Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fun + Futility = Funtility.

And so, another fruitless season scrapes to an end. 

Even at a Mets Shrine I have to see Yankees fans. I am not seen in this picture, FYI. I took it. Stop conjecturing.
Tell you the truth, I hardly watched any games this year. After coming up just short in 2006, the Mets have been coming up shorter and shorter ever since. Historically bad collapses under Willie Randolph, fortunes spent for guys who were also getting Social Security checks, and so many seasons just sagging from one useless series to another. Phenom pitcher pops up (Hooray!) and suddenly needs Tommy John surgery (Waaaah!). Everyone seems to think he'll be back next year better than ever, as if he just had a wisdom tooth out. To me, operations where they flip tendons around just seem to be a little wee bit treacherous. The only guy I know of who ever came back physically improved from an injury was Col. Steve Austin.

Still, I have begun to wonder if we're putting too much weight on championships nowadays. In professional baseball, for decades the season just ended when it ended. Baseball games were an outing for a day; there was no sense of a campaign, let alone a war. The 1903 World Series was considered an eight-game voluntary exhibition, rather like spring training games now but with less purpose. The Giants wouldn't even bother playing in 1904, so there was no World Series. (That would not happen again until a massive outbreak of major league greed ruined the 1994 season. Two World Wars and a Great Depression could not stop baseball, but greed did. There's a lesson there, I suppose.) Prior to the modern era, postseason was even less meaningful, although they were still fighting over money. And in the 1889 season, interestingly, the World Series was agreed to continue until one team one six games---it lasted nine, but it could have gone 13. Things were done year by year.

I guess I'm saying that we take this stuff too seriously nowadays. It's impossible for most of us to go enjoy a game in September when the team has already been eliminated from the playoffs and looks like it is going nowhere next season either. Here I'm feeling sorry for myself, and the Pirates (who made it in again this year) had twenty consecutive seasons of losing baseball. The Royals are back in the playoffs this year for the first time since winning the World Series in 1985! If all their fans acted like many of us fans, these would be dead franchises by now.

Baseball gets a lot of abuse for being a pastoral, old-fashioned game. I'm not going to argue its superiority to other sports here. I'm a terrible, disloyal fan, whose depth of wisdom has not prevented me from becoming a fair-weather friend. But there's a reason it's played all over the world, and has endured for so many decades in America. I am not that reason.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I club New York.

Saw an ad for various attractions for New York State in the fall.

Font of all knowledge Wikipedia tells us that this blasted slogan and logo have been used since 1977. Thirty-seven years is damn long enough, don't you think? If people don't frigging heart New York by now, they aren't likely to start hearting it with another round of this stupid thing.

And it is a stupid thing. The tourism board tells you "I Love New York." Well, of course you do! It's your job! What you want to say is "You'll Love New York," but it doesn't fit the square.

And this would be presumptuous.

No, it's clear that New York has to come up with something fresh to keep the interest of potential tourists who have lost their minds and want to be separated from their money here. Naturally, public-minded Fred aims to rush to the rescue with my ideas for new slogans.

And yet the more I thought about it, the more I realized how hard it is to come up with a tourist slogan for anything other than maybe a tropical paradise, and even they may cause you to circumvent the truth ("St. Urania: We Haven't Had a Bloody Revolution in Months!" "St. Urania: Now With 23% Fewer Febrile Diseases!"). U.S. states (and commonwealths, all right, Mr. Picky Pick) have other issues, such as the fact that most of them have very similar neighbors. A campaign that works for Idaho might work just as well for Wyoming. New York may consider itself an exception, but I have my doubts. (Jersey's got shores, Vermont's got leaves, Pennsylvania's got hills.) Further, U.S. states (and commonetc.) often have little to offer than cannot be found someplace closer.

"You there, in Texas! Get in your car and drive fifteen hours to Alabama for vacation!"


"The wonderful Gulf coast!"

"Like the one we have here? Or the closer one in Mississippi? Or Louisiana, for Pete's sake?"

"Fine, stay there."

What are we supposed to say, our autumn leaves are better than Vermont's or New Hampshire's? So you start trying to think of things your state offers that are unique. "New York: Kind of Triangular." Okay, no good. But New York does have some great features you don't find everywhere in the U.S., like "Niagara: Falls, Folks, and Fun!" Or "The Hamptons: We Don't Want Your Kind."

But you want attractions for the whole state, not just pieces (like "Can't Have Utica without U!"). It's tempting to make your campaign about your biggest city, like New York City or Chicago or New Orleans, but this has to be a state campaign. Let the cities have their own dad-blasted campaigns, is the cry from the state tourism board.

New York's got everything other states have, although often less of it. You want mountains? We got little ones---small, but potent. Sports? Yes, even one NFL team. Horse racing? Just a charming spot called Saratoga and a third of the Triple Crown. Museums? We got culture out the bazooty. National monuments? There's a big green lady I want you to meet. Historic military academy? You bet. Beaches? Down there on the pointy end. Lakes? Sure, lakes. "Even Our Lakes Give You the Finger!" As in most states there's a hodgepodge of things that will never all appeal to everyone. California has more different crap than any other state in the nation and they gave up and went with "Dream Big" as their slogan. It tells you only marginally more than I Heart New York.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized the reason states even have a tourism board is just to get money. You are irrelevant, but your money is always needed. Especially in this state, where our government can't sneeze without a $10,000 gilded tissue. So I finally settled on "New York: Send the Money and No One Gets Hurt."

Not catchy, but it gets the point across.

Sunday, September 28, 2014


"Well, no, it's not like I like it, but I 'like' it."

Saturday, September 27, 2014

I pad, U pad, we all pad for iPad.

Big breakthrough

This is the first blog entry I,ve written on the iPad I got as a gift. I am just typing it out straight in Pagesm not making corrections beyond allowing the autocorrect to do its magic. Why? Because I kept hearing about the lameitude if the iPad keyboard, but if there's one rhubarb I know about it is the friendliness if Apple products. Say what you will, Knut they are as easy to use as anything on earth. If you can't use apple products, I don
T even want to watch you try to use a fork .

