Well, there goes another annus horribilis, which is Latin for “horrible asshole.” And speaking of which, the Rob Ford mayoralty finally came to a merciful end, after that fat cancer on the city of Toronto was literally diagnosed with fat cancer. Jailbird plutocrat Conrad Black was stripped of the Order of Canada this year, the greatest indignity since Mad Magazine satirized him as “Conrad Blecch.” (Mad didn’t let his wife, Barbara Schlemiel, off any easier.) And it’s ironic that Bill Cosby’s most recent stand-up special was named Far from Finished; it might as well have been named Rape Allegations Will Never End My Career. But, hey, at least these horrible assholes are still alive, which is more than can be said for the following people, the very deadest people who died in 2014.

10. Robin Williams

Robin Williams was a master of improvisation. He shorted out a bomb with a paper clip. He plugged a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate. He made a rocket out of a flare gun and parachuted to freedom. And all of that happened in just the pilot episode of Mork from Ork. He was an improvisational genius, one who hated guns and loved science. And he was pretty funny too. Probably the funniest thing Williams ever did was show up on the set of Happy Days in a karate gi to fight the Fonz. “Wait,” you’re probably saying. “Wasn’t that Tom Hanks?” Well, we’re not talking about an episode of the show. Williams used to do a lot of cocaine. But all that manic energy masked some real djinns, er, demons. Williams battled depression. He may have never gotten over his idol Jonathan Winters’ death; no man should ever have to bury his child. And suddenly, he was gone, leaving behind only a suicide note seemingly cowritten by a stereotypical gay guy, a stereotypical black guy, a Baptist preacher, and John Wayne. But every comic everywhere who goes onstage, know this: Robin Williams is watching over you. And he’s stealing all your best jokes.

9. James Garner

We all remember James Garner as likable and charming. But was he really? For instance, in the pilot episode of The Rockford Files, he flat-out calls a thug “queer” to provoke him. And anyone claiming part Cherokee ancestry, as he did, is a blowhard at best and a douchebag at worst, right? And did you know he did cocaine with John Belushi? Is it at least possible that the secret of his supposed likability was a matter of cleverly positioning himself to stand in contrast onscreen with, at various points, the smarmy David Spade, insane anti-Semite Mel Gibson, and black hole of charisma Ryan Gosling? The answer to this is no, it is not possible. James Garner learned to act by watching Henry Fonda, but he must not have been as good an actor as Fonda, because while Fonda could, in contrast to his nice-guy public image, be cold, aloof, and angry offscreen, Garner just had to go ahead and be the most likable, charming son of a gun who ever lived all the dang time.

8. Ariel Sharon

Great Sid Caesar’s ghost! A lot of folks went to Jewish heaven this year (notably including Sid Caesar). There was also schlock merchant Menahem Golan, who, along with Glen A. Larson, essentially produced much of the 1980s. Saul Zaentz couldn’t dance, couldn’t successfully sue John Fogerty for ripping off John Fogerty (though he tried), and couldn’t secure the necessary rights to make The Hobbit trilogy before The Lord of the Rings, but he did give us One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Amadeus, and The English Patient. And there’s Eli Wallach, the “ugly” from The Good, the Bad and Ugly, who should have died three different times during the filming of that movie, first accidentally drinking a bottle of acid, then getting caught on a runaway horse with his hands tied behind his back, and finally nearly getting decapitated by a train while lying on the track; instead, he lived to be 98. But it’s hard to imagine a world without Israel’s “Little Mermaid,” former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who died this year at the age of 85. But it was really more like 78, to be honest, as he’d been in a coma for the last eight years. When he was last sensible, Chris Brown’s “Run It!” was riding in the #2 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100, with the young singer’s image still squeaky clean. He never found out about Matisyahu shaving off his beard and shedding his yarmulke, or about Lil’ Wayne going into and coming out of his own coma. Ariel Sharon would have been frankly disgusted by the state of modern hip-hop, and you know it.

7. Harold Ramis

Well, well, well. It seems the Ghostbuster has become the ghost. Harold Ramis’ death left fans of the spook-hunting franchise heartbusted (except those who always preferred Tracy the Gorilla). Even in the late stages of autoimmune inflammatory vasculitis, bustin’ made Ramis feel good; perhaps it was the only thing that did. But Ramis was more than a mere Ghostbuster; he was also an acclaimed writer and director. With Groundhog Day, Ramis gave us arguably the finest film in the “Bill Murray failing to murder a rodent” genre (the others of course being Caddyshack and Garfield: The Movie, with an honorable mention to EPA agent Walter Peck in the TV version of Ghostbusters). Without Ramis around to direct, however, it’s starting to look like his planned adaptation of A Confederacy of Dunces starring John Belushi and Richard Pryor is doomed. But maybe Dan Aykroyd will find a way to squeeze a tribute to Ramis into his long-hyped Ghostbusters sequel, the same way Slimer was the ghost of Belushi. On the other hand, given Aykroyd only wanted to make the first movie as an excuse to receive ghost fellatio, maybe it’s best to leave well enough alone.

