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Election daze in San Francisco

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I was excited to vote for this guy, Rafael Mandelman, in SF's supervisorial elections this November. I like his politics, he's endorsed by my good friend Nato Green, and just look at that face! Totally bald, and like me, he doesn't really know how to smile in pictures. If a politician hasn't figured out a photogenic fake smile, that tells me he can't possibly be corrupt. The slick smile comes first; the bribes and graft follow.

Unfortunately, I cannot vote for Mr. Mandelman because I am no longer a resident of my beloved District 8. I'm with a few hundred feet of being in District 6, the dominion (for one month more) of loose cannon Supervisor Chris Daly, who fights for affordable housing, uses the word "fuck" at nearly every meeting, tried to eliminate the position of Police Chief, and called Gavin Newsom a cokehead in front of the whole Board. Chris Daly is awesome. But I do not live in District 6.

I live down the street in District 9. District 9! We (well, they - I didn't live here) elected our supervisor in 2008: David Campos, a Spanish-speaking gay man who moved to America at age 14, as an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. If Mr. Campos also rides a fixed-gear bike and enjoys the music of the Arcade Fire, he could not be more perfect for this neighborhood. Still, I do expect a tough re-election fight in 2012 if Mr. Campos goes up against the only more ideal candidate than him to represent District 9 - a prawn.

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So absent any true district-wide electoral dram, I will have to contend myself with voting for Proposition 19. Please take a moment and look at the pro-19 website - not because of the information, or quality of arguments, but because the site was clearly designed by someone who smokes a lot of marijuana. There's huge buttons for everything, a childish drawing of the sun for no reason, and 4-5 different fonts. They allow you to register to vote right there on the site, which is half the battle, but I hope the pro-legalization folks have a plan to mobilize voters on Election Day. Less "Get out the Vote," and more "Get the Voters Out of Bed."

Vlogblog.com Blogging

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(Note: Louise and I were discussing our idea for a 21st-century social network called "Faceplace". I told her there was no way the domain name was available, due to its similarity to other big site names, and because it was made up of two simple rhyming nouns.)

Louise: I like the idea of randomly buying rhyming domain names
Louise: turdherd.com
Louise: butterclutter.com
Louise: germfirm.com
Sean: turdherd.com is available
Sean: I might buy it for Omar
Sean: germfirm.com is taken
Sean: butterclutter, also available
Louise: So great!
Louise: This is a fun game
Louise: mouseblouse.com
Sean: dreamcream.com
Louise: toastboast.com
Sean: Mouseblouse.com was purchased in October of 2006
Louise: Amazing
Sean: This makes me want to write a movie called "Turd Herd"
Sean: Just so it wouldn't have to be turdherd-themovie.com
Sean: Dream Dream is an actual product
Sean: That increases a woman's sexual stimulation
Sean: At last!
Sean: "Uses amino acids to improve the frequency and intensity of orgasms."
Sean: Also, Dream Cream's manufacturers claim it is "discreet"
Sean: I guess, you could apply it on the bus or something?
Louise: I wonder if every possible rhyme with "blog" is taken?
Louise: fogblog.com
Louise: dogblog.com
Louise: hogblog.com
Louise: Oh weird
Louise: pogblog.com
Louise: Teen youth group site
Sean: Whoa dude
Sean: Pogs are the devil
Louise: So great that once upon a time
Louise: Some super cheeseball youth minister was like, "How are we going to get the kids excited about this website?"
Louise: "I hear they are into the pogs"
Sean: You know when that crazy youth minister had that brainstorm?
Sean: November of 2007
Louise: HAHAHAHA
Sean: Fogblog is owned by a guy who lives on in SF
Louise: We should go grafitti his house
Louise: To try to bully him into giving up fogblog
Louise: FOGBLOG GO HOME
Sean: FOGBLOG UNFAIR
Sean: FACESPACE > FOGBLOG
Louise: Make love not fogblog
Louise: grogblog.com
Louise: Also owned
Sean: Australian-owned
Louise: Yes!
Sean: An excerpt from vlogblog.com
Sean: "Vlogging has arrived. Of course vlogging has arrived. But it struck me again how much it has arrived when I saw the video ad above from AOL News.
It occured to me that our popular culture reference points for this time in history will be vlogs as much as anything else. Surely they won't be the types of things that reference other eras -- American Bandstand outtakes, Saturday Night Live skits, or clips from MTV's The Real World."
Sean: "User-generated video. That's our time. It is officially the Vlog Era."
Sean: Filed on February 29th of 2008
Louise: This guy has put a lot of faith in vlogs
Sean: That is the third-to-last post
Louise: He died of starvation in his house
Louise: Waiting for the vlog revolution to arrive
Sean: Apparently, the vlog blog era officially ended 18 months ago
Sean: Keeps uploading his grocery requests to youtube
Sean: Stubbornly refusing to call 911

(I'll try to release this in vlog form soon.)

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

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It's Obama's birthday, or at least, the anniversary of the date printed on his unconstitutional Kenyan forgery. Ex-roommate-abroad Geetika mentions that non-Americans haven't really adjusted to Obama's election, and she still gets a lot of crap about George Bush. I gave her some advice, which can be used by anyone traveling abroad.

Here's what you say whenever someone gives you crap about George Bush, or being an American:

"You know, I could come back with some harsh, sweeping generalizations about you and people from your country just because of who your president is, but since I'm American, I don't know who your president, or prime minister, or chief voodoo emperor is, and I am never going to take the time to find out. Now please bring me some salty snacks and show me where the television is."

Argument over, "Baywatch" starting. Here are some gift ideas for the president:

1. Cigarettes
2. Bud Light
3. A nice card
4. Lipstick...for pigs! (in your FACE Sarah Palin!)
5. Bipartisan consensus on health care reform
6. Sleepwear with his initials on it, labeled "Barack Po'jamas"
7. Some candlesticks or a nice PRODUCE THE REAL BIRTH CERTIFICATE YOU INDONESIAN-BORN IMPOSTOR!!!

Zembla design 2: Back in the Habit

Templates are fixed, and Zembla's going to start featuring content again. It's been so long, baby!

As always, you can see shorter entries, scrapier posts, and more blatant self-promotion at Sean Keane Comedy Dot Com. My sports blogging has been primarily shifted over to SportsCentr, but you can read my thoughts, insights, and personal insults to Ben Wallace over at NBA Playoffs 2009. Also, here's my infrequently updated Twitter feed: LLCoolS. (That stands for "Ladies Love Cool Sean", obviously).

the half million dollar prank

After an 18-month hiatus, the Streeter-Amir prank war resumes with another sports-themed prank. Amir gets the opportunity to sink a blindfolded half-court shot for $500,000 - will he succeed?

This prank couldn't have gone better if it were choreographed. Unlike the Yankee Prankee, which took place in front of 50,000 unaware fans, this one has a live audience of 18,000 who are all laughing at Amir. Streeter also convinces Amir's friend to help betray him, rubbing more salt into the pranky wound.

I hope it doesn't come to this, but the way things are going, the next prank is going to have to involve Streeter being framed for a murder he didn't commit.

redheads love sean keane

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It is an indisputable fact that Irish girls love Sean Keane. The paler and the frecklier they are, the more they come under my spell. Recently, as my Irish whispering powers have matured, it's become clear that, just as Dane Cook's audience is college girls, my target market is redheads of the world, regardless of geographic affiliation.

And it's not just The John Francis. Today I lunched with a group of people, and - not surprisingly - I ended up chatting it up with the auburn-haired girl in the group. Later, I discussed my findings with another redhead who'd been at the lunch.

Sean: I knew she would talk to me
Sean: Redheads are irresistibly drawn to Sean Keane
Sean: I think it's my complexion
Sean: They know they have a friend in me
Emily: Could be
Sean: There's a good chance I have an SPF 45 sunscreen on me if there's an emergency
Sean: And I know at least four ways to cook potatoes
Emily: She's not a natural redhead
Emily: So there go your theories
Sean: Fake redheads like me even more
Sean: Because they've consciously chosen the lifestyle.

My summer Belizean travel companion, the lovely Doctor Rachael, also had red hair, albeit of the natural variety. I believe the attraction was slightly different for her, as Rachael carried large amounts of her own high-SPF sunscreen. She saw my sister and me at the bus station, and her caregiver instincts kicked in - "I need to make sure that these two people don't get skin cancer."

Soon we were riding in the same old tricked-out American school bus blasting Bob Marley classics, and were the best of friends. Given my ruddy cheeks and general coloring, I don't believe it was an accident that we arrived in Belize during Lobsterfest.

I didn't know this until recently, but redheads, or "gingers", are actually quite stigmatized in the UK. Perhaps this explains the undeserved mockery that Ron Weasley received at Hogwarts, or perhaps most English schoolchildren are Slytherins.

Thankfully, there's a Ginger Beauty Exhibition in Wolverhampton that might help slow the anti-gingerist tide abroad. Over here, I am going to take it upon myself to minister to the downtrodden carrot tops among us. I'm not just an Irish Whisperer; I'm doing legitimate outreach work.

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veterans day 2: this time it's personal

Veterans Day 2008

Every year, Zembla likes to take a look at underrated holidays, in hopes of a more perfect understanding of the special days that makes us Americans. And every year, Zembla posts this look after Veterans Day has already passed, so as not to dishonor the sacrifices of these brave veterans.

Even though I am an opponent of the war in Iraq, I definitely support the troops. The war is the only issue where people feel it necessary to add that qualifier: I hate this thing - but I totally support the victims of that thing. It's like saying, "I think juvenile diabetes is a terrible problem in this country - but I totally support little fat children."

Last year, I examined the audacity of the original Armistice Day holiday, and its grudging shift to "Veterans Day", once it became clear that the armistice of 1918 wasn't going to be the last one by a longshot. I also posited that the existence of two holidays to honor America's soldiers (Memorial Day being the other) was due to advances in medicine, allowing America's fighting men to actually survive wars. Until antiseptics existed, Memorial Day pretty much covered the veterans,

This year I am concerned more with the disproportionate celebrations associated with these two holidays. Memorial Day is always on a Monday, to allow for whole weekend of festivities. Memorial Day means beer, barbecues, and the Indianapolis 500. And this is the holiday for soldiers who are no longer around to enjoy it. By contrast, to many people, Veterans Day means...going to work like it's a normal day. Perhaps it is easier to honor former soldiers that you don't actually have to visit. America doesn't even force Veterans Day to a Monday or Friday. People would rather go into the office than go to a nursing home.

Veterans Day Planning Meeting

"So, it's agreed. Veterans Day is November 11th."

"Hey, just a thought. Why don't we make it the second Monday in November? That way, there's a three-day weekend, and it's easier for people to go see their grandfathers."

"Do you want to visit those depressing old people?"

"No."

"OK, 11/11 it is."

Perception

In San Francisco, Veterans Day may have a perception problem. The most common image of veterans in SF is homeless men in camouflage jackets. One's primary association for "veteran" isn't a member of the Greatest Generation vanquishing the Nazis; it's a guy you feel especially guilty about not helping.

So, America, let's really honor our vets. Move the holiday to a Monday. Failing that, don't go to work! Have a beer! Or go to work and have beers there! After all, isn't what we were fighting for?

Happy Veterans Day to all of our nation's veterans, except for John McCain. Even though you lost, you can still suck it, McCain.

what sarah palin is saying

Anil Dash writes about Sarah Palin's very deliberate use of "straight talk" language, in order to cloak the dangerous, provocative nature of what she says:

I firmly believe that Sarah Palin is a smart, talented public speaker who makes deliberate choices about her use of language to elicit particular responses from different segments of her audience. She's college-educated and has been a professional broadcaster, understanding the nuances of addressing a large audience. She is certainly experienced enough to understand that signifiers like "hockey mom" and "Joe Six Pack" are explicitly communicating to an audience that is white, overwhelmingly not college educated, and lives in rural or suburban areas.

I know because I've been part of that audience. I grew up in an overwhelmingly white part of rural and suburban Pennsylvania, the very same place that many of these attacks are being leveled. I was coincidentally in Greensboro, North Carolina on the same day that Palin first talked about "Real America". I don't have a college education, and I've spent a lot of time around highly-educated professional writers working for the biggest media organizations in the world, and seen their attitudes about language, dialect and vernacular within our country. I've done enough public speaking myself to understand how important word choice, and use of slang, and choice of accent is when speaking to different groups. And it's obvious to anyone who knows American culture why Palin wouldn't identify as a "basketball mom" or talk about "Joe Forty Ounce". These things are not accidents.

Sarah Palin reminds me of George W. Bush in a few ways, but one of the most obvious ones is that they're both dismissed as stupid, as if folksy speech precludes craftiness. "Bush is dumb" was a lot more common than, "Bush is dangerous", and Americans were so distressed by Bush's stupidity that they elected him to two terms. Maybe they're bad in interviews, but on stump speeches, they know exactly what they're saying. I'm fairly sure both Bush and Palin know how "nuclear" is really supposed to be pronounced.

what to name my computer

Our new IT guy at the office sent out a questionnaire about our computing habits, technology issues, and any dissatisfaction with our work machines. The last question asked us to choose a name for our computers - anything we wanted, as long as it was a single word and memorable. "For some reason all our machines are named after planets and things from outer space," he wrote. "The Age of Aquarius is over."

The previous IT administration did name all our computers in astronomical fashion, though my machine retains its name from an earlier IT era that used musicians for its nomenclature. My machine, "McCartney", is one of only two to survive the regime change with its old name intact (the other is the claims computer, "Shakira"). It is possible that our computers were the only ones ever named after musical acts; a few weeks after I named "McCartney", the IT guy left for graduate school.

I wasn't opposed to a planetary name; I was just never forced to switch. I can understand that a new IT guy wants to come in and put his own stamp on the office, though I suspect some of the renaming is inspired by a reluctance to type out "Cassiopeaia". I probably would have selected something immature like "Uranus", especially since the cool planets like Saturn and Mars were snapped up by people with more seniority. Luckily, I didn't end up with the "Pluto" computer, which was downgraded to a word processor two years ago.

My old computer name was half-serious, half-ironic, which matches my feelings for most things (and people) that I enjoy. I like Paul McCartney, but I also think he's ridiculous.* My home computer is named "Mulligan", which alludes to both Ulysses, and the many mistakes I've made with it.

So now I need a new name. The candidates:

Harrison

Pros: Continues the Beatles tradition of the old computer name. I work on Harrison Street, so it works for that one, too.

Cons: I might be unconsciously plagiarizing the name from another computer. And what if the computer follows the example of William Henry Harrison and dies in 30 days?

Dude

Cons: Dude?

Pros: Dude!

Forbin

Pros: Named after the scientist who develops a hyper-intelligent computer to run America's nuclear defense in Colossus: The Forbin Project. Shot where I used to work Lawrence Hall of Science! The Colossus supervisors are executed on the plaza, right where Pheena the Fin Whale would later live.

Cons: Forbin's computer becomes sentient and eventually establishes authority over the entire planet, enslaving humanity and eliminating freedom. Forbin didn't do the best job, basically.

Sisyphus

Pros: My work is tiresome. Many of our clients end up back in jail, even when we help them get out. And while my job is to close case files, we create new case files longer than I could possibly clear them out.

Cons: Nerd name!

Vote for your favorite in the comments!

sean complains about "the office"

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I enjoy the American version of The Office, but a few things have been bothering me about it recently. To wit:

Documentarian ethics are being ignored:

I can understand when National Geographic producers don't intervene when a crocodile leaps from a river to eat a baby zebra. But the rules are different with human subjects. The people filming Dunder-Mifflin apparently let Andy Bernard wallow in the water for hours, even as he cried for help, and rather than rescue him, they recorded his distress. If any readers have a better knowledge of journalistic ethics, please correct me, but I think it's clear that this film crew is a bunch of assholes.

Blatant product placement is annoying:

There's no joke at all in the above scene: it's just a commercial for Outback Steakhouse. It's not even consistent, character-wise. The previous week's episode focused on weight-loss and the staff's varying attempts at healthy eating. This one was built around a "product integration" buy from Outback, home of Aussie Cheese Fries, AKA, the worst food in America. One week earlier, the show highlighted Stanley and his effort to drop seven pounds. This week, Stanley was stuffing his face with ribs as they went to credits.

From the NY Mag story, about a Toyota Yaris ad on Mad TV:

Showing the Yaris wasn't sufficient, said the rep from Madison Road. The characters must praise the car’s features: its roomy interior, its sleek lines. The writers pitched a spoof of a commercial, with a young couple making out in the Yaris, panting about its fuel efficiency. No, said Madison Road. Cut the parody bit. The skit should just feature the couple panting over the Yaris. They aired it.

I thought you were better than that, American Office.

Dragging out a romantic subplot only works when people like those characters:

Stretching Jim and Pam's courtship for three seasons: acceptable. Stretching out the love triangle of Dwight and Angela and Andy: unacceptable. When the annoying rageaholic a capella guy is the most likable one in a threesome, it's time to rethink that entire plotline.

the taco surge

The last presidential debate is tonight. More important is that I will be a part of Nato Green's "Laugh Out the Vote" this Saturday, at the Clubhouse. So this week, I'll be presenting a preview of some of the hilarious political material you can expect at that show. Today, How the Surge is like 2 AM Tacos.

John McCain's primary foreign policy criticism of Barack Obama is that Obama opposed "the surge" in Iraq, which has proved effective. Of course, if we hadn't invaded Iraq in the first place, the surge wouldn't have been necessary.

Obama is like the guy at the bar who warned his buddies against doing shots of Jagermeister at midnight. The shots are expensive, he argues, they just did a bunch of Car Bombs, and at this point, the guys who sent over the initial round of shots are at a totally different bar.

McCain wanted to do the Jager shots, and even bought a round of shots himself, but at 2 AM, McCain insisted that everybody stop for tacos to sober up on the way home. Obama wanted to just go home. After a difficult journey to a taqueria, the guys did seem to feel better.

McCain: "You were wrong about the tacos."

Obama: "Those guys are still throwing up."

McCain: "But they're throwing up in the toilet now, bro. Mission accomplished."

Obama: "OK, it looks like the tacos sobered them up - a little - but you never should have bought that round of shots to begin with."

McCain: "Dude, just admit that the taco surge worked."

Obama: "We never should have had that Jagermeister!"

McCain: "Don't be naive. If Taco Tuesday falls apart, it will have a profound effect on the Wednesday Pub Quiz, and the repercussions might be felt as far as Ladies Night on Thursday."

Obama: "Wait, whose credit card did you use? I'm not sure you know as much about bars as you pretend to."

McCain: "I know drinking. I had an alcoholic stepfather for 5.5 years".

Obama: "Fine, can we just go home now?"

McCain: "Don't give me a fucking timetable, man."

mccain = maverick

The national media calls John McCain a maverick. His running mate refers to him as "the maverick" of the Senate. McCain even calls himself a maverick. But as Wikipedia shows, there are many different mavericks out there. Which of these types of maverick is most like John McCain? Let's find out!

Dallas Mavericks:

An unbranded calf, cow, or steer: This is the strict dictionary definition, but since when does John McCain stick to the conventional answer? His running mate hates librarians, so McCain doesn't need a nerd book to define himself. Besides, a maverick is often a "motherless calf", and I've always considered John McCain to be a son of a bitch.

Samuel Maverick: Samuel Maverick was imprisoned by a foreign government, as was John McCain. Both men held elected office in the Southwest. Samuel Maverick voted for Texas's secession from the Union; John McCain opposed making Martin Luther King Day a holiday.

Perhaps the best comparison is Samuel Maverick's refusal to brand his animals. He claimed to be an unconventional rancher who didn't want to hurt the animals, but other ranchers argued that the move "allowed him to collect any unbranded cattle and claim them as his own." That's what being a maverick is about: pretending to buck the system for personal enrichment.

Maury Maverick: Maury was a US Congressman and former war hero. Like McCain, he received the Purple Heart. Maury is most famous for coining the phrase "gobbledygook", to refer to incomprehensible and garbled language. This fits, because it is often difficult to understand what John McCain is saying. Also, McCain calls Vietnamese people "gooks".

(Bonus: Top Three John McCain 80s Television Shows or Board Games or Rudyard Kipling Stories)

Maverick cigarettes: John McCain would be our oldest inaugurated president, and Maverick cigarettes are made by America's oldest tobacco company.
They've been around forever, no one likes them very much, and they leave a bad taste in your mouth. Mavericks are only tolerable if one's other choices are even worse, like Pall Malls or Mitt Romney. It's essentially a pile of ashes, held together by flimsy packaging, much like John McCain's campaign.

Neither is good for your health: Mavericks will give you cancer, while John McCain wants to tax your employer-provided health care benefits.

Maverick, the Movie: Mel Gibson has the same politics and fundamentalist Christian beliefs as Sarah Palin. Both Maverick and McCain like to bone rich white ladies with fancy clothes. Bret Maverick gambled in a $500,000 poker tournament; John McCain gambled on sabotaging a $700 billion Wall Street bailout. Also, John McCain was totally alive back in the Old West days.

Ford Maverick: Much like McCain and his presidential campaign this week, Ford suspended production of this vehicle once the Maverick became unpopular. It's fitting that McCain's nickname would refer to a discontinued type of Ford, since he prefers foreign-made automobiles.

Nerf N-Strike Maverick: Hasbro says: "The MAVERICK blaster features a six-dart rotating barrel with easy flip loading so you don't have to waste any time while blasting enemy targets!" That's right! Six darts means you can shoot at Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Russia, Afghanistan, and polar bears without wasting any time. That's the Maverick promise.

A cautionary note: "Always know your play environment. If the conditions are severe, please exercise caution."

Maverick from Top Gun: Pete "Maverick" Mitchell and John "Maverick" McCain both crashed their fighter planes in spectacular fashion. Both of their fathers were in the military. If Maverick screws up, he'll be flying a cargo plane full of rubber dog shit out of Hong Kong. If McCain screws up, he'll keep living in Arizona, which is slightly worse.

Maverick Records: Madonna's former record label, before she was bought out by Warner Brothers. Cindy McCain is a Material Girl? The choice of Sarah Palin for VP was Borderline? Papa Don't Preach, Bristol's keeping her baby? McCain voted against the MLK Holiday?

Maverick framework: A Model-view-controller framework for web publishing in Java. John McCain doesn't use computers.

Winner: Samuel Maverick!
Loser: John McCain!

mccain, palin, and blinking

GIBSON: And you didn't say to yourself, "Am I experienced enough? Am I ready? Do I know enough about international affairs? Do I -- will I feel comfortable enough on the national stage to do this?"

PALIN: I didn't hesitate, no.

GIBSON: Didn't that take some hubris?

PALIN: I -- I answered him yes because I have the confidence in that readiness and knowing that you can't blink, you have to be wired in a way of being so committed to the mission, the mission that we're on, reform of this country and victory in the war, you can't blink.

So I didn't blink then even when asked to run as his running mate.

Sarah Palin: not gonna blink. But what about her running mate, John McCain, an accused blink-a-holic? The man blinks like a cheap set of miniature Christmas lights. He's like Winken, Blinken, and Nod, rolled into one wrinkly, blinkly package. Cue up some Blink-182, crack open a Malcolm Gladwell book about intuition and count the blinks in these clips:

We already knew that John McCain was irascible, but I'm surprised to learn that even tiny invisible particles in the air severely irritate him.

Maybe Sarah Palin was indeed chosen to balance the ticket, but not because of gender or ideology. No, when you have a blinktastic maverick like McCain on the ticket, you need a clear-eyed, glasses-wearing, fervently anti-blink running mate. Because let's face it: between all his blinking, and the inevitable afternoon naps, there's got to be someone in the executive branch with their eyes open.

It is a fact that Irish people of all shapes and sizes love Sean Keane. They see themselves in me, and are drawn to my pink cheeks and extensive knowledge of the James Joyce canon. Last night, after I talked to a red-haired girl, on the heels of meeting two tourists from Galway a few days earlier, my friend dubbed me "The Irish Whisperer".

Coincidentally, that's also the title of my just-completed romance novel. "The Irish Whisperer" is the story of a quiet man with an uncanny ability to soothe and communicate with traumatized, boozy Irishwomen, and contains many metaphors involving leprechauns. Here's is an excerpt:

"As Seamus stepped out of the water, Maggie stared, and drank him in like a tall pint of Guiness. His muscular, freckled chest. His powerful biceps, ringed with farmer tan, above his strong, pink, sunburned forearms. She could barely hear the notes of 'With or Without You' on the radio, over the pounding of her heart.

"Maggie gasped as his hand reached past her, fingers lightly brushing her neck, then grabbed a still-smoldering baked potato from the grill behind her. Seamus bit into it, chunks of steaming potato falling from his mouth onto his wispy red chest hair and said, 'You got any Irish in you?'

"Without waiting for an answer, he growled, 'Do you want some?'"

garfield is correct

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election reflections

Receipts

I got a paper receipt after I voted this year, though I'm not sure why. I have a feeling that this goes back to the disputed election of 2000, possibly as part of a litany of whiny voter complaints. "The butterfly ballot was confusing, and it was too hard to push out chads all the way, and it was cold in the polling place and I didn't get a receipt either!" Or it was remorseful Nader voters, hoping that in future elections, they could go back and exchange their votes.

The three places in San Francisco that are most insistent about making you take receipts are polling places, Walgreen's, and Ross Dress-For-Less. At the latter two, they fine cashiers five bucks if they forget to give one out, while at the polls, refusing a receipt will make an elderly woman from the League of Women Voters cry. In all three places, you will often leave feeling confident about your selections, but very quickly feel like you just got ripped off.

Legislative panhandling

When I look at the San Francisco ballot, I often feel like I'm getting panhandled:

Measure A: "Sir could you spare a quarter..."

"...of a percentage increase in the city's sales tax? I'm just trying to get a cost of living increase for teachers, maybe get something to eat."

And of course, my reflexive response is, "No, sorry, no, gotta go." Then I rationalize my callous behavior by deciding that the schools are just going to spend that extra tax money money on booze.

Hillary isn't quitting

Even though she has been mathematically eliminated from the race for the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton is not giving up and dropping out of the race. In a related story, I am not yet given up on my pursuit of becoming a professional baseball player. Sure, I can't hit a curve ball, or throw the ball from third base to first on the fly, or make an out with crying and blaming my allergies, but the important thing is to keep fighting, and never give up on your dreams. In the next couple of days, I will be deciding how to best continue, and I invite all Americans to share your thoughts with me here at Zembla or at Sean Keane Comedy Dot Com. In addition, I am still accepting donations.

I would, however, settle for a front office position with a professional baseball franchise. Any team that hires me would automatically receive the support of my 18 million readers, so I think they would have to consider it.

a sean keane update

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With the recent rebranding of Sean Keane Comedy and the re-opening of The Shirt Off Sean Keane's Back, it's the time of year when a young man's fancy turns to Sean Keane.

Slowly, but surely, Comedian Sean Keane is climbing the Google ladder. Musician Sean Keane still has the top spot, as well as superior numbers, but the lower rungs of the Sean Keane results increasingly involve comedy and blogging, rather than tin whistles and Killarney. The man with the finest tenor voice in Ireland still holds the top spot, but the comedian from SF has #3, #5, #8, and #12. My MySpace page barely edges out his Wikipedia page, which doesn't seem right, but I'll take it.

There are a contingent of new Sean Keanes around the web. Before I add them to the master list of Sean Keanes, let's take a close look at the Sean-Keane-come-latelys. As always, I will be analyzing each Sean Keane to see which, if any, pose a threat to my Google search result supremacy.

Pinewood Derby Champion Sean Keane

Sean Keane is a member of Cub Scout Pack 961, in Hillsboro, VA. Technically, he came in second, but look at those standings! Only Hunter Smith beat him, and Hunter Smith is a Webelos I. Meanwhile, Sean Keane is only a Bear, but he still beat everyone except Hunter, AND all the people in Webelos II. Besides, Hunter's dad probably totally helped him out, and did a lot of the sawing for him. Among the Bears, Sean Keane was #1, and no, I am not talking about my popularity with heavyset bearded men in my neighborhood.

Verdict: If he wins the Webelos I division next year, I am officially worried.

Pro Rollerblader Sean Keane

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He rollerblades professionally, and he goes by the name "Sean Money". Sean Money made a movie called "Whether It Makes Cent$, or Not", and another called There And Back, which is about rollerblading all over America. He also makes art. And as of this weekend, he's a college graduate.

Verdict: This guy is so much cooler than I am, it's ridiculous. Rollerblade Sean Keane is a serious threat, not just to my Google standing, but to my self-esteem.

Sean Keane - Lighting Cameraman

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This Sean Keane has an extensive background in lighting and photography. Lucky for my Google standing, his full website is still under construction. I'm jealous of his impressive expertise, and of how many light kits he owns, but I'm not jealous of his page rank.

Verdict: A talented Sean Keane, but not a dangerous one.

Canadian Standup Comedian Mister Sean Keane

I have decided that this Sean Keane is Canadian based solely on his pronunciation of "about". Based on his material about airbags, VCRs, and call waiting, I assume he appeared on TV sometime during the 1980's He's very polished, and an excellent post-punchline dancer, but I can find no mention of him other than the page of Youtube user "vicdunne". "vicdunne" hasn't responded to my messages requesting more info, so this Sean Keane will remain a mystery.

Verdict: If more old clips emerge, he could be trouble. That's why I plan to re-record all oh his material and upload them to YouTube myself, under the name of Master Sean Keane.

Irish Orthopedic Surgeon Sean Keane

I feel close to this Sean Keane, because thanks to the rhythm method, I was conceived in the state of Wisconsin. Dr. Sean Keane graduated from Irish medical school almost 50 years ago, so I don't expect him to be tech-savvy. Irish medical school is just like American medical school, just with a greater focus on liver ailments. Also, your professors often get drunk and throw scalpels at you.

Verdict: Dr. Sean Keane isn't a Google threat, but he is a threat - a threat to people's pre-conceived notions of what an immigrant can or can't do. And how nice Milwaukee can seem if you grew up in a Third World country.

Non-Canonical Star Trek Fan Fiction Character Sean Keane

Like the orthopedic surgeon in Wisconsin, this Sean Keane is a doctor. However, while the former Sean Keane got his degree from the National University of Ireland, this Sean Keane attended the Starfleet Academy. Some stats:

Full Name: Sean Patrick Keane
Age: 22
Place of Birth: Athenry, Republic of Ireland
Race: Human
Gender: Male
Weight: 152 lbs
Height: 6'1"
Hair: Red
Eyes: Green
Distinguishing Marks: 4 inch scar on left shoulder blade, 9 inch scar across chest

Verdict: Nerd!

Where are the Sean Keanes now?

Friend To the Van Den Hende Family Sean Keane (AKA, The Other Sean M. Keane) is now a lawyer. Soccer Sean Keane is now a college graduate. Congratulations to all the Sean Keanes, near and far, tall and small. Mostly not tall.

Part One
Part Two

The year was 1991. The United States had just brought peace to war-torn Iraq. Murphy Brown was about to get knocked up and bring shame on America. Color Me Badd wanted to sex us up. And I spent a lot of time with my best friend Danny.

This was one of the first years that I had occasional spending money of my own, and enough trust from my parents to go on bike rides. That led to a lot of 7-11 purchases, as I was still too young to prefer quality to quantity. That held true in all areas of my life. The same instincts that spurred me to purchase a "Thirsty-Two-Ounce" fountain soda also led me to play Mario 3 well past the point where my thumbs were sore and calloused. It's the same reason our class trip to Great America ended with us running around the park at top speed, trying to squeeze in just one more ride on the Vortex, despite our Rip-Roaring-Rapids-soaked clothing and lingering headaches from previous frantic Vortex rides. Quantity over quality.

The same was true for jokes. If an inside joke was funny, repeating it fifty times could only add to the funniness. Danny invented one that we later repeated as much as we could; that is, until we legitimately feared physical harm. Here's how it went:

When we heard the distinctive jingle of the ice cream truck coming down our suburban street, we'd immediately go the curb and wave our arms. When we'd flagged down the ice cream man, Danny would usually take the lead, because I was much more of a pussy. He'd ask himself, "What do I want? What would I like?" as he slowly scanned the menu. Danny would milk this as long as possible, because drawing the joke out was more important than timing. Quantity over quality.

Finally, he'd pretend to make a decision. "I would like... hmmm... I would like...hmmm..."

And then the zinger:

"I would like...for you to go away!"

And then we would run inside laughing, while the ice cream man fumed, and drove away as angrily, or as angrily as you can when your vehicle is playing "Pop Goes the Weasel" at top volume. Later we'd drink tall beverages comprised of eight ounces each of Coke, root beer, 7-up, and orange soda (no ice!) and feel like kings. To the heart, tick tock, ya don't stop, at least until the ice cream man will no longer pull over at your house.

Errol Morris has a new documentary about Abu Ghraib called Standard Operating Procedure, which is currently playing at the Sundance Kabuki in SF and at the Elmwood in Berkeley. If you'd like to go see it, let me know. Morris also blogs for the New York Times, and last night posted a fascinating and chilling article about one particular photo, which appears after the jump.

As some readers already know, I am currently growing a scraggly beard. This is not Facial Hair Of Emotional Recovery, however. There's no sadness or mourning with the Facial Hair of Personal Rejuvenation (FHOPR for short). This is not about personal growth; merely beard growth. It started four weeks ago, when I went up to Lake Tahoe for my sister's birthday, and figured, why pack my razor for a two-day trip? I also haven't cut my hair in 2008, so I thought refraining from shaving would go hand in hand.

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As the beard has grown people have encouraged me to keep going. There's an informal beard-growing movement that has happened among local comics, though some have referred to it as a "pandemic". Comics with beards seem to be doing well these days. There's never been a more perfect time to hop on the beardwagon. Or is there?

Sometimes I suspect that the encouragement I receive is not actual advice, but rather a ploy to keep me looking freakish for as long as possible. It's the same reason Jim always says, "Absolutely, I do", whenever Dwight asks him to do something secretive on The Office: costs him nothing, might lead to great amusement. A friend of mine finally confessed to her hatred of the FHOPR after getting drunk, calling it "terrible", and lamenting that she'd ever encouraged me to grow my hair out in the first place, because of the abomination that resulted.

I am clearly doing a better job of growing facial hair than in the past, as seen by this photo from 2004.

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Despite the general scraggly appearance of the FHOPR, the goatee part is doing fine. There's much heartier growth around the chin area now, and the goatee actually connects. This suggests two things. One, that some time in the last four years, I have finally become a man. Two, that some time in the past, I had a douchebag ancestor, probably from somewhere near Modesto. The improved chin growth has not gone unnoticed, especially from people who remembered my previous embarrassing forays into facial hair. Their comments are similar to what a female-to-male transsexual might hear:

"No, seriously, you look a little more masculine today."
"I think I can see a few new hairs on your lip. Good job!"
"I knew there'd be some signs of that testosterone eventually."

"Beard" FAQ

How long will you keep the beard?

Until the itching gets to be too much, or I start making children shriek at my hideousness, babes weep at my approach, and women cry out, "Dear God, what is that thing?"

Are there any economic effects of the beard?

I'm saving a lot of money on shaving cream, razor blades, and condoms.

Is this an NHL playoff beard

No, but Joe Tobin is growing one of those.

How do women respond to the beard?

They sense the beard's power, but I deny them my essence.

What does this mean for the future of The Baby Faces of Comedy Tour?

There's no plans for a Baby Faces sequel yet, but I will certainly answer the call is needed. In the interim, I'm considering putting together the Beardies of Comedy Tour, featuring all the best bearded SF comics, plus Beata in a fake Santa Claus beard.

the olympic torch

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MUNI has been slow all morning, this the day of the Olympic torch relay through San Francisco. My train lingered at every station for a few minutes, as if security officials were scanning passengers for hints of subversion. I found myself looking around as well, wondering if there were any torch assassins among us.

"Why are we moving so slowly?" asked one woman, still wearing her iPod headphones.

I knew the Gavin Newsom-Peter Ueberroth propaganda was working when a businessman answered her: "Probably because of Tibet, his voice dripping with contempt for the Dalai Lama.

I wasn't sure what I should be looking for, in terms of anti-torch activity. Were the cops looking for monks? Richard Gere lookalikes? Self-loathing Chinese people? Evil Superman, affected by synthetic kryptonite? When we stopped at Van Ness, I tried to smoke out any stealth Tibetans by saying, "Pretty Woman is really overrated," but no one reacted.

San Francisco is definitely going all out, with three layers of cops on hand to protect the torch, along with countless other undercover officers scouting for suspects. One MUNI cop was checking transfers on the platform at Civic Center, but I couldn't tell if he was singling out Buddhists. With all the resources devoted to the relay, crackheads and petty criminals should feel free to break into cars with impunity during the run. Well, even more impunity than usual.

I got to work without incident, only to learn that the torch took MUNI too! I hope it didn't take the 30 Line, because, no matter where the games are held, old ladies from Chinatown will not hesitate to shove torchbearers out of the way on their way to the back door, or extinguish the flame with their pink shopping bags.

I also learned that the Olympic torch is not actually an ancient Greek tradition - it dates back to Hitler and the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. I was surprised to find this out, but it makes sense: organizers can't even keep the torch lit in 2008. What chance did the Greeks have? And that's the thing about torches for Chinese Olympiads - you think you're set, and then you gotta re-light the damn thing like an hour later.

Here's the best crazy anti-torch quote of the day, by anti-Communist protester Kevin Johnson:

"I know it sounds racist, but if they want the Olympics in China they should go back to China."

Unsurprisingly, Johnson got punched in the face.

There's a Whole Foods Market half a block from my office. Nearly everyone in the office goes there a lot, but we know it's expensive. Someone is sure to chirp, "More like Whole Paycheck!" when you walk back to the office with your groceries, which is a totally original thing to say. Whole Foods disputes that their prices are high. Here's a display I saw at the store:

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In effect, that sign says, "Don't believe the 'Whole Paycheck' lie. Think for yourself." So I looked around until I saw a good example of their everyday prices. And here's what I saw outside:

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Six ninety-nine for a hot dog. Even vendors at AT&T Park are shaking their heads in disbelief, while somewhere in Berkeley, a Top Dog employee feels a great disturbance in the force, as if a million jars of sauerkraut were all shattered at once. Would I ever buy a hot dog from Whole Foods? You can make up your own mind about that one.

There's two additions to the Zembla sidebar today. One is Hitsville, a blog about music and pop culture written by journalist Bill Wyman (Not that Bill Wyman). Mr. Wyman has written for The Daily Californian, Salon.com, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and once when he visited my office, we tricked him into getting fingerprinted as a security measure. He may have less to write about now that The Wire is over, but I trust he will continue to provide relevant pop culture observations, particularly now that John Cougar Mellencamp has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

(Digression: I think Mellencamp's induction means that Kevin from The Office is one step closer to beng very rich.)

The second site is Dolores Park Couture, a site devoted to cataloguing the ridiculous fashion choices made by visitors to SF's Dolores Park. Now that it's getting hot, the popularity of DP is only going to increase. I can't wait to see what hipsters bring out for the new season, and what DP Couture's anonymous author has to say about the whole thing.


this little piggy went to market

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My friend and occasional companion Emalie went under the knife yesterday. She had bunion surgery, which is a lot more serious than you might think. I myself assumed it was a procedure that involved an office visit, a local anaesthetic, and maybe a laser, like something you'd do for a wart. In fact, bunion surgery involves sedatives, invasive surgery, and the removal of pieces of bone.

"Why did I think bunion surgery was so minor?", I asked Emalie.
"Because it sounds like 'Funyuns'", she said.

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Though she's hobbled like a Song Dynasty princess, Emalie is doing fine. Still, I'm not going to mention toes, Doritos, playing footsie, Dr. Demento, ballet en pointe, piggies, going to market, staying home, having roast beef, not having roast beef, or going, "wee wee wee!" all the way home. Or Funyuns, because those are gross.

[Note: How messed up is it that the middle piggie in that rhyme is eating roast beef? Aside from the risk of Mad Cow Disease, I imagine a cow looking at the little piggie, shaking his head, and muttering, "Dude. Same team."]

on being sick and being fat

I had the stomach flu this week, and it was pretty gross. I was pretty nauseous, and not just from looking at the kitchen sink. I also missed a few days of work.

I learned that when you have stomach problems, people recommend the BRAT diet, which, I was disappointed to learn, does not involve eating lots of bratwurst. Rather, it means your staple foods should be Bananas, Rice, Applesauce, and Toast. Alternative diets also add in tea (BRATT) or yogurt (BRATY). I feel like I was informally following the BRATTY diet, which involves whining, pouting, and refusing to eat anything.

When I returned to the office after missing a few days, people were happy to see me, but concerned about my health. The office manager asked how my flu was, and learned I hadn't eaten much in the past four days. "Wow, I would have expected you to look more gaunt," she said, glancing down at my waistline.

"Fuck you too", I only thought, and went back to filing documents, sipping Gatorade, and choking back both metaphorical and actual bile.

ciudad de los kiddies

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My life was once full of interactions with children. Now that I work in an office instead of at a pool, I see children very sporadically. My off hours are spent in comedy clubs and bars, where children are not allowed, because they would get too depressed about growing up.

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The children I do encounter fall into two categories: Babies, and children in large groups. The babies are pretty harmless, and, let's be honest, none too bright.

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Children are a different story. It may be that city children are tougher, or it may be that most adults see them only sporadically, but whatever the reason, groups of children are horribly intimidating. They're far more powerful in groups than they would be individually, their numbers and the urban environment giving them courage and defiance not seen in suburban children. Like wild animals, they are more feared than understood, and people don't like to make eye contact.

I was on MUNI on Tuesday, and a large group of fifth-graders entered, en route to a play. Instantly, the mood of the train changed. Hipsters clutched their messenger bags closer. Adults looked at one one another and nodded, as if to say, I've got your back if anything happens.

One Asian kid pawed at my book and demanded, "What are you reading?"

I stammered, "Um, it's called, How Soccer Explains the World." I braced myself for a followup question, but he was distracted by a tiny scowling white girl lurching into the back of my seat. When the fifth-graders exited at Civic Center, you could hear the entire train exhale in relief.

Perhaps in San Francisco, we fear the unknown, these pint-sized invaders of our fair city. Or perhaps I am unable to deal with children when I'm not allowed to pick them up and throw them into swimming pools. All I know is that San Francisco children make me nervous, MUNI is for grown-ups, and I don't even want to think about packs of teenagers or else I'm going to break out in a cold sweat. Parents, keep that stuff in Cow Hollow where it belongs.

new links to explore

A few of my friends have started websites recently, and they've been added to the sidebar, along with various local comics. The first such site is for , who has an archive of his artwork and music on his site. I really like his artwork and hope to see him gain larger fame and fortune, and not simply because I have a whole stack of Scott Greenwalt original drawings, ready for them to skyrocket in value. Mr. Greenwalt will also be part of The Animal Show tonight at the Contraband Gallery in SF. After tonight, you can see the exhibition by appointment.

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Here's how Mr. Greenwalt describes his own work:

My current work explores the visceral, corporeal existence of man as an organism. The imagery references anatomical academia; specifically, muscle tissue, hair growth and the vascular and nervous systems. Forms are mutated through an organic (d)evolution as dictated by the intuitive course of painting. An obsession with the grotesque and the macabre pervade the sensibility of the work, but beyond that is some hint at the sweeping phenomena of being part of a larger whole in the universe.

Since there's been discussions about hair on Zembla this week, I present one of my favorite Greenwalt pieces from the site. This is called "Wig", from 2005.

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Next, my associate Davey Cee has debuted Excess & Defect, a collection of his unpublished writings. My favorite so far is A Day in the Life of ALF, an amusing and profoundly sad poem about what it's like to be an alien from Melmac, trapped in the suburbs of America. Davey Cee earns bonus points for remembering ALF's first name ("Gordon"). Here's an excerpt from the poem.

I will never be a Tanner.
Even the cat's got a better chance at surnames around here.
But, no matter what Willie says,
I won't ever be a part of that particular tribe.
Somebody sings, "I've got my books and my poetry to protect me."
I've just got this orange fur probably made of felt.
I miss Melmac.
Its verdurous skies overhead like a dense canopy of overgrown foliage,
Summers out on the blue grass
Playing bouillabaisseball under a sun of wild vermilion,
Or just buccaneering ad libitum around its lower east side in my youth.
Somebody calls out
Gordon
And I remember,
Without remembering,
The name Shumway and its lost significance here
In this place of skyskraping glabrous bipeds and thousands of cats that you can't eat.

Powerful stuff.

Finally, former roommate and baseball co-bloggerMike B has made his acting debut with his new employer, ProTrade. His appearance is brief, but extremely memorable. Longtime Sean Keane associates might recognize Cal alum Mark Kamal administering a beatdown.

As usual, Cementhorizon is ahead of the journalism curve, but it's good to see that the Chronicle has caught up. Nearly four months after my hard-hitting exposé of the great deals and amazing selection of items at Treehouse Green Gifts, the Chronicle has finally recognized the newsworthiness and shopworthiness of this fine store.

Check out this glowing review of both the Treehouse and its lovely and talented proprieter, Ms. Maureen O'Neil, complete with a photo gallery of alluring Treehouse items. Congratulations to Ms. O'Neil, but more importantly, congratulations to the Chronicle for displaying some good old-fashioned journalistic moxie.

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Video games are wonderful, but despite their advanced graphics and realistic simulations, they are often no substitute for real-life adventures. At my apartment, we've informally created our own live-action versions of popular video games. Here's the first in what promises to be a slew of new releases.

Anti-Tetris

Setting: The kitchen sink

Object: To stack dishes inside the kitchen sink so they rise well above the level of the counter, using as few dishes as possible. Use unrinsed plates, spatulas, and large pots half-full of water and uneaten food to create an inpenetrable barricade against the addition of more dishes, or any use of the faucet whatsoever.

You win when: One of your roommates breaks down and loads the dishwasher for you.

Bonus game: After completing a round, leave the apartment for 4-5 days. Turn off your cell phone.

Analogue to real Tetris: Take the skinny line block, and place it right in the middle. Take the next skinny line block and place it perpendicular to the first. Then, keep your Nintendo running, and leave the apartment for 4-5 days.

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Coming soon!

Yoshi's Kitchen Island
Mega Man's Mega-Stack of Junk Mail
Veggie Burger Time

even unsexier descriptions of sex

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I thought I came up with some good unsexy descriptions of sex, but it's nothing compared to pillow talk about black-footed ferrets. From Shadow Bear:

Shadow Bear: What I have observed of them, myself, is that these tiny animals breed in early spring when the males roam the night in search of females...Mothers typically give birth to three kits in early summer and raise their young alone in abandoned prairie dog burrows.

Shiona (the white heroine): I read that ferrets stalk and kill prairie dogs during the night. Using their keen sense of smell and whiskers to guide them through pitch-black burrows, ferrets suffocate the sleeping prey, an impressive feat considering the two species are about the same weight.

Shadow Bear: In turn, coyotes, badgers, and owls prey on ferrets, whose life span in the wild is often less than two winters … They have a short, quick life.

That awkward post-coital chat was inexplicably plagiarized from a scientific article about black-footed ferrets. The author probably did it for the realism. We all know how pioneer women struggled to survive on their own, waging a constant battle against enemies and the elements, with barely enough time to kick back and do some light reading about South Dakota's prairie mammals.

Here are some other books from Shadow Bear's author, Cassie Edwards. As you can see from the titles, her romance novels are clearly sensitive and respectful to Native Americans and their history:

Savage Beloved
Savage Bliss
Savage Courage
Savage Dance
Savage Destiny
Savage Devotion
Savage Dream
Savage Eden
Savage Embers
Savage Fires
Savage Glory
Savage Grace
Savage Heart
Savage Heat
Savage Hero
Savage Honor
Savage Hope
Savage Illusion
Savage Innocence
Savage Intrigue
Savage Joy
Savage Longings
Savage Love
Savage Mists
Savage Moon
Savage Nights
Savage Obsession
Savage Paradise
Savage Passions
Savage Persuasion
Savage Pride
Savage Promise
Savage Quest
Savage Rage
Savage Secrets
Savage Shadows
Savage Skies
Savage Spirit
Savage Splendor
Savage Storm
Savage Sunrise
Savage Surrender
Savage Tears
Savage Tempest
Savage Thunder
Savage Torment
Savage Touch
Savage Trust
Savage Vision
Savage Whispers
Savage Wind
Savage Wonder

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cleaning out the fridge

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Omar and I cleaned the refrigerator on Sunday afternoon. The fridge has three drawers and many shelves, all removable, so the architecture of the fridge lends itself to the occasional hidden food scrap or ingering odor. At one point I was scrubbing the back wall and felt like one of the dwarves of Khazad-dum, mining deeper into the layers of Moria. I scrubbed hard and a mysterious odor emerged. I half-expected a refrigerator Balrog to come out because we'd cleaned too deep. I'd be forced to confront him, wielding my paper towel like a staff. "Go back to the shadow! Your expiration date is nigh, Flame of Udun!"

At one point I did open a jar of ranch dip to check its freshness, and upon smelling it, I muttered, "You shall not pass." and tossed it in the trash.

One thing we noticed was an unusual amount of expired mustard. This was odd because neither of us were mustard eaters, nor were the other girls people who kept food in that fridge. As far as I remembered, our previous roommate didn't seem to eat an unusual quantity of mustard either. And yet we had jar upon jar, some never opened, all long-unused, nearing or past their "best when used by" date, in all types and varieties of mustard. There was honey mustard, dijon mustard, deli mustard, hot sweet mustard, and cranberry mustard, all uneaten, unremembered, and unloved.

Preliminary surveys suggest this is not a phenomenon unique to our house. At least two friends report having mysterious mustard jars in the house that they never use, and can't remember ever acquiring. In the days when my Noe Street apartment often had no refrigerated food at all, we still had at least three mustards on our condiment shelf. Why does everyone have too much mustard??

There are a few possibilities. One is that mustard goes bad so slowly that it lasts for years, without getting visibly rotten or literally poisonous. It might lose a lot of flavor, but it will not get moldy and it will not kill you. Thus, absent a conscious effort to cull the condiment herd, mustard will survive indefinitely. Often, mustard will go along when a person moves to a new apartment, like pollen stuck to a bee's leg. Some people even argue that mustard never spoils:

ive used mustard from the 70's and nothings ever happen.

Another possibility is that fancy mustards are a common gift at the holidays, for people you either don't know well, or for whom you are making very little effort to shop. A three-pack of gourmet mustard is on sale at Hickory Farms, and you buy it on impulse, and wrap it up. You figure the recipient doesn't already have a lot of mustard, because you never see them use any. And the cycle of mustard continues.

Possibility 3: Rally Mustard.

Possibility 4: Waiting to replace their condiments until the development of Mayostard:

sean-the-keane and the blustery day

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It was a terribly blustery day in the Bay Area last Friday. Streets were closed due to flooding, trucks flipped over on the Richmond Bridge, and more importantly, a dumpster got blown into a fence next to my office, temporarily frightening me. Also, the wind blew a hole in our wall:

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We looked around on Friday night and saw no sign of damage in the yard, save one uprooted tree. We missed the storm damage because no one regularly goes down the back stairs, and because the torn-off boards were tossed into the backyard of a neighbor who lives two houses away. This is why I must grudgingly admit that my idea to install gargoyles all over the exterior of the home was indeed ill-advised.

