Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Decorations of Doom

In years past, I was your average Christmas decoration kind of guy. I had a few strands of your garden variety yellow, red, blue, green lights with which humans have adorned their houses since man first began walking erect. Some of my lights looked a little the worse for wear, with the color beginning to scrape off in spots. I'd string them on the eaves of my house and revel in their somewhat kitschy charm. I employed a philosophy of elegant restraint.

I eschewed the blinking bulbs. I spurned the fad of those "icicle" lights which look really terrible when the sun is out.

Then, I moved to the community in which I now reside, and I was faced with some rather serious pressure in the Christmas-decoration arena. My neighbors have mechanical reindeer. There are Nativity scenes being acted out by plastic penguins. They have inflatable Santas and neon presents. Giant candy canes. The whole place looks like a seedy car lot.

That's when I decided to take the law into my own hands and vanquish this tawdry assemblage of cheer.

My robotic death-elves are, as we speak, massing in my yard, and will soon sweep over the yards and chimneys of San Bruno, bringing tears and valuable lessons to the Lowe's shoppers of the community. Lasers. There will be lasers.

Merry Christmas, and I will be on hiatus for a while.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Christmas Carding

I am in charge of the majority of the Christmas card duties here at Team Kafka HQ. I know you may not call them Christmas cards. You may call them Holiday cards, or Solstice Missives or Death of Nature Fliers. I don't know. Anyway, some thoughts:

- The decay of enthusiasm
I always start out the Christmas cards with a great attitude. I compile the list of worthy recipients and go somewhere like Cost Plus and pick out the right cards for the wifely friend and I. We need cards that will adequately express our caring and artful sensibilities, and inspire the recipient to new levels of gratitude and potential guilt, if they haven't remembered us this year.

It's important to have a card that stands out, too, so you can act wounded if you visit the recipient's home and see that your card is in the B-team display, over behind one of the potted plants.

I start out with our overseas cards, and I'm writing letters in each card. I'm telling relatives things they probably don't need or want to know about trivial details of our personal lives. About our cat. About the newts I find in our back yard from time to time.

But inevitably, after this outpouring of card-filling, I am spent. The domestic cards cannot help but suffer, and end up getting only terse little Merry Christmas!es. After writing fifty Merry Christmas!es and Hope to see you soon!s I end up speaking that way for days.

"Going to store! Hope lunch good! Have run over pedestrian! Have malaria!"

- The baby card
Lately people we know have been reproducing at an alarming rate, so we've been getting those "here's a picture of us with the babies pretending we're not really annoyed and tired every single moment" cards. That is, of course, just fine. They're actually handy, in that I can't tell the difference between the gaggle of babies that are being produced, so the cards function as little flashcards, preventing awkwardness at social gatherings.

"Hello friends who have reproduced!"
"Hello, Kaf! Here is our baby!"
"Ah yes! Your baby! Whose name is...umm...give me a minute here"

And then I quickly rifle through my stack of baby-cards until I find the right one, and I am the champion of baby-name-remembering. It's small things like this that ensure a place in people's wills.

- The love question
I have a hard time saying I love you. Not to the wifely friend of course. I say that to her all the time, especially if I suspect she has become peeved with me in some small way.

I have a problem with the Christmas card love. I mean, do I put "love, kaf and wifely friend" on every card? I mean I like my friends plenty, but love may frankly be a little strong. I don't want to feel like I'm subjecting people to some sort of emotional blackmail with my signature. I don't want anyone thinking I'm going to want to spend the weekend at a hippie drum circle retreat with them or anything.

Maybe I should try Sociopathologically Yours?

Monday, December 06, 2004

Fishing 101

Every year, I forget to buy a fishing license until about September. Then, all of a sudden, I feel a deep and abiding inner need to sit by a lake not catching any fish, so I spring into action. I race to the nearest sporting goods store, drop 40 dollars on a license, and buy a variety of shiny, smelly or otherwise disturbing items that will help ensure the safety of the fish in my chosen body of water.

It's not as though I've never caught a fish. I should make that clear. There was even a time my friend Chimichanga and I went pier-fishing and caught 30 or so mackerel. That doesn't really count, though. Those fish were suicidal. We would drop a baited hook into the drink, and they would be falling all over for the chance to get killed. What really transpired was that we happened to be right in the middle of a passing school. This was evident when every single other fisherman descended on our location when they spied us bringing up four mackerel at once. In the ensuing frenzy of hooks, reminiscent of a cross between Bassmasters and Hellraiser, five men lost eyes.

So I have in fact caught fish in the past. But usually, I sit there by the side of a lake, contemplating the fact that I got 3 hours of sleep and have consumed too much coffee, and do a really inspiring job of not catching any fish. This time, I decided things would be different. My friends set up a trip to the delta ("the delta" in case you are wondering, is the Sacramento River delta) to not catch some impressive prey: Striped Bass or "stripers". Clearly this is the big time. This is the fish to not catch, if you want to not catch a really impressive fish.

Stripers of thirty pounds or more are caught every season in the delta. I have been told that, at least. On our fishing trip, only one of the six of us who went actually caught a fish, and I have no photographic evidence that even happened. Routinely, in the days leading up to a fishing trip, my friends and I will banter back and forth, firing email salvos proclaiming our illusory fishing prowess.

"Thirty pound striper, huh? I guess that'd be ok."

"Maybe I'll go for sturgeon."

"I am planning on catching an eight foot striped bass and riding him like a dolphin around the delta, waving at you poor saps on the shore."

In reality, I'd be at a loss what to do if I ever reeled a thirty pound striper in. I am confident this will never happen, though.

As I said, I assembled a truly astonishing array of lures for this trip. I had shads. I had Rebel Runners. I had Spinners With Vibrax Action, Rapalas, Hula Poppers, ridiculously large spoon lures, even a tiny rubber diplodocus I picked up in case anything Paleozoic was lurking in the deeps. I should mention that I stopped short of buying a bait that advertised "sex scent". Frankly, I don't want to encourage that sort of thing and wouldn't want to not catch the kind of fish that would respond to such perversion.

We made it out to the delta pretty early in the morning. Early for me, anyway: around seven o'clock. (Of course no matter what time you start fishing, it will be marginally "too late". After the first forty-five minutes or so with no-one so much as tugging your Spinner with Vibrax Action, you will probably get the idea that you should have been there at 5 am. Realistically, if you had gotten there at 5am, you'd just be colder and grumpier, but it is nice to comfort yourself with this sort of self-loathing.)

To summarize the results of the trip, I managed to not catch some really frighteningly large fish. Not that they were ever on my line, you understand. My fishing tactics included casting out a fair distance, and then reeling in my lure with the nagging feeling that I should probably switch to something else. Something more expensive. Then, about ten yards from shore, the lure would get caught on some hazard beneath the surface. Rocks, weeds, logs, dumped bodies. I don't know what. Then I would spend the next five minutes tugging pathetically at the line, trying to free it.

I managed to lose about five lures that day.

The most spectacular lure loss of the day came as we were getting ready to leave. I had decided that what I really needed to do was make a leap of faith. So I reached into my tackle box and pulled out a lure I'd had sitting in there for a good ten years: The Krokodile. The Krokodile is a ridiculously large lure that is advertised as good for stripers. I don't know why I bought the lure in the first place, but it's been with me so long, it's like an old friend. I'd be fishing at some lake, not catching some small trout or blue gill, and I'd see the Krokodile there in the box, and be reminded that one day I'd go for the big game.

I joked to my friend Bindlestick Billy as I tied the lure on my line that I'd probably cast it out and instantly get it snagged.

So, I don't have my Krokodile anymore.

Oh well, maybe I should have used the Sex Scent.

epilogue: The day was not a complete loss, as we stopped at Foster's Big Horn on the way home. Foster's Big Horn has a huge collection of slowly decaying game heads on the walls. The sight of a mounted Dik-Dik really makes you hungry for a patty melt was apparently the owner's business philosophy. So, we may not have caught fish, but we sure ate lunch in a place that had dead animals all over the walls. That's showing those stripers.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Mess Update

Yes, I deleted the links. But they will be back again one day, kind of like Frosty the Snowman. What the hell was the idea there? Look, kids, snowmen melt. It's unrealistic to expect them to stick around forever, and no way can they procreate. I know that's harsh, but I'm all about the tough love.

Anyway, the links will one day return, so don't despair.

Also, I got a kind of bad haircut today, which was made worse by an old guy sitting next to me while we were waiting, who was watching a Viking movie with Lloyd Bridges and Anthony Quinn on the teevee. Now, normally, I am all in favor of weirdness, especially technicolor weirdness that features flabby actors covered in fake tan, but this guy had THE VOLUME TURNED WAY UP! Way, way up. And the guy gave me this look when I walked in that said either "You got a problem with my incredibly loud Viking movie?!" or "You cannot possibly appreciate the subtleties of this film and I will not deign to educate you." Either way, not good, old guy.

Also also, I stopped by the Golden Gate National Cemetery to take some pictures today and had an internal fight with myself about whether I was trying to Make a Statement by taking pictures of a military cemetery. I am not sure who won.
God Bless This Mess

As you can see, the sixth seal has been broken. The lion is laying down with the lamb, the guinea pig is consorting with the hermit crab unabashedly, and I have changed the layout of this site. My efforts so far involve randomly deleting things and seeing what happens, so you'll just have to bear with me. This may lead to an extremely minimalist look. So minimalist, in fact, that this site may just disappear. Wink out like Roy Batty turning four.

