighbors' garbage cans and disabled automobiles in their yards.

Does Heaven have a dress code? I'm not sure. To many people, part of the Heavenly experience is being able to walk around naked, like Adam and Eve did. I doubt God would deny this request. I base my opinion on all those Renaissance paintings. Many of those models make Brittney Spears look humble by comparison. Oily, glistening body parts everywhere at the Louvre and the Sistine Chapel. Evidently, God has no problem with nakedness. I wouldn't test Him, however, by wearing a thong. You'd think it would be OK because it's more clothing than being naked. But God won't see it that way. This isn't Fredericks of Hollywood, you little Jezebel. It's Heaven. If you can't suppress the urge to place a triangle of fabric over your lady parts, find a fig leaf. Haven't you thumbed through a Renaissance art book? Tons of fig leaves, no thongs.

What I wonder most about is, can you get kicked out of Heaven once you're in? Does Heaven have bouncers? Or, once St. Peter waves you through the gate, are you set for eternity? Is there tenure in Heaven? Can you loaf around like a tenured college professor and write a manifesto on how your country sucks, without fear of losing the gig? I need to know this before it's too late, because if I get to Heaven (and the chances are plummeting even as I write this) I'm planning on partying like Lindsey Lohan on a binge. I'm a faithful servant here on earth, but my Heavenly bachelor pad will have a stocked bar, a kickin' stereo, a dish of coke on the coffee table and a faucet with hot and cold running cheerleaders. Wet nap, please.

I'd like to believe that once you're in Heaven, you're in for good. But I doubt that's the way it works. God watches us our entire lives to judge whether we're eligible for heaven. He can't let just anybody hang around or heavenly real estate prices will plummet; that is, people won't work as hard to get it. If you think about it, your life here on earth is basically just one big credit check. To continue this analogy, I hope that Heaven is like taking a mortgage on your home: once you get the loan, the bank can't mess with you as long as you come up with the payments, regardless of how badly you ding your credit afterward. If that's the case, then you can party your angelic ass off in Heaven without fear of consequence.

But God just isn't the banker, He's the landLord. He can evict you. I just hope God gives notice before pulling that Golden Lever Hell Chute. I know myself. I'll probably screw a few thing up at first and give offense to other Heavenly residents. I don't want to be condemned to hell for a faux pas. Maybe when you first get to Heaven they give you a pamphlet with all the rules and guidelines. I'd feel more comfortable after reviewing a pamphlet. God knows I haven't read the Bible as thoroughly as I should. The Pamphlet could be like the Cliff's Notes for the Bible, plus a few bullet marked rules for life in Heaven. Benjamin Franklin lives in Heaven. Maybe he can whip something up and kick out a few million Pamphlets for newcomers. Poor Richard's Heavenly Almanac.

I hope there's a bar in Heaven. The Heavenly Bar... never a cover charge. Here's a great name for a bar in Heaven: Cloud Nine. All I know is, after a few "John Paul Mai Tais" I'll turn into a real jerk - picking fights with the other angels, dropping f-bombs, taking a whiz on the furniture, that whole scene. That reminds me, I don't care what the Pamphlet ordains. I'm not giving up swearing. I won't take the Lord's name in vain. That goes without saying. But angels and deities within earshot had better miracle some earplugs and pop them in if they take offense to vulgar slang. I insist on the right to curse in Heaven. That's a deal-breaker, St. Peter.

As you can see, I take my musings on Heaven very seriously. I aim to arrive prepared for the lifestyle change. No culture shock here. As I refine my Heavenly musings, I'll of course publish them to this blog so that my readers might benefit as well. I may even publish that Pamphlet I told you about. Up yours, Ben Franklin.



**A man's man and a ladies' man are both pretty cool things to be, even though they sound like opposites. Also cool: being a girly girl, if you're a girl. No word yet on a man's lady. We'd have to ask Rosie O'Donnell.

**I'm sorry about the infrequent posts lately. I've been busy. After Justin brought sexy back, I had to mix it into a batter and bake all the sexy cupcakes. Bon appetit.

**Courts spend a lot of time and energy considering whether something is offensive without first considering whether it's true. If it's true, it shouldn't matter whether it's offensive. If it does, we've got an ugly future coming down the pike.

**The anti-tobacco people could move their agenda a lot quicker if instead of calling it second-hand smoke, they called it second-mouth smoke. It's more accurate and more gross.

**The seductive power of music is dangerous. Music bypasses the intellect, taking a direct avenue into the organ of emotion. Music is not dangerous for this reason alone. But remember that you can put words to music. Like soaking poison into fruit, any dipshit with a guitar and a promoter can pollute our minds with day-old tripe delivered in a delicious elixir of melody. Hello, System of a (Douchebag).

**I've read several times, from several credible sources, that one's degree of happiness is a fixed value encoded into the brain, such that temporary fluctuations in mood (e.g., winning the lottery, splitting with a girlfriend, acing a test or catching a sharp blow to the marbles) will regress to the predetermined set point. According to peer-reviewed, scientific research, we all have a "happiness thermostat" that remains remarkably consistent throughout our lives. This, I'm afraid, may be true. Furthermore, I believe that we intuit this fact. And this intuition -- that despite our efforts, we're only going to be so happy -- gives rise to our obsessions, fears, anger, anxiety and depression. We panic. We anguish and toil. We endeavor to do a thousand different things to prove this suspicion wrong: everything from chasing material possessions to building careers to searching for love to drinking and drugs; whatever we hope may permanently tweak the thermostat higher. We're all running from the nagging suspicion that it doesn't matter what we do.

**"Psychology" is the the study of the slimy, opaque goo between intellect and emotion. I realized this tonight when I feared a monster would suddenly appear on the other side of my bay window while pouring myself a soda. By the way, I'm in my mid-30s. I'm still afraid of monsters, ghosts and sundry bogeymen. This isn't a joke. On a bad night I'm still afraid of the dark. These irrational fears happen so often I don't find them unusual. But tonight it struck me peculiar that I could know -- know intellectually, beyond a trace of doubt -- that no such monsters exist - and yet still feel fear, even panic.

The facts of reality are easy to perceive (we all know, for example, that monsters don't exist or that members of the opposite sex don't bite.). Emotions are easy to identify. They're not subtle. For example, we all know when we're angry, frightened, jealous, bored, joyful or ecstatic. Neither thoughts nore emotions are unclear. What is unclear, what is is goddamn near impossible to study, is the mechanics linking the two, that is, intellect and emotion. Psychologists will tell you that one follows the other. Bullcrap! If that were true, psychology wouldn't exist. We wouldn't need psychology. We'd all be perceiving reality accurately and feeling the appropriate emotions. But sometimes emotions zig when they should zag. What we think and what we feel don't jibe. Something bizarre happens in the medium of opaque goo between intellect and emotion. That is what psychology needs to predict and explain. Damn I have to quit smoking ganja.


Women's fashion

Everybody remembers their mom and their older sisters roaming the house (or the local WalMart) with hair curlers. Hair curlers were all the rage. In the 1970s, my grandma went through enough curlers to compose the Alaskan Pipeline. She wasn't alone. Curlers were everywhere. They'd advertise curler kits on TV all the damn time, even during cartoons, which confused me. I guess they wanted pre-adolescent girls to know that once they grew older, they'd need to stop reading all those books and begin stocking their hair full of plastic tubes.

Nowadays girls are straightening their hair with a device called the... hair straightener. It's an iron – a heating element that clamps hair and irons it straight. I wish we had a similar device for straightening out hippie weirdos. We could permanent-press the MTV dipshitery right out of them. Anyway, straight hair is the latest fashion. Some women will spend up to an hour in the morning straightening their hair. And these are the same women who a decade ago spent an hour curling their hair. In a span of 10 years, women went from giving their hair as much curl as possible to eradicating even the subtlest wave. Why is that? If curls were attractive, how can straight hair be attractive? They're polar opposites. Today's women live in the Bizzaro world of the 1980s. I'm not going to cheapen things by contrasting pubic hair of these two decades.

But that's precisely what fashion does. It teeters from one extreme to the other. What immediately followed bell-bottom jeans? Pegged jeans, the practice of cinching one's pant legs around the ankles as small as Nicole Ritchie's turds. Remember doing that? It seemed logical at the time. Bell-bottoms were the hallmark of fashion ignorance. So of course you have to minimize the diameter of your pant leg. Peg it.

For a while, it looked like afros were coming back into style. You couldn't imagine my excitement. Remember those few NBA pros who were letting their afros grow? It looked like an episode of Fat Albert on the court. Sweet! You know what's cool about afros? They don't grow longer. They inflate. Anyway, afros were making a comeback. Then Sean Puff Daddy Combs became popular and ruined everything. Ludacris, too. You can kiss the afro goodbye thanks to those guys. Of course, we're left with the polar opposite: tight, little spheres of hair an eighth-inch larger than the diameter of one's head. I blame The Man. Why? Because afros make The Man sweat through his straight-haired pores.

I was hoping not to wax crude. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention boobs. Boob jobs were all the rage in the 1990s – stone, spherical breasts sculpted onto the chest. But a decade or so of time has rendered boob jobs obsolete. Ask men. They'll tell you they miss the "natural look." We don't want anything on a woman immune to gravity, except the ankles, which we hope to find floating in the air. Now that perfect breasts are something you can buy, they're not so perfect anymore. This phenomenon gives tremendous insight into the area of aesthetics and beauty. Scarcity is sine qua non in the realm of fashion.

You can apply the opposite extreme phenomenon to hundreds of fashion trends: shirt collars, handbags, shoes, body habitus, eyebrows, neckties, and the simultaneous popularity of Rachel Ray and Paris Hilton (one whips cream, caramelizes nuts and steams frankfurters; the other has a cooking show on The Food Network). Maybe that's why we're all so disillusioned. We realize, if only intuitively, that everything we're doing now we'll be fighting to undo 10 years from now: homes, decors, marriages, careers, fashions.



*True fact: The name “Beyonce,” translates from Zimbabwean to mean “big, butterscotch titties.”

*I just rented the movie “Lady in the Water,” or as I've begun calling it, “Money down the Drain.” I'm also tossing around “Shayalaman's Career in the Crapper.”

*I wish I held the patent on silverware. Either I'd be the richest man alive or we'd all be some messy eaters. Either way, I'd have more fun with life.

*Here's a phrase I want to spread around: “Just because you pack a gat' don't make you Snoop Doggy Dogg.”

*The guy who invented the gun and the guy who invented the bullet had to be the same freggin' guy, right? Also, the guy who invented the airbag has a patent pending. But what about the guy who invented the lunchbag? He's touched many more lives. Imagine that trip to the patent office: “You see, it's this bag, right, and you put food in there that you take to lunch... What do you mean I can't patent this? Don't you see the folds? That's technology right there.” Anyway, do you think the lunch bag guy sees any royalties? If so, I'll bet he took a big hit in the 1970s when they introduced those superhero lunchboxes.

*If I owned a bait shop, alongside the bait I'd sell fish. The sign above the fish would read “Certified, Pre-Caught Fish. Cut out the middleman and go home early!

*We pay a lot for our overdeveloped sense of justice here in America. Where else in the world do they gun people down for failing to signal a lane change because they were talking on a cell phone? How many Japanese employees, for another example, piss in the company punchbowl at the office party because they couldn't wear their “Buck Fush” tee shirt on casual Friday? How many Indians will kick you in the crotch for wearing the visiting team's sports jersey?

*So what happens to a gay guy if he accidentally sees two girls making out? Does he burst into flames or something? I ask because when straight guys accidentally do something gay, like touch their friend's butt during a football game, they usually compensate by doing something extra-macho to bring the scale back into balance, like belch or pick a fight. When Madonna kissed Brittney on TV, I'll bet sales of leather chaps skyrocketed.

*If global warming is really threatening to melt the polar ice caps, why are ground-level Manhattan condos still going for 3.2 million?


Cold Mountain

The three mountain climbers who recently succumbed to winter's wrath on Mt. Hood have me contemplating extreme winter sports. At first, I thought the climbers were mental. But I learned on the news that many outdoor enthusiasts believe inhospitable winters and occasional blizzards enhance the thrill of climbing, hiking, snow-shoeing, etc. Unless you're a Wookie, I can't imagine how this is so. But it is. Evidently, inclement weather does indeed attract a contingent of outdoor hobbyists.

Here's what I don't understand: these same hobbyists equip themselves with whatever high-tech gear defeats the rigors of winter. They seal themselves in Gortex snowsuits, bask in portable heaters and tinker with GPS systems as they “brave” the frozen landscapes. Why do all that? Why seek extreme cold only to (hopefully) defeat it with extreme gear? That's like eating a laxative and some Pepto Bismol at the same time and then bragging about how regular your bowels are. After all, the sport is in besting the cold, surviving the game, cheating death. You don't need a far-removed winter wasteland to do that. Instead, why not seek milder weather and set out with second-rate gear and clothing? Less cold, less Eddie Bauer, less Sharper Image. Same effect. And should you be unequal to the challenge, you won't become a Human Pudding Pop.

For example, instead of climbing Mt. Hood, try the Matterhorn – not the real one in Switzerland, but the replica in Disneyland. Don't knock the idea. Here's a true story: my wife watched a man plummet to his death from the top of the Matterhorn back in the 1970s. Everybody who saw him die received a coupon for a complimentary breakfast at the Hungry Bear Restaurant. Anyway, when you're climbing the Matterhorn, instead of Gortex, wear a pair of holey mittens and a Bon Jovi tee shirt. You'll freeze. But you'll survive long enough to brag about it to the security officers with the Donald Duck Nightsticks and Pluto Tazer Guns.

Here's another idea. Spend some time in the Bay Area in khakis, a fitted tee and an Old Navy pull-over. You'll freeze your ass off. That weather would force a homophobic pipe-fitter into a bathhouse just so he could warm his fingers in Sergio's buttcrack. By the way, there's nothing gay about cuddling for warmth in desperate situations. Cold weather has coaxed more straight men to embrace then the showers at Leavenworth.

Here's another idea. Don a Speedo and jump in the icy ocean like the Swedes do, or the Norwegians, or the Wisconsinites or whoever does that ritual where they jump in the cold lake in the middle of winter. Now there's a way to prove your manhood: dunking your balls in ice water and wading about. My sack would cinch up like a Shrinky Dink. I don't even want to think about those freaks in Wisconsin. Thirty seconds in a frozen pond and my beanbag would have more wrinkles than Robert Redford's profile. Hey, that gives me a great idea. You could name your pecker “Butch Cassidy.” Then you could name your ballsack “The Sundance Kid.” Anyway, I wonder if they make Gortex jockstraps for the Wisconsinite freakos.

The point is, if you indulge your urge to brave the wintertime elements, leave yourself an out.