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I assume that it was the wind that did the damage behind the back stairs, though we obviously cannot rule out the involvement of the Big Bad Wolf.

If you're going down to the garage from the kitchen, watch out for that last step - it's a doozy!

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The hole will be covered by plastic sheeting soon, or maybe a trash bag duct taped to the wall, or at worst, some old newspapers held onto the wall by old chewing gum. What I'm saying is, home repair is not exactly my forte.

On the Blustery Day in the Hundred-Acre Wood, Owl lost his home, and Eeyore was dispatched to find a replacement residence for him. He eventually found a new house for Owl - Piglet's. Luckily, no such housing crisis was precipitated by this storm, but at the same time I wouldn't be surprised if an owl flew into our house and took up residence in the rec room downstairs. I believe that a heffalump wouldn't fit through the gap, but I will be keeping my eyes peeled for woozles.

exciting tolkien news

Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema have resolved their differences and cleared the way to begin production on a Hobbit movie, to the delight of my self and other Tolkien enthusiasts. From the New York Times:

Settlement of the litigation freed New Line, which held the rights to make a "Hobbit" movie, and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which has distribution rights, to cut a 50-50 financing deal: New Line will make the two films and distribute them domestically, and MGM will distribute them overseas. The untitled sequel is described as bridging the 60-year gap between the end of J. R. R. Tolkien’s "Hobbit" and the beginning of the "Rings" trilogy.

This is good news for me, since I've just finished the first draft of my screenplay for a LOTR-themed trilogy, called "Bombadil!" The first movie is about Tom meeting Goldberry and battling the badger-folk, and there's a subplot about the rising power of Old Man Willow. Movie two ends with a cliffhanger, when the barrow-wights capture Farmer Maggot, while Tom has developed a sore throat, and can't sing them away. The third movie will bridge the two-hundred-year gap between Tom's defeat of Old Man Willow and the beginning of the "Rings" trilogy, and features a seventeen-minute song called "Ring a Dong Dillo".

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Part One: I'll Be Home For Christmas
Part Two: Jingle Bells
Part Three: Sweet Little Jesus Boy

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, by Ernie and Bert

"Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is a sad song. The unspoken follow up to "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" is, "Because the year sucked pretty bad until now". The Christmas-specific lyrics make it slightly more optimistic, with, "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough" replacing the original's "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow". Christmas makes some people really defeatist. "We Need a Little Christmas", from Mame is the same sort of song: Thank God Christmas is here, so we all don't just go kill ourselves. Most modern versions of "Need a Little Christmas" will omit the part about having "Grown a little leaner/Grown a little colder/Grown a little sadder/Grown a little older", because it's bad enough that it's cold and there's awkward family gatherings and it's December 22nd you still don't know what to buy for your little sister. Holiday albums don't need to remind you.

Frank Sinatra does a fine version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas", but the one dearest to my heart is the Bert-and-Ernie duet for Merry Christmas From Sesame Street. HYAMLC follows an extended sketch where Ernie and Bert re-enact "The Gift of the Magi". Bert trades his paper clip collection to get Ernie's Christmas gift, a soap dish for his rubber ducky. Meanwhile, Ernie trades the rubber ducky for a cigar box for Bert to store his paper clip collection. The late Mr. Hooper returns the paper clips and the ducky, and a delighted Bert and Ernie pledge to "make the Yuletide gay".

The story is poignant, though it raises questions about the economy of Sesame Street. Mr. Hooper's grocery store apparently functions on the barter system, but one wonders how this model is sustainable. At the very least, Hooper would need some kind of trade agreement, where he exports paper clips and bath toys in exchange for baked goods, simply to meet the insatiable demand for cookies on Sesame Street. It's not clear how Ernie, Bert, or Big Bird would earn money in the first place. Only Oscar the Grouch has anything that resembles a business plan, but how much can he really get for redeeming bottles and cans? Perhaps all Sesame Street residents share in the lucrative sponsorship money paid out by letters and numbers.

My sister Megan and I used to sing this song for strangers when we were little, complete with all of the Sesame Street asides (Ernie says, "Thank you, Bert" after the first line of the song). The novelty of my speech impediment made up for our general inability to sing. Hearing, "Fwom now on, our twoubles will be out of thight" is both cuter and sadder. I sang the role of Ernie, which works because Megan is both more responsible and more OCD than I am. In addition, I have a round face, and Megan's jogging gait has at times been described as "doing the pigeon". Of course, as I've gotten older, I know there's only one analogue for my personality on Sesame street, and that's Othcar the Gwouch.

Part One: I'll Be Home For Christmas
Part Two: Jingle Bells

Sweet Little Jesus Boy, by Andy Williams

Some Christmas songs celebrate the joy of the Christmas season. Reindeer, snow, family, Santa Claus, Christmas trees, presents - all hallmarks of holiday songs. Many people believe that Christmas is a time to celebrate all of those wonderful things in song. A few others believe that Christmas is the time to flagellate yourself over the actions of a Judean innkeeper in 0 AD.

"Sweet Little Jesus Boy" is more hymn than Christmas carol. If you tried to sing this while out caroling, people would probably slam the door in your face for bringing them down and making them feel ashamed. The song focuses on the poor accommodations given to the Baby Jesus before His birth. In my preferred version, Andy Williams sounds completely tormented with guilt over this two thousand-year-old example of poor hotel management. Andy didn't make Mary and Joseph sleep in a barn, but his voice conveys that he feels personal responsibility for their lodgings all the same.

Listening to "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" is the Christmas carol equivalent of putting on a hairshirt. Play this song for your secular friends, and the War on Christmas would be won before it even started. The guilty Andy Williams sounds quite subservient to Sweet Little Jesus Boy throughout the song, calling him "Master" and "Sir". While it's certainly polite, I haven't often heard people use "sir" while praying. Of course, Andy also calls the Messiah "Sweet Little Jesus Boy", so maybe it's not completely respectable.

An interesting aspect of the lyrics comes in the repeated laments, "We didn't know who you were", and "We didn't know it was you". The implication is that normally, sending a pregnant woman out to a drafty barn to give birth among a bunch of animals would be perfectly OK; just not if she was carrying the Messiah. How many people did know it was him, besides Mary and Joseph?

Some Catholics feel guilt regarding the death of Jesus. While I feel that's being a little tough on yourself, I can at least see the logic. But feeling bad about the birth seems overly sensitive. Jesus came out of the whole barn experience perfectly healthy, and scored a whole bunch of gold, frankincense and myrrh, so it didn't work out terribly for him. Catholics wear crucifixes around their necks, not little gold barns. Seriously, Andy, cut yourself some slack on this one.

I love this carol because it is so over the top. There aren't a lot of carols that require the (faux-)emotional commitment of "Sweet Little Jesus Boy", and I love belting it out in front of my shocked, giggling family. Or in the car. Or on my parents' answering machine, when they're not home, and don't especially want to hear the entire first verse when they come home shopping.

Finally, I need to mention that the "Boy" part of the title is extraneous. It sounds like one is describing a sweet long-haired child, perhaps one with an affinity for carpentry and a distrust of money-changers. Maybe that's what Mary actually called Jesus, much like my mom called me "Seany Boy". I could see Jesus getting rebellious around age thirteen, and insisting on being just plain Jesus, or at least "Sweet Jesus", and then getting embarrassed when Mary accidentally called him Sweet Little Jesus Boy when dropping him off at the temple in front of all his friends, who started called him "Sweet Little Jesus Boy" in high, mocking voices:

"Ooh, sorry Sweet Little Jesus Boy! We didn't know it was you!"

And then Jesus would run off to hang out with lepers and plot ways to make Andy Williams feel unnecessary guilt a few milleniums later.

fun facts about "uhf"

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Weird Al's UHF is one of my favorite films. It was once my sister Molly's favorite as well, until it was replaced by Sixteen Candles, then Life Is Beautiful, then Slackers, and finally She's The Man. Impeccable taste, that one.

Here are some fun facts about UHF, via Wikipedia:

  • Despite his silly name and wacky behavior, Michael Richards's "Stanley Spadowski" is actually based on a real person. His name? Stanley Snadowski.
  • Crispin Glover wanted to play "Crazy Ernie", but Weird Al didn't think he was right for the role. I guess he wanted someone really unbalanced.
  • The "Spatula City" sign was placed on a real billboard and, for some reason, was left up for months after shooting was done. Tourists and spatula enthusiasts were often tricked.
  • Extras from "Wheel of Fish" received the fish used in the scene as a thank-you. One extra foolishly traded his fish for the unknown contents of a box, which turned out to be empty. He's so stupid!

Part One: I'll Be Home For Christmas

This year, my little sister Molly (AKA "Guatemolly") will be in Central America on the special day. I don't know how she'll celebrate - putting extra lard in the Christmas beans, taking an extra hour to steal wireless internet.

She'll be spending Christmas with more orphans than Daddy Warbucks and Miss Hannigan combined, though it is unlikely they'll sing about a New Deal for Christmas. They would probably call him "Papa Guerradolares", however.

When I was in middle school, my Spanish class received a handout with Spanish-language Christmas carols, which I proceeded to sing incessantly in front of my little sisters. By far, the greatest of these was Spanish-language "Jingle Bells":

Cascabeles, cascabeles
Tra la la la la
Qué alegría
Todo el día y Felicidad

Loosely translated, that's, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, tra la la la la, such joy all day, and happiness." I can only assume that there are no sleighs in Mexico.

This was such a hit that I had presents addressed to "Spanish King" for at least two years. So it was to my great delight that I learned that Guatemolly was singing carols with her orphan charges

Cascabel, cascabel,
Música de amor.
Dulces horas, gratas horas,
Juventud en flor.

Cascabel, cascabel,
Tan sentimental.
No ceces, oh cascabel,
De repiquetear

Roughly, that's, "Jingle bell, jingle bell, music of love. Sweet hours, pleasing hours, youth in flower. Jingle bell, jingle bell, so sentimental. Don't stop ringing, jingle bell."

The simplicity of "Jingle Bells" allows for a variety of interpretations. Our primary Christmas albums growing up were:

1. A Jolly Christmas From Frank Sinatra
2. The Andy Williams Christmas Album
3. Merry Christmas From Sesame Street (which appears to be out of print, and the new version is unfortunately infested with Elmo.)

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Each album has its own spin on "Jingle Bells". Frank goes for a swinging version, with backup singers announcing their love of "J-I-N-G-L-E, B-E-double-L-S". For Sesame Street, Herry Monster thinks the song is about "crashing through the snow", but his favorite carol is "Wreck the Halls", so what do you expect? Andy Williams has, "Kay Thompson's Jingle Bells", an expanded, brassy version that includes the line, "From the top of the chimney to the top of the world!"

It's the most populist of carols: secular, malleable, and easily translatable. My favorite recent version comes from Rasheed Wallace of the Detroit Pistons. If nothing else, it is the definitive NBA rendition of "Jingle Bells". Remix!

"I'll Be Home For Christmas", Frank Sinatra.

When we'd listen to this song at my grandma's house, she would get sad about my uncle, who lived in Los Angeles, and never did come home for Christmas. It is unclear whether he did come home for Christmas in his dreams. Having never lived more than an hour's drive away from my own parents, I can't relate to the specifics of the song. There's also never been snow, mistletoe, or "presents on the tree" at one of my Christmases.

I'm not sure how far back in Christmas tree history you have to go to find the time when presents were hung from the tree. I think it's clear that any presents that can be successfully suspended from branches are probably some crappy-ass gifts. I bet people that put presents on the tree also open their presents on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day. And yet, our singer is so sad and lonely, these tiny tree gifts haunt his dreams.

I've never been away for Christmas, though once I was in Utah on my dad's birthday. If I had to write my own version of this carol, it would be something like:

"I'll be home for Dad's birthday
You can count on me
Please make us hike
And ride a bike
And watch British soccer on TV

Dad's birthday will find me
Nursing my sore feet
I'll be home for dad's birthday
As long as there's salami and animal cookies to eat."

The Keane family home always shows the influence of holidays, usually in the form of seasonal teddy bears. At Easter, there are teddy bears holding eggs and teddy bears in rabbit ears, though no teddy bear on the cross. On Halloween, there are teddy bears in tiny ghost costumes, teddy bears dressed as witches, and teddy bears dressed as pumpkins. I'm waiting for mom to buy a teddy bear wearing a t-shirt that a middle-aged receptionist might wear that says, "This Is My Costume!"

Mom has rejected my idea for a mid-January tableau of polar bears seated at the front of a toy bus, while brown bears sit in the back, in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Besides, January is when our house is filled with hundreds of snowman decorations, before the boxes of heart-toting teddy bears come out for Valentine's Day.

Christmas has the most holiday bears of all: Santa teddy bears, bears in Clement C. Moore-style night shirts and stocking caps, but no teddy bear nativity scene yet. This year, my mom has taken the holiday decorations to a new level, by dressing up our Toyota Previa as a reindeer.

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Already, the minivan has been shunned by other Previas and befriended by an elf that wants to be a dentist. Also, Santa Claus started acting like a real asshole to the Previa.

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My parents insist that, even though the car is over a decade old, it has never handled better on foggy nights.

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I'm not sure if this can be topped, short of teddy bears in muttonchops re-enacting Civil War battles for Memorial Day. What I am sure of, and what I'd gladly shout out with glee, is that this reindeer minivan will go down in history (like Columbus!).

some thoughts on veterans day

Sunday was Veterans Day. Out of respect for the brave men and women who have served our country over the years, and not at all out of laziness and blog sloth, I have delayed my post about the holiday until today. Keep in mind that the official name is not Veteran's Day or Veterans' Day, but Veterans Day. There is some confusion on that, mainly due to Americans' total befuddlement when it comes to the proper use of apostrophes. I believe the day was originally "Veterans' Day", but when greeting card companies, newspapers, and everyone else kept messing it up, the government decided to ditch the apostrophe and pretend like they'd meant it that way all along. Honestly, it's as if the GI Bill had no effect on literacy whatsoever.

Veterans Day popped up after World War I, though it was originally known as Armistice Day. This reflected the hubris present at the end of World War I, originally known as the Great War, and the War To End All Wars. The official end came by the Treaty of Versailles (originally known as the Awesomeness Accord for Eternal Peace) at 11:11 on 11/11, and signed in a boxcar. People really believed that by making Germany sign the peace accord in humiliating fashion, on a super-memorable time and date, and fining the country five billion pounds, that would totally make those hostilities a thing of the past.

Hence, the holiday's name. It wasn't an armistice, it was the Armistice, the last armistice the world would ever need. No more war, ever, particularly not between those exact same nations in the exact same places in less than twenty years. Nothing good can come of such brazen arrogance, like buying a 24-pack of condoms after your third date with a woman, or when Dusty Baker let Russ Ortiz keep the game ball in Game 6 of the 2002 World Series. There's no way Germany would rebuild its military, or the girl would lose interest after Date #4, or Scott Spezio would hit a three-run home run off Felix Rodriguez, right?

The official change to "Veterans Day" came in 1956, accompanying by a proclamation that explained that the holiday was being expanded to honor veterans of all wars, and not just being changed because that armistice seemed really inconsequential after WWII. The proclamation might well have read, "Guess that 'To End All Wars' business was a crock, huh?"

Memorial Day, a holiday to honor dead soldiers, existed in various forms over a half-century before Veterans Day. Did American simply not care about military veterans until then? I believe that it wasn't so much a lack of respect for the military as it was that until the advent of antiseptic practices at the turn of the century, no one could really envision surviving a trip to the hospital, much less an entire war. The 1920's was the first time that there were significant numbers of surviving military personnel; until then, Memorial Day pretty much had it covered when it came to honoring people who'd served in the military.

So this year, Zembla hopes you treat all veterans with the respect and admiration that Giants general manager Brian Sabean exhibits when looking for free agents. And for God's sake, clean up that punctuation, America.

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Sometimes, doing one's job well leads to a great feeling of pride. At other times, a workplace accomplishment only calls attention to how hollow that work you are doing truly is.

Just minutes ago, I noticed that the water cooler was empty, so I grabbed a replacement bottle. And not one of the wussy three-gallon bottles either. I went for the five-gallon monster. Go big or go home is my philosophy.

I stashed the empty bottle and heaved a new one onto the break room table. The lid came off with surprising ease. I lifted the bottle again, and deftly pitched it onto the water cooler base, and did not spill a single drop.

Normally, water splashes the wall, or sloshes onto the base. At the very least, a few stray drops hit the carpet. But this exchange was perfect. I looked around excitedly for someone who had witnessed this historic moment, but everyone was eating, or working, or at least pretending. I couldn't believe no one had seen it at all, especially since that meant it was extremely unlikely anyone had taped it.

I returned to my desk, flush with pride, only barely restraining myself from a self-high-five. And ten seconds later, the sadness of my pride sunk in. I had refilled a water cooler smoothly, and it was my proudest work accomplishment of the month. No one noticed how well I'd done it, and no one would have cared even if they had. And as I sat at my desk contemplating the state of my life, an attorney spilled water on the side of the cooler while attempting to fill the electric tea kettle, destroying all evidence of my feat.

There was one final spill: one tiny tear, from the corner of my right eye.

columbus chat

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Thanks to the magic of Meebo, I get to have a lot of interesting conversations with strangers who wander across my page. Here is one of those:

I Hate Christopher Columbus: RANDOM PERSON
I Hate Christopher Columbus: HII
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Hello?
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I have a question...
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Aare you there?
Zembla: Yes?
Zembla: What's your question?
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Do you have any more cruel facts about cristopher columus?
Zembla: Are you doing a report?
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Yes!
Zembla: What kind of stuff do you need?
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Well, its just a persuasive essay
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I just need some more facts about slavery I think
I Hate Christopher Columbus: and anything else you know
I Hate Christopher Columbus: ...
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Im trying to persuade people that he is a villain
I Hate Christopher Columbus: And the draft is due tomorrow

Zembla: Here's a few good links:
I Hate Christopher Columbus: 0.o
Zembla: http://media.www.michigandaily.com/media/storage/paper851/news/2004/10/12/News/Columbus.Day.Sparks.Debate.Over.Explorers.Legacy-1425748.shtml
Zembla: http://www.guardian.co.uk/spain/article/0,,1838823,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=12
Zembla: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/3184668.stm
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Anything else?

Zembla: What grade are you in?
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Um
I Hate Christopher Columbus: 5th
I Hate Christopher Columbus: GT
Zembla: Nice
Zembla: Well, good luck
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Thanks alot...
Zembla: I think the main thing is, Columbus didn't treat people very well
I Hate Christopher Columbus: He's so mean!
Zembla: And then there are some thing he did unintentionally: spreading disease, and making it possible for even worse explorers to follow him
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I am going to teach other people about his cruelty
I Hate Christopher Columbus: what was the disease that he spread?
Zembla: Measles
Zembla: Later, smallpox showed up
Zembla: People in Europe had built up immunity to a lot of these diseases
Zembla: But people in North America got overwhelmed
I Hate Christopher Columbus: O

Zembla: Hey, can i ask how you found my page?
Zembla: I am just curious
I Hate Christopher Columbus: GOOGLE
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I typed in evil christopher columbus

I Hate Christopher Columbus: He makes me angry...
I Hate Christopher Columbus: He was greedy
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Didn't discover America
Zembla: When I was in elementary school, we were taught that Columbus was a big hero
Zembla: I only learned the bad stuff much later
I Hate Christopher Columbus: AND
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I found out that a philosopher found out the earth was round
I Hate Christopher Columbus: And the teachers were like teaching all this good stuff about him
Zembla: Yeah, the Greeks knew the earth was round about 1500 years before Columbus
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Hah Hah

I Hate Christopher Columbus: I dont like how he like, tests his blades on the Indians
I Hate Christopher Columbus: And then he killes them for fun
I Hate Christopher Columbus: FUN
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Do you think he is in heaven?
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Or hell?
Zembla: Hmm
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I think hell
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Totally
Zembla: Well, I personally don't believe in heaven or hell
Zembla: But, as I understand it, it would depend on whether he repented for what he did
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I sinned a lot
[18:04] Zembla: I think he would go to heaven if he believed in Jesus and asked forgiveness - I think that's the rules
I Hate Christopher Columbus: ...
I Hate Christopher Columbus: But killing is an even worse kind of sin
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I think its called a mortal sin
I Hate Christopher Columbus: And then there are the little ones
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Called venail sins
I Hate Christopher Columbus: I'm not sure if that's how you spell that
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Veniel
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Veneil
Zembla: I don't know if i can help you on the subject of sins, unfortunately

I Hate Christopher Columbus: Do you know anything else Christopher THOUGHT he discovered?
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Like how he thought he discovered the earth was round?
Zembla: I think everyone already thought the earth was round
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Well, yeah, but something like that
Zembla: The people who thought he was making a mistake thought he was not sailing far enough
Zembla: He thought India was a lot closer to Europe than it actually was
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Ohh
I Hate Christopher Columbus: Back to Google!
Zembla: Good luck!

I live in a hundred-year-old building in SF, which is normally quite nice. Recently, we were confronted with the reality of our twenty-five-year-old toilet when the tank began leaking. The broken piece was easily identifiable, but replacing it would require a flux capacitor and Yellow Pages from 1988, the last year said part was manufactured. Luckily, our flat has another half-bathroom, a half-bathroom in the most literal sense. The toilet is full-sized, but every other bathroom component would not be out of place in the penultimate scene of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (though not the director's cut).

The only solution was a full toilet replacement. So out went the old toilet and in came the new one. We got a sweet little Lamosa - I think it is a 2004 model.

vista.jpg

The most notable difference in our new toilet is the sturdier seat. Our old seat was occasionally off-center, and thus, wobbly. I was never afraid of capsizing, but when you're at your most vulnerable, a small imbalance is quite unwelcome. The new seat won't wiggle even if you try to move it intentionally. The seat also seems to be slightly smaller, but it is entirely possible that my ass is simply bigger.

bowl.jpg

I tested the flush before anything else. Initially, I was apprehensive, because the flush volume appeared to be so low. However, it has so far got the job done. Of course, we'll see the toilet's true colors when it comes to crunch time: big Ethiopian food dinners, drinking binges, the morning after Thanksgiving. Inspector 405 vouches for it.

405.jpg

The low-volume flush is an element of the device's general increased efficiency. It's like going from a big Cadillac to a mid-size Toyota sedan. It is possible that our new toilet is a hybrid. At the very least, it runs on natural gas.

footprint.jpg

The whole thing has a smaller footprint than the old one, which you can clearly see below. I'm not sure how we will take advantage of the extra floor space this has opened up for us. Maybe a tasteful new rug, or an extra tenant.

guts.jpg

Before taking a test-drive, I got under the hood and looked around. It is a pretty simple arrangement, certainly simpler than the previous, medieval-Rube-Goldberg-with-autism mechanics of the old john. No part resembles a dinosaur bone, which is certainly a positive.

apricots.jpg

I wanted to make my first time with the toilet special. I kept the overhead light off, lit some candles, and started eating more fruit. For music, I decided on Pearl Jam's Release. In general, it was a very positive, gentle experience, but I don't want to go into it any further. A gentleman does not piss and tell.

booty.jpg

Geetika wanted to name the toilet, and we finally settled on Troy the Toilet, both for alliteration and the idea that we would be implicitly defecating on the University of Southern California every time we visited the bathroom. Naturally, our other toilet would be named after USC's ostensible starting quarterback, John David Booty. I'm trying to teach myself to fart "Fight On", but so far, no luck.

As a bonus photo, here is my girly G.L.O.W. bath puff:

puff.jpg

The support staff of my non-profit law firm had meeting today to learn how to more effectively deal with Spanish-speaking callers. Here's how it went:

-We want to be able to say, in Spanish, "The person who speaks Spanish is not here. Please leave a message on the machine."
-La persona que habla espanol no esta aqui.
-No esta aqui, got it.
-Deje un mensaje
-Deje un masaje.
-Mensaje is message. Masaje is massage.
-If you say, "Deje un masaje", our clients are going to be very confused.
-"Leave a what? Excuse me! What kind of law firm IS this?"

-Should we learn the word for "stop"?
-Just say Un momento
-Uhhn-momento?
-Ooon momento.
-Un momento.
-Or just say, "Callate, cabron!"
-What does "cabron" mean?
-He was just kidding. Never say that word over the phone.

-What if they ask about an attorney?
-The word for lawyer is abogado.
-Avocado?
-Abogado.
-Abocado?
-With a G. And a B.
-Ahh..buh...ahhguh...What is it again?
-Abogado. Don't say "avocado".
-"Do I need a WHAT? What kind of law firm IS this?"
-Since we're next door to Whole Foods, they might be especially confused.
-That should be our new standard for appointing an attorney. If you can afford to buy an avocado from Whole Foods, you are too rich for our services.
-So, the second letter is B?
-This meeting is over.

your source for all things jigar

I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me, "Hey Sean, I know your old roommate is an acclaimed video journalist for The New York Times. Is there a site where I can access all his videos in one place? Does that site have an RSS feed? And have any of his stories received the Publisher's Award? Say, for May of 2007?"

The answer to all those questions is an emphatic Yes. Jigarmehta.com is online, featuring over a year of Jigar Journalism. There's an RSS feed and everything. And The Night Shift in Newark won the Publisher's Award for May 2007. Mr. Mehta goes on a Saturday night patrol with police officers in Newark, New Jersey (as opposed to Newark, the enclave within the city of Fremont, which would make for a slow-moving evening). It's a pretty great piece, even better than the one on The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, and almost on the level of the unreleased underground classic, Pharm Boys.

I'm trying to convince him to really make some money at this career, and add some banner ads where you try to hit a monkey, but so far, no dice. That monkey is so hard to hit! I think there might be a story there.

happy columbus day!

| 1 Comment

It is Columbus Day, a city holiday in San Francisco. Our office follows the court's calendar, so I get the day off, though I like to imagine that in my stead, my administrative tasks are being handled by the finest slave in all of Hispaniola. Because that's what Columbus would have wanted.

I'm going to celebrate by going to North Beach - but I'm not going to drive through the Broadway Tunnel, or take a bus. Instead, I'm going to wander the city aimlessly in a random direction. Wherever I eventually end up, no matter which neighborhood, I'll insist it IS North Beach, refer to all the residents as Italians, and claim the territory in the name of Queen Isabella. Also, I will steal their land.

One thing's for sure - I will be having Indian food for lunch.

I have friend in law school who is taking a class on Property. Today's lecture? Adverse possession. Because that's what Columbus would have wanted.

I used to live in Berkeley, where they don't celebrate Columbus Day. Instead, it's Indigenous Peoples Day, a celebration of the Amerindian populations which were tormented and exploited by Columbus and subsequent colonialists. Given that this is the city of Berkeley, there are some people who see Columbus Day as an opportunity to protest, often in the form of chalking or spray painting "Fuck Columbus!" all over campus. (The phrase nearly always contains an exclamation point, if not three, which indicates that the protester is deadly serious in his or her opposition to the half-millenium dead Genoan sailor.)

I'm not sure who is going to be affected by this message. Guilty-looking exchange students from Barcelona? People putting excessive amounts of sugar in their coffee? A student trying to find a new route to Pimentel Hall by circumnavigating the Valley Life Sciences Building? I have been tempted to add my own anti-Columbus message to the graffiti: "Because Bicentennial Man fucking sucked."

Five years ago, I ran an old fake interview with Christopher Columbus. According to the comments, many high school students use it as a research tool. And I think that's what Columbus would have wanted.

treehouse green gifts

| 2 Comments

Saturday, September 22nd was the grand opening of the brand-new store opened by my friend Maureen (AKA Mo's), The Treehouse. Located in the Elmwood neighborhood of Berkeley (2935 College Avenue, just above Ashby), The Treehouse is a "green gifts" store, which means they sell gifts that are handmade, recycled, and organic. That description doesn't do justice to how interesting the store is. The products are cool enough that I'd shop there even if it wasn't such a socially-conscious store; it's the retail equivalent of discovering chocolate cake that has the nutritional properties of broccoli.

The store's concept is very socially-, community-, and environmentally-responsible. They donate 1% of their profits to en enviromental fund, they offset their carbon emissions through Carbonfund.org, and they offer promotions to customers who reuse their bags and boxes. Even the plates, napkins, and utensils used at the opening gala were all compostable. They also support the arts, with plans in the works to host trunk shows for local artists in upcoming months. Where the store really stands out is how they combine good taste in art with good social values. Here's a few examples:

They sell multi-colored crayons in various shapes - bears, dinosaurs, assorted animals - that are made from old broken crayons melted together. This is a brilliant idea. If I'd have had multi-colored dinosaur crayons when I was in my formative coloring years, I may have actually developed some artistic ability. In addition, the product is made by developmentally disabled adults.

There are coasters made out of old LPs, trimmed to frame the labels, sold in packs of five for $12. My favorite set had a Kenny Loggins EP featuring a few of his Yacht Rock classics, "I'm Alright" and his solo version of "What a Fool Believes". My only complaint about the set was that the Jesus Christ Superstar coaster didn't have "What's the Buzz" on it, which might actually be a positive in that it would keep me from asking friends to "tell me what's-a-happening" while we enjoyed cold beverages together. The vinyl record bowls also look amazing.

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There is a section devoted to products made out of recycled bike parts (via Resource Revival). I particularly liked the bottle openers. You can buy kits to make your own chewing gum, stationary made from recycled paper using soy-based printing, and organically-grown soybean candles (I bought one of those). If you are buying for someone else, they also have environmentally-friendly gift wrapping.

A lot of the products were not necessarily aimed at me, but I loved them just the same. A company called littleoddforest has a bunch of excellent bags that made me temporarily wish I had more women in my life to buy purses for. There's a tote bag fashioned from a page of the Sunday comics, which lets you look cool while also chuckling at the intergenerational strife in Zits. One of my companions bought a snazzy red bag made from recycled leather jackets, so as to look like a rock musician, while caring about the earth like a folk musician:

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My favorite item was the "nuts-and-bolts" bowl, which is a serving bowl made out of interlocked nuts and bolts. I wish I could find a photo, but it looks like something you find in a Jeunet-and-Caro movie. The only thing that kept me from buying it was being unsure how it would fit in with our house's kitchen, which already has a few serving bowls already, but I may not be able to hold back on my next trip to Elmwood.

To summarize, I love this store, and I think many of my readers would as well, particularly those that enjoy products featuring cute animals on them and "green" gifts for babies (you know who you are). It's open every day - why not go tomorrow?

The Treehouse Green Gifts
2935 College Ave
(between Ashby Ave & Russell St)
Berkeley, CA 94705
(510) 204-9292

www.treehousegreengifts.com

505: the civilization express

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On our drive up to Lake Shasta on Friday, we missed the turnoff for 505. No one was paying attention at the crucial moment in Vacaville, so we ended up driving an extra thirty miles, meeting Highway 5 at Sacramento instead of cutting across. Not only does 505 save time, but it avoids Davis and Sacramento. John McCrea would have been beside himself with rage when we missed a chance to dodge the automotive congestion around the city.

I know Davis isn't really that bad, especially compared to the black hole of suck that is the city of Sacramento. I've had a beef with Davis ever since my senior year of college, when a distant cousin returned, fresh off his first quarter at UC Davis, to extol the virtues of college. "You're gonna love it," he told me. "In Davis, you can get a burger - at midnight! Sean, it's the ultimate freedom."

That phrase became shorthand for me and my family for years, whenever anyone mentioned Davis, the glory of college life, or something mundane that made them so deliriously happy that it depressed us. I thought of that often in Berkeley, standing in line at 1 AM for a slice of greasy Fat Slice pizza with cardboard crust, muttering to myself, "Ultimate freedom. Ultimate freedom."

My favorite shortcut is 242, the classic, and the only freeway to originate in Pleasant Hill. 242 is similar to 505 in that it connects two uninspiring places by going quickly and dodging the slightly crappier places in between. 242 was known as "The Hypotenuse" among many of my dorky friends, because it cut across the right angle formed by 680 and 4 at Buchanan Field. I like to imagine Pythogoras driving an old Honda Civic, pumping his fist as he exited 680 on his way to Stockton.

One benefit of missing the turnoff to 505 was that we got to visit Woodland, California, which has a complex right off the highway featuring an elaborate array of services for travelers. There's a convenience store, a gas station, and a Wendy's, all under one roof, though nothing was as memorable as the men's restroom.

There, next to the condom machine, was a cologne dispenser. For just fifty cents, you could get a spray of cologne, presumably squirted out of the side of the machine itself. I can think of so many times when I've been traveling on Highway 5, in desperate need of a musky scent, and caught short of imitation Drakkar Noir: giving a teenage runaway a ride Red Bluff, furiously speeding to an outdoor kegger in Chico, stuck in a car without air conditioning during a 110-degree afternoon in Auburn on the way to a Craigslist casual encounters rendezvous.

There's one more situation where a cologne dispenser becomes indispensable: on the way to an 11-man houseboat weekend on Lake Shasta. Needless to say, I got $1.50 worth of scent that afternoon. Happy engagement, Dustin!

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I've mentioned before that I am a user of body wash. Much of this stems from an old relationship, where my girlfriend reacted with horror to my flesh-desiccating bar soap, my lack of conditioner, and the total absence of skin care products in my bathroom. As a result, she bought many of those items, along with a diverse array of pomades, in an attempt to soften/pretty me up. It worked until the breakup, and my slide into ill-advised goatee-growing.

While I am still working my way through a gigantic bottle of conditioner purchased in 2004 (does conditioner ever expire?), and most of my fancy soaps have never been used, I've irrevocably switched to liquid-soap-and-loofah usage. Usually, it doesn't make me question my manliness. After all, if a loofah (or falafel) is good enough for Bill O'Reilly, it's good enough for me, right?

But today, I switch to a new bath puff, and realized that I have begin buying bath products not just for girls, but for pre-teen girls. My new scrub product is a "Rainbow Sherbet G.L.O.W. Bath Puff". G.L.O.W. stands for "Girls Leading Our World".

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Throw away those washcloths and start using your G.L.O.W. bath puff. It really suds up your soap and is much more fun to use! Get yourself into a nice warm bath or shower. Wet the mesh bath puff and rub your favorite soap on it! Lift an arm or leg and gently rub the puff in circle shapes on your skin. Now you're feeling fresh and clean!

So, in summary, I am a teenage girl, I am extremely fresh and clean, I smell faintly of rainbow sherbet, and I am ready to lead our world.

(UPDATE: You can find more information about this family of products at ReadySetGlow.com. I highly recommend the bath puff's exfoliating qualities, and hope that the cute boy in my fourth-period Health class notices the change in my skin.)

million-dollar idea: capri sun cocktails

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I stopped at a 24-Hour Bakery tonight as part of an unsuccessful midnight search for Jell-O. While the bakers didn't have any room for Jell-O, they did have Capri Suns for sale. I had a Fruit Punch in a space-age-looking pouch, virtually unchanged from how it looked twenty years ago.

Someone future millionaire should really get Bacardi and Kraft Foods (the North American distributor of Capri Sun) together, so they can start releasing "Hard Pacific Cooler", "Tropical Rum Punch" and other Capri-Sun-and-alcohol combos. It's a perfect combo. The Capri Sun makes you nostalgic for your childhood, then the alcohol blots out your memories of said childhood. If you had a traumatic memory that took place after a Little League game, it's even more perfect.

It might be difficult for people to deal with the delicate Capri Sun straw insertion process. Luckily, plastered people can simply insert the straw into the bottom of the pouch. Maybe that means you can't put it down, and have to drink it up quickly, but come on, it's only 6.75 ounces. Finish your cocktail and then grab a snack. I think it would go well with my thousand-dollar snack idea: Kudos Bars With Weed In Them.

Don't forget to Vote for Mo!

britney spears & unpleasant stimuli

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Britney Spears did a terrible performance at MTV's Video Music Awards this year. By all accounts, it was an unwatchable wreck. Nevertheless, on Monday morning, three different people insisted I see it. "It's terrible. She's so bad. You've got to watch it!"

The same thing held true when paparazzi got photos of Britney's cooter. One friend of mine emailed links to where the photos could be found, and seemed almost offended I hadn't seen them.

"Are the pictures hot?" I asked.
"No, they're really disgusting. You've got to see them!"

Britney Spears has become the spoiled milk that's so rancid and unpleasant to smell that you have to make everyone else smell how bad it's gotten. She's so far gone it's unreal. Nowhere was this concept demonstrated more elegantly than in "Unpleasant Stimuli", a Saturday Night Live sketch from the beginning of the golden Carvey-Hartman-Farley era in 1990. In the below clip, watch as each family member feels Chris Farley's gross, sweaty stomach.

Also notice that when Farley makes his entrance, the spice rack falls off the wall, and Tom Hanks barely acknowledges it. Has this been a sketch with Jimmy Fallon or Horatio Sanz, the whole thing would have devolved into giggling.

(Thanks to Improv Is Good For You.)

my 9/11 tribute act

If I ever became a male stripper, I think I'd have a 9/11-themed act. I'd be a fireman, and my partner (presumably Mike B) would dress up as a cop. Not only is this patriotic, I figure it would earn us some slack with our audience. A fireman is too busy being a hero to worry about keeping his abs looking good. 9/11 has taught us that heroism isn't about eating right or doing some sit-ups. Real heroism comes from inside you, no matter how much flab is there to cushion and protect the tender heroism.

As I imagine our act, it would start with a moment of silence. Then we'd announce, "Let's roll," and slowly start stripping to the accompaniment of Bruce Springsteen's "The Rising". Audience members would be encouraged to write derogatory things about Islam and shove them into our pants. Rescue workers in any capacity get free dances. One of us would wear a red-white-and-blue thong, while the other gets the camouflage variety. And not the classic variety - a digital camouflage thong, so we can strip in desert, woodland, or urban bachelorette party environments.

Other soundtrack possibilities include Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down", Tobey Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue", or 45-minute Bin Laden speeches delivered in High Arabic. Will it be sexy? Let me put it this way: When our clothes come off, there's no way you aren't going to remember exactly where you were that day.

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he is microwave popcorn

Does microwave give you lung disease? A popular New York Times story (still holding at strong at the #6 position at post time) suggests that it can, if you work in a microwave popcorn factory, or if you eat two bags of microwave popcorn every single day for a decade, while inhaling the fragrance of the newly-opened bag.

My good friend Louise categorically stated that she was "never eating that stuff again", but after crunching the numbers, I feel that the risk is minimal.

According to the story, Wayne Watson dropped 50 pounds in six months, after his diagnosis, by cutting out microwave popcorn. (Other news accounts have the number at a more conservative 35 pounds) One pound is roughly 3500 calories, so we're looking at 175,000 total calories in six months. Per day, that's about a thousand popcorn calories a day he dropped. Act II butter-flavor microwave popcorn clocks in at 480 calories per bag, so our hero was averaging just over two full bags of microwave popcorn every day.

And if anyone was going to develop popcorn worker's lung, as the disease is called, it would be this guy. When the doctor asked about his snack habits, Watson declared, "I am Mr. Popcorn. I love popcorn." I think he earned the title. If you eat one food so much that simply removing that one food from your diet leads to a fifty-pound weight loss, you can certainly call yourself, "Mr (That Food)".

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I wonder if his family was silently horrified by Mr. Popcorn. Watching him ritualistically preparing for his twice-nightly Orville Redenbacher binge, slipping on the mesh "Mr. Popcorn" baseball cap after changing into a t-shirt that reads, "If This Corn's Poppin', Don't Bother Knockin'!" I imagine Mr. Popcorn standing in front of the microwave, impatiently hopping from foot to foot as he monitors the rate of popping. Every Christmas, a new popcorn-themed gift, from salt shakers, to ceramic "Mr. Popcorn" bowls, to special potholders shaped like ears of corn, to exotic varieties of microwave popcorn like the legendary "pour-over butter" (note: 510 calories/bag, 66% of the daily recommended allowance of fat). Each family member struggling with guilt over enabling his addiction, but ultimately won over by seeing Mr. Popcorn's face light up as he inhaled the intoxicating, poisonous buttered popcorn odor.

The low periods could have been quite dark. The time Mr. Popcorn refused to go on a camping trip in order to stay with the microwave. Shouting matches at movie theater concession stands. The Christmas when he received a large tub of different flavored popcorn, and stormed from the room in protest, slamming the door behind him, the awkward silence only broken minutes later by the familiar hum of the microwave and the faint sounds of popping.

Mr. Popcorn took it further in another article, declaring, "I am microwave popcorn." You are what you eat. Considering he consumed 1000 calories of popcorn every day for a decade, that is literally true. Louise suggests that nearly all of his cells have microwave popcorn molecules in them at this point.

Ultimately, the guy made Louise and I both feel sad: "His one joy in life," said Louise, "was sticking his face into a bag of freshly popped microwave popcorn and inhaling deeply." Yes, he's living longer, but what is he living for? Golf? Fresh fruit? In the words of Michael Bolton, how is he supposed to carry on, when all that he's been living for is gone?

prank war continues: amir goes too far?

The stakes are getting higher in the greatest prank war of all time. The last prank cost Amir a cross-country flight, a car rental, and a little piece of his soul. This time, Amir makes a $500 investment at "Prankee Stadium". Watch, cringe, fall in love all over again:

I am at a restaurant with a group of people, and we are discussing movies. The waiter of some vague non-white ethnicity - probably Greek or Persian - delivers a milkshake I've ordered. It is unblended, and possibly not made of milk and ice cream at all - there are ice cubes actually floating in the drink. I become extremely agitated by this, and argue with the waiter. I ask for a new, properly made milkshake, and then I ask to speak to the manager. I meet the manager and the cook - also of the same undefined ethnicity - and we all argue.

I become angrier and angrier, yelling in a very heated manner, and demanding a milkshake made of ice cream. Finally it comes out that they intentionally made me a defective milkshake, because they had overheard our table talking in a disparaging manner about the acting ability of Chris "Ludacris" Bridges. I yell and curse, but the restaurant staff has become defiant, even as other patrons notice and get upset. The dream ends with me still unsatisfied and furious.

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Here's a great dream write-up from Eugenio.

I was at a party a while ago, talking to a guy named Chad and another guy who was from New Jersey. Chad asked a weird question, and the conversation declined from there. Note: Not made up.

Chad: I'm gonna ask a WEIRD question here. What's your spirit animal?

Sean: That is a weird question.

Jersey Guy: Snake. Because I shed my skin.

Chad: Nice.

Jersey Guy: I've been told snake, sometimes wolf. I think I have some qualities of both. How about you?

Chad: Raven! (To me) What's your animal?

Sean: I don't have one.

(Chad and Jersey Guy shake their heads in disgust.)

Sean: How do I know what my spirit animal is?

Jersey Guy: Is there some animal that you feel really close to, like you have a connection to them?

Sean: No, not really. I like the water. Maybe a dolphin? I really don't know.

Chad: (to Jersey Guy) How'd you figure out your animal?

Jersey Guy: I've had people, Native Americans, come up and tell me from time to time. I've also had some strange, meaningful experiences involving wolves. Once, a wolf walked right up to me, and I just stood there. And for snakes, you know, I shed my skin, too.

Chad: Right on.

Sean: So, what's the point of a spirit animal?

Chad: OK, say you're lost, and you need to find some water. You'd close your eyes, and ask your spirit animal to guide you to the water. Like, I'd follow a raven, and it'd lead me there.

Sean: Does that actually work?

Chad: Yes.

Jersey Guy: Yes.

Chad: It helps if you do a quest.

Sean: Hey, I'm going to go talk to someone else now.

my mutant power

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According to Professor Charles Xavier, a mutant's power normally manifests during puberty. For me, it appears to have come up in my late twenties. It's as if my body decided, I guess this is as mature as he's going to get. Maybe he can't grow a beard, but maybe there's something with his shoulder hair.

I noticed this at the second round of my most recent comedy competition. My friend came to support me, and while talking, she mentioned that I smelled "like a baby". Somehow, my body odor conveyed to her the scent of baby powder and milk, though I was confident I'd encountered neither of those substances during my day. However, my friend had been thinking a lot about babies and pregnancy recently. She also added that on occasions in the past, I had a very "macho" scent about me, but she linked it to times when she'd already been thinking about manly men.

I shrugged off this bombshell and walked back to the comics' green room. Within five minutes of my entrance, a larger comic spoke up. "Does it smell like garlic and onions in here?" No one else noticed, but looked at me suspiciously as I sniffed the air.

That was when I knew it was no coincidence, but the sign of mutant abilities. My personal scent evokes people's subconscious desires. For my friend, it was motherhood. For that other comedian, it was dinner. I'm sure there are others who have noticed but not said anything, perhaps because it's weird to tell your old roommate that you smell like a motorcycle, or because it's difficult to identify what falling in love smells like.

I've tried to nurture my new powers. I'm wearing less deodorant these days, and overdressing on warm days. Women sense my power, and they seek the life essence. I do not avoid women, but I do deny them my essence. Besides, if I ended up showering with woman who was attracted by my mutant pheronomes, the effect might cut out mid-shower as I got clean. She'd be left confused and horrified, wondering how she'd ever thought I smelled like health insurance and unconditional love.

My conundrum is this: What if I meet a woman whose secret desire is in fact...Sean Keane? What would that odor even be? Would it be the olfactory equivalent of pointing a video camera at a TV monitor displaying the camera's signal, a feedback loop of musk and longing that ultimately makes you feel a little sick to your stomach? Only Professor Xavier could say for sure.

a photo that looks like america

Sometimes you encounter a photo that perfectly encapsulates what it means to be an America. This shot was taken at a Costco in Arizona:

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Technology is changing mean older brother pranks. For every new method of little brother harassment enabled by technological advances (as seen below), there's two more that fall by the wayside.

Lacking a little brother, my own mean older brother behavior was mostly limited to forcing my younger sisters to play baseball and soccer in the backyard with me for hours. However, I heard legendary stories from friends who had little brothers, including one mean game called "the typewriter".

To do the typewriter, first you sit on your little brother and pin hia arms with your knees. Then, you drum your fingers on his chest, like you were typing in his sternum. Periodically, you slap their face and yell, "Ding!" Ah, the untapped violent potential of the carriage return.

Unfortunately, technology has made the typewriter obsolete. Modern older brothers have no idea why you would slap in that manner. Slapping a little brother they can get behind, but to what end? I propose a replacement prank: The blog. Mean older brothers can do the same typing move as before, but instead of the slap, they can flick the tip of the nose and right-click the nostrils. To mix things up, mean brothers can poke the middle of the little brother's forehead while yelling, "Refresh!"

Games involving slurping up a loogy right before it hits your little brother's face are timeless, and will never get old until the human race develops cybernetic salivary gland implants.

(Scene: Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord. Chris Isaak has left the stage, Stevie Nicks has not yet taken the stage. A John Mayer song plays over the PA system.)

(Chris approaches Davey and places his hand on Davey's leg.)

Chris: I don't know if I've told you this before, but...your body is a wonderland, Davey.

Davey: Look, as far as you're concerned, my body is a Never Never Land.

Sean: Yes, because over the years, it's been inhabited by a lot of lost boys.

sf beer & oyster festival

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A few weeks ago, I attended the Beer & Oyster Festival at Fort Mason. It's an interesting combination, based on signature items served by the sponsor, O'Reilly's Irish Pub & Restaurant. My friend Annie wondered if you could have a festival for any delicious, unhealthy items you might combine. The Whiskey & Dumplings Festival. The Marijuana & Pizza Festival. It's much like the approach taken by Food & Wine Magazine, which has to have the best employee perks in the world, outside of Cocaine & Blowjob Magazine.

As Annie and I continued our discussion, a staffer hung a sign announcing that the water booth was now serving fudge.

The festival featured a variety of entertainment to go along with the oysters and libations. When we arrived, the stage was full of Irish dancers. I enjoy Irish dancing because it's an art form that recognizes the rhythmic limitations of the Irish people. Why pretend that the Irish, or white people in general, have any abilities regarding moving their lower bodies in time with a beat?

The Irish have decided not to tempt fate by attempting to move their torsos. The dance takes place entirely between the knees and feet, with occasional arm movements for emphasis. It makes sense. Paraplegics don't still try to do track and field. They develop their own athletic disciplines. Irish dancing is the quad rugby of dance.

Similar dancing took place when the headlining act took the stage. When Flogging Molly played, revelers "danced" by jogging in place, and kind of kicking their feet backwards. The style combined limited ability with unprovoked, erratic violence. And if that doesn't say, "Ireland", I don't know what does.

Flogging Molly is a band that follows the classic Irish band name formula of (Violent Act + Stereotypical Irish Name). The Dropkick Murphys used the same model. Next year's festival will feature the band Knuckle Sandwich O'Malley, opening for Savage Thrashing of Seamus, with a special guest appearance by Shooting Bono In The Back Of The Head With a Potato Gun. Their music may not sound like much, but you won't want to miss the dancing, or the fudge.

memories of prop 227

Inspired by this post, here's a memory from my college years. Millionaire Ron Unz had sponsored a ballot initiative to revamp/eliminate bilingual education in California, and his supporters were holding a rally on campus. To advertise, they'd placed flyers on the back of all the seats in Wheeler Auditorium.

"ENGILISH ONLY!!!"

Even if you overlook the three exclamation points, a level of grammatical hysteria usually reserved for naive children's letters to Santa or ISO posters, that's just not going to cut it.

Proposition 227 passed anyway.

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belated memorial day post

The SF Department of Parking & Transportation still enforces its street sweeping parking regulations on Memorial Day. If I still have to move my car across the street on the night before Memorial Day, what was the point of all those soldiers dying fighting the Nazis in the first place?

more typekey defiance

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For now, comments are emancipated from the minimal-registration shackles of TypeKey (but feel free to register all the same!), but Zembla is still receiving thrilling communications via Meebo. This is one of our sadder communications so far, probably in response to this post, the #2 search result for "Kristen Larson".

barbiexxface: i typed kristen larson in google
barbiexxface: kristen just died saterday
barbiexxface: and yeah
barbiexxface: im going to her wake and stuff
barbiexxface: i have to go bye.

Zembla has had an unusually large number of people visit looking for Kristen Larson recently. It's too bad this is the reason why. Condolences to Kristen Larson's friends and family. And yeah.

Amir also assured me that my comedic influence was slightly more than zero percent. I appreciate his nice comments, but fear that this may be part of the set-up for a humiliating prank. I am pretty sure the prank will not involve Amir riding a bike, because he never learned how.

1.2 hours of fitness

The evening was going poorly. I had neither of my two sets of car keys, nor the means to connect with either holder of said keys. My ancient phone charger no longer works, so my lack of access to the car also meant a lack of access to the car charger, so my phone was down to its last few minutes of battery power. Technology had defeated me, and not even complicated technology at that.

Cut off from communication and filled with simmering rage, I still had stand-up comedy obligations. Yes, it was a waiting-room-shaped theater with 27-person capacity. Yes, the actual crowd would number between six and ten befuddled tourists, horrified by their surroundings and already regretting their ticket purchases. Their pained, non-laughing faces would tremble, as if to escape the mediocre comedy occurring far too close, their eyes whispering, "We could have seen Jersey Boys". But I am a performer, and a performer must constantly hone his craft.

I learned there is something more depressing than performing to a silent audience of six after the frantic host has delivered a monologue about her belief that the Queen of England should become a prostitute, a monologue that uses the word "coochie" between eight and ten times, depending on crowd reaction, then introduced me as "Jeff". Namely, traveling to the Tenderloin to find the tiny theater locked, the show cancelled without explanation.

Arriving back home, my spirit as dead as my cellular phone, I decided I could perhaps salvage the night with a workout. While 24-Hour Fitness is a misnomer on the level of The NeverEnding Story, my local branch is open until midnight. It was uncrowded at 10:45 on a Friday night, residents of my neighborhood apparently not making fitness a priority on weekends. There was only one other person on the Precors as I set to getting my elliptical on. But he was humming.

I made it through "Hey Jude" and one verse of Bob Seger's "Night Moves" before I finally snapped. Red-faced and dripping sweat, I turned and shouted, "Stop that! Right now!"

He looked chagrined, and walked over to the stationary bicycles. In retrospect, I am not sure if he thought I was telling him to stop humming, or to get off the elliptical trainer. Maybe he wasn't even consciously aware of his humming, just my crazed splotchy face, bulging eyeballs, and obvious willingness to throw down. Nevertheless, no more goddamn humming.

Denouement: Late in the evening, I got a set of keys back, then moved the car while charging up the phone. When I pulled into the new space across from my house, the car in front of me contained a couple getting it on in the front seat. I considered shouting, "Stop that! Right now!", but in fairness to the couple losing those awkward teenage blues, public sex is way less offensive than public humming. If the choice is between someone humming "Night Moves" near me, and actually working on their night moves near me, I'm going to choose the latter every time.

I went out last night after my show and I drank too much. Actually, it wasn't a matter of alcoholic consumption as much as it was my lack of dinner that screwed me up, but nevertheless, I was plowed. When I woke up this morning, I didn't remember anything after leaving the party and waiting for the bus. So I decided to examine the evidence.

My ever-present notebook was no help at all. My scrawled notes are all about the Warriors-Jazz series and free-throw shooting, proving that excessive amounts of gin only increase my nerdiness. Only one note is different, and hopefully something I did not say out loud:

"'Juice' - Gatorade plastic container vs. anti-Semitic 'Jews'".

Yeah, that one is definitely going into my act. It's got a lot of promise, particularly if I ever performa in front of an audience of athletically-minded white supremacists. Also? Gatorade is not juice.

A quick perusal of my surroundings yielded further clues. I had slept under only my comforter, not the sheets. That's because I made the bed after staggering home, and apparently Drunken Sean didn't want to ruin his (admittedly excellent) bedsmanship. It's like alcohol awakened a commitment to hospital corners that I never knew I had.

Moving further into the apartment, I saw more damning evidence of my drunken tomfoolery. The dish drainer was full of clean pots and pans, which I must have washed around 2:30. I left them to air dry, like a true rebel. There was also a pile of empty plastic bags and a receipt. Yes, in my drunken stupor, I'd gone to Safeway. And what did I buy? Apples, zucchini, carrots, and bananas. And microwave popcorn, but it was the light kind. I even used a coupon that saved me $4.

I don't feel good about drinking to such excess, but at the same time, I'm pleased to have gotten so much done. Perhaps sobriety is what's been holding me back all these years. I'll be spending the rest of the afternoon at Harrington's, downing Irish car bombs while balancing my checkbook, studying linguistics, and making a shoebox diorama of the Eschaton scene from Infinite Jest.

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kenny rogers, photographer

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Courtesy of my friends at the Grammar Rodeo, this is a photo from the official Kenny Rogers web page. I'm already fond of Oscar Rodeos and the album Sweetheart of the Rodeo, so the Grammar Rodeo should be a nice addition.

This photo appears to be a child dressed up as Sonny Crockett, Don Johnson's character from Miami Vice. He's got the stubble, the oversized sunglasses, and even a handgun. The smoke behind him hints at a dramatic miniature crime scene just out of the camera's range, perhaps a tiny, fiery boat crash.

In short, this is an accomplished photograph. The production value is high, so high that I find it hard to imagine that this is the only one of its kind in the Kenny Rogers portfolio. I would even venture that it is not the only child-as-Miami-Vice-character photograph in the portfolio. Hanging on a wall in stately Rogers Manor, there's a little Ricardo Tubbs in a small pastel suit, a little Cuban boy dressed as drug dealer Calderone, and a black-suited boy done up to look like an eight-year-old Edward James Olmos, complete with pockmarks. The Sonny Crockett portrait may be the finest result from this project, but it's clearly not the first one.

Kenny may not have stopped at Vice, either. Who knows how many children have been forced to dress as 80's TV cops to satisfy Kenny's inexplicable obsession? Right now, standing under hot lights as perfectionist Kenny gets the Hill Street Blues backdrop just right, there's a frightened eight-year-old clad in a police officer's uniform, waiting for a lunch break and some long-promised fried chicken. The only sound is quiet weeping and Kenny's muttered mantra, "You got to know when to pose 'em, know when to expose 'em, know when to add fake facial hair, know when to get sunglasses." Kenny can calibrate his light meter when he's sitting at the table, but will there truly be time enough to count the psychological damage, even after the photography is done?

That being said, I bet the 21 Jump Street series is adorable.

More Kenny Rogers on Zembla:

What I Learned on Thanksgiving
On a Warm Summer's Evening In a Compact Car Bound For Nowhere

And some posts about the other Kenny Rogers

Many years ago, I used to teach a writing class at UC Berkeley. One of my former students has since gone on to a very bright future in the world of comedy writing, a future that is roughly...zero percent due to my tutelage. Amir Blumenfeld writes for College Humor, created Drew Bledsoe's brilliant blog, and is a gifted impressionist, but I feel his great accomplishment comes via his prank war with co-worker Streeter Seidell.

It all began with a doctored mp3 of "Stacy's Mom", by Fountains of Wayne, and a video of Amir unwittingly singing along. After that, things escalated. Lucky for all of us, the complete prank war is documented on Vimeo.

Prank 1: Don't Look At My Face

Amir unwittingly sings along to an mp3 of "Stacy's Mom", into which Streeter has secretly spliced an audio recording of himself having sex.

Prank 2: Where's My Cookie?

Streeter goes on a lunch date with a girl who doesn't actually exist.

Prank 3: Notice How He Picks a Stereotype That Isn't Even True

Amir auditions for a fake comedy/sketch pilot, set up by Streeter. He does a series of impressions and introduces himself as "Andy Bloom".

Prank 4: There Could Have Been Industry People There

Streeter performs at an open mic at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City, where unbeknownst to him, the audience has been instructed not to laugh at any of his jokes. This one is very difficult to watch.

I am very torn watching these clips. For my own enjoyment, I would like the prank war to continue indefinitely, but at the same time, I share the concerns of one Vimeo commenter, who worries that, "This war is going to end in one of their deaths."

The May 2007 Sean Keane College Tour rolls to San Francisco State University today. It's a free show at 5 PM at The Depot, part of the Cesar Chavez Student Center. Here is a map. If you're on campus for any reason, or just hanging out near Daly City BART in the late afternoon, come check it out.

The other comedians are:

Joe Klocek - Punchline regular, soon to be featured on Comedy Central's Live at Gotham
Clark Taylor - Veteran SF comic
Edwin Li - SF State student and Transformers enthusiast
Kevin O'Shea - A lot like Kevin Shea, except for Irisher and soberer
Joe Gorman - Founder and star, Babyfaces of Comedy Tour, and also a Transformers enthusiast
Plus special guests!

The Pub next door also has drink specials tonight, a crucial part of enjoying comedy at 5 PM that isn't in the form of a "Three's Company" rerun. Of course, the Pub specials would make Jack Tripper a lot funnier, too. The landlord thinks he's gay, people!

fairly great, not that american

On Saturday, I visited Paramount's Great America in scenic Santa Clara, California. I hadn't been to Great America since Gay & Lesbian Night, back in 2003, so I was eager to re-discover the wonders of roller coaster fun, and write down lots of observations in a yellow pocket-sized notebook. In summary: The park is pretty great, though becoming steadily less American.

The reason for this is the introduction of Boomerang Bay.

At Zembla, we've been staunch supporters of all things Australian, but is this really appropriate at Great America? It's not Great Treason or anything, but it's pretty far from Great Patriotism. I can't help but suspect that this is a symbol of the nefarious partnership between Australian PM John Howard and his BFF George W. Bush. David Hicks goes home, but is forced to agree to a one-year media ban. In return, Howard criticizes Democratic presidential candidates. And now, Great America has an entire Australian area. I don't have any proof, but I bet Paul Wolfowitz helped negotiate this expansion.

For the benefit of Zembla's Australian readers, here's a list of what's featured in Boomerang Bay (which is not, as far as I can tell, an actual body of water Down Under.) Aussies registered with TypeKey can let me know of any odd naming choices or discrepancies with authentic Australian culture.

Outback Shack: Serves freshly battered fish and shrimp, pizza, breadsticks, French fries, salads, soda and beer.

Mick's Crocodile Canteen: Pizza, hot dogs, salads, nachos, soda, beer.

Castaway Creek: Circular tube ride.

The Screamin' Wombat, Downunder Thunder, Didgeridoo Falls: Waterslides

Boomerang Lagoon: Swimming pool

Great Barrier Reef: Wave pool

Jackaroo Landing, Kookaburra Cay: Water play areas.

HMB Endeavor: Used to be called The Revolution, and informally known as "The Pirate Ship". It has now been re-named after the ship Captain Cook used on his first voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand, though Maori visitors might still consider it a pirate vessel.. Though the ship ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef, the historical record does not show that it ever turned upside down in a terrifying manner, as Great America's HMB Endeavor does. Park officials have also Americanized the spelling of the ship's name. South of the Equator, this ride moves in the opposite direction.

The Demon: In the past, I have compared the Demon to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad:

Since Cementhorizon has moved to TypeKey registration, ambitious-but-unregistered commenters have had to resort to Meebo to let their virtual voices be heard. Some have been abusive-yet-inaccurate, while others have had more pleasant things to say.

Below are the comments of "musketeer freak", which I to be in response to Imagine An Iron Mask Filled With Nougat.

"hii
i love musketeers
there the best
yum yum yum
YOU KNOW IT
bye bye adios amigos
i still LOVE musketeers"

Thanks for commenting, musketeer freak, and come back soon as Zembla returns back to its important work in the field of Candynalysis. YOU KNOW IT.

I saw a Threadless t-shirt that reminded me of a classic Squelch piece, The Gentle Jangle of Success. Ah, the days when the Squelch was printed on toilet-paper grade newsprint, stained your hands, had no color, and regularly alienated the Native American and Filipino campus communities. Not that they don't currently alienate people, but I think Filipinos have pretty much gotten a free ride since 2000.

When I was looking for the title of the key piece, I discovered another nugget of Sean Keane internet famousness in a review of Richard Grayson's And To Think That I Kissed Him On Lorimer Street. The reviewer cites the Squelch and quotes from an old Words From The Top entitled, Class of 2004: Don't Sing It, Bring It. (I don't remember why we chose that title.)

One particular letter from the editor that stands out in my mind is the one addressed to the freshman in fall 2000: "College," the editor opined, "is like a hypercolor t-shirt. It starts out with a brilliant pink burst of excitement, before slowly fading away to a blur of resentment and apathy." The editor also instructed the freshmen, "If you're one of those students who asks questions in lecture every day, just remember, there's a special circle in hell for you people."

The remainder of the Squelch piece discusses unbaptized infants, restraining orders, and the odd confluence of antique stores on the corner of Shattuck and Adeline in Berkeley. The remainder of the book review gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up to Mr. Grayson's book, noting that his "handling of his characters' sexuality is deft and never overbearing", which is how I like to think I deal with my own sexuality, albeit not in print.

What is the lesson here? Clearly, I should be making more t-shirts, and publishing a collection of semi-autobiographical short stories, possibly concerning keys. The tentative working title is, Sean M. Keane, Will You Please Go Now!

early effects of typekey registration

Cementhorizon recently switched its comment system to forbid comments from unregistered users. Aside from blocking spam, this change has had little effect on most of the Cementhorizosphere, but Zembla gets a lot of random visitors. Some of these now-thwarted people have a lot of poorly-spelled opinions about Asian-American children's names, Japanese cars, Kirby Puckett, and Mr. Wendal that they are dying to share with me. What are they to do?

For one frustrated St. Louis Cardinals fan, the answer was Meebo. Technically savvy readers know that you can chat with your humble author via the chat box at the upper right of the page. Recently, a displaced Red Sox fan asked me about tickets for Two Dolla Wednesday using the magic of Meebo. An Australian friend arranged a lunch date using Meebo when he couldn't find my email address. St. Louis Superfan is the first person to go straight to verbal abuse, a Meebo milestone for me.

I'm not sure which entry provoked his ire, but for the historical record, here is Meeboguest190942's comment:

"you are just mad because the friggin cardinals can kill the giants any day.and i would also like to know another shortstop besides ozzie smith that got more than 14 gold gloves faggot.Besides,your page sucks balls."

Ozzie Smith only won 13 Gold Gloves, but thanks for visiting, Meeboguest190942! Remember, TypeKey registration is easy and free, but check your ad-blocking software settings if you have trouble logging in. Because we can all agree that comment spam is what truly sucks balls.

ilkka speaks some geek

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Thanks to Gene and his technical aptitude, San Francisco State University, the nation of Finland, and physics itself for bringing us this stellar clip of Ilkka explaining things. Public reaction has ranged from, "Yey!" to, "Aerodynamicist, my ass."

tv recommendation

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If you get the Discovery Channel, check out "Mythbusters" on Monday night at 8 PM. The episode is called Birds in a Truck, and features excellent commentary from a prominent local aerodynamicist. We'll try to bring you some YouTube highlights if you miss it. Set your TiVos on "Inform!"

don imus and queen latifah

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Don Imus got fired by CBS for calling the Rutgers women's basketball team "nappy=headed hos", culminating a week of interminable, relentless news coverage with people from Snoop Dogg to Oprah weighing in. I don't think he should have been fired, but my apathy outweighs my outrage by about a factor of ten. I don't listen to Imus, don't know anyone who does, and generally don't understand why anyone listens to talk radio. So I'd like to discuss my experience with the word "hos".

Like most kids in the suburbs, I first encountered the word through the music of Dr. Dre. As a teenager, I made a lot of horribly clever puns about Santa Claus and gardening equipment, but I always knew "ho" was a derogatory term - at least until I heard Queen Latifah's "U.N.I.T.Y." If you're unfamiliar, the chorus includes the line:

You gotta let him know
You ain't a bitch or a ho

A message of empowerment, right? Unfortunately, I heard the lyrics as, "You ain't a bitch, you're a ho." It was confusing, but I tried to suss out Latifah's meaning. Maybe this song was about owning one's sexuality and freedom - the "ho" as liberated woman. I would have thought "bitch" had more positive connotations, but who was I to decide what word the Queen wanted to reclaim? I made a mental note: "Bitch" was a bad word, but "ho"? Not nearly as bad.

I don't remember when I was finally set straight, but I'm pretty sure I was singing along to the song when someone corrected me. Generally, being caught singing along to Queen Latifah is embarrassment enough, but the shattering of my semantic hierarchy of misogynistic rap lyrics was devastating. I'm glad I never saw Latifah on the street, since she might have punched me dead in my eye.

Imus got fired as much for "nappy-headed" as he was for the "hos" part. In the future, he'd do well to heed this advice from Latifah:

Instinct leads me to another flow
Everytime I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho
Trying to make a sister feel low
You know all of that gots to go
Now everybody knows there's exceptions to this rule
Now don't be getting mad, when we playing, it's cool

Only when we playing, Don.

the eggs-traordinary easter of 2005

It's almost Easter, Zembla's favorite holiday. But two years ago, the family Easter celebration was in danger. Molly was studying abroad in Chile, and Megan had already decided to opt out of egg hunting on Sunday morning. That left only Sean and Kelly to roll the rock away from the tomb of apathy and let the spirit of Easter rise again.

Megan's anti-egg-hunt position was understandable, if disappointing. Outsiders rarely understand the Keane family's holiday practices. When Molly tried to explain our celebration to her host family in Santiago, they stared at her in confusion. It wasn't a translation issue; her Chilean hermano explained that in Chile, egg hunting was only for children. Small children. Perhaps Molly had a brother who was mentally challenged?

I spent the afternoon of Holy Saturday at the Triple Rock Brewery's annual beerfest. Two regional finals for the NCAA Tournament were being played that afternoon, and both went into overtime. All the excitement, coupled with unlimited beer, made me temporarily forget my Easter responsibilities, much like how Arizona forgot to guard the three-point line at the end of the second half. Once the haze of March Madness faded and the taps were shut off, I knew I had work to do.

Mom picked me up from BART in Pleasant Hill, but went to bed almost immediately. When Kelly returned from work, we were faced with the daunting prospect of coloring three dozen eggs by ourselves, with no help from our worthless parents or siblings. There was only one thing to do: Open a bottle of wine, turn on the Starz Lord of the Rings marathon, and get to work.

It is safe to say that alcohol and Tolkien influenced our decorating. One egg compared my father's bicycling to the riders of Rohan for no real reason, except that King Theoden appeared on screen when Kelly was dyeing it.

The other source of inspiration was our anger at other family members for abandoning the egg-dyeing task to us. Megan's co-habitation with her boyfriend (they've since married, Mom's knee problems and the resultant painkiller usage, and Dad's limited art skills, Molly got a pass, so we took out our frustration on the nation of Chile itself. Our pattern was this:

1. Refill wine glass.
2. Shout "Morrrrdor!" or "Sam!" at sibling.
3. Write insulting joke about absent family member on egg.
4. Finish wine.
5. Dye egg ugly color.
6. Refill wine glass.

The living-in-sin eggs were my favorites. One read, "SINNERS" on one side, and "You know who you are" on the other. Another was labeled "Pissed-Off Jesus Egg", and displayed Our Saviour saying, "The bunny's no big deal, compared to living in sin". A third said, "Too Good For Coloring Eggs.../Not Too Good For HELL", with a drawing of flames.

My father consistently draws two characters on Easter. With the obligatory PAAS invisible white crayon, Dad sketches Bugs Bunny and a character called, "Murph the Surf", a guy that looks like Moe, the bully from Calvin and Hobbes, only on a surfboard. As far as I know, those are the only two things that my father can draw, besides treasure maps featuring household objects.

Kelly covered Dad's absence by sketching something she labeled, Doug's Doggy, a dog who said, "Ruff Ruff Doc?" Dad was not amused.

We dedicated memorial eggs to cars that had broken down throughout the year. We made fun of our poor 75-year-old grandmother, for reasons only Charles Shaw could explain. We wrote horrible holiday puns like, "Easter? I Hardly Knew 'Er!"

A Molly-in-Chile egg celebrated the mullet, Santiago, Chile's favorite hairstyle. Negocios enfrente, fiesta atras.

One design was simply a cracked egg covered with twelve different stickers from the PAAS pack Kelly described this egg as, "The most beautiful Easter egg in the whole wide world."

We made an Equal Opportunity Egg: Happy Passover, You Schlemiel! L'Chaim! The Sideways egg insisted, "I'm not gonna hunt for any friggin merlot!" An un-dyed egg read, "WARNING! This is an egg, not a jumbo-sized Vicodin!" Finally, we made a few prize eggs, promising the finder big-money prizes, to be paid out by Dennis. (He thwarted our efforts by "finding" those eggs himself).

We went to bed tired, drunk, and sick of Elijah Wood. We still hunted eggs the next morning, champagne glasses in hand, if by "next morning" you mean, "2 PM". We called Molly to tell her the Easter news and describe our eggs, and she wasn't surprised. After all, angry, drunken, mildly-incoherent egg-dyeing is common with Chilean children. Alcoholic children.

more australian video fun

From one of the brilliant minds behind The Ronnie Johns Half Hour comes this video - MTV's "Cribs" starring imprisoned Australian David Hicks.


We've always championed our Australian friends' creative efforts and legal struggles. However, we never realized the power they wielded. For in the aftermath of this video, prosecutors negotiated a plea agreement with Mr. Hicks. He'll be back to Australia within 60 days, in order to serve a nine-month sentence.

This result is almost as impressive as the time Yahoo Serious organized a nationwide boycott of South Africa in the 80's, or when Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee 2 led to an arms reduction agreement between the United States and Russia. Congratulations go out to Mr. Ilic and company. Now, if only they could decriminalize the Mexican Wave, they'd really be getting somewhere Down Under.

sean keane @ sf comedy club, 3/24

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O, ye that lament the absence of Sean Keane from the stages of San Francisco, weep not. For I will be doing a feature set when Dan St. Paul visits the the San Francisco Comedy Club on March 23rd. The show will feature some other as-yet-undetermined funny people, will start at 8, and cost ten dollars. The San Francisco Comedy Club has beer and wine, ample seating, and a fake-brick backdrop. What's not to like?

I'll be headlining at the SF Comedy Club on some Saturday night in the near future as well, so watch this space for any new updates. Also, if you like baseball, the Bible, Bob & Tom, or flash animation, check out this cartoon by Mr. St. Paul called, The First Baseball Game. Mr. St Paul's promotional bio is after the jump.

It was a week ago that I first got the idea for this post. I sneezed, and then sneezed again. I always sneeze twice, but this time, I started to ponder the duality of my sneezing. Had I always sneezed twice? Does everyone sneeze more than once? It seemed like the double-sneeze was common, but was it really?

It's not the first time I have mused about sneezing in this space. Internet resources on the multiplicity of sneezing were lacking, and any friends I tried to survey about their own sneezing habits were violently disinterested. Still, I pressed on, googling for sneeze resources, until a bit of dust flew up and made me sneeze.

Once.

So now, thanks to the vagaries of seasonal allergies and the wonders of the Observer Effect, I am only sneezing in groups of one these days. Maybe this is a lesson, and I need to compose blogs about overeating, struggling to build a comedy career, and celibacy.

a very sad e-card

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This is one of the saddest e-cards I have ever seen. I think it's the elephant's nervous leg motion that makes it so heartbreaking. Nevertheless, I plan to incorporate "hurtbye" into my daily vernacular.

What's truly distressing is that if this elephant is truly experiencing a "hurtbye", he's never, ever going to forget that hurt.

Thanks to Toby Muriesanu and The Wu for the heads up.

more whale watching

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Faith-based whale watching

We spotted two gray whales, but I had to primarily take them on faith. A whale sighting is based on the whale's spout, tiny glimpses of a fin, the pointing of small children. Captain Gary deputized them as our official spotters, and they certainly did a better job than I did.

A gray whale can hold its breath for up to six minutes. This means that passengers will spend more than five minutes patiently staring at the ocean, hoping that the whale would eventually surface in the random spot we were watching. I consistently mistook buoys, birds, and pieces of garbage for whales. Eventually, I hedged my bets by focusing on finding the whale's "slick", a sign of where the whale's tail has moved quickly under the surface, and also the place where Robert Lowell saw the Quakers drown and heard their cry. I also tried to convince people that the whale's slick was "mostly urine".

The Net

There were two rubber nets, strung across the open areas at the bow of our whale watching catamaran. It looked like the best seat on the boat, especially since it was limited to four people and two children. Due to our physical conditioning, we decided that any arrangement that included both me and Eugenio would have a maximum of three. My companions began the journey seated on the net, and I watched them jealously from my perch higher up on the deck. Surely everyone would want to sit on the amazing net, I reasoned. I quietly observed the habits of other passengers, preparing for the moment when I could sneak into the luxury net seating.

Five minutes into the voyage, I learn why the net is not actually appealing. A huge wave splashes Eugenio from under the net, soaking all his clothes, including the gear he wasn't even wearing at the time. Even though some of us spend the majority of the trip actively dragging our feet into the ocean, no one else gets half as wet as Eugenio did from the first wave. By the end of the trip, the net is about as popular as The Net.

Killer whales

We heard that a previous whale watching tour had seen a gray whale and her baby attacked and killed by an orca. Worse, the orca effectively pinned the whales against the whale watching boat before tearing them apart, presumably with small children pointing at the bloodied whales. Fortunately, this did not happen on our trip. Also, while orcas are colloquially known as "killer whales", they are actually dolphins that kill whales. Using that same rationale, my date had a "killer time" with me at junior prom.

Dolphins are not rats

We saw at least ten dolphins on our journey back to the harbor, which was delightful. I was overwhelmed with dolphin-watching excitement, so much that I yelled, "Come back here, you lousy sea rat!" to a dolphin that was swimming away. The first mate was not amused, and eyed me with a mixture of pity and disgust. In hindsight, her disapproval may have been due to how loudly I said "barbed dolphin penis" a few minutes earlier.

The internet tells me that a dolphin penis is not actually barbed, though it does have a severe hook. Experts and zoophiles seem to be divided on whether the appendage is prehensile or not. I liked to think that our favorite dolphin from the trip, Van Ronto (named after the capital of a fictional Canadian province), can indeed grab things with his dolphin dong.

Menage a Trois, Baleine-Style:

Our informational flyer stated that gray whales migrate from Alaska to Baja California in order to mate. It also said that the whales mate in groups of "at least three whales, of mixed gender", but the document does not elaborate further. Gray whales: the freak-nastiest of all the cetaceans.

Sunscreen:

I re-applied twice for a two-and-a-half hour boat ride, and my face still felt sunburned afterward. Strangers openly discussed my pale skin and the inevitability of my sunburn. The first mate eyed me with a combination of pity and disgust.

The sea is full of cats

Michele asserted that the ocean is full of cats. Michele adores cats, to the extent that she nearly crashed the car on the drive south trying to look at a cat that was sitting in the cab of a truck. She's right that there are many possible sea felines. There's catfish, tiger sharks, leopard sharks, and sea lions.

When we saw some sea lions hanging out on a buoy, I got excited on Michele's behalf.

"Sea lion: King of the sea," I said.

"It's not the king of the sea," Michele replied.

"King of the beasts. Of the sea. They're dominating that buoy!" I countered.

"Shut up," she said.

sealions3.jpg


Bad puns

When we spotted a seal swimming next to the boat on our way back to the harbor, I remarked that the sighting had "sealed the deal" for our trip. Our first mate eyed me with a mixture of pity and disgust.

whale watching

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This afternoon, I went on a whale watching trip off the coast of Santa Barbara. Here was the highlight:

Captain Gary: You can see gray whales off our port side.

Middle-aged woman: Those whales are heading down to Ventura for dinner.

First mate Athena: Actually, they're going down to Baja California to mate.

Me: That depends on how dinner goes.

uncomfortable conversation hearts

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Thanks to the ACME Heart Maker, Zembla brings you some special treats for Valentine's Day. Sure, you can get sugary candies anywhere that say, "BE MINE" or "KISS ME". But what if the passion is gone, the flames have died down, and only throbbing resentment remains?

You need Uncomfortable Conversation Hearts.

anulment.jpgitsover.jpgkillme.jpgsoloact.jpg


oopsstd.jpgitburns.jpgtheclap.jpgwhyme.jpg


dontknow.jpghateyou.jpghateself.jpgnofate.jpg


stop.jpgstopit.jpgnotnow.jpgjuststop.jpg


heartless.jpgstfu.jpgINHELL.JPGnono.jpg


shutit.jpgdont.jpgunhandme.jpggiveup.jpg

Cementhorizon is turning five years old this month, and we're celebrating. According to Leisa Oesterreich, M.S.:

Five-year-olds are cheerful, energetic, and enthusiastic. They enjoy planning, and spend a great deal of time discussing who will do what. They especially enjoy dramatic play, usually with other children. Five-year-olds are more sensitive to the needs and feelings of others around them. It is less difficult for them to wait for a turn or to share toys and material. "Best friends" become very important.

Because "best friends" are so important, Zembla would like to invite its best friends, the readers, to the Cementhorizon Fifth Birthday Celebration, taking place on February 24th. Here's the details:

WHEN: Saturday, February 24th, at 8 PM.

WHERE: San Francisco. Email to rsvp-at-cementhorizon-dot-com to, um, RSVP and get the location.

WHAT TO BRING: Yourself and snacks. Officially, we are not providing food or refreshments, because five-year-olds are reluctant to share. However, there will be jello shots and a chocolate fountain at the very least. Also, room temperature water and hard tack biscuits.

So if you've ever wanted to party with bloggers, and the staff behind Zembla in particular, come celebrate our fifth birthday with us. I leave you with a list of Dr. Oesterreich's qualities of of five-year-olds that are shared by Cementhorizon:

  • still confuses fantasy with reality sometimes
  • often fears loud noises, the dark, animals, and some people
  • uses swear words or "bathroom words" to get attention
  • likes to argue and reason; use words like "because"
  • seeks adult approval
  • sometimes critical of other children and embarrassed by own mistakes
  • has a good sense of humor, and enjoys sharing jokes and laughter with adults

Via Wikipedia:

France: What's Up Doc?

Germany: Our Loud Home

Italy: Parents In Blue Jeans

Latin America: Ouch! Growing Up Hurts

China: Growing Up's Agony (Note: Growing Pains was so popular in China that when it aired in China, Lizzie McGuire was known as New Growing Pains)

hey, what's up, babel?

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I recently saw the movie Babel, recent winner of the Golden Globe for Best Picture. I thought the film was nothing special -- nice to look at, occasionally compelling, mostly insubstantial, way too long -- but then again, I am a hater. Babel is about our inability to communicate with one another, and how improbable, snowballing tragic events happen in all of Alejandro González Iñárritu's films. To me, the strongest themes were:

1. British tourists are bastards.
2. So is the Border Patrol.
3. Deaf Japanese girls are prone to act out in an inappropriate sexual manner.
4. Hey, remember 21 Grams?

My favorite part of the film came when the deaf Japanese girls would greet each other with enthusiastic high-fives. This appealed to me, as I once dreamed of making a documentary where I'd visit famous landmarks around the world and high-five locals in front of them. It was not an ambitious documentary. My movie companion and I had different theories as to why the girls relied on the high-five.

Louise: It's because they're deaf.
Sean: It's because they're Japanese.

It got me thinking about the way that I greet my own friends. Right now, I am heavily reliant on, "Hey, what's up?" If you call me and introduce yourself, I will respond with, "Hey, what's up?" This is true whether you are a good friend calling my cell phone, or an incarcerated state prisoner making a collect call to my office. It's a total reflex by now. In fact, if you call me, and we get disconnected, and then you call back 15 seconds later, I will still greet you with, "Hey, what's up?"

Usually, not much is up.

When I was younger, I used to greet people by lifting my head and nodding in a ponderous manner. It was the perfect gesture for an adolescent male, all false coolness and mild hostility. The head nod was judgemental, but also somewhat insecure. It said, "I'm lazily lifting my head to acknowledge you, because if I say hello, my voice might crack." It also may have been that our puffy Starter jackets were inhibiting the movement of our necks, necessitating such a birdlike motion. Sometimes the head nod would be accompanied by a quiet, "'Sup?", because that is how we believed cool kids and/or rappers said hello. Even then, something was rarely up.

I can't remember if the deaf girls also slap five to say goodbye to one another. I've been told that my own phone goodbye is an awkward, strangled "Goodbye" sound, as if I'm choking on the words in order to end the call faster. My roommate ends each phone call with a wistful, "Bye?", as if she's questioning whether you're really about to hang up. This gives the impression you've left something unsaid, or that the call is ending prematurely. Only after years of telephonic communication have I managed to shake the idea that I've wronged her each time a call ends.

The most ridiculous goodbye comes from my atheist friend, Eugenio. While he's not religious whatsoever, he usually wishes you farewell with the words, "Peace be with you." Nearly everyone responds with, "And also with you," and then leaves feeling uncomfortable and hungry for Eucharist.

I think Eugenio has made a bold choice, looking to the Liturgy for his small talk needs. Some people don't realize this, but my own phone greeting is biblical in nature, coming from St. Paul's first letter, "Hey, What's Up, Corinthians?" Taking Eugenio's lead, I started saying goodbye with, "For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen." It rolls right off the tongue. The proper response to that phrase is, of course, a high five. Unless you're dealing with a British tourist or an American border guard, because there's no way they'll understand you. Just scream, "Peace be with you!", drive into the desert, and then demand an Academy Award.

Heard on ALICE, 97.3:

- Can I hear an Evanescence song besides "Call Me When You're Sober"?
- You want to hear something older?
- Yeah.
- OK, I got one for you. What's your name?
- Amethyst.

(In Flashbacks, we revisit old unrealized comedic material unearthed from old notebooks and post-it notes. A Flashback is not a stranger, just a friend you haven't yet met.)

Flashback #1

Flashback #2

Flashback #3

Flashback #4

Ideas For Future Epitaphs - December 1998

An inscription in Latin, that when translated reads: "This epitaph is written in Latin."

"Think of Sean Keane when you read this epitaph."

"Try not to think about your own impending death as you read this."

"Any flowers you leave here will slowly die and be eventually thrown away, just like you and I."

"What's the deal with undertakers, anyway?"

"If reincarnation exists, perhaps someday I will journey to this cemetery, and this epitaph will give me a clue as to who I once was. But most likely, my reincarnated self is sitting on a couch in the suburbs, eating cheetos and deciding when it would be okay to masturbate again."

"Get used to disappointment."

"West Side 'til I die! So, East side!"

"Maybe I shouldn't have taken those barbiturates and drank that vodka, as it seems there was no spaceship on that comet after all."

saddam execution videos

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My friends from Australia have been in contact again. This time, they've made a parody video of Saddam Hussein's execution. They're not in legal trouble or under fire from censors; they're just displaying more of that lovable classless Aussie behavior we love so much.

We are at a unique time in history where the execution of a foreign leader is widely available on YouTube. I though I'd look at what else fair use has wrought and review other "humorous" uses of the Saddam footage.


1. Saddam Hussein Hanging with Ren & Stimpy audio

Description: "A video montage of various clips of Saddam Hussein's exectution. [sic] Set to the audio clip of 'The Lord Loves a Hanging' form the Ren & Stimpy Show."

This video was removed by user Crunchmeister.

2. Saddam Hussein - Before the execution by saddam10101

Description: "Let's take a look at what life was like for the dictator before his capture, in the good old days."

Begins with the words, "All good things must come to an end." It's a montage of photos where various pictures of Saddam Hussein's face have been cut out and pasted over the originals. There's mustached Saddam in a crib. There's black-and-white Saddam's head sunbathing in a bikini. Incarcerated, bearded Saddam rides a bicycle. At the end, it says "Saddam Hussein. 1937-2006 Stylish to the end" over a photoshopped graphic of bearded Saddam wearing a New York Yankees cap.

3. The real reason Saddam Hussein was hung? by rymaki

Description: Same as the title.

The video asks, "The reason Saddam Hussein was hung?" The question lingers for five seconds, and then we see a photo of an apparently well-endowed Saddam Hussein in his tighty-whities. "Just lucky I guess!"

4. Ejecucion de Saddam Hussein 2 by juanjolimado

Description: "La muerte de Saddam 2. Saddam Hussein excution [sic] with flavor, con sabor limado"

We have the standard video of the execution, but the user has added a Spanish-language voiceover. Also, the voices are either sped up or slowed down. This may be what provides the "sabor limado". The effect is to disguise the voices, much as Saddam's executioners wore ski masks to hide their identities. I can't understand what they're saying in Spanish, but I bet it's hilarious and/or citrusy.

5. Saddam Husseins last song by merik666

Description: "Norwegian edition His last wish for a song."

This sets the execution to a song, presumably sung in Norwegian. It sounds like the song features the word "hanging", or something close to it. I bet that somewhere in America, there's a frantic amateur video editor hastily making their own version set to "Hanging Tough" by New Kids on the Block, "Hanging Around" by Counting Crows, or "Rainy Days and Mondays" by The Carpenters.

6. Official Video of Saddam Hussein's Execution by doctorfoofoo

Description: "The Execution of Saddam Hussein. Showing hanging scenes you didn't see on CNN, Al-Jazeera or Fox. This is the full execution with the best quality avaiable on the internet..."

Middle Eastern music plays as a stuffed Elmo perches on a box with a bungee cord noose around its neck. Behind Elmo, there is a drawing of two guys carrying guns and/or dancing, perhaps to symbolize Saddam/Elmo's position as a strongman and/or party animal. Fifteen seconds in, Elmo falls forward and dangles from the noose.

The videomakers missed an opportunity by not using a Tickle Me Elmo Extreme. I'd like to see this same video starring a Spanish-language TMX Elmo who cries out, "Otra vez! Otra vez!" as he dangles.

7. Saddam's farewell concert--featuring special guest J.T. by TfromSM

Description: "Evil dictator performs onelast [sic] concert--with surprise guest!!!"

A guy who's not at all dressed like Saddam stands in a garage with a noose around his neck. Saddam requests "one last jam" with James Taylor, and after some tedious setup, a fake James Taylor emerges, also looking nothing like the real guy. Both men pretend to play guitar and sing along to "You've Got A Friend". The actor playing Saddam has chosen to speak Cookie Monster English, leaving out all modifiers and grunting.

The whole scene is partially obscured by the water heater and washing machine, since they're in the garage and all. The appliances block 30% of the action, but I like to think the author intended them to be a metaphor for the government's wish that Saddam's execution will cleanse some of Iraq's dark history. The water heater stands as a warning of the potential for a heated response from Saddam's Sunni supporters.

This video is pretty boring. Eventually James Taylor pulls the rope to "hang" Saddam and wanders out of the garage as on off-screen voice complains, "Jackass, you were supposed to be lip-synching the words! I don't know what the fuck you were doing."

keane family christmas cards

Gift-wrapping and presentation is a big part of a Keane family Christmas. At some point in the distant past, my older sister Megan developed an interest in origami and began shaming everyone with her holiday presentations. First it was standard origami flowers, but grew more elaborate every year. She started making her own wrapping paper, attaching folded paper animals to the packaging, and generally making all of us look like chumps. The high point came when Megan gave me a video set of The Usual Suspects, wrapped in paper adorned with Verbal Kint's various monologues (my favorite part was the flap that read "Orca fat") and topped with a paper coffee mug and fake coffee spill.

My little sisters and I could not compete with that, nor could we even try. She was years ahead of us. We had neither the discipline nor the fine-motor skills to catch up. So, we focused on making funny cards.

I don't mean to condemn the artistic skills of my younger sisters. Both of them can draw, and both can wrap competently. I had to rely on jokes envisioning the North Pole as Pleasant Hill, and insults to other family members because I can't even draw a car.

Eventually, cards became more anticipated than the gifts themselves. We used to stay up late on Christmas Eve to finish wrapping presents. Now we stay up late desperately coloring in our cards, figuring out just the right colored pencil to best complete a rude caricature of Grandma. Grandma is not allowed to see many of the holiday cards.

In the same way that punk rock emerged as a response to the perceived excesses of 1970's rock, our bare-bones holiday wrapping aesthetic was a direct answer to Megan. It only got worse over the years. One year, all my gifts were wrapped in the Sunday comics. Another year, I used aluminum foil, which was both gross and mildly dangerous to the recipients' hands. For birthdays, no one bothered to wrap gifts, choosing instead to fold the presents up in blankets or towels we found lying around the house.

This year, Molly has broken new ground by wrapping her gifts in ads. Not even magazine or newspaper ads, but rather Safeway mailers. She confessed that she had to do a lot of double- or triple-wrapping, because she managed to find wrapping material that was somehow less solid than newsprint. My gift was wrapped in the back pages of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, perhaps to indicate that, were I disappointed by my gift, I could console my myself with an Asian Muscle Massage at competitive prices.

"Wash your hands after you unwrap the presents," she warned. "I found that Guardian in the recycle bin."

Since Molly lives in a forest, works at a homeless shelter, and makes approximately $12,000 per year, not counting her food stamps, we don’t mind her limitations. Her cards featured no art, just top ten lists. The "cards" were actually just scraps of paper she’d torn off the bottom of her mail. Her lists went over well, especially the two that dealt with an agreement between my parents that my father can wear a particular ugly sweatshirt in the garage, but not in the house.

Molly has raised the bar severely for future Navidad cards by using actual trash. There's no way my wrapping is getting fancier, so I am already planning for next year, when my family members will get cards written on torn pieces of men's underwear I buy at Goodwill. With a faded Sharpie, I will scrawl, "This Christmas, you can kiss my ass". And it will be beautiful.

adios, el tapatio

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Earlier this week, my favorite taqueria in Pleasant Hill burned down after a fire in the attic. I've eaten at El Tapatio at least fifty times in my life, so it's sad to know it's now merely a burned-out shell of its former self.

El Tapatio was located only a few blocks from our high school, across the street from Diablo Valley College. That shopping center was nowhere near upscale. Some saw the whole center as only a shortcut to the more expansive mini-mall behind Golf Club Road, which featured a Safeway, a Baskin-Robbins, a Round Table, and a McDonald's. However, the center had two of the most important restaurants of my formative years, El Tapatio and Chef Burger. El Tapatio was for the afternoons, and Chef Burger was for breakfast and late-night dining. Our visits to Chef Burger grew so frequent that one friend eventually created a pager code that simply meant, "I'm at Chef Burger", like a late-90s version of the bat signal. (For the record, the code was 777-187).

Thankfully, the fire was contained at El Tapatio, and did only minor damage to its neighbor, Kelly-Moore Paints. As far as I know, Chef Burger was unharmed, but the bizarrely-named Little Galloping Treasures Coffee Shop may have some smoke damage.

Before I started going to El Tapatio, I rarely ate Mexican food. My parents never took us to Taco Bell. The most south-of-the-border cuisine we'd experience was when Mom and Dad got the mega-bag of tortilla chips from Costco. It was freshman year of high school when I first discovered the finest taqueria in the Greater Pacheco area, if not all of Contra Costa County, Los Panchos. While Panchos made a huge and delicious burrito, it wasn't a place where one could sit down and have a meal. Chances are, you were going to consume that burrito outdoors.

El Tapatio was classy. It had comfortable leather booths, air conditioning, and cocktails. I went there for the first time after some kind of Drama Department activity, along with my friends Cody, Dan, and Ashley. I remember that Dan ordered the virgin strawberry margarita that first day. When I visited El Tap as a legal 21-year-old, I ordered a real strawberry margarita, and it just didn't seem right.

The wait staff was always unflinchingly polite and well-dressed, for what appeared to be a family operation. I was served by perhaps four different waiters over a five-year span. After a while, I never even opened a menu. I knew what I wanted.

I always got the Tapatio Lunch Special, and nearly always chose a pork burrito. You got an enormous burrito, beans, rice, AND two tortillas with this order, all for a heavy discount, if you ordered it before 3 pm. My friend Dustin also ordered that every time. We didn't realize it in the pre-9/11 era, but we were pre-emptively declaring our patriotism through swine consumption. When Dustin and I would re-visit El Tap after being away for months, it was always embarrassing to leave a half-eaten burrito, when in our primes it would have been fully devoured in half the time.

El Tapatio served two kinds of salsa. One was tasty but mild - your standard red gringo tortilla condiment. The other variety was green, and extremely spicy. Granted, I didn't eat much Mexican food, or much spicy food at all before I started going to El Tap. However, this green salsa was so spicy that one chip dipped in the stuff put my taste buds out of commission for the remainder of the meal. Even after I'd gone to college and started eating more piquant foods, the green salsa was still too much for me.

The salsa became an initiation rite for when I brought new people to the restaurant. Once, I offered my sister's boyfriend ten bucks if he could eat the entire container of green salsa (He got through one spoonful before quitting.). Typically, we'd sit back and let the newbie try the green salsa on his own. Sometimes we'd pretend to dip chips in the toxic green, to sucker the rube further. Then we'd wait as the n00b tried to hide his sweating, water-guzzling, and tears before pointing and laughing.

This did not work on our friend Long-Hai. Perhaps because of his Vietnamese parents and childhood exposure to curry powder, Long-Hai did not find the green stuff especially spicy. He did find it delicious, however.

For years, El Tapatio had a large banner advertising its Sunday Champagne Brunch. The banner had been printed out on a dot matrix printer, likely no later than 1987. Often while dining at El Tap, sitting under the banner, we considered buying them a real sign. Hell, we could walk two storefronts over to R Computer and print out a replacement sign there. Still, we never did, probably because we ended each meal in food-induced semi-comas.

In later years, El Tapatio began chasing other revenue streams. They still had machines to dispense candy or stickers near the door, plus the small display for anti-DUI chewing gum, but they needed more. So they began selling ad space on top of their tables. It was a strange dining experience, with local realtors Don and Norma Flaskerud stared up from the table. It's the only restaurant I've been to that featured tabletop ads, though one of the ads on El Tap's tables assured diners that this would be advertising's future.

I hadn't been to El Tap in quite some time, but it's tragic to think that I never will again. The owner has vowed to rebuild, but fire inspectors have called the damage a "total loss". If they rebuild it, I'll be in line at the grand re-opening, particularly if it's before 3:30 and I can still get the discount on the Lunch Special.

negativity friendships

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I always find it reassuring to have my personality validated by science. That's just what happened in a study conducted by Jennifer Bosson and associates, on the subject of "negativity friendships". According to Bosson, close friends are more likely to share the same negative opinions than they are to share positive feelings. As someone who is basically a mean person at heart, Ms. Bosson's findings are reassuring.

"'It's not that we enjoy disliking people,' Bosson, a social psychologist at the University of South Florida, says. 'It's that we enjoy meeting people who dislike the same people.'"

I could have told you this. I don't know about you, but there is nothing more exciting to me than when someone prefaces a comment with, "I'm not trying to sound mean here, but..." It's even better when there's a big group. Everyone's eyes light up. They are eager to hear smack-talking, but they're even more eager to hear if you're going to insult stuff they also hate. The weird downstairs neighbor who is constantly cooking cabbage? The Matrix sequels? Beanie caps with bills and the people who wear them? Bring on the hate.

I have a pretty good track record making friends with people from my improv classes. But however much I might enjoy performing with someone, or how much respect I have for their talents, the real bonding always occurs after class, usually over beers, when one person finally has the courage to call out the old guy with bad breath who does a Southern accent in every scene. Only when we have identified some mutual scorn can the real friendship begin.

A similar phenomenon occurs in the world of standup comedy. When I first began hitting up open mics, another comic encouraged me to attend more regularly, saying that both she and her friend liked my material. That was flattering, but it was what she said next that really grabbed my attention. "And that means something, since we're both, well, haters." Haters. I didn't know these people, didn't know their routines, but I did know that I wanted to hang out with these haters.

Even now, nothing bonds comedians quicker than a shared realization of someone else's awfulness. Tonight, I sat through an endless lineup of mediocre comedians, with virtually no audience aside from those same mediocre comedians. Most people were figuring out their set lists instead of listening to the performers, but since they'd heard most of the material before, they wouldn't have been laughing anyway. Basically, everyone was minding their own business until the last guy got up.

The first minute of his set was uneventful. Then, for no discernible reason, he unzipped his fly, and pulled a rubber chicken out his pants. Suddenly, everyone was looking around, trying to make eye contact with someone else, to silently ask, "Did he just pull a rubber chicken out of his pants? What the hell is going on here?" It wasn't a negativity friendship yet, but negativity bonds were forming, like the Keane children halfway through a holiday hike.

In conclusion, you may catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, but you'll create more fly friendships with vinegar.

"What the hell was going on with that vinegar?"
"Blech."
"I'm not trying to sound mean here, but I hope the fly who led us here gets swallowed by an old woman or caught in a honey trap."
"You know, we should hang out some time..."

laugh your axe off

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Laugh Your Axe Off is an event that happens during Big Game week at UC Berkeley. At its inception, it mostly involved sketches written by people from the Squelch, Cal's only intentionally funny campus publication. Later, they added stand-up, and when the Squelch stopped writing sketches, they added an improv troop and an a capella group. One might question how much laughter either group provides, but better to let wannabe Whiffenpoofs sing the "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego" theme song than to have the show clock in at only 20 minutes.

Last year, Laugh Your Axe Off was an electric event. Rally Comm, the campus organization behind the event, had scheduled the show for Room 2060 in the Valley Life Science Building. It was an interesting choice, as opposed to somewhere like the Bear's Lair or Blake's. 2060 isn't even one of the largest rooms in VLSB. It also lacks any kind of stage or equipment for the amplification of sound.

On the lineup that night were two standup comedians – myself and John Jackson Waste - an improv group, and an a capella group called Artists in Residence. We didn't even get through the introduction before there was trouble. Once the crowd applauded for the first time, the professor from Room 2050 stormed in. He yelled, "There are students taking an exam next door! We need quiet!"

The Rally Comm girl in charge looked flustered. She said we would try to keep it down. The professor shot back, "You will keep it down." He returned to his classroom, and it was a little awkward. For a stand-up comic, there's nothing more encouraging than when your audience is ordered to remain as quiet as possible.

Inevitably, the crowd got loud again, due to a hilarious sketch where a Rally Comm member pretended to be a Stanford student. He wore a red shirt, and a red cap. In a conclusion that was in no way predictable, he took off the red clothing to reveal Cal gear underneath. He wasn't a Stanforder at all!

The professor re-entered the room, and this time, he was furious. The crowd immediately booed him. Oski the Bear imitated him in a mocking manner. The professor yelled "Quiet!" as loud as he could a few times. This did not lead to quiet.
After he announced that our event was OVER, John had had enough of this professor. He stood up and yelled, "Who here wants to listen to this old crank?" The professor left Oski and the Rally Comm girl to get in John's face. He demanded John's student ID. I told John, "As your attorney, I advise you not to show anything to this old crank." This made the professor madder. He threatened to call the police and have John arrested for trespassing. As John's attorney, I knew the old crank lacked the authority to do so.

The old crank kept yelling about the police, but he was losing steam. John waved the ID in his face, then asked, "Did you get my name? How about my ID number?" Old Crank tried to grab the ID but missed. I told the old crank he was making a fool of himself. The crowd started the "Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Hey Goodbye" chant. Old Crank shoved Oski aside and stormed out of the room, as John shouted, "Comedy, One. Old Crank, Zero!"

The irony was that John's name was mentioned many times during the show. Had Old Crank stayed for five minutes more, he would have seen John's introduction, though he still wouldn't know his ID number.

This incident changed the entire tenor of the evening. Suddenly Rally Comm wasn't just a bunch of dorks in blue and gold rugby shirts. They were enemies of censorship, and crusaders for free speech. The improv kids got huge applause with their sketches, tentatively titled, "Stanford Has Wealthy Students" and "A Tree is a Subpar Mascot". No one knew why the a capella group sang "Under the Bridge", a song about shooting heroin in Los Angeles, during an event devoted to the Cal-Stanford football game, but it got huge applause as well. John got a big reaction by claiming to have had sex with the Old Crank's mother, despite the unlikely nature of such an occurrence. The crowd even joined in my cheer of, "Give 'em the Axe/Right in the crotch!" You can generally get a standing ovation by simply yelling, "Stanford sucks!" at any Rally Comm event, but this was the first time I'd seen people shedding tears of pride at the reminder of Stanford's suckiness.

I wouldn't have been surprised if the crowd had marched as one next door to further disrupt Old Crank's exam. Throngs of students stomping their feet, yelling about Stanford's suckiness, and refusing to let Old Crank or his assistants correct papers. "Put down that red pen! Put down that red pen!"

This year, while our performances were better across the board, the show lacked the same defiant spirit. In the same way that Cal fans are less excited about the Big Game when Stanford's football team is terrible, so were we less excited about the show without Old Crank to oppose us. The a capella group performed the same songs as in 2005, including "I Touch Myself", meaning they believe the Big Game is about masturbation as well as heroin abuse. John's routine was strong, particularly his joke about Stanford losing their football game to ITT Tech ("The game was played at night, over email.") In hindsight, it may have been a mistake to declare that fifty years ago, we'd have had Stanford students upside down with a fucking fork up their asses. Too soon.

thanksgiving is a time to hike

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For most families, Thanksigiving is a time to come together, eat turkey and stuffing, and watch nine-to-ten hours of televised football. For my father, Thanksgiving is simply another opportunity to force his children to hike. First, it was only Dad's birthday that meant a mandatory forced march. Then he announced the first Father's Day hike a year later. Finally, just because he loves seeing his children sweating, complaining, and wearing dorkass fanny packs, Dad added the annual Thanksgiving Day hike. While the rest of the nation enjoys C-list celebrities and inflatable cartoon heroes at the Macy's Parade, the Keanes lace up their hiking boots and start complaining about leg cramps.

Everyone has tried to avoid the hikes at various times. Oversleeping, injuries, and suspicious "on-call" shifts have thinned the ranks of hikers in the past. I missed one birthday hike by going to the Winter Olympics. My little sister tried the dangerous gambit of Wednesday night binge drinking a few years ago. She got out of the hike, but also slept through most of the holiday and vomited before dinner. My new brother-in-law is a habitual non-hiker, because he only pretends to enjoy hiking so he can meet women.

Dad wanted to do a longer hike this year. We generally hike at Briones Park, along with our beloved dog Cassidy. Sadly, Cassidy passed away in May, so our little dog kennel would be empty on the way to our hike. We might have to carry someone for the last part of the hike, but it would be Dad and not the dog.

I guess that dead dog had been holding us back from our mountain-climbing destiny for years. Dad thought we'd pay tribute to our deceased pet by hiking somewhere new: "With Cassidy no longer with us (except in spirit, of course!), we are free to do Mt. Diablo State Park (where dogs are not allowed)."

We remember Cassidy by going somewhere that wouldn't allow her in. It's kind of like golfing at a whites-only country club in the South for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Later, we would feed turkey scraps to raccoons in our backyard, and let the neighbor's cat sleep in Cassidy's old bed, just to show how much we loved that old dog.

Dad's email went on to describe how easy this year's hike would be:

"Although MDIA includes this in its "Ten Demanding Hikes" section (as opposed to its other two sections, "Ten Moderate Hikes" and "Ten Easy Walks"), it isn't really that hard. It's only five miles round trip, and only steep for a fairly short period."

However, a website for Mount Diablo says it is "arguably the steepest trail in the park", with a climb of 2200 feet. Luckily, most of that climb occurred over one single arduous mile.

Man, did this hike suck. Our legs got cut up by branches, it was cold, I kept twisting my ankle, Kelly hurt her hip, Dad almost slipped and skidded into a ravine, and we were all extremely cold. Dad even neglected to bring his usual hiking bribes - slices of salami and animal cookies. Yes, even though we are all adults, my sisters and I are motivated by the same things as an elementary school soccer team.

We got to the car, shivering and barely able to stand. As we cranked the heater, I asked Kelly is this was indeed the worst Thanksgiving hike of all time. She said yes. And yet, we were already laughing about our misery, our sore feet, and Dad's silly floppy hat.

Perhaps this was Dad's plan all along. Some people dread the holidays because they worry about spending time with relatives. We only fear mountains, loose rocks, and a shortage of snacks. Some siblings fight with each other at family reunions, but my sisters and I bond every time, united against our father and his insane devotion to the outdoors. Maybe, just maybe, uniting against both nature and your parents is the true meaning of Thanksgiving after all.

a monologue from the 15 line

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The following is an impromptu monologue delivered by a man sitting behind me on the #15 MUNI bus:

"Those white stars? That's for white power. The red stripes, that's the blood of the slave labor that fuels the power. Flags means something, man. You can learn a lot from symbols. Like chess. If I can come in there, take the king off the board, that's meaningful. It means I can dominate the woman. I can take control of the children. That's how it's gotta be. You gotta get a piece of that pie. You know what I'm saying? That's how Saddam Hussein got to how he was."

Stranger Than Fiction basically sucks. It's like a hybrid of The Truman Show and Adaptation, only written by someone dumber and less creative. To its credit, the film does not star Nicolas Cage. I saw it with Louise, just after seeing For Your Consideration. After thirty minutes, we would have asked for our money back, except we snuck in for free.

Here's the plot: Will Ferrell starts hearing a disembodied voice narrating his activities, and quickly learns that he's a character in Emma Thompson's novel. No one thinks this is all that weird. No one notices when he starts yelling at the narrator from a bus stop. When he visits a psychiatrist who diagnoses him with schizophrenia, she cheerfully refers him to a professor of literature, played by wacky Dustin Hoffman.

Emma Thompson spends the film smoking cigarettes, wackily spitting into a Kleenex, and trying to finish her novel. Queen Latifah is her assistant, hired to ensure that she delivers her manuscript on time. Latifah doesn't do anything that we see to make that happen, besides lay out some index cards and give Emma Thompson informational packets about nicotine gum. Emma Thompson is obsessed with death, and it is not presented in a subtle way.

One problem with the movie is that our hero is basically a robot. Will Ferrell doesn't have any interests, or friends, or hobbies, or free will. He's basically a robot, albeit a robot who sometimes pees into a plastic bottle, based on a questionable interpretation of Dustin Hoffman's advice.

He also falls in love with Maggie Gyllenhaal, who plays a wacky baker. Their big romantic breakthrough is based on two absurd premises:

1. Maggie dropped out of Harvard Law School to become an anarchist baker, because she used to make cookies for study sessions, and everyone really loved them.
2. Will Ferrell has never eaten a homemade cookie.

At first, I thought, "Of course he hasn't eaten a homemade cookie - he's only a fictional character!" Would this be a comment on his unsettled fictional past? Would he realize that his own personal history was dependent solely on an author's whim? Nope. It turns out that Will Ferrell's mom only ever bought store-bought cookies. What a scene!

Will Emma Thompson kill her fictional character, who's actually sort of a real person, but maybe still fictional? Will Queen Latifah get her to finish the book on time on with her tough-talking no-nonsense ways? Will Maggie Gyllenhaal fall in love with Ferrell, even though he's an IRS agent who's auditing her? Will Dustin Hoffman take his shirt off for no reason? Will two completely random characters show up for the film's conclusion and still end up in the final montage? Will Louise complain about Maggie Gyllenhaal's poor acting and flirtatious, inappropriately-sexual anarchist-baking style? You'd have to go see the movie to find out, but you really shouldn't see it, so I'll answer those questions after the jump:

for my consideration

I saw the new Christopher Guest movie, For Your Consideration, and it wasn't bad. It's still a Christopher Guest movie, which goes a long way, but it wasn't in the same class as Best in Show or Waiting for Guffman. There are simply too many characters. There are five actors in the fake movie, plus the director, crew members, a PR guy, the producer, the producer's boyfriend/assistant, two executive producers, two writers, an agent, two TV entertainment magazine hosts, and Ed Begley, Jr. as a gay makeup artist. It's not surprising that the plot feels unfocused, and nothing really happens. I feel that funny names, crazy wigs, and elaborate makeup are a signal that the underlying comedic material just isn't that strong.

One of the strengths of Guffman and Best in Show is that the filmmakers have real affection for these characters. Their activities may be somewhat laughable, and their ambitions hopelessly deluded, but they have nice relationships with one another. This film is more mean-spirited, and there's no redeeming moments for the failing characters.

I think the main problems with the last two Guest films is the excessive number of characters, coupled with diminished parts for Christopher Guest himself. Christopher Guest is a great improviser, yet he gets fewer and fewer lines every movie. It's like having Michael Jordan on your basketball team, and nonetheless instituting the Hickory High four-passes-before-you-shoot rule. Here, Ed Begley, Jr. has as many lines as Guest, though Guest has a much funnier wig. Stop running the picket fence with Ricky Gervais and Harry Shearer and give Christopher Guest the damn ball!

thank you, ucpd

I work for a non-profit that provides attorneys for convicted felons on their appeals. Sometimes I get questions about my work, generally about the ethics of helping to defend people that are often really really guilty. I usually say something about the imbalance of power involved in the criminal justice system, and my feeling that everyone is entitled to decent legal representation. Certain attorneys in our office would probably give a better explanation, but also use the words "draconian" and "paramilitary".

In general, I think that there are a lot of people screwed over by the way our country deals with crime. The combination of minimum sentencing guidelines and California's "Three strikes" law means that our office sees many people serving sentences of more than a decade for crimes like drug possession, auto burglary, or in one case, the alleged theft of a carpenter's pencil (no joke!). Prosecutors and judges alike are under pressure to push for high conviction rates, and the longest possible sentences for those same convictions. Every two years or so, Californians vote to punish sex offenders more heavily, tighten their restrictions on residency, or track them from outer space. Some would argue that people simply have a thirst for vengeance and punishment.

In addition, police officers seem to enjoy harassing people and beating them up, even after they've been restrained. People don't seem to mind when bad people get beaten up during an arrest. Abuses from guards, even those against teenagers, are greeted with yawns. Sexual assaults in prison are treated as a joke - "don't drop the soap, buddy!"

So it will be interesting to see the reaction to this arrest by the UCLA police department. (Warning: Disturbing video.)

The student was at the library after 11 PM, without his ID card. Because he failed to leave the library in a timely fashion, police officers stunned him with a Taser at least four times. It's not that he refused to leave; it's that he didn't do it fast enough. Even when the student was handcuffed, officers stunned him, purportedly because he didn't get to his feet quickly enough. Clearly, he was defying their police authority and not simply, you know, stunned from the multiple Taser shots. An officer also threatened to use his Taser on a student who asked for his badge number. I'm sure it was not at all a factor in the police response, but for the record, the student was not Caucasian.

Assistant Chief of Police Jeff Young claims that the police response was appropriate, since beating the student with batons would have been worse. Why were cops patrolling the library in the first place? "Because of the safety of the students."

If the police hadn't been there, who knows what could have happened? An armed gang could invade the library, wearing matching colors and body armor, and use their stun guns on students with impunity. This gang would answer to no authority, call each other by code names indicating their rank in the gang, and carry firearms. Thank God for the UCPD.

Predictably, there is a huge outcry about this at UCLA, and with good reason. It was disgusting, and I hope a lot of people are going to get fired and/or sued. Still, I wonder what happens in all those arrests where there isn't a video camera present. I'm also curious what the reaction would have been like if this had been a "bad" person on the receiving end of the stun gun.

cya.jpg

CYA counselors deal with a young charge who refuses to leave his cell in a timely fashion

sean keane komedy kataklysm

So much time, so little hype! Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it. There's two big Sean Keane shows coming up, both at the San Francisco Comedy Club. On Friday, November 17th, I'll be performing as part of the showcase, with the very funny Rob F. Martinez headlining. Essentially, I'll be Rob's set-up man - the Mike Stanton to his Mariano Rivera, the Mike Teevee to his Charlie Bucket. The show starts at 8, costs $10, and is funnier if you're drinking. Fizzy Lifting drink is not going to cut it, and your constant burping will be annoying. Maybe if they hadn't installed the enormous ceiling fan it would be different, but right now, you might as well suck it up and have a beer.

On Saturday, November 25th, I will be headlining at the very same SF Comedy Club. If you're in the Bay Area for Thanksgiving, either because your family lives here, or your family lives far away and they don't love you, do check out the show. The only thing I ask is that you not disclose my punchlines to the dastardly and mysterious Mr. Slugworth. He wants to ruin me and sell my jokes to Cobb's Comedy Club, so avoid this man!

slugworth.jpg

Both shows begin at 8 PM and cost $10 or one golden ticket. The San Francisco Comedy Club is located at 50 Mason Street in San Francisco, near the Powell Street MUNI/BART station at the edge of the Tenderloin. The neighborhood is full of Wangdoodles and Hornswogglers and Snozzwangers and rotten Vermicious Knids, but it's well worth the journey.

when i met ed bradley

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I never watched 60 Minutes with any regularity, but I was always a fan of correspondent Ed Bradley, who died today at age 65. I met him once, when 60 Minutes was filming a story on the Berkeley campus about campus pariah David Cash. Docta V and I happened upon a round table discussion between outraged students and Cash, taking place at the Campanile, and moderated by Big Ed.

I was interested, because it was 60 Minutes, and also because I had been exchanging anonymous emails with David Cash, pretending to have sympathy for his plight in order to trigger some hypothetical future prank against him. Hypothetical pranks took up a lot of my attention at age 19. An assistant was keeping passerby from walking through the shot, but didn't seem to mind our standing in the back. In the television broadcast, his mom claimed she could see the Docta's red fedora in the background.

After the interview had finished taping, we went up to say hi. David Cash bailed, probably afraid of further harassment. Mr. Bradley was very gracious, shaking our hands and autographing a promotional rubber ball the Docta had picked up at a job fair on the way over. We really wanted to have him write, "Was he...aroused?", a Bradley quote from his legendary interview with Clinton accuser Kathleen Willey. It would be a much better story if we had.

We decided not to push it, requesting instead that he write, "60 Minutes Rules!" Showing the intelligence and poise that epitomized his journalistic career, Ed Bradley improvised another tagline, "Keep on ticking!"

60 Minutes is the Cocoon of television newsmagazine shows. If Mike Wallace and Andy Rooney are any indication, Bradley should have had at least another decade left. Ed Bradley was a nice guy, and it's a shame he couldn't keep ticking a little longer.

meet the hypnotic brass ensemble

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Here's a feature on the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble done by an up-and-coming Bay Area filmmaker currently working at the New York Times. Enjoy the hell out of this short, because it's good, and this stuff isn't gonna be free forever. The internet is a fad! You hear me?

The Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is going to Germany soon, so catch them in New York while you can.

halloween violence in the castro

Gunshots rang out at 10:40 PM last night on Market Street. Less than fifteen minutes later, a guy walked by with a fake bullet wound on his neck and declared he was a "Castro Shooting Victim". Someone booed. "Too soon?" he asked.

A few minutes after that, a girl walked by wearing a short skirt and a bandage on her head. "Naughty Castro Shooting Victim" went over much better with the crowd.

some tips for halloween

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1. Don't be a Halloween hater.

There's always someone at every Halloween gathering who has decided to critique everyone else's outfit. Sometimes their own costume isn't even that great, and yet they throw around criticisms and suggestions like they were the ghost of Versace. Saturday, my costume didn't pass muster with a hater.

"In the movie, I think V wears a hat. Where's your hat?" she queried. Obviously, I didn't have the hat, or I'd be wearing it. "Did your hat fall off?" she continued, her voice dripping with contempt for my incomplete costuming. Later, she found fault with Tha Docta's outfit, claiming that she "didn't think a homie would wear a necklace like that."

Putting together a costume, any costume, is worthy of credit on Halloween, even if it's incomplete or lame. Wearing a colorful wig might not be the most ambitious costume choice, but it's better than no wig at all. Mocking a costume only makes everyone uncomfortable, and less likely to dress up at all. Everyone's on the same team on Halloween. Let's show some spirit.

2. Beware of magicians.

I went out to a Halloween cocktail party on Friday night. A web company threw the party, and each guest got a card with the company's logo, good for one free drink. Soon after I arrived, I was introduced to a girl who was dressed as a magician. Not the top-hat-and-rabbit variety, but a more mystical, scantillier-dressed kind of magician. It was not just a costume, however. She was really a magician.

It is the sign of a really great or really terrible occupation when your work clothing is an acceptable Halloween costume.

The magician offered to do a trick for us, but first she needed a business card. I don't carry business cards, but I didn't want to wreck the trick, so I offered up my free drink card. Our cards went into her hands, magic words were spoken, and ta-da! They had been magically transformed into business cards for the lady magician!

We applauded, and she took a tiny bow. Then I looked down and realized I no longer had my free drink card. I tried to find the lady magician to sort things out - but she had disappeared.

3. Don't hand out Good & Plenty

Good & Plenty is one of the worst Halloween candies ever. I don't like the taste, but even the name and marketing of the candy seem flawed. "Good & Plenty" is made up of two adjectives that are only mildly positive. Both adjectives can also be used as a polite way to say you don't want to eat any more.

"Want some more of these bad-tasting licorice candies? They're pink and white, which is not at all indicative of their flavor."
"No. I'm good."
"You sure? Trust"
"I've had plenty, thanks."

4. Don't try to outsmart little children

Don't be the guy who thinks he's clever by choosing, "Trick" instead of "Treat". Saying "Trick" to a trick-or-treater is like choosing "Truth" every time in a game of Truth or Dare. It's technically acceptable, but everyone knows it gets a lot more fun when you're willing to get out the goodies.

Those kids thought you'd just give them a fun-sized Snickers bar, but they didn't consider that you might goad them into vandalizing your home instead. Way to go. You just outsmarted The Little Mermaid and a four-year-old Power Ranger. You proud of yourself? I hope they egg your house.

the magic hour

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Tonight marks the end of Daylight Savings Time. We turn back our clocks at 2 AM tonight, and everyone gets an extra hour of sleep. Sunday will be full of stories of people who forgot to change their clocks, and showed up an hour early! These stories are eerily similar to those from March, when these same people told exciting stories about showing up an hour late! As I have said before, the only acceptable story about Daylight Savings Time is one that ends with the phrases, "And that's how they all died."

One special thing about the shift from Daylight Saving Time to Standard Time is that the first 1-2 AM stretch doesn't really count. Once that period is over, we get a second 1-2 AM, like the first never happened. That first sixty-minute stretch is the Magic Hour. It's the one time in our 365 days a year when everyone gets a do-over. Ironically, it's also the only time broadcast TV will air reruns of Magic Johnson's former talk show, The Magic Hour.

Have you ever wanted to commit a petty crime for no reason? Have you had a secret crush on a close friend you've been dying to reveal? Do it in the Magic Hour. If it goes wrong, don't worry about it. Sixty minutes later, that hour will be lost to the dusts of time. The second 1:15 is the only one that goes into the record books.

It's the calendrical equivalent of a free play. We are all like the quarterback who notices an offsides flag just before the snap. He knows it's a free play. That's the time a smart quarterback calls an audible, and throws the long bomb. If it's complete, great. If not, the team will simply accept the five-yard penalty and move on. Be like that quarterback tonight, readers. When the Magic Hour rolls around, throw the long pass.

Unfortunately, San Francisco bars do not follow the principles of the Magic Hour, and thus you have to get your drinking done in the first 1-2 AM period. When last call occurs during the Magic Hour, that's also time to audible; i.e., order a round of shots. Like Las Vegas, what happens during the Magic Hour stays in the Magic Hour.

The flip side of the Magic Hour happens in the spring, when the 2-3 AM period disappears. Many is the poor soul who makes a date for 2:30 on the last Saturday of March, only to be stood up. Or the man who wants to quit smoking, and decides to have his last cigarette at 2:15. They are still alone, and still smoking to this day, victims of the disappearing time frame known as the Tragic Hour.

true crime update!

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More true crime on my street! Tonight, during the eighth inning of the World Series, I heard a police siren from the street below my apartment! I sprang from the couch to see what was the matter, just in time to see a uniformed police officer force a suspect to the ground, followed by an undercover officer delivering a kick to the guy's ribs. To be fair, he had not yet been cuffed, and it looked like the suspect swung at the undercover cop first. There was a subsequent shove from a late-arriving uniformed officer that seemed rather gratuitous.

It appears that there is a nearby crack den after all!

From what I could see from the window, it looked like an undercover officer or officers tried to make a drug buy, and pounced once the dealer produced the goods. The contraband was in a baggie, and I'm going to go ahead and call it crack, because that is the most exciting possibility. I saw four police cars, and unless there was another arrestee out of my field of vision, the SFPD had an impressive 9:1 cop-to-suspect ratio on the scene.

My intrepid roommate talked to a neighbor, who informed her that he saw the police sergeant involved "hugging some people" on a nearby street corner. He surmises that the sergeant "lives in the community", if not on our specific block, and has made a personal commitment to stopping the recent crime wave, i.e., taking the crack den down!

I must also note that while I questioned our neighborhood's potential racial profiling in my previous entry, this suspect appeared to be Caucasian. Why this makes me feel relieved is probably complicated, but I do indeed feel like less of a racist tonight.

why myspace is jacked

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I have a MySpace, though I'm not a huge fan of the site. (But add me as a friend, readers!) It is basically unavoidable for an aspiring stand-up comedian such as myself to have a MySpace, and at least one person has found my gig via MySpace.

However, I feel that MySpace is poorly equipped to deliver news of personal tragedy. One of my distant friends from college committed suicide in the past year, and I found out via a one-line MySpace message. In MyFriend's defense, he had heard the news via AOL Instant Messenger, so relaying it through MySpace was not a ridiculous choice. Still, it was jarring to find, among seven bands asking me to check out their new album and three girls who might be prostitutes attempting to befriend me, a message that said, "[Friend] shot himself."

Because the message was so brief, I didn't believe it at first. I thought it might be an elaborate joke, or a much simpler joke in elaborately poor taste. I Googled my friend's name, trying to find an obituary or a news story about the tragedy and hoping I couldn't. There was nothing. Ultimately, my confirmation came from messages of condolence on my friend's MySpace. Now, nearly a year later, his page is still there, along with MySpace blogs detailing his affection for heroin and explanations of how anyone who dissed heroin addiction was no longer his friend. Most messages were about how much they missed our friend and how he was totally in heaven now, though one, months after his death, requested that our friend teach her to blow smoke rings.

In case you're wondering, the hierarchy of tributes to a dead friend goes like this:

1. Film
2. Painting
3. Song
4. Poem
...
145. MySpace comment

This callous treatment of a tragedy is not unique for MySpace. Another friend set up a page for our high school acquaintance who was sick with a mysterious disease that led to multiple organ transplants and a month-long coma. The page was intended to serve as a space for updates on the guy's medical conditions and for fundraising efforts for his family, as well as a spot for people to say, "Hey buddy, get well". But, being MySpace, it only took two days before the page was full of flashing text, animated .gifs, and embedded videos. My favorite message was one telling our comatose friend, "Dude, Welcome 2 MySpace" in a flashing, glittery font.

I don't have a suggestion, or a sophisticated take on the situation, but it is simply bizarre that I hear about a suicide or a colon transplant in the same way I normally hear about Arj Barker's newest CD release or my sister's roommate's "totally honest sex survey, 4 reals". Just this week, I thought of my dead friend again. Not because of a story, or a work of art, but because I got an automatic birthday reminder from MySpace. Thanks for making me cry, MySpace. Jerks.

a deleted scene from my sister's wedding

(In the back room of a community center in Brisbane, Don Keaneleone sits receiving visitors. Don Keaneleone knows that on this day, he must grant any request made to him.)

Bonasera: I believe in America, Don Keaneleone. America has made my fortune. And I have regulated my energy usage in the American fashion. I run the air conditioning all day in the summer, and my heater is on full blast in the wintertime. And when the gas company announced a rate adjustment, I did not complain. But this bill - 15 cents per kilowatt hour? It is disgraceful. I am not ashamed to admit I wept. And so I went to the Public Utilities Commission, and they said they would make an internal review. Internal review! Those animals will resort to rolling blackouts next! And so I told my wife, for justice, we must go to Don Keaneleone.

Don Keaneleone: What have I ever done to make you treat me with such disrespect? I can't remember the last time you invited me over to watch soccer, to share a salami sandwich with you.

Bonasera: What do you want of me? How much shall I pay you?

Don Keaneleone: You come to California, you have your natural gas central heating system, and suddenly you no longer need a friend like Don Keaneleone. You ask me to commit fraud for money.

Bonasera: I ask for justice!

Don Keaneleone: Here is a phone number to call. They will pick up your old refrigerator, pay you $35, and give you a 50% discount on the purchase of a new, low-energy model. However, some day, and that day might never come, I would like to call upon you to a service for me in return.

Bonasera: Thank you, Godfather.

Don Keaneleone: In fact, why don't you get me a fresh gin-and-tonic right now?

(Bonasera exits.)

Don Keaneleone: How many more?

Sean: Just one more. He's not on the list, but Molly's date would like to speak to you.

Don Keaneleone: Oh God. Send him in.

(Molly's date enters.)

Molly's Date: Don Keaneleone, I am honored and grateful that you have invited me to your daughter... 's wedding... on the day of your daughter's wedding. And I hope their first child be...a masculine child.

Don Keaneleone: Thank you.

Molly's Date: Also, do you think I could borrow fifty bucks? Payday's not until Wednesday, and...

Don Keaneleone: Get the hell out of here.

happy birthday molly!

Happy Birthday to my youngest sister, Molly, who has returned from the Southlands of Chile and Santa Barbara. I hope you have a lovely birthday, and I am sure we will drink a lot of beers together later today. In honor of your 23rd birthday, here are 23 apologies for bad things I have done to you over the years.

1. I'm sorry that when you were five, we played catch using a Cabbage Patch kid, and I threw the doll too hard and split your lip.

2. I'm sorry that when you chipped your front teeth in a pedicab accident in Santa Cruz, I changed the ring tone on my phone to "Snaggle". I'm also sorry that the ring tone is still "Snaggle", and I'm sorry that I still think it's a little bit funny.

3. I'm sorry that I horsed around with a shopping cart one day at Safeway, and ended up flipping over the cart and pinning you underneath it.

4. I'm sorry that I got openly jealous of the Skip-It you got from making county in breastroke when you were six. I didn't even want a Skip-It myself; I was jealous that I was so much worse at swimming than you.

5. I'm sorry that I made you and Kelly stay in the back bedroom while me and Megan had a party, one weekend when Mom and Dad were out of town. I hope that buying alcohol for you and your friends during high school could make up for that.

6. I'm sorry I laughed when Mom made fun of your flatulence before the rehearsal dinner.

7. I'm sorry I then tried to suck up to Mom by calling you "Dolly Fartin'".

8. I'm sorry that I got upset right after you were born because you weren't a boy. I blame Mom and Dad for telling me I was getting a brother named Kevin for months, even though they didn't know the sex of the baby.

9. I'm sorry I wrote a fake letter to the Teen Talk section of the Pleasant Hill Martinez Record pretending to be you, and telling the story of how you tried to dye your hair blond using lemon juice and a basting brush.

10. I'm sorry I sometimes assigned you difficult children for swim lessons because Kelly and I didn't want to teach them ourselves.

11. I'm sorry I hid underneath your window all those times, waited for you to fall asleep, and sang the "Stay Awake" song from Mary Poppins to scare you.

12. I'm sorry I often ruined your tape-recorded fake radio program, The Molly & Gina show, by bursting into the room and pretending to be "Delbert", an angry Southerner.

13. I'm sorry that when you really wanted a puppy for Christmas that one year, we bought you a puppy keychain instead, and laughed when you opened it.

14. I'm sorry I often stop listening during a conversation with you because I get distracted by the sports section or checking my email.

15. I'm sorry the earthquake of 1989 happened while you were riding your bicycle sans training wheels for the very first time. I probably called you a baby for not wanting to ride a bicycle for a few months after that. You ride a bike really well now, unless it has a taxi tied to the back of it, Snaggles.

16. I'm sorry I called you Snaggles again just now.

17. I'm sorry I convinced you to apply to the College of Natural Resources at Cal.

18. I'm sorry that so many of our friends and relatives named their dogs "Molly". I will never name a pet after you.

19. I'm sorry that I sometimes get frustrated by how long your email address is; however, "goodgollymissmolly" is 18 characters. Come on, Molly!

20. I'm sorry I complained about how far away you live. You obviously like living in a converted Army barracks and riding the bus for three hours every day, and who am I to judge you for that?

21. I'm sorry I didn't bring an air horn to your college graduation and blast it off when they read off your name.

22. I'm also sorry I initially forgot to put on deodorant that morning.

23. I'm sorry I ruined your birthday fondue that one year by bringing out the fondue pot without unplugging it, tripping when the cord became taut, and launching melted cheese all over the dining room, chandelier, and my own arms.

Here are some old entries about Molly in honor of her birthday:

Gender Confusion
Hide-and-Seek Champion of All Time
Earmuffs!

And here is Molly three Halloweens ago, dressed as a "Drunk Dial":

dials2.jpg

grudge two q & a

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On Saturday night, I saw Takashi Shmizu's The Grudge 2. Maybe you are considering seeing the film. Maybe you already saw it. Maybe you've never heard of it. I hope I can answer any questions you might have about the film.

What does the prologue discuss?

Anyone who dies in a fit of rage will haunt the world afterward.

Does anyone die in a fit of rage in this film?

Yes.

Do they haunt anyone?

No.

Do demons and other things jump out in a surprising manner?

Yes.

Would you have enjoyed this movie more if you had seen The Grudge?

Yes and no. I would have certainly understood the mythology of The Grudge series better, but it wasn't at all a prerequisite for following the semi-existent plotline of Grudge Two. What I missed was that the revenge plotline of G-One featured a murdered woman who died in a rage, but the sequel retroactively grants her supernatural powers of revenge. In the original, she was mad about being murdered, but in the sequel, her restless ghost seeks vengeance for an innumerable series of wrongs.

The main thing I missed by not seeing G-One was that, having seen it, I would have probably never paid to see G-Two.

Was there any awkward dialogue?

SPOILER! Sarah Michelle Gellar is throttled and tossed off a roof by a vengeance demon or a ghost or something. Since these demons seem to have the ability to move people from room to room and floor to floor with no trouble, it's not clear why a ghostly hand needs to shove her, rather than phase her into a new location in mid-air. Nevertheless, SMG is tossed off a roof. After this happens, we cut to SMG's sister, Joan of Arcadia, walking out of the hospital, pursued by the journalist from Hong Kong, who speaks perfect Japanese and English. Here's the dialogue as we the audience wait for AMG's body to fall:

Journalist: I wanted to talk to you.
JOA: No. (Walks forward)
Journalist: Wait. I wanted to talk to you about your sister. (Finally, body falls.)

What would the Strokes say about the work of Tokyo's security guards and police officers?

Tokyo cops, they ain't too smart.

What are the themes of G-Two?

G-Two features many family conflicts. Joan of Arcadia's mother is dying of cancer, and seems to hate her daughter. Joan says on a few occasions that her mother is indifferent to her. The journalist reveals that he never saw his brother in Hong Kong, though he lived down the street from him for years. We don't learn why they were so estranged.

Joan and SMG are similarly estranged, not having talked for years. Joan says it was because SMG "dropped a college application on her, just like Mom." Indifferent Mom apparently wanted Joan to go to college as well. Joan finally tells her cancerous mother that cancer mom can no long talk to her in such a dismissive manner before SPOILER! Joan is killed by a ghost/revenge demon. /SPOILER!

After reunions with estranged family members, subjects can expect live six-to-seven more minuts, tops. The lesson seems to be, stay estranged, otherwise you might be killed by a ghost/revenge demon.

Based on what you saw in G-Two, who in Japan speaks English?

High school girls, Japanese police officers in taped interviews with one another, and old shaman women in parts of rural Japan that can only be reached by traveling by bus and train.

Did Sarah Michelle Gellar have any insights about the film's bizarre, incomprehensible structure?

In the DVD extras of The Grudge, or G-Prime, Sarah Michelle Gellar explains that G-Prime is a "non-linear story, which means it doesn't have a beginning, middle, or end."

What is the weirdest scene in G-Two?

A girl goes to her friend's apartment to show off her new cheerleader uniform. The friend, quite affable earlier in the film, responds by silently chugging a half-gallon of milk. As the cheerleader watches with mild surprise, the friend begins vomiting the milk back into the bottle. Halfway through her vomiting session, the cheerleader gets a call on her cell phone. She answers, has a short conversation, and leaves, while the friend continues to vomit milk back into its container.

When does the film's cheapest surpise occur?

Cheerleader opens a closet in her house. She slowly looks at the wall, which is covered in snapshots of her family. Only after fifteen seconds does she notice her brother, who is sitting in the middle of the closet, unhidden, undisguised, directly in her line of sight, perhaps 30 inches away. Then, she gasps in surprise.

Is the big end-of-movie reveal surprising?

Not one bit. Even the slowest of moviegoers figured out who the girl in the hoodie was about 45 minutes before her identity was revealed. In fact, the only reason she was wearing the hoodie was to disguise her identity for the reveal - none of the characters in the movie would have been affected in any way by knowing her true identity.

Was the entire movie planned out before shooting began?

One friend commented that the movie seemed to have been shot on the fly. The scenes lead into one another so abruptly that they may well have been improvising.

"Cut! A cat wandered into the shot!"
"Wait. Maybe we can use that."

"Cut! You left your cell phone on!"
"Wait. Maybe we can use that."

"Is anyone going to eat this disgusting leftover bacon from the commissary?"
"Save it! I have an idea."

What are the powers of these ghosts/revenge demons?

1. Appearing in photographs, but then also the real world.
2. Shifting revenge subjects through small geographical distances.
3. Making black stringy hair grow on people.
4. Turning into black cats, which then turn into pale Japanese children.
5. Killing people and also making them disappear, but sometimes just leaving them as corpses to scare people.
6. Appearing in mirrors to scare people.
7. Text messaging.
8. Killing their abusive witch mothers via fear.
9. Making their dead victims appears as ghosts to scare future victims.

Can you stop the revenge demons?

No. They kill you if you visit the haunted house. Or if you know someone who visited the haunted house. Or live near someone who visited the haunted house. Look, the demons are going to kill you, OK?

What happens if you don't solve the mystery of the revenge demons?

You die.

What happens if you do solve the mystery of the revenge demons?

You die.

Does covering your windows with old newspapers you found in the trash protect you from revenge demons?

No.

Why was that girl attending the International high school in Tokyo if her parents still lived in Chicago?

To learn Japanese kanjis and SPOILER! be killed by revenge demons /SPOILER!

Is G-Two scary?

It is, in the same way that someone coming into your office, sneaking around on all fours, and yelling, "Boo!" at random intervals would be scary. Since there is no story arc, goals, or plot points, it is not particularly suspenseful.

Finally, can I expect to hear a contortionist lady make a weird croaking sound for about thirty minutes?

Yes.

Times I clicked the "repair" button on the wireless network menu: 42

Times I unplugged and then plugged in the router: 14

Emails received: 140

Non-spam emails received: 25

Emails that were legitimate personal correspondence, expressed as a percentage of the total: 5.7%

Blog comments received: 18

Percentage of blog comments that were spam: 100%

Blog entries composed offline: 2

Entries currently trapped on my home machine: 2

Weeks since I threw out my "obsolete" floppy disks: 5

Cumulative minutes spent watching ESPN2 to get the score of the Cal-Washington State game: 19

Increase in productivity: 62%

Miles run: 3 1/4

Fake stairs climbed: 4140

Words misused without the internet to confirm definitions: 2

Times I slapped my forehead upon learning that the outage was due to our ethernet cable being slightly unplugged for two days: 2

animal excrement in my neighborhood

| 2 Comments

It seems that animal excrement has become a problem in my neighborhood. Though I have not personally noticed the problem, I have noticed a few signs addressing the issue. On the side of one apartment building, there's a notice that reads, "PLEASE DO NOT LET YOUR DOG PEE HERE" in 32-point font. The notice appears to have been laminated. Up the street, there is a small, delicate rock garden in the dirt surrounding a tree. The most prominent feature is not the rocks, but a large drawing of a dog, squatting to defecate. The dog is surrounded by the universal "no" signal, a circle with a diagonal line through it.

What I gather is that Castro dog owners may not be especially diligent about pooper scooper laws, to the point that frustrated neighbors have been driven to Kinko's in despair. However, I'm not sure that these signmakers have thought things through. What is more disturbing - an occasional puddle of urine, or the words "DOG PEE" in huge letters, taped to the outside of your home, and unmissable during daylight hours? What would you rather look at - dog feces once a week, or a cartoon dog taking a crap, all the time? To my mind, the sanctity of the rock garden has already been compromised.

So we'll see how things shake out in the next few months. My fear is that the anti-poop sign becomes an inviting target for dogs to pee on, and angry dog owners have their pooches crap against the side of the pee-free building out of spite, and suddenly there's a six-foot vinyl banner denouncing dog urine on the pee house, and a metal sign with an even more explicit crapping dog cartoon in the rock garden, and then Didofoot gets a beagle puppy and can't come over anymore because of the pitchfork-wielding mob chasing puppies into Duboce Triangle and handing out surprisingly professional-looking desktop-published brochures about the health hazards of animal waste.

happy birthday kati vol

| 1 Comment

Happy Birthday, Kati! Though your palindromic year of 22 is at an end, the magical year of 23 might prove to be even more magical, if inevitably less palindromic.

Here is an old post all about you and Gene: Dinner with Kati and Gene, A Review

And here is an old photo, featuring the same cast of characters:

soiree2.jpg

cheese and stuff girl

| 1 Comment

I am in love with a girl who works behind the counter at Cheese & Stuff. She has pretty blond hair, a warm smile, and an accent that is probably Greek. I can't remember a time when she didn't work at Cheese & Stuff, though it's sometimes hard to remember my own life before I first met her. I began coming in for the sandwiches, but I got so much more.

Once, I ordered a Middle Eastern plate just so I could hear her say "tabbouleh". Then I pretended I didn't understand, so she'd say it again.

About a year ago, I switched to the Deluxe sandwich, and I noticed that she started looking at me differently. Maybe she appreciated my healthier diet, with the addition of tomatoes and sprouts to the standard sandwich. When she asked me if I wanted mayo or mustard, I said "Light mayo", and I thought I saw her raise one delicate eyebrow. Of course, the Deluxe sandwich costs thirty cents more. She's not dealing with a cheap college student anymore. Instead, she's talking to a financially secure man who appreciates the finer things in life. Roast beef. Swiss cheese. Her eyes. Then when I pay, I get a parking validation ticket, even if I didn't park in the garage that day, just in case she's wondering if I have a car.

One of the side benefits of my romance to the Cheese & Stuff girl will be my stronger relationship with Sam, the proprieter of Cheese & Stuff. He'll be on track to become my new new father-in-law, or uncle, or whatever the relationship to my beloved happens to be. I could even help run the store. I have some ideas. For example, I'd de-emphasize cheese, and start focusing more on stuff. Together, we could normalize the prohibition against spitting, though Stanfurd fans and knife-chasing would remain strictly forbidden. Sam knew what he was doing when he set the standards.

I don't know the name of the lovely girl from Cheese & Stuff, and I doubt she knows mine. But that's not important. I'll just call her "Mrs. Keane".

the contra costa times loves zembla

In today's Word of Mouth column in the Life in Perspective section of the Contra Costa Times, Deirdre Ruscitti of Clayton Valley High School endorses this very website. Deirdre likes Henry David Thoreau, Newlywed, which is one of my favorite pieces as well. As is Part 2. You've got great taste, Deirdre. We can be MySpace friends anytime.

As a result of this plug, and the site's excellent Meebo plug-in, I got to talk to some old friends I hadn't heard from in years. If you happen by the page as a result of the CC Times plug, and I'm online, feel free to say hello. What else am I going to be doing - working? Ha, it is to laugh.

Once again, thanks to Deirdre, and do check out the Contra Costa Times. I delivered the paper for five years, wrote fake letters to the paper for nearly as long, and my parents still subscribe. Tony Hicks and Gary Peterson are stellar columnists, and their comics section is twice as big as any other local paper. It's your only source for in-depth reporting about Pacheco, so pick up a copy today!

your wedding q&a

My sister Megan got married on Saturday. I performed the ceremony, and emceed the reception. Obviously, people have questions about how it went:

What was the best line in the wedding ceremony?

Discussing the happy couple's first date, a group rollerblading excursion, I said, "That's why rollerblading is known worldwide as the most romantic of all the wheeled sports."

What was the funniest line in the vows?

My sister reached out to her techie husband with a promise to "honor and respect computers and electronic gadgets."

What was the slickest improvised line?

After my little sister read a Pablo Neruda love poem, and mentioned that Neruda had three wives, I stressed that the poem was definitely written about the third and final wife, AKA, "the keeper".

Were there any nearly-uncomfortable racially-insensitive fakeouts during the ceremony?

My sister's husband Nevin was born in Hong Kong, and came to California by way of Toronto. I remarked that, upon meeting the groom, our family was a little worried about cultural differences. After all, my sister had never dated...a Canadian before. Would we have to learn the metric system? Would she ever be able to eat American bacon again? Thankfully, we got along OK, and he's never called us hosers.

Any logistical issues?

The "ring warming" ceremony had each guest handle the wedding rings before they came back up to the front for vows. As we feared, we got to the vows before the rings made it through the crowd. I needed to kill time, so I went with the tried-and-true tactic of spending a few minutes teasing my mother. It went smoothly, except that I somehow concluded that, since their parents had been married a combined 68 1/2 years, the new couple only had to stay married until they were 96. Yeah, I don't know where I was going there.

Who made the best toast?

The newly married couple originally met at a party for Cal's hiking club, CHAOS. In his toast, my dad discussed our family's tradition of grueling hikes for birthdays and holidays (spearheaded by my father), and how Nevin nearly always had an excuse for missing out on the hikes - being on call for work, mild injuries, sleepiness, etc. He concluded that Nevin had only joined the hiking club in order to meet women - and as the crowd roared with laughter, my dad said he was very happy that he had done so, and met Megan.

What was the most common drink at the reception?

Gin-and-tonic. The deliciousness of Tanqueray and Tonic may be the first thing that my octogenerian great-aunt and Snoop Doggy Dogg have ever agreed on.

How was the reaction to the ceremony?

It was generally pretty positive. It may lead to more ministerial work, but it is more likely to lead to larger standup comedy audiences in the near future. In that vein, Nevin has given me until the end of his honeymoon to create an acceptable web site to promote comedy and/or ULC ministry work, and he's promised to hype it up in thank-you notes. Leave any suggestions for domain names or web designers in the comments section. Seankeane.org is not really going to cut it.

Did anyone suggest that you become an actual priest?

Yes.

Were gin-and-tonics involved in that suggestion?

One would assume.

Was there any singing?

Everyone sang happy birthday to my grandmother. Happy 75th, Patti! Also, my little sisters and I sang a song called "Tying the Knot", to the tune of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline".

Isn't that a difficult tune to sing a capella?

Oh yes.

Who caught the bouquet and garter?

Traditionally, the single woman who catches the bridal bouquet is the next to marry. The same holds true for the single man who catches the garter. For the first time in my wedding-going life, each half of a long-dating couple caught the flower bouquet and garter. It wasn't rigged at all, as both made impressive, athletic grabs, diving and leaping around the floor. The bouquet knocked over four or five drinks, a testament to Megan's underrated throwing arm. Sadly, my youngest sister did not add to her impressive record of three bouquet catches, the first of which occurred when she was eight years old.

Who was the best dancer?

My cousin Casey absolutely dominated the dance floor. When she turns twelve, that girl is going to be unstoppable.

How many folding chairs will fit in your grandmother's truck?

At least 173.

Who signed the marriage license?

As officiant, I signed the form, and my little sisters both added their names as witnesses.

Did you say, "Can I get a witness?"

Yes.

Are you proud of yourself for that?

No.

Sean, did you find love this weekend?

Only for Yoplait yogurt and the MTV reality show Two-A-Days. Now if Repete can stop running his mouth and get his head in the game, Tuscaloosa County ain't gonna know what hit 'em.

tuxedo in the trunk

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There's a wedding this weekend, and I will be wearing a tuxedo at the ceremony. I picked it up today, so for most of the evening, I've been driving around with a tuxedo in my trunk. It's a good feeling to have a tuxedo in your trunk. It's an ace in the hole. Someone can cut me off, and I won't give them the finger, much less honk, because I have a tuxedo in the trunk. I might look like a slob, wearing baggy jeans and a worn-out green shirt I bought in 1999, but I'm just four feet away from the fanciest rented ensemble imaginable.

Nothing gets to me. Rod Stewart could come on the radio, and I wouldn't even bother to change the station. At least for a minute or so. That's how good I potentially feel. I have a vested interest in staying cool and looking good. Also I have a vest, which has six buttons.

Say I want to stop at Jack in the Box. A Detroit Lions coach got busted for going through a Wendy's drive-thru naked. I could one-up him by going through the drive-thru in a tuxedo. I would have to find a place to change clothes, though. Maybe Jack in the Box has a restroom I could use. I would change out of the tuxedo before eating the food, I think.

A cop could pull me over for speeding, and I wouldn't even break a sweat. "Why are you smiling?" he might ask, as he examines my license and registration. "Because I know something that you don't know. I have the ability to become formally dressed in just ten-to-twelve minutes." He might need me to actually open the trunk and unzip the garment bag, but I have full confidence I'd be let off with a warning.

When you rent a tuxedo, they let you keep the socks. They try to play it off like it's a complimentary gift to you for renting the tux from their store, but it's not like they have the option of re-renting those socks. They pretty much have to give them to me or throw them away. Who is going to re-use someone else's socks? This is also why you should not go commando when dealing with rented formal wear. A real complimentary gift would be a plush Sanrio penguin. In case you were wondering, the tuxedo socks are also in the trunk.

Say a hot girl pulls up besides me when I'm cruising up 101. We exchange glances. She winks at me. I wink back. She blows a kiss. I raise my eyebrows suggestively. She exits the freeway at Ninth Street, and I follow her. When I pull up beside her, she rolls down her window and tells me she has an extra ticket to the opera - but I'm not dressed appropriately. I put a finger to my lips. "Sssh," I say. "You don't have to worry about that. Follow me to Jack in the Box."

excerpts from my meditation journal

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During my first semester at UC Berkeley, I found myself in need of an additional academic unit. I followed the lead of four of my floormates and enrolled in a student-run class on meditation. The class met three times a week, from 8-9 AM. All you had to do was show up, discuss meditation for 5-10 minutes, and then meditate. In addition, we were supposed to keep a "meditation journal".

It took me one single class session to learn a valuable lesson. Meditation teachers didn't take roll before class. Calling out names might have destroyed our relaxed mood. Instead, they circulated a sign-in sheet to keep track of attendance. There was nothing to prevent an unscrupulous student from writing in the names of his three friends who slept through their alarms that morning. In fact, there was nothing to prevent four people from setting up a rotation, where they'd only have to attend 1/4 of their meditation classes. And within that rotation, there was nothing to prevent one person (me) from shirking even that limited responsibility, trusting his friends not to be spiteful and stop writing down his name after a full month of his non-attendance.

Trouble arose when my early-rising friend Jeremy returned from class one Tuesday with news: Our meditation journals were due on Thursday. The instructors wanted to read our daily entries, to get our impressions of the class, and to make sure we weren't stagnating as meditators. I had been writing in my meditation journal nearly as often as I'd been attending class, so I was forced to do half a semester's worth of journal entries in one night. Here are some excerpts from that night:

September 23

For a meditation class, it seemed too noisy. Not high-decibel, but it was just that every little noise seemed to take me out of thoughts...Maybe I just need to focus more. The rest of the class sure responded.

September 24

...I think that on Tuesday, my problem was that I thought about meditating while meditating. I got away from that, but I still feel like I don't belong here, or even know what the hell I'm doing. Stick with it, stick with it...

September 30

I amazed my floormates and myself by actually getting up and going to start Week 2. This is nice because I don't feel any pressure, and when you're in Chem 1A, extra pressure is the last thing you need!

October 7

Not my finest meditation today. I'm a little ashamed of it, especially after what I wrote on Thursday, but I fell asleep in the first part of class. When I woke up, it was hard to get into it again. I suck.

October 16

...I haven't ever tried to meditate outdoors, to get a sensual perspective of the nature I attempted to commune with...the whole experience was more natural, wholesome, and real. What a beautiful day.

October 21

I looked over my journal entries today, and I almost laughed at how paranoid and confused I am in the first few. I may not be the best meditator, but at least I'm not completely paranoid every moment that I'm trying to focus.


I got full credit.

my doppelganger, timmy williams

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I transferred to a new middle school when I was in seventh grade. When I got there, people thought I was the younger brother of someone named Eli. The resemblance was apparently uncanny, though I never got to meet him. In the first month of school alone, I must have had thirty people ask me if we were related. In general, I have so many cousins in the Bay Area that it is a shock to say that someone is not my relative.

This older doppelganger haunted me. I wondered if people's perceptions of me were unconsciously colored by their expectations that I would be like Eli. Had Eli made enemies of the journalism teacher who hated me, or had I earned his disdain by my own merits? What about the English teacher who also hated me? If Eli went to swim meets or regional geography bees, would people ask him if he had a younger brother named Sean? I heard less about Eli when I got to high school, and no one at all mentioned him at Cal.

I have done a lot of research into the world of Sean Keanes, but it seems that my focus on the International Same Name Club has made me complacent. I kept up with the people who share my name, but not those who inexplicably share my appearance. This is why I missed Timmy Williams for so long.

Timmy Williams is a writer and performer for a very successful sketch comedy group in New York City called The Whitest Kids U Know. He's originally from South Dakota, but now resides in Brooklyn. Upon seeing the Whitest Kids perform in New York city, one of Zembla's East Coast correspondents frantically messaged me about the existence of my doppelganger:

"You look absolutely fucking exactly alike. Uncanny!" Later, the correspondent elaborated: "Your doppelganger, Keane. The same face, a different man. But still the same body also. Come on!"

Compare for yourself:

Timmy: timmy.jpg

Sean: cropsean.jpg

The Urban Dictionary definition of "timmy williams" is quite telling: "timmy is a fine peice [sic] of man flesh even though he is a small peice [sic], he makes up for his lack in hieght [sic] in his giant booty". If that isn't me to a T!

I don't know what to do here. How do you contact someone and tell them you think you might be their twin? I'm not going to lie, this guy is way more successful than me, and living a dream that I've often dreamt, but never lived. Do I send him a photo? Ask if his upcoming television incarnation of Whitest Kids U Know needs stunt doubles? Do I challenge him to a fight? If we shook hands, would we both disintegrate? If I told him we have the same body, would he hold it against me?

If you've got any advice, let me know. In the meantime, check out my doppelganger in Timmy Poops His Pants. If you squint your eyes just right, it's like I'm pooping my pants.

Earlier Candynalysis:

Three Musketeers
Lollipop Paint Shop


Some months ago, I purchased a novelty candy called the Lollipop Paint Shop for my good friend Louise. The Lollipop Paint Shop was less than delicious. As a way of returning the favor, Louise bought me some novelty candy as part of my birthday present. It's called the Candee Slurpee, and it is a 7-11 EXCLUSIVE.

candeeslurpee.jpg

My birthday was a few months ago, but I kept the candy preserved in a plastic bag, the way C.S.I. keeps evidence. That is appropriate because the very existence of the Candee Slurpee is a crime. Its combination of Sweet Lollipop! and Sour Liquid! seems designed to evoke an actual Slurpee as much as possible. Underneath the plastic lid is a sweet candy shell, while the inside reservoir is full of sour syrup. The Candee Slurpee also comes with a pointed straw, reminiscent of those that came glued to the back of Capri Sun pouches.

The concept of the candy seems to be that buyers will combine the tastes of sour and sweet by slurping up the liquid while simultaneously licking the hard candy shell. You know, just like a real Slurpee. In practice, this proves impossible. It's hard to eat the hard candy part at all, even without the complication of the straw. The Candee's waxed paper sides add a level of annoying realism and prevents any normal lollipop consumption strategies. The only way to consume the hard candy part is to essentially fellate the entire Slurpee, which will inevitably lead to a sour sticky liquid dribbling down your chin.

The level of realism is impressive. I imagine there were earlier, less-accurate incarnations of the Candee Slurpee that were returned in droves by disappointed consumers. Complaint letters demanded waxier paper, sharper straws, and stickier liquid. If the Candee Slurpee does as well as 7-11 hopes, we might soon see a Big Bite Hot Dog Candee (gummy candy sitting in a bun made of nougat), a Candee Big Gulp (waxy shell, entirely full of sour syrup), scratch-and-sniff candee lottery tickets, or packs of Candee Parliament Lights (regular cigarettes that have been dipped in powdered sugar).

Shockingly, this product contains artifical flavors. 7-11 officially recommends the Candee Slurpee "For Ages 4 and up", but I informally recommend it be immediately thrown in the garbage.

the guardian

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When I see a movie trailer or poster, my most common reaction is, "That movie doesn't look very good. I sure won't be seeing that one." Sometimes, in the case of a movie like Big Momma's House or Little Man, I get a little excited for the possibility that it might well turn out to be the worst motion picture of all time. Rarely do I see a movie poster and think, "That's not actually a movie at all."

guardian.jpg

There is a big billboard for The Guardian near the Bay Bridge, right where Highway 101 meets 80. When I saw Ashton Kutcher's name alongside Kevin Costner's, I thought it was a joke. Given the ridiculousness of the pairing, my first thought was that it was an elaborate joke marketing campaign for our local independent newspaper, The San Francisco Bay Guardian.

This wasn't a particularly logical or plausible theory, but it seemed more likely than the idea that someone in Hollywood greenlighted a blockbuster film starring those two actors. It only became real to me when I caught the tail end of a television commercial for the movie. Yes, Kutcher and Costner were indeed teaming up.

However, when I saw the full trailer, it became less real once again. Because The Guardian is not just a Costner-Kutcher buddy action-adventure film, it's a Costner-Kutcher buddy action-adventure film about the Coast Guard. Can I really be sure we're not being punk'd on a previously unimagined scale?

Just for the record, that movie doesn't look very good. I sure won't be seeing that one.

sean keane @ sf comedy club, september 22

Fans, take heed. Sean Keane will be returning to the stage at the San Francisco Comedy Club at 50 Mason. I'll be headlining a ridiculously strong showcase that Friday night, September 22, at 8 PM. Ali Wong will be the feature act, and the bill includes such Sean Keane favorites as Greg Edwards and Nitin Kant. Add in Cal alum Zahra Noorbakhsh and elder comedy statesman David Kleinberg, and you've got a stellar lineup that does not discriminate based on race, age, or gender.

Admission is $10, and while the SF Comedy Club now serves wine and beer, there's still no drink minimum. The Club is essentially besieged by quality Indian restaurants, and you can feel free to bring in food to your table or booth. I'm much funnier when the audience has been primed with booze and curry.

What I'm most excited about is that it's been five years, and as such, it is now officially OK to make jokes about September 11th. I'll be commemorating the anniversary of the World Trade Center disaster and America's subsequent victory over terrorism with some leftover jokes that simply haven't been acceptable until today.

Here's a little sample:

"So the Arabs crashed two planes into the World Trade Center on 9/11. If it's Arab pilots, you'd think the attack would have happened on 7/11. Thank you, bomb again."

Pure gold! And I've been sitting on that little gem for five years! I don't want to give away too much of the material, but let's just say a certain Osama "Been Hidin'" will not escape unscathed by my precision, bunker-busting comedy assault.

Official promotional info, including a link to an overwhelming and confusing Craigslist announcement, is after the jump.

my september 11th story

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Beginning in 1999, the Heuristic Squelch put on comedy shows at UC Berkeley. By 2001, the shows had gained momentum, and the Squelch had ended its contentious partnership with ASUC SUPERB, the arm of student government in charge of putting on entertainment, and the same people who paid Uncle Joey 10 grand to perform on campus. We had up-and-coming comedians lined up to perform, and we had a great venue to put on show's in Blake's on Telegraph. Our first show would feature comics Jim Short and Rob Cantrell, along with future expatriate Luke Filose. It would take place on a night free of competition from other comedy clubs, and early enough in the semester that students weren't swamped. Yes, September 11th, 2001 would be a big day for comedy in Berkeley.

I went to bed on the 10th after staying up late, furiously re-writing jokes and practicing my Young Sean voice. I woke up to early knocking on my bedroom door, with my roommate warning that I probably wanted to get up and watch CNN.

There's nothing profound for me to say about the actual events. I didn't know anyone in New York at the time, so there were no frantic phone calls. What I remember was how quiet everything was. No one was out on the street, no planes flew overhead, and even the guys next door had stopped revving the broken-down Camaro in the back yard.

We didn't know whether to cancel the show or not. Ultimately we decided to go through with it, partly because there was no real way to cancel at that point. At Blake's, the crowd was surprisingly large, albeit shell-shocked. I had some snarky material about the day's events, Bush's competence, and TV coverage, but ultimately, I decided to start the show with a simple disclaimer. I told the crowd that the day had been terrible, everyone was confused, and we all felt nothing but sympathy for the victims. But, no disrespect, we were still going to do the show, and we hoped no one thought we were assholes.

And then I started to do my act. When you go first at a comedy show, it's called "taking the bullet". I would say that talking about a massive terrorist attack is one of the toughest intros you can face as a comic, even worse than following a guy who rants incoherently about his blind bluesman friend. The first joke I told didn't go over all that well. But a strange thing happened once I got going. When a joke succeeded, it got a huge reaction. It was as if all of the twelve hours of stress, fear, and compulsive CNN-watching had built up, desperately wanting some kind of outlet. And, damn it, jokes about little girls with T. Rex arms provided that outlet.

It also helped that the pro comics went out and kicked ass. Rob Cantrell was his usual stellar self, and Jim Short was flat-out amazing, doing a good fifteen minutes he must have written that afternoon, all about CNN and planes and racism. I eventually felt confident enough to assert that Blake's might eventually become a terror target - there's good beer, the music rocks, and you just know Bin Laden hates that shit.

Everyone felt a little better walking out, or at least until they got upstairs and saw the footage of the planes hitting the towers playing over and over on the bar televisions. So we yelled, "Let's roll", charged the bartender, and changed the channel to Comedy Central.

Too soon?

Zembla's tribute to the recently-deceased Crocodile Hunter concludes today with a final interview. (Part 1 2 3) Our last subject is Timothy, a sucking louse that previously lived in Steve Irwin's hair.

Q.

Timothy: I chose Steve as a host quite by accident. I'd somehow managed to get myself into the fur of a kangaroo, and after what seemed to be a rather intense wrestling match, I found myself clinging to his scalp.

Q.

Timothy: He'd pick at us with a lot of enthusiasm. If he managed to grab one of us, Steve would hold up the louse and yell, "Look at her! She's a real beauty!"

Q.

Timothy: I don't think so. I am a head louse, and even I think we all pretty much look the same.

Q.

Timothy: He'd carefully put the louse in a bag and take it to the "preserve", as he called it. Then he'd carefully release it, explaining how beautiful the louse was.

Q.

Timothy: No, Steve wasn't on camera while he was doing that.

Q.

Timothy: It was a bit dangerous. You never knew when he'd suddenly fling himself into a river or slam his head into a tree. Never a dull moment with Steve.

Q.

Timothy: Once you fall off a person, that's pretty much it for a louse. By the time anyone reads this interview, I will surely be dead.

Q.

Timothy: It was a pleasure. Steve was a wonderful host. The lone criticism I have is that he could have worn looser shorts.

Q.

Timothy: I had some friends down there.

We continue to commemorate Steve Irwin's life with our series of interviews (Read Part One Part Two). Here, we talk with Russell, the stingray that inadvertantly killed Mr. Irwin last week.


Russell: I really am sorry. I'd like to say to Mr. Irwin and his family, my bad. I take full responsibility. It was purely a reflex action, and if I could take it back, I would.

Q.

Russell: Normally I hang out on the ocean floor. It's a camouflage thing, really. I like to eat worms and crustaceans, and if I don't move too much, I can eat them rather easily.

Q.

Russell: No, the sting is purely defensive. There's really no need to poison a worm. Be a bit of overkill, you follow? I've got quite a lot of teeth, so subduing small sea creatures and cracking open shells is really no big deal. You hear that, hermit crabs? You've got no chance against me, you delicious little bastards.

Q.

Russell: I guess I thought he was a hammerhead shark.

Q.

Russell: No, you're right. Sharks don't normally wear khaki.

Q.

Russell: Have you ever been attacked by a hammerhead shark? You'd try to sting it, too. They're frightfully hard to sting, to tell you the truth. Even if you sting them, they don't seem all that affected by poison. That's how my dad went. First he got hammered by the head, and then he got eaten. By the teeth.

Q.

Russell: Well you've got to at least try to sting them. We're not bluffrays or stern glarerays. If I go, I want to go down stinging, that's for sure.

Q.

Russell: It's a bit ironic, don't you think? Him with his dangerous animals and death-defying feats, taken out by little old me, who wouldn't hurt a fly. I'd hurt a shark, though.

Q.

Russell: Well, I'd try.

As part of our coverage of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's untimely death (Read Part One), Zembla presents another conversation with a dangerous animal who knew Irwin. This time, we chatted with Angus, a large spitting cobra.


Angus: I was in some bushes when Steve came over with his camera crew and picked me up. Later I learned he was filming a special on the World's Deadliest Snakes, which I have to admit was flattering. I've always considered myself a deadly snake, but one of the world's deadliest? That's when I knew I was really, truly poisonous.

Q.

Angus: Worst part? The worst part was when he poked me with the stick. Later, when he held me in the air by my tail, that was humiliating. Being carried in the burlap sack was no picnic either. But it still didn't compare to the initial trauma of being poked with that stick. You can coil up, you can hiss, and you can even strike, but at the end of the day, it doesn't change the fact that sticks simply are not vulnerable to poison.

Q.

Angus: You better believe I tried to bite him. But, you know, he had the stick.

Q.

Angus: Ultimately I think it was his genuine, enthusiastic nature that made Steve resonate with viewers. Among deadly snakes, well, we liked the catchphrases. "Crikey" and all that. I'll miss him. But I won't miss that stick.

Steve Irwin, television's Crocodile Hunter, died this week after a freak accident with a stingray. Here at Zembla, we've put together a series of interviews with those who knew Steve best - the dangerous animals he featured on his program. Our first discussion is with Nigel, a freshwater crocodile.

Nigel: I met Steve during a rogue crocodile relcoation program about seven, eight years ago. I'd gone a bit aggro, and Steve came and wrestled me out of the creek I'd wandered into. I'll be honest. I definitely wanted to bite him.

Q.

Nigel: My objections were twofold. First, the lack of residual payments for my appearance on the program. Second was the title, "The Crocodile Hunter". I think the name is a bit offensive. Crocodile wrangler, maybe. Crocodile relocator, sure. But "Hunter"? No, I don't care for the name at all.

Q.

Nigel: I think it's inflammatory, definitely. What kind of message does that send to children about the hunting of crocodiles? He's supposed to be this great conservationist, yet the title of the show practically encourages people to go into the Outback and start shooting. It's irresponsible to say the least.

Q.

Nigel: Oh, no complaints on a personal level. I was treated with nothing but politeness, and the zoo is lovely. Cheers, mate.

fighting the law, sort of

Who says appellate law is tedious and humorless? From a recent Court of Appeal opinion:

"We affirm in part, concluding: (1) An incident where defendant's appointed counsel shoved him into a seat and yelled "fuck you", failed to demonstrate a sufficient break-down of the attorney-client relationship to find that the trial court abused its discretion in refusing to appoint new counsel."

matlock2.JPG

regaining focus

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It might officially be September 1st, but to me, it feels like New Year's Day. Because I am hung over, watching college football on TV, and making foolishly optimistic resolutions.

The old resolution to blog every day fell by the wayside, and then hoodlums along the wayside beat and kicked the resolution until it was barely a memory.

The weight loss resolution is cowering in a ditch near the wayside, pretending to be unconscious and weeping bitter, salty tears.

Let's make things new, readers. Let's forget the past, the false promises, the weeks without new material, and focus on us. Let's focus on now. Let's get a stereogram and focus our eyes weird so we can finally see the 3-D dolphin. Let's ask a focus group what they think of the new anti-comment trend on Cementhorizon. Let's put two points on the axis of symmetry of a conic section. And let's let bygones be bygones, because, if you think about it, what the fuck else would they be?

tower of power

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Tower Air was maybe the worst airline in the history of the world. Flights were routinely delayed for hours with no explanation. At the New York terminal, the X-ray machine sat in the middle of the room, where it would violently eject baggage directly into the wall. Employees routinely engaged in shouting matches with travelers and with each other.

Tower had nothing going for it at all besides rock-bottom prices. Both they and their customers knew it. The disinterested, confrontational service seemed to say, "If you had any money or self-respect, you'd have flown with someone else."

From Wikipedia:

Early in its history and certainly by the mid-1990s, Tower Air became notorious for poor service and questionable maintenance. By 1995 it ranked fourth in the number of complaints per mile among leading U.S. airlines. The 1997 Zagat Survey placed Tower Air 59th out of 61 ranked carriers, only edging ahead of Valujet and Aeroflot.[1] In February 1998, the Federal Aviation Administration proposed two civil penalties totaling $276,000 for continuing to fly aircraft that required maintenance action.

My favorite Tower memory came on a flight back to San Francisco in 1999. They'd made us wait for an hour and a half on the ground in New York, and something else delayed us for another hour in the air - turbulence, or wind, or a tear in the duct tape holding on the wing, or a pig getting loose in the cabin. To make up for the delay, the flight crew decided to waive the charges for cocktails, much to the delight of the Canadian tourists behind me. They proceeded to get wasted and beligerent during the in-flight movie, shouting Canadian things at one another and falling out of favour with our crew.

When the flight finally landed in San Francisco, two Asian passengers stood up while the plane was still rolling toward the gate. They politely nodded when the flight attendant asked them to sit down, and more politely when the captain stopped the plane and came on the intercom to demand they sit down. They even nodded politely when the Canadians started heckling them: "Sit the fuck down, John Woo!" "Jackie Chan! Plane's still moving, eh?"

Finally the head flight attendant walked up to restore order. "Let me handle this," she said, moving her frazzled comrade aside. She stood a foot away from the nodding, confused Asian men, and proceeded to clarify matters.

"YOU NEED TO SIT DOWN!", she shouted.

Unfortunately, the added volume did not overcome the language barrier, and only some creative sign language from another passenger kept the Canadians from going Flight 93 on their asses. I walked off the plane, confident that I would never fly Tower again. At least not for more than $225, round-trip.

come fly with me

This weekend, I flew down to San Diego in the company of Concrete Skyline himself. The last time we flew together was on a trip to New York City, way back in 1997. It was a red-eye flight on the now-bankrupt Tower Air, the discount air travel provider to New York during the 80's and 90's. More on Tower tomorrow.

The flight was slowly filling up when Gene and I took our seats. We were on the left side, next to a middle-aged guy who looked like a business traveler. As we sat through one of Tower's inevitable runway delays, Gene began discussing an article he'd read recently. Appropriately enough, it was about plane crashes.

According to the article, people who survived plane crashes were not the ones who remained calm, and tried to exit the plane in an orderly fashion. The passengers who survived were those that shoved their way to the front of the plane, knocking over the orderly people and going over them, if necessary. If our plane were to crash, Gene informed me, he would be taking out whoever he had to in order to get out.

That was when the business traveler abruptly decided to find a new seat.

We sat together again this year, on a Southwest flight. Everything was calm until five minutes before takeoff, when Gene began discussing a series of plane crash videos he'd discovered online.

In other aeronautic happenings, check out the scene at JFK in this video, from an up and coming New York Times video journalist. If hard-hitting airport footage doesn't give you a boner, never fear. There's an accompanying ad featuring Dr. Drew talking about impotence. I think he gets a keychain if enough people click the link to this story. There's also a good one on medical research in prisons.

sean keane at 50 mason, 8/5/06

After a triumphant fourth-place finish at the Comedy Competition (OK, an eleven-way tie), Sean Keane will be returning to the San Francisco Comedy Club on Saturday, August 5th. It's my fifth headlining spot at 50 Mason, which means I get to join the prestigious Five-Timers' Club. You get a framed headshot on the wall, a congratulatory phone call from Elliott Gould, and a romantic serenade from the Tenderloin hobo of your choice. It is a very special milestone in a young comedian's life.

Please join me, along with Travis Curry, Walter Pierre, and host Antonio Sparks at 8 PM, at 50 Mason. We've got a shorter lineup this week, which means the funny is longer, stronger, and even more down to get the friction on. So ladies? (Yeah!) Ladies? (Yeah!) You wanna watch some stand-up comedy? Dial 1-900-MIX-ALOT, and...well, hang up, and then dial (415) 398-4129 to reserve your spot.

Also, you can now chat to me via this very web page, thanks to Meebo. It's technically still an instant message, but you'll feel like you're having the conversation in The Future.

The official show promo is after the jump.

lenny bruce is not afraid

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It started with an earthquake (though without birds, snakes, nor an aeroplanes), just a few minutes ago here in San Francisco. I was in the bathroom. If you're in the bathroom, a seismic event can be a lot like the end of a prom night after party. The whole thing consisted of a few seconds of random, aimless vibrating. I was scared and confused the whole time. When it was over, I zipped up my pants and tried not to cry.

As a California resident, you can get jaded about earthquakes. The event lasts only a few seconds. Afterward, unless there's a fire, or your power goes out, or a freeway collapses, all that's left is to confirm that you did feel a real tremor and are not hallucinating.

If you experience a hurricane or a tornado, I can see how that can lead to some good conversation. You drove away from the storm, you hid in the shelter, you saw a cow get picked up by a funnel cloud, whatever. There's a narrative to a storm story.

Earthquakes are non sequiturs. They happen without warning, so there's never context for an earthquake story. The narrator rarely realizes what is happening until the event is nearly over. It's a dramatic event presented by the most limited witness imaginable. Even the best earthquake story boils down to, "I was in a weird place", or "This thing fell."

Still, when enormous tectonic plates shift in the lithosphere, you need to tell someone, even if there's nothing to tell. According to Sonoma County community service officer Al Tuppman, "Nobody's called for assistance, no one's reporting any problems. They were just letting me know that they felt it."

sparing the air

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There were high temperatures in the Bay Area this weekend, and as such, there were many "Spare the Air" days. The official mission of Spare the Air Day is to encourage commuters to use public transportation on especially hot days, to reduce the air pollution. Transit agencies all over the Bay Area, from BART to MUNI, to probably even the Emery-Go-Round, offer free rides to commuters, as an incentive to ditch their cars for the day.

But ride BART on every Spare the air Day and you'll see the unexpected effect of free mass transit on a scorching hot day. Tourists and homeless people. After all, when you spend the whole day wandering aimlessly, harassing strangers, and searching for a place to pee, you might as well spend that time on an air conditioned train. The same thing holds true if you're homeless. Your average BART train is only slightly dirtier than a street corner in the Tenderloin.

When a train is crowded with people who have been sitting in hundred-degree heat all day, the air isn't exactly spared, if you know what I'm saying.

I'm not the only one to notice the dark side of sparing the air. San Francisco Chronicle bulldogs Matier and Ross exposed the madness of Spare the Air Day last week. They discovered accounts of "blaring boom boxes", "10 young males in white T-shirts and baggy pants...holding the door open and acting like they were on the playground", and even "food and drink containers (which are banned)". Who knew that saving the environment would come at such a cost? Maybe Al Gore should put that in his movie - you want to fight global warming, be prepared for food and drink containers and boom boxes.

As many of you know, Zembla has always been an avid chronicler of Warren G. and Nate Dogg. (See Warren G, You Useless, Useless Bastard and We Get Letters, December 2002 Edition) (Note: December 2002 is also the only letters feature ever to run on Zembla.)

Now, it seems that Zembla has not been alone in its efforts to expose the cultural significance of Warren G's music. Yacht Rock, Episode 7 discusses "Regulate", and how it is the inadvertant byproduct of the smooth grooves of the early 80's. This episode deals with an element of "Regulate" that I have never explored; namely, that the song is built of a Michael McDonald sample, "I Keep Forgettin'".

McDonald's lyrics insist repeatedly that things will never be the same again. Of course this is true for the robbers slain by Nate Dogg, but is that idea present in "Regulate"? Will things truly be different for Warren and Nate? Or will tomorrow bring another dice game, another car full of ho's, another trip to the Eastside Motel?

This new report raises one question of utmost importance: Due to his use of a Michael McDonald sample in his hit song, is Warren G even more of a worthless, worthless bastard? And the answer is yes. Warren G is indeed a bastard, and worth even less than previously estimated.

comedy competition recap, part 2

For those of you who couldn't make it to the Finals last night, a clip of the performance is available on Rooftop Comedy. To get the full effect, turn off your air conditioning and chug three or four beers before watching the clip. Things to look for:

1. Time of the clip = 6:59. Yes, that's right. One second short of an automatic disqualification for exceeding the seven-minute limit.

2. Inconsistent choreography.

3. My insistence on standing six-to-nine inches out of the spotlight, which might serve as a metaphor for my subconscious fear of success. Or maybe the stool was in the way.

4. Jokes-per-minute stats: Off the charts! Words-per-minute stats: All off those same charts! And to think I actually had an entire additional bit on my set list. It was roughly a ten-minute routine, sped up to fit into seven minutes, so you might half-expect to hear my high-pitched voice explaining how my good behavior over the past year deserves a hula hoop.

5. Hyphens-per-post: Deny the existence of charts.

All in all, this is quite a clip. Watch it, rate it, let Windows Media Player crash your web browser, and fall in love again with Sean Keane, for the first time.

comedy competition recap

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A heartfelt thanks to everyone who came out to the final round of the SF Comedy Club Competition last night. As in the World Cup, it is an honor to simply make the Finals. Also like the World Cup, some people will make jokes about your momma. And sometimes you go home in disgrace.

First place: Mike Winfield
Second place: Debbie Campo
Third place: Nico Santos (See him tonight at the Cameltoe Show at the Purple Onion.)

After seeing Mike in the first round, I predicted he would win the contest. He kicked ass, and he's a worthy winner. I hadn't seen Debbie before, but the crowd loved her. One comic pantomined "home run" as she walked off stage, so second place was not at all surprising. Nico Santos is always a treat, and I was happy he did his "uncomfortable ending" joke. Congratulations all.

The Golden Ball went to David Wiswell, probably because they closed the voting halfway through, and the judges didn't see him headbutt Julian Vance. It was hard to tell what motivated David to do that, but lip-readers claim that Julian said something about retarded kids and their backpacks, and David just lost it. Also, I'm pretty sure Julian tweaked David's nipple.

Of the fourth place finishers (AKA losers), Kellen Erskine was again a standout. Many of my friends voted for him, and at least one of my family members thinks he's cute. If you're in the South Bay, you can see Kellen this weekend at the San Jose Improv, and you can make him your MySpace friend anytime. We'll both be performing at Ron's Farmhouse in Mountain View on Friday, July 28th, as well.

Fourteen people advanced to the Finals, out of an original group of 75. This means that, though they don't announce places past third, I did beat at least 61 people in this competition. 62 if you count Nathan Jackson.

The format of the final round could use some tightening, however. Fourteen people is a lot to have in the finals, especially since only 27 advanced to the semi-finals. That's right - over half of the semi-finalists made it to the finals. It seems like there is a weakness in the comedy distillation process at that point. They don't finish the first weekend of the NCAA Tournament and decide, you know what, it's gonna be the Sweet Twenty-Six this year. Billy Packer would shit himself, unless the extra teams were from the Big East and ACC.

Maybe cap the finals at eight, and if there's a tie or a voting irregularity, expand the field to a maximum of ten comics. I realize that this might have kept me out of the finals, but that's a theoretical price I'm willing to hypothetically pay.

That being said, it was a very good crowd, and an exciting event all around. It's the second-largest crowd I've ever played to in SF, after Iron Comic 3, though I think the Dave Attell show in Berkeley was still my largest audience ever. Patrons got to see a lot of excellent comics, and lost an average of six pounds each due to the sweltering conditions indoors.

What we witnessed outside: a bum urinating on the sidewalk; police officers apprehending a guy breaking into parked cars with a crowbar; other cops in an unmarked car surprising a guy trying to break into an ATM. Tenderloin fever - catch it!

How did I do? Technically, I finished in an 11-way tie for fourth. I drew the much-loathed #1 slot in the lineup. To give you an idea of how comics feel about going first, that spot is known as "taking the bullet". My slip of paper even said, "OH SHIT!" underneath the number one. Though I ultimately finished the evening a big loser, I felt good about my performance, getting a lot of crowd reaction while mixing up my usual set list. Even 50 Mason's lovely bartender complimented my set, saying she liked the extra energy I displayed. I got similar comments after Iron Comic - maybe it takes a competition, a time limit, or a drunken, heat-stricken crowd to get me to tell jokes quickly and with authority.

The real lesson is to keep working and writing jokes, and to convince your friends in the audience to strategically down-vote Nico Santos, even if they think he was the funniest. Besides, if I really want to find people drinking heavily in the sweltering heat, I can just go to Pleasant Hill and hang out with my family. Thank you! I'll be here all week! Be sure to tip your waitress and Cementhorizon!

the new yorker gets "hip"

From Where Hip-Hop Lives, by Ben McGrath:

    Gravy's own words - his rhymes - are less jarring, by comparison, tending to fall safely within the established motifs of gangsta rap: boasting of sexual prowess (one's "bitches"), complaining about "dick-riders" (i.e., copycats), declaring war on the police, and laying claim to neighborhood terrain...He drew a distinction between "the hood" (where "not a lot of dudes got computers in they cribs") and "the streets", a larger, amorphous place where public opinion crystallizes.

The whole article is pretty "dope" (not meaning the drug, but rather, an adjective signifiying something's perceived high quality). Check it out, "homies" (one's friends, or "peeps").

(Part 1 2)

It was the summer of 1994. The Contract With America was still just a glimmer in Dick Armey's eye. The players' strike was about to ruin Matt Williams's attempt at the single-season home run record. Gavin Rossdale taught us that we lived in a wheel, where everyone stole, and when we rose it was like Strawberry Fields.

I was in a teen theatre production of Bye Bye Birdie playing my usual role of "Chorus". As a chorus member, I had much less responsibility in the way of rehearsing, or changing costumes, or appearing on stage in any form whatsoever. What I had a great deal of time for was making stupid jokes with other mediocre performers backstage.

Most of these jokes were completely asinine. We had a long-running gag where we'd pretend someone else had a spot on their shirt. "Is that mustard?" Dave would ask. Or, "Whoa, you're going to go on stage like that?" When the other person looked down, they got flicked in the nose. Is it a sign of immaturity that I still find that hilarious?

We also ripped off older, funnier people. We did characters from Saturday Night Live constantly, particularly Jon Lovitz's Pathological Liar character. Sometimes the jokes would be tangentially related to the show. "Oh yeah, I know Conrad Birdie," Chad would say. "Taught him everything he knows. Yeah, that's the ticket. I wrote all his songs." Most of the time we'd repeat the Lovitz bits verbatim, discussing "my wife, Morgan Fairchild. Whom I have slept with," even though we had only the vaguest idea of who Morgan Fairchild actually was. Or what sleeping with someone was, for that matter.

The childish antics did pave the way for the Devil Mountain Improv League, which was founded by many of the same sarcastic, ungrateful punks from the Bye Bye Birdie ensemble. Former roommate Mike had an actual speaking part, but he was an honorary member of the crew, despite his tendency to fall for the mustard trick.

At the cast party, our director took time to thank the many parents who'd volunteered to help out with costumes, music, and stage crew. Of course, our group paid no attention, choosing to focus instead on repeating the same jokes we'd been making for two months. Loudly.

However, the cast party taught me a lesson about paying attention that I'd failed to learn in six weeks of rehearsals and eight performances. The director presented an award to her middle-aged assistant, a mom to two of the cast members. She said some very nice things about her commitment and sacrifice, and how the show couldn't have happened without her. "This gift goes to Carol," she said. And in the brief silence before the applause began, one voice rang out from a completely different conversation.

"Whom I have slept with," I declared.

William_Henry_Harrison2.png

William Henry Harrison was elected president in 1840. Our annual canoe trip to the Russian River is tentatively planned for Sunday, July 30th. Let's see how these two match up!

Duration

Canoe trip: At 9 AM, we depart from Safeway, located at Church & Market. Barring attacks from the Shawnee tribe, we should arrive in Guerneville by 10:30. If you don't leave from San Francisco, meet up there at 10:30. We're going with a new company, King's Kayak and Canoe Rentals, and doing the Forestville-to-Guerneville run.
King's is located at 16258 Main Street, in Guerneville. Canoes must be returned by 5:30, so the earlier we arrive, the more precious river time we'll have.

William Henry Harrison Presidency: William Henry Harrison was in office for only thirty days, before dying.

Provisions

Canoe trip: Historically, canoeists often pick up lunch at Safeway, before we head up north. If you are a member of the Safeway Club, the savings can be significant. Show up at 8:30 or so if you're planning to do some pre-river shopping.

WHHP: Mostly focused on hard cider. Not a Safeway Club member, but WHH was a Freemason.

Tippecanoe

Canoe trip: Tipping a canoe or kayak will probably will get your stuff wet, which should include water, towels, lunch, and your favorite glass-free river beverage.

WHHP: It's a battle, a nickname, and Tyler, too!

Middle names

Canoe trip: Optional

WHHP: Required

Dealing with the Elements

Canoe trip: Bring sunscreen, river shoes, a swimsuit, a sun-deflecting hat, and a change of clothes.

WHHP: Go to your inauguration in freezing weather without an overcoat, and deliver a two-hour speech, the longest inaugural address in American history. Later, die of pneumonia.

Costs

Canoe trip: A two-person canoe rental costs $50 for the day. A two-person kayak is $45. Solo kayaks are $30. Cash only.

WHHP: A failure to enact Henry Clay's proposed "American System", the expulsion of President John Tyler from the Whig Party, sectional conflicts, and the tyrannical reign of evil twin brother Henry William Harrison.

Notifications

Canoe trip: If you decide to join the canoe fun, let me know ASAP so we can reserve our spots.

WHHP: Before William Henry Harrison died, he laid ill in the White House. Doctors treated him with opium, castor oil, snakes, and various snakeweeds. In other words, Vice President Tyler knew he was a dead man well in advance.

July 30th Itself

Canoe trip: Sun, fun, and friendship.

WHHP: Already dead for nearly four months.

Famous Last Words

Canoe trip: "No thanks. I put on plenty of sunscreen already."

WHHP: "Sir, I wish you to understand the true principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more."

History

Canoe trip:
2005
2004
2003 -
WHHP: Official White House Biography

Clearly, the canoe trip wins. Feel free to express interest, concerns, and spirited defenses of Daniel Webster in the comments.

ucsb graduation, 2006

The Class of 2006 graduated from UC Santa Barbara two weeks ago, including my sister Molly. UCSB holds all of their graduations on one weekend, a decision that led to our family staying 40 miles away, in the town of Buellton, just a few miles from Solvang Danish Village.

Stinky Sunday

It wasn't until arriving at the ceremony that I realized my mistake. In our haste to get out of the hotel and on the road to the university, I had neglected to put on deodorant. At first I thought, "No big deal. It's not that warm. No way this ceremony last more than two hours, right?" But ten minutes in, when I was pinning my upper arms to my sides to avoid releasing my pungent underarm stink into the atmosphere, I realized that I had unwittingly created a Stinky Sunday for myself.

I changed shirts before lunch, but the damage was already done. Stinky Sunday it was.

Class Gift

What would the UC Santa Barbara Class of 2006 donate to the university? I suggested a waterslide. My dad thought it would be a gigantic bong. Instead, they created an endowment to help underprivileged students, and I felt bad about mocking them. I am still holidng out hope that the students will donate something memorable to Isla Vista. Maybe an endowment for the fire department, to deal with burning couches.

Raging

We'd left my sister at about 1:30 the night before, as she promised to "continue to rage" and her roommate told us mimosas were scheduled for 7:30 AM. At this point, Molly had not yet received her official graduation name card. The next morning, when Dad asked if she'd gotten any sleep, her snap reply was, "Absolutely not."
I would not have been surprised to hear the dean announce, "Milly Kane", only to be met with snores from my napping little sister.

Preambles

A girl sang what seemed to me like the slowest national anthem in history. I wish I'd timed it. The crowd of graduates was huge, and the crowd of spectators even more so. The one graduate who stood out had fashioned a large green arrow on a signpost, which read, "Here I am". The dean rhetorically asked graduates, "Don't we have the coolest chancellor in the UC system?" How the hell did they know, I wondered. Also, in regards to the coolness of UC chancellors, see faint praise, damning with.

UCSB is in the top 2% of North American schools, though Dad was more curious as to where they ranked on Playboy's list of top party school. The students followed up their half-hearted applause with delayed cheers when the dean discussed the Supreme Court's affirmative action rulings, probably because the reference came out of nowhere. Dean Non Sequitur continued with his speech, "A List of Random Shit That Happened in the Past Decade", going on to mention Enron, Hurricane Katrina, watching movies on your computer, the 2000 election, the digital revolution (?), Iraq, and cell phones. He concluded by telling graduates, "You're the greatest generation." Then Tom Brokaw and a group of grizzled WW2 vets shot him down in cold blood.

Leis

At every college graduation I have attended in California, there has always been someone outside selling tropical flowers and leis for graduates to wear/hold. Because earning your bachelor's degree is quite similar to disembarking from an Aloha Airlines jet. "What do they give graduates at the University of Hawaii?" asked Kelly. "A bunch of leaves they picked up off the ground," I told her.

Mankiller

The commencement speaker was Wilma Mankiller. Watch out boys, she'll assume leadership of the Cherokee Nation! She's a Mankiller!

The dean's introduction lasted longer than Ms. Mankiller's actual address. He went through her litany of personal tragedy: kidney transplant, lost foot, near-fatal car crash, and a two-day trips to Buellton with her parents. When she finally got up, Ms. Mankiller said, "I get a lot of interesting comments about my name". Her speech related exactly zero of these interesting comments. Instead, she dissed Suze Orman and told the graduates not to conform to society's idea of what being a woman means. Her ultimate advice to the graduates was, "Your duty as graduates is to be respectful", a welcome contrast to Dean Non Sequitur's message: "Because you have cell phones, you must defeat Hitler."

Ms. Mankiller also expressed appreciation that the university had sent an elder from the Chumash tribe to welcome her at the airport. The Chumash tribe will also be welcoming superstar Lionel Richie on July 6th and 7th. Mr. Richie also refuses to conform to society's expectation of what a woman should be.

Secret Codes

My other sisters and I passed time writing each other Hangman puzzles, and communicating in secret code. The complicated code (A=1, B=2, C=3,..., Z=26) was developed by Megan at age 9, when she had run away from home, to the backyard. Megan and I had a great time exchanging coded messages during the ceremony, but Kelly got frustrated by our "nerd code".

"I've got a quick message for you two," she said, "So pay attention. Six. Twenty-One. Three. Eleven. Twenty-five. Fifteen. Twenty-one."

El Pronunciador

At first, I was unimpressed with the dean who read off the names. His reading seemed uninspired, almost robotic. But when he reached a string of Latino surnames, the man absolutely caught fire. He trilled his rs, really lingered over the consonants, and generally injected the proceedings with a great deal of energy. He didn't stop when the Latino names did, either. The string of Japanese names that followed got the same treatment. When they finally subbed in another pronunciador (there were over a thousand names), you could tell the crowd wanted to give him an ovation, like a workhorse starting pitcher being lifted for the closer.

Denoument

El Pronunciador said Molly's name correctly, though you could tell he was disappointed by the diphthong in her last name. We broke with family tradition and did not sound airhorns when we heard her name. The family two rows behind us brought many airhorns. Ms. Mankiller spent the rest of the day playing no-limit poker. The closest anyone came to a Hangman was head and torso, plus one arm. Mimosas didn't actually happen at 7:30, as some girls opted for coffee, and others opted to skip the orange juice. Dad cracked the secret code fairly easily. And I put on deodorant twice, to no avail.

Next week, the Sean Keane comedy roadshow pulls into the San Francisco Comedy club at 50 Mason for two separate performances.

The first is Wednesday, July 5th, when I attempt to advance out of the semi-finals of the SF Comedy Club's competition. The field of 75 has been narrowed down to a mere 25. This means the lineup is all comics that have been battle-tested, tempered by the competitive comedy fire, and are very unlikely to expose their hairy shoulders. Show starts at 8, and admission is $10.

In the semi-finals, you get a full extra minute of comedy time. Here's hoping those extra sixty seconds of comedy gold will help me escape the cull of unfunniness. Probably I will spend that time talking about speech impediments and/or gold doubloons.

My second show comes on July 7th. Previously I claimed to be headlining on that night. That is in fact untrue. I am actually going on third and doing 8-10 minutes, not closing and doing 20-25, as part of a strong array of comics. You can't go wrong with Sam Arno (lesbian ex-wife material is pure gold), or headliner Sheng Wang, that's for sure. Rusty Mahakian, Alfred Muller, and fellow semi-finalist Nitin Kant round out the bill. Sorry to be such an enormous liar about my own participation.

If you can only see one Sean Keane appearance next week, it is regrettable, though completely understandable. Wednesday is obviously the best show to attend, both for the comedy bang for your comedy buck, and the high-powered rush of competition. Of course, I'll also be around on Friday, at least until my set is done and I'm free to explore the many intoxicating wonders of the Tenderloin. Showtime and admission for Friday is also 8 PM/$10.

Look for more info at the official SF Comedy Club website. Normally this is where the standard promotional information goes, but aren't we all sick of that by now? It's stand-up comedy, it's 50 Mason, they have booze, and the club next door is full of whores. What more do you need to know?

Instead, I recommend you check out this informative article from the San Jose Mercury News about how much it sucks to live in San Jose. The key phrase is "Second-rate". Despite what the PayPal engineer in that article says, I will still begin exploring the comedy landscape of the Peninsula on Friday, July 14th at Ron's Farmhouse in Mountain View. I'll return with a full report on how the South Bay nightlife compares to shooting aluminum cans off the fence.

more reasons why i am a nerd

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I've been closing a lot of cases at work this week. It's to the point where my desk is surrounded by a veritable fortress of banker's boxes, and I can barely move my chair. One attorney in the office refers to it as my "cardboard igloo" project.

We have closed many cases over the years, and our box numbers keep rising. When I arrived, we were at Box 1583. Now we are nearing the 2000 mark, and possibly facing the ominous Box 2K crisis. Hopefully our software can be upgraded in time to deal with this issue, before there's a problem with termites or maybe some kind of moth. We must be ever-vigilant against the threat of the Box 2K Bug.

Our recent boxes have been in the 1950-1965 range, which to me means one thing: Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire". Ever since fifth grade, when I memorized the lyrics in one of the most obsessive of my many youthful obsessive-compulsive activities, I have had a lot of affection for that song. Though I no longer lip-sync the song in front of my fifth-grade peers while pretending to drum on a child-size table (which I would eventually upend at the dramatic, "Rock and roller cola wars/I can't take it anymore!" climax), I still can recall the lyrics as well as I ever could.

Which is why I have spent the last few days fighting against my nerdiest impulses. When making the list for Box 1956, I thought to myself, "Princess Grace, Peyton Place, transcripts for a closed case". When doing 1961, I muttered quietly, "Hemingway, Eichmann, correspondence from appellant". Now we're at 1965, which has thankfully ended Joel's year-by-year lyrical correspondences, and given my subconscious nerdery a break.

However, it's only temporary relief. The end of "We Didn't Start the Fire" associations only opens the door for something far, far nerdier: Lord of the Rings associations. For example, once we get to 1974, the official box list will read, "Closed Staff Cases", but in my head, there will be a subtitle that says, (Witch-King of Angmar overruns Kingdom of Arnor).

that old time rock and roll

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That Old Time Rock & Roll

A Short Play by Sean Keane

SETTING: BOG SEGER's bedroom.

(It is early evening. BOB SEGER sits on the floor, stage left, wearing an undershirt and boxer shorts, sifting through a stack of LPs. MRS. SEGER enters from stage right, wearing a stylish black dress and holding up shoes.)

MRS. SEGER: Which pair do you like better - the strappy one or the - Bob, what are you doing? I thought you were getting ready.

BOB: Just taking some old records off the shelf.

MRS. SEGER: Well we're meeting the Hendersons in thirty minutes, so I suggest you hurry up.

BOB SEGER: Right. Where are we going again?

MRS. SEGER: Bob, we've talked about this. We're seeing DJ Oscura spin at the Velvet Room. Amanda and Doug saw him in L.A., and they say he's great. We got our tickets a month ago, Bob.

BOB SEGER: And what kind of music does DJ Oscura play?

MRS. SEGER: (Crossing left) Mostly ambient house. Chillout music.

BOB SEGER: Ambient house, huh? I don't know. Doesn't sound like that's very good for soothing the soul. I think I'll just stay home. Maybe listen to some of these old records.

MRS. SEGER: Do not do this. Bob, we have been planning this night for weeks. You are going to this club with me.

BOB SEGER: (Shakes head sadly) You won't even get me out on the floor.

MRS. SEGER: Bob! You promised you would come with us!

BOB SEGER: Well...there's *one* sure way that would get me to go.

MRS. SEGER: What's that? (Takes hold of his hands) Tell me, Bob.

BOB SEGER: (Smiling) The DJ could start playing old time rock and roll.

MRS. SEGER: (Drops hands in disgust) No, Bob. Not this again.

BOB SEGER: Or funky old soul. Or even the blues.

MRS. SEGER: God, why do you always have to be like this? I can't deal with this attitude anymore! You're living in the past, Bob! I'm tired of listening to Chuck Berry every time we make love.

BOB SEGER: Just trying to lose those awkward middle aged blues, honey.

MRS. SEGER: Don't even start. Not tonight.

BOB SEGER: Honey, what's the big deal? So I like the blues. So I like to reminisce. Is that so bad?

MRS. SEGER: You know, I've been reminiscing, too, Bob. Reminscing about the days of old, when we used to go places, see art, listen to new music. You were different then.

BOB SEGER: Twenty years. Where'd they go?

MRS. SEGER: You're a relic, Bob! You know that? You're old fashioned, and you're over the hill. And I'm sick of it, Bob. Do you hear me? I'm sick of it. Now, I'm gonna finish getting ready to meet Amanda and Doug. And if in ten minutes, you're late for the door, I won't be coming back.

(MRS. SEGER exits, slamming the door behind her.)

(BOB SEGER stares after her for a long while, his face impassive. Finally, he goes back to his pile of records and begins sifting through them once again.)

BOB SEGER: I still like that old time rock and roll.

(BOB SEGER bursts into tears.)

CURTAIN

Page 3:

"I'll sure need some nourishment if I'm going to hassle with a lot of shrunken heads," Frank declared.

Page 5:

"The Andean Indians used to take the heads of their enemies in local warfare," Joe said. "I read up on this once. The skull was removed from the severed head and boiled until it was reduced to the size of a man's fist. Then the eyes were pinned and laced, and the inside treated with hot stones and sand. Through the use of a local herb, the hair remained long and kept its original luster."

"Pretty savage," Tony remarked.

Page 6:

"According to Valez's accent, he's definitely Spanish," Tony said. "I imagine him to be the small, excitable kind."

Page 8

Joe was about to answer, when he caught sight of an arrowhead-like missile streaking through the air directly towards him!

embers.jpg

comedy competition update

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Tonight, at the 50 Mason Comedy Competition, I was among five comics to advance to the semi-finals. Congratulations to Bill Murphy, Kellen Erskine, Nitin Kant, and Mike Winfield. I thought the show was pretty solid, but I was especially impressed by Kellen and Mike. The semi-finals look to be very entertaining.

Much like the World Cup, the important thing is not so much one's performance in the early rounds, but simply advancing to the next stage. I also avoided any bookings, as I kept my cleats down while slide tackling Ali Wong and Nick Leonard. Because I do not play dirty.

Thanks to the fans/friends/family members who came out to the show. Round 2 will be either July 5th or July 12th, which gives fans plenty of time to organize group trips to the show, and to practice songs to sing in the audience. Here's a sample of what I'm talking about:

Oggy-oggy-oggy, oi! oi! oi!
Oggy-oggy-oggy, oi! oi! oi!
Oggy! Oi! Oggy! Oi!
Oggy-oggy-oggy, oi! oi! oi!
Zigger-zagger, zigger-zagger
More jokes about speech impediments and public transportation!

I'll link to the clip of my performance once it becomes available.

UPDATE: Check out a clip of my performance right here.

It's June 19th, which means Happy Juneteenth, and Happy Birthday to Moe Howard, Lou Gehrig, Aage Bohr, Salman Rushdie, Paula Abdul, Garfield, Dirk Nowitzki, and me. Do celebrate accordingly. Hit a friend in the face with a wrench! Consider yourself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth! Describe the action of nucleons orbiting inside an oscillating rotating droplet! Defame the Prophet Muhammed! Say something positive and incoherent about an amateur singer! Catch some Lasagna From Heaven! Be a big German! Over-use exclamation points!

Much like Garfield, I had just one candle on my birthday cake to represent my age this year.

I have come a long way since my younger birthdays, when I would insist on having piping-hot stew for my birthday meal, even though it was often 95 degrees outside. Or when I broke up with my girlfriend the day before she had planned a huge surprise party for me. Or when I got a free birthday cigar at the Tobacco Loft, while my sister's boyfriend informed me that the store "smells like a fucking turd". Or even when I forsook throwing an actual party in favor of helping Cassie assemble IKEA furniture. Good times.

People sometimes ask me, "What do you want for your birthday?" I usually shrug and say, "The love of my family and friends is all I need." That is because it is far too sad to say, "A girlfriend."

Thanks to everyone who helped celebrate or sent birthday wishes. Those of you who didn't are on a list that I am keeping in a secret place, biding my time until I am strong enough to finally make my move. Ah, revenge! A dish, like leftover birthday pizza, best served cold!

Seriously, we have a lot of leftover birthday pizza, so if you want some, just give a holla.

I have two (2) comedy shows to hype up this time. The first is the San Francisco Comedy Club's 3rd Annual Competition. I'm competing in the first round on Wednesday, June 21st. Nothing says "Summer solstice" like watching fifteen comics battle it out for a spot in the next round. It's just like "American Idol", only they drop ten people at the end, and text messaging your vote is not very effective. The show starts at 8 PM at the San Francisco Comedy Club (at 50 Mason), and admission is $7. That's less than four bits per comedian! It's a summer blowout sale!

Here's the official info.

In less competitive news, I will be headlining at that very same San
Francisco Comedy Club on Friday, July 7th, also at 8 PM. I'll be doing a much longer set that evening, and competing only with my inner demons and lofty expectations for myself. Admission to that show is $10, with no drink minimum.

Hope to see you there.

More news at 50 Mason and Spiegelmania.

notes from the neighbors

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There is a dog on this block that barks and barks and barks. We can't tell whose it is, so apologies if not yours.

I work at home and cannot concentrate - my work is suffering. Please do something about this ASAP.

A frustrated neighbor.

- Typed note left in our mailbox.

When we lived back at Ward Street, the drug dealers next door had a collection of broken-down cars. Every afternoon, someone would come outside and rev the Camaro's engine for half an hour or so. There was also a van with a hair-trigger alarm. The alarm would blare at irregular intervals, if the battery died, or if one of the many neighborhood cats walked too close. Sometimes the car alarm would go off while one of the drug dealers was revving the Camaro, to create a low-income automotive symphony.

I don't really miss that place.

Gene eventually decided to do something about the car alarm situation. He wrote a note, offering his help in disabling the alarm, or fixing the van's electrical system. Unlike our workaholic dog-hating neighbor, Gene left his name, address, and phone number on the note.

Not the note Gene left:

There is a car alarm in this driveway that blares and blares and blares. I watch three or four Netflix DVDs every day and cannot concentrate - my collection of heist films is suffering. Please call me up late at night to harass me ASAP.

A week later, Big Jimmy called up at about 3 AM to discuss the note. He seemed very agitated, quite possibly high on the very cocaine he sold out of his home. Big Jimmy was mad at the note. It wasn't the fact that a note was left that irked Big Jimmy, or that someone had complained about the car alarm. No, he was offended that Gene had not put a date on the note. We never reached a consensus before the phone was hung up angrily.

About a month later, Big Jimmy was shot in the buttocks. The undercover Berkeley police officer who told us about the shooting could not confirm or deny that the shooting was car-alarm-related, but he did implicitly endorse Big Jimmy's attempt at vigilante justice. The officer didn't have any leads on who the assailant was, but he did assure us that "this kind of thing tends to work itself out, in-house."

Not a phone message left on an anonymous neighbor's answering machine:

Arf arf arf. Ruff ruff ruff. Arf arf no date arf arf.

Often, there is more to what we communicate to others than what we actually say. At other times, there is far less. Here are some scenes from a recent trip to Costco. The subtext has been placed in parentheses.

Scene 1

Christine: Sean, I have to ask - is that your body wash in our shower? Oil of Olay, with shea butter?
(Please say that it is not.)

Sean: Yes, that's mine.
(I don't even know what shea butter is.)

Christine: OK, I just wanted to make sure I hadn't bought it and then forgotten about it.
(Sean, you are a girl.)

Gene: Sean, you are a girl.


Scene 2

Sean: You're buying five pounds of strawberries? And two pounds of blackberries?
(Those berries will rot in our refrigerator until I eventually throw them away.)

Christine: Yes. I am making an effort to eat more foods that are rich in antioxidants.
(I wish to avoid cancer.)

Gene: Those berries are going to rot.


Scene 3

Gene: Sometimes I wish I owned a restaurant, so I could take advantage of the savings of buying in bulk.
(Yes. That would be awesome.)

Christine: I don't think restaurant owners shop at Costco. They have their own suppliers.
(Please do not buy a 15-gallon drum of soy sauce.)

Sean: Gene, you know what would be awesome? If you bought a 15-gallon drum of soy sauce.

aliwong.jpg


Saturday night's alright for comedy. And fighting. But this Saturday, June 10th, we're going to focus on the comedy, at the San Francisco Comedy Club at 50 Mason. I'm gonna get about as oiled as a diesel train, and do a ten-minute set in the showcase. Saturday's headliner is the inimitable Ali Wong, who is:

a) a comedic sensation
b) surprisingly (and delightfully) foul-mouthed
c) pictured above

Also on the bill is Rusty Mahakian. My mom does not enjoy his jokes about vaginas. The official show announcement is after the jump.

Have you ever wanted to see Sean Keane perform live, but been unable to scrape together $10 and a BART ticket to get out to 50 Mason? Maybe you live in another state. Maybe you have been deployed overseas as part of the military. Maybe your crippling agoraphobia has kept you from participating as fully as you'd like to in the local stand-up comedy scene.

Well, Rooftop Comedy has got you covered. The newly-liquor-licensed San Francisco Comedy Club has partnered with Rooftop comedy to make recordings of all its shows available online. Not to dissuade anyone from attending Saturday's show, but if you can't make it, you can check it out as early as Sunday on the site.

Right now, you can check out my headlining spot at 50 Mason from the show, April 21st. It's pretty much the whole Sean Keane comedy club experience, minus my pungent, musky personal aroma. Join the 38 others who have checked out the clip so far and be literally blown away, in the figurative sense.

San Francisco has a lot of political mudslinging, especially when it gets to be election time. However, I was surprised to get this piece of propaganda in the mail, which I assume is a response to The Pissed Off Voter Guide put out by The League of Pissed Off Voters. Apparently that group has made some enemies. I tried to preserve the original formatting as best I could.

The Pissed-Off-At-The-Pissed-Off-Voter-Guide Voter Guide


hellno.bmp

Prop A: Homicides Are Just Fine

Our city is facing a crisis of homicides and gun violence, with young people in low-income communities (like Western Addition, Mission, and Bayview/Hunter’s Point) particularly impacted. Prop A creates a citizens council to address the systemic causes of homicide. This council will be in charge of $10 million a year for the next three years for innovative violence prevention programs. Prop A is a critical step in addressing homicide in our city proactively and thoughtfully. However, the Pissed Off Voter Guide was way too damn smug about the whole thing.

Prop B: Ellis Act Eviction Disclosure

Prop B requires real estate sellers to tell potential buyers if there were any Ellis Act evictions on a property, and if any of the tenants were disabled or elderly. Oh, boo hoo, grandma had to move. Cry me a river, POVG.

Prop 82: Universal Preschool

Prop 82 provides free preschool to all kids by raising taxes only 1.7% for only the super-rich. Super-rich? Universal preschool? This whole thing sounds like a crazy sci-fi fantasy to us. Let's focus on the statewide preschool before we start raising taxes to buy coloring books and snacks for space aliens.


Endorsements

Steve Westly for Governor

Phil Angelides is the anti-Arnold. While Arnold has protected his rich corporate donors, Angelides has a strong history of standing up for children, teachers, and workers. However, he has never fought a cyborg from the future, never destroyed an alien killing machine in Central America, never become pregnant as part of a hilarious scientific experiment. Has Steve Westly? The Pissed Off Voter Guide would rather you didn't know.

John Garamendi for Lieutenant Governor

What's more fun to say? "Speier" (bo-ring!) Or "Garamendi" (way more exciting!) Maybe if you weren't so pissed off, you could consider these crucial pronunciation issues more rationally.

Fiona Ma for State Assembly District 12

We'll let the Pissed Off Voter Guide make our case here:

"Janet Reilly may not have much political experience... you’d never...hear Janet Reilly talk about her plans for fixing California... She's against...tenant protection, and would consider...the death penalty...for...16 and 17 year olds. Meanwhile, her opponent, Fiona Ma, accomplished...a...record on tenants' rights, supports...Sacramento...lowering the voting age."

Wow, seems like the choice here is clear. Ma for Assembly.

the new navy

In December of 2004, Navy played in the Emerald Bowl, a college football exhibition played at AT&T née SBC née Pac Bell Park. As the game approached, San Francisco began to fill up with sailors like it was Pride Weekend. The ballpark is not far from my office, so I got to see this firsthand.

My walk to work takes me past 4th & Market, where there is an Old Navy superstore. (Or a regular store. I might be trying to infuse my walk to work with a grandeur it does not truly possess.) On the day before Navy was set to face off against New Mexico, I rounded the corner to see four sailors, in full uniform, staring into the front windows of Old Navy. They seemed fascinated, but hesitant to enter.

They were interrupted by an older man in uniform, presumably a superior officer, who yelled at them to keep walking. I like to think he wanted to keep them from going AWOL or enlisting in the Old Navy. "You've got plenty of pockets already! Focus on the New Navy!"

That discipline helped. Navy eventually won the Emerald Bowl 34-19. Their opponent, the New Mexico Lobos, had a few crucial players make the same mistake the sailors nearly made. Unfortunately, there was no superior officer to keep them away from Old Mexico. And they paid the price.

I'm not gonna lie. There are plenty of monsters of whom I am afraid. But The Mummy is not one of them.

First of all, since he's a dead Egyptian priest, or pharaoh, he can't be that tall. I'm thinking 5'2", 5'3", tops. That's about four feet shorter than Frankenstein, eighteen inches below Count Dracula.

Dracula can turn into a bat. The Wolfman is a wolf. The Mummy's got lots of scarabs. Tiny scarab beetles. Oh, but the beetles are sacred, you say? They might be sacred, but I sure ain't scared of them. That's right, Mummy. I dissed you with an anagram.

I can't imagine being truly intimidated by the Mummy. So powerful and versatile - how will I ever find a weakness? Oh, right, the tattered ancient bandages wrapped around his millenium-old undead body. The all-powerful Mummy can be stopped by nothing short of a Bic lighter, or perhaps a Vornado.

Man, do you think his sarcophagus smells like shit or what?

The main reason that I am not afraid of The Mummy is that I have never looted a tomb, never paid someone to loot a tomb, never purchased sacramental canopic jars on the archaeological black market. And I carry a Zippo everywhere, for you can never be too careful.

Recently I went over to the lovely apartment of Emalie and Louise on a Sunday night. My instructions were to bring over a scary movie. After some frantic phone consultation among the Blockbuster stacks, I decided on Wes Craven's Red Eye. After that poor decision, I made a worse one: I purchased some novelty candy.

The items I bought were a candy pacifier and an intriguing item called the Lollipop Paint Shop (patent pending). Emalie chose the pacifier, leaving the Paint Shop to Louise.

lollipop.jpg

The Lollipop Paint Shop (patent pending) is made up of a miniature paint brush, which is actually a lollipop, and a miniature paint bucket, which is full of fruit-flavored sugar. To enjoy, you dip the paintbrush into the bucket, and then lick the brush. You know, just like real painting.

From what I could garner from Louise's reactions, the Lollipop Paint Shop was not tasty at any point. Only obligation kept Louise from throwing the Lollipop Paint Shop (patent pending) into the trash after her first taste. Since it was a gift, she made the pained effort to keep eating, actually cringing at a few bites/licks.

If the taste weren't bad enough, the Lollipop Paint Shop (patent pending) is made up of toxic materials. The back of the package contains a lengthy warning about the perils of this candy:

If it spills on carpet, DO NOT pour water on it. Soak the spot in vinegar and professionally steam-clean the carpet. Keep adding vinegar as necessary.

If this is what it does to fabrics, imagine what it could do to your esophagus! Perhaps this is why they don't have that patent yet.

Louise's tongue was painted red by the time she gave up, so she was chugging vinegar for the last twenty minutes of the film, just to be safe. Even though this candy was a disaster, it was ultimately still better than Red Eye. Louise threw away the Lollipop Paint Shop (patent pending) after 15 minutes; Red Eye lasted for an hour and a half. Given sufficient vinegar and steam cleaning, you could remove the Lollipop Paint Shop (patent pending) from nearly anything, but no amount of alcohol or electroshock therapy can ever remove Red Eye from our memories.

bless you

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Saying "Bless you" after someone sneezes can be problematic, and not just for licensed ministers. Being a member of the clergy has taught me that many Americans are simply uncomfortable with their spirituality. So uncomfortable that they simply don't want to hear, "Bless you", even if it means their soul might escape through the nose.

"Gesundheit" is a secular expression, but it's in German. It's hard to sound comforting in German. After watching a dubbed version of Titanic, and hearing the faux-Dicaprio seem to shout at the faux-Winslet, my German-speaking friend concluded that it was impossible to sound loving while speaking German. Even saying, "Good health", sounds like an order. "GesundHEIT!" Maybe you can scare an escaping soul back to the body?

Ultimately, the sentiment we're all trying to express is, "Aww, you sneezed." Why not go with that? And if you still want to keep it spiritual, try, "Oh God, you sneezed!"

new sean keane located

There's a new Sean Keane in town, if by "new" you mean "20 years old" and by "town" you mean, "Southern Connecticut by way of Guelph, Ontario". He's a soccer player, a ladies man, and a handsome devil.

The Sean Keanes Around The World page has been updated to reflect this shift in the Seankeaniverse.

See if you can guess who he is in the team photo. (Hint: He's #15):

soccersean.jpg

(Read Part 1)

Kelly and I drove to Santa Barbara and back within 36 hours this weekend. Since neither of us were smart enough to bring CDs for the road trip, the trip became an education in Central California radio.
Here are some songs that stood out:

Superchic[k], "We Live":

Superchic[k] is a highly energetic Christian group that sounds like a lighter, straighter, more devout version of Le Tigre. The brackets in the name suggest that the band may also be super chic, though the lead singer claims Superchic[k] means, "getting to that place where you're secure in who you are, and you're secure in God."

When we're driving, Kelly and I are most interested in singalongable songs. "We Live" fits that requirement, with its highly infectious chorus:

We live we love
We forgive and never give up
Cause the days we are given are gifts from above
And today we remember to live and to love

If you like No Doubt and Black Eyed Peas, but your mom only lets you listen to praise music, or you just like little-used punctuation, Superchic[k] might be the band for you.

Bubba Sparxx, "Ms. New Booty":

(Note: This song should not be confused with Mos Def's "Ms. Fat Booty" or new Buffalo Bills defensive back Ashton Youboty.)

I've been an aficionado of Mr. Sparxx's work in the past, and this track did not disappoint. The song is 75% chorus, with three different sections that repeat between verses. The Ying Yang Twins are along to sing "Booty booty booty rockin' everywhere!" over and over. Bubba Sparxx says, "Get it ripe, get it right, get it tight" quite a bit, too. One verse is entirely whispered. Kelly and I pretty much learned all the lyrics by our first listen, but it came on the radio twice more during the weekend.

I like this song because I recognize its godawful qualities, and yet I still sang along with the part about hitting the player's club every time it came around.

Jeremy Camp, "This Man":

All Christian rock sounds like Nickelback to me. I had a tendency to treat Christian rock stations the same way I did intermittent rain. That is, I'd keep the wipers/radio on at a level so low that I'd forget they were on at all. Then Kelly would get annoyed at the squeaking/Jesusness and punch me in the arm.

This song asks the listener whether they would take the place of "this man" (Jesus), and would they take the nails from his hands? My answers would be No, and Yes.

Aaron Shust, "My Savior My God":

My favorite Christian rock song of the drive. According to Wikipedia, "My Savior My God" was #1 on six inspirational music charts simultaneously back in April. The chorus is catchy and (more importantly) very easy to learn:

My savior lives, my savior loves,
My savior's always there for me
My God He was, my God He is
My God is always gonna be

I wish we had heard this song more than once. Kelly and I are still talking about it, and leaving each other voicemails about the loving/living nature of our savior.

LeAnn Rimes, "Something's Gotta Give":

This is a country song that was playing on three different stations at the same time when we were driving past Atascadero. An announcer claimed the single had a chance to displace Bon Jovi at the top of the country music charts. That sounded like an aural hallucination brought on by sleep deprivation or a blatant lie, but but it's true. Bon Jovi was #1 on the country charts.

FYI, Bon Jovi is down to #10, and Ms. Rimes is at the #3 spot. There are no other rock bands in the top 10, but Tim McGraw is #5 with a cover of a Ryan Adams song. On the Christian charts, Aaron Shust is #2, while the top spot is held by Casting Crowns with, "Praise You In This Storm".

Friday night, my cousin had a graduation celebration in the East Bay. Saturday morning, another cousin was getting married in Santa Barbara. As we are both good relatives, as well as veterans of two-day Southern California road trips, my sister Kelly and I attended both events. At 5 AM on Saturday, I regretted the decision immensely.

My two cousins are from opposite sides of the family, which made the parallels in their celebrations a little bit spooky. The graduation and wedding receptions both had Hawaiian themes, though not a single particpant had any Polynesian heritage whatsoever. I witnessed two different hula dancing exhibitions in sixteen hours. One revolved around forcing the graduate to do embarrassing dances, while the other revolved around making the groom and his brothers do embarrassing dances. Grass skirts were less exciting than they should have been at both parties, destroying some of my Calicentric fantasies about what hula dancers are really like.

Both parties also used songs by surfer-troubadour Jack Johnson for key emotional moments (first dance, slide show of childhood photos). Both buffets featured roast pork. Both bars had rum drinks and a lot of pineapple juice. My sleep deprivation and driving fatigue made me paranoid that someone was fucking with me. Someone like Thomas Sullivan Magnum, IV.

Where the wedding set itself apart was with the chocolate fountain. It was absolutely magical. Melted, delicious chocolate, cascading in a waterfall of sugary goodness! Strawberries and marshmallows to dip in the fountain! Diabetics had to avert their eyes, their pancreata twitching in wonder.

I highly recommend a chocolate fountain for any special event, or even to sit in your home so you can look at it and dream. It's a solid, a liquid, and a dream, all at once, which a scientist would refer to as a "chocolloid".

But Sean, you might say. Doesn't a colloid have to be suspended in a medium? Look, there's nothing medium about a chocolate fountain. Those things are outright awesome. Any faux-Hawaiian will tell you the same.

nash bridges pretends to be gay

Here are some selections of dialogue for an episode of Nash Bridges where Nash and Cheech pretend to be gay in order to solve a crime.


Cheech: We set up shop, establish a reputation in the gay community. Then, we come out.

Nash Bridges: We come OUT?

Cheech: We come out, as straight.

Nash Bridges: But we're already in...out? Oh, I just don't know anymore!

(SUBTEXT: Nash is not gay. Cheech is less un-gay. Modern notions of sexual identity confuse Nash Bridges.)


Nash Bridges: That's in the Castro District. You got an address?

Informant: 475 Hancock.

Nash Bridges: (Raises an eyebrow)

(SUBTEXT: That street name sounds like "Hand cock". Nash is not gay.)


Cheech: This is my partner, Nash Bridges.

Leather daddy: How long have you been together?

Cheech: 20 years.

(SUBTEXT: Whoa, "partners"? Are Cheech and Nash gay?)


Nash Bridges: Open your eyes, Pocohontas. I'm a cop.

"Pocohontas": I like cops.

Nash Bridges: I'm busy. And you're annoying me. Is there any part of that you don't understand? (Pocohontas shakes his head) Good.

(SUBTEXT: Hey fags! Stop hitting on Nash! Not gay!)

more on the da vinci code

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Since my last screed, I have done some more research into The Da Vinci Code. I still haven't read the book, but I did play a few rounds of the online game. The game revolves around descrambling anagrams. If so, The Da Vinci Code might be the historical mystery best suited to my skills.

My greatest talent is rearranging letters. If such a job were available, I would leap at the chance to do the Jumble professionally. Going by my performance at the online game, I would be quite an asset to a team devoted to unraveling an elaborate Catholic conspiracy. Especially if there is an albino involved. I could really bond with an albino about our mutual sunscreen requirements.

The only way this would be a better mystery for me is if the art-and-Scripture also involved sports trivia and the lyrics to "We Didn't Start the Fire".

A Scene From The Billy Joel Code

Audrey Tatou: Unscrambled, the inscription on the gold record says, "1984 World Series".

Sean: That was Padres versus Tigers.

Audrey Tatou: "Padres" is Spanish for "priest". Billy Joel must be referring to the Vatican here!

Sean: But the Tigers won that Series, four games to one.

Audrey Tatou: Who was the MVP of that Series?

Sean: Alan Trammell.

Audrey Tatou: Any anagrams of that name?

Sean: "All mar Mantle."

Audrey Tatou: Does that mean...the New York Yankees have been behind all of this?

Sean: It all makes sense! Billy Joel starts "We Didn't Start the Fire" with 1949 - the first year of the Yankees' five consecutive world championships. 1963 is the last year to get individual treatment in the song, and it's the year after the last title of the Mickey Mantle teams.

Audrey Tatou: Oh my God! There's something else surprising I have to tell you!

TO BE CONTINUED

choosing roadside assistance

When you're a driver, having reliable roadside assistance is a must. That's why I joined AAA. I almost signed up with AA by mistake. That would have been a disaster.

Sean: Hi, my car won't start. Dead battery, I think. I must have fallen asleep with the headlights on.

AA: Can I have your card number and the name of your sponsor?

Sean: My sponsor? Well, I talked to a guy named Steven S. on the phone when I signed up. Maybe Steven F.? I don't know. I was pretty wasted.

AA: OK, we'll send him out there with some coffee and a personal testimonial.

Sean: And jumper cables, right? Because, I can't really do anything here without a jump start.

AA: So, what you're saying is, you admit to being powerless over your engine trouble, and that your driving has become unmanageable?

Sean: Yeah, pretty much. God, this car drives me crazy!

AA: You mean, only a power greater than yourself could restore you to sanity?

Sean: Um...

AA: Don't worry. When you signed up for AA, you turned your automotive worries over to the care of our organization, as you understood it. Now, repeat after me: My name is Sean.

Sean: My name is Sean.

AA: And I need roadside assistance.

Sean: And I need...roadside assistance. (breaks down crying)

Living in the city has made me unable to give effective driving directions. It's because I am so rarely in a car. I travel underground like a gopher, emerging into the sunlight to immediately hop on a bus. Street names aren't important; station names are. I know infinite permutations of numbers for bus lines, but that only makes it easier to ignore the actual names of the streets the busses drive on.

When someone asks how to get to my house, talk of freeway exits only confuses and frightens me. My directions invariably start with, "First, go underground." When I do suggest routes, my directions often shadow the MUNI routes for the same area. I figure, if anyone knows the quickest way to my neighborhood from the Sunset, it's the N-Judah.

But soon I will be a driver again. Will I get lost, and end up desperately following the MUNI wires, like Hansel and/or Gretel and their bread crumbs? Will my inability to navigate become my downfall?

No. Inability to find parking spaces will be my downfall.

(Read Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5)

Our trip to L.A. was all about the bar mitzvah for G-Duck's nephew, who I will refer to as the Duckling. Michele's questions and comments about bar mitvahs seem like a pretty good jumping-off point for this tale of manhood and Jewhood.

Bar mitzvahs, as you may or may not be aware, do not involve cutting off any part of a boy’s penis.

Michele is correct. The Duckling's Torah portion was from Leviticus, so there was much talk about sacrifice. None of the talk from the rabbi nor the Duckling involved sacrificing one's foreksin. Or testicles.

Bar mitzvahs do not celebrate eunuchs.

I think that a eunuch who had reached the appropriate age could be welcome in a synagogue. The eunuch would certainly have something useful to say about sacrifice at the very least. The Duckling mostly talked about switching positions on a soccer field. He'd sacrificed his role of scorer in order to help the team on defense. Would a eunuch have displayed such selflessness? My gut feeling is no.

The Duckling also made reference to sacrifice flies, taking the position that G-d is a fan of productive outs. "No, that's fine. You swing. I'll just bunt the runners over, and then go sit in the dugout. Like a dog."

Possibly castrati. The bar mitzvah boy does have to sing at one point after all.

One wonderful aspect of the bar mitzvah is that the honoree has to sing for extended stretches, at the same time his voice is changing. It is rare that you get to hear an 8th grader read an essay out loud, as he effectively does with his Torah speech, and even rarer that you hear him sing in a foreign language while his voice cracks. There was some talk afterward that a Beverly Hills bar mitzvah does not require as much singing as in other locations. After I have a few more bar mitzvahs under my belt, I will attempt to confirm or deny this dastardly rumor.

I do understand the foot-stomping good time of 'Hava Nagila' which I've had stuck in my head all morning as I thought about Sean in LA stepping on champagne flutes wrapped in a napkin and being hefted around in a chair with his bride by his side.

There was no 'Hava Nagila', nor was there chair-hefting. I was relieved, because being lifted in a chair might have made the yarmulke slip off my oversized Celtic dome, and that would have been sacrilegious.

I'm willing to bet that boys who haven't passed their bar mitzvah yet fancy the cooch even before they can be religiously termed 'men'.

The Duckling did not discuss the cooch. Perhaps that was another sacrifice he made.

the office boyfriend

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Just a few days ago, I learned that I am considered the "Office Boyfriend" where I work. I wasn't able to figure out exactly what that means, but I think an important part of that position involves not having a girlfriend, neither in the office nor outside.

Why am I the Office Boyfriend? It might be that I occasionally bake when it's someone's birthday. Occasionally I go out places with boyfriended co-workers, sometimes to see performances featuring other boyfriended co-workers. I am non-threatening, as well as consistently clean, with an inoffensive personal odor. Often I am seen carrying heavy things around the office.

I also apologize a lot.

This is not merely a heterosexist look at the Office Boyfriend role. For a brief time, I was a different kind of office boyfriend. When I first moved to San Francisco, I didn't have cable. But a week after moving west, I was homesick for baseball on television, and stopped in at the Pilsner Inn after work, not realizing it was a gay bar. I chilled there, completely oblivious, and even ended up having a beer with one of my co-workers, inadvertantly lending myself an air of sexual ambiguity. It is important that anyone in the office can project onto Office Boyfriend.

(Overheard walking home from MUNI)

(Two handsome men with Southern accents walk arm in arm.)

Man 1: It's in Along Came Polly.

Man 2 Look, Ah don't want to hear it.

Man 1: OK, Ben Stiller's friend - Ben Stiller's in it. Ben Stiller's friend has this moment.

Man 2: Stop! Ah don't want to hear it!

Man 1: And it's - have you ever heard of a "shart"?

Man 2: You keep talkin', and Ah'm going home right now. Right now!

Man 1: Well, all Ah'm saying is, I think you should see the film.

the grand master transfer station

I was riding home on BART on a Thursday night when the station operator came on the intercom to warn us about potential terror attacks on BART. He reminded us that we were all bomb detectors, so if we saw anything suspicious, we should move away and report it.

12:45 on a Thursday night is the time when the BART system is most vulnerable to Al Qaeda, in my opinion, so this was a well-timed advisory. If you blow up the last train of the night, that means BART only has six hours to clean up the track before the trains begin running again. You could take out nearly forty passengers. I searched our car pretty thoroughly, but luckily, there were no bombs.

The train operator said something rather odd in reference to our impending arrival at MacArthur. He told us that we needed to switch trains if we wanted to go to Pittsburgh/Bay Point or San Francisco, because MacArthur was the "grandmaster transfer point". Not just the master transfer point, but the grandmaster. MacArthur must have regularly defeated Bay Fair and 12th Street Oakland Civic Center, transfer points of "master" status, but lesser abilities.

I still can't get over that name. "Grandmaster". So old school! MacArthur has a lot more street cred than many passengers realize. It reminds me of all those jams MacArthur Station released back in the day:

Plexiglas, everywhere
If you exit where you enter you pay excursion fare

Don't push me 'cause I'm close to the third rail
If you trespass you'll go to jail
Ha ha ha ha ha

So, props to MacArthur. I fully expect P. Diddy to sample the Fremont line's timetable for his next big single.

Since my previous, perhaps-too-hasty post, I have reconsidered my stance on BART and naming rights. I still think they could sell naming rights to different lines, but I think I was too quick to dismiss the possibility of getting sponsors for the individual stations. Tell me these wouldn't be great potential partnerships right here:

Land o' Lakes Merritt

Honda Civic Center

International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union City (Local 6)

Juicy Fruitvale

America West Oakland

Pleasant Hills Brothers Coffee

McDLT-Arthur (The Fremont/San Francisco side stays cool, while the Richmond/Pittsburgh-Bay Point side stays hot)

Roc-a-Ridge

M&M-barcadero

El Cerrito Del Taco

The Castro is a lovely neighborhood, full of nice people, fine restaurants, a plentiful array of bars and clubs, coffee shops, and at least twenty different stores that sell lube. As a straight man living in the Castro, I like it, but feel that I'm not properly taking advantage of all it has to offer. It's like being Muslim, and living in a great neighborhood where all of the stores are made out of pork.

Recently, I have noticed that the Castro is also home to a wide variety of avian life. These birds may be indigenous to the Castro, or they may have moved to the area to find a safe, tolerant neighborhood with birds of the same persuasion. That particular persuasion seems to involve screeching, all the time, but particularly at night. With help from the Audubon Society, I have categorized some of the fowl that inhabit the trees of my fair neighborhood.

The Yipporwill: Named after the "Yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip" sound it makes, this bird can be found in a tree that is twenty-five feet away from my front door. It doesn't travel much, preferring to stay in its tree and sing at the top of its tiny yipporill lungs from 10 PM until sunrise.

The Throated Viper: As a survival mechanism, this bird has developed an uncanny ability to imitate the natural sounds of its environment. The throated viper mimics the call of the Viper 160XV Deluxe alarm system, from its ear-shattering klaxon call to its throbbing two-note sonata of warning. During mating system, disoriented throated vipers can be seen amorously descending upon burglarized parked cars in search of a mate, and then shitting on them. Mostly, the throated viper is content to sit in a tree near my house and sing all night.

The Bear Pigeon: Like a regular pigeon, only heavily-feathered and extremely fat. Popular with chubby-chasing birds of prey.

The Screaming Scream Gull: Possibly a native of a loud, ocean habitat, the screaming scream gull is a nocturnal beast. This particular species of scream gull stands out from its scream gull brethren due to its notably loud and resonant scream. There is a thriving community of screaming scream gulls about half a block away from my apartment.

The Succubus Sparrow: Perhaps the loudest of all Castro birds, it is unknown whether the nocturnal succubus sparrow actually eats food. Some ornithologists posit that the succubus sparrow sustains itself solely by energy drawn from human insomnia.

corporate sponsorship for BART

BART has been slowly increasing its in-train advertising. We're currently at late-80's Candlestick Park levels of billboards, the era before they actually had GAP ads on the playing field. I expect that BART's Poetry In Motion series will be replaced by ads for housing developments or the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters in the next year or so, moving them closer to mid-90's Candlestick Park-era selling out.

Where BART is limited, compared to money machines like professional sports stadiums, is the naming rights. The Giants can sell the name of their stadium, and change it every three years, and no one really gives a damn. Banks and telecommunications companies buy and sell one another, power companies go bankrupt, cable operators fall apart due to internal corruption, but teams don't really care as long as someone is signing a check.

BART doesn't have a main facility like a sports team does. The station names are dictated by geography. However, I do think that BART could sell the naming rights to the individual lines. The geography doesn't matter as much there. It's not like anyone ever goes to Fremont anyway.

My first suggestion? Get KTVU to pony up some dough to make the north-bound East Bay line into the Dennis Richmond Line. The ratings for the Ten O'Clock News will skyrocket. KPIX won't know what hit them.

The opportunities for cross-promotion are endless. Leslie Griffith's face adorning tips for avoiding terrorism at Lake Merritt. Brian Banmiller reporting on business from El Cerrito Plaza. And every Sunday, on one lucky train, Fred Inglis walks through all the cars without any pants on.

heroes.jpg


Some say the real heroes in America are our soldiers. Others claim it's the police and fire departments that display heroism. Personally, I feel that everyday heroes are unacknowledged. And by "everyday heroes", I mean heroes that have a direct impact on a regular person's life. And by "a regular person's life", I mean "my life".

What I'm really saying is, I am a hero.

Heroic Act #1

I decided to walk around my neighborhood for no real reason, aside from concerns about my impending morbid obesity. About twenty feet from my house, I ran into an incredibly intoxicated woman who asked if I would take her to the men's room.

At first, I thought this was a crazy pick-up line. Perhaps I was looking finer than I thought in my gray hoodie and nondescript pants. I was ready to explain that I was flattered, but I only just met her, and I didn't want to take advantage of her. Then I realized she meant The Men's Room, the bar about a hundred yards away.

As I propped her up and walked her down the street, she told me a cab driver had tried to rob her that night, and that her girlfriend had beat her up. Me and the drunk woman bonded. She told me about being displaced by Hurricane Katrina and how spelling was tougher in Louisiana, because of the "eau"s and "eaux"s.

She kept dropping her cell phone and cigarettes, and at one point she sat down and started crying on the sidewalk. Even that wasn't such a big deal. Drunk people sit on the sidewalk in our neighborhood all the time. I got her to the bar safe and sound, and she told me it was a shame that I didn't have a boyfriend, since I deserved one.

That nice moment was only marred slightly by her subsequent request that I "hook her up", presumably with cocaine. She pointed out my runny nose as a clear sign that I "knew where to get stuff" (though I am such a square, I've never even seen real-life cocaine). Maybe Louisiana doesn't have seasonal allergies? I don't know.

Heroic Act #2

Again walking home at a very late hour, I came upon a car stuck on the median at Noe and Market. The driver insisted that he was sober, and I believed him, though it was a weird scene. Old white guy in his fifties, riding with a Latino kid who looked about 20 and spoke no English, looking to find Castro Street when they drove into the concrete median.

I was walking through the crosswalk anyway, so I suggested they put on their hazard lights. It's a dangerous enough intersection as is: three streets converging, six possible turns, plus streetcar tracks. I've still never seen anyone hit the median, but given recent events, I'm grateful that the car didn't explode.

Anyway, my simple suggestion turned into an offer to help push the car. I tried pushing, and then lifting, with the kid, but we made no progress. That's when Castro MacGyver arrived. He pulled behind the stuck car (putting on his hazards) and immediately took control of the situation. He barked orders, and quickly came up with a series of plans. Turn the wheel. Push it like this. He produced an iron chain and hooked it to the trapped vehicle. Finally, he got out a hydraulic jack and physically lifted the car off the barrier. When the driver tentatively suggested calling the police or AAA, Castro MacGyver looked at him like he was a disgrace to masculinity itself.

I have no mechanical aptitude whatsoever, but that is actually a bonus for situations like this. I know so little that I don't argue or suggest alternative strategies. I just lower my head and devote my energies to pushing and lift heavy things. This is also why I am such an asset for moving furniture with Gene.

The car jack plan worked. Me and the chico shoved the Honda off the barrier while the driver thanked us profusely. Driver and compañero exited, presumably to make love and/or crash into other traffic barriers.

Along with my mild deltoid strain, I had a question. How was it that Castro MacGyver knew so much about how to free the car, and was traveling with so much equipment to make it happen?

"I'm from Detroit," he explained, and drove away as easily as he'd arrived. Which was pretty easily, since he hadn't jammed his car onto the median like a jackass.

how early is too early? part 2

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So, there's a time and place for drinking. More important to me is the appropriate time for eating.

Years ago, Bagel Bites ran an ad asserting, "Pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, pizza at suppertime. With pizza on a bagel, you can eat pizza anytime." Catchy? Yes. Accurate? I say no.

Pizza in the evening, sure. I think even the lactose-intolerant would agree that, if there's ever a time to eat pizza, it's the evening. Pizza in the morning is acceptable as well - but it really has to be cold pizza. Or re-heated pizza. You can't make new pizza in the morning.

Is it different while watching a sporting event? I'm going to have to say no. A hot dog or hamburger at 9 AM is much less acceptable than a beer, or even a shot of whiskey. If ketchup and mustard are involved, you really have to wait until after noon.

"The earlier he starts eating pizza on a bagel, the more likely he is to abuse it."

Here are some questions to ask yourself about your Bagel Bites abuse:

  • Do you eat Bagel Bites in the morning?
  • Do you eat Bagel Bites alone when you feel angry or sad?
  • Does your Bagel Bites consumption worry your family?
  • Do you ever make Bagel Bites after telling yourself you won't?
  • Do you ever forget what you did while you were eating Bagel Bites?
  • Do you ever borrow money or go without things in order to buy Bagel Bites?
  • Do you ever drink until your supply of Bagel Bites is gone?
  • Have you ever lost friends because of your use of Bagel Bites?

The more of these questions that apply, the more likely it is that you have a problem with Bagel Bites. Set a goal, and resolve to eat Bagel Bites only after 12 PM. If you feel the urge to have Bagel Bites in the morning, make yourself a cocktail instead.

how early is too early? part 1

Spotted on a billboard about teenage drinking:

"The earlier he starts drinking alcohol, the more likely he is to abuse it."

Unfortunately, this billboard doesn't give us a suggested time. What's too early for him? 5:00? 4:30? Earlier?

In my book, it depends on when he finishes work. If you're off the clock for the day, there's nothing wrong with having a beer. But, the cocktail hour is so ingrained in our collective social consciousness, it's tough to imagine that a billboard would claim that happy hours cause alcoholism.

On the weekend, the magic time is 12:00. Various family members have expressed variations on the sentiment, "If it's after noon, I can have a beer without it meaning that I'm an alcoholic." I agree. However, sporting events can wind the acceptable drinking clock further forward. Are you an alcoholic for popping open a beer at 10 AM if there's a football game on? It's a complicated calculus. Did you have anything to eat first? Is this a playoff game? Does the game have postseason implications? Did Joe Ayoob throw an interception on the team's first offensive drive?

The earliest I have had a beer, after waking up, is probably 5 AM. "Sean, you are an alcoholic!" scream my friends/voices in my head. However, this was the World Cup final. If I were in Germany, having just one beer in the first half would have branded me a Mormon. I had a Guiness fairly close to sunrise for last year's FA Cup final, but there were mitigating factors:

1) I was with my parents.
2) I had already eaten a disgusting British pub breakfast minutes earlier.

Drinking during a soccer game seems more acceptable than drinking during a domestic sporting event. I feel like I'm still not a legitimate fan of the beautiful game, so my exuberant drinking is almost ironic - I'm winkingly playing the role of a true soccer hooligan. If this was an NFL game that began at dawn, there would be much less ironic distance between me and a substance dependency issue. Plus, in Europe, it was nearly happy hour.

In conclusion, I do not have a drinking problem. OK, billboard?

blogging unrestrained

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Last week was the International Film Festival in San Francisco. (For more coverage of the festival, check out Sushi's Reviews.) On Wednesday night, I went to see the film Drawing Restraint 9 by visual artist and Björk consort Matthew Barney.

The film is about a Japanese whaling ship full of vaseline that picks up Matthew Barney and Björk (billed as "Occidental Guests") and takes them on board. There, they bathe and get their eyebrows shaved off, while the crew assembles and disassembles various containers. Eventually they get dressed up in furry costumes with lots of shells on them, drink blubber tea with a Japanese man, and in the film's only spoken section, learn that the whaling ship once got scratched. After this, Matthew Barney and Björk lick each other, hack off pieces of each other's bodies with big knives, and (SPOILER ALERT!!!) turn into whales. This takes 135 minutes.

This is pretty much the worst movie ever made.

Before the film, Matthew Barney delivered an introductory speech about his athletic past, and how he believed you must tear down the body in order to let it grow. This is why he used to attach himself to bungee cords and climb ramps in order to do his first paintings, he said. Hence, Drawing Restraint. I started to wonder if I should start wearing a bungee cord harness or ankle weights when I do stand-up. Matthew Barney discussed Japanese Shinto shrines, specifically how they are torn down and rebuilt exactly the same way every twenty years. He also talked about the importance of a "small box" in this Shinto tradition, by which I'm pretty sure he meant Björk's vagina.

Matthew Barney also used the phrase "conversation with my body" at least three times, without adding "Everybody, get ready to see my penis".

In honor of Matthew Barney's artistic principles, I took notes during the film, on a small notebook, in the dark. Here are excerpts from that epic work of art, at least until I fell asleep.

Opening song - tear down eardrums in order to let them grow?

Emalie asks, "you blogging this?" Then she makes a kissyface at me.

Two minutes in, and I am pretty much just looking for Björk.

Shells, boxes, ribbons - is this whole thing going to be about gift-wrapping?

I'm also waiting for the vaseline tanker.

Satisfying to watch things put together, connected, locked. Maybe not for 2 hours.

Gene and Clark would enjoy this film, as so far it's just jarring electronic music and long scenes of putting objects into containers of different sizes.

Björk! She's dressed like...a Björk impersonator.

Emalie is already asleep. My neck is already sore.

Shrimp, pomegranate, vaseline? [ed. note - I have no idea what this means][ed. note II - the note, not the film, though I have no idea what that means either]

Björk hair = Topsy Tail from 22nd century.

Naked Björk + oranges in bath = surprisingly un-hot. Björk sorta old?

Matthew Barney looks like Morgan Spurlock, post-shave. Elaborate shaving ritual lets sideburns remain.

Japanese guy shaves Barney's head, eyebrows while he's asleep - just like chiefing in Santa Barbara

(something something) one eyebrow - Vanilla Ice?

Hey, penis.

Already hoping for ending. 20% of audience asleep.

I laugh inappropriately when MB aks, "Can you tell us something about this vessel?"

Ship is the Nisshin Maru. Meaningful? Who cares? God.

Please end.

Carvings peelings (last word trails off as I fell asleep)


The movie ended. We were the first audience members to exit, exhausted, delirious, and hating hating hating Matthew Barney. A festival volunteer asked what we thought of the movie, and we just laughed maniacally and literally ran down the escalator to get away from the whales, the aubergine, and the endless terrible film. We walked about a mile and a half to get to Cassie's car, while Emalie sang improvised Björk songs about whaling and cutting off your boyfriend's legs with a whaling knife. It was 2:15 AM. Everyone apologized to each other for having bought tickets and we all cursed Matthew Barney one final time, tearing up our commemorative Drawing Restraint 9 MOMA trading cards.

Maybe if we'd seen Drawing Restraint 8 it would have made more sense. Or if we were Japanese whales.

Friends, enemies, casual Google visitors, do yourselves a favor and never, ever see this movie. Ever.

the death of edgar

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edgarchloe.jpg

I have been watching 24 this year. I haven't watched the earlier seasons, but somehow, I am following the plot just fine. Cassie also watches the show, which serves as incentive to stay caught up with new episodes to avoid being inadvertantly spoiled during part of our two-to-three hours of daily conversation.

It's remarkably hard to avoid learning about plot details inadvertantly. It's not quite as bad as the NCAA Tournament, nearly all of which I watched on Tivo delay, and thus drove myself crazy avoiding scores, game summaries and casual conversations that mentioned basketball, the state of Connecticut, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, buzzers, or beatings. I couldn't help getting spoiled about Edgar's death, simply becasue my mom decided to watch only the final five minutes of an episode one week.

The Edgar factor has also kept me watching the show. Once I learned my parents were watching, my sister Kelly and I perfected our impressions of computer nerds Chloe and Edgar. Every time we're both home, we converse as Edgar and Chloe more than we do as Sean and Kelly, much to the delight of our parents.

Sean: Chloe, pleath path the thalt.

Kelly: (scowling) I'm setting up a hard perimeter around the dinner table right now.

Sean: Chloe, how come you didn't tell me you were having thpaghetti? I thought we were friendth.

Kelly: Shut up, Edgar.

When Edgar died in a nerve gas attack on CTU, Mom and Dad thought the Edgar and Chloe fun was over. That is, until I began leaving messages on their answering machine as Edgar, calling from Heaven to discuss Thaint Peter and thecret identities at the pearly gateth.

I know Cassie took Edgar's death a little hard. In fact, when Audrey looked to be bleeding to death a few weeks ago, Cassie and I had this chat:

Cassie: Audrey has to die! Edgar died! So, what, you fuck Jack, you get to live?

Sean: Usually it's the reverse, actually. Jack Bauer's cock is like the angel of death.

What I'm curious about now is how Bierko is going to look after he finally regains consciousness. Cassie has been a fan of the bad boys on 24 this season - first Spenser, the disloyal computer programmer, then Vladimir Bierko, the terrorist arms dealer. The more evil they are, the hotter, which may or may not be a trend in Cassie's real-life, real-time existence. Though she's shown a remarkable lack of interest in Christopher Henderson, I feel it is only a mattter of time before Cassie begins practicing her "First Lady Cassie Logan" signature over and over in her journal.

(Read Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4)

Thanks to my high-level Hollywood connections, I got to tour the lot at the Warner Brothers studio. I ate a Reuben at the commissary (seasoned with movie magic!), saw Will Smith walk by wearing a pink t-shirt, and secretly posted a blog entry from the studio store that triples as a Starbucks/Jamba Juice.

Studio store prices:

Citizen Kane, Special Edition - $13.60
Dukes of Hazzard, Unrated Edition - $14.35

Most exciting to many fans will be my tour of the fictional town of Stars Hollow. It's a huge set, impressive in its extensive size and variety of fake buildings. I tried to contact all of my Gilmore-loving friends to share in the magic by cell phone, but only Michele was available. I think the only way she could have been more jealous of me was if I had been visiting a habitat for tiger cubs staffed exclusively by Japanese teenagers.

Ironically, Luke's has a sign expressly forbidding the use of cell phones.

You can also go into most of the fake stores, since they shoot there and all. I felt like I didn't know enough about the show to truly appreciate sitting in the ice cream parlor, or climbing the steps of the gazebo in the town square. I tried to fake it. "Oh look! That's where Rory kissed Jess!" I'd say, pointing to a random spot on the lawn. "And that's the same place Rory and Lorelai talked about that terrible movie which Lorelai secretly liked and then they got some junk food!" I think my traveling companions were impressed.

Later I almost destroyed the Gilmores' fake mailbox by leaning on it too hard. Leaning on the boat wasn't dangerous at all; just sort of gross and splinter-y and full of filthy water.

The ER set wasn't as exciting, because it really accurately approximated a dirty urban hospital exterior. The main objection I heard from our groups was the distinct lack of Clooney in the area. There were lots of extras walking around in scrub gear, but we didn't try to holler at them. Actually, they could have been lead actors from the show - the last time I saw an episode, Ming-Na Wen was still in the cast, and still using her last name.

I saw the guy who plays Steve the reporter on The West Wing, talking on his phone outside the set. Even though he's not actually famous at all, I didn't want to bug him, so I posed for a photo about twenty-five feet in front of him, with him (hopefully) visible in the background. Unlike Will Smith, he was not wearing a pink t-shirt.

Of course, our visit would not have been complete without a visit to the set's museum, where you can see Balki's and Urkel's costumes in glass cases, though photography is strictly forbidden. They also display Charlie Sheen's "costume" from Two and a Half Men, a show that I've still never watched. I doubt this is the case, but wouldn't it be awesome if the show followed five mutants - all of them half-shark, half-man - and their crazy adventures. Combined, they'd be two-and-a-half men. I would watch that show.

There is an entire floor devoted to Harry Potter. Our group was torn as to whether the scariest thing in the museum was:

a) a highly realistic model of Vanessa Redgrave's bleeding head, complete with blinking eyes, used on an episode of Nip/Tuck, or

b) the be-scarfed guide of the Harry Potter wing, waving maniacally at visitors even when they'd fled down the stairs to escape his endless trove of Potter trivia and thinly-disguised creepy Anglo/pedo-philia.

In case anyone is wondering, the Sorting Hat placed me and Louise in Gryffindor, while Kir and G-Duck ended up in Hufflepuff.

(Read Part 1 Part 2 Part 3)

In the Zemblan tradition of cheap-shotting Central California towns, here's a look at the town of Firebaugh, California. We visited on the way down to LA, because we needed food and gas and sour Skittles. At first, the pit stop looked easy. We'd eat at their fancy sit-down restaurant, The Apricot Tree, get some gas, buy some Sour Skittles for Louise, and be on our way. But things are never that simple when you visit a town of the damned.

First, The Apricot Tree itself. The menu is separated into different sections for entrees, salads, and appetizers. My favorite section was called, "Between the Slices". In case this was unclear to the simple-minded residents of Firebaugh, a note underneath clarified, "That means sandwiches and burgers." Of course, that section also featured "Mama's Chicken Tenders (not a sandwich)".

For me, the highlight of the food selection was the Whatever Platter. Presumably, this is an appetizer assortment for slackers.
"What do you want, Jimmy? Onion rings? Fried zucchini?"
"Whatever, man."
"You eat your mozzarella sticks, and get a haircut, you little punk. And tuck in that flannel shirt!"

Ultimately, we decided that the Apricot Tree would take too long, and we fled the table, guilty about our ill-gotten ice water and fearful of the Apricot Tree's law enforcement connections. This is where our curse began. Due to indecision, poor alternative food options, and an extremely scary road full of potholes and eighteen-wheelers, that we had to cross in order to reach the Taco Bell, our lunch took far longer that the Apricot Tree would have, even with the Whatever Platter.

"Take off those headphones and eat your buffalo wings. I got you ranch dressing, you ungrateful little punk. Why don't you get a job!"

We fled Firebaugh, but somehow, I think we all knew we were fated to return. I imagined we could reverse some of our bad fortune by atoning for our water theft at the Apricot Tree. Waiting for us in the restaurant would be all of our heart's desires: Kir's forgotten shoes, G-Duck's unreadable email, G-Duck's niece (and my future bride) Anya, and for Louise, Mr. George Clooney, who we must have just missed on the WB lot.

It was too late when we got back, and the Apricot Tree had closed. Instead, we stopped at a gas station and mini-mart to collect ourselves and re-supply for the road. The town fascinated us, the town horrified us. We had to know more.

"What do you call this town?", asked G-Duck, and the counter woman told us it was Firebaugh. When he asked what Firebaugh was known for, she told G-Duck it was once a thriving town, "before the plant closed". She went on for a while about the town's woes, and I realized what Firebaugh was really known for was "bringing us down". And for having the only establishment I've seen since the late '90s that sells Pizzeria Pretzel Combos (according to Wikipedia, they're the "official cheese-filled snack of NASCAR).

No one ever busted us for the water, but perhaps the Pizzeria Combos and sour Skittles we ate were punishment enough.

the con of man

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The official website for the upcoming film adaptation of The Da Vinci Code is one of the worst I've ever seen - http://www.sodarktheconofman.com. I didn't read The Da Vinci Code, so maybe that's a really crucial phrase, and anagrams about Da Vinci painting names prove the Catholic Church's sexism.

Fan #1: I'm really excited about the movie version of the book. What is it - Madonnaontherocks.com?

Fan #2: Come on, the Pope would never allow that. It's all about the con of man, dawg.

It's not as bad as my very favorite awkward movie URL, for Fear.com, which had http://feardotcom.com as its official site. To be fair, Fear.com's chilling tale of a killer website opened the door for movies about killer videotapes and killer video games - it just had an awkward URL. A truly efficient killer website would have a more concise URL. The real-life Fear.com exists "Because we think it's pretty scary that your phone records aren't private." Spooky!

It appears that neither Sony Pictures nor Random House was thwarted by domain name squatters. Thedavincicode.com is the book's official site. Thedavincicode-movie.com takes you to the official movie site, http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/thedavincicode. The Con of Man site does the same thing. The marketers consciously decided the con of man was where it was at.

Here are some other options that Ron Howard & Co. may not have considered:

davincicode.net - squatted

thedavincicode.net - squatted

davincicode.org - a site selling DVDs entitled, "The Da Vinci Code Decoded", and "The Da Vinci Code: Totally Decoded".

tomhankshasamullet.com - not taken

Could the Da Vinci Code eventually surpass HTML coding, or even Cold Fusion? Not if the Catholic Church has anything to say about it.

shameful judging in apples to apples

Apples to Apples is one of the best party games out there. If you're unfamiliar with the game, here's a summary:

There are red cards, and green cards. Red cards have the name of a person, place, thing, or event. Green cards list a characteristic of a person, place, thing, or event. Players start with seven randomly selected red cards. In each round, the "judge" draws a green card, and the other players must play the red card that they feel best fits the green card - or what they think the judge would think was best. The player who plays the winning card wins the green card. The position of judge rotates each round.

The beauty of the game is that judgments are completely subjective, though players are allowed to lobby for what they feel is the best choice. The demo on the game's official site presents a scenario where the judge had the card, "Brilliant", and had to choose between Cell phones, Vincent Van Gogh, Casablanca, Electricity as most brilliant. Ironically, the fake player "Julia" wins with the "Cell phones" card in the demo, while in real life, my friend Julia once tore up the "cell phones" card in her own game because she hated it so much.

Judging only gets uncomfortable when a particular judge decides to ham it up, making elaborate explanations of his or her choices, and taking forever to choose. The judger isn't the star of Apples to Apples; the game is. It only gets tedious when a judge has a little monologue about every single card. Read the cards, choose a winner, and move on, I say!

However, judging does occasionally present a dilemma. In my most recent game of Apples to Apples, I drew the card "Selfish". I wasn't thrilled by the cards submitted. In fact, the only one that really caught my eye was "Anne Frank".

"But Sean," you might be saying. "Anne Frank wasn't selfish! how could you choose that?"

I'll admit I picked that card mainly to be funny. But when I thought about it, the choice began to make a lot of sense. When you hear about Anne Frank, it's always, "I'm going to write in my diary." "I hope the Germans don't find me in this attic." "I don't want to die." Think about someone else occasionally, you know?

Only later did I feel guilty about my choice, or specifically, my retroactive justification of that choice. I apologize to Anne Frank, and to Jason, who played the card that really should have won that round, "Parenting".

sean keane at 50 mason, april 21st

Fresh off the triumph that was Iron Comic III, I'll be headlining at 50 Mason this Friday, April 21st. Yes, the magical date of 4/21, which is one louder than 4/20, just in case your 4/20 celebration needed a little extra push over the cliff. You see, it goes up to 21 - that's one more than 4/20. However, be warned - 50 Mason has a liquor license, but not a snack bar. Plan your choice of funny-inducing substance accordingly.

According to the organizer, "the frothy funniness is flowing", presumably like the adult beverages now available at the bar. He says, "We finally got a liquor license." I say, "50 Mason finally stopped discriminating against the Irish."

Luckily, with great alcohol-serving power has come great price restraint, as 50 Mason has declined to add a drink minimum to the $10 admission fee. Wisely, they also have not enforced a drink maximum, which bodes well for my audience reaction and poorly for the livers of audience members. When I'm playing a club that can serve booze, I am 75% funnier and 32% more attractive. That's not just me talking there: It's science.

The show starts at 8, doors open at 7:30, meaning you can get home just in time to see who's crowned Miss USA 2006. I promise not to spoil the surprise in my act, though I reserve the right to perform wearing a tiara and/or evening gown, and to deliver an impassioned speech entitled, "What's The Deal With Putting Vaseline On Your Teeth?"

Hope to see you there. The official promotional info is after the jump:

what jesus don't know won't hurt him

Reprinted from New Wye

Today is Holy Saturday, a special day even if you don't happen to have been raised Catholic. Here's the timeline: Jesus has the Last Supper on Thursday. Friday, He's crucified. On Easter Sunday, He rises again. But what about Saturday?

Saturday was the day Jesus chilled out in the tomb. Easter was gonna be a big deal, so he rested up. That means Jesus is not around, and as I understand it, moral law is pretty much suspended that day. Do what you like. What Jesus don't know won't hurt him.

Churches seem to feel the same way. You can't get married on Holy Saturday, or have a funeral that day. It's the Pope's way of making sure everyone has the day off, and can do what they like. Even the altar in church is stripped bare, as if the vestments themselves are taking a day off. We've all left early when the boss is on vacation, so why should a tabernacle be any different?

It's important not to abuse the privilege. If your parents leave for the weekend and you throw a party, you better clean things up before they return. In the same way, make sure whatever sinful debauchery you engage in on Holy Saturday is out of your system by Sunday, or else Jesus is going to be pissed. Jesus thinks you're mature enough that he can spend one single Saturday away, so don't violate His trust and ruin it for everyone else. Even three betrayals of the Lord before the cock crows are OK - provided the betrayals don't get out of hand and stretch into early Sunday morning.

So use the Lord's name in vain, dishonor your parents, and covet everything you see today. Who's gonna say anything? But when the clock strikes twelve, your sins turn back into pumpkins, so clean up that language before it's time to hunt eggs. I'm looking at you, Simon Peter.

(Read Part 1 Part 2)

G-Duck's nephew had a bar mitzvah. The bar mitzvah had a reception. The reception had a great band. Nathan and I, we had a danceoff. Some might argue that it was more of a duet than a battle of the bands, more of a partnership than a rivalry, but I'll let you look at the photos and judge for yourself.

danceoff1.jpg

danceoff2.jpg

danceoff3.jpg

danceoff4.jpg

danceoff5.jpg


After the issue of setting a date for the wedding, there was another pressing question for the couple-to-be. Would they get married in a church? My parents are Catholic, but don't really attend church. The bride- and groom-to-be are much less Catholic, and never go to church. I say that opens the door for a fully-licensed, reasonably-priced minister to step in.

Thanks to the Universal Life Church, I am an ordained minister, legally empowered to perform wedding ceremonies in the state of California. Some licensed ministers officiate weddings, but I perform them. I did a wedding last year, and the happy couple is not divorced at all! Not one bit divorced! Clearly I am an excellent minister.

In a way, I feel like I have been moving toward ministerial ordination my whole life. Even before I ever heard of the Universal Life Church, I could see myself standing in front of an audience, talking and talking, forcing them to listen, and not letting them kiss until I was done talking. It's fate. I'm basically a pre-ordained minister.

But being a licensed minister is not all online registration and weddings. With minor power comes great responsibility. For example, if I say, "Bless you" after someone sneezes, it means that they are literally, legally bound for heaven. I have to watch my language so I don't accidentally consecrate excrement. I am allowed to hold a baby-naming ceremony, and I can also rename babies who already have names, if I think their existing names are ill-fitting. I get to say, "By the power vested in me", which is a phrase only available to members of the clergy and managers at the North Face Outlet.

To answer questions and eliminate confusion, here is a guide to what a licensed minister can and cannot do:


Bless us Oh Lord in these thy gifts which we are about to receive

from thy bounty through Christ our Lord

No
Good veggies, good meat, Good God, let's eat Yes
Performing a wedding Yes
Performing magic No
Performing black magic No
Performing at Ozzfest as Minister of War No
Naming babies Yes
Naming puppies and kittens Yes
Naming the US Presidents in order Yes
Straight marriage Yes
Gay marriages Yes
Marriages to the sea No
The marriage of a man to his fruit salad No

My older sister got engaged about a month ago. The engagement story was very sweet, as she was surprised with an engagement ring at her book club meeting. I won't go into the details, but suffice to say, it's the most romantic engagement story ever to prominently involve The Satanic Verses.

They wanted to get married in September or October, but didn't set a specific date for a while. The decision hinged on many complicated factors, including Chinese lucky days, rental availability, and the Cal home football schedule. I have my own idea for the perfect wedding date: September 11th, 2006.

It's the five-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. What better way to show how America has recovered than to celebrate the union of the Megan and Nevin, the Twin Towers of Romance? Who would be opposed to that? The Taliban?

Instead of the Mendelssohn's "Wedding March", they'll walk down the aisle to Paul McCartney's "Freedom" - Nevin dressed as a fireman, Megan as a police officer. Instead of exchanging rings, they will award each other medals. And after, "You may kiss the bride", the priest will solemnly tell the newly-wedded couple, "Let's roll!" In your face, Bin Laden!

Best of all, using September 11th would really cement their long-term future. After all, no matter how badly the marriage gets screwed up, no matter how much lying and deception comes to light, and no matter how low their approval ratings for one another might plunge, September 11th will guarantee they'll have at least seven more years in the Oval Office marital bliss.

After all, if they get divorced, it means the terrorists have won.

iron comic 3 recap

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Iron Comic III was, by all accounts, a huge success. It's the first time I've done a comedy show that actually had to turn people away at the door, thanks in part to this article in the San Francisco Chronicle. We had a crowd of about 200, which probably isn't a surprise to anyone who crammed into the Make-Out Room for the big event. The very funny Nico Santos won the title. Should Nico be unable to fulfill his duties as Iron Comic, due to a cockfighting scandal or a layout in Playgirl, runner-up Brent Weinbach will inherit the crown.

Thanks to everyone who came out, especially my mom. She was sitting at the judge's table, between me and Nato's mom, and took every opportunity to lean over and tell me how she thought I was the funniest performer. Mom also shouted, "Change the subject" at Rusty Mahakian when he started talking about vaginas. Good times.

I thought the show was very high-energy, possibly because everyone was standing and the mixed drinks were extremely strong. It was also my first chance to tell my Wynton Marsalis jokes since the initial Iron Comic show. The success of that bit just goes to show that Jay Leno was right in thinking Branford Marsalis had a lot of comedic potential.

For reference, here are the secret ingredients for the Iron Comic shows to date:

Iron Comic I

1. Wynton Marsalis
2. Excuses for missing work
3. Ethnic food

Iron Comic II

1. Man-purses
2. The movies of Shirley Temple
3. New Mexico

Iron Comic III

1. Suspenders
2. Cockfighting
3. Republicans in San Francisco

One downside of a topic like "cockfighting" is that you end up with five comedians telling penis jokes. Ideally, you don't want a topic that's funny in its own right. I would even venture that the funniest semi-improvised jokes come when the topics are bland, or seem impossible. The audience really expects nothing when the topic is Wynton Marsalis, so if an Iron Contestant says anything beyond, "Who the fuck is Wynton Marsalis?" or "This topic sucks", you're already gambling with house money. House comedy money.

If I ever were to feature at an Iron Comic show again, I would do more material from my Iron Comic appearance. In addition, I think it would be great if the feature comics (who perform while the Iron Comics are frantically writing for the next round) threw in at least one quick joke about the previous ingredients. I didn't think of this until I was stepping off stage, of course. Therefore, in the spirit of Iron Comedy, I now present some jokes about suspenders.

Suspenders

Not a lot of people wear suspenders these days. One group that does is the Amish. I never understood why the Amish were so big on suspenders, because to me, a pair of suspenders seems infinitely more high-tech than a belt. What's up with that, Mennonites?

I think the biggest advocates of suspenders would have to be kids with abusive dads. Getting whacked with a belt, that's a terrifying thing. But with suspenders, they're just so boingy. I think it would really frustrate an angry dad, as no matter how hard he winds up, the resulting impact is a big elastic "Sproing!" (This is where I would pantomine, hilariously, the ineffectual suspender beating.) And you know some dads would still try to act all scary about it. "Second time you missed curfew this week. Looks like you're gonna get suspended, young man. If it happens again, I'm getting out the buttonhook."

Suspenders also come in handy if you are a cartoon character who loses all your money during the Great Depression, because that wooden barrel you're wearing instead of clothes is not going to stay up with a belt, no matter how tight it is.

barrel.gif

(Read Part 1)

Saturday night, our traveling party went from four to three, as my man G-Duck was obligated to attend Friday evening religious services. Suddenly, the boys club was no more. I had to stop spitting, cussing, fighting and fussing, for the ladies had the majority in the car. How would the new dynamic work, we all wondered.

A test came as we were discussing the previous night's karaoke outing. A girl at the bar did a phenomenally awful rendition of Weezer's "Beverly Hills". First of all, that song is not difficult; it's all talk-singing, Rex Harrison by way of Rivers Cuomo. You should be able to karaoke-talk your way though "Beverly Hills".

Performance issues aside, the song choice seemed questionable. Can you sing a song about Beverly Hills in a karaoke bar in Century City? Beverly Hills is only a few miles away. It reminded me of wearing a band's t-shirt to their concert. If she wasn't repping her hometown, then the ambition it represents is far too minor. "That's where I want to be" = One town over. I couldn't see myself ever singing an anthem about Danville or Blackhawk, let alone Millbrae. She could ahve at least sung "Santa Monica", or that other Everclear song about having a black girlfriend.

Those might be the same song., I dunno.

Regardless of Karaoke Girl's questionable choices, I found her strangely endearing. I told Louise, "I think it's because she had such great boots."

Louise, perhaps expecting my conversation to become more boorish and sexualized without the check of an older alpha male figure in the car, thought I was about to say I liked Karaoke Girl's boobs. Instead, with the addition of one extra letter, "boots" instead of "boobs", my comment went from being the crassest heterosexual comment possible to the gayest comment possible.

Louise and Kir relaxed. We continued driving through West Hollywood, in search of a store that had an inexpensive pair of black heels and just the right shade of MAC foundation makeup, and right then, everything felt perfect.

As we left the LAX Hilton, on our way to Century City for dinner, I experienced an odd sense of familiarity. I hadn't been to Los Angeles in years, aside from driving through, en route to San Diego. Still, the false sense of recognition was quite strong, because the prominence of Los Angeles in pop culture, and specifically because I have seen Troop Beverly Hills fifteen times. Those Culver City Red Feathers are so darn smug!

Due to poor directions and poorer navigation skills, we made it all the way to Watts before heading north. At the same time we turned onto the 110, Dre and 2Pac's "California Love" came up on our mix CD. It got me thinking: Where would the rap world be if Compton was not actually a city, but rather an unincorporated territory?

Fuck Tha LA County Sheriff's Department, N.W.A.

Ice Cube will swarm
On any muthafucka in a blue uniform
Just cuz I'm from an unincorporated territory
Municipal government ain't got jurisdiction over me

Nothin But A G Thang, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dogg

So Dre
(What up, Dogg?)
Gotta give 'em what they want
(What's that, G?)
We gotta break em off somethin'
(Hell yeah!)
Like services equivalent to those provided by an incorporated municipality
(Minor Civil Division of Compton!)

California Love, 2Pac & Dr. Dre

In the citaaay of L.A.
In the citaaay of good ol' Watts
In the census-designated plaaaace, the census-designated plaaaace of Compton
We keep it rockin
We keep it rockin

Inglewood, Inglewood always up to no good
Don't try to annex this shit, muthafucuka

UPDATE: Louise has an excellent recap of the trip up, along with an extremely handsome photo from Stars Hollow.

grafitti

I am back from a harrowing-yet-magical, exhausting-yet-entertaining, trafficky-yet-trafficky trip to the City of Angels. Many thanks to the wonderful guest bloggers and their excellent guest blogs in my absence. I will be addressing some of the bar mitzvah-related questions in the near future, and now that I'm back near my muse, the blogging should flow like traffic on the 210.

In honor of my return to San Francisco and the end of a vacation that saw me average roughly seven hours a day in the car, I thought I'd give an update to how things are going in the world of public transportation, specifically the graffiti in the Castro Street MUNI station.

I usually enjoy the graffiti, though I don't necessarily care about the drawings. I like graffiti that is the equivalent of sarcastic comments made at the back of a classroom, like drawing a mustache on The Rock's movie poster image. The exchange I saw this morning stood out, both for its homophobia and wit.

The advertisement for HIV research features an interracial gay couple holding hands. Next to the picture, someone scrawled "FAGETS", with an arrow pointing to the guys, in case any commuters were confused and thought they meant the phone number and email address were gay.

Underneath, a second, wittier graffitist has scrawled, "BIGGOTS", with an arrow pointing to the first message. You got served, homophobic guy with a sharpie!

l.a. story

| 3 Comments

I'll be in the City of Angels this weekend, to attend a bar mitzvah. It's my very first bar mitzvah, and possibly my first time in a synagogue. Luckily, I'm a licensed minister, so I can maybe step in if the rabbi has trouble or there's an emergency involving a yarmulke.

It's going to be a great trip. I'll visit the Warner brothers set, check in on my fantasy baseball double-play combination of Kent and Furcal, and stop in at CTU to help them set up a hard perimeter over some crucial location that only takes 7-10 minutes to get to by car. I'll be back with a full report Monday.

In my stead, please welcome guest bloggers for the weekend. They are Michele, Cassie Wu, and Christine/"Waffles". Please give them your love and support, plus lots of comments. As they say in Los Angeles, "Oh, I live in Los Angeles! I'm an attractive member of the film industry! I am way better than you, Sean Keane! Blah blah blah!"

that's what you say

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The folks at VVV (OK, Cassie) recently put up a post about checking people out while driving. While that post is an invaluable guide for the lecherous- or romantic-minded driver, I feel that an important dimension of automotive people-watching was left out. To me, successful people-watching involves some people-resenting, even outright people-hating. That's where "That's What You Say" comes in.

That's What You Say is a fun game to play while you're driving with passengers, or just by yourself. Here's how it works: When you're driving, preferably while stuck in traffic, pinpoint another car that annoys you. Anything about that car could annoy you - it has a stupid bumper sticker, it's too big, it's too small, the driver tried to merge in an annoying way, you hate the driver's hat, whatever. Look at that car, work up some resentment, and then try to imagine what kind of things a jerk driver in a jerk car like that might talk about. Now you're ready.

In a mocking voice, improvise a short monologue for the jerk driver. "Oh, I drive an SUV! Look at my seventeen cup holders! Look at my bumper sticker! I'm gonna pray for the troops when I get across this bridge!" Then - and this is the crucial point - switch out of the mocking voice and say, very quickly, "That's what you say." That last part is key, because otherwise your passengers might think you are confused, and also religious.

Your improvised monologue need not rely on your snap judgments of someone's appearance, or your guess as to their ethnicity. I'm not gonna lie, though - accents and stereotypes make That's What You Say much, much easier. Paul Haggis was inspired to write Crash after a highly-charged game of That's What You Say outside of Culver City.

Q: Can I play That's What You Say outside the car?

A: Yes, but then someone might hear/punch you.

Q: How about pointing at the person for whom you are improvising your devastatingly accurate monologue?

A: That is not advised.

Q: Did Paul Haggis ever talk about what Crash and That's What You Say meant to him?

A: From an interview with Chinese Boat magazine:

"The message is that there are barriers between us in America. Sure, we say a lot of things while driving, but I wonder if we spend too much time saying, "That's what you say!" and not enough time listening to what you actually say. Yes, my locksmith is Mexican."

Q: Hey Sean, I don't have a car. Can I still play That's What You Say on public transportation?

A: Ooh, I have a Fast Pass! I don't have to worry about parking! I request stops by ringing a bell! That's what you (and I) say!"

in case of emergency

Greetings. This page has been only intermittently available, due to the ruthless attacks from desperate men and even desperater robots, an unholy alliance of computer geniuses and filthy data pirates that threatens the safety of our very Internet. Thanks to the tireless, jet-lagged diligence of our fair hero, things are coming back to normal around here. Joker.com, our former DNS provider, was DDOS attacked into paralysis. Even now, unscrupulous hackers kneel on its servers and taunt, "Why are you rebooting yourself? Why are you rebooting yourself?"

And where was Joker.com tech support during all of this? At home! Washing their tights! That company needs an enema!

Now that we've danced in the pale moonlight with the devil that is Joker.com one final time, Zembla should be a lot more stable. However, should some tragedy later befall us, there is now a contingency in place. In case of an outage, information and new posts can be found at Zembla's backup page, New Wye.

While "Zembla" is the distant northern kingdom in Nabokov's Pale Fire, "New Wye" is the university town in the same novel, the real-world setting for the novel's action, such as it is. Think of New Wye as more permanent than Zembla, but less fantastical, and certainly far more sparsely inhabited.

Also, Zembla appears to be a full week short of the original one-post-per-day plan set up at Christmas, due to technical issues, illness, and sloth. It's time to start posting in the now, but don't be surprised if the postless week of March 20-26 mysteriously fills up with content one of these days, like an unwatched pot boiling over, if the pot was full of liquid comedy and could time travel.

That last sentence was a little awkward, but as my functionally-illiterate plastic surgeon always said, if you gotta go, go with a simile!

more aussie comedy and legal issues

When I travel the world and meet Zembla readers, I always try to find out what they want from the site. From my hotel balcony, I yell to the hordes of fans, "What can I do for you, my bloggetty blog children?"

"Make more posts with fake dates!" some will cry.

Others yell, "Please, Señor Keane, more nitpicking examinations of songs with the word 'mister' in their titles!"

But by far the largest cry comes from readers who want to know more about the legal struggles of up-and-coming Australian sketch comedians.

Yes, my rascal friend down under has gotten in trouble again. This time, it's not the Muslims who are up in arms, but a company called Travel Australia. Travel Australia has a big campaign called, "Where The Bloody Hell Are You?", which you can watch on their main site, and also at www.WhereTheBloodyHellAreYou.com.

Travel Australia claims that the music in the parody rips off the music in the original ad campaign. They're not actually alleging plagiarism, or maybe they sort of are, but essentially the claim seems to be, "The music from your parody of our ad campaign mocks our original music too effectively. Please cease and desist."

You can listen for yourself and compare:

Original Ad.

Here Thar Be Parody.

Finally, the Ronnie Johns Half hour actually received a positive fatwah from the Mufty of Australia, which you can view here. I would suggest Travel Australia might do well to heed the words of Taj Aldin Alhilali: "Such understanding and good humour, introduced through satire, is very beneficial for Australian society."

muni goes to disneyland

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kelsey.jpg

The ad space in the Powell Street MUNI station has been bought out completely by Disney this month. The entire top level has nothing but advertisements for Disneyland's 50th anniversary "celebration" this year. When a theme park is hyping an anniversary or "discovering the magic" in their promotional materials, that to me means, "No new rides".

In the ads, characters appear to be wildly rejoicing at the prospects of an anniversary celebration. There's Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, and...Chicken Little? Yes, Chicken Little gets invited to the party, ahead of Pluto or Minnie or any other characters that people care about. Did anyone see that movie? Wasn't Zack Braff involved? Does Chicken Little lack the ability to cry because of anti-depressants? Was Foxy Loxy an epileptic?

Besides Disney's attempts to force-feed Chicken Little to an apathetic public, the weird thing about the ad campaign is the portrayal of Mickey Mouse. First of all, he's wearing Mickey Mouse ears. Goofy and Pluto also have the ears, but they're carrying them, or whipping them around in a 50th anniversary frenzy. C.L. is nearly unrecognizable in his hat, but then again, he's pretty much unrecgonizable anyway. Mickey is the only one wearing his ears properly, which is odd, since he already has big silly ears. How does the ear cap even fit him? Aren't they smashed under the hat? Mickey is also holding a Disney gift bag, which contains a Mickey Mouse doll. That is a either a disturbing sign of Mickey's narcissism, or a quiet indicator that even Mickey is not immune to Disney's pervasive capitalist ethos.

This only furthers the tradition of public transit advertisements that ruin my interest in their product. In the past, I have had the same reaction to overblown marketing blitzes for Be Cool, Tom Waits and Robert Wilson's The Black Rider, and online syphillis testing. Advertsing on MUNI only causes me to transfer to the product the negative associations I already have about commuting.

One could argue that Disneyland is the perfect advertising partner for MUNI. After all, when I think of MUNI, I think of delays, funky smells, overcrowding, endless waiting in line to board poorly-maintained vehicles, and regular increases in ticket prices with no corresponding improvement in quality. All of those things can apply to Disneyland as well. Maybe it's not that Disneyland is advertising too heavily on MUNI; it's that MUNI should re-brand its light rail service as "MUNI's San Francisco Adventure".

iron comic iii

Whose routine reigned supreme? In the first Iron Comic show, it was Sean Keane who triumphed, with magical material about Wynton and Branford Marsalis, disgusting excuses for missing work, and a joke about ethnic food that suggested that, if you think the term "Indian restaurant" is an antiquated term for a place that serves Native American cuisine, it might be less than polite to try and make a "reservation". More detailed summaries of my winning routine are available via email or a tedious, awkward face-to-face conversation with me.

I won a certificate and a CD called, How To Become Funnier Than You Really Are. I haven't listened to it yet, which might explain why I am really not quite as funny as I am.

The second "Iron Comic" competition was won by Alex Koll. I was rocking 50 Mason that night, strep throat-style, so I missed the show, but Alex Koll has always been quite funny when I've seen him perform in the past. He's also a man of science, at least when it comes to retail dust masks, and I really respect that.

The Third Iron Comic show happens on Friday, April 7th, at the Make-Out Room in SF. Mr. Koll and I will be judging the competition, and performing feature sets while the Iron Comics frantically scribble jokes. They only get ten minutes per topic, this time. I won my event under the 20-minutes-per-topic rules, which makes me feel like a basketball player who won the NCAA title before they had a shot clock, or an old-timey baseball player from the days when it took four strikes before you were out.

The lineup is amazing, with the excellent Nato Green hosting, and five rock-solid comedians competing for the prestigious Iron Comic crown. In Donnie Brasco parlance, they're all friends of mine, though I'd venture that Brent Weinbach and Nico Santos are friends of ours.

After the jump, the official promotional information:

radio looky lou

If I was hired to produce a morning radio show, I think my first choice would be a "morning zoo" format. First and foremost, I love prank phone calls, even more than I love giving out prize packages to people who memorize the order of our six-song rock block. One of my favorite prank calls would be to combine the two. "Oh, so close," I'd say to Caller Ten. "You got the first five right, but Song #6 was...'You Just Got Pranked By The Zoo Crew'!" And then we'd play a clip of a cow mooing angrily and maybe also a monkey jabbering.

I might also use the name "Zoo Squad Alpha" instead of "Morning Zoo Crew". I haven't really decided yet.

What would set my morning radio show apart from the others would be the traffic reports. A lot of shows have their very own helicopter that overlooks the city and gives updates on what routes are congested. Let's face it, you can pretty much get that information from any radio show, probably accompanied by a weather report. We also probably couldn't afford the chopper anyway, given the budget for prank calls.

Instead, we'd have a program caleld "Radio Looky Lou". We'd send out interns (or as I would call them, Junior Operatives of M. Force Zoologico) to drive around in search of accidents, traffic stops, explosions, roadside fires, cargo spills, lost animals, and any kind of traffic slowdowns.

Our operatives would drive along very slowly, in order to describe the scene in as much detail as possible. What color were the cars? Was anyone injured or dead? Any funny smells? How exciting and awesome did the flames look? Our listeners want to know those things. Would you rather hear, "There's about a fifteen-minute delay on the Bay Bridge, metering lights are on", or, "The front bumper of the Mercedes is completely crushed, the driver's head is bleeding, and it looks like he may have wet his pants during the crash"?

Our motto would be: "Radio Looky Lou: We slow down and stare at car accidents - so you don't have to!" And after the motto, we would play a lion roar followed by a parrot saying, "Awk! Looky Lou! Awk!" And then that angry moo again.

in which i predict the weather

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Last Friday, oh what a terrible storm. There was thunder, there was lightning, there were sheets of rain, and there was even some hail. Before leaving my office for the treacherous walk to the MUNI station, I decided to figure out how far away the storm was.

I remembered from my scout training that you wait for lightning, then count how many seconds elapse before you hear the thunder. Then you take the seconds, and multiply by five, and that's how far away the storm is, in miles. Or maybe you divide by five, and that's how far away the storm is. The important thing is the counting, I think.

So I watched for lightning, and counted until I heard a thunderclap. By my scientific calculations, the storm was zero miles away. I got the same result using both methods, so I have a feeling it's pretty accurate. And with my newfound knowledge, I departed for MUNI, holding my umbrella aloft1 like a giant lightning rod.

1Some would recommend that I assume "The Lightning Crouch" to best protect myself from lightning strikes. However, it WILL NOT guarantee my safety, as there are NO SAFE PLACES when lightning is about.

When we left Santa Barbara, it was after 9:00. Michele drove, but I was ready to slide into the driver's seat at a moment's notice. I'd already changed a tire earlier in the weekend, so my testosterone levels were sky-high. I was ready to fill in behind the wheel, change the oil, catch a fish, get in a fight, pee standing up, and grow extra chest hair. Little did I know how much I would later need that courage.

Michele's highly efficient hybrid vehicle is able to go long distances without re-fueling, but we came to the end of our gas reserves as we neared King City, around 11:00. Foolishly, we followed the first exit sign that promised a gas station, even though it led us to the town of San Ardo.

Oh, San Ardo! Quiet, poorly-lit, and terrifying. We had a terrifying drive to the ramshackle gas station, fearing what kind of backwoods Monterey Countyites might emerge from their stills and mudholes to terrorize us. The gas station was closed, but honestly, I'm not sure we'd have been confident turning the engine off in such an abandoned, godforsaken place. Of course, I dealt with this be talking in a creepy voice and pretending to be a San Ardo resident, and continued to do so the most of the way home, stopping when Michele sounded serious in her threats to abandon me by the side of the road.

Eventually we found a bathroom, at a deserted 24-Hour gas station. The pumps worked 24 hours, at least, though the bathroom lights did not. My theory is that employees go home because it's just not safe to be within fifteen miles of San Ardo after dark. We were mostly terrified by the mere act of pumping gas out there, and that was all the way in Outer King City. All because of the trauma, the extent of the horror that is San Ardo, that just a few exits are not nearly far enough away.

Recently, we reminisced about our trip to King City, when Kristen showed us the receipt from that terrible, terrible trip. She warned that King City had probably been taken over by zombies by now, while I hubristically claimed that zombies were better than residents of King City. I was wrong to say that. I only said such a mean thing because I couldn't remember the exact name of San Ardo, so I took an unfair cheap shot at the City of Kings. My apologies. It turns out San Ardo is named after a ninth-century Benedictine monk, but only because someone at the post office rejected the name "San Bernardo" first. The residents probably didn't even notice the change.

Back to the zombies. Now, I would venture that, while my funny voice and insults certainly portrayed the San Ardonauts as quite simple, possibly retarded, certainly inbred, probably homicidal and cannibalistic, I was not actually saying that they were zombies. I would posit that a resident of San Ardo is worse than a zombie; a zombie only wants to eat your brain, not your whole body, and a zombie will neither attempt to have sex with you nor one of its own siblings.

I would feel bad if this page became an extremely high search result for "San Ardo" on the web. If a resident of San Ardo decided to look up their town, and the resulting link pretty much called them names, it would be a little mean.

On the other hand, there's little evidence that anyone from San Ardo can read, let alone operate a computer. Michele theorizes that any Comcast installers brave or foolish enough to visit San Ardo were undoubtedly molested and/or killed already, so it's unlikely they have any internet access whatsoever.

It would be like Reese Witherspoon and angry teenage girls on Matt's page. Except that Reese Witherspoon was up for an Oscar, and San Ardo will never win an award for anything, ever. Maybe "Best Place To Confront Your Own Mortality Along Highway 101". Or, "Best Place To Train Your Army Of Undead Zombies To Attack King City".

If our trip to Santa Barbara became a movie, with actors personifying each of the key cities, Santa Barbara would be played by an alcoholic version of Keira Knightley. King City would be Jon Favreau in a heavy phase. San Ardo wouldn't be an actor at all, just some weird toothless old man that hung around the set with no discernible job, smelling like black licorice and unfiltered cigarettes, masturbating behind the craft services table. But not on March 7th, because that is the Saint Ardo's feast day.

(Read Part 1 2 3)

Sometimes I worry about repeating jokes too much in my stand-up act. Should I try more untested material, or should I stick with my bread-and-butter jokes about speech impediments, hoping that through repetition comes power. Comedy power.

Young Sean would have no trouble with this issue. Young Sean had joke books, funny things from the newspaper, something that he imagined his stuffed animals might have said. Young Sean was not at all shy about sharing those with Mom and Dad, and even less shy about repeating the funny items if Mom and Dad did not audibly appreciate them.

"Did you hear what Way Watto thaid about the Fowty-Ninahs? It's pwetty funny. I'll wead it again." You never knew when someone just needed a funny joke repeated three or four times in order to realize that, yes, they were glad Young Sean didn't say "Banana" again.

When I went to LA with my pals Allen and Tyler, we passed a restaurant called "Twain's", and I made a joke. They didn't catch what I said the first time, but, like Young Sean, I persisted. I tried the same joke the next day when we drove past Twain's a second time.

The joke: "Guys, do you think that's a wailwoad-themed westawaunt?"

This time, they thought it was pwetty funny.

playing doctor

Health care is a large issue today, both in America and on Cementhorizon. Last year, I worked only part-time while back at school, which meant I no longer qualified for health insurance. Suddenly, my medical provider was the University of California, and my doctor's office was the Tang Center. Going to the Tang Center for medical care is a lot like getting your haircut at a barber college.

You should only visit the Tang Center if you absolutely have to. I went last year after a sore throat got unbearable. My "doctor" was a guy wearing a Sports Medicine polo shirt who didn't even have a stethoscope. He examined my throat and prescribed Ibuprofen. Dr. Polo also suggested it might be herpes that was bothering my throat, because that's what every single person at the Tang Center does. If you come in with a sprained ankle, you get an STD test. If you re-fill a prescription, they'll take blood just in case. If you come in to pick up an informational pamphlet on nutrition, you might not leave without a painful swabbing. It's just the Tang Center way. And in case you're wondering, ladies, I passed.

My second doctor wore a white coat, which instantly inspired confidence. She gave me actual antibiotics, which made me even more confident, and she also prescribed Vicodin, which made me give her a big hug. The only scary part of this visit was her insistence that I go straight to the emergency room if my throat swelled up so much that I couldn't breathe. "Is that really a possibility?" I asked. "Gotta go," she replied, and left the room.

After about a month, things weren't a lot better, so I saw my final Tang physician, who suggested Ibuprofen, Sudafed, and a screening for chlamydia. "How about Wal-buprofen, Wal-phed, and a copy of my successful test from last month?" I countered. She was fine with that, but insisted I take an informational pamphlet on safe sex.

Once I returned to full-time employment, I was covered by an HMO. Using the haircut analogy, this is like switching to Supercuts. The best part of my comprehensive coverage is that my doctor is ridiculously hot. Well, technically, my doctor is male, and not particularly hot aside from the inherent hotness that goes along with possessing a medical license, but I usually see the physician's assistant. She is maybe thirty years old, Asian-American, long-haired, and gorgeous. She's very informative and smart, we have a completely professional relationship, and I would marry her in a second.

Having such an unreasonably attractive physician alters the dynamic of the checkup. When she gently suggested that my cholesterol could be lower, it was like a slap in the face. I resolved to get into better shape before my next doctor's visit. Sure, some might say that jogging four or five miles isn't the best way to deal with a possible bronchial infection, but I wanted to look my best. I've never had to wear a hospital gown that ties in the back, though I still try to do a few sets of squats the night before a physical, just in case.

Once, I complained about my struggles with insomnia. Dr. Hotness told me, "It's important to keep boundaries in your house. You don't want to work or do a lot of things in your bedroom. If you're going into the bedroom, you want it to be that you're getting some, or you're going to sleep." I responded with a classy, embarrassed, "Nnnnhunh. OK.," then stared at the floor, blushing. Then she had to do the ball test, and while I wish it had been more special, with candles or champagne, or some cuddling, at least I had remembered to do my scrotum exercises the night before.

oscar roundup

I showed up at the Oscar party at six o'clock, thinking we'd be just in time for the beginning of the show. Of course, the show began at 5, so I missed crucial awards for costumes, makeup, special effects, animated feature, and live-action short, as well as Fat Clooney's Best Supporting Actor award. I'll tell you what I didn't miss out on: the baked potato bar. In fact, the sundae bar was out as well. This was very promising.

"Did they change the starting time when they moved the show to Sunday night?" I asked someone. I'm not sure if they did or not, but I was informed that the telecast moved to Sunday in 1998. I am not exactly an Oscars regular.

Tributes

Lauren Bacall presented a tribute to film noir, which does not slow the Oscars down for no reason, at all. Bacall may have been unable to read the teleprompter, or she could have been pausing at irregular intervals for noir-related reasons. She's a true femme mortelle, after all.

Dead People Ceremony

It was kind of a weak year for dead people in Hollywood. I thought Richard Pryor was the clear favorite to get the most applause, with Chris Penn a distant second. However, dark horse candidate Anne Bancroft had much more memorial support than Penn, though she couldn't match Pryor. The academy knew it. Pryor was slotted into the "anchor leg" of the dead people list, so that the applause for dead people would finish strong leading into the commercial break. Pryor got a brief shot of his Sunset strip concert, and then, confusingly, a lingering shot of Brewster's Millions.

Honestly, the crowd seemed disappointed in the dead of 2005. I'd like to see them occasionally stick a living actor in there to throw people off - "Wait, Abe Vigoda?" - or finish really weak, putting the biggest dead star second-to-last, and ending on a random Eastern European cinematographer. The best suggestion I heard was to shift the focus away from honoring the people who died the previous year, and toward predicting which attendees were not going to live until next year's ceremony. Then they could actually enjoy the applause.

"Celebrating their final Academy Awards this year are: Lauren Bacall. Choreographer Jesper Callahan. Key grip Sonny Vallibona III. And Lindsay Lohan."

Heterosexism

Eric Bana and Jessica Alba came out together to present some award I've already forgotten. They engaged in some banter about being in a room with four beautiful women, and then she was like, what about four beautiful men, and it was like, oh snap, Jessica Alba, and Emalie declared that the Oscars are hetero-sexist. How about "four beautiful potential partners", Oscars? "Four POWs of either gender, or both". Let's go.

Is Robert Altman Fucking with Us?

So, Altman had a heart transplant eleven years ago. It really seemed like it might be a weird joke. His lifetime achievement award was introduced by a rambling, overlapping speech by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin. Because that's a Robert Altman trademark! And it's annoying in his films, too! After that, Altman gave a meandering speech of his own, punctuated by shots of his wife and some guy who looked like Weird Al's cousin. "Strange Al" looked like he might be rubbing up on Altman's wife, as well. Then, when everyone at our party had turned him out, Altman dropped that bombshell about getting a heart transplant in the mid-90s. Some people didn't hear it, and others felt like they must have misheard it.

Of course, he's got a movie coming out, so the whole heart business is probably a big fat publicity stunt.

Socially Conscious Films

I was in the kitchen with Garrick during one of the many tribute montages. From where we were, it was tough to tell what was being tributed. One person said they were honoring Spencer Tracy. Another person said he thought it was all about the Scopes Monkey Trial. Finally, we learned it was about socially-conscious films.

Garrick was very proud of Hollywood on that front. "Of course. Because of all the social issues Hollywood addresses. Like..."

"Hemophages," I said. "The struggles of hemophages. And lycanthropes."

Xenophobia

I began chanting "USA!" after an American broke the string of French or Kiwi winners. Emalie endorsed my nationalist preferences, but wondered why it was surfacing right now.

"It's how I was raised," I told her.

"You were raised in a xenophobic home," she said.

I agreed. "A xenophobic, heterosexist home."

Then we booed the South African winner of Best Foreign Film.

Interpretive Dance

There was a song from undeserving Oscar winner "Crash" that bribed its way into a Best Original Song nomination. When an unknown woman came out to perform it, there was a mad rush to the potato/sundae line in the kitchen. Those people missed one of the more fascinating moments in Oscar history. The singer performed in front of a flaming car, surrounded by a multiracial assortment of interpretive dancers, all slowly fleeing the fire, and racism, evfentually overcoming their racial prejudices through very slow interpretive dance and hugs. Two dancers appeared to be re-enacting a sexual assault on one side of the stage. I didn't see "crash", but I can say with confidence that this musical performance was better than "Crash".

Three 6 Mafia also had interpretive dancers for its Best Original Song nominee, "It's Hard Out Here For a Pimp". Do dancers normally dress as characters from the film and re-enact crucial scenes, via interpretive dance, or is that new for this year? They didn't have little people dressed as hobbits behind Annie Lennox two years ago. I think I would have remembered that. Anyway, I thought the dancers did a good job of conveying the difficulty of pimping when bitches are talking shit.

I'm a fuckin' idiot

Phillip Seymour Hoffman did not look comfortable at all in delivering his acceptance speech for Best Actor. In fact, he looked like a Phillip Seymour Hoffman movie character, cringing and shrugging, and shielding his eyes with the award envelope. He was about fifteen pounds and a pair of short shorts away from being Scotty from Boogie Nights. "Dirk, do you like this Oscar? I just wanted to make sure you thought the Oscar was cool - I'm really drunk right now. If you didn't think it was cool, Dirk, I was gonna take the Oscar back."

Gambling

Before the Best Actress award was announced, another guest assured me that Felicity Huffman will win. I told him I thought Reese Witherspoon had it in the bag. She sang, she played a famous person, and unlike Joaquin Phonix and Jamie Foxx, there's little chance she'll spend the next year going around still pretending to be that famous musician. Plus, a Huffman-Hoffman winning combo would mean they'd have to let Letterman come back and host.

He offered to bet five dollars on it, giving me the field versus Felicity. I laid down a five, but told him I only want Reese. If that bitch Judi Dench won, we'd both keep our money. When Jamie Foxx opened the envelope, I found myself five dollars richer. Up yours, Holohan!

Gil Cates Hates "Crash"

The music and lights cut off the acceptance speeches for Paul Haggis & Co. after the Original Screenplay award, and also after the Best Picture nod. I've never seen people played off the stage by the orchestra after Best Picture, because, you know, the show's over after that. ABC takes a strange commercial break afterward, and returns to the telecast only for Jon Stewart's awkward goodbye. My theory is they had to clean up the flaming trash angry attendees threw at the stage to protest the "Crash" victory.

Peer Pressure

Cassie was telling a story about pescatarianism and her vulnerability to peer pressure, standing next to her co-facilitator from Cal's Female Sexuality De-Cal class. In that class, they try to create an environment which fosters an open, comfortable discussion of sex, and relationships, and all subjects in that vein. As such, the language used in the class is designed to be as inclusive and non-judgmental as possible. You don't say "boyfriend" or "girlfriend", you say "partner".

Cassie got to a stage in her story that involved our mutual friend and his girlfriend, and I mentioned that she said "partner". Of course, she was with her co-facilitator, so that made sense. Seconds later, after another couple joined our group, she had switched back to "girlfriend". Peer pressure.

The Tub

For some reason, our tub is filthy. I'm not sure I can invent a scenario for what might have happened in there. If anyone has a good lead, let me know.

UPDATE: An anonymous tipster has informed me that, because the music was most audible in the bathroom, a group of people (I don't want to single anyone out, but their name rhymes with shmanarchists) had a dance party in there, and some people danced in the tub. On the plus side, the oppressive capitalist structure of our bathroom has been overthrown, just like it was at Noe Street.

Attention Ladies

According to more than one beautiful woman, my bed is extremely soft and comfortable, and my comforter smells nice.

I slept alone last night.

What Do You Do?

At college parties, the standard icebreaker question is, "What's your major?" At grown-up parties, it shifts to "What do you do?" For years, I have been making the mistake of giving long answers to small talk questions. Someone asks me wh at I do, and I explain, "Well, we provide representation for indigent defendants, provided they were presented by a public defender at trial, and their offense was a felony --", at which point the person's eyes have already begun to gloss over. Small talk, long answer.

However, I can now fall back on my default college party answer of, "Actually, I'm a filmmaker". It's even a little bit true now. When you say you're a filmmaker, people are instantly interested. They want to know the details of your religious road comedy about surfing, your buddy cop movie about mismatched UCPD officers, how you're planning to do the puppetry for the marijuana-smoking robot. Small talk becomes large talk. People have input about casting choices. They suggest titles, and offer to call friends who work for production companies. People get excited - about your job. Honestly, I should have become a filmmaker years ago.

The incorrect answer to the standard icebreaker question is, "I work for Raytheon and there are eight full-size beds in my townhouse." On a related note, I'm proud to announce that Zembla is now the #1 Google result for "worstie".

International Beverages

The array of available adult beverages was simply breathtaking, as our gathering had an "international" theme. A few guests were confounded by the recipe for White Russians, which stipulated that drinkers use an "old fashioned glass" for their cocktail. "What is an old fashioned glass?" one confused former bass player asked. "Should it look like an antique?" I thought we might have to break out the "No Sex Before Marriage" and "The Guy Should Be THe One To Ask The Girl Out" coffee mugs for the occasion.

In reality, an old fashioned glass is simply a heavy glass that holds 8-10 ounces of liquid. It is ideal for drinks served "on the rocks", or chilled shots that contain juices. An old fashioned glass is one Leo McGarry could appreciate - thick, with a heavy base.

We have a few of those glasses, but we didn't know those were what we were looking for on Saturday night. So we opted for the disposable plastic cups, or as I like to call them, "newfangled glasses".

Newfangled glasses are pretty great in their own right. I love the sound a melting ice cube makes when you drop it onto a flimsy plastic cup from just the right height. Too high, and you knock the plastic cup onto its side. Knock the plastic cup over, the paper umbrella will get wet too fast in the drink. But you get those things right, and it's absolutely the newfangledest White Russian you could ever hope to drink. Plus, there's a paper umbrella inside.

Back in the late 90's, a large majority of the non-sports television I watched was programming that aired after midnight. When you can't go to bars, but you don't want to go to bed before two, you and your friends have limited options. That's the time when we fell in love with the blond woman who did overnight news updates for KRON, with her little shoulder shimmy after, "More news at the top of the hour". It's also when I developed my controversial theory, "Andy Richter Never Says Anything Funny On Conan".

This evening, we were watching a Ricki Lake Show about troubled teens, or out-of-control teens, or teens who strip, or even out-of-control teen strippers who love trouble. And stripping. These teens were not so troubled that they needed Backstage Boot Camp, but they were certainly not in control. I'm not sure all of Ricki's guests were strippers or strippers' family members, but at least one of them was a proud stripper.

When it came time for Ricki to go into the audience for questions, she made a beeline for an extremely short and demonstrative African-American male, who had some choice words for the proud stripper.

"You gotta respect yourself," he began. "You gotta focus on school, not stripping."

"I go to school. I get good grades! You don't know me!" she countered.

He looked like he was waiting for just that opening. "Well, I've got a 4.0, and I'm not taking my clothes off for nobody!" Then, as the audience erupted in applause, the guy broke into a broad grin, and began dancing in place. He held up four fingers on his right hand, and his left hand formed an "O". Swaying and raising the roof, he repeatedly mouthed "Four-Point-O". It was like he was raising the roof with the 4.0 itself. It was awesome.

I guess the guy thought the stripper was saying that you had to strip if your grades were good enough, but I'm glad he stuck to his convictions. For a while, Docta V and I would make the "Four-Point-O" gesture to each other in public, when something particular un-smart happened. It wasn't quite as annoying as the 867-5309 thing, but then again, not many things are.

(In researching this post, I came across the Wikipedia entry for Maury, which is excellent. The writer deserves a 4.0 of his own.)

on posting dates and post-dating

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I'm writing this at 2 AM on a Sunday morning. Yet, this will be date-stamped late Friday night. The reason is that I want to have a post every single day. Not necessarily for any real reason, beyond the fact that I promised to do it in my State of the Zembla address on January 1. Come to think of it, even the post announcing that there would be daily posts was itself composed after its supposed date. At 9:44 on January 1, I was still talking to the Keane cousins about accidentally going to a gay bar my first week in San Francisco (the subject for a new post, perhaps?).

There's no real reason that Zembla needs to be a daily endeavor. The site doesn't cover breaking news. I have no real idea of what the readership even entails, except that it's greater when posts get linked on Deadspin, and Allen tends to read several weeks at a time in big Dutch RSS text gulps. Nor is it an issue of merely keep ing the post count up. It's March 4th, but there have been far more than 62 posts this year. Maybe 65, 66, in fact. Truly, there's more Zembla than anyone actually wants.

In the early days of Cementhorizon, there was more of an informal competition to get one's posts and comments to appear at the top of the main page. Just for the sake of history take a gander at how the old girl used to look. Events? News stories? What a different, more innocent world it was, back in 2002. I do miss the polls a little, shamelessly stolen for the most part from the old Squelch poll site, including my favorite:

What is your reason for crushing a lot?


  • I'm a player

  • I'm not a player; I just crush a lot

These days, CH sites are updated so infrequently, there's no real race. The frantic post/comment rat race has been replaced by general malaise, as readers get their self-worth from things like "loving relationships" and "rewarding careers" and "international travel", rather than the sweet temporary high of being the most recent poster. I personally like to fly under the radar. There's a post every day, somehow, but when did it go up? Most Zembla pieces are written on scraps of paper and pocket-sized notebooks, but only committed to cyber-immortality between midnight and 3 AM. If I were Doc Brown, I'd have finished the wiring job for the Clock Tower four or five hours late, waited for my future self to time-travel from the Old West, then zipped back to 9:54 PM or so to connect the cables.

This might be all hullabalooing over nothing. It's not clear whether people generally read the site via the Cementhorizon main page, and even if they do, whether fake posting dates confuse people, making them think there's no new content, and driving them into the cybernetic arms of Digital Johnny. In fact, I acknowledged the likelihood of fake dates in the original posts. Still, when a friend referred to post-dating a blog post as "pulling a Sean", I knew I had gone too far.

Post-dating posts. Will I ever stop? Yo, I don't know. I might have an answer "tomorrow", but it probably will have been written three weeks from yesterday.

the legend of edward 40-hands

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Gene posted about the runaway popularity of our Edward 40-Hands photo album, thus there is no better time for an explanation of the phenomenon that is Edward 40-Hands.

The rules of the game are simple. Take two forties, open them, and then have a friend duct tape one forty to each hand. Then, drink the forties. Once the forties are empty, you can untape your hands. Hands cold? Better start drinking faster. Need to pee? Better start drinking faster. Drinking too fast? You sure you couldn't be drinking faster? The first to finish his or her forties is the winner.

I learned about Edward 40-Hands from my little sister, Molly, who learned it at UC Santa Barbara. All I ever needed to know about excessive, self-destructive drinking, I learned in Santa Barbara. Anytime you see me with alcohol directly stuck to my body, via tape, glue, rope, paste, or some kind of industrial epoxy, you can safely conclude that, whatever activity I'm engaged in, it originated within the Goleta city limits.

The game takes its name from the Tim Burton-Johnny Depp classic film Edward Scissorhands. There are a lot of similarities between the film and the game. Just as Edward has scissors instead of hands, for the duration of the game, participants have large bottles of malt liquor instead of hands. Both the film and game value style and atmosphere over plot and character development. Like the film, early incarnations of the game inevitably featured a scary, hyper-aggressive Anthony Michael Hall. The film and game both have important lessons about overcoming your limitations. Edward had unfinished hands, but he could trim a hedge into the shape of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. After consuming eighty ounces of malt liquor in about an hour, you'll feel like you could do the same, but instead you'll sit around gushing about how Depeche Mode's Ultra is such a great, great album, and how come more people haven't heard of it?

In our game of 40-Hands, we deviated slightly from the official rules. Normally, I think you have to keep both hands taped until both forties are empty. It's like the challenge where you try to drink a gallon of milk in an hour: if you use the bathroom or vomit, you get disqualified (Or, if you're a batboy for the Florida Marlins, you get suspended for six games). We allowed players to free one hand if that hand's bottle was empty, which in retrospect may have been wussy. Tami only taped twelve-ounce beers to her hands, because she wanted to participate and also not die. I think it's legitimate to go the twelve-ounce route if you're small and not trying to prove anything, though I know somewhere in Isla Vista, Molly is shaking her head in disgust.

I was the winner, but it could have been any of us. Well, not Hammack, because we had too big of a head start. These were all nationally-ranked, champion drinkers, with the perforated livers to show for it. And Edward 40-Hands isn't about winning or losing. It's about going past your limits and bringing innovation to the game. Like smoking with forties taped to your hands. Or reading the New Yorker. And let's not forget bleeding profusely. As you can see, Dustin was almost as excited as I was about that last one.

So there you have it. Edward 40-Hands: A drain on Cementhorizon's bandwidth and all of our brain cells. It's still the most successful drinking game based on a Tim Burton film, though "Pee-Wee's Big Bottle of Jack Daniel's" and "Batman Returns Fifteen Dollars' Worth Of Empties" also have their charms. Remember, Edward 40-Hands is a game for legal adults. Please don't play Edward 40-Hands and drive, especially if the bottles are still taped to your hands.

pdx-cursion, part 2: stumptown roundup

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(Read Part 2)

In honor of Michele's trip to Portland, I present a few observations collected from my trip to Stumptown last August. Unlike Michele, I am not pretending that I'll actually move there, but I respect her charade.

The MAX

I took the MAX (short for "Metropolitan Area Xpress", because people in Portland apparently can't spell) light rail from the Portland airport all the way out to Hillsboro, where the wedding was being held. I was on the train for about 90 minutes, during which time I read a sizable xcerpt from a book I got at the airport Powell's Books and lent my cell phone to a handsome black man wearing xtremely muddy pants. I felt bad that Portland's inadequate local spelling education programs had condemned the man to a life of ditch-digging. Luckily, you only need to know numbers to operate my phone. The total cost of my MAX ride was an in-xpensive $1.70. The same journey on BART would have cost me $12 and a vial of my blood.

America's Fourth-Largest Port

For some reason, it surprised me to see all the container ships in the harbor. Then I remembered the name of the city I was in. If it wasn't already such a famous city on two coasts, "Portland" would make a great name for a low-ride amusement park. There'd be a ride all about loading ships, and another one about unloading ships. And then a dredging game, for the kids. Then I would threaten to sell the amusement park to the United Arab Emirates so Congress would buy me out at an inflated price.

During my three days in Oregon, I told at least five different people that Portland was the fourth-largest port in the USA, and not one of them doubted me. I totally made it up! I would not have gotten away with a bold claim like that in 2006. Port awareness has risen so much in the last six months, it is absolutely breathtaking.

Jesus Saves

There was a billboard outside Hillsboro that said "Jesus Saves From Hell". To me, that meant a billboard owner wasn't satisfied with plain old "Jesus Saves", and its implied message that what Jesus was saving you from was hell. Maybe they were getting a lot of snarky comments.

"Oh, did Jesus call Geico about his car insurance? Is that how He saves?"
"Sounds like this Jesus fellow is a hockey goalie or something."
"Wow, the Son of God knows CPR."
"Jesus Saves...but maybe Moses invests!"

Finally the billboard guy had enough. "Jesus Saves -- From Hell. What do you have to say now, smart guys?"

And it was cool for a while, until one guy drove by and yelled, "Hey, how does Jesus call Geico about his car insurance - from hell?" Then the billboard owner got frustrated and went down to America's fourth-largest port to cool down for a while by playing the dredging game.

another ode to a muni line

After I moved to San Francisco I wrote an ode to what was then my favorite MUNI line, the N-Judah. Since then, I've moved to the other side of Market Street, and as a result, me and N-Judah have grown apart. There's a new MUNI line in my life, and I'm so excited about it, I asked Crash Test Dummies to write a song about it.

M M M M

By Crash Test Dummies

Once there was this guy who
Got himself a MUNI Pass to help with his commute
And when he moved to Ford Street
His pass was never used on the N Line
He said that it was 'cause
All the N stops were sooooo faaaaar

M M M M
M M M M

Once there was this girl who
Though she had to take L Taraval down to the zoo
But when she saw the route map
She saw the M went closer to Stonestown
She couldn't quite explain it
She'd always just shoppppped theeeeere

M M M M
M M M M

This girl and boy were glad
But another girl just took a cab

Then there was this girl whose
Boyfriend wanted her to come to a bar downtown after ten
And when she got to Church Street
They made her take a bus out on Market
She couldn't quite explain what
The hell they planned to reeeeepaaaair

M M M M
M M M M

Around 11:00 on Saturday night, I got a call from Louise. After I had said two words ("Hello" and "Louise"), my voice went out. I could speak a little bit, but not enough to be heard over a cell phone connection with someone outside a club. I croaked, "I'm sorry, I lost my voice" a few times, but to no avail.

Louise was patient and polite throughout the whole ordeal, though clearly frustrated by the communication gap. Once she said, "I'm sorry, I can't understand you. It sounds like you're almost saying something, Sean." I think she maybe managed to catch the phrase "text message", which only confused matters further. Eventually she said, "I wish I could understand what you're saying, but from the tone of your voice, it sounds like you're not planning to come out tonight."

I got a glass of water, and it didn't help at all. Also, while I nearly always pace while talking on the phone, I also pace while I am unable to talk and on the phone.

"Why didn't you just hang up, Sean?", you might ask. Because hanging up on someone is rude, that's why.

For the majority of the day today, I have been unable to speak above a whisper. This has made women think that I am deep, and made children think that I am retarded. Perversely, I still carried my phone around all day, having learned nothing from my chat with Louise.

In a way, I feel like I'm a more evolved human being, having moved past speech. In the future, all communication is going to happen through blogging. Emails will still be OK, but only because of their similarity to blogging. Verbal interaction will go the way of the passenger pigeon, the telegram, the ICQ chat, and Middle English. There's a reason they call it an internet "connection", after all. What a glorious bloggety day it will be when all of us are as free as I am now, silently sucking down cough drops and blogging, without that goddamn ball-and-chain of a functional larynx holding me back.

I think I resolved the Louise miscommunication with a series of "Cell Phone Mini-Blogs", or as you troglodytes like to call them, "text messages". The title of this post is taken from the confused CPMB she sent after our initial conversation, and I think it is meaningful on many different levels, all of which are blogging-related and glorious. I would explain the levels in greater detail, but right now I must preserve my stand-up comedy career by learning to whisper with a speech impediment.

photos from golden gate park

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sean-wu-piggy.jpg


Michele's photos of our afternoon picnic and physics experiments in Golden Gate Park. I was just well enough to make captions.

Previews:

Page 1: Gang signs, blogs, carbs, and half-baked pumpkin bread.

Page 2: Foreshadowing, juggling, and Baby Rachel is not that bright.

Page 3: More lost babies, more Brain Ball tossing, more oranges landing in cups of wine.

Page 4: Juggling, enormous rubber band chains. and Gene throws an orange at a little girl's head (perhaps an optical illusion).

Page 5: Jason's heroic ass nearly dies protecting Michele and Kristen from snapped rubber bands. Truly the most heartwarming page in this photo album.

Page 6: The camera loves Gene, and it loves Jason's ass. Christine channels her inner MacGyver.

Page 7: Life is like a rubber band chain, jump rope chants are fun, and Garrick's balls are probably still smarting a little.

Page 8: Some successful and unsuccessful attempts at piggyback rides.

Page 9: Videos of juggling and jumping rope, Michele and Jason make friends/enemies, the captions lose steam.

Look at the photos, and it's like you were actually there, except without the hypothermia and the stinging welts on your legs/scrotum.

things i learned while i was sick

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1. If your cell phone is gone, and you need to find a pay phone to call in sick, you will pass three businesses that provide free wireless internet service before reaching a functional pay phone.

2. If you go to sleep wearing three sweatshirts, it is unlikely you'll wake up wearing more than one.

3. If you dream about your inability to fall asleep, that sleep is not going to be restful.

4. If you watch the Olympic women's free skate program, heavily fast-forwarded, while running a 101-degree fever, it's pretty much like taking mushrooms. From time to time, you might even hallucinate that Dick Button is speaking directly to you, criticizing your fitness and poor posture on the couch. Remember, vomiting is an automatic one-point deduction.

Within hours of arriving in Santa Barbara, Michele, Kristen and I met diminutive engineer named John. As we soon learned, John is The Worst Person In The World. In my life and work, I have encountered murderers, rapists, creationist hecklers at dinosaur lectures, child molesters, and this one douchebag stockbroker who I met at Kate O'Brien's after a holiday party, and it is with no hesitation that I deem this guy the worst ever. My younger sisters used to call Docta V "Bestie" back in high school, to indicate how they liked him more than any of my other friends. Engineer John would have been dubbed "Worstie" within seconds.

Snapshot 1: At dinner, I order steak, while Worstie orders Hawaiian pizza. He is very confident about his order, because he feels the pizza will allow him to drink more, by absorbing alcohol for him. "It's all about the carbs", he confides. Pointing at my mashed potatoes, he scoffs, "You aren't gonna get anything from that. This crust? Enriched. Wheat. Flour."

Snapshot 2: The pizza arrives, and Worstie can't stop talking about how greasy the pizza is, or how good my steak looks. "If there weren't ladies here, I'd take a stack of napkins to this damn pizza", Worstie says. The presence of "ladies" does not prevent him from launching into a long story about why he hates it when people call him while they're using the bathroom.

Snapshot 3: Worstie requests napkins from our server. When she brings them to the table, she makes a joke about how she hopes we aren't making a mess. Perhaps she assumed he wouldn't be using the napkins for grease-sopping with ladies present. For whatever reason, this makes Worstie upset. "Did you hear that? I'm gonna ask for coloring books. She thinks we're babies? I'm gonna ask if they have coloring books. And crayons."
I don't know what to say. "OK", I reply.
"Do you think this place has crayons? I bet they do. I'm gonna ask."
"I don't think they have crayons."
"I'm totally gonna ask. Man, I should have ordered steak."

Snapshot 4: Worstie continues to eyeball my steak. Finally I cut off a chunk and hand it to him, to shut him up. This only shifts his focus to how soft and fatty the steak is, and how he can barely eat it. Worstie then tries to offer slices of pizza to other people at our table. "This pizza is gross. Anyone want a slice? Come on, take a slice."

Snapshot 5: The restaurant doesn't have crayons. Worstie's "joke" falls flat, but he's still pretty proud of himself. "I told you I was gonna ask!" he triumphantly declares. He goes on to explain how he's only rude to wait staff while traveling. Back home in Orange County, he "basically almost always tips 20%."

Snapshot 6: On the way to the bar, Worstie explains his job, which Kristen has declared "boring". She asks him to make up something more interesting than his actual job, working for a defense contractor. Instead, he tells us why it's totally justified that Raytheon charges the government $10 per screw.

Snapshot 7: Kristen suggests imaginary jobs for Worstie, so he doesn't have to say "procurement of death machines and death machine components". He doesn't like the suggestion of "ear model", but the idea of working as a tailor at Nordstrom's gets him extremely offended. "I don't work at Nordstrom's!" Worstie shouts. "I shop at Nordstrom's." As evidence, he points to his ensemble.

Snapshot 8: A woman in the bar thinks Worstie is too young to drink (because he's about 5'4" and baby-faced). When she asks him to guess her age, he says, "34". This guess, or maybe just Worstie's personality, causes the woman to leave, taking her two friends with her.

Snapshot 9: An impromptu lecture about why women shouldn't ask you their age if they're just going to get offended segues into a monologue about how many full-size beds and futons are in Worstie's townhouse. Each room has a full-size bed and a full-size futon, though they are unoccupied most of the time. I think we are supposed to be impressed at their wealth of futons, and that Worstie's landlord comes down and does shots with him, even though he's in his 40's. Three times, Worstie tells us how much his rent is.

Why full-size beds? Worstie explains it's because he's not very tall. And, if a girl is too big to share a full-size bed with him, then she is too big to date. "Like how stewardesses used to have to get on a scale and make weight before they were allowed to fly," Kristen adds. "Exactly. Exactly! If she's too big, she's out," says Worstie, jerking his thumb like an umpire ejecting an argumentative player.

Snapshot 10: After kissing Worstie for roughly fifteen seconds, a girl has to run to the bathroom and throw up. Let this be a lesson, residents of Orange County: Kissing Worstie will make you vomit.

The more I think about the quail hunt incident, the more I realize that Vice President Dick Cheney is just an ordinary guy. Not so much an ordinary guy like me or you, the Zembla readers, but more like one of the clients at my unnamed legal defense firm. After all, isn't the phrase "oil company cronies" roughly analogous to "criminal associates"? I think it is. But the similarities between Dick Cheney and the average indigent, incarcerated client represented by our firm don't end there.

  • Cheney claims to have had "one beer" before his hunting accident. According to one attorney I spoke with, roughly 40% of our clients claim to have consumed just "one beer" before committing their offenses.
  • Both the vice president and the majority of our clients are surrounded by heavily armed guards at all times. However, Cheney's guards rarely if ever shoot at him or beat him with billy clubs.
  • In crisis situations, Cheney is removed to an underground bunker in an undisclosed location. Our clients are locked down in their cells during times of racial tension or riots. It is probably equally difficult to locate or communicate with either our clients or the vice president in these situations.
  • Their mail is opened and thoroughly searched by guards. Sometimes the letters even contain illicit white powder, though Cheney is more likely to get anthrax than cocaine.
  • Before the 2000 election, some opponents claimed it was illegal that Cheney changed his official residence, from Texas to Wyoming, after he was selected as the vice presidential nominee. We have many clients who ran into trouble because of their addresses - failing to inform probation officers of their moves, registering with local police departments too late, not having an address due to homelessness - and many of their opponents (local prosecutors) have claimed such actions were illegal. I wonder if it would work if more of our clients argued the issue of residency with the "vacation home" defense.
  • Cheney shot an old man in the face with a shotgun. Our clients...actually, the majority of our clients are in jail for drug-related offenses or property crimes. So I guess Cheney and our clients aren't that much alike.

I'm back on stage at the San Francisco Comedy Club at 50 Mason this Friday, headlining and showing them showcase audiences what's what. In the immortal words of Mark Morrison, "I'm back up in the game/ Running things to keep my swing/ Letting all the people know/ That I'm back to run the show".

Pump up the world, watch my flow, and see me make with the funny, along with a great lineup including Max Curry, Stroy Moyd, Erikka Innes, Nico Santos, and a special guest. Nico Santos in particular is worth the $10 admission by himself. Organizers have asked that I reiterate that audience members are allowed, nay, encouraged to bring in their own alcohol and any other comedy-enhancing materials they wish, as the long-awaited 50 Mason liquor license winds through its bureaucratic maze. This is not legal advice.

Doors open at 7:30, and the show begins at 8. I should go on around 9:15, 9:30. The last few Friday shows have sold out, so I encourage you to call 415-398-4129 or visit http://www.50masonlounge.com to make reservations. I think it will be an excellent show. I plan to keep entertaining America, avoid exploring the differences between men and women, and above all, come again, and show you that I'm real.

FridayNightComedy.jpg

On the way down to Santa Barbara, we blew out a tire. This is the second time there's been a flat tire when I was riding in Michele's car. The first was back in high school, on a trip to Newark, CA, to see the (terrible) play "I Hate Hamlet". I began to wonder if blown tires were the inevitable result of taking a long car ride with Michele, given that in 1996, driving to Newark was relatively longer and more intense than traveling to Santa Barbara is now.

While I am quite inept with many machines and technical matters, I can indeed change a tire, if you forgive two or three false starts and non-fatal mistakes. Given the string of men in pickup trucks that drove by to offer help, my work might not have saved much time. It did save me some emasculation. The shredded tire delayed us, but in no way derailed us, except that Michele had to make her second trip to a tire store in three days.

We attempted to psych her up. "Tire stores in Santa Barbara are gorgeous", I lied. Kristen insisted that in Santa Barbara, tire stores blow up a steel-belted radial on the hour, every hour. Based on my previous experiences in Santa Barbara, I thought the tire store employees might fill the hubcap with vodka and Red Bull, and refuse to give Michele her car back until she'd downed the whole thing.

The actual store was not as exciting as we'd fantasized. No one did shots, nothing exploded, no kegerators were powered by Die Hard batteries. Trying to salvage something from the visit, I tried to steal some trade secrets, by surreptitiously copying down the "Four C's" of successful Sears Tires customer service. I only got as far as "Communication" before the counter guy utilized the little-down Fifth C: "Cover up the list of Four C's".

It would have been a total ripoff had we not noticed the dirtiest tire name ever: Kumho. If there was ever a tire company that understood the importance of using quality rubbers, a company with a real focus on wet traction, a company that knew that their product had to stand up to a steady, rigorous pounding, that company is Kumho Tires.

We got the Bridgestone "Dirty Slut" model instead. And then the counter guy drew a penis on his sleeping co-worker's face, because clearly, the Fourth C is "chiefing your co-workers". God bless this town.

two dolla subscription update

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(Original Two Dolla Wednesday subscription plan post)

I made a massive purchase at the Oakland Athletics ticket office today. 136 tickets. I could have bought them online and paid the service charge, but "Four Dolla Wednesday" just doesn't have the same ring. Would a two-dollar hot dog taste as delicious? What if the Safeway Club had a membership fee? The magic would be gone.

Before the purchase, I had hopes of getting free swag after the purchase. After all, I was buying over a hundred tickets. Surely that was worth a stuffed elephant, a Bobby Kielty wig, or even a tote bag. I even got instructions from our houseguest, a world-renowned getter of free stuff. She told me to be cheerful, and grant them the responsibility of making my day great. I boarded the BART train full of hope, brimming with confidence and ideas about how to make my ticket agent feel that showering me with gifts was in his self-interest.

Sadly, the barren ticket office held no swag. It barely held accommodations for the lone employee, who was sitting on a stool, shivering and watching cartoons on an old television set. He did give me extra pocket schedules, which is far from a tote bag with elephants on it.

There is good news and bad news about the purchase. The good news is that the season ticket price has been reduced to $12. The bad news is that the amount of games has also been reduced, down to a mere six contests. For those of you who had your hearts set on the May 31 game, I regret to inform you that the game is already sold out, because it is Little League Night. I think the joke is on the Little Leaguers, since they'll have to watch legal test case Doug Mientkiewicz and the Kansas City Royals, the worst team in baseball. Perhaps appropriately, the Royals have opted for an "Everybody Plays" approach to the upcoming season, where everyone on the roster is guaranteed to play at least two innings. There's still time for them to acquire the manager's son, Philadelphia third baseman David Bell.

Thanks to our 15 subscribers for supporting Two Dolla Wednesday. If you aren't a subscriber, there are a limited number of extra seats available, but they're going fast. With three games against the Mariners, Japanese readers of Zembla will be intrigued. If you act fact, and act confident while acting fast, you might even score a free pocket schedule.

Last Saturday, I got to do some rare driving, shuttling people home from a party in my friend's pimped-out ride, a Subaru Outback. Before we left, the conversation among our multicultural bunch had revolved around certain things that only white people did, specifically, maintaining friendships with their exes. We drew no conclusions on the topic of post-relationship relationships, but it led to a discussion of "really white things".

For example: Driving a Subaru Outback.

The soundtrack to our drive home was provided by my friend's mix CD, focused heavily on music from the early 90's. Considering my giant posters celebrating Nine Inch Nails, U2, and Smashing Pumpkins, this mix CD was a lot like my bedroom's decorations until about 2003. Cypress Hill's "Insane in the Brain" had just ended when the Whitest Thing Ever happened. I heard the intro to the next song and asked, "Oooh, is this 'God Shuffled His Feet'"?

The Whitest Thing Ever was either:

a) Having an obscure Crash Test Dummies song playing in your Subaru Outback.
b) Picking out that obscure Crash Test Dummies song based on less than two seconds of percussion.

I report, you decide.

Brit Hume spoke to Dick Cheney today about his medical staff, shooting people in the face, and why the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is a better newspaper than the New York Times. If you don't want to browse the transcript, here are some relevant quotes, shamelessly edited and taken out of context:

Brit Hume's first tough questions

(Questions #30-32)
Hume: You know all the procedures and how to maintain the proper line and distance between you and other hunters, and all that. So how, in your judgment, did this happen? Who -- what caused this? What was the responsibility here?


Marksmanship

Hume: And you -- and I take it, you missed the bird.

Cheney: I have no idea.


Are Whittington and Cheney friends or not?

Hume: Would you describe him as a close friend, friendly acquaintance, what --

Cheney: No, an acquaintance.
...
Cheney: I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend.
...
Cheney: My friend, Harry, has been shot and we've got to take care of him.
...
Cheney: What happened to my friend as a result of my actions...going from what is a very happy, pleasant day with great friends in a beautiful part of the country, doing something I love -- to, my gosh, I've shot my friend.


Harry Whittington, hottie

Cheney: He's a great man, he's in great shape.
...
Hume: What was he wearing?
...
Cheney: I could see the upper part of his body...the sun was directly behind him.
...
Cheney: You think about his eyes.
...
Cheney: He's been fantastic. He's a gentleman in every respect....I guess I'd describe him as a true Texas gentleman, a very successful attorney, successful businessman in Austin; a gentleman in every respect of the word. And he's been superb.


This was before the heart attack

Cheney: He literally was more concerned about me and the impact on me than he was on the fact that he'd been shot.


Detectives believe alcohol was involved

Hume: Was anybody drinking in this party?

Cheney: No. You don't hunt with people who drink. That's not a good
idea. We had --

Hume: So he wasn't, and you weren't?

Cheney: Correct. We'd taken a break at lunch...I had a beer at lunch.


So distraught, they cancelled the Sunday hunt

Hume: Will it affect your attitude toward this pastime you so love in the future?

Cheney: I can't say that. You know, we canceled the Sunday hunt. I said, look I'm not -- we were scheduled to go out again on Sunday and I said I'm not going to go on Sunday, I want to focus on Harry. I'll have to think about it.


What's the hold-up?

Cheney: I've got nothing but good things to say about Scott McClellan and Dan Bartlett. They've got a tough job to do and they do it well. They urged us to get the story out. The decision about how it got out, basically, was my responsibility.
...
Hume: Now, you're talking to me today -- this is, what, Wednesday?

Cheney: Wednesday.


In praise of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Cheney: She [Katharine Armstrong] wanted to go to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, which is the local newspaper, covers that area, to reporters she knew. And I thought that made good sense because you can get as accurate a story as possible from somebody who knew and understood hunting...It strikes me that the Corpus Christi Caller-Times is just as valid a news outlet as The New York Times is.


Maybe it's easier to get in touch with someone from The New York Times

Cheney: I can't remember what time Katharine actually talked to the reporter. She had trouble that morning actually finding a reporter.


Cheney casts doubt on Cheney's veracity

Cheney: Are they going to take my word for what happened?


The last word

Cheney: One of the problems we have as a government is our inability to keep secrets.

high five a muslim day

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We at Zembla have always prided ourselves on being your top source for all sorts of unique content: heart-warming stories about swim lessons, scholarly examinations of hip-hop lyrics, hard-hitting looks at gender relations among Smurfs, and now, banned Australian TV sketch comedy!

Through our connections at the Ronnie Johns Half Hour, the 9th -best comedy show in broadcast history, we have obtained a link to the "High Five a Muslim Day" sketch. Deeming it offensive, Network 10 chose to censor the sketch rather than air it during the regular broacast of The Ronnie Johns Half Hour. I'm not sure what Network 10 is exactly, but my sources say it's just like The WB, only with five times the crocodiles and twice the hunters, and Gilmore Sheilas isn't quite so talky all the time.

Though a wise man once told me that Australians were "like school on Sunday - no class", I really don't think the sketch is in bad taste. Perhaps I'm biased because of my love of the high-five, to the extent that I've often mused of making a documentary consisting solely of my traveling the world and delivering high fives in front of notable historic sites.

Since the Mufti of Australia has no sway over Zembla's virtual webspace, you can view the sketch here. Remember, just like The Best of Backyard Wrestling and the Menstruating Virgin Mary episode of South Park, this sketch has been banned from television! It may air in cleaner form on a later version of the show, and a more offensive version also might emerge on the interweb by the end of the month. It's always difficult to tell with Australia, as their censorship goes clockwise.

More on Ronnie Johns

Watch my own high-fiving here, though I'm clearly inferior to Jesus when it comes to the shlappy

Corrections for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, February 2006

1. The recorded message for the Department of Corrections inmate locator hotline says, "Thank you for calling the ID/Warrants unit. Your call is important to us. Please stay on the line." It then repeats for 15-30 minutes*, until an operator picks up. The message should say, "Fuck you for calling the ID/Warrants unit. Your call is not important to us. You might as well hang up now."

2. Though the facility opened nearly eight months ago, the CDC's website does not yet acknowledge the existence of Kern Valley State Prison, in Delano, California. Though it holds approximately 5,000 inmates, the Department of Corrections makes little to no effort to make its mailing address readily available. I personally found it on the eight page of Google results, in a .pdf file containg job listings.

This makes it quite difficult for family members or attorneys to simply correspond by mail with prisoners unlucky enough to end up at KVSP. It is especially confusing because there is another prison in Delano with a similar name - North Kern State Prison. In case you were wondering, the two prisons will not forward misdirected mail to each other. They just return the correspondence to sender with a sticker that says, "Inmate not found", which is something that I have also seen prisons do when the inmate inmate in question was deceased.

The CDC's site should be corrected to list Kern Valley State Prison and its address (provided here as a public service):

Kern Valley State Prison
3000 West Cecil Ave.
Delano, CA 93215


*Not an exaggeration

anthropology at 4th and howard

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My route from the subway to work takes me past Moscone Center, specifically the Moscone West building. From what I can tell, the Moscone West building hosts some kind of business convention or seminar every single week. I used to think it was predominantly tech conventions, because of the seemingly omnipresent banners for Oracle and Intel that adorned the building's facade. I also came to this conclusion by observing the attendees, who all looked like nerds.

Conventioneers were a fascinating study: wearing free promotional t-shirts and oversized name tags, scurrying across Fourth Street in frightened packs, gaping and pointing with equal awe at carousels, billboards, and homeless people. Obviously, SOMA is not the natural habitat of a nerd. My observation was more akin to looking at lions at the zoo, wandering around in some confused recreation of the savanna.

Upon looking at their home page, I realized that Moscone's conference schedule is not especially populated by tech companies. The nerdish behavior I saw was not unique to employees specializing in computer products. I'd be hard pressed to point out a significant difference in how Intel conference attendees behaved compared to, say, the American Pharmacist Association, though I am curious to see what the University of 7-11 conference is like. I was being unfair. Working for a tech company's office doesn't make you a dork. Working in any kind of office will do that.

This weekend, Moscone West hosts WonderCon 2006. From my intial field studies, I've observed that while Howard Street has seen a 10-20% increase in nerddom, and the lines for Dance Dance Revolution are out the door at the Metreon, the most significant trend is the 700% increase in corest-wearing young women in the area. This topic deserves extensive further study, I believe.

I enjoy my job at an unnamed non-profit law firm, but not as much as I enjoying dining out. To try and narrow the gap in enjoyment, here are some suggested changes to make working at my office (and yours!) more like eating at a delicious Chinese restaurant. Incidentally, there aren't any good Chinese places near my office, but there is a wide selection of non-profit organizations within walking distance.

  • Add "in bed!" to the end of intra-office e-mail messages and listings of felony charges and watch the comedy explode. "Please refrain from taking office supplies for personal use...in bed!" "Defendant is sentenced to three years modified probation....in bed!"

  • Not sure what to do with a confusing legal document? You can't go wrong deep-frying it and dipping it in sweet and sour sauce.

  • Doing clerical work at your desk is more fun and more convenient with your White-Out, paper clips, stapler, and multi-colored highlighters arranged on a large Lazy Susan.

  • Be aware that, no matter how long you've been on the phone answering questions from an incarcerated appellant, you're just going to get another collect call from San Quentin an hour later.

  • Before searching for missing files in an attorney's cluttered office, take a moment to enjoy an invigorating cup of tea. Make the temp pour it for you.

  • To prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or other repetitive stress injuries, slather your forearms with MSG before doing extended data entry projects.

  • Use chopsticks to open letters from sex offenders.

  • Begin each day by attacking complex legal arguments and/or a heaping plate of spring rolls.

  • If you process an attorney's opening brief before noon, you get a complimentary soda.

Stuck On Lou is taking the Internet by storm! Here are some hypothetical slogans to help hype up that site.

"Get stuck on 'Stuck on Lou'"

"Only a Lou-natic would ignore this blog!"

"I am stuck on Stuck On Lou 'cause Stuck On Lou's stuck on me"

"Louise-y? Fo-sheezy!"

"Go Stuck yourself"

"You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow. This opportunity comes once in a lifetime yo -- Lou-se yourself"

to be young and in love and on bart

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Everyone loves BART, and they love to be in love. From my observations and experiences, here are some tips for being in love and staying in love on the #1 Transit System in the World.

The Escalator

Holding hands with your girlfriend is extremely important. Hold hands as much as you can. Share the same step. If she stands behind you, on a different step, that means she probably doesn't love you as much as you thought. Say you let go of her hand, or both stood on the right side together. Would that be an appropriate testament to your love? No. You need to hold hands from the bottom all the way to the top.

Don't let go until the last possible second. It's best to break hand contact as close to the fare gates as possible, so that your love is preserved. With practice, you can go through the turnstiles side by side and never break finger contact, though one of you will have to be adept with your left hand.

And what about the other people on the escalator? Diana Ross said it best: "You can't hurry love." Those commuters behind you will just have to wait.

The Crowded Train

Sometimes BART is crowded. Obviously, you'd like to sit next to each other, so you can hold hands and talk, loudly. Sometimes, it's just too crowded. There's only one seat available. Now, ideally, you could get someone to move from a one-seat position to a different vacant seat, freeing up a double-seat. But sometimes there's not enough space, or the commuter is pissed off/annoyed/asleep/black. Then, you will be too scared to ask.

Sometimes you can find a seat behind your girl. This is acceptable only if you lean forward in your seat, keeping at least one hand on her shoulders or arms at all times. Two hands is obviously preferable. Keep up steady conversation, with your face close to her ear, so she doesn't start conversing with the person next to her and then break up with you.

If there is no chance to sit side-by-side, I think the best solution is to let your lady love take the free seat, while you kneel in the aisle next to her seat. You can hold hands over the armrest. And a little knee pain is nothing in the cause of true love.

Imaginary Girlfriends

When you spot your imaginary girlfriend on a BART train, it is important to not act creepy. Don't sit next to her, or even directly across to her. But make sure you choose a seat where you can observe her.

Watch her as much as you can. Try to read the title of her book or magazine, perhaps by pretending to tie your shoelace. If she makes eye contact, or even looks in your direction, immediately look away. Pretend to be reading your book, or the ad for the AIDS Marathon. She will think you are studious, or an athlete. A charitable athlete.

If she transfers at one of the Oakland stations, go ahead and follow her off the train. You can always transfer back to your previous train two stops later. Or, just ride along with her until she gets off, and then double back to your real destination. The BART fare will be the same, no matter how long it takes you to get to your eventual destination, because they understand about imaginary girlfriends.

When you're exiting the train or walking across the platform, that is the time to walk close behind her and try to smell her hair.

Another month, another appearance at the San Francisco Comedy Club, at 50 Mason. This time I'm not the headliner, merely part of the showcase. I wish there were a fancy term for this slot. "Sub-headliner" either sounds like I'm a super-powered comedian from Atlantis, or the headliner is practicing BDSM on me.

Nevertheless, I will be doing about ten minutes as part of a killer ensemble. Our headliner, Bill Santiago, is a rising star who recently taped a half-hour special for Comedy Central. To give you some perspective on this, I recently taped an eight-minute version of White Christmas starring Cabbage Patch Kids, for an audience of four people. Also performing in the showcase are Jerry Goldstone, Kevin Camia, and Zahra Noorbakhsh.

The show starts at 8:00, and admission is $10. As always, there is no drink minimum at 50 Mason, and there is even less in the way of bag checks for alcohol. The official promotional announcement is after the jump.

directions for the english-impaired

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On the way to work on Monday, I was stopped a by a tourist with a limited grasp of English and an urgent need for directions. The only word I caught was "subway". I pointed to the Powell Stations stairs behind me, and was met with a blank stare. Next, I tried a pantomine of going down the stairs, and, somewhat embarassingly, going through the automatic fare gates. The tourist still stared expectantly. Finally she opened her mouth and mimed something that looked really dirty, until I realized she was pretending to eat a sandwich.

"Oh, that Subway", I said with relief. She still wasn't sure I got it, but nodded when I said, "Eat fresh." Subway is right by office. I even knew the specials, but I decided it was too hard to convey "$2.99 six-inch" or "roasted turkey". I went through how to get there - three blocks down, on the left, can't miss it - but the tourist still looked distressed.

She shook her head. "Too far." Then she went into Old Navy, for some reason.

pdx-cursion, part 1: gutley

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In August, our good friends Aaron (not that Aaron) and Katie (not that Katie, or that one) got married just outside of Portland. The four of us were staying about three miles from the site of the ceremony, so we hired a cab to take us there.

The place were staying was a converted convalescent home. To their credit, the new hotel owners embraced their past, rather than pretending the safety bars and extra-wide doors in the shower were a luxury feature. Each room was named after one of its former residents, and said resident was immortalized with a wall portrait and brief biography. Our room was named after Marie "Cookie" Cobb, and her portrait was so scary that we left the closet door open so we couldn't see it. Mike and Jessica's room featured "Uncle Jim", whose biography claimed he "had the grip of a 30-year-old".

Perhaps the hotel's former incarnation was the reason the taxi company sent us the vehicle they did. It was a van with no middle seats, and an elaborate metal guard on its metal door, presumably to transport wheelchair-bound passengers. Since there were four of us, that meant Jessica rode shotgun, while Mike, Paul, and I, and our suits squeezed together in the way back.

The drive was a little awkward, since none of us could move laterally, and it felt like Jessica and the rotund cabbie were taking us to soccer practice. Soccer practice for cripples. Also, the cabbie was only going about 15 MPH. As is my habit in these situations, I was trying to defuse the awkwardness by talking a lot. We got on the subject of our recently-rediscovered friend Dan (not that Dan, and his teenage efforts to shed the nickname "Danny". Out of nowhere, our cabbie spoke for the first time.

"No one but my mom's allowed to call me Danny," he said. He let that linger there for a while, until I asked, "So, your name's Dan?"

He affirmed, and then added, "I had a different nickname, but until the reunion, I hadn't heard it since high school." Again, the awkward silence lasted a little too long, until I asked, "What was the nickname?"

"They called me 'Gutley'", he responded, and we all tried really hard not to laugh. He explained that his last name was "Gately", and so it was natural that his abusive high school football coach would yell "Dammit, Gutley!" at him when he made mistakes. The story got sadder when he explained that the team's football games were broadcast on local radio, and even the announcers called him "Gutley". Suddenly, being called "Danny" didn't seem so bad. What do you say when a cabbie spills his guts like that? Especially since, at this speed, we still had like fifteen minutes before we got to the wedding.

We rode the rest of the way in silence. When we arrived, we realized that this handicapped taxi-van lacked a meter, as well as a middle seat. Gutley rummaged through a box underneath his seat and did some elaborate reckoning involving a laminated map and a solar calculator. Normally, we'd have gotten out of the cramped seats, but the sliding door didn't open from the inside, even if you had the iron grip of Uncle Jim. Finally, after involving a compass and an abacus, Gutley told us our fare for the thirty-minute trip: $18. We paid him, waved farewell, and went into the ceremony, where there was a guy dressed up as the Log Lady.

LogLady.jpg

the adventures of Kid Press Corps!

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Jimmy McCarthy was an ordinary ten-year-old boy, until the day his class took a field trip to the printing press. It was there that a radioactive printer exploded, giving Jimmy the proportional journalism talent of a spider. With his newfound abilities, he became Kid Press Corps! Kid Press Corps was hired by an independent newspaper and moved to Washington D.C., to fight for the rights of kids everywhere.

Episode 1: Homework

Scott McLellan: I can take two more. Kid Press Corps?

Kid Press Corps: Scott, Jean-Jacques Rosseau once said, "You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing. What! Is it nothing to be happy? Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long? Never in his life will he be so busy again." And yet, millions of American children go home each night with hours of reading assignments, worksheets, and essays - no time to skip or play. My question is, when is this administration going to address the issue of homework?

Scott McLellan: Go ahead, next question.

THE END

how to pick up girls

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I went to see my friend Marc and his new band A'tris perform at Blake's on Wednesday night. I showed up a little early, and spotted two friends sitting in the restaurant section of Blake's, so I sat at a neighboring table. I normally don't like sitting at a table when I have no intention of ordering food or drink, but it was nearly nine o'clock on a Wednesday night, and my friends were sitting at one of only three occupied tables.

I sat for a while, talking to Abbie about life, love, and Pittsburgh. I have no concept of Pittsburgh, beyond whatever I gleaned from reading Wonder Boys, which might not even be set in Pittsburgh proper, now that I think about it. There's the Three Rivers, which Abbie informs me are not all that impressive, though there are three. I know it's in the Rust Belt, but I have even less of a concept of the "Rust Belt". Narrower than the Bible Belt, but twice as flashy. And ten times as rusty. Surely there's more than steel mills, but what?

It's a five-hour drive from Philly, Pittsburgh is. They're as far apart as San Francisco and Los Angeles, with the difference being you might visit Los Angeles for fun, whereas you'd probably only go to Philly on a dare, or as some sort of punishment. Or "medical school", if you like cheese steaks, disappointing postseason performances from local sports teams, or the nation of Belgium. I imagine there are also a lot of Guidos there.

That was a tangent. So the restaurant, she was empty. A clear sign of this came when our other friend arrived, with an accordion strapped to his back. An man with an accordion might well be the canary in the coal mine that is restaurant occupancy. If a man can freely walk in with such a bulky, unwieldy, and downright obnoxious instrument on his back, and nary a patron bats nary an eye, then the restaurant is empty. And worse, potentially the site of an impromptu accordion jamboree.

Also, accordions are extremely sensitive to carbon monoxide.

Nonetheless, during our chat, I heard a man's voice behind me, speaking to the three girls seated at the table near the door. I couldn't see the man's face, or that of his partner, but I'm glad I could not, for the awkwardness was bad enough as it was. The man said, "Hi. This place is pretty crowded, so..."

At that point he paused, possibly because he realized the absurdity of what he had just said. Or he saw the accordion, and was momentarily terrified. One girl began to say, "What?", and though I was secretly hoping she'd say something about how she didn't accept the premise of his question, he charged forward before she could continue.

"So, we were wondering if you minded if we sat down here?"

Another painful pause ensued, as I stared down at my lap, hoping this would end soon. One girl said, "Yes".

But that was not the end. Because he had asked such an awkward question, he had to get clarification.

"Do you mean, yes, you mind, or, um, yes, we can sit here?"

It was unbearably awkward. If this scene were in a movie, the score would have to be composed on accordion. I half-shouted a question about Flashdance, proximity to the Erie Canal, Wonder Boys, I don't even remember exactly, just so I didn't overhear any more.

Not long after this, we headed downstairs to the show. I caught just a brief glimpse of the tableau. They sat around the table:
Girl, Boy, Boy, Girl Girl

And their moods were:
Embarrassed, Stoic, Embarrassed/Weepy, Enraged, Embarrased/Leaving, respectively.

The lesson, as always, is, Berkeley is full of nerds.

stand up for stand-up, 1/25/06

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The Sean Keane stand-up comedy rocket ship to stardom takes a detour into the East Bay this month, at Stand Up for Stand-Up. This event takes place on Wednesday, January 25th, in 2050 Valley Life Sciences Building, at 8 PM. Is that just a clever name for a nightclub, you might ask? After all, I do perform at a place called 50 Mason. But no, in this case, 2050 VLSB is a lecture hall on the UC Berkeley campus, albeit a modern and spacious one. Admission is free.

So, if you've been hesitate to cross the bridge into the city to see the comedic stylings of Sean Keane, or if you live in San Francisco and are eager to cross a bridge to see the comedic stylings of Sean Keane, or if you like getting stand-up comedy for free, this might just be the show for you. I'm working on some new material about the Facebook, and how much finals suck, and, of course, ways to tell whether or not you are a redneck/Stanford student. "If you've ever lost a tooth opening a thousand dollar bottle of champagne, you just might be a redneck Stanford student." Trust me, it's gonna be awesome.

Official announcement after the jump:

ain't no excursion on this fare

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A few months ago, there was a fake BART station outside the N-Judah stop, near my old house. It seemed to show up overnight, sitting on a stretch of grass in Duboce Park, alongside the MUNI tracks. The fake station looked a little bit like Embarcadero, if you looked at it from Justin Herman Plaza.

fauxbart.jpg

(Photo courtesy of David Dewar and The N-Judah Chronicles.)

At first I thought it might be an elaborate plot to create confusion among European tourists ("Das ist BART, ja,?"), or a stunt by Duboce Triangle small business owners to divert people on their way to the Lower Haight, but soon I learned the truth. It was a set built for a Will Smith movie.

Immediately I began to imagine all the wonderful possibilities. I figured it had to be an action movie, probably one where Will Smith was a smooth, wise-cracking cop who played by his own rules. It would be called Rapid Transit, or maybe Trans Bay, or even Smelly Train. There'd be a rap single released two weeks before the film. The song would have the same title as the movie, and the beat would be chosen at random from the Pure Funk compilation. "Smelly Train" would go to #1 on the charts, even though Will Smith doesn't use no cuss words, or no profanity.

This set was probably built for the scene where he chases the alien/robot/terrorist into the station, and then right before he punches him/it/him, Will Smith could say, "Insufficient fare!" Or, "Ain't no excursion for this fare!" Or, "Approaching…Ass Whup in Five…Seconds." Or, he and the rest of the transit cops could chase down an innocent Brazilian guy and shoot him in the head five times, and then Will could ask to see his ticket.

I think it would be nice if Will could find a part for his old friends. Like, DJ Jazzy Jeff as the train driver, or Carlton as a commuter who watches Will subdue the alien/robot/terrorist, and then says, "Damn!" Kevin James could be the sweet, painfully-Caucasian station agent that Will has to convince to let him skip "Add Fare". And then they do a dance together!

Then I remembered that movie shot where I live have a terrible track record. They shot a few films on campus while I was at Berkeley. Patch Adams featured a crappy, beardless Robin Williams in a somewhat-serious story. If it's supposed to be a meaningful film, then you just can't let Robin Williams shave. Boys and Girls located Berkeley across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, and…that's all I know. No one saw that movie. Though I wasn't there yet, Junior was also shot on campus, even though the movie was set at Stanford, and I got questions about it when I gave campus tours. The reason they used Berkeley's campus instead of the actual Stanford was so moviegoers didn't ask each other, "Why are they doing important experiments on fertility at an enormous Taco Bell?" And while The Matrix wasn't filmed nearby, both sequels were.

The Will Smith movie is going to be just as lame. It's called The Pursuit of Happyness, and it's a heart-warming rags-to-riches tale about a guy who lived in a BART station, with his young son, while he studied to become a stockbroker. And Will Smith's son is played by Will Smith's son! Maybe he can do a verse on the single. In doing research for this post, I read the release date had been pushed back to next December, for "Oscar-related purposes", which if anything makes me want to see the movie less. Someone else compared it to Radio, which seems like a real slap in Will Smith's face. However, I wouldn't mind hearing Will Smith rhyme about being a retarded mascot for a high school football team in the South, backed by the P-Funk's "Flashlight".

More photos

I can only dream he was really chasing an alien here


the safeway magazine rack

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Observations from the magazine rack at Safeway's checkout line:

Us Weekly had a box on its cover featuring a picture of Lindsay Lohan in a bikini. The article within promises to reveal the diet secrets of Jennifer Lopez and Ms. Lohan:

usweekly.jpg

Directly below Us Weekly, Lindsay Lohan was the sole cover subject of Vanity Fair. Their story dealt with her confessions of drug use and her struggle with bulimia.

Gene checked Us Weekly, but their Lindsay Lohan diet tips didn't mention vomiting or cocaine.

Also, People has a feature about the 20-year anniversary of their "Sexiest Man Alive" feature. Matthew McConaughey is the reigning hottest man alive, until he is dethroned and/or killed. For some reason, it seems completely appropriate that the Formerly Sexy Man picked to write the issue's introduction is none other than Patrick Swayze. I don't have a joke here; he just seems perfect. The albino woman from Gummo would agree.

A quick glance at the All-Time Sexiest Men Archive reveals that Nick Nolte is easily the Least Sexy Man ever chosen. John F. Kennedy, Junior is the only Former Sexy Man who is no longer Alive. Denzel Washington is the only Black Sexiest Man, though there have been a Scottish Sexiest Man, Irish Sexiest Man, and British Sexiest Man Alive in this same time period.

Other winners:

Sexiest Man in the Cast of Alive: Vincent Spano
Sexiest Man Dead: Steve McQueen
Sexiest Mann Alive: Leslie
Liveliest Man Sex: Brokeback Mountain

whoa nellie

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Last night, the Rose Bowl may have marked the last broadcast of college football legend Keith Jackson. Keith is 77 now, and he's been around forever, though some might reasonably argue that he's slipping a bit these days. I'm a big fan, partially because of his folksy demeanor - it's kind of like if you had a sleep-deprived Dan Rather narrating football action, complete with references to animals and family farms. For example, Jackson has said that, while he may not retire right away, by 2011 he "will have become the shop steward for the International Porch Setters Union." He also once said, "That's meaner than a Georgia Bulldog looking at a yard full of kitties."

It's a poetic way of speaking that I'd call antiquated, only I don't think anyone spoke like this in the past, either. Just Keith Jackson. Keith avoids possessives - he doesn't say "USC Trojans", he says, "the Trojans of Southern California". He is definitely the only sports announcer who opts for "times out" as the plural form of "timeout".

The thing I like best about Keith is his total disregard for all of the other stuff that isn't describing the game. The trend in sports broadcasting, particularly on the rapidly ESPNizing ABC Sports telecasts, is all about entertainment and synergy. Everybody is on message, enthusiastically hyping the network's other shows during their own broadcast. Keith Jackson just doesn't give a damn, and he's too popular for there to be any consequences for this.

Last night, he had to read a promo for the new, horribly-titled show, "Emily's Reasons Why Not". Keith got about halfway through the scripted pitch, seemed to get thrown by the weird title, and just sort of trailed off and said, "Yeah, I don't know." Producers were throwing down their headsets in disgust, and Keith just shrugged. He's not watching that show.

My favorite example of this came maybe fifteen years ago, during some nondescript Pac-10 telecast. Keith's partner, Bob Griese, was reading a promo for a TV movie called "Dillinger", airing that evening on ABC. ABC had been running ads for the movie during just about every commercial break. Griese went through the whole pitch: the exciting story of legendary gangster John Dillinger, starring Mark Harmon and Sherilyn Fenn, TV movie event of the fall, don't miss it, tonight, very exciting, only on ABC, check it out. After Griese finished, there was a short lull, and Keith said, "Mark Harmon? As John Dillinger? I don't know if I buy that...", thus undercutting the entire promotion.

I bet those ABC executives were madder than a Michigan wolverine tangled up with a porcupine. And Keith didn't even notice, and went right on calling the game.

muni journal, 1/5/06

On the inbound M train this morning, the man sitting across from me laughed out loud. If you audibly laugh on MUNI, and you are not in conversation with another rider, this usually means that you are crazy. However, it appeared that he was simply struck by an especially funny passage in his book.

This intrigued me. What was he reading, I wondered. The book was on his lap, so I couldn't see the title. I glanced surreptitiously around my own book and waited. When he finally got up, the mystery was revealed: Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis, by funnyman Jimmy Carter.

1.

It's a quarter to eleven on New Year's Eve. We're playing a horribly ill-advised game of Trivial Pursuit. Nothing can kill a party faster than playing Trivial Pursuit, except for playing Tetris. Our game is worse, because it's not being played as a drinking game, and because the cards are from 1981.

There are a lot of questions about "Mork and Mindy" and President Ford, plus references to ABSCAM, the genius of supply-side economics, and the "wild Hottentots of Rhodesia". Finally, my moment of glory arrives. I am asked an Art & Literature question about where one might find the O'Connell Street of literary fame. For the first time in my life, I find myself wearing the correct answer on my clothing.

"Dublin", I say, popping my zip-up sweatshirt in triumph. I am fully zipped up, so there is no gap between "Dub" and "lin". All of the other players stare in admiration, and I pose for celebratory photos with the card.

Then Gene starts denouncing the Times Square ball as a false god and the moment is over.

2.

I'm at a New Year's Day party in Bernal Heights. Approximately 60 Irish relatives are crowded into this house, roughly 10% of whom are named Michael. Another 15% have Michael as a middle name, and 10% got Michael as their confrimation name. There's still only one Dennis in the house.

I am talking with my cousin, who is not a Michael. He is however home from Kuwait, and more recently, Arkansas. He admires my zip-up sweatshirt. This compliment is not completely selfless, for he adds, "I have the same one."

He has good taste, I think. Then I realize, I cannot remain silent and take credit for this zip-up sweatshirt, fine as it may be. I inform my cousin that I deserve no accolades for choosing this apparel, because it was a gift from my stylish sister Kelly. He laughs.

"My sister Kelly bought me my Dublin sweatshirt, too."

And there we are. Two stylish sweatshirts, two stylish sisters, both named Kelly. Two conclusions: Irish people do not have a lot of creativity in their nomenclature, and great Kellys think alike.

My cousin's little brother asks, "So, what does that Dublin represent?"

"A soccer team", I answer, at the same time my cousin says, "Just the city."

We pause. "Maybe you should ask Kelly", suggests Michael.

EDIT: The triumphant Trivial Pursuit moment, courtesy of Kristina and Mike:
trivial.jpg

trivial2.jpg

dublin.jpg

[EDIT, 1/20/06: The photos clearly show that the question was not about Arts & Literature, but Geography. The entry also deals with the difficult nature of questions in 1981 Trivial Pursuit, then the photo shows a card with a few rather easy ones: "Which of the Seven Dwarves comes first alphabetically?", "Is the African Queen a boat?", "Fill in the blank: ______ Queen of Scots." In short, my memory is unreliable, and my life is a lie.]

the highlight of my new year's day

My 89-Year-Old Great Aunt: So I hear you're a comic.

Me: Yeah, I have been doing some shows recently.

My 89-Year-Old Great Aunt: You know my son John? He thinks he's a comedian.

state of the zembla

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It's a new year for Zembla, though not an anniversary or anything. The site looks slightly different, the sidebars are slightly less cluttered, and links on old posts work again. But that's not all that the new year promises for this site. Lo, there shall be a post every single day in 2006. Maybe the posts will be short, maybe they won't be that great, and maybe the posting dates will be artificially manipulated so that it appears that a post went up on a certain date so as to preserve the at-least-one-post-per-day standard, but there's going to be some kind of content every day. That is my New Year's Resolution to you, the readers.

Also, I'm gonna try and drop like fifteen pounds, but that shouldn't affect the site.

You've got a few chances to catch the comedic stylings of Sean Keane this week. First, I'll be dong a ten-minute set on Tuesday night, December 27th. My lovely and talented friend Betsy and her band, the Elegant Clydes will be playing at the Hotel Utah at 9 PM. I will be contributing to the musical effort with some stand-up comedy and zero singing. Admission is $5.

The big show is on Friday, December 30th, at 50 Mason Lounge, where I will be making my triumphant return as a headliner. I'll be taking on such controversial topics as:

- How white people dance
- The deceptive nutritional value of chocolate cake
- The deal: What is it?
- Gittin versus not gittin 'er done

The show begins at 8 PM, and admission is $10. I should be taking the stage between 9 and 9:30. As always, I expect that the show will be a kick in the pants, and if you're dissatisfied, you can kick me in the pants. That's a guarantee and a promise.

The official promotional information, including the lineup of comics, is after the jump:

christmas gifts, part 2

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Our family likes to give themed gifts. Let's face it, there's four kids and two parents, and sometimes you just haven't got a good, thoughtful gift idea for every single one of them. God knows it's much more of a nightmare for Mom and Dad, who occasionally struggle with remembering our names: "Get over here, Mol- er - Kel - er - you with the face!" You need something reliable to fall back on - not spectacular, but completely acceptable.

When we were younger, this meant stuffed animals. In essence, each kid was assigned an animal totem, like we were miniature Native American shamans. Megan had penguins, Kelly got Minnie Mouse, and Molly got Pluto. Every year, on your birthday or on Christmas, you could count on getting slippers, a stuffed animal, or a bedspread inscribed with your mystical animal totem. I had a few years of getting hedgehog-themed gifts, but it didn't last quite as long, possibly because it's much easier to find something with an SF Giants logo on it than it is to find a hedgehog. We eventually got a little too old for stuffed animals, but the animal theme could theoretically go on forever. My gradnmother has roughly 527 different varieties of cow-themed salt shakers, pot-holders, pots, t-shirts, stuffed animals, milk pitchers, piggy banks, and planters. Grandma even has an extensive collection of other stuffed animals dressed up as cows.

It's not limited to animal stuff, however. Any activity of interest can become the basis to an entire holiday's worth of gifts. One year, Mom and Dad decided I was a bicycling enthusiast, although I'm pretty sure I didn't even own a bike at the time. I opened my gifts - bike shirt, bike shorts, water bottle, bike helmet. I was surprised, both by the completeness of the birthday theme and because I couldn't remember the last time I'd been on a bike ride. The highlight came when Dad took me out to the garage to test out some of the new stuff. "Two things to remember," he said. "First, don't use a kickstand. It's just not cool to put down the kickstand. Second is, don't wear underwear when you put on the bike shorts." He paused as horrified revelation set in for me. "You know, because of the chafing."

As a Keane, you eventually develop a resistance to expressing serious interest in anything, because you know family members are always desperately searching for a new theme for you. Actually liking something is OK, as long as you're prepared to get gifts relating to that interest for the next 5-7 years. We have to resort to misdirection and subterfuge, disguising casual interests and keeping our eyes on the prize.

"Where have you been, Kelly?"
"I went on this great tour of the Mint last week, Mom and Dad. It was all about the new hundred-dollar bill. I could not get enough of those hundreds."

"How was your weekend, Sean?"
"Just hung out at the car show. Again. Took a few test drives, you know, the usual. Oh, and my friend forgave thousands of dollars in debt that I owed to him. I've really been into that whole debt relief thing recently. You know, Bono, Live 8, Spring 2005 tuition, that kind of scene."

Note: In repeated experiments, saying, "I really love drinking and smoking weed" will not affect your Christmas gifts, just your place in the will.

christmas gifts, part 1

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My little sister just returned from Chile, which means that our family should expect Chilean presents under the tree in a few days. Since I already got a t-shirt from the Hooters in Santiago, I can't imagine anything else I would need from Chile. Maybe an alpaca.

This occurs every year that one of the Keane Quads moves to a new place. Megan gave out a few Proud Parent of a UC Santa Cruz Student sweatshirts her freshman year, and I have shirts for both the women's lacrosse and rugby teams at UC Santa Barbara. For my part, I bought hats that said Disappointed Parent of a Seventh-Year Senior and My Tuition Money Went To The UC Regents And All My Kid Got Was A Lousy English Degree. That was a heartwarming Christmas morning, let me tell you.

I'm not criticizing this gift-giving practice, since you better believe I gave out a lot of dinosaur stuff the year I got a job at the Lawrence Hall of Science. I'm simply jealous, since I haven't really gone anywhere this year, and my boring domestic gifts might look shameful alongside all that sweet Chilean swag. So, I'm thinking about getting gifts that come from my job at the appellate law office.

"Merry Christmas, Dad! It's a shiv! And not just any shiv - Buford hand-carved this shiv from the handle of an old toothbrush."

"Mom, this is something I got as a token of appreciation from one of our clients. It's a pack of Parliament Lights. