Friday, August 31, 2007

Erasing the Past

Earlier this month, I was laid off from my job of 12 years.

As I make the transition from full-time magazine editor to unemployed magazine editor, one of my self-imposed tasks has been removing the company decal from my car, where it has been proudly emblazoned for as long as I've owned the car.

But how do you remove a decal stuck to your car window? To find the answer, I went to the experts at AFCA (, the newsgroup I often turn to for "the Straight Dope" on practically any subject. Using the resources they suggested (special thanks to Groo, Veronique, Bill and John), I made it my project for the evening. Here's how it went.

The tools: canvas work gloves ($2.59), razor blades ($3.79), Goo Gone spray ($4.99), potato salad reward snack ($0.99, not pictured). Total cost: $13ish.

Here's the "before" photo of the decal in all its taunting mockery:

Turns out I probably didn't need the work gloves, but I wore them anyway. After spraying the Goo Gone on the decal, I scraped off the letters, one by one:

The job was completed in under two minutes. Here's what was removed:

And, finally, the "after" photo:

These are, of course, merely baby steps in the transition to something bigger and better. Thanks again to those at AFCA who helped me.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fun With Non-Restrictive Clauses

Heather Johnston, a bank robber known as the "Barbie Bandit," recently entered a guilty plea. In a tearful news conference, the 19-year-old hooligan gave this shout-out to her family and friends:

"If I've embarrassed you or hurt you, which I know I have, then I'm sorry."

Friday, August 03, 2007

Post Mortem

Recently an acquaintance of mine died—really a friend of a friend—and in the grieving process that followed among those who knew her, there was a sudden urgency to fulfill any desires the dead woman had during her life. Did she want to be cremated? Would she have wanted certain friends to attend the funeral? Indeed, would she have wanted a funeral at all? Inevitably, echoes of this game of retroactive wish-fullfillment cascaded back to me. What would I want to happen after I died? It was a curious question. Why should I care now what happens after I die? It won’t make a lick of difference to me one way or the other, for the elementary reason that I will cease to exist. Obviously, when I expire, it is to be hoped that those I loved in life will not have to grieve or suffer too greatly, and that those I resent or hate will spiral into a hopeless cycle of longing, shame and regret. Other than that, who really gives a baboon's bullwinkle?
But let's return to this idea of fulfilling the wishes of a dead person. Two things strike me. The first is that you don't technically have to do anything, because the dead person will never know. Bury him in a Glad bag! Throw a big party and invite all his enemies! There will be no repercussions, unless you're one of those unfortunate people who believe that ghosts can move things, such as a lit candle closer to the curtains.
The second observation is that this process has no real connection to the dead person anyway, but for the grieving survivors, who will somehow feel better knowing that “he would have wanted it that way.” The rush to revise things in life for a corpse must be one life’s most peculiar follies. If you love someone, the time to grant wishes and fulfill dreams for a loved one is in the present, when he exists in more than just your memories. So don't bury my favorite books with me in my grave—go order me stuff from my Amazon Wish List right now.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Take a Stand!

Lately I find myself becoming concerned that people are simply too wishy-washy. I hate that. I wish they would take a firm stand on something. Or whatever, I don't really care.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Punishment & Crime

Practically everywhere you go in this country, it's the same thing: you pay first, then you get to enjoy what you bought. The only exceptions are restaurants and prisons.

If the maximum penalty for assault and battery is two years in the cooler, why do I have to beat the guy up first? Maybe I want to get the punishment out of the way before I have my fun. Can't I simply report to the state pen, do my two years, and then mercilessly beat the hell out of the chump of my choice after I get out? I've already taken care of my debt to society—I merely paid in advance.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

It's All in the Gaimen


Where a dashing, sword-wielding man in a dress...

And the pretty blonde from My So-Called Life...

Are framed by a large glowing orange ball while standing next to a fog machine...

And surrounded by other familiar-looking costumed actors with various facial expressions...

A flash of lightning and some kind of sailing vessel will appear on the horizon!

It's all happening this summer in...

There IS a Need to Fear

This summer...


...that a major studio can scrape the bottom of the barrel.

Thanks for nothing, Disney.

What's next, Wally Gator: The Movie?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Stop & Godot

There is one invention I keep waiting for, and those who know me well will not be surprised to learn it's related to traffic. As a guy who spends a comparatively small amount of time in traffic, I nonetheless blame it for about 90 percent of my fears, complaints and general discontent. Here's something that would alleviate at least a small portion of my stress.

We've all found ourselves sitting at a red light at 11:30 p.m., often with a dozen other cars, at the northbound corner of an intersection where there is absolutely no traffic going east or west. Not for miles. Zilch! Nada! But because the lights are all on an automated system, the red shines at regular intervals anyway.

To this I say, "Nay! Invent some sort of a mechanism that only triggers the red light when opposing traffic develops!" Well, I don't actually say it. I think it. But I think it loudly at times when I'm sitting there, staring at the red light, trying to make it explode by sheer will.

The Thing

I have ascertained, through simple interrogation of my friends, that virtually everybody has suffered from The Thing at one time or another.