If so, tell my wife I love her very much.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

World AIDS Day

Support World AIDS Day

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

What Part Is This Again?

This is the part where I get all contrite about the not-posting-to-the-blog for days and days. Please. I am on my knees here. I beg and beseech. Sometimes at the same time. Let's not pretend this isn't going to happen again. Because we know that it will. Weeks will go by with no sign of me, and then suddenly, here I am again, back in your life and expecting a nutritious, though not too filling, breakfast.

Well, the hell with me.

This time, you should break it off. Tell me that you can't handle this sort of neglect anymore. You should get on your 1982 Puch moped and putt your butt right on out of here. You will have to ask me for a push though.

And that's all it will take.

I will gaze into your eyes and promise you I will never again leave you gazing at the back door as I travel the country, following my dream of eating pie in all of the contiguous states. And Guam. And you will take me back, like you always do, thinking that this time, just maybe, it'll be different.

It's all lies, baby. Lies.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004


Something deeply troubling happened yesterday. I noticed that I am developing long and luxurious -- I would even say Fu Manchu-esque -- ear hair.

For those of you who haven't already clicked away, let me just say that this isn't the "growing out of the earhole" sort of ear hair. That, while disgusting and disconcerting in a very real way, is to be expected. This is the "growing off the sides of my ears" ear hair.

I don't know what this means, but the really deeply frightening thought I had yesterday, as I stared at this new development in the mirror, with roughly the same expression as the guy had when he had just torn his face off in Poltergeist, was that I will never have less ear hair than at this precise moment in time.

I wonder if Hallmark makes a card for that?

To my darling husband
On our anniversary
The leaves have blown across our lives
We have weathered many storms
And your ear hair is creeping me out.


Happy birthday
Please keep your
demented ear hair
contained within a hat
Or perhaps muffs.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Here, Have Some Links

I don't do this very often, because frankly there are a million other places where you can get your RDA of Wacky Linkage. But a voice told me out of nowhere that I needed to put some links on my site. I looked at the cat and asked pointedly "Was that you just then? About the links?"

He ignored me.

AFI's 100 Years, 100 Movie Quotes - Read their list of 400 nominees! Argue with your friends that Buckaroo Bonzai should be included! Take a nice warm bath and reconsider! Use exclamation points where none are really needed!

Hermits around the Web - I was reading this page for no good reason. Hermits seem charming when you read about them on the net. They might be a little smelly in real life, though.

Alien v. Predator v. Mario - Face sucking.

Perry Bible Fellowship Archive - Consistently amusing web comic. Read that and Achewood, and you are probably done with all the sometimes funny stuff for a while.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Blatant Self-Interest

Today is the day. The day when Neil Young was born, and Booker T of Booker T and the MGs fame. And me, too. I am thirty-three today. As far as our contributions to society and art in general go, I would probably come in third on that particular list. But no matter!

Today I will venture, as I did in my youth, to the Hundred Acre Wood, where the happy animals will caper and cavort, and bring me vodka-tonics. The birds will sing merrily. Perhaps they will break into Green Onions or The Needle and The Damage Done, just to keep continuity. Piglet will perform a duet with Eddie Vedder, but will grow disenchanted with his monotony, and attack him mid-song. Eddie will lie bleeding on the loamy earth as the animated toys dance around his cooling body.

Sorry. Getting a little weird there.

Thirty-three is nice in a numerological sense. It's nice to be divisible by eleven, I have to say.

Also, Jesus was allegedly crucified when he was thirty-three, so I'd better 1. get busy, and on my guard for Romans.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Brain Hurt

Please go and have a look at this very pleasing and brain-painful Dragon Illusion. Best viewed on the video, so make with the downloading. Also, print out your own!

[thanks Johnny13]

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I Am Running

Not for office. No. I am running from the Dog Police. You've got to help me.

I have the song Dog Police stuck in my head, and I only know the line "You've got me running from the Dog Police!"

I guess that's enough.

The only cure known to mankind.

Also, as an addendum to that last fancy post with all the pictures, the wifely friend wanted me to share that I did, in fact, fall off a ladder while working on our guest room. I was scraping the acoustic off the ceiling and standing on one of those little metal folding stepstools. I was leaning out over one of the bookcases to get the last bit of acoustic off the corner, when the things just collapsed under me.

But the strangest thing happened.

I was totally uninjured. I went down instantly, from perching on the stool to flat on my stomach, my chin lightly settling on the hardwood floor. I remember as I fell that I was sure the really heavy bookcase would topple over on me and maim me for life. But somehow, not even a bruise.

Also, the wifely friend was filled with sympathy, when she stopped laughing. And she was quick to point out that it only happened because I managed, in my expert fashion, to assemble the stepstool wrong.

There. I hope you're happy.

Monday, November 08, 2004


"I am an expert." It's the phrase I use to allay my wife's concerns that I am about to hurt myself really badly in an act of home improvement. I am not what is known in the common parlance as "handy". And yet I must soldier on, because in spite of the fact that I will probably knock myself unconscious at least once during my chosen task, I must not let my fellow experts down.

Exchanges like this are fairly commonplace:

Wifely friend: Are you OK in there?
Kafkaesque: I--I am fine.
WF: What was that WHAM! sound?
K: What do you mean? I heard nothing, and I am an expert so I should know.
WF: OK then. Don't make any holes in the wall or in your extremities.
K: Ha. Very funny. Being an expert, I am unconcerned with my own personal safet--
WF: Husband?
K: Ahg.
WF: Husband?
K: I will be fine. Where is the tourniquet?

This sort of high-level experting is best exhibited when working with either really heavy things, like particle board furniture or really dangerous things, like your larger saws. My friend Chimichanga proved himself a lifetime expert a few years back when he cut his thumb almost entirely off in an inspired run-in with a table saw (and was heard to say later: "I had the situation under control. I am, after all, an expert.") *

I recently managed to put my expert skills to work, peeling multiple layers of wood paneling off the walls in our guest bedroom. One of the previous owners of our new house was obviously a paneling enthusiast. Such a paneling enthusiast, in fact, that he would not settle for just one layer of ugly, crappy paneling. No! He had two layers of paneling!

This is the same guy that put rock walls everywhere in our house. The rock hearth he made around the fireplace is great. I have to give him that. The rock wall he put up in the living room? OK. Not one of the features I was actively seeking when shopping for real estate, but OK.

But the rock wall in the bathroom? The line should have been drawn is what I'm saying. Sure, sometimes after one of those really big bran muffins and three cups of coffee on a lazy Sunday, I'm in the mood for a little rock climbing target practice in the lavatory, but not every day.

Anyway, back to the paneling.

I had to get this paneling off the walls. It was mocking me. Also, I couldn't unpack any of our 8,000 books (approximately 60% of which seem to be copies of Black Elk Speaks and Crime and Punishment -- I blame liberal arts degrees) until the walls were freed from their paneling bondage. So I began prying the paneling off the walls with a small scraping knife. Or putty knife. I am too much of an expert to bother knowing the accurate names of the myriad tools I have at my disposal, so vast is my arsenal. Let's call it a scraper.

I started prying the first panel off, which was not easy. To begin with, the installer of the paneling had used lots of nails. Lots and lots. There were so many nails in my wall that frankly I began to suspect the paneling guy had an eye to this eventual return to sanity when he installed it in the first place. BAM! BAM! BAM! Yep BAM! BAM! BAM! They may BAM! BAM! BAM! take off BAM! BAM! BAM! my paneling BAM! BAM! BAM! but not BAM! BAM! BAM! without BAM! a BAM! BAM! fight.

Incidentally, all that BAM! stuff was supposed to be the guy hammering.

I finally pried off the first panel. I accomplished this by prying a small section off the wall and then pulling the panel really, really hard, until it came off the wall with a pop. This resulted in me staggering around the room, which was now covered in dust and nails, with about a 4 foot by eight foot wood panel with nails sticking out of it. Opportunities for injury abounded, needless to say. But, oddly, and despite my expert status, I remained unharmed. Apart stepping on a few nails, but I figure that is par for the course.

When the first layer came off, I was of course very happy to see the second layer. The second layer was heavier, and yes, uglier, wood than the first.

But I persevered and kept tearing the paneling down, revealing big holes in the wall, and some creative wiring.

It turned out there was also some creative writing. Paneling man had written his esoteric and enigmatic calculations on the wall before he began installation.

I was starting to hate the installer of the paneling. But I needed a name. A target for my wrath. Who had knocked holes in my wall? As I pulled off the last panel, I found my answer.

So. Steve. I don't know what to say to you, Steve, except that you were sick. A sick, putting-up-two-layers-of-paneling, writing-on-the-wall, day-glo-sticker-sticking freak. But I salute you, Steve, because I know, deep down, you were an expert too.

To wrap up this overly long tale, I finally finished the room. This included not just fun with paneling, but acoustic ceiling scraping and ceiling fan removal. My injuries, surprisingly, were only slight. And now, I can look at my guest bedroom, feast my eyes on my inadequate spackling job, and know that I will forever be an expert.

