6/29/2007

bullet-ins

  • Regarding the guys who wear Superman tee shirts: we should shoot them and test whether the bullet ricochets off their chests. It would be like the Salem witch trials, only instead of drowning witches, we’d be weeding out douche bags. Either you really are Superman, in which case, no harm done. Or you’re a 25 year-old college dropout with the mentality of an 8-year-old boy with a proclivity for Underoos; in which case, no great loss to society.
  • If Al Gore writes an autobiography, and being the attention whore he is, I’m sure he will, he should name it, AlGorithms.
  • A percentage of females think they’re witches. How does one discover she’s a witch? Does she microwave a bowl of Campbell’s Soup and it comes out a boiling cauldron of children’s flesh? Or, when she walks by a broom, does it spring to life and begin sweeping the effing house all by itself? Does it begin with an irrational sympathy for that lady under the house in The Wizard of Oz? Strange how this is a female phenomenon. You don’t see men trying to convince people they’re a werewolf or something. However, both sexes are equally likely to claim they’re vampires. I’d have no use at all for those goth kids if I didn’t own stock in Hot Topic.
  • I’ll bet porcupines’ favorite plants are cactuses. I have a hunch they see them as kin.
  • I don’t understand hunger strikes. How does one affect political or social change by skipping meals? There are high school girls with poor body images all over America doing that and the most important social message they have is, “Vote for Pedro.” What if you’re protesting world hunger? It seems counterproductive to fast in that case. I think you should binge-eat. Buy an all-you-can-eat ticket at Luby’s Cafeteria and refuse to leave until your stomach ruptures or until they start air-dropping MRE’s on Central Africa. Fight the power.
  • Here’s something cool I discovered. If you watch drunken boxing while you’re drunk, it looks like normal boxing. Sidenote: I was so drunk when I watched Legend of Drunken Master, I fired off a nasty-gram to Jackie Chan demanding he refund my $3.99 rental fee. In the letter, I exclaimed, “Hell, I can do that. In fact, I’m doing it right now. I just punched out a vase and kicked the crap out of my entertainment center. You’re just Bruce Lee’s bitch, bitch.”

6/26/2007

Catching up with Mr. Benz

Greetings, dear readers. I’d like to try something different with today’s post. Usually I write an irreverent essay or a collection of bullet-marked musings. I often employ hyperbole or deliberate absurdity for comedic effect. But today, I’d instead like to memorialize my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Benz. I got to thinking about him, his classroom and that formative year of my life, and at once it struck me that my recollections would make a great weblog post. So enjoy these anecdotes and remembrances of Mr. Benz. And please know that every word of what I wrote here is true. I have not exaggerated or embellished for effect.

