Monthly Archives: February 2011

Lame Adventure 164: Earwax or butterscotch?

It’s the usual dull days of winter at work.  The afternoon was crawling along so anemically, it was if the sands of time fell grain by grain.   I stared slack-jawed and bleary-eyed at my computer screen reading editorial copy written by my Lord & Master, Elsbeth.  She had repeated “traditional” three times in the span of seventeen words.  As Elsbeth struggles to write her prose, I struggle to maintain consciousness while editing that prose, but often I fail and my mind wanders.  While reading a sentence about glaze character, I can just as easily find myself wondering what I’ve lost more – change in couch cushions, socks at the laundromat, or sight of my life’s goals.

As Elsbeth’s handpicked assistant, emphasis on first syllable pronounced with a short a, and an alleged wordsmith, (pronounced with a loud, “Ha!”) one of the many hole-riddled chapeaus I don is as my liege’s editor.  Generally, how we write together is Elsbeth writes the copy first, I edit her, and she edits me.  This goes on and on until one of us collapses, enters a coma, or cries uncle.

As I sat multitasking — scrutinizing my superior’s text and counting the minutes before I could make my escape in the direction of something alcohol-infused, my sidekick, Greg, crept softly over to my desk and announced confidentially:

Greg:  Earwax.

In slow motion I roused out of my stupor, and looked over my shoulder preparing to fire back:

Me:  Is that your password, the name of your favorite band or your Twitter handle?

Standing before me my right-hand-and-left-middle-finger-man proudly displayed the thick coating of dark orange glue saturating a sheet of mesh-mounted mosaic.

Ta da!

Confirming Greg’s eagle eye for the repulsive, Ling declared:

Ling:  Ew that does look like earwax!

Encouraged by Ling’s disgust, Greg entered Elsbeth’s domain and again delivered his announcement.

Check this out!

I tuned out their discussion but Elsbeth followed Greg back into the sleepy minion pit merrily announcing:

Elsbeth:  Butterscotch!

My leader stood before my desk, eagerly awaiting my vote, but I lacked the energy to feign agreement.  I didn’t buy that copy, either, and frowned.  The cheer drained from The Boss’s face.

Elsbeth:  All right, it’s earwax.

Deflated, The Boss returned to her office.  I dropped my head atop my keyboard’s space bar while impersonating the hum of a weed whacker until quitting time.  Then I regained full consciousness, ambled my way down to the uptown express train fleet of foot, but made sure that the spring in my step did not catapult me into the track’s third rail.

Lame Adventure 163: It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a Mini Countryman!

Saturday afternoon, I was running an errand in windblown Times Square, a place I consider a glaring monument to slow-moving tourists and sensory assaulting advertising that I generally loathe.  After completing my task, as I was walking east on 42nd Street toward Broadway, I noticed a very eye-catching billboard advertising the new Mini Countryman.  The vehicle on that billboard is a full-size fiberglass replica of the actual car.  I slammed on my own brakes, whipped out my camera and took a picture.

Mounted with gallons of Gorilla Glue.

Okay, that’s a very cool billboard.

Apparently the snow-capped panels encircle the block.  I found out later that there’s a second Mini Countryman in blue on the other side.

That’s even cooler.

I debated returning and shooting more pictures, but I hate Times Square a little less that the thought of finding myself growing a tumor.  Plus, I have a quibble with the billboard.  If Mini’s goal is full-on ostentation, go full on!  I am sure they’ve spent the equivalent of a small nation’s GDP on that display.

Therefore, what would be coolest of all is if both vehicles perpetually drove around the block of billboards.  Of course that might further slow down traffic and increase the cluster of tourists clogging the already crowded streets.

Definitely not cool.

Lame Adventure 162: Intelligence — Artificial and Lacking

Anyone who was remotely surprised that IBM’s supercomputer Watson swept the floor with the two best-of-Jeopardy! human competitors must ride New York City transit, particularly the subway.  Why the subway?  The subway is liberally populated with boneheads as well as the mentally deranged; the exact types that would give brainy nerds the edge over the son of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s Hal.  Also, what is it with Watson’s cheery-eerie calm voice?  These brilliant engineers can create a stupendous storehouse of knowledge, but they can only create a creepy voice straight out of science fiction for it?  If IBM had the foresight to consult me about Watson’s voice, I would have urged them to make Watson sound like Dusty Springfield.  She managed to make the first “the” in The Look of Love sound like tantric sex.  Meow!  Yet, everything about Watson had to resemble the dullest geek with a crusty tube sock stashed in the nightstand.

This has been a memorably annoying week commute-wise for I have managed to miss my train into or out of work every single day thanks to the inconsideration of fellow riders.  Going into work on Monday, the bad karma I earned for shoving Edith Blicker off first base in the schoolyard playground (note: Edith was my friend and the only kid smaller than me) in second grade finally caught up with me forty-odd years later.  That morning in the heart of rush hour, I stood amongst the freshly washed masses in the densely crowded 72nd Street subway station, waiting for my turn to enter the turnstile.  Unfortunately, thanks to that moment of playground aggression, just as I heard my downtown express train entering, I found myself stranded behind a woman feeding a fistful of expired Metrocards through the turnstile.  When she exhausted her supply, I heard my train going.  As much as I loathed her, I did not shove her.

Wednesday morning I drew the short straw when I hotfooted across the platform at 14th Street station to a waiting 1 local only to find myself pursued by the 14th Street Lunatic.  This was my reward for rocketing into that train and forgetting to look where he might be lurking.   Naturally, he perched himself next to where I was sitting and proceeded to jump around, wave his arms wildly, smack a woman’s newspaper out of her hands before stripping off his coat, sweater and shirt, dropping them to the floor and then ranting in fluent gibberish.  I was trying to read an article in The New Yorker about Scientology, but my comprehension was interrupted by a single phrase playing inside my head like a mantra, “Don’t make eye contact with him, don’t make eye contact with him, don’t make eye contact with him.”  He kicked all of his clothes out the door at Houston Street and followed his outerwear just as the doors were shutting.  I muttered:

Me:  Have a nice day.

Fast-forward to Thursday evening’s ride home, I entered behind a bottleneck of commuters in the Chambers Street station.  Between a sprawling homeless woman encamped on the floor on a stairwell landing and a mountainous woman standing frozen in the middle of that stairwell’s opposite side yammering on her cell phone, I and several others missed our train trying to maneuver around these obstacles.  For the life of me I will never understand the appeal of planting oneself like a tree stump in the middle of a subway station stairwell during rush hour to talk on the phone.  The popularity of doing this in the Chambers Street station seems to be on the rise.  Word must be out that this is the go-to station to visit if you have an itch to conduct an epic cell phone conversation about nonsense in a public space.

Unrelated to any stupidity inflicted upon me by fellow riders, on Tuesday morning I managed to inflict myself with a hefty dose of my own making.  Upon exiting the 1 local at my destination, Franklin Street station,  instead of hearing the conductor announce the usual:

Conductor:  Next stop, Chambers Street station.

My faulty ears heard:

Conductor:  Next stop, President Dick Cheney station.

That was infinitely more disturbing than the sound of Watson’s voice.

Watson's avatar supposedly smiling. Yeah. Sure. Right.

Lame Adventure 161: Birthday Boy Balls

Since it seems like almost everyone I know was born within a five-day period in February, today, my sidekick, Greg, is off celebrating, or whatever it is he’s doing for his Valentine’s Day birthday.  For all I know he could be home in Brooklyn passed out in bed with his two cats until four in the afternoon, or he could be plastering the country with his resume.  It’s his day to do whatever he wants.  When I find myself walking past the Greg-less workshop today, I will likely glance at his leftover grout ball collection.

Greg joins a long line of craftsmen and craftswomen who have made balls in this position, but his predecessors tended to make theirs out of string, tape or rubber bands.  I am not sure what it is that brings out the ball-building tendency in my sidekicks through the years, but I do know that the two we had that were insufferably vacant personality-wise and borderline incompetent in the position were not into any kind of ball-building at all.  I cannot say this dawned on me until recently when Greg, who is my best sidekick ever, recently revealed the very impressive balls he’s been making over the past year.  Greg’ balls are infinitely more original than any produced by his predecessors.  This guy would never be mistaken for an amateur.  He showed them to me with pride.

Greg fondling his balls.

When Greg is not building tile sample boards as well as more balls from leftover grout, he is a musician and an all-round audio guy.  Creative sound design is his life’s true passion.  If he is ever taken hostage and his captors forced him to watch the 2011 Grammy Awards; that would be a greater torture for him than stoning by a thousand grout balls.

I did enjoy Mick Jagger’s energetic tribute to Solomon Burke very much, although I noticed afterward I felt like I twisted an ankle just watching him sprint and gyrate all over the stage.  For a guy pushing 68, Jagger is a phenomenon.  If that is a hearing aid in his left ear, it reassures me that he is indeed human.

Hearing aid or playback device?

I am sure that if Greg saw Mick, he would have been much less impressed.  He might have wanted to toss a grout ball in Brenda’s direction.

Lame Adventure 160: Eight-Step Program

Today is my friend, Coco’s birthday.  Her natal date coincides with the opening of Justin Bieber’s concert movie, Never Say Never, not to be confused as I was with the 1983 James Bond film Never Say Never Again.

That film was actually a new adaptation of Thunderball, a Bond film released in 1965.  This remake was the final Bond film starring Sean Connery, who had initially stopped playing 007 in 1971.  Connery’s incentive to reprise the role could have been for only one of two reasons, he was tossed a mountain of money, or more likely, he wanted to flaunt his junk again in a wet suit at age 53.

Ten days ago, I received an email from MovieTickets.com inviting me to “enter for a chance to win a date with Justin” at a screening of his film in my hometown.

My invitation.

Doesn’t MovieTickets.com know by now that I am in the over 40 under death age demographic?  I see films with subtitles called Late Stage.  While reaching for one of the air-sickness bags I stockpile in my desk I heaved and wondered:

Me:  Why is Justin Bieber remaking James Bond now?  Is it because they have the same initials so this smiling haircut thinks he can do anything?

Eventually I realized Justin was starring in an entirely different film.  I forwarded the invitation to select members of my posse announcing, “I can so easily say never to this.”  In an email reeking of snark, Coco asked if that film was on my must-see list.  I snarked back, “Thought I’d treat you to it for your b-day so you can access your inner pedophile.”  Chomping the bait, John-Mayer-sleeve-tattoo-loving Coco sounded off about Justin’s lack of appeal.  She did not mince her words about why she considers this latest teen idol unworthy of her time.

Coco's turn-off almost freeing his willy.

Coco's turn-on with come-hither look.

This gave me a light bulb.

Eco-friendly and energy-efficient inspiration!

Coco has recently relocated from the Hamptons to the city.  Although my paltry wages were reduced 20 per cent in January 2009 by my employer, E. Ben Ezer-Scrooge, a fellow in deep denial that the cost of living increases, so due to my financial limitations it is impossible for me to go gift-giving nuts.  Yet, I can afford to use my vast imagination.  There has yet to be a tax for being clever.  Now that I’ve pointed that out, New York City should soon find a way to issue the first think tax in the nation, where I’ll find myself paying several pennies for my thoughts.  It occurred to me during my latest brainstorm that since Coco loathes Justin Bieber and loves the city, I should marry the two in the guise of her gift.

First, I went to my neighborhood news seller and picked up two magazines, one devoted to cover boy, Justin, and the other, this week’s issue of Time Out New York.

"Hi Coco, let's play Crazy Eights!"

Coco's bible for where to go to get trashed.

When I returned home, I went online and ordered a subscription to TONY for Coco that will start in four to six weeks.  Then, I slipped into my Dr. Frankenstein lab coat and went to work.

Step 1: Open the Bieber magazine to the centerfold.  Observe the picture.  Yawn so loudly, several agitated hounds bark.

This wholesome image is definitely a dart board somewhere.

Step 2:  With stainless steel letter opener designed by Enzo Mari in 1962, slip the letter opener under a staple and lift.  Repeat with second staple.

Best. Letter. Opener. Ever.

The right tool for the job.

Step 3:  Lift out guts of Bieber magazine.  Save for wrapping fish.

Staple standing at attention in gutted Bieber-rag.

Step 4:  Open TONY to center section.

TONY's centerfold.

Read excellent Joke of the Week by Dan St. Germain.  Photograph joke.

TONY JOW

Step 5:  See Step 2.

Step 6:  Slip the empty Bieber magazine cover’s staples into microscopic holes in now staple-less TONY.  Go blind as you fumble doing this 1,073 times or until you lose count.

Step 7:  Accomplish Step 6 — hide TONY inside a Justin Bieber rag cover.

Opposites not attracting.

Drink alcohol.

Step 8: Regain enough vision to do a mediocre wrap job.

Trademark mediocre wrap job.

Lame Adventure 159: Sticker Shock

Today is that time of year again when my dear friend, Martini Max, is having his birthday.  This year’s is a milestone – one that ends in a zero.  Personally, I hate those and the ones that end in nines the most, but come to think of it I’m not too crazy about the others that end in all the numbers in-between, either.  Yet, this is Max’s birthday and since he loves presents and attention, he is absorbing his milestone like a gin-soaked olive.

A few months ago when I visited the Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, California, I saw a tee shirt with a dancing devil that looked very Max to me.  It’s made out of 70% bamboo, which is so dual purpose.  If he ever locks himself out of his apartment while wearing it in the rain, it could double as shelter.

Guy losing his head over Max's t-shirt.

Finding Max’s gift was easy, and Papyrus had a decent snarky birthday card.  All I had to do was wrap his present, sign his card, and visit my neighborhood post office to ship it Priority Mail.  I did not anticipate blowing half my day and most of my mind struggling to peel open Papyrus’s gold foil logo sticker that I assume is meant to seal their cards.  Now I realize it could just as easily lead to complete mental collapse.

No everyday joy here.

Since my nails are trim I lack the necessary talons required to slip in-between the tightly sealed lip of the sticker and its paper backing.  In addition, that paper backing is not scored so cracking and peeling it is not an option.  Plus, I realized that my eyesight is going the way of my hearing, and although I’m not fully channeling Helen Keller, I’m having some difficulty seeing objects up close.