6. Jan Hooks

It’s heaven! With! Johnnn Belushi! Chris Farley! Phil Harrrtman! Gilllda Radner! Featuring! Charles Rocket! Danitra Vance!
When ancient Saturday Night Live announcer Don Pardo finally died this year, it was appealing to imagine him bellowing these words in his now-even-more-quavery ghost voice. But it was far too soon to add Jan Hooks to this all-star lineup. Who would’ve thought that bulimic heroin addict Laraine Newman would age better than Hooks and finally outlive her? And that Victoria Jackson is alive when Hooks is dead is proof either that there is no God or that there is one, depending on whom you ask. Hooks was, as Jon Lovitz put it, like a female Phil Hartman; they weren’t flashy, but they anchored the show, and they could do anything and do it well. It’s just that Hartman is almost famous for being underrated, perhaps due to his tragic murder (forget about killing Hitler; if you ever get a time machine, go back and introduce the future Brynn Hartman to Dennis Miller first), while Hooks was just plain underrated. On the other hand, while both went on to voice Simpsons characters, Hooks also became a cast member of Designing Women (one of two to die this year) and, unless you’re cancer, you do not mess with a Sugarbaker woman.

5. Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman was perhaps the greatest three-named actor who never took a shot at a president. Now he’ll never get to. When Hoffman was discovered in his apartment’s bathroom, he left a syringe in his arm and many questions. What would this mean for the Hunger Games franchise? The Capote franchise? The Master franchise? The Charlie Wilson’s War franchise? No one took Hoffman’s untimely death harder than sensitive rapper Drake, who was downright pissed off that Rolling Stone gave away his scheduled cover story to the late actor. But the real tragedy was with Hoffman gone, we lost the perfect guy to play the late Jay Bennett in a film about the making of Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. (Yes, Jay Bennett himself actually appeared in the documentary about the making of that album, but Hoffman would have been better.) No wait, the real tragedy is that with Hoffman gone, the title of “greatest living actor” now belongs, by default, to Shia LaBoeuf.

4. Joan Rivers

One of Johnny Carson’s favorite stand-up comedians and Tonight Show guest hosts passed on this year. But enough about David Brenner. Can we talk about Johnny’s former favorite, Joan Rivers? One of the most intriguing questions about the Johnny Carson sex tape that hit the market this year was whether it would show Johnny screwing Joan out of appearing on the network for decades after she took her own short-lived talk show. Forget guest hosting ever again; Johnny isn’t even going to let Joan join the heavenly host. But she persevered. She went from the blacklist to the red carpet. She was fearless—almost; the only thing she feared was not working, and so she never stopped working. It always seemed like Joan Rivers would be around forever. And it still does seem that way, since plastic doesn’t decompose.

3. The Ultimate Warrior

“Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe their final breath,” the Ultimate Warrior once said. Perhaps he meant to say “in one day,” because he died of a heart attack the day after he said that. As usual, many names were crossed off the Alive Wrestlers List, including Mabel, Viscera, and Big Daddy V, to name just a few. There’s also Mae Young, George Scott, Sean O’Haire, and Ox Baker, who once memorably appeared on The Price Is Right and killed Bob Barker in a fit of rage after losing with his signature heart punch. (You can tell the replacement Bob Barker apart from the original because of his white hair.) But the former WWF champion stands above them all, the longstanding rumors of his death now finally not exaggerated. Was he really “the ultimate warrior”? No, that title belongs to someone more like WWII hero “Wild” Bill Guarnere, who was described by commanding officer Dick Winters with reverence as a “natural killer” and, after being shot off a stolen motorcycle by a German sniper, was court-martialed and demoted for putting black shoe polish all over his leg cast, rolling down his pant leg, and walking out of the hospital in extreme pain to rejoin his band of brothers in Easy Company. But he was certainly the ultimate maniac—he did legally change his name to “Warrior,” embark on a short-lived career as a crazed, far right-wing commentator, and urge Hulk Hogan in a (thankfully pre-9/11) WrestleMania VI promo to murder two pilots, hijack a plane, and crash it into SkyDome—and he in fact now rejoins his tag-team partner in the Ultimate Maniacs, “Macho Man” Randy Savage, in the great ring in the sky.

2. James Avery

Many civil rights giants of the small screen died in the past year. There’s Designing Women‘s Meshach Taylor, widely remembered as a groundbreaking gay character on a network sitcom. (He wasn’t actually one, but he’s widely remembered as one anyway.) There’s everyone’s favorite Huxtable grandmother, Maya Angelou, who was deeply involved with the civil rights struggle of the 1960s and was so emblematic of the black female experience that when she passed on, the cosmos had to delete its whitest male, blues guitarist Johnny Winter, simply to maintain its balance. And then there’s James Avery, better known to everyone but Don Everly’s children as Uncle Phil. (“Bye, bye, Phil,” crowed Don Everly, clinking glasses with fellow big winner Olivia de Havilland after their hated siblings died.) Sure, Will Smith’s rapidly not-so-fresh uncle may have lived in a fancy mansion in Bel Air, but whenever someone made the mistake of calling him a rich fat cat, the black Cliff Huxtable would get self-righteous and huffily announce, “I marched with Dr. King!” And now he’s with him again. Smell you later, Uncle Phil.