• Every Friday, we’d place our names into a coffee can and draw to determine where we’d sit the following week. Then we’d slide our desks about the room to our new position. Mr. Benz took great delight when by luck of the draw, kids who despised one another were seated together (there were several notorious rivalries between students). The seating shuffle was great fun.
Sexual innuendo was constant. In fact, it wasn’t always innuendo; it was often explicit. For example, our SRA testing booklets would often fold into each other in storage. As he passed them out, he would announce who was “inside” whom to squirms and laughter from the class.
• Among the constant sexual innuendo was a class discussion on the nudity and adult themes of the movie, The Blue Lagoon. Other movies and actors were subjects for discussion vis a vis sexuality.
• Mr. Benz once informed the class that he and his wife slept in the nude. This appalled some students, who at their tender age surely believed pajamas were standard attire for the civilized world.
• Every Friday, we’d play 2 games of dodgeballin the classroom. We’d move all the desks to the periphery of the room. We’d line up along the blackboard. Then he’d take potshots at us with a 4-square ball. He targeted the genitalia. I’m not kidding. When an unfortunate soul caught one in the crotch, the class erupted in laughter. It happened every damn game. For the second game, you couldn’t dodge the ball. You were obligated to catch it. An interesting twist on this classic game. Of course, the ball would often penetrate the phalanx of kids and strike the blackboard, leaving a print in the chalk dust. We’d preserve the prints for the rest of the day. Battle scars.
• Benz was a staunch anti-Communist. This was 1981-82, the zenith of the Cold War and Reagan’s nuclear arms race. He kept us abreast of our nuclear capabilities (Star Wars, the MX strategic missile project, etc.), and the ambitions of the Red Chinese. He cautioned us that the overpopulated Chinese wouldn’t mind losing a few hundred million people and that this disposition left them trigger-happy for nuclear war. Shrewd military analysis.
Politics was often the subject matter of the day. He criticized a Chicagoland police agency for recalling badges that read “policeman” and replacing them with the PC term “police person.”
• This shocks me to remember. One day, a kid responded to one of Mr. Benz’s statements with, “Say what?" (About this time, “Say what?” was a bit of ghetto speak enjoying popularity on the playgroud.) Mr. Benz pointed an angry finger at the perpetrator and reprimanded through clenched teeth, “I don’t have any little black kids in this class room. Speak properly.” Holy crap, huh? Don’t start hitting the emergency speed dial button to the ACLU. This was 25 years ago and Mr. Benz has long since retired and is likely dead.
• Classrooms often work themselves up into a frenzy. Ours was no exception. When Mr. Benz failed to recapture our attention with verbal coaxing, he’d stop talking, produce a large, green whistle from his desk drawer, and blow like gangbusters until the class fell silent. This happened once or twice per day and never failed to produce the desired results.
• Mr. Benz ran a gambling ring from his desk. Only instead of US currency, he brokered in candy. All kids were welcome to bet candy on professional sporting events. We could bet whatever quantity of candy we liked, and the house (Mr. Benz) would cover all bets. He kept an inventory of candy in his desk drawer. He logged all bets in a ledger once both parties agreed on an equitable exchange of candy goodies. If you lost, you lost. He’d have none of that be-magnanimous-and-give-the-candy-back-to-the-kid-because-he-learned-a-valuable-lesson-about-gambling crap.
• Fridays were also dress-up days. You weren’t obligated to dress-up. It was optional. However, those who dressed up enjoyed the privilege of chewing gum in class. Chewing gum in class is the 5th grade equivalent of skinny dipping at the Playboy Mansion. Mr. Benz warned us that if he caught us chewing gum while we weren’t dressed up, the perpetrator would have to stick the parcel of gum on his or her nose, where it would remain for the remainder of the day. He made good on this threat on at least one occasion. For that day, Scott S. was the object of ridicule.
• He would time individual work and testing to coincide with the daily Paul Harvey talk radio broadcast. We’d all listen to the radio as we worked quietly at our desks. Often, Paul Harvey’s broadcast would prompt discussions on society or politics.
• Benz remembered the older siblings of his current students. He once joked with a student that he (Mr. Benz) would buy marijuana cigarettes and other illicit drugs from students’ older brothers on the playground. “Yeah, you’re brother was out there selling. A buck a stick.” He often regaled us with anecdotes of prior students, especially those involving older siblings of current students.
Drug innuendo was part of the culture, too. Should a student exhibit strange behavior, talk gibberish or give an odd answer, Mr. Benz would ask whether he had been smoking “funny cigarettes.” Benz accounted most peculiarities to “funny cigarettes.” Always with the funny cigarettes.
• Parent teacher conferences brought Benz and kids’ mothers together for an afternoon each quarter. Those of us with attractive moms (I was one) would hear about it in class.
• He’d often commission contests of physical prowess between students. For example, wrist wrestling and Indian leg wrestling. The class would observe as two 5th graders battled for dominance. Sometimes class was like that movie, Gladiator.
• He also facilitated battles of wits. He organized multiplication table races in which pairs of students would race to answer multiplication. He also had that baby toy where you have to insert differently shaped objects through a plastic box. He timed us. The lowest time had bragging rights.
• He introduced us to “horse racing,” a contest in which boys would visit the public restroom, line up, and on cue run to a urinal, where each would urinate as quickly as possible. He who left the stall first was the winner. He asked that when we horse race that we finish our business before we leave the stall.
• Mr. Benz would encourage the class to collectively rate each student – not on academic performance or quality of character, but on sexual attractiveness. We’d rate each other on a scale from 1 to 10. I’m proud to report I got a couple of 10s in my day, on account of the corduroy jeans I’d wear on dress-up Fridays (above). Those powder blue babies never let me down.
• Mr. Benz conducted a class exercise in which he solicited from us students those attributes desirable in a future spouse. He wrote our answers on the blackboard. Then we prioritized them. One smart-ass kid, the one who had the gum applied to his nose, named “boobs” as an important trait. Benz obliged they kid, writing “chest” on the board to the oohs and ahhs of the students.