After 217 semi-blind failed attempts to separate the paper backing from the sticker with only my club-like digits, it dawned on me that this method was not working.  The clock was ticking and I knew I was running out of time to get to the post office.  I considered sending Max an email announcing, “You’ll get your gift whenever you next see me,” but leaving off “because I lack the manual dexterity to seal your card.”

Yet I am not a quitter; I knew I needed to use an implement.  I proceeded to ransack my apartment in search of the X-acto knife I purchased in 1978 when I studied Josef Albers color theory at UCLA.  I always knew that taking that class would eventually come in handy for more than selecting the color of my rug and a set of spatulas.  After upending all of my furniture and tearing through every drawer, I found it sitting in front of me in the pen cup on my writing table.

Deftly, I slipped the slender X-acto knife blade in the space between the foil and the paper backing.  Much to my relief, the knife made a successful degree of contact that my fumbling fingers lacked.  Unfortunately, I was only slicing through an onion skin layer of the paper backing.  With all else failing, I issued a wild-eyed litany of very personal vulgarities directed at the sticker, Papyrus, the misanthrope that designed that irremovable backing, and the sadist that coined their slogan, “The joy of everyday.”  When I completed my rant, invoking religious figures, mothers, sex acts, organs and animal waste, I reasoned:

Me:  Huh, that might have impressed a pirate.

I resumed my mission and finally the paper backing got the message. It peeled off.  Shocked, I reflected on what Max told me that Bing Crosby said in 1945 when he won the Academy Award for Best Actor in Going My Way:

Bing:  I couldn’t be more surprised if I won the Kentucky Derby.

Small victory. Large headache.

Then, I whinnied and galloped to the post office shortly before closing time.

Lame Adventure 158: The Super Bowl and China

Along with more than 100 million other viewers I watched Super Bowl XLV, and was surprised that the game was uncharacteristically more entertaining than the commercials.  Usually, I tune in solely for the ads since this bloated spectacle wrapped tightly in the American flag has often gone in the direction of a painfully dull rout.  Even though this game was competitive and fairly exciting, I will probably no longer recall that it was the Green Bay Packers that defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25 by week’s end.  It is likely that I will remember that Christina Aguilera mangled the National Anthem for the long haul.  Cue cards should have been allowed or she should have thought to print a cheat sheet on her palm.

Cheat sheet-free right palm. Big mistake.

What I remember most about the Super Bowls played in the last ten years was the inflated brouhaha surrounding the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake wardrobe malfunction.  Had he accidentally knocked her out with his elbow performing an exuberant dance move that would not have caused one-tenth the stir of that ridiculously fast flash of nipple.  Cynic that I am, I think that that malfunction was planned to ignite controversy.  It certainly roused me out of my stupor.

Overall, I tend to best recall the mediocrity of the half-time entertainment featuring established acts that are years and often decades past their prime.  Now, the Black Eyed Peas, clad in electric suits from the Tron wardrobe collection, can join the pantheon of Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Jackson, Sheryl Crowe, Paul McCartney, Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones, in singing a watered down medley of their greatest hits.  Odd that I can rattle off the names of so many of these half-time acts, but if under gunpoint I were ordered to name what teams played, I’d be as dead as any furry creature on a country road in the path of a motorist that failed to use Bridgestone tires.

In the second half of Sunday’s Super Bowl, play-by-play announcer, Joe Buck, explained to the home viewer that the ten-year-old string bean of a girl sprinting merrily across the field clutching a football was Ava Childs.  Ava, from Wheaton, Illinois, is a fifth grader that won a national essay writing contest that is part of the NFL’s Play 60 campaign, an effort to motivate children to be active for 60 minutes a day.  The NFL judges selected Ava’s essay out of 17,000 submissions.  Ava hopes to one day be the league’s first female place kicker.

Ava training in Uggs.

According to a chart depicting the age of the population recently published in The New York Times, in 2010 there were approximately 44 million children between the ages of 5 – 14.

Surely there were more than 17,000 ten-year-olds in that group.  Therefore, 17,000 submissions to this essay writing contest strikes me as low, indicating that most kids in America are indeed apathetic little couch potatoes that don’t even have the energy to write an essay.  No wonder China is kicking our butts – and those Chinese kids are also learning English and could have probably written a better essay than our very own Ava.

Back to Ava … Kiddo, I have bad news for you, you playing in the NFL will never happen unless the rules are revised permitting murder and suicide.  Please observe the size of the average NFL football player; Shrek on steroids would barely reach their waist.  You on that field would be pulverized in an instant.  Therefore you might want to rethink your dream.  A good start might be to learn how to speak and write Mandarin.