1. Fred Phelps

And speaking of civil rights, there’s Fred Phelps, believe it or not. The Westboro Baptist Church founder going from celebrated civil rights lawyer to gay-baiting, Jew-hating piece of human garbage was almost as big a heel turn as Jim Phelps turning out to be the villain in the film version of Mission Impossible. It’s tempting to think part of the reason Olympic swimming hero Michael Fred Phelps II (and—Jesus—you see why he doesn’t go by his full name) reportedly dated a trans woman this year was to prove definitively that he was no relation to this homophobic scumbag. (The rest of the reason? Well, why not?) And it would have been tempting to protest Fred Phelps’ funeral, the same way he and his followers protested the funerals of soldiers and school shooting victims, but that would have been giving him the attention he craved. He didn’t get a funeral anyway; his family booted him out of his own church and declined to hold one. But what Fred Phelps really deserved was to have his ashes divided up and anonymously flushed down the urinals of every gay bar in America. That and maybe eternal damnation for good measure.


X-mas XII

18Dec14

On the twelfth year of Christmas compilations, your true love (yours truly) gave to you the same thing that he did the previous eleven years. I’m a little later than usual, although I already threw the link out there a couple of weeks ago on Twitter, where I spend most of my social media time these days. But for your convenience and my reference, here it is, laid out more fully.

As usual, this is a CD-length compilation because you have to stop somewhere, and if you’re setting an arbitrary limit, it might as well be at a length that doesn’t exceed the limit of what can be burned to physical media. Physical media isn’t quite dead yet, not as long as my wife lacks an auxiliary input in her car stereo and my in-laws play all their music through the little CD player in their kitchen. Burning this to CD is also a good way to stay warm on a cold winter night as well.

As an aside, it’s not until the CD is on the way out that I think I’ve truly figured out how to sequence a mixed CD. The secret is to imagine you’re making a double LP with four sides. So, on the off chance you listen to this as a digital playlist or as a burned CD instead of pressing it to vinyl, you may want to imagine that side A is tracks 1 to 7, side B is tracks 8 to 14, side C is tracks 15 to 19, and side D is tracks 20 to 25. That’s how I conceived it, anyway, and it should make sense that way. If you want to just listen to the first fourteen tracks as a single album and then finish the rest of it later, that is a compiler-approved method of consumption that should satisfy everyone. If you want to listen to the whole thing at once, it should not prove tedious! It is meant to work that way too!

Anyway, here are tracks 1 to 7, 8 to 14, 15 to 19, and 20 to 25:

  1. Julian Casablancas – I Wish It Was Christmas Today
  2. Kate Nash – I Hate You This Christmas
  3. Jonathan Coulton and John Roderick – 2600
  4. !!! – And Anyway It’s Christmas
  5. Gruff Rhys – Post-Apocalypse Christmas
  6. The Boy Least Likely To – The First Snowflake
  7. Palace Songs (Bonnie Prince Billy) – Christmastime in the Mountains
  8. Saint Etienne – Come On Christmas
  9. The Killers ft. Ryan Pardey – I Feel It In My Bones
  10. Piney Gir – Christmas Time
  11. Sea Wolf – Winter’s Heir
  12. Tracey Thorn – In the Cold, Cold Night
  13. Telstar Ponies – I Still Believe in Christmas Trees
  14. Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler – (Don’t Call Me) Mrs. Christmas
  15. My Morning Jacket – Santa Claus Is Back in Town
  16. The Raveonettes – Christmas Ghosts
  17. Summer Fiction – Christmas Eve for Two
  18. The Be Good Tanyas – Rain and Snow
  19. Nick Lowe – Christmas at the Airport
  20. Glasvegas – Careful What You Wish For
  21. Wye Oak – Christmas Will Be Just Another Lonely Day
  22. Frightened Rabbit – Cheap Gold
  23. Sufjan Stevens – Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
  24. The Pearlfishers – Winter Roads
  25. Julie Crochetière – It Won’t Be Christmas (Till You’re Here)

Here is the download link. You will find that listening to the music itself is even more satisfying than merely reading a list of the songs’ titles. And here is a link to all twelve of my holiday compilations from this and previous years. Happy holidays, lucky listener.


Monologue #13

09Oct14

You don’t seem to want to accept the fact you’re dealing with an expert in guerrilla warfare, with a man who’s the best, with guns, with knives, with his bare hands. A man who’s been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a billy goat puke. In Vietnam, his job was to dispose of enemy personnel. To kill! Period! Win by attrition. Well, Rambo was the best. And you probably didn’t know, Marjorie, that Rambo was not just any Miss Georgia; he was the Miss Georgia. He didn’t just twirl a baton; that baton was on fire. And when he threw that baton into the air, it flew higher, further, faster than any baton has ever flown before, hitting a transformer and showering the darkened arena with sparks! And when it finally did come down, Marjorie, he caught that baton, and 12,000 people jumped to their feet for sixteen and one-half minutes of uninterrupted thunderous ovation, as flames illuminated his tear-stained face! And that, Marjorie—just so you will know, and your children will someday know—is the night the lights went out in Georgia!


You people,” sneered the old southern sheriff.

“What do you mean, ‘you people’?!” demanded the big-shot New York City detective.

Black people,” blinked the old southern sheriff. “Sorry, was I unclear? Not a fan.”

“Well, I personally like ‘em,” shrugged the big-shot New York City detective. “Of course, I’m biased.”

Biased?” exclaimed the old southern sheriff. “Now you hold on there! Only thing I hate more than a black person is a bigot!”

“Whoa,” pleaded the big-shot New York City detective. “Why don’t we just work together to solve this crime, meanwhile developing a grudging respect for one another?”

“Fine,” harrumphed the old southern sheriff. “You people with your grudging respect.


MICHAEL
All right, this one time I’ll let
you ask about my affairs, one last
time.

KAY
Is it true?

She looks directly into his eyes, he returns the look, so directly that we know he will tell the truth.

MICHAEL
(after a very long pause)
No.

KAY is relieved; she throws her arms around him, and hugs him. Then she kisses him.

KAY
(through her tears)
We both need a drink.

INT DAY: DON’S KITCHEN (1955)

She moves back into the kitchen and begins to prepare the drinks. From her vantage point, as she smilingly makes the drinks, she sees behind Michael a MAN, dressed in a dog’s costume, kneeling at the foot of a bed. He leans back and looks towards her. Another MAN, in evening dress, leans forward and looks at KAY. CAMERA ZOOMS IN on them.

The smile fades from KAY’s face.

THE END


40

08Apr14

Whew.

This is a hard one.

Okay.

Lordy, lordy, guess who’s forty? That’s right, it’s me. And it certainly isn’t these non-milestone-celebrating idiots. Perpetually thirty-nine, you dead losers? Jack Benny called, and he wants his bit back. Also, his life. Like you.

Like you, Dylan Thomas. “Do not go gentle into that good night/rage, rage against the dying of the light?” Big talk, considering you were lying comatose in your deathbed while your wife was the one threatening to murder people and eventually getting put in a straitjacket and committed to a psychiatric institution. Maybe we should just make “I’ve had 18 straight whiskies. I think that’s the record!” your quotable quote, although apparently you were lying about that one too.

¡Oye! Che Guevara! You know which other Cuban icon got riddled with bullets and ended up postered all over dorm room walls everywhere? Tony “Scarface” Montana. Weird how Al Pacino is worth over $200 million today and enterprising capitalists have made at least that much marketing your image to college freshmen, huh? Isn’t it ironic how you ended up doing about as much for the Communist cause as a picture of Albert Einstein sticking out his tongue?

And you, Clyde McPhatter of the Drifters: Well, I guess you proved that McPhattery will get you nowhere. You know drifters are supposed to murder other people, not end up dead themselves, right?

Amelia Earhart … well, maybe you don’t belong on this list at all. I mean, there’s a chance that there’s a 116-year-old crone hobbling around a remote Pacific Island right now. If that’s the case, Carmen Sandiego, isn’t now the time to come out of hiding and start adding something to CNN’s incessant coverage of disappeared Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370? Get on it, Dora the Explorer.

Trivia: “Stonewall” Jackson believed all his life that his left arm was longer than the right and usually held it up in the air to equalize his circulation. Until the Battle of Chancellorsville, when he had to have his left arm amputated due to injuries. Congratulations, “Stonewall” Jackson! Your left arm is no longer longer than your right! Also, it was buried separately from the rest of you and no one knows where it is now, or if they do, they aren’t saying, which is where we get the verb “stonewall.” True story.

Speaking of stonewalling, I’ll give you this, Georges Vézina: You had a hell of a glove hand. Heck, you even caught tuberculosis. What a cool customer you were, Chicoutimi Cucumber. L’Habitant silencieux. But you were never cooler and more silent than the 1926 NHL postseason, when you put in a Vezina Trophy-winning performance as deadest goaltender.

Anna Nicole and Davey Boy Smith: What a lovely couple you make. Anna Nicole used to take drug injections in her buttocks, and the British Bullcrap used to drug his wife before bed so he could give her a hot beef injection in the butt. You’re a match made in heaven, where you probably aren’t.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X: What a lovely couple you make. No, I actually mean that one. I mean, King was a serial adulterer and Malcolm X was a pimp. Despite your philosophical differences, you were both men of God who were kind of dicks to women, weren’t you?

But hey, speaking of God, let me see if I’ve got Pascal’s Wager right. Basically, you can choose to believe in God or choose not to believe in God. If you choose not to believe in God and you’re right, it doesn’t matter because you won’t exist either by the time you’re in a position to find out. If you choose not to believe in God and you’re wrong, you’re also going to learn about the existence of the Devil pretty quickly. On the other hand, if you choose to believe in God and you’re wrong, well, no harm done; you still lived a virtuous life. But, if you choose to believe in God and you’re right, well, jackpot—eternal bliss. And you used this as a proof of God, Blaise Pascal? Sounds more like a proof of your cowardice, insincerity and self-interest, which you’d think God would see right through. How is it working out for you these days anyway? Did you know that bearded homophobe from Duck Dynasty is going around parroting your argument? This is the same guy who said “It seems like, to me, a vagina—as a man—would be more desirable than a man’s anus. … There’s more there! She’s got more to offer. … But hey, sin: It’s not logical, my man. It’s just not logical.” This is the fellow logician with whom you’ve aligned yourself, Pascal you genius. Stick to math.