I could go on, but I think I’ve given you an adequate dose of Mr. Benz. The above is only a fraction of my memories of the man.

So what do you think of ole Mr. Benz, people? Is he Teacher of the Year, or public enemy #1? All I know is, he’s damn lucky he taught in those decades before political correctness.

6/21/2007

Bullet-ins

• I finally tried gelato for the first time. I gather “gelato” is Italian for “overpriced ice cream.”

• Many people confront Iraq War supporters with the following jujitsu logic: “Are you willing to fight? Why don’t you enlist and go to war in Iraq if you believe in it?” Faulty logic! I believe in a lot of things that I’m not prepared to do myself. I believe in weekly trash pick-up, but I’m not going to be a garbage man. I support yearly prostate exams – but I’m not about to start giving those!

• I recently read a news headline: “American Indians say, ‘Earth Mother getting angry’ (about global warming).” No word yet on how Earth Mother feels about legions of casinos and tax-free cigarettes. Would you care to comment, Chief Rolling Dice?

• I hate to keep quipping about boner pill commercials – but they keep broadcasting them! The latest Viagra theme is, you have to be really clever. I don’t know how clever one need be to pop a pill or a boner or both, but evidently, that’s the message they want to drive home. Question: if the “ED” population (what happened to good ole “impotence,” by the way?) is so damn clever, why must we counsel them to seek medical help if their erections don’t desist within 4 hours? It seems a clever man would seize the logic himself: “Hmmm. I stopped having intercourse 3 hours and 56 minutes ago. Yet I’m still plagued with this damned erection. I believe I’ll seek medical help – right after I remove the tape from the VCR and move my Corvette from under the sprinkler.”

• There isn’t a chef in the world who can do to meat what a pile of charcoal briquettes can do. Give me my Weber and a bag of Kingsford and I’ll make Wolfgang Puck my barback bitch.

Cell phones continue to increase in complexity and sophistication, offering users more and more tasks they can do with their phones – provided they don’t mind taking ten times as long to do it. I wonder if cell phones will one day double as prophylactics. I’ll be able to make love for a full 20 minutes!

• I find it ironic that the only thing I own that isn’t made in China is my effing china! Evidently, my china comes from Taiwan. My world keeps making less and less sense.

• I’ve decided to jump on the wireless technology bandwagon. I have a few prototypes in the works. First up, the wireless trapeze swing. I’ve killed several volunteers testing this invention. They would have survived but for the misfortune of simultaneously testing a stringless net. Also on my drawing board: wireless parachutes, wireless under-wire braziers, wireless Firewire computer jacks, wireless steel wire brush, and wireless wire-rimmed glasses. I’m gonna make millions of dollars. So enjoy my company now while I’m still poor enough to be your friend!

• I thought the Hillary Clinton ad spoofing The Sopranos was cute. You know what was missing, though? Monica Lewinsky riding the pole at the Bada Bing! Now you've got yourself a spoof.

6/19/2007

Some thoughts on anger

I’m a relatively angry person. I’m not lunatic or a psychopath. But I’m angrier than the next guy. On the anger scale, I fall somewhere between Alec Baldwin (after a phone call to his loving daughter) and a tweaked-out wolverine.

I’ve tried to eliminate anger from my life. Anger is painful. It’s poison to the mind and soul. Anger is detrimental (unless you’re John MnEnroe or a civil rights leader, in which cases anger is virtuous. Rosa Parks got angry and sat on the cotton gin, or whatever the hell she did. The point is, we got a civil rights movement out of it. And that was good). I, myself, have never done anything I’m proud of while angry. I’ve done a few things in anger that are, in retrospect, funny. I’ve also done a lot of things that have brought me shame. For example, I once hurled a bagel at the back of an old lady’s head. Her wheelchair was blocking my path to the newspaper stand. This is a fine example, as it tends to be both funny and shameful.

I began my task of reducing anger with adherence to the scientific method. Specifically, I began with 3 postulates:

1) Anger is detrimental (as discussed above).
2) Anger is a product of “junk thought,” irrational thoughts like unreasonably high expectations, self-centeredness, over-emphasis of setbacks, inconveniences, failures, etc.; and the popularity of Sanjaya.
3) If anger is a product of one’s thinking, and one’s thinking is under one’s control, then one can influence the amount of anger in one’s life by directing his thoughts.

Holding fast to these 3 postulates, I analyzed whatever thoughts occasioned my bouts of anger. I often employed a digital voice recorder (the same one I use to record my blog ideas) to capture my angry thoughts in the raw – without inhibition or judgment, and before I had time to edit them for rationality. Example: “This pole-smoker cut me off without using his turn signal. I guess he’s running late for his handjob gig at the YMCA. Rent must be due. That’s why he’s driving like an inconsiderate prick.”

For several weeks I recorded my angry thoughts, or wrote them down when I was close to my computer, which was so often the case, as my computer is the cause of so much anger. My Mac is wonderful. But my printer, wireless keyboard and mouse, digital camera, speakers and other peripherals are a bunch of silicon-based cocksuckers who take great joy in aggravating me. In fact, I often fantasize that inanimate objects like the ones I listed above can feel pain. Then I smash and shatter them with my bare hands and assure myself I’ve exacted justice. Incidentally, the best thing about brutalizing an inanimate object is that it can’t give testimony in court. Heck, it can’t even cry out for help.

As time passed, I found myself with quite a collection of angry thoughts. I analyzed them. I discovered something peculiar. First, I’m a bit crazy. Second, my angry thoughts reduced to one of 4 themes. Eureka! Whatever my angry thoughts, and however diverse, bizarre or unique the circumstances prompting them, my thoughts were easily categorized into one of four themes. Each theme is a dominant attitude, a perception of existence, that gives rise to the thought and the associated anger.

This stands to reason. After all, anger is more than just misplaced car keys or a stubbed toe or some other mundane frustration. Something significant must take place for anger to manifest. Anger is a psychological event. It’s a recipe. The ingredients must come together in the right proportion in the right order and at the right time. Then, bam! You’re effing pissed.

Were this not the case, we’d all be equally angry, as we’re all dealing with basically the same shit. But internally, we’re all different. Our mental schematics are as unique as our genetic makeup. So are the themes which give rise to our angry thoughts. I’ll list the 4 themes I discovered below, along with a brief discussion of each:


The Uncanny Force

This is by far the most common theme to my angry thoughts.

The Uncanny Force is the perception that some higher power is conspiring against you. Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s an ultra sophisticated alien race. Maybe it’s a wizard behind a curtain pressing buttons and levers and watching you inside his crystal ball. Up yours, Gandalf! No matter. The point is, you’d swear some intelligent being is deliberately trying to piss you off. And when he serves you a crap sandwich, you rise to anger.

Example: My backyard. Every thing I want to grow, dies. Everything I want to die, grows.