And yet, there seems to be no formal name for this odd occurrence.

I'm talking about when you get that infernal itch that's located somewhere between your ear and the side of the very back of your tongue. And you can only relieve it by poking your finger in your ear and scraping of your tongue against the back of your throat at the same time.

What is that Thing?

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Also: Whereas

You know that expression, "No ifs, ands or buts"? Here's a loophole in that rule: They leave no provision for howevers. So go ahead and use as many of those as you like.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ideas From My Notebook

Instead of a bar where everybody knows your name, how about a bar where everybody knows your Social Security number?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Asked & Answered

In advertisements for its new suspense thriller The Invisible, Hollywood Pictures asks the question:

How do you solve a murder...when the victim is you?

That's easy. You solve it the same way Patrick Swayze did it in 1990, when this movie was called Ghost.

Monday, April 23, 2007

That's How They Getcha!

Here's something I've learned about dieting:

In the beverage world, "Sugar Free" always means zero (or negligible) calories.

But in the world of food, something advertised as "Sugar Free" never means zero calories.

In fact, it almost always means that the food—whether it be pudding, candy, ice cream or anything else—has almost as many calories as their sugary counterparts.

My point is obvious. Never diet!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

This Call May Be Recorded

"Thank you for calling the Customer Service Department. A representative will be with you shortly. This call may be recorded for training and quality control purposes. Please advise us if you do not wish to be recorded."

As a matter of fact, I do not wish to be recorded.

"Why?" you may ask.

I'll tell you why.

Frankly, I am not crazy about the way my voice sounds on tape.

The voice I hear in my head sounds much different from the one I hear being played back on your tape recorder. I'm just positive that's not what I sound like. And if I don't like the way I sound on tape, why would anybody else?

Here's the second reason. As soon as your representative joins me on the line, I am going to make some scandalous observations about your company. I haven't yet decided upon the barrage of profanities I will unleash, but you may be sure that it will be particularly offensive and scathing. I will not limit myself to remarks about your company; I may, for example, riff on the marital status of your representative's own parents at the time of his or her birth. I might even drop the "F" bomb. I never have before, nor have I ever been tempted to. But I just might this time. And I simply do not believe these comments should be preserved on tape, where they might be played back at a criminal or civil trial of some kind—especially one where I am the defendant.

You want more reasons? Gosh, you're a difficult person to satisfy.

Let's be honest with each other, shall we? Everybody knows that tapes can be altered. This is the "untold secret" of recording—the ease and simplicity of the editing process. Let us imagine that I have uttered the following phrase into a tape recorder: "I love to sleep with my pajamas on and read novels about murderers and whores." Any fifth grader with a pair of pinking shears can chop out the middle section so that it sounds like I said, "I love to sleep with whores." And while the resulting comment might be true, it completely corrupts my original meaning. Innocent people have been condemned to the gallows on less evidence than that.

And so, I must remain steadfast on my original pronouncement, and refuse to allow you to record this conversation.

I hope this doesn't mean you won't tell me what the balance is on my utility bill.

Friday, February 23, 2007

More Clichés I Am Sick Of

1. Feature story cliché:

"Look up charm / talent / innovator / luxury in the dictionary, and you will most certainly find a picture of Hugh Grant / the Metropolitan Opera / Robert Altman / the Hard Rock Hotel."

2. Another feature story cliché:

"In the event that you have been stranded on a desert island / trapped in a mineshaft / up in the Space Station / hiding in a cave for the last three years, ______ is the wildly popular punk-reggae sensation / motion picture heartthrob / song-and-dance impressario / software multi-billionaire."

3. TV courtroom cliché:

"Is my client being charged with a crime?"


"Then this conversation is over."

Legal Ease

Strolling down Collins Ave. in Miami this week, I passed the Fontainebleau Hotel, part of which is under construction. As I strolled past a fenced-in area, I read a sign upon which was written this awkwardly phrased legal disclaimer (in accordance with the Florida State #810.09[2][d]):

“This property is a designated construction site and anyone trespassing on this property upon conviction shall be guilty of a felony."

I was tempted to trespass merely to test the language of the law. If arrested, my defense would be that I was not trespassing on the property upon conviction. I was, in fact, completely free of any and all convictions at the time.

On the other hand, I would have avoided the site had the sign read: "anyone trespassing on this property shall be guilty of a felony if they are convicted." But to my way of thinking, the sign is redundant and should simply say: "This is a construction site. Trespassing is a felony."

Even if you interpret the sign the correct way, it still begs the question: What about those people who aren't convicted?

It's their story that fascinates us. It's theirs that endures.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fanning the Flames

Actual AOL Headline:

Rape Scene Sparks Outrage at Sundance:
Is 12-Year-Old Dakota Too Young To Play Role?

Is this the most retarded thing you've ever heard? How can Dakota Fanning, 12, be too young to play the role of a 12-year-old girl? OK, so the movie Hounddog is about a 12-year-old girl who gets raped. Who should play her, Elizabeth Taylor?