Whoa, that ran long. I guess I had a lot of anger stored up. But who’d have guessed I’d be doing more with my undergraduate degree in philosophy at 40 than Blaise Pascal? Modern medicine, I guess. Okay, rapid fire now:

Bartholomew Roberts? More like the Dead Pirate Roberts.

Uday Hussein? More like “You dead, Hussein.”

Frédéric Chopin? More like Frédéric Show-Panned-by Critics. (They were talking about your funeral. It sucked.)

Klaus Nomi? More like Klaus No-More. More like Klaus Nobody-Likes-Me, because I’m a creepy fey weird-ass singing clown. Turns out we’d rather our mimes keep silent. Not a problem now!

Dennis Wilson … you know what? I still miss Dennis Wilson. Dennis Wilson’s was the first celebrity death where I still remember exactly where I was when I first heard about it. I was nine years old. My parents were newly divorced. I’d always loved the Beach Boys and had spent many an hour reading their personal notes to fans on the back cover of my dad’s LP of Summer Days (And Summer Nights!!). One always stuck out: “They say I live a fast life. Maybe I just like a fast life. I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. It won’t last forever, either. But the memories will…” That was from the handsome one who later became a bearded drunk, the one with the same first name as my dad. And with his passing, another little piece of my childhood died.

Whoa, paging Dr. Freud! Jesus, I need therapy! Forty years old, and on some level I’m obviously still thinking of a drug-addled pin-up boy who wrote songs with Charles Manson as my dad. I am messed up.

But you know what else I am? Forty. Unlike all these dead idiots! See you next year, folks! See you in hell, dead idiots!


Following up on a conversation about Oxford’s controversial word of the year from a couple of months ago, your favorite reclusive former internet humorist Jay Pinkerton sent me an unusually verbose one-line missive this morning asking, “Sick of selfie yet? I can ask again in six months.” Gradually becoming increasingly aware that he’d tricked me into essentially writing a blog post, I responded as follows:
I don’t really have a problem with “selfie.” I don’t personally hear it overused, and it’s at least useful in its descriptiveness of a common occurrence. We’d still have selfies if we didn’t have the word, though I’m open to the argument that having a word for it means more of it. Anyway, what I’m really trying to say here is that I don’t want to get rid of the word “selfie.” I just want to get rid of the narcissistic millennials who take them.

That just reminded me that I haven’t checked out Lake Superior State University Banned Words List for this year yet. Since we’re there, let’s briefly look at the rest of the list:

Twerk: I have to say that this one set some kind of land speed record for going from obscurity to ubiquity in mainstream circles. A year ago, I didn’t know it. Nine months ago, I was ashamed to say that I did, or to have anyone look at my YouTube history for the previous three months. Six months ago I was explaining it to my wife, and three months ago I was explaining it to my mother-in-law. One question, though: Didn’t this just to be called booty-shaking? Another question: What was wrong with just calling it booty-shaking?

Hashtag: Ugh. Yes. There’s no reason to ever say this out loud. The hashtag key used to be known as the pound key, and that’s what I want to do to people who say the word out loud: pound them mercilessly. Remember how lame Joe Biden sounded in the 2010 debates saying “That’s a hashtag fail” in a misguided attempt to sound hip and with it? Now I see old people doing the same thing in commercials. Saying “hashtag” aloud is the rapping granny of 2014.
Twittersphere: The layer of hot air immediately above the troposphere. Zing. I’m not totally annoyed, but isn’t “in the Twittersphere” longer than “on Twitter”? I don’t see the usefulness. However, the suffix may be more useful for describing certain parts of Twitter. Maple Leafs Twitter, for example, is the Barilkosphere, and Edmonton Oilers Twitter is the Oilogosphere. That may be useful shorthand in a 140-character world.
Mister Mom: People are saying this? People are really, as LSSU’s writeup implies, celebrating the 30th anniversary of a Michael Keaton movie that isn’t Batman? I don’t believe this at all. I wonder what Michael Keaton would be saying about this if he were alive today.
T-bone: People are suddenly annoyed at this particular metaphor for a particular type of automobile collision? 2013 was the year it broke out of casual conversations and onto the airwaves to be intoned solemnly by news broadcasters. Truly the age of gravitas is over, if so. We’ve officially reached the point of the Banned Words list where the cranks are allowed to vent. Fine, Kyle from White Lake, Michigan, you hate “T-bone.” What do you suggest we replace it with? Just paint your suggestion up there on your posterboard sign and take it to the street corner where you rant about Obama being a Jew alien every day.
___ on steroids: Okay, I’m with them here. Not that this is suddenly ubiquitous, but this is hacky material and overdue for retirement. It’s just a shade less cringeworthy than ending a sentence with “… not!” like you’re Mike Myers from 1992 or your mom from 2013. “___ on steroids” is of course a relative of “___ on crack,” which suddenly makes it seem a little relevant to 2013 after all. This was of course, the year Rob Ford responded to his crack scandal by vowing to lose weight and sought the aid of a personal trainer who had been convicted for trafficking in banned substances. “Rob Ford is a mayor on crack, on steroids” was a very possible headline this year.
-ageddon. -pocalypse: Mostly weather-related, mostly annoying. I do look forward to the media unironically reporting on a municipal administration’s unpreparedness to deal with a particularly heavy snowfall in a controversy dubbed Snowmageddongate.