* This is not to say that particle board furniture is not inherently dangerous in and of itself. Especially when one considers those pointy little allen wrenches supplied with your IKEA furniture by crafty IKEA Swedes who secretly want to kill America with the slow poison of modular storage and funny looking lamps.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004


So, it seems to be over, and Bush will continue as our nation's puppet for four more years. Though, with the electronic voting machines now so widespread, who really knows if he won? It occurred to me as we watched Dan Rather call the election "Closer than two hickory sticks stuck together with ground-up earthworms", or something to that effect, that the republicans might just have learned to cheat better.

Also, Bush won because MORAL VALUES were so important to voters? It's nice to know that moral values are defined by fear and hatred. That moral values include the invasion of a woman's womb, and the hateful oppression of gay people in this country.

I can't help but think the wool is still being pulled over our eyes. How is it possible that middle America is voting for the administration that is killing their children for no reason? Can we as a nation tolerate the evil done in our name over this whole planet? I hope everyone who voted for Bush feels some sense of responsibility the next time he or she sees a flag draped coffin (if they let the pictures out, that is), or a journalist being beheaded or a gay person beaten or killed in the name of hatred, ignorance and fear.

Time for a dandelion break.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Vote, Ye Mighty

Hi again. It seems that there is going to be an election tomorrow. We will come together as a nation (those of us that can be bothered, I guess), and appoint a new Grand High Poobah. I hope against hope that Bush loses. Anyway, like everyone else, I'm advising you to vote.

Michael Moore's Election Eve Note Sure, he can be kind of an annoying turd, but sometimes he hits the right note.

Monday, October 25, 2004

JESUS IS MY _________

I was driving behind an elderly lady in what I believe could accurately be called a "monkeyshit brown" late seventies Buick. Or maybe metallic monkeyshit brown is better. Maybe this particular monkey had been snacking on some metal chips or something. I don't know. But the point is that here on the peninsula, there are many, many such elderly folks whose schedule is a little less hectic than most. Hence, with the slow driving. This gave me plenty of time to see that her license plate frame declared proudly JESUS IS MY MAGNET.

Wait, I thought, being the sharp individual that I am. JESUS IS MY MAGNET makes little or no sense, though it does sound kind of cool. Maybe she means that JESUS is the center of her life, and in that way like a MAGNET? She would be the iron filings that scientist types sprinkle on magnets to show you the concept of flux, which is really, really important to your everday life. Or maybe she was expressing a subversive atheist view wherein JESUS was indeed her MAGNET, but they were approaching each other from opposite poles, forever doomed to repel each other in a fragile dance of longing and impossible salvation.

I sped up to seventeen miles an hour on Junipero Serra Boulevard, edging up on her bumper, and realized the MAGNET portion of the message only looked like MAGNET. Now it looked more like WAGNER. That's better...JESUS IS MY WAGNER.

Hang on. That's not right either. Was she some crazed, confused, classical music listener?


It was no use. She sped up to twenty-one miles an hour, and I was left wondering what JESUS IS, as she disappeared over the horizon.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Dispatch from a Pile of Boxes

I speak to you (figuratively of course. I don't sit at the desk and speak out loud, addressing you as if you were here. Not often, at least.) from the study of my new house, having fought my way through piles of boxes and detritus so impressive they should be featured in a new and exciting video game where you shoot stuff while jumping from crate to crate. You know, like that one game? With all the crates?

Anyway, I know the posting has been slow, even essentially non-existent for a while, but be strong! Read a book or something.

And have a look at Dungeon Majesty, which features movies of young ladies playing D&D. You may think that the concepts of young ladies and D&D don't really go together, and that this is merely a cruel joke designed to bring out your inner 18th level Fighter/Magic-User, but don't worry, mighty kobold-hassler! It's no joke. The ladies flock to you when your sword is vorpal, or so I hear. Good news for every spotty teenager whose Crushing Hand is getting a little too much action.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Oh! I Forgot this Existed!

Hello again. I know I've been away for a while. Did you water the plants like I asked you? I only ask because the hydrangeas are looking a little peaked. I'd even say dead.

Here are some possible explanations for my absence:

a. Evacuation due to Florida hurricanes - While it is true that I live in California, one can never be too safe in the face of an angry Mother Nature. This is also true when confronted by vengeful sharks or repeated telemarketing calls. Pack up the Country Squire and just go! GO!

So that's what I did. I saw the whirling deathballs on the horizon and loaded up the Country Squire. I made it to Taos, New Mexico before I realized I was actually heading closer to the whirling deathballs. That's the tricky thing about Mother Nature. Just when you think that you are speeding away from her in a late Seventies wood-paneled station wagon, Bam! There she is in all her glory, throwing frogs at you.

Shamed, I decided the trip shouldn't be a complete loss, so I enrolled in a pottery class and learned the ancient craft of lawn goose sculpture.

b. Inserted cotton swab into ear canal - Believe the warning.

c. Bought house near San Francisco, fended off attackers - After months of dithering, we finally found a place just south of the city, with fog that sweeps in majestically when it's of a mind. Also, some no-goodniks broke into my house in Southern California, and I chased them off. I mention that only to let you know what a badass I am.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

It's Like the TB Ward in Here

The guy next to me sounds like he has the whooping cough. The woman a few cubes away sneezes every five minutes or so, and follows that up immediately with a groan which suggests she's thinking "Is that part of my brain that came out just then?"

These undead shamblers come by every now and then, dragging themselves to the restroom to eject some lymph into the plumbing, and cast their rheumy gaze upon me.

"Don't cub neah be. I'b sick."

"Really?" I inquire. The line of mucus dangling from his nose had already tipped me off. I try to breathe shallowly.

He gets a little nearer. "Really. Can't --RASP!-- see by desk. "

I back up against the wall of my cubicle. "Why are you here?"

"Can't leave. Too --AAAAAGGUUUHHH!-- buch work. "

"Go home! Why are you here infecting me?"

"Dark angel --SNNNNNKKK!-- calling be. Mother! --RASP!-- I see you! I'b cubbing home!"

"Is that a death-rattle? I'm calling HR, you bastard. You shouldn't be here phlegming up the place."


"Oh at least go die in your own cubicle!"

And so it goes. Listen to me, people of Earth. If you're sick, stay home! You're spreading germs and frankly you're putting me off my food.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

The Kicking of the Nuts

Kicked In the Nuts movies. So stupid, yet so funny.

You know, for years I have have been toying with the idea of the ultimate in horror: a movie that's nothing but 90 minutes of people's expressions when they realize they've just tipped their chair back too far and are certainly doomed. You won't see that kind of reality in the mainstream, my friend. Can you imagine it? The outright panic of knowing you were going to tip over backwards, possibly in the middle of crowded cafe? When you know for certain your mother's repeated entreatied to not tip your chair back were so true, so bitterly true. It's like a snuff film, but without the dying.

And that's good for America.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Chico Rainmaker

I don't think there are enough truly scarring shows on the teevee today.

Let me give you a little background here. Every once in a while, out of the blue, I get a flash of a despicable earworm that goes a little something like this:

Chico, Chico Rainmaker

And that's it. I can't remember any more of the song. And the worst thing is that any of the following teevee memories can bring it on: Zoom, Electric Company, Big Blue Marble, the peculiar Vegetable Soup or Villa Allegre. In some way, all of these programs are linked to the hideous reality of Chico, Chico Rainmaker. They were all PBS shows in my younger days.

You can imagine it as an episode of $25,000 Pyramid where the "giver" says "Zoom. Electric Company."

The answerer is blank. He spent his younger days playing in the warm sun, surrounded by friends.

"Big Blue Marble. Vegetable Soup."

He doesn't have an answer. The feel of the grass beneath his warm, small feet and his butterfly collection have clouded hs mind.

"Villa Allegre...Villa....Allegre."


"Da-Dada-Dadada-Da-Dada-Duh Da-Duh Da!"


"Oh forget it."

And Dick Clark would come over and console the losers, finally making the answerer feel inadequate for not saying "Shows on PBS when Kafkaesque was a child." And the celebrity would be pissed. Like you've never seen Nipsey Russell get pissed. He'd break that little railing, and using one of the cheap plastic bars that probably arent wrought iron, he would leap to the display board, the board that will forever mock him, and beat the hell out of it.

Where was I?

Yeah, Chico Rainmaker. It was a 70s series actually called "The Boy with Two Heads", about a little boy who had a disembodied shrunken head in a little box. And the little head talked. would make it rain.

Did I mention its name was Chico? It all makes sense if you think about it that way.

But my point is kids today with their Teletubbies and their Olsen Twins will never know the pleasure of waking up screaming that a little head in a box was going to make it rain. That's what I'm saying.

Anyhow, here's the trauma for you:

IMDB listing
Les Amis de Chico (French Chico appreciation page)
Discussion Site for Survivors of Chico

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Little Person Ping Pong

I once played ping pong with a little person, and lost. I have been reminded of this incident by all the white-hot ping pong action that has been on display in the Olympics.

[By the way, I've been watching the Olympics pretty much constantly. My votes for most super-boring of Olympic sports:

Air Rifle - You'd think someone shooting a gun would have an inherent excitement to it. It doesn't.
Beach Volleyball - I can't watch more than a point of this, in spite of the bikinis.
Dressage - Dancing horses were just fine for Ian McCullogh, but man, there comes a point when you realize you're watching a hoofed mammal prancing, and you have to question your judgment.]

When I lived in Santa Cruz these many years ago, there was a bar near my apartment, and it had a ping pong table. This table was used in the same way that bar pool tables are used: you'd put your name up on the chalkboard, and whoever won the last match would call you to play. I was OK at ping pong, and after a few weeks of playing quite a bit, I thought I could hold my own.

There were a few true ping pong masters in that bar. The baddest ass ping pong master was an old guy with a pot belly that owned a Chinese restaurant across the street. No-one looked forward to playing him. He'd gesture with his paddle, and the ball would be a white blur, bouncing off the table in the very corner, before rolling under the Arkanoid cocktail machine.

And you would hear only his derisive laughter as you swung your paddle impotently.

Needless to say, I never dethroned this ping pong master. I like to think that he preened, shirtless, in the men's room before a match, maybe with Foreigner playing in the background. It makes me feel better.

One night I was in the bar, which my friend and I had imaginatively dubbed The Ping Pong Bar [I'd like to point out that at no time did we refer to the place as The Table Tennis Bar. That would have been wrong and against God's plan.] and I had won a few games. I was getting to that level of ping pong where you can stand back from the table a little bit and really put a good swing on the ball. I was thinking about spin. I was pondering the efficacy of coquettish drop shots. I knew it was only a matter of time before I was ready to challenge the Chinese Restaurant owner, and eventually represent my country as some kind of ping pong savant.

Flush with pride, I called the next name on the chalkboard.

From a barstool strode a little person. He was probably about four feet tall, and wearing a Gold's Gym tee shirt. Little big muscles bulged on his considerable biceps. He was grinning at me, a gold chain flashing from his chest.

I felt in a bit of an ethical dilemma. This guy has no chance, I thought. But I didn't want to shame him. It was a no-win situation. If I trounced him, I'd just be another almost-six-foot liberal arts major taking advantage of a vertically challenged opponent. I would be reviled as a bully. If he beat me, of course, it would be certain humiliation.

I approached him to introduce myself and shake hands, but he was having none of it. There were to be no friendly exchanges. He looked at my proffered hand with scorn. We took up our positions, only his head visible over the table.

We rallied for serve in the time-honored and complex "Ping- Pong - Rally's - On" ritual, first developed by the ancient Minoans in the eleventh century BC, and I won the serve.

I pondered how to approach the serve. I could go for my normal spin serve, and bamboozle him, leaving him begging for mercy, or I could just tap it lightly over the net, taking advantage of his minimal reach. But I wanted to feel out my opponent, so I served it straight to him.

He reached up, and swung an overhead smash. He hit the little ping pong ball as hard as he could, right at my head.

The ball rebounded off my forehead, and my diminutive opponent laughed. "Your point," he said. There was no doubt in my mind that he had done that on purpose.

The game continued, with him sometimes aiming a smash directly at my face. I was getting a little flustered, and my game started to suffer. Gone were my plans for delicate backspins and beautifully executed drop shots. This was serious. I played hard, pausing for beer only at service changeovers.

The game continued, with the lead seesawing back and forth, but in the end, he beat me. I put my paddle down on the table and left my dreams of Olympic glory there at the Ping Pong Bar.

Months later, the little person came into the bagel shop in the Capitola Mall where I clung to a small shred of dignity, weighing out portions of lox shmear and baking bialies for the uncaring masses. If anything, his big little muscles had increased in size. He greeted me and we reminisced about our battle, in a touching scene that would not have been out of place in My Bodyguard if that film had taken place in a bagel shop and involved ping pong in any way at all.

So go the days of our lives.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Tex! George Bush and the Fine Art of Character Assassination
Buy your George Bush Superhero comic today!
[warning - sound and Flash]

Flash trailer from my good friend jpoulos.
Zack, Eater of Bugs

Just to keep going with the general entomological theme I'm sure you have been so richly enjoying of late, here is Zack's Bug Feasting Page. I should also point out that Zack (who I like to refer to in my own mind as Zack, Zack, the Bug Eating Maniac) spells his name two ways on the same page, so don't go correcting me.

Including such crowd-pleasers as:

The giant silkworm


The predaceous diving beetle

I'm not entirely sure why you would want to eat a predaceous diving beetle, or why you wouldn't want to eat a predaceous diving beetle, or what predaceous actually means. So if you want to eat some bugs, go on ahead. There are lots of bugs, after all, and they aren't provably dirtier than a sheep or pig. Also, more drumsticks!

Monday, August 23, 2004

Bee Update

I was not the only Southern California resident having bee problems. Knowing my luck, they'll probably show up at my place.

I warned you, you people. If we were not vigilant, it would happen again. We were naive, thinking that after the last time, mankind would have learned its lesson, and would never again tread the paths that led us to this pit of despair the first time.

And yet here it is, another talking baby movie! Can we stop with the talking baby movies? What is wrong with the world?

That was rhetorical.

Also, please stop putting spaghetti on babies' heads. I know it's tempting. If you really want to put food items on your baby's head, try to branch out a little bit. Maybe pie would be nice. Or calamari.

Saturday, August 14, 2004


I have written here before about bees. And here. Recently, I had a bee experience no man should have to endure. Now listen, any bees who may be out there reading this, cut it out.

I have always been one who got along with the bee. I watched Ulee's Gold and everything. I have seen photos in the Guinness Book of World Records with people with beards made of bees, and instead of merely thinking "What kind of a turd would do that?" I would instead think "What kind of a turd would do that, and is it safe for the bees?"

When I was ten years old, I bought from The Scholastic Book Club a copy of the novel The Swarm, and did at times root for the bees.

Bees and I were sympatico.

I should also state that I myself have never once been stung by a bee. For years, I would brag about it. "Thirty-two!" I'd say, sometimes slapping my palm on the table for emphasis. "And not one sting! Not one!"

Now, I'm starting to get a little offended. Am I not good enough for their sting?

I wonder if bees know that they're going to die after they sting someone. You'd think they would have figured that out by now, having seen a few of their bee chums go all crazy with the stinging, and immediately die, maybe with inspirational last bee words. This would, I would think, make them pretty selective about who would get their payload. If I were a bee, and I'd like to point out that I am not a bee, I'd have to really mean it. That's all I'm saying. You'd really have to menace my queen to get my sting. Now, if you want to mess around, shake up the hive a little bit, I'm cool with that. I'm not going to kill myself over it. But imagine that moment, when you've really made up your central nervous system that you're going to sting someone and end your bee life. I'd probably hum something dramatic. And I'd make sure there were a lot of other bees around, too. You don't want to sting your One Sting and have no-one around to see it. Actually, in that case, maybe I could talk one of the other drones into stinging for me.

Anyway, back to the story.

One day last week, I came home from work to about five hundred dead and dying bees in my house. They were piled by the sliding glass doors, in some spots five deep, like some hideous bee Jonestown. The first thought that went through my head was of course "Oh great. We're possessed." Because years of horror movie viewing have taught me that there is no good explanation for five hundred of your closest bee friends dropping by unannounced and keeling over en masse. Not unless your home is a portal to the Netherworld, of course.

So I had five hundred bees variously wriggling and being dead on my floor. I did what any rational person would do. I vacuumed them up. I should say that I felt kind of bad that the not-yet-dead bees would spend their remaining moments in a vacuum bag filled with cat hair, but it was a pragmatic solution.

I looked out at into our atrium and noticed there were quite a few bees doodling around out there. As I have stated I am usually a friend to bees, but I noticed they were milling about a hole in the stucco wall where a length of PVC pipe comes through from the garage, a drain for the A/C unit. Most people don't have such a drain in their atrium, but I wisely employed The World's Cheapest A/C Guy to install my air conditioning. I did this in hopes that I would get bees in my wall, obviously.

I sprang into action, grabbed some Raid Flying Insect Painful Death and Armageddon Spray, and leapt into the atrium. I'm sure I presented a pretty intimidating figure to my bee interlopers, as I held the can as far away from me as possible, shielded my face, and made little "don't sting me" noises. "Don't sting me" noises sound a lot like terror-stricken squeaks, by the way.

I doused the little hole in the wall with Raid, and the bees turned to me and said as one: "dude!"

I knew I had transgressed the unspoken law of bee-human interaction, and it was, as the kids say, on. The bees started to buzz around angrily, quite clearly not being even inconvenienced by the bug spray. But I did not, in fact, get stung. I yelped and retreated inside the house, though what safety the house offered was unclear, since five hundred bees had already found their way inside.

And bees started pouring out of the hole in the wall, into the atrium. They crawled out in orderly lines, with very little pushing and shoving. One thing was very clear: I had a beehive in the wall of my house.

To make this long and tedious story a little less tedious, let me say that I called the exterminator, who informed me that he couldn't get out to deal with the beehive until the next morning. I told him I had sprayed them with Raid and he said "That wasn't a good idea. Now you got angry bees."

"Angry bees?"

"Yep. See you tomorrow."

So I slept fitfully that night, my dreams filled with visions of ghost bees. But I survived. And he came out the next day and sprayed some stuff which actually does something into my wall.

To sum up, I still have not ever been stung by a bee. I feel like the beehive in the wall may have been my best chance, and I somehow missed out.

In a strange twist, a few days after that I was at a shop in San Francisco that sold dead bees. I'm not making that up. It's on Valencia next to Dave Eggers' place. They were selling dead bees for about ten dollars a pop.

I have five thousand dollars in my vacuum bag.

Sunday, August 08, 2004

The Stabbing Room

We've been house-hunting in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last couple of months. "House-hunting in the San Francisco Bay Area" is another way of saying "ensuring that we will never have any money again ever".

House-hunting is kind of a curious pastime, and one that I encourage everyone out there to indulge in. Or "in which to indulge", to be prepositionally accurate, I suppose. The best thing about it is that you get to go into people's houses and totally check out all their stuff. Also, you can make assumptions about their general level of cleanliness and worthiness as human beings. Assess their stain quotient! Is that patch on the hardwood floor a big pee stain?

Yes. Yes it is.

We've seen a few sci-fi houses. Sci-fi houses are ubiquitous, apparently. We saw quite a few when we were looking for our first house, and they are all about the same. These places reek of smoke, and their living rooms are lined with bookcases, usually of the homemade variety, that are stuffed with sci-fi paperbacks. The entire Shannara series will be there, in the order the books were released, of course. Piers Anthony will be lurking by Zelazny. Harlan Ellison will be self-congratulatorily reclining over there by Asimov.

And these places are just stuffed full of crap. There are books everywhere. There are plants everywhere, that seem to call to you as you pass: "Dear God, buy this house! Take us away from here! We beg you! I haven't photosynthesized since the early nineties!" And they probably haven't.

The air is thick with dust. The broken and bent blinds are thick with dust. Strange knick-knacks litter the omnipresent shelves: a trio of big-eyed ceramic dogs, several Hallmark "World's Greatest Dad/Grandpa/Borderline Psychotic" figurines, innumerable bowling/wrestling/lawn darts trophies which were patently not won by the owner of the house, forty-seven six inch plastic m-and-m guys (arranged by color), even Weeples. For the love of all that is holy, Weeples! The Weeples, even, are thick with dust.

And invariably, these places are huge, have a toilet in the backyard that may or may not have started a new career as a planter, and are listed at a remarkably high price. Three quarters of a million dollars somehow seems like too much for a place that has all the atmosphere of a diseased lung.

What you learn looking at peole's houses is that they are crazy. Of course, if these people looked through your house, they'd probably think you were crazy too. That's the charm of it. "Jesus, honey!" they'd whisper to their spouse. "These people have a giant collection of Red Rose tea animals!" or "That's an external modem for a Mac Classic! What is wrong with these people!?" And they are right.

But to the stabbing room.

We looked at enough mildly disturbing homes to have a quick codeword signifying we'd probably not be offering on that particular place. The word is "stabbers". Certain parts of the Peninsula in the Bay Area seem to be havens for stabbers. You can imagine the owners of the house luring their victims in for a little recreational stabbing is what I'm saying.

The wife and I concocted an elaborate scenario, which we found terribly funny, in which the owner of the house meets you wandering through his home and greets you with a rusty kitchen (or Stanley) knife in his slightly trembling hand. "Hey there!" he warmly extends his non-knife-wielding hand. "You like the place? I made them bookshelves myself."

His voice is a low rumble. He is vaguely threatening. He has forty years of Oakland A's memorabilia pushpinned to his garage wall.

He appraises you with red-streaked eyes. At this point, he may light a cheroot, just before he extends the knife to you, handle first, and softly says "Now stab me. Come on! Then I'll stab you! Just a little. It won't hurt much!"

You back away.

"Don't you want to stab me even a little? I'll start!"

You run away.

To make things even better for the stabbing scenario, most of the houses we've been looking at have full basements. In most houses I've lived in in California, there's at most a crawlspace. After looking at over a million homes in the greater San Francisco area, the wife and I now turn to each other when presented with a particularly large such basement, and say "Now this'd be a good stabbing room. We could put the bodies over there in the corner."

I recommend this sort of thing to everyone. Just make sure your little "stabbing room" joke isn't overheard by the listing agent.

Or the owner, even now creeping toward you, saying "Come on now! Stab me!"

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Incidentally, if anyone with a bigger brain than myself can help me figure out how to fix the bottom of the table on those archive links, I would be forever in your debt. I would buy you candy. Good candy, too, not those Circus Peanuts or anything.
What Was Forgotten

I forgot my long standing tradition of squirm-inducing "favorite posts" links. The cards and leters have been pouring in, beseeching me to indulge in this disgusting display of navel-gazing.

I cannot disappoint all of these beseechers. So here are my favorite posts of the year. I can say with confidence that quantity certainly went down this year, but...well. Let's just leave it at that.

We Remember the Light

The Worst Thing

Ernie First!

The Teevee

Every Day Is a Little Song

Public Speaking

The Sizzler Seduction Scenario


On the Loss of Opportunity

Cabbies I Have Known

There now, aren't you glad that's over?

Monday, July 26, 2004

The Difficult Year

And lo, it was My Life as an American Gladiator's third birthday.

All the animals of the forest gathered to mark this special day. All except the squirrels. They were demonstrating that the site was unfair to the squirrel population as a whole and never gave them nuts or acorns to help them through the hard winter months, when squirrels live in fear of hypothermia, due to their failure to understand the principles of polar fleece.

The squirrels eventually drifted to the periphery of the big shindig, feeling a little silly that their principled stand was keeping them from what looked like really, really good punch, if the drunken antics of the pine martens were anything to go by. They discussed whether it would be in their best interests to give up the protest and go have a little well deserved fun, or to try to lure some of the more easily led woodland creatures over to their side.

A compromise was reached whereby the squirrels would join the party, but not have any fun. And that's what My Life as an American Gladiator's Third Birthday is all about: squirrels pretending not to have fun.

So yes, now we are three. We've lived and laughed and loved. We're on solid food and almost potty-trained. If we were Scotch, we'd have a few years to go to be worthwhile.

Also, I'm turning the comments on for one (1) day.

Update: That day is now over. Thanks for your input and ideas about synergy and the future role of this blog as a leading provider of twenty-first century solutions for small businesses and large conglomerates both.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Rock 'n' Roll Holiday Escape! [warning: atrocious midi]

Don't miss your chance to spend a week cruising the Caribbean with 3 of rock's biggest artists: Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx.

Check out the What's Included page for this awesome perk: 2 complimentary Rock and Roll cocktail parties with open bar and hot and cold hors d'oeuvres. That's right. Hot AND cold hors d'oeuvres.

It just don't rock no harder than that.

I picture a Flying Dutchman scenario, with a ghost-ship crewed by frightening 70s and 80s hair bands. Steve Perry would be clambering up to the crow's nest, a knife clutched in his teeth, still mumbling "Oh Sherrie".

Also, failure to pay an additional fee will result in one or all of the bands showing up at your home and demanding to be housed in your basement.

[via Rory]

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

The Birds and They Heads

You may remember, if you are of that ilk, that I have a nest on my patio. I am pleased to report that there are now three baby birdheads in said nest, making me a bird grandfather (though not in a biological or legally binding sense).

Monday, July 19, 2004

The wife just called me and asked in rushed tone: "What's your Social Security Number?" I told her and she said "thanks." and hung up, leaving my "Wait. Why?" hanging in the air.
It's a fun project that only married people can participate in (unlike so many other things that only single people get to do, like blowing a paycheck on a big date and still not getting any action): call your spouse and ask them potentially alarming things like that and then just hang up.

For instance:

1. What's your checking account number, mother's maiden name and blood type?
2. What would you like your obituary to say?
3. You were never convicted of a felony, right?
4. What's the major export of Bolivia?
5. Why do owls make owl noises?
Maybe it's not that great of an idea, but man, I haven't had very many Great Ideas lately. For a while back there, a few years ago, I was The Idea Man. The Endless Spaghetti Idea, and subsequent Endless Spaghetti Debate and Endless Spaghetti Council of 2002, leading to The Endless Spaghetti Manifesto that paved the way for the subdivision of Pasta Studies known as Endless Spaghetti Theory? That was one of my best.
Now, nothing.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Senate Scuttles Gay Marriage Amendment

By a whopping landslide of 50-48. They needed 60 to get it past the Senate.

Here's a handy list where you can see your local senator's vote.

Friday, July 09, 2004


We've been dealing with contractors of late. Specifically, cement contractors.

Everyone I talk to about contractors gets this look on their face, like they've just realized what's on their toothbrush isn't toothpaste.

"Contractors," they say. "Oh yeah. We had some work done."

Cement contractors seem to have a certain look to them. They are generally leathery-skinned, kind of like deshelled tortoises, at least here in Southern California, one can only assume from years of basking in the sun, taking people's cash.

We have had about five contractors in, bidding our job. The job is pretty straightforward: we want them to take out the horrendously ugly cement and tile in our atrium, and build a deck in there*. We also want them to take out the horrendously broken concrete that is our patio and replace it with non-horrendous, non-broken concrete.

Pretty simple, right?

But contractors can't just come to your house, take a look at the job, and say something normal like "five grand." No. They have to give you more. They have to deride their competition and make it clear that they are not to be trusted.

First, they try to worm out of you the names of the other contractors that have been there before them. Then, when you say "Well, Western Gutbusters was here, but their quote was a little high..." they get quiet for a moment.

"Kafkaesque," they say conspiratorially, "I don't like to say things about the other guys," and it is clear that there exists a bond among concrete contractors. There is a secret ceremony where they swear allegiance to each other. They go fishing together on weekends. They raise their children in large cement contractor groups on an island somewhere, the location of which can never be known by the common customer. In the darkness, a candle flame burning between them, they pledge to never, ever, say things about the other guys.

"But..." and then it comes out. The dark secrets they don't want to tell you, the very telling of which will damn them to a hideous and eternal punishment.

"Don't get me wrong. Gutbusters are a great operation. But, you know."

"Yes?" I ask.

"They're not licensed. They're not bonded. They hire guys off the street. They hire children off the street. Old ladies. They've got old ladies carrying their cement. I hear they like old ladies a lot, if you know what I mean."

The contractor looks at you as if you are now part of a circle of silence. You cannot tell anyone the knowledge that he has given you, on pain of death.

Or "The guy that runs Gutbusters? He's a great guy. I went school with him. But he changed a little, you know?"

"Yes? Changed how?"

"Remember the Fantastic Four?"

"Oh yeah, The Human Torch, The Thing. He's not The Thing, is he?"

"Don't joke."


"He's a supervillain. He's like Dr. Doom, the guy that runs Gutbusters. He's fashioning an iron mask, several floors below his home. He means to take over the world with a Doomsday Machine."

"A Doomsday Machine?"

"Something about freezing the world. Look, it doesn't matter. But all he needs is $6500, and he can finish his machine, enslaving the Earth. I know he might undercut my bid, but what I'm saying is that you and your wife and your family will spend the rest of your lives like deer in the winter, snuffling for roots under layers of snow, and eventually, you will succumb to the cold."

"So I shouldn't use him, then?"

"It's up to you. I'm not going to say a word against him."

Another tactic one of the contractors employed was to describe how he was basically a reanimated corpse, willing himself to stay alive only to do my concrete. And I'm not making this part up. The other, Dr. Doom part, I may have embellished.

I had been talking with the guy for all of about two minutes when he came out with "I've only got half a liver."

I was nonplussed.

"Yep. Used to have a problem with the hooch."

First off, I didn't know anyone said "hooch" anymore. This guy was like one of those Stephen King characters that appear in the first hundred pages and sell the protagonist a possessed car or something. I could tell because all during our conversation, he was having an italicized internal monologue.

"I used to have a problem with the hooch"

Why'd you tell him that? Why --

"But I don't touch a drop any more."

You know you touched a drop. You drank an aerosol can of Lemon Pledge this morn--

"No sir, but my medication, it costs a lot. It costs eight thousand dollars a month."

Maybe we should get burgers for lunch. But you always get cheese. I don't like chee--

"And my eyes? They're made of wood."

No cheeseburgers no cheeseburgers no cheeseburg--

He starts to cry. "I got no eyes, man! No eyes!"

And so on.

The crux of the matter is that all these freaks have come to my home and bid on my job. And, really, there's not that much difference in the bids. They give me the bid and they leave, some of them making it clear that their very existence depends on getting this job, intimating that the bid is in fact so low that it will mean that they will spend the rest of their lives on the streets, telling the story of how this one guy with an atrium ripped him off.

And what happened, in each case? They flaked out on me. Every single one. I want to give these people my money, because frankly I'm too pretty and weak to remove cement myself, but they won't take it. I've called them repeatedly, and been assured that they are all ready to go with the job, and then they never call back. I can't figure it out. I want to give them my money.

Why will no-one take my money?

Because they all hate you and you're pretty and weak.

Shut up.

*This is only if they are multi-classed contractors. If they had D&D style character sheets, they would be Cement-Deck Contractors, kind of like Fighter-Magic Users. I don't know what level you have to get to before you can start learning Tensor's Floating Disk as a contractor.
Take Action!
Tell your Senators to Oppose the Discriminatory Federal Marriage Amendment
Lego desk!

[via jedi]

Saturday, June 26, 2004

The Nest Menace

Hello everyone, and I hope you enjoyed the unannounced and long-enduring hiatus. What happened was that I went on vacation. Madagascar sure is nice this time of year. But them lemurs pack a punch, I tell you what.

Something unnerving happened here at the Kafkaesque homestead though, while I was cavorting with the lower mammals in "The Land That Time Almost Forgot, But Then Saw a Documentary on Snakes and Was All Like 'Oh Hell! Madagascar!'"

What happened was that the birds made a nest.

The wifely friend and I have an ongoing pitched battle with a pair of morning doves. The previous owners of our house, in a fit of extremely eclectic outdoor decorating sensibility, placed an old empty stereo cabinet in the yard. It fit in nicely with the rusted out hot water heater, I guess. When we viewed the house originally, we noticed that there was a bird's nest on top of this cabinet. In general, I have always been one of those people who say "Aw, a bird's nest!", visions dancing in my head of happy tweeting baby birdies perching on my fingers, and perhaps producing an elegant frock for me to wear to the prince's ball that evening.

But I learned my lesson a few years back, when a very similar bird's nest appeared on our balcony while we were living in an apartment whose main features were the gigantic Paleozoic-era roaches and the downstairs neighbors who a couple of times a week barbecued what I can only refer to as Stinkfish. The wifely friend and I were delighted to see the nest, and had ourselves a little tender moment looking at the mommy bird warming her precious eggs. Onto this little bird mother we projected all the wonderful ideas and hopes we had for future progeny, since neither of us really wanted to mention human children all that much.

The morning dove squatted there for a while, and we would creep out to the balcony every few days and look for the baby birds, fearful that they would end up smashed on the floor in some hideous learning-to-fly episode gone wrong. I don't know if the possiblity of the baby birds squishing themselves or the fact that for about a month I had Pink Floyd's craptacular "Learning to Fly" stuck in my head was worse. It's debatable.

Then, one day, we heard small chirps from outside, and our family had grown. Three little birdies were in the nest, cheeping like there was no tomorrow. In fact, since they had only been alive for that one day, I feel confident in saying they weren't comfortable with the whole "tomorrow" concept, and they had to worry about learning to fly and getting squished and all that, so we let them squawk.

In a few days, they started hopping around our balcony, which was extrememly cute. But they kept hopping around, and as you may have guessed, pooping around. These guys were all over that balcony. All over our chairs. All over our table. All over our plants. All over our rare and expensive collection of gnomes.

And thus, their poop was all over everything.

We began to hate the cute little baby birds. They never shut up. If it wasn't the cheeping of the babies, it was the prrroooo-ing of the mother and father. At least I think he was the father. I didn't perform any Montel Williams style paternity tests. We were afraid to disturb the loud and messy miracle taking place on the balcony, so we didn't go out there very much. In the end of it, we were left with the Empty Nest Syndrome, and also the Poopy Balcony Syndrome.

Just clearing up the nest is no picnic. The guys didn't kindly disassemble their stinky, poop-encrusted domicile, but instead left it to us to demolish the structure. Some gratitude.

So pretty much since we've moved into our house, we've had a pair of morning doves hanging around. A morning ritual established itself, wherein the wifely friend would hear the telltale prooo-ing and leap to her feet, grab a broom from the kitchen, and cavort around the yard shouting invective at the avian interlopers. She despises the morning doves, and seems to take sadistic pleasure in frightening them with new and exciting gesticulations and slurs about the pigeon community as a whole.

But the birds grew wise.

After a few months of them swooping in with twigs and sticks, and attempting to invoke their squatter's rights in our eaves, they would wait until we went to work, and when I came home I would find a primitive beginning of a nest, and a sheepish looking morning dove eyeing me from the roof. I would dismantle the birds' efforts, and plead with them to find somewhere else to raise their family. And, for the last month or so, they've been gone. I thought of them moving next door, to my neighbor's house. Maybe the neighbors are more into having flying poop machines roaming the yard. Across the road is a nice European couple who play piano music at concert hall volume. I'm sure they'd like a nice bird family to provide accompaniment.

But now, they are back. We were gone for eight days, and when we returned I found a complete nest, with the mother sitting nervously atop her little brood of eggs. She's out there right now, fearing that any minute we'll come jumping out and force her away from her potential children. And I don't have the heart to shoo her off. Deep down I still get the "Aw, a bird's nest!" thoughts.

And in a few weeks, we'll have little baby birds hopping around the yard, and I'll start worrying about them falling from the nest. Maybe I'll put a little safety net out there.

Just don't poop on my gnomes.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I want to start this next hiatus off on the right foot, so I give you:

Another Cabbie I Have Known

This guy drove me to the airport to get on a flight to Sacramento. I was there to meet up with friends and drive to Reno. This was a cabbie of the gambler type. I got in his cab at ten to six in the morning, told him I was flying on Southwest, and he instinctively said "Ah...You go to Vegas."

It is true that I was not, in fact, going to Vegas, but it was an inspired guess. I had spotted a Racing Form sitting beside him in the front seat. I have had a lot of cab drivers who are really into gambling. Another guy drove my wife and I to a benefit casino night, and when he found out where we were going, tried unsuccessfully to convince us to let him come along and wipe the floor with all the pathetic, would-be faux gamblers. I'm sure it would have been very enjoyable, as we introduced everyone to our cabbie friend at the benefit. Sadly, we declined his fervent pleas.

This guy was pleased I was going to be gambling and launched into another long and tedious cabbie blather about how he was perhaps the greatest gambler on this or any other planet, but due to the fickle nature of fate and circumstances beyond his control, he was forced to drive a cab for a living.

As I said, it was ten to six in the morning and this guy had been early to pick me up. As a result, I had only been able to drink half of my coffee before leaving, and I mentioned this to him. He said "Coffee..." rather wistfully, and I knew he would expand on the subject if I but held my tongue.

"I can't drink the coffee."

"No?" I asked.

"Coffee ate all my stomach muscles!" he spat bitterly.

Now I know a thing or two about coffee (including this hard learned lesson: do not, under any circumstances, use patterned paper towels when you run out of coffee filters, unless you really enjoy drinking perfumey chemicals) and I had never heard of coffee actually eating your stomach muscles. "You mean it's destroyed your stomach lining, right?" I asked hopefully.

"No! It has eaten all my muscles! I used to drink so much coffee, it just ate all of them!" he rubbed his poor gut, which was estimable if totally atrophied.

I was pretty much at a loss.

We were quiet for a moment, the two of us. We listened to the pre-dawn sounds of the road, the cab bouncing over cat-eyes, and pulled into the airport. The cabbie turned to me and said "You know, when you see these old people, and they're walking on their hands?"

No, I thought, in all my years, I don't think I've ever seen an old person walking on their hands. I thought maybe they would make seal noises.

"They drank too much coffee, these people. Now they have no muscles."

I tipped him, walked into the airport, and got a really awful cup of coffee at Cinnabon. But I didn't get one of the herculean cinnamon buns. Those things really will eat your muscles.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Doubly Avuncular

I hereby end this hiatus, this long dark teatime of the soul, to announce that my sister and her partner have made of me a double uncle. Eleanor was born this weekend (she had to be there for Palace making the Premiership), and weighed in at a quite perfect eight pounds.

I don't want to give you the idea that the Kafkaesque family at large is building some sort of secret army of superhuman cuteness, but my is she cute. And has a full head of hair, I might add. So all you babies out there better get your act together, because Eleanor and my nephew Max are way ahead of you.

To the both of you, and the new baby, you've made me and all of the family very proud.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

Going Up

From the who cares but me department, here's to Crystal Palace, my family's local team in England, who beat West Ham 1-0 this weekend to earn promotion to the Premiership. Palace are a gang of lovable ne'er-do-wells who've made it to the top-flight three times, only to be relegated the next season.

Relegation is a concept which might have a future in American sports. What it means is the worst three teams in the league are demoted to the first division (like minor league ball), while the best from the first division are promoted to the top division. Can you imagine if the San Diego Chargers couldn't tank the second half of the year in quest of a draft pick, or end up playing semi-pro ball the next year?

Never happen, I know. But here's to Palace. Hope we stay up.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

I'd like to announce that I'm off hiatus for the duration of this post. Then, after the post is done, I will be back on hiatus. I'll be off doing other things. Maybe I'll be having a sandwich.

I just don't want you getting comfortable. Got to keep it edgy, jack.


Cabbies I Have Known

I have been flying around this questionably great land of ours with alarming frequency lately. This allows me to spend quality time with my favorite people: cabbies.

A couple of weeks ago I had the singular experience of being driven around by a clearly insane Thai woman who tried to force me to charge my phone in her cab.

"YOU HAVE PHONE?!" she cried as I stepped into the minivan.

"Yes. Yes I do." I smiled. I thought she was being motherly, trying to make sure that I had brought all the necessary items for a trip.

"WHAT KIND OF PHONE?!" she demanded. Incidentally, I should add that she really spoke all in caps.

"Siemens?" I replied meekly.

"YOU CHARGE YOUR PHONE!" she yelped and began to fumble in the glove box. "I HAVE CHARGER!" She found the charger and thrust it at me menacingly.

"No. No. I've just charged it, you see." I brandished my nine dollar phone.

"CHARGE?" she assayed once again.

"No, really. It's fine."

She stared back at me quizzically, almost woundedly. And gave me a "hmmmm." It could have been a "hmmmmph." I'm not sure. I just hoped it was not a "Hmmm, I think I will drive you into a cement pillar at high velocity, Siemens-phone-charger-rejector!"

I slid the door of the minivan shut and we were on our way to the airport. The airport is about ten minutes from my house, and I go the same way every time. I told her "Go down Williams, left on Sutter." [the names of the streets have been changed in this post to protect the innocent].

She replied "No."

"No?" I repeated, but added a question mark.

"No. We go on Meadow. Faster." I was frankly a little puzzled. Not only was she refusing to take me the way I wanted to go, but she seemed to be saying she wanted to take a road which didn't go through to the airport. It ends about a block away from my house, in an open corridor filled with giant weeds that look like they want to eat small dogs. There are plans to put Meadow through, but unless it was going to take us the better part of two years to drive the block and a half to Meadow, it wasn't going to work.

I started to object but she was on the case. She made it to Meadow and turned right, into the mouth of the open corridor. She was thrown momentarily, evidently trying to decide if she could drive through the open corridor (and a square mile of military base the lay between us and the airport).

I screeched "NO ROAD!"

"Oh!" she said, and swung the van around, apologizing profusely. In fact, she swung the van right back through the intersection, against a red light and through oncoming cars. I emitted a series of small "ah! ah!" sounds as we narrowly missed Focuses and Hondas.

But then, we were on Meadow. Headed in completely the wrong direction.

She recovered her composure. "We take freeway." she said.

"No. Go back and take Williams."

"I don't think soooo," she drummed her fingers on the dash. "Traffic."

I said "Listen, there is no traffic right now. We'll be there in ten minutes."

"You want to bet?" She turned back to me and grinned maniacally. "You miss your flight. What time your flight?!"

"I've got an hour and a half. We'll be there in ten minutes. I promise you."

She made tutting sounds, but gave in and duly drove me to the airport, on Williams, without killing me. And we made it in ten minutes. But I did get to hear lots and lots about the cabbie. I think people become cabbies for the express reason of complaining to strangers about how miserable they are. It must be fun for your passengers to know that you are one missed check away from putting your head in the oven, as you propel them down busy streets at high speeds.

She had been a translator, she said. And a stewardess. She had made lots of money at those occupations, but she said they were boring. Now she was struggling to make ends meet. She told me how much her rent was. How much her cab rental was. Exactly how much money she made. By the end of it I could have filled out a loan application for this woman.

She also told me she was from Thailand. She said something about "in her country", and I asked what country she was from. "THAILAND!" she screamed as if she were at a Thailand High School football game.

"Must be nice there," I said, hoping to distract her from any more suicidal thoughts.

"Thailand is number one," she replied [and I hasten to point out that I am merely describing actual events here, and not trying to stereotype anyone. If you have a problem with the depiction of the Thai cabbie, you can email me and I will seek her out and let you know you are on her side. Maybe there will be a class action suit.] Then she grew serious, looking at me in the rear-view and pulling her Risky Business style Ray Bans down her nose. "Sir, Thailand is number one," as if I had been arguing that no, in fact, Kazakhstan was clearly number one, with Thailand a distant sixth. And then she began to hum.

A little later, she did impressions. She was talking about tips, and which nationalities give the best tips. This led to a long impression of Indian cab-riders giving her thanks and blessings for the safe ride. More likely they were thanking her for not killing them. I made the mistake of giggling confusedly at her Indian passenger impression, so she continued for a good two minutes. It was a stellar impression, of course, and in no way offensive to the Indian people.

Somehow we made it to the airport, and I tipped her, for the impressions more than anything else. I strode into the terminal with the "Man, did I just almost get killed there?" feeling that only a truly insane cabbie can give you.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Hiatus Intermission

Not to disturb the hiatus here, which I think is going really well, but I have to tell you that I saw Lenny Kravitz playing the piano with his ass today.

It wasn't something I was prepared for.

I happened to be flipping the channels, which I do on my lunch hour. I come home from work, make a sandwich, and flip the channels on the teevee. The problem was that there was no soccer to watch, you see. The English season is over, and now my beloved soccer channel shows Australian Rules Football highlights at noon. That's just fine. There was even a period of my life where I considered myself somewhat knoweldgeable on Australian Rules Football.

People would say to me, as so often happens, "Kaf, that Australian Rules Football, I mean what the hell is up with that?"

I don't know why people would question me about Australian Rules Football in this way. It could have been the small pin that I wore on my lapel that said "Ask me about Australian Rules Football, mate."

And I would listen as they complained about how all it is is a bunch of guys jumping around, catching the rubgyish ball and knocking their tender parts against each other with furious anger. I would think to myself "They just don't understand the excitement of Australian Rules Football. They'll never know why you have to bounce the balls every ten steps, or why the little refs by the goalposts wear fish-and-chip-shop outfits." And I would feel sorry for them, a little.

I want to make it clear that my watching of Australian Rules Football was in no way inspired by Paul Hogan or any of the Crocodile Dundee canon. There were no "Put a shrimp on the barbie" tee shirts. And I have even actually been to Australia, but all I really remember about it is that is was insanely hot and there were parrots. I was eight, I think.

But to continue, I don't watch the Australian Rules Football anymore is what I'm saying.

So I was flipping the channels and found myself on MTV just as a video was coming on. "How odd!" I thought. After all, MTV doesn't show videos anymore, do they? That's what all the deathly cool disenfranchised types say now, I believe. "MTV doesn't even show videos anymore!" they seethe, and know that they have spoken a crushing truth, and indicted the kids of today with their cruel incisiveness.

The little video thing in the corner said it was Lenny Kravitz, and I thought "Wow. Lenny Kravitz. Do people listen to Lenny Kravitz?" I mean, I remember him doing that "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" song, which was a big hit, and the kids, they danced, but has there been a transmission from Lennyland since then?

Incidentally, I really like the name Lenny Kravitz, because it reminds me of the big guy from Of Mice And Men, and Spinal Tap, and the neighbor from Bewitched, who may or may not have been called Mrs. Kravitz.

But there was Lenny. The video started out with him getting out of bed with two women. Two women! Lenny Kravitz is obviously getting it on with some regularity, or at least he really wants you to think that he is. And it continued with Lenny and his band living the rockstar life. I think even the keyboard guy was allowed to live the rockstar life in this video. But he wasn't like that weird Prince and the Revolution guy in the medical scrubs, so he fit in OK.

The video went on, and if the words weren't actually "Are You Gonna Go My Way?" they were pretty damn similar, so I am confident in telling you that Mr. Kravitz may be fresh out of ideas. Eventually, Lenny and the band were playing live to an impressive amount of people, so I assume that either they were compensated for their attendance at the video shoot or that people actually do listen to Lenny Kravitz. And Lenny was getting into it. He was yowling and humping the ground and kicking his legs into the air like a demented, greasy Rockette, and just as the music reached its fever pitch, its climactic creschendo, he did it.

He played the piano with his ass.

I appreciate that there are precedents for this rear end revue, this rear end sonata, like Jerry Lee Lewis and maybe Liberace if he had had too much Cold Duck. But it just kind of brought me up short, like maybe everyone in the band and everyone in the crowd, compensated or not, would just fall suddenly silent and say as one "Dude! You're playing the pianno with your ass!"

Because there are only a couple of meanings possible when you break into some cheeky ivory-tickling during a performance:

1. That you've been raised to such a Bacchanalian state of ecstasy by your own performance that clearly the only option is to play the piano with your butt.


b. That the music is so bad that it doesn't matter what part of your body you're using. Hell, the drummer could hit the high hat with his nipples for all the difference it would make.

And then the video pretty much ended, with Lenny having a quiet moment that the director probably thought was very Graduate and complex, but which really should have been Mr. Kravitz thinking "I just played the piano with my butt, and they didn't even care. I'm going to sleep with three women tonight, and maybe a koala bear."

At least in Australian Rules Football, they don't play the piano with their butts. No more MTV for me.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What The Hell Kind of Hiatus Is This Anyway?

I'd just like to say to the person who called my cellphone 5 times recently, that I am not Carlos. I don't know much, but I know that.

I should make it clear that from our limited conversations, I wasn't sure whether the caller was Carlos or wanted me to be Carlos. But it was clear that there was some sort of Carlos negotiation taking place.

And I should mention that it was in Spanish too, the talking from the phone. And before the call would come through, there would be a voice in Spanish, which was an operator, I guess, saying something that I'm pretty sure was about alpacas, then this gruff voice would say "Carlos!"

Sometimes he would say "CARLOS!" in a anguished sort of way, that suggested maybe he was in some dire peril, and needed Carlos to extricate him. Maybe someone was after him. Maybe he was in jail. Maybe someone was after him AND he was in jail. But I don't want to think about that. Some poor guy, maybe being chased around a cell by his crazed bunkmate, who had fashioned some crude shiv from bedsprings and skin, and all he can do is stop at the payphone when maybe the cellmate drops his spring-and-skin shiv, and reach out in the darkness to Carlos, hoping against hope that somehow Carlos has got the bail money, perhaps from pawning his CD collection or rare 19th century daguerrotypes.

And here I am on the other end of the phone, distracted from some excruciatingly boring work task, and yelling into the phone "I AM NOT CARLOS!"

So I'm sorry, man. Or Carlos. Either way.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004


I know, I have been hiatusing regularly of late, but you'll just have to find your japery elsewhere for a while.

Monday, April 26, 2004

The Wisdom of Spam

I'd just like to personally thank one Ms. Wilhemina Judi for her thoughtful email, lovingly entitled "U R STUPID DUMBASS IF YOU PAY RETAIL PRICE FOR SOFTWAREZ".

Gosh, Judi, you're right. I m stupid dumbass. It took your insightful subject line to make me see that. If only more people would truly get to know their target demographic before making the sales "pitch". Other recent emails include "Hey jerkoff gET wAReZ", "U R assHole with tEEny bro", and "Molester of livestock, buy my tasty toner cartridges!". OK, I made that last one up. You can tell because the capitalization made a modicum of sense.

But can you imagine if this surefire strategy branched out into other products? Like Best Foods (Hellmann's East of the Rockies, so I'm told) could have a bold new "Jesus Christ why aren't you buying our mayonnaise you malformed freak?!" campaign. Or "Not a soul exists that doesn't find you odious and repellent -- now drink Miller Lite, chump!"

I can only hope.

Monday, April 19, 2004

I just booked a hotel at an alarmingly cheap rate from a shady looking internet travel site. So cheap and shady I called them to make sure it was on the up and up.

It seems to be both up and up, so I can only assume my room will be HAUNTED!, like in all those terrible shows you see on the Travel Channel where charming Bed and Breakfast owners in Georgia give straight-to-camera accounts of the time that someone dressed in a Civil War uniform massaged their inner thigh in the guest bathroom. Then, they make it perfectly clear that you should under no circumstances come to their Bed and Breakfast and give them lots of your money for the privilege of maybe having your inner thigh ectomplasmically massaged or perhaps getting woken up by a clumsy apparition stumbling to the toilet at three in the morning after a heavy bout of otherworldly beer drinking.

I suspect the HAUNTED! hotel thing only lasts til they get you to the hotel. Once you're there, the hotel staff is not going to want to expend the effort of simulating HAUNTING! They're not going to get up all hours of the night and bang pans or moan and wail or stand outside the window and throw frogs at you.

Anyway, I'll let you know if I get sucked into the television set or anything.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Braking Away

I return to you from bizarre car difficulties.

I drove home at lunch a few days ago, parked in my garage, and pulled up the handbrake. S-N-N-K-K-K! It sounded like something broke! I pulled my hand away from the handle and gingerly pressed in the release button on the brake. Nothing! It wouldn't move.

For half an hour I did battle with my handbrake. I wiggled. I jiggled. I even at one point got a rubber mallet and hit the button like a redheaded stepchild. No dice.

Finally, I sucked in my courage and called AAA. A tow truck guy showed up, and I had to explain that my brake was stuck on. He gave me a look that said "We tow truck drivers live for these moments. We yearn to come to your home and do something incredibly simple, perhaps involving a twilliger rod, and make you feel foolish and lame."

He hopped in the car and wiggled. And jiggled. He cursed and talked to me about the bewilderment he felt at waking up one day and realizing he was a "tow guy". He complimented my bouganvilleas. But he could not get the brake off.

"Don't worry," he said "I'll call my mentor".*

While we waited for his mentor, he explained to me that it was not really possible to tow my car to the dealership (where they would relieve me of several paychecks) because the car was parked head-in in the garage, and to tow it out would wreck the transmission. We, of course, could not roll it out of the garage because the brakes were stuck on. He explained a complex procedure involving a flatbed tow truck and applying soap to the rear wheels. I felt it was best not to question him.

His "mentor" showed up. This was the supremo tow guy, who had taught tow guy #1 all he knew. The second guy exploded with derisive laughter and made unkind insinuations about tow guy #1 and his lack of physical prowess. I, as a thirty-two year old man who had called AAA to fix my handbrake, was also referred to as "weak". This new guy, who looked kind of like one of the old circus sideshow strongmen of yore, bald with a handlebar moustache, climbed into the car and began jiggling. He demanded use of my visegrips, which I gladly supplied. **

He gave it a go for another forty minutes, the sweat pouring off him and into my upholstery. He detached things. He bent and deformed things...

But then! The brake was released!
I drove to the car dealership, my handbrake limply hanging. my center panel sadly askew, forever rent asunder.

When I got there, of course, the smarmy service representative lifted his eyebrows in a "I am clearly dealing with an idiot" sort of way when I told him about the problem.

Anyway, long story long, it cost me many, many clams, my car was in the shop for two days and I had to rent the worst car in the world: a bright red Chevy Cavalier, which I believe still holds the title of Official Car of Humility.

At least it said Enterprise on the license plate frame.

* I immediately thought of the old Shazam live action kids' show which for some reason I think of when I hear the word "mentor". Didn't that guy have a "mentor" who used to drive around in an RV or something? He was kind of like the superhero support vehicle, I guess. Maybe he carried spare gold boots in case Shazam lost a heel. Or was it called Captain Marvel? I have got to brush up on this stuff.

** I felt almost manly there for a minute, having visegrips in my toolbox. I didn't mention, of course, that I am terrfiied of the visegrips, and imagine them accidentally vise-gripping on parts of my body, maiming me hideously and leaving me to stagger the darkened streets with visegrips dangling from various body parts, frightening children and maybe becoming the topic of an In Search Of one day.


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