I once had a lawn. I nurtured it with rich soil, an irrigation system, fertilizer, etc. Still, it looked about as healthy as Bea Arthur’s twat patch. So I’d replant my lawn with new seed and nurtured the sprouts. They died faster than Bo Bice’s singing career. So I dug it up and buried my yard in decorative rock. Now thick, plush patches of grass erupt from under 4” of rock – with no fertilizer, water or direct sunlight! Uncanny!

I’ve also been trying to kill a lime tree for six years. I’ve trimmed it to the ground buried under rocks, poured bleach on it, put it in a judo choke hold, lit it on fire, and spoken to it in harsh, abusive tones. The results? The thing grows faster than the national debt. I’m not kidding people: nothing kills this tree and it grows like a weed. It does produce some great limes, though.

Why is this uncanny? Because my yard should be one of two things: 1) an inhospitable wasteland in which nothing survives (too acidic, poorly irrigated, too much sun, etc). or 2) a fertile nursery for plant life in which everything, both aesthetic and unsightly, grows.

Instead, I get the worst of both worlds. Uncanny!


From the erroneous to the absurd!

Absurdity is another theme of anger. I can handle everyday errors, foibles and shortcomings. We all make mistakes. We all fall short of perfection. For example, somebody might cut me off in traffic without signaling. I don’t get angry. Others do, but I remind myself that this was a mistake, that the last 100 times, this guy probably remembered to signal and drove courteously, and that I, too, from time to time, forget to signal or fail to see a car in a neighboring lane. No harm.

But when this same driver spends the next 15 miles unnecessarily braking, weaving from his lane, throwing trash out the window, blaring his stereo and brandishing what appears to be either an early model cell phone or a firearm, I become angry. Why? Because it’s no longer just a mistake. It’s a lifestyle. It’s inconsiderateness to an absurd degree. Now I’m pissed.

Examples of other absurdities:

• Government overspending is a given; Six trillion dollars is absurd.

• Annoying, big-mouth people in Hollywood are a given; Rosie O’Donnell is absurd.

• Automobile breakdowns are a given; the Ford Focus is absurd.

• Earning a living is a given; working 40 hours per week is absurd (stop and think how long 40 hours is).

When everyday aggravations escalate to an absurd degree, I become angry.


The Big Rush

When I’m in a hurry, I’m disposed to anger. No mystery here. When time is short, every inconvenience is a major imposition. For example, I was in a Circle-K waiting to buy a Thirstbuster. Some old hag was buying lottery tickets. No big deal. Old hags and lottery tickets are part of life. But this hag is buying like 20 tickets, each with a permutation of her grandkids’ ages and whatnot. She’s filling out cards and telling the cashier how to work the machine. I swear, I refinanced my house with less paperwork and bullshit. Look, grandma. You can play all the significant numbers of your life. At the end of the day, you lose. The state keeps your 20 bucks and now you have to remove your teeth and suck your landlord’s prick so you don’t have to sleep in the streets.

Why the need for the above hostility? Because I’m angry. I’m angry because I was in a hurry to get to class and grandma was taking inordinate time to buy lottery tickets. Interestingly, were I not in a rush, not only would I not have been angry, I would have helped the old broad pick her numbers. “Hey, you’ve got 3 teeth left. Why don’t you play the number 3, grandma?”

The point is, being in a rush disposed me to anger when I otherwise would have remained calm.


The Emotional Profit Margin

This theme is difficult to explain. Imagine all the good things in life (sunsets, deep kisses, a great song on the radio, ice cream). Add them up into a lump sum and think of it as revenue. Now imagine all the bad things in life (paying bills, working a job, illness, failure, The View). Total them and think of it as expense. Now make a ratio of good things to bad things. Hopefully that ratio is greater than one. But so often it’s just a tiny fraction more than one. That is, the good things in life barely eke out the bad things. So you’re left with this razor-thin “emotional profit margin,” which roughly quantifies your happiness. With life’s vicissitudes, this ratio moves around like a stock price. Sometimes, life is good and you’re way into the black. Not much anger just now. Sometimes, something awful happens and you plunge into the red. You’re depressed – too depressed even to muster anger. You mope and question the meaning of life.

But most of the time, you’re in neither of these extremes. You’re in the middle, battling right at the margin, etching a small and precarious emotional profit. This is where you’re most prone to anger. The reason is similar to the Big Rush, above. Every disappointment, every aggravation, every setback – threatens the emotional profit margin. Specifically, it threatens to outweigh the good with the bad, to reduce the ratio to a quotient less than one, to make life unprofitable, to sap happiness. Indeed, the value of life itself hangs in the balance. Any pain-in-the-ass bullshit can push you over the edge. When such is the case, mundane frustrations anger you in exaggerated proportions. Just a commute to work can have you questioning the value of life, because the race between good and bad was such a close race, a traffic jam or a flat tire put the bad stuff into the lead.


Such is the why and wherefore of my anger: the angry thoughts themselves and the themes that gave rise to them. My strategy for eliminating anger became clear:
I must purge my mind of the 4 themes that give rise to my “junk thought.” No more destructive themes, no more irrational thoughts, no more anger. A little resolution and mental will power should do the trick. Once I dismantle the themes, I should be anger-free.

Easier said than done. I tried to dislodge the themes from my mind, but largely failed. It turns out those themes are stubborn things. Trifling with them only seemed to make me angrier. The truth is, the themes are innate parts of my psyche. They’re hard-wired in there along with the love of ice cream and foot rubs. Here’s a typical example: A while back I was angry at a computer keyboard. I was totally aware of the Uncanny Force theme in my mind. I understood exactly what was taking place mentally. I realized how silly the whole thing was. Even then, I still couldn’t dispel the theme or the anger. My efforts to diffuse the situation were fruitless. I felt like David Hasselhoff trying to eat that hamburger – helpless, hapless and messy.

My keyboard paid the price – in pain.

Such is the case with so much psychopathology. Awareness is great, but it’s not enough to change. This is why years of costly psychotherapy often fail. Becoming aware of one’s anger is great. Gaining insight to our psychopathology is wonderful. The problem is, we don’t change much. Ultimately, what we are dominates what we’d like to be. So it is with me and my angry disposition. I know how I get angry. I know why I get angry. I just don’t know how to prevent it. Those anger-causing themes endure despite my efforts. So wish me luck, dear reader.

6/16/2007

Bullet-ins

Minorities and females don’t realize what a blast it is to be a white, heterosexual male. Sure, they suspect we enjoy certain privileges, but they don’t know the half of it. The best perk is, at our secret meetings they hand out “White Male Hetero” laminated business cards. You get 10% off at Kohl’s when you show it to the cashier.
• I have a superhuman ability to attract women. Those poor ladies who fall victim to it don't stand a chance. The only problem is, 99.99982% of the female population has the gene that gives them complete immunity to my powers. To them, I’m just a mildly annoying douche bag with poor fashion sense.
• Why can’t they give you a suntan tattoo over your entire body? They could call it the TANtoo.
• Everybody has some innate talent -- something they can do extraordinarily well. My talent appears to be the ability to produce mediocre results in everything I try.
• It would be fun if somebody discovered huge oil reserves in Darfur. I’d enjoy watching everybody who demanded us to go suddenly insist we not swap “blood for oil” and that we should respect a “sovereign nation.” On the other hand, all the people who didn’t give a damn about the suffering there would suddenly want to become the world’s heroes.
• When I eat Skittles, Tootsie Rolls or other candies, I want to savor them by letting them slowly dissolve in my mouth. But I always give way to temptation. I bite into them. I can’t resist. I have to taste all that deliciousness at once. Please don’t read anything into this; I’m not a premature ejaculator.
• Remember when Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield’s ear? I’m surprised some opportunistic chocolateer didn’t introduce the world to Evander Holyfield Giant Chocolate Ears. Available in milk and dark chocolate.
Guys are becoming bigger pussies with time. Genetic experts predict that within 2 generations, 25% of men will secrete styling gel from their hair follicles – and Axe Body Spray from their pubic regions.