Intellectually/morally bankrupt: These are overused for a good reason. I’ll give them up when politicians achieve intellectual/moral solvency.

Obamacare: Yes, it’s actually called the Affordable Care Act. And Reaganomics was, in large part, the Tax Reform Act. I can’t see how Obamacare is more laudatory or derisive than Reaganomics. Each encapsulates each man’s signature policy in a memorable way that ties it to the chief executive responsible for it. Let each of them wear it, for good or for ill. And one thing’s for sure: I’ll take each of these over Orwellian bullshit nomenclature designed to stifle reasonable dissent like the PATRIOT Act, which surely only treasonous America-haters could oppose.
Adversity: “Heard often in the world of football.” So what? It’s a tough sport. You try playing a gladiatorial sport on frozen turf in a snowstorm. You know when you really hear the word “adversity” a lot though? After a football player’s career flames out after three years and he’s struggling to provide for his family because he has no skills and never learned to save, or when he’s struggling to remember his children’s names because of chronic traumatic encephalopathy from years of concussive punishment. Don’t try to take away one of the only four-syllable words a football player ever learns.

Fan base: What’s wrong with just using the word “fans” and why do we need to inflate one word into two? Well, I might argue that “fan base” has a different shade of meaning from “the fans” in that it refers specifically to all of a sport team’s (or entertainer’s or whatever) fandom in a particularly single, monolithic way. It’s like distinguishing your readers from your readership, or your Twitter followers from your Twitter follower count. There’s a useful distinction when talking about increasing your fan base, from a corporate/marketing/bean counting standpoint.


Lots of things ended in 2013, the three most important being Breaking Bad, the Justin Bieber/Selena Gomez relationship, and the papacy of Benedict XVI, in that order. But lots of people ended too, some more so than others. Let’s face it, there’s dead, and then there’s really dead. Glee star Cory Monteith, for example, doesn’t make the cut, as his death was merely a cover version of other more famous deaths. But these people? They’re the deadest of all.

10. James Gandolfini

“The first time you make fun of a celebrity death, that’s the hardest. I don’t give a shit if you’re fuckin’ Wyatt Earp or Jack the Ripper. First one’s tough, no fuckin’ foolin’. The second one … the second one ain’t no fuckin’ Mardi Gras either, but it’s better than the first one. ’cause you still feel the same thing, y’know … except it’s more diluted, y’know it’s … it’s better. I threw up on the first one, you believe that? Then the third one … the third one is easy, you level right off. It’s no problem. Now … shit … now I do it just to watch their fuckin’ expression change.”

9. Paul Bearer

Crossed off the Alive Wrestling Managers list—and taking his gimmick to the next level—in 2013 was William Moody, also known as Percival Pringle III, also known as St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock, but best known as Paul Bearer. An actual real-life mortician turned wrestling manager, Moody put the “morbid” in “morbidly obese.” (And also, at a peak weight of 525 pounds before spooky gastric bypass surgery, the “obese.”) His death came as no surprise; when last seen alive, he looked decidedly pale and deathly. Did Paul Bearer’s protégés Undertaker, Kane, Mankind, and Vader serve as his actual pallbearers? Are his actual ashes now contained in the mystical urn constantly carried around by the Undertaker? Given his great devotion to the wrestling business and the fact that his death was immediately worked into an angle on Monday Night Raw in a way he would undoubtedly have delighted in, let’s just go with a shrill “Oh yes!”

8. Stompin’ Tom Connors

No matter what you may have been told about troubadour/panderer Stompin’ Tom Connors, it’s weird that Canadians see him as a national hero when he got that name for stomping a man to death over a $600 debt. He was basically a drifter who did prison time. If you want to call that a hero, fine, take your chances. Like, you might hear an amusing song about potatoes, or you might get stabbed and stomped to death. It’s your call. Yes, unlike that American pretender Johnny Cash, Stompin’ Tom really did kill a man just to watch him die. Well, that, and to get back his $600. The saddest part of the story is that the guy that Stompin’ Tom stomped to death was the Littlest Hobo’s original owner, dooming the poor mutt to wander aimlessly forever in search of a new home. True story.

7. Conrad Bain

Most loved him as Phillip “Mr.” Drummond. To others, he was the Bain of their existence. Cut down before his time at a mere 89, Conrad Bain is the latest victim of the Diff’rent Strokes curse that has previously claimed Gary Coleman, Dana Plato, and Nancy Reagan, and he’s presumably keeping Gordon “The Bicycle Man” Jump from molesting young boys in heaven now. In a way, Philip Drummond was the Angelina Jolie of the 1970s. Except that he took in a couple of poor black children according to their mother’s wishes rather than stealing them from another land, and he didn’t obviously treat them worse than his natural-born child, and he also continued to hold down a job instead of just swanning around like the Queen of Sheba all the time.

6. Paul Walker

Every halfwit on Twitter rushed to make jokes about how ironic it was that a man who gained fame through a film series about reckless, irresponsible street racing should die in a car crash, in a phenomenon that might well have been hashtagged #2fast2soon. This is about ironic as porn star John Holmes contracting and dying of AIDS, you chuckleheads. That is, it isn’t. It’s either a coincidence or a consequence, depending on whether his fast-driving film persona bled into his real life. Irony is a situation that’s the opposite of what might have been expected—for instance, a man named Walker dying while driving.

5. Chris Kelly

Warm it up, Kris / I’m about to / Warm it up, Kris / Get off my back; I just told you I was about to. Chris Kelly was clearly under a lot of pressure leading up to his premature (and—let’s face it—wiggity, wiggity, wiggity wack) demise by drug overdose. How could he follow peaking as a 14-year-old kid with the temerity to bill himself as “Mac Daddy”? Would the two members of Kris Kross someday be murdered in some kind of Strangers on a Train situation? Would the undertaker place him face-down in his coffin, or just put his suit on backwards? Had he missed the bus on building a musical legacy, and would his name be totally krossed out of the history books? Well, no matter. Mac Daddy is with Vanilli now, in one-hit-wonder pop-star duo heaven.

4. Elmore Leonard

PROLOGUE
It was a dark and stormy night. Author Elmore Leonard, who had a long, bespectacled face and white receding hair and a goatee, moved slowly around his living room, which had a couch, two chairs, a crackling fire, and a bookcase filled with his many books, such as Get Shorty, Out of Sight, and Rum Punch. Suddenly, all hell broke loose! Elmore Leonard had a stroke! “As surely as I was born in New Orleans, I gar-on-tee that you have killed me with your awful writing!” he moaned, clutching his chest. “You should have read my ten tricks for good writing!” he admonished gravely. “Why did you never read my endlessly republished ten tricks for good writing?

3. André Cassagnes

If you don’t think it’s a big deal that the inventor of the Etch A Sketch died, give your head a shake.

2. Annette Funicello

Film and television lost many of its luminaries this year, such as adult film stars Harry Reems and Peter O’Toole. A year ago, we had Jonathan Winters; now we have global warming. Special effects pioneer Ray Harryhausen’s body was, according to his will, stripped of his flesh and his skeleton displayed with a sword in its hand, probably. Troubled That ’70’s Show actress Lisa Robin Kelly passed of as-yet unrevealed causes, but you can do the meth—er, “math.” (Kelly is survived by her husband, Robert Joseph Gilliam, who reportedly immediately began dating actress Christina Moore.) But perhaps the greatest loss was on the other side of the silver screen: that of film critic Roger Ebert, whose writing dripped with humanity and wit. “The most striking element … is the intelligence of the language,” wrote the man without a face in his 1993 review of Mel Gibson’s The Man Without a Face, and the same was true of him.

On the other hand, this list hasn’t had a single woman on it yet, and let’s be honest: Do we want to look at a picture of Roger Ebert from any point in his history? Or do we want to look at cutie-pie original Mousketeer Annette Funicello? Thought so.

1. Nelson Mandela

He was a progressive voice of wisdom despite his many years in servitude as a so-called inferior. After being banished from the eyes of the world by the powers that be, he re-emerged to have a remarkable second act and forge unlikely alliances with former enemies. And when he died, the world mourned. But enough about Brian Griffin, the talking dog from Family Guy. Released from a decades-long imprisonment, Mandela became president of his country only four years later, which, to put things in perspective, is exactly the length of time between The Shawshank Redemption and Deep Impact, two films he is sometimes believed to have starred in. Who will replace great, inspiring humanist figures such as Mandela, Mother Teresa, and the Dalai Lama as they pass from the world’s stage? It’s really basically down to Jaden Smith now.


X-mas XI

08Dec13

Ten years of holiday music compilations is a nice round number to stop at, so naturally I did another one. For the eleventh consecutive year, there will be no “Santa Baby”. The point here, as usual, isn’t to recycle tired old holiday treacle; it’s to compile a collection of wintry songs you can listen to in July to beat the heat, if you so choose. Also, I’ve been unable to bear “Santa Baby” since the time I saw Eartha Kitt go 20 grand in the hole on Celebrity Jeopardy. Something about the thought of jolly old Saint Nick giving it long and hard to a mentally handicapped woman skeeves me out, I guess.

There is soulful late-’70s saxophone suitable for, say, seducing a mentally handicapped Catwoman, on this compilation, however. Deal with it. What’s more, that’s not even the worst thing on here. There’s something on this compilation that is truly horrible. Something that will take you down the road to madness this holiday season. See if you can guess what is. Here’s a tracklist.