Now, as ahoy can tell, there are a lot of errors getting through, but nothing compared to what this would llook like without the apple software. I,m not that bad a typist  really. I was self taught back when a mistake meant getting out the site out. Yep, you made a slip in that cuneiform, myth needed Liquid Rock to make kit right. Later we used liquid Wax on the diptychs. Shut up.

Anyway, wish me luck---I expect I will continue to do most of my entries on my laptop, but the iPad makes a useful backup, then you can blog in the subway, on the bus, driving the car (before the cops find you) , in the can, whenever, whatever you.re doing. I promise solemnly that if I ever do blog on the toilet, I will withhold the information from you. Thank you, and you may now Ohio about your business.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Muse on this.

The Muses were the nine goddesses of song, dance, and music in Greek mythology. They were considered the source of inspiration for writers, musicians, poets, and all that crowd. In fact, the word inspiration, like respiration, comes from breathing in, as if the divine spark of creativity were given to the poet with the breath of life, and made of the same substance. Anyone who has felt truly inspired knows that feeling of having something outside himself, greater than himself, using him to bring some brilliance to earth---like he is a mere instrument and some Other holds the bow. None of this explains Robin Thicke, but it doesn't have to.

Everyone likes the Muses, and they never got into weird trouble like some other gods I could name. The nine gals all have great and classic Greek names, but oddly, despite their popularity, their names have not spread much into wider popular use.

Calliope was the goddess of epic poetry, and yet her name was given to a kooky steam-powered musical instrument of the type we associate with carnival music and organ grinders. It's an understandable appropriation, as Calliope may be probably the prettiest name of the bunch; you wouldn't call your new instrument "the Melpomene" and expect people to show up. Since Calliope got something named after her, though, I suppose the others ought to as well. You don't want them getting jealous.

Erato was the goddess of erotic poetry, so I guess in a way she does have something named after her. Remember that in the old days there was no prose; everything was poetry. So erotic prose would be in her bailiwick today. All those paperbacks for women featuring shirtless guys on the cover---that's Erato. (Sorry, guys; there was no Muse named Porno.) If there were a G-rated (rather than G-string rated) object we would name the Erato, I'd suggest some kind of Liquid Paper; maybe a variety used on quality stationery to remove errors while composing steamy letters to loved ones. Neatness still counts, you know.

Euterpe was in charge of lyrical poetry and music, so that would be more the kind of la-di-da stuff we think of as poetry now. How unfair is that name, though? Try rhyming something with "You-TURRR-Pee." "Hail to thee, beneficent Euterpe / With your flute and bright gold derby." Nah. I think the Euterpe would wind up being some kind of surgical instrument rather than a musical one. Or maybe an old-fashioned digestive illness.

Terpsichore (Turp-SICK-or-EE) does sound like a kind of old-fashioned instrument, a bit similar to the harpsichord (Harp-SICK-cord); and she was the goddess of choral dance and song. She'd own a club in Vegas now. I'd say the Terpsichore would be some gizmo used by sound engineers, but I'm not sure what. Either a kind of rhythmic version of Auto-Tune to get everyone on beat or an electric prod to wake the talent up before the opening act finishes.

Thalia is about the only Muse name you hear given to girls, and a pretty and mellifluous name it is. Thalia is the Muse of comedy, and is usually seen with a comic mask or a shepherd's staff. Not sure I get the shepherd angle. Maybe the same reason we liked Li'l Abner and The Beverly Hillbillies and The Dukes of Hazzard: Bumpkins is funny! Regardless, the Thalia should be a kind of nail polish.

Sorry, Urania; it's totally unfair, you being the goddess of astronomy, but your name is going to a device that reminds little girls to wipe front-to-back. (Yes, your great-grandfather Uranus got a planet named for him, but it didn't help him either.)

Polyhymnia looks like a total Joykillnia is this picture. As the Muse of the Sublime Hymn, or religious music, I'm not surprised. For every Ode to Joy there are five thousand Michaels Rowing the Boat Ashore. That would make anyone look glum. Still, her name fits the hymnal, as the words have not drifted too far away from the names; the Polyhymnia would be a special hymnal for choir directors, with all the professional notes for his use ("Allegro" "Fortissimo" "Make sure they don't all hiss like snakes on the 'bless' line").

Well, I've already made fun of Melpomene's name, and as the Muse of tragedy I'm sure she knows how to get even. That's a mask she's holding, by the way, not the head of another writer that crossed her. But I'll be nice. Ish. The Melpomene sounds like one of those exotic fruits that pop up at the grocery store that you know were flown in from someplace where they have a lot of shooting and disease, but it is SO exotic looking and impressive sounding---only, maybe it's one of those things that you have to cook or peel, or else you'll be tooting like a Calliope for days. Better check online.
And finally we have Clio, the Muse of history, whose name was inappropriately stolen for use as the award for advertising. So here's the one Muse devoted to telling the story of how things actually were, whose name is being used to reward those who tell anything else. There's nothing I can do or say meaner than that, so I think I'll just leave the poor thing to her misery.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


We hear occasionally that the economy is doing swell now, free from all the doldrums that have plagued us during the slowest economic recovery ever. But I have my doubts. Most of the evidence I can offer is anecdotal, and as we know, the plural of anecdote is not data.

One anecdote comes from Route 17 in New Jersey. As all Tri-State Areans (Areans? Is that a word?) know, Route 17 takes you through Paramus, one of the nation's great retail corridors. Mile after mile of chain stores, restaurants, mom & pop shops, fast-food joints, International House of Pancakes, specialty shops, banks, appliance stores, furniture stores, bookstores, pet stores, grocery stores, sporting good shops, etc, etc. etc. When the Internet boom started to kill off brick and mortar stores, Paramus endured. But the last seven years have seen many longstanding shops close, of various kinds (specialty sporting goods seem hard hit, from my observation). 

But don't worry! Help is on the way!

In the former location of an Eastern Mountain Sports is a Halloween store, replete with all your Halloween needs. Spirit is the largest chain of these I've seen, but this is another. They possess a dead retail location for six weeks or so leading up until October 31, then they disappear, leaving the space empty for another ten and a half months (unless lightning strikes and a new full-time tenant moves in). On a bus going north through Paramus on September 18 I counted three such temporary Halloween shops along Route 17.

On the east side of the road. There were more on the west side.

And a Party City.

I guess it's better than leaving the stores empty to rot, but this seems like an awful lot of Halloween. I have to wonder if we've reached peak Halloween. The National Retail Federation expects a big year, but spending was down in 2013 from 2012. Because of the economy. Which is doing better. Despite all the empty stores along Route 17 in Paramus.

So who the hell knows.

Interestingly, these same empty stores don't open as temporary Christmas retail locations. It's probably because every store becomes a Christmas retail location, even hardware stores---less so for Halloween, so there's a bigger opportunity.

But then again, it might be because Christmas is good...and Halloween is eeeeeeeviiiil!!!

Ooooh! Scary!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Fall for fall.

Good-bye, Summer! Hello, Autumn! The autumnal equinox hit Monday or Tuesday, depending on your time zone. Don't recall seeing that happen before, but I guess it does.

Lileks says that Autumn actually begins the day after Labor Day, but I'm willing to wait until now to call it. Why not? I'm not in school anymore. No one bought me glue sticks and loose-leaf binders. The leaves are still mostly green. Also the weather has been rather summery this September, and since August was not brutal, September 1 was not a big break from what had gone before.

There's a lot to not like about fall, at least up here in the temperate zone. Shorter days, rain, nekkid trees. Halloween starts around Labor Day, Thanksgiving around Columbus Day, Christmas---well, I think Christmas already started. At least I've been getting Christmas catalogs and charitable Christmas-themed mailings for weeks. In any event, you wind up living a month or more ahead of yourself all season long.

So what is there to like? Mold? Raking? Gutter clearing? Dying in the sweater you wore when you left the house and it was 40 degrees, and now it's 80? Spiders coming indoors, like the big black son of a bitch I smashed in the cellar yesterday?

Personally, I like the cooler weather, the scent of fall in the air, the snap of a crisp apple breeze. November becomes blah when all the trees are blank sticks, the sun sets twenty minutes after it comes up, and five days out of four there's some kind of precipitation. In December it's just as bad but you can hide behind the Christmas decorations.

All seasons have a rough month, usually. August has the dog days; April rains all the time; February makes you want to kill yourself. So does January. Okay, maybe some seasons have more than one rough month. But seasons give us the rhythm of life. The change of seasons revs up the engine again, turns on the lights, and jump-starts the internal clock, to completely screw around with the metaphors. It reminds you that that clock is ticking, it's time to get going.

Not that I blame people who seek the equator, places where the seasons never change*.Sometimes the urge to stop that clock is powerful, especially as we get older. As Dr. McKeoghoey, one of my characters from Larry and the Mascots, says, "When one gets to be my age the shortening of the days takes on much too powerful a symbolism."

I'm not there yet, but it may happen. Meanwhile, I welcome any change of seasons. But I'd rather be cold than hot, so I enjoy the switch from summer to fall---dark days, naked trees, spiders, and everything.

Bastard was the size of a quarter. Bastard.

*A pal of mine was stationed in Ecuador for a couple of years and said he got bored with one perfect day after another. Amazing, huh?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Woman Stuck on Crazy Adventure with Guy Still Thinks He’s a Jerk.

Staff Reports

Jane Thompson, 27, of Clackamass, still believes that the guy she was stuck with on that kooky adventure with the thieves and the truck and the scary hit man and everything is a jerk.
“At first I thought Jack was handsome, but a do-nothing, clueless egoist,” she says, referring to John Lancing, 28, of Jonestown, the aforementioned jerk, whose father owned the company at which Thompson worked. “Then, when we got kidnapped together because of his rich father’s shady business interests, he started to prove that he wasn’t useless. But down deep inside, he really is a selfish asswagon. And I even though he’s handsome, I got sick of looking at his douchebag face.”
Thompson and Lancing, who staged a highly improbable escape from the kidnappers, fled the hideout in comical disguise, then raced away using various forms of transportation, including a sports car, a train, a biplane, and even a chicken truck. “That part would have been funny,” says Thompson, “if I'd been with a decent human being.”

The mismatched duo was framed for a robbery by one of Lancing’s father’s business partners during the unlikely chase, meaning they had to hide from both the kidnappers and the police on their preposterous cross-country run. “It was a challenge,” she says, “more so because I never stopped hating Jack’s guts.

“Like this one time, when a colorful but dumb yokel saw our Wanted pictures on the news and tied us up in a barn? Jack untied us, because he’s good with knots, and as we ran he was telling me this story about his being a Boy Scout once, and it was a nice story, and I started to think he wasn’t a putz, right? Then suddenly he laughs and says he was kicked out of the Scouts for throwing a fat kid out of his cabin with no clothes. He still thinks it’s funny. What an asshole.

“And he wouldn’t stop making jokes about how much I’d like it if he tied me up,” she adds.
Thompson firmly insisted that despite the fact that she and Lancing were forced to spend several nights together along the way, absolutely nothing at freaking all happened, because she's not that kind and besides he's a Neanderthal.

Thompson did enjoy a chance to pilot a biplane with Lancing, as she had on her grandfather's farm many years ago: "I got to use a variety of unusual skills on our wacky, deadly headlong multi-state dash with absolutely no romance."

Ultimately Thompson and Lancing were able to break into his father’s Los Angeles office, find the evidence, expose the criminals, clear their own names, and even bring the hired assassin to justice in a bizarre sequence of events involving bowling balls, a manhole cover, baling wire, and help from a friendly drunk named Murray.
“I’m so glad it all worked out,” Thompson says. “And I guess it’s fair that Jack will still have a lot of money from his father’s legitimate businesses. Although I know all his promises about reforming his daddy’s companies are just horse crap. Too bad he can’t go to the decency store and stock up, because he’s still a schmuck. I hope I never see him again.
“I have friends who say you can’t trust first impressions,” Thompson adds. “I say they watch too many movies. I can tell a prick when I see one. And despite our shared screwball adventure, I know I was right.”

Lancing had no comment, except “Jane who?”

Sunday, September 21, 2014

I love my dog.

Mrs. Key was sore because she's been reading the blog (hiya, sweetie!) and she noticed that I may have been a wee bit critical about our big giant puppy, Tralfaz. And I have to admit I may have complained just a teeny tiny amount over having to search for his missing poops, watching him chew his way through hundreds of dollars' worth of toys, watching him chew his poops, being obsessed with things that stink bad enough to kill some life forms, being really bitey, getting pouty over not being allowed to chew his poops, knocking over the neighbor's kid, being not too brave, going after dead stuffbeing not too brilliant, developing selective hearing, going full-on spaz in response to routine medication, and generally being unhelpful.

Sooooo... have I been a leeeettle too hard on the guy?


Like an oyster, I am usually inspired to produce by the things that irritate me. A new dog---to me, who never had a dog---would thus inspire all kinds of things. The learning curve was vertical. Add the fact that he is a gigantic dog and you have a recipe for inspirationpalooza.

Like the tongue twister I wrote today: If puppy papa picked a peck of putrid poopies, how many putrid poopies did puppy papa pick? See? Genius!

And the fact is, when you're trying to be funny, it's a lot easier to write or talk about the things that make you crazy rather than the things that make you happy. I know some gifted writers who do items about their children, and while their articles will often end with an "Awww, how darling!" moment, they usually center on those "What the HELL is the kid DOING?" moments.

All this to say, I love my dog. Tralfaz is a big, fuzzy, affectionate fellow who just loves everybody and every dog he meets. His enthusiasm is endearing, but combined with his size and childlike lack of coordination, it can be a little scary. And yet, most of the problems I have with him today are caused by my not having or making the time to work on his training, preferring instead to goof around with him. (Not that I have a whole lot of spare time; it takes a lot to be a dazzling suburbanite and glamorous novelist, you know.)

He makes me laugh every day. He is always doing something goofy. He is chatty, and can do uncanny imitations of Chewbacca, R2D2, and when he's been running around a lot, Darth Vader. He has more facial expressions at the ready than Channing Tatum will ever have. He constantly amazes me. He defends my wife and my home. He is a good dog.

So yes, I love Tralfaz, and I can hardly remember what it was like before we had him. I would not trade him for a sack of gold.

One groomer told us that he "is his own party." Luckily for me, I get invited to the party every single day.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

And many more WILL die.

"Many Formicarians died to bring us this information."

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hoist the Jolly Roger! Or at least the Cheerful Roger.

Arrr, matey! It be International Talk Like a Pirate Day, so get out there and start arrin' and threatenin' and droppin' the possessive determiner for the personal object pronoun, me hearties. We found some salty seadogs to show you how to get your ensemble together:

A lot---maybe most---of what we love about pirates we get from the movies, and from our romanticism about their freebooting ways on the open sea.

The movies have always enjoyed showing a sympathetic view of pirates, although before CGI it was really hard and expensive to do sea movies. Further, the movies have had to tone down the violence, scuzziness, rapine, and general bullying of the pirates---not to mention their weirdness. George MacDonald Fraser (of Flashman fame) in his 1988 tour de force The Hollywood History of the World, wrote:
At first glance, Hollywood and pirates would seem to be made for each other, but in fact they are not.... there is the plain fact that pirates---the real pirates of history---the Blackbeards and Morgans and Kidds and Calico Jacks---are too bizarre, too larger-than-life, too unreal for even the cinema. That they were real is irrelevant; their truth is too strange for fiction, and pantomime and Peter Pan have turned the grim reality into a comic figure which usually defies attempts to fashion it for conventional drama, or even melodrama.
Since he wrote we've had Jack Sparrow and his salty brethren, but such cartoony pirates are hardly different from Captain Hook. Ah, but they all long for the freedom of the Seven Seas.

The open sea has long been a symbol of freedom, but we know that actually being on the open sea requires a lot of discipline. It's freaking dangerous out there. So merchant sailors and navies have always had a reputation for strict discipline. Ah, but pirates! They were like democracy on the high seas, right? With compacts and contracts and settling things like men when necessary.

Well, maybe not so much. The thing about lawlessness is that it usually gets filled with something, and it's not usually something friendly. But worse, the pirates were not living the life that's free; they were living the life of a parasite, sucking life from their victims. Without the suckers running honest sailing ships there could be no pirates.

The people who started this holiday are well aware of all this, and know that their day is not focused on historical pirates, but fictional and hysterical pirates, all in good fun. And I think you should don your piratey apparel and go celebrate. Have some grog, sign up with the Dread Pirate Cruller, get your pirate name (mine is "Monkey Mate" Bob Barbossa), and annoy the bilge out of your coworkers.

But think about this: Next year, let's gear up to celebrate a real American hero, not a bunch of jerk pirates like the ones who were the victims of America's first naval butt-whupping. I'm talking about a guy with as distinctive a speech pattern as any pirate, a guy who exemplifies pluck and fellowship, but one who only ever engages in cartoon violence. Yes, folks, remember: June 2, 2015 is the Second Annual Talk Like Slip Mahoney Day. Mark your calendars! (Sorry: YER calendars!)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Yo! Meatball!

I don't know if it's just me, but whenever I see meatballs for sale in the supermarket I think of The Flintstones. That is, I think of the episode where Wilma wins a contest by coming up with a slogan for Mother Maguire's Meatballs: "Mother Maguire's Meatballs Don't Bounce."

And ladies and gentlemen...they don't.
I actually tried the Mama Mancini meatballs before I heard the radio ad. What attracted me to them is that they are marked as beef meatballs. A lot of pre-made meatballs are a blend of various meats, as well as fillers, cheeses, baloney, recycled tires, etc. They're always disappointing, especially when compared to the delightful ones cooked by my delightful wife. But those take a long time, and sometimes you just have to have a meatball fast.

The Mama Mancini meatballs get my highly coveted ratings of "Edible" and "Would buy again." And yet they are not in the same league as Mrs. Key's creations. The reason I liked them? They reminded me of cafeteria food.

Wait, hear this out: When I was in junior high, the cafeteria was a pretty typically blah public school space offering pretty typically blah public school food. The whole building stank of hormones and feet anyway. It was a pretty dreary place. But once a week, lunchtime came alive: Meatball hero day.

They were tasty meatballs on sturdy bread with a little bit of mozzarella. Really, everyone looked forward to it.

These meatballs taste like those meatballs. So there's some nostalgia at play here, I admit.

Mrs. Key liked them too, although she never went to a school as icky as my junior high. She just thought they were good, serviceable weeknight retail meatballs.

And most important, Mama Mancini Meatballs don't bounce.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I do not think you said what you think you said.

It is not always clear when people say expressions wrong whether they have merely mispronounced them or whether they have no idea how they should be pronounced. When I hear one I may ask the person to repeat it, or I may just sit back and ponder what the person thinks it means and why.

Let me trot out a few I have enjoyed as an example, and what they could mean if they were the actual expression:

Cool, calm, and collective: That satisfied feeling a hippie gets in the early days of the commune, before human desires, boredom, argumentativeness, and selfishness turn the whole thing to crap.

A reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Philippines: Evidence that St. Paul's reach far exceeded the range classically ascribed to him, this letter was sent to a tribe of Hebrew Negritos (called Negribrews) around A.D. 55. Almost 1500 years later, Magellan finally delivered it.

Mea copa: I feel really guilty, but only for the things I did at the Copacabana.

He forgives you.

As rich as crocus: Yes, those little purple flowers are a wealth of delight for the eyes after a long winter, are they not?

Flotsam and gypsum: Rocks float!

On tenderhooks: If I have to be on hooks, these are the hooks to be on.

Some of them are really charming, and in fact would make excellent Slip Mahoneyisms. I'm sure the malaprop master would approve.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Miss Noo Yawk.

As you can imagine, we're all just stoopid with pride here in New York, having the honor of winning Miss America three years running. Kira Kazantsev joins Nina Davuluri and Mallory Hytes Hagan for our three-peat.

When I was a kid, and Miss America was a network event with Bert Parks and everything, Miss New York never won. Miss New York often seemed like---well, kind of a skank, really. But we've sent a few classy broads to the contest over the years; in fact, we've won six times now since 1945, tying us with leaders California, Ohio, and Oklahoma.*

I didn't see the show, but apparently Miss Kazantsev used a bizarre act for the talent portion of the show, singing Pharrell's "Happy" while banging a red plastic cup. I think singing "Red Solo Cup" would have been more appropriate, but that's her call, and I guess it worked.

Over the years contestants running under the banner of Miss New York have demonstrated some pretty amazing abilities for the talent portion of the pageant, unique to our proud state. They include:

- hubcap stealing

- rolling a joint without using her hands

- dramatic recitation from On the Waterfront ("He gets the title shot outdoors on the ballpark and whadoo I get? A one-way ticket to Palookaville.")

- pole dancing

- eating 42 Nathan's hot dogs in 12 minutes

It is not easy.
- monologue about what a two-bagger Miss Joisey is

- simulated subway surfing

- simulated going over Niagara in a barrel

- beating the crap out of Miss California

Not usually singing. Sure, New York has Broadway, but Broadway is full of plucky youngsters fresh off the bus from Ohio---haven't you seen the old musicals?---who go back home to represent Ohio for Miss America. Which is why they've won six times.

* If Vanessa Williams hadn't gotten nekkid on film we'd be alone in the lead with seven. Damn it. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Insert beauty-parlor-name-type "Hair" pun.

As regulars to this blog know, I hate getting my hair cut. My gentle, flowing locks are so roughly manhandled that---

Actually, I hate going in bald and coming out balder. My barber's main crime, as I noted last year, is not that he's bad at cutting hair, it's that he's no good at growing it.

Not a sign of miracles.
A man's barber is a totally different animal than other haircutters, a fact that I discussed with my barber last time I saw him. He'd asked me what I was up to and I mentioned that I had to take the humongous puppy for a grooming session.

"That'll cost you more than this," he said.

"If they charge me by the yard," I said.

He noted that haircutters who do dogs can make a very nice living, mentioning a woman of his acquaintance who groomed dogs and was booked solid all summer long. Downside: dealing with other people's frightened, nasty, poorly trained, and in a couple of cases even abused dogs. He had a story about a sheepdog that would make any dog lover sad.

"Well," I said, "you can still get in on the big money," noting that my wife spent a good deal more on her haircuts that I. The fact that she has a lot more hair is irrelevant. Even if she sported a short-n-sassy do, it would still be five times the price. Also, the loyalty inspired by women's hairstylists is as fierce and sometimes as baseless as the loyalty inspired in men by sports teams. You never see a sign in a barbershop window saying Pete Is Here!

"You could go into women's styling," I said. "Lots of beauty parlors around."

"Oh, no," he said. "Never again."

Turns out he'd spent several years on the distaff side of the tonsorial game. Despite being an older and heterosexual male he could do it all, the dying and curling and frosting and highlighting and perming and primping and God knows what else goes on in those places. He'd had enough. "They bring in the magazine and say make it like that, but I can't make it like that. I can only do the hair, lady; I can't do nothing about the face."

This is a guy I've known to shave the backs of other men (not mine; not that hairy) and he'd rather do that than handle women in a salon.

I gained a new respect for him, and for the stylists who do work in salons. And for dog groomers. Hair, she's a tough town.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Stupor Dog.

Saturday was a long day. Tiring, stressful.


Because we changed Tralfaz's bowls.

He's getting big; he needs a big food bowl and a big water bowl. You'd think he'd like these. They're classy. They're stylish. They hold more. They don't clank (he hates the sound of metal clanking; recycling day can be a bit trying). They're just what he would pick out himself if he could.

But he's terrified of them.

Tralfaz is no superdog. Krypto, baby, you've got no competition to worry about.

Tralfaz is not what we expected in some regards. He's not scared of other dogs. He's not scared of any human. You could be a big smelly man covered in the blood of your enemies; he will want to play tug-of-war with your battle-ax and sniff your heinie. But he's terrified of objects.

A flight of stairs. Getting into the car. Getting out of the car. A new leash. A new harness. A new toy. A new food bowl. A new toy that dispenses food. A little set of stairs to help him get in the car.

About the only things he is not afraid of are things we want him to stay away from because they could hurt or kill him, like cars in the street, weird animal poop, paint chips, safety pins. nails, dynamite, etc. If we tell him No! Leave it!, that's as good as a solid endorsement.

So at this point he would not make a great superhero. You can't be a superhero if you're chicken---unless you're Super Chicken, but that's another story. It's too bad, because Tralfaz does have some potential superpowers, including:

- Supershedding

- Superslobber

- Superbad timing (Dinner's out? Time for poop!)

- Supernip

- Superwhine

- Supersmell (Can detect human feet from 100 yards)

- Superchew (So-called indestructible toys don't stand a chance with Matter-Eater Dog!)

Another one he seems to be working on is Ingestional Knitting. He's swallowed so much thread from his rope ball that I expect him to poop a sweater one of these days.

If he does that, I'm calling Animal Planet. Or DC Comics.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

No soap Daddy-o..

"Yeah, I was big and strong once, too. Don't be cocky."

Friday, September 12, 2014

Kicking it old school.

Last Sunday night, ABC aired a special dedicated to that great educational series Schoolhouse Rock!

I and Mrs. Key grew up with these cartoons, as did millions of Americans. The special was fun to watch, a romp down memory lane, as it were. About how many educational products can you say THAT? Surely not the classroom videos "Fun with Integers" and "Blood on the Freeway."

The Schoolhouse Rock cartoons really were extraordinarily well done -- each 3 minutes long, concisely explaining some pretty complex ideas about language, history, science, etc. in memorable ways. The tunes were catchy and individually distinct. You can't say that about every cartoon PSA. Not a lot of people are clamoring for a one-hour prime-time special about Time for Timer.

Nope, not happening.

I got to wondering if anyone had ever done a tribute album. I have Saturday Morning: Cartoon's Greatest Hits, a fun compilation from 1995 of well-loved cartoon theme songs performed by acts of the day, like Matthew Sweet, Violent Femmes, the Ramones, and the Rev. Horton Heat. Surely a bunch of bands could be gathered to perform "Conjunction Junction," "Naughty Number Nine," "Sufferin' Till Suffrage," and "No More Kings." So far it has not come to pass.

But maybe it was in the works in the 1990s. In fact, I suspect that the whole East Coast/West Coast rapper war was begun because of it. If only Tupac and Biggie hadn't both insisted on doing "I Got Six"! They might be alive today!

And I have to wonder if Michael Hutchence and Kurt Cobain both packed it in because U2 had already laid claim to "Lolly, Lolly, Lolly, Get Your Adverbs Here."

Well, now Disney owns SHR, and given Disney's track record of squeezing blood from rocks, I'm sure they'll find plenty of ways to make dough off it. If you start hearing news about Gwen Stefani in a hair-pulling catfight with Beyonce, Katy Perry taking a knife to Pharrell, or Taylor Swift pulling a .45 on Iggy Azalea, you'll know the call went out for the tribute album. Everyone wants to do cool songs like "Verb: That's What's Happenin'" and "Electricity, Electricity." No one wants to be stuck with numbers from Computer Rock.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Outside job.

This guy likes to hang around on the upper east side.

He makes me angry. But I have not got the desire to belt him. Nor, do I notice, is he in danger of being hauled off by black ops in an unmarked van.

He actually makes me more sad than angry.

I wish I could explain to him that the burden of proof rests on the accuser. This is always and everywhere the case, or ought to be. I could not "prove him wrong" to his satisfaction any more than he could prove me wrong if I were to go around with a placard saying that the moon is made of Brie. To every bit of evidence he would produce, I would easily discount it -- the astronomers are in on it, the calculations of lunar density fail to take into account the density of large hunks of Brie, there is no evidence against naturally occurring stellar dairy matter in space, the moon landing was fake (or the guys went with water crackers), you've never been to the moon so you couldn't know. And on and on.

I don't know what makes him like this. He may have lost someone dear to him in the attacks on September 11, 2001. He may have been there on that day and never recovered. I hate impugning someone's sanity as a refutation of his argument, but he leaves me no choice. My Brie theory would not leave anyone a choice in their judgement of me. And every day I would return to my apartment saying, "Another day and no one has proved me wrong! They're starting to realize I'm right!"

For him to be right, you'd have to believe:

1) That the most massive conspiracy ever enacted has left no one around to spill the beans, even though people are terrible about keeping secrets;

2) The massive amounts of secret data Snowden and Manning released just happened to contain nothing about the conspiracy;

3) Huge quantities of flaming jet fuel can't weaken steel*;

4) All the people who claimed to have a part in the attack were lying as part of the coverup, including one bastard that now rots in jail;

5) Popular Mechanics was in on it;

6) The Democratic Congressional majority elected in 2006 and the president elected in 2008 are in on it too;

7) And the whole conspiracy was done to kill innocent Americans, spend a fortune hunting terrorists in two countries we didn't take over and don't want, drive the price of gas up, and make commercial flying a pain in the ass. Because I do not see a damn pipeline being constructed across paleolithic Afghanistan, so there had to be some other point to it.

Mr. Placard Man: I maintain that you're mentally unwell if you buy all this. Prove me wrong.

* Melting like candlewax is unnecessary to cause structural damage.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Here's a button. Call someone who cares.

There are rather reassuring:

It's an emergency telephone. These have been popping up in the subway, and it's a capital improvement of which I approve.

There have been emergency telephones in the subway for a long time, but they were actual phone receivers that you had to pick up---consequently they were often ripped out of the wall. Probably people used to them try to order pizza. Then they had push-button emergency intercoms, but they were hard to find. They didn't have that calming blue cop light making them stand out.

This has an added benefit in that it has two buttons, one for emergency calls and one for information. So you could push the emergency line if you lost a child, and the information line if you're lost yourself. The emergency line could report a drunk fallen on the tracks or a suspicious package left on a train; the information line could help you get tickets to Phantom. (Not really.)

You might think that these days everyone has a cell phone so no one needs such a thing, but even if that were true, there are advantages. If you are in danger and you push the button, they know what station you are calling from instantly. (So don't get the idea that you can use it to pull jolly pranks on the 911 dispatcher. Remember, there are cameras too.) It's like a harmless, immobile Robocop.

Looks well-built. Probably really hard to rip out of the wall. And you don't have to hold a receiver up to your face, which was always the worst thing about public phones. "Hello, 911? I want to report Ebola. On my face. From this phone."

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Vote for stupid. It's important.

Today is primary day in New York state, and you know what that means.

Well, not much, I guess. It means a number of idiots and jerks waiting to shove their faces in the public trough will be fighting with a number of other likewise, and then in November they get to do the same thing again.

Mild language alert.

I'm maybe a little cynical about politics. I'm somewhat distrustful of politicians. I think it's a better world when people distrust politicians. Keeps them on their toes.

In the years following Watergate, Americans were grossly untrusting of our politicians. The culture has shifted somewhat, and our cultural elites are only untrusting of the wrong kind of politician, the ones that aren't our type, you know.


The most interesting primary race in the Hudson Valley, in my opinion, is the Republican primary to replace retiring Assemblywoman Annie Rabbitt. Now, you're wondering A) Who cares about the Assembly? Those guys are pitiful. And B) What does it matter when the state is so anti-Republican that they elected the most evil governor in the country---a guy who singlehandedly caused the housing collapse and crippled the world economy---just because he was not the Republican?

This Orange County race, in a much more right-leaning district than those on the east bank of the mighty Hudson, may be for a state office but it's all about local issues. Because of New York's stupid rules, the town of Monroe is actually made of several villages: the village of Monroe (duh), most of the village of Harriman, and the village of Kiryas Joel. And there's the spark that's caused a local fire.

Kiryas Joel is a large village made up of Satmar Hasidic Jews from Brooklyn. The way they live is quite different from the rest of the people in the area. A lot of it has to do with the fact that the women do not drive. When a large portion of the population can't drive cars in suburbia, you wind up recreating the city environment where you are. So Kiryas Joel looks like little Brooklyn, and not really a nice section of Brooklyn, either.

The problem is that Kiryas Joel votes as a bloc, but for a handful of anonymous dissenters who occasionally leak what goes on to the rest of the town. So, as the population of KJ has risen faster than the population of the rest of Monroe, by exercising iron voting discipline they have become able to call the shots for the whole town. The rest of Monroe is predictably squabbly and divisive over politics, just as politics should be in a democracy, and has not been able to resist. People who want to get on the town board pretty much have had to pander to KJ, so when building codes are violated (for example), everyone looks the other way. There are zoning laws in the town, like restrictions on the height of buildings, but some villages are more equal than others, it would seem.

The burning issue now is that KJ wants to annex hundreds of acres to add to their village. Monrovians see this as a new KJ population boom that will ensure the rest of Monroe remains a subsidiary of KJ forever. And not just a subsidiary but the ones footing the bill; with an "official" standard of living said to be well below the poverty line ("According to 2008 census figures, the village has the highest poverty rate in the nation. More than two-thirds of residents live below the federal poverty line and 40% receive food stamps" says Wikipedia), guess who's paying the freight for them? How many more can the rest of Monroe pay for?

A party called United Monroe has arisen as a counterweight to KJ. Trying to see past other political differences, those in UM are dead set against the proposed annexation. Last fall they had a huge turnout, though, and still lost the town elections. (Fraud was alleged, do I even need to say?) Poll watchers were proposed for today's election but the asshole running the Board of Elections was too chicken to allow them.

Today there are four candidates running for the Republican nomination for the open Assembly seat. One (Karl) advertises himself as a tough conservative and never mentions the annexation issue in his flyers at all. Although not Hasidic, he is considered to be the KJ candidate. A second (Dan) is the official UM candidate, whose flyers address the annexation issue only (although in other elections he has run as a conservative, he is perhaps keeping an eye on not alienating local Democrats in November). A rematch from last year? Maybe, but there is a third non-UM candidate (Mike) running who is anti-annexation and pro-all the conservative and anti-all the Cuomo positions. He claims he respects UM, but not their candidate. And then there's the fourth guy (Kev) who seems to be the left-wing Republican, whose reasons for running are mysterious.

So there you have it: A KJ agent, a UM op, a wild card who will probably split the anti-KJ vote and allow the village a clear victory, and a fourth guy who is likely just a vanity candidate. And on top of that, this election is for a district larger than the town of Monroe, so Monroe's problems are sucking the oxygen out of the rest of the district.

When Tip O'Neill (supposedly) said that all politics is local, he could have been describing this mess. Maybe we should give monarchy another shot.

UPDATE: Writing Wednesday morning, and all has happened as I have foreseen. The KJ candidate won because Mike and Dan split the rest of the vote, with a little extra going to Kev. I'm sure it came down to turnout. A disciplined (I might say, dictator-like) political minority will swipe what it wants in a democracy. It leads to a one-party system that results in things like Detroit.

Karl Brabenec 1,756
Daniel Castricone 1,361
Kevin Hudson 162
Michael Morgillo 635

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wardrobe malfunction.

"Yes, Toby, I just KNOW you're going to LOVE your new kitty sweater!"

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Phones in the terlet.

Time was, you wanted to hide from your boss, you had to go into the can and sequester yourself in a stall. Worked best if your boss was a different gender. Otherwise he might come in after you, yelling your name and looking for your shoes.

Back then to pass your time in seclusion you might want to slip a newspaper in your pocket or something. Office bathroom stalls often had sections of the newspaper around from previous guests.

Now everyone brings his phone into the can.

It's an improvement, actually. Makes it easier on the custodial staff to not have to cart out germy sports sections. On the other hand, guys using cell phones and wiping their butts helps lead to pathogens all over their telephones.

But the advantages to the cell phone are clear. You can read the news on the phone nowadays, but you can also play games. (I'd turn off the sound, though; Candy Crush's effects are rather distinct and not to be mistaken for noises of normal evacuation.) I do dislike when people pick up calls on the can, though.

[ring] "Hello... Oh, nothing...."

The slight tile-related echo is a dead giveaway to the person on the other end.

I'm sure we're spending too much time goofing when we are supposed to be pooping. In the bathroom we should probably all just do the necessary and get back to work instead of farting around, so to speak, with our phones. Besides, I would note that newspapers had one advantage over cell phones in bathrooms: If you run out of toilet paper, the phone is not going to make an appropriate stand-in.

Unless you don't mind having a lot of pathogens on your cell phone.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

AFV host quest!

I love watching America's Funniest Home Videos, or AFV to us "insiders" (although it should be AFHV, or AF(H)V, but we overlook quibbles for the sake of love). Every Sunday night I look forward to people getting whacked in the crotch, slipping and falling, getting spat on by animals, tripping in bridal gowns, crashing through trampolines, getting tripped by dogs, getting tripped by dogs in bridal gowns on trampolines... I once tried to talk Mrs. Key into wearing her wedding gown and jumping on a trampoline while swinging at a pinata and then hitting me in the crotch with a dog nearby. That had to be worth the $10,000 prize.

Sadly, she would not go for it.

I enjoy watching people do stupid things on Sunday nights, as I've mentioned before; it helps me feel smarter when I start my week.

Sadly, all us fans of the show know that the new season that starts October 5 will be the last for host Tom Bergeron, who is retiring from AFV after 15 years. We'll be sorry to see Tom go. But who will replace him?

My vote: a man who can deliver terrible jokes with a wink or a fake duh look or whatever it takes to sell the gag, the former host of Talk Soup and current host of Wipeout, Skunk Boy himself: John Henson.

He's just the kind of professional knucklehead who cold make a brilliant career out of this long-running goof-a-rama. He's been an actor for a long time, so he's certain to have experience working with live audiences. And he's been hosting Wipeout for years, so AFV would be running your local chapter of Mensa by comparison.

Other possible hosts:

Ryan Reynolds: Not sure he's going to be allowed to make any movies for a while, so he may be available.

Michael Bloomberg: He already thinks we're all morons.

Bill Clinton: He'll do anything for a buck.

Michael Strahan: Football, Subway ads, dealing with Kelly Ripa... Apparently he can do anything for a buck.

Larry the Cable Guy: If he could take the pay cut, he'd be dynamite -- hell, the show is a real-life version of the material he's been doing for decades.

One of the Kennedys: The ones who are still in public office are pretty useless, and we've seen pretty crappy behavior from the others, but folks still seem to like them. Maybe one of them can do something that requires talent.

John Elliott: Local New York weatherman but former newsman Elliott is one of the more refreshing personalities on TV today, and a great student of TV hosts like Carson.

Craig Ferguson: I wouldn't let any old foreigner host an American show about Americans doing dumb things in dumb ways, but this guy is dumb enough for us!

Tory, Kari, and Grant: They need the work.

Daisy Fuentes: What the hell, give her another shot.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Varmints head to prison at last.

Staff Reports

Thousands of small varmints were herded into prison camps yesterday by their parents, acting under orders by federal, state, and local officials. Prison camps set up in towns and cities across the nation opened their gates to the little sidewinders.
“I’m sorry it’s come to this,” said Jane Schlobotnick, 35, mother of one of the aforementioned varmints. “I know my little Hector is a dadgum skunk sometimes, but I’ll miss having him around the house.”

Outside a typical detention center for no-good little varmints.
“Society will benefit from this,” assured Samantha Hinkel, 52, superintendent for the Mill Valley Varmint Prison Camps. “These dadblasted horny-toads will benefit from being reformed, in a pleasant environment far from normal human beings.”
The scurrilous bushwhackers had mixed reactions to their incarceration. Some reacted with joy, some indifference; other openly wept.

“I dunno,” said noted hornswoggler Cindy Farris, 5. “It looks okay. Wanna see my pony sticker?”
“I eat dirt,” added her mangy twin brother, Tommy “Butch” Farris, 5.

Bobby Creeholtz, 5, waving a blue plastic dinosaur, said, "Raaaaar!"

The consarned whippersnappers are expected to be incarcerated for a period of at least 12 years (possibly longer, depending on their parents’ finances), except for evenings, weekends, holidays, sick days, and summers.

"The law is the law," said Hinkel. "But normal citizens should be assured that the mangy scalawags are being treated with kindness and respect. By us, at least; not necessarily by one another. After all," she added, "they are varmints."

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Taking up space.

"The good news is, we've found that hyperspace is real and may be useable! The bad news is that it will only shave 45 minutes off the trip."

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


The latest in the Adventures of Crep I Should Not Eat:

The clever folks at Just Born are very eager these days to make Peeps part of your daily snacking. Peeps aren't just for the Easter Bunny anymore.

Those little marshmallow chicks have been Easter treats since 1953. Then they started making marshmallow treats for other holidays, like Halloween and Christmas---the chocolate-covered marshmallow Christmas trees were particularly bodacious, by the way, and that's coming from a guy who never much cared for Mallomars. This year I spotted Fourth of July Peeps. But now, like Just Born's other treats (Mike & Ike, Hot Tamales, Goldenberg's Peanut Chews, et al) we are meant to love the Peep every day of the year.

Let's get a couple of the little fellas out of the bag and have a look.

Just a couple of chocolate-flavored Peeps, out to change the world.

My review: Eh, not so spectacular. The chocolate flavor is hardly there. The marshmallow is okay, as it always is, but what is marshmallow but sugar? And these have a little crystallized sugar on the outside as well, but I think not as much as a regular Peep. Also, being sold in bags, they get a little squashed. You note that regular Peeps always come in cartons to retain that Peep integrity.

On the whole a bit disappointing. Will probably try the other flavors---Strawberry Crème and Sour Watermelon (!)---because of my spirit of adventure, my hopeless addiction to sugar, and the What the hell? factor that can only come from a sour watermelon marshmallow*. Further reports to come, no doubt, and aren't you all thrilled?

* In real life, watermelon is either sweet or tasteless, but never sour unless you pickle it or you live in Jolly Rancher Land.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Frat boys on the town.

Yeah, it's probably the stupidest cartoon I ever made. Sue me.