     1. Boots – The Killers
     2. A Doe to a Deer – Los Campesinos!
     3. Almost a Full Moon (Let’s Make Some Soup) – Hawksley Workman
     4. Green Grows the Holly – Calexico
     5. She Screams Christmas – Frightened Rabbit
     6. In the Bleak Midwinter/Lonely This Christmas – Sam Airey
     7. Old Toy Trains – Nick Lowe
     8. Hannukah Blessings – The Barenaked Ladies
     9. Christmas Wish – She & Him
     10. That’s What I Want for Christmas – Holly Golightly
     11. Hey Guys! It’s Christmas Time! – Sufjan Stevens
     12. Stranded in Snowville – The Winter Sounds
     13. Christmas Isn’t Christmas – The Boy Least Likely To
     14. All That I Want – Vanessa Peters
     15. Winter Wooskie – Belle & Sebastian
     16. Winter Song (acoustic) – Screaming Trees
     17. Let’s Make a Baby King – Louise Taylor
     18. Snowstorm – Galaxie 500
     19. Goin’ South – The Beach Boys
     20. Winter – The Rolling Stones
     21. Holiday Road – The Walkmen
Did you guess what I was talking about? No? Then you’ll just have to download it and see. And for the first decade’s worth of compilations (detailed exhaustively previously), it’s all available in one big file. Enjoy.

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Before I was a married man, I was a single man. One of the best and worst parts of that was having housemates; I used to live with a brain-damaged woman named Toula who, while occasionally frustrating to live with, at least made for good stories. Here’s a lost Toula story I meant to post about five years ago and just found in my draft folder. You can tell it’s an old story because, at that time in history, phone books were still useful items instead of vestigial nuisances:

As you may know by now, my housemate Toula is brain-damaged. By “brain damaged,” I don’t mean “stupid”; I mean “as a result of a car accident”, which does in fact mean “stupid”, but which I hope captures the depth of her stupidity.

Last Friday, I had to confront her about a disturbing problem that keeps cropping up: rather than put my mail on the kitchen table on her way back from the mailbox, she often takes the liberty of just assuming I don’t want it and throwing it in the garbage.

(This seems to be her natural impulse when something is delivered to our house. When the new phone books arrived—one for each of the four housemates who each have a separate phone line—she kept one and threw the other four away under the assumption that we only need one phone book per house, and that no subscriber need feel entitled to one of his own. More recently, a Telus Yellow Pages arrived, so she threw away our apparently redundant copy of the White Pages, and put the Telus Yellow Pages next to our copy of the Bell Yellow Pages. When asked why she threw away our only useful phone book, she replied, “Well, it had been there for a while.” When reminded that it had been there for a while because it was a very useful item, she said, “Well, nobody seemed to be using it.” This is true; at the precise moment she threw it away, no one happened to be leafing through it.)

But back to the mail. My concern was that she kept throwing my credit card applications—which she perceives as junk mail—straight into the recycling bin, leaving me open to fraud and identity theft. My credit rating isn’t much to brag about, but it certainly wouldn’t benefit from someone filling out an application in my name and charging everything he could to a bogus credit card. I explained this to Toula, and added that one should never throw out a credit card application without shredding it, to prevent wily tricksters from ruining one’s credit rating.

“Well, there are lots of ways people can commit fraud,” Toula said in her defence.

“True,” I said. “But I would rather they had one fewer way. So, please do not throw out my credit card applications.”

Returning to my room, I paused, then said to my visiting friend, your favorite Internet humorist Jay Pinkerton, “That just didn’t sink in, did it?”

“It didn’t sound like it,” said Jay.

Sure enough, Jay was right. When Tuesday came around, I checked the mailbox. Empty. I checked the recycling bin. Full. Once again, she’d thrown out one of my credit card applications.

I waited all day and when she came home, I confronted her. “Do you remember what I told you on Friday about throwing out my mail? In case I wasn’t completely clear, let me reiterate: Do not throw away my mail.” Instead of apologizing, she got indignant, apparently because I was nagging her. “Did I do anything else wrong today,” she asked sarcastically.

“Probably, but I’m only concerned with this.”

“You keep bringing this up!” she complained.

“I’ve mentioned it twice,” I said. “I only bring it up this time because you completely ignored me the first time and because it’s important.”

“Well, it’s just a credit card application. Those things are nuisances.”

“It’s my nuisance. Why would mail addressed to me bother you?” I asked. “What if I got something important you mistook for junk mail and threw out? What if, god forbid, I should actually want to fill out a credit card application?”

“Well, you just started nagging me when I came through the door,’ she complained. “You didn’t even ask how my day was.”

“Fine,” I said. “How was your day? Did you have a rewarding day throwing away my mail? Did you just interfere with mine or did you commit mail fraud all over the city? How was work? Was it four hours working in the mailroom, then another four of custodial services, or did you streamline things by just combining the two?”

Well, I was going to say all of that, but she went upstairs in the middle of it. Judging by my earlier attempts to address the topic, she probably would have either misunderstood or failed to hear it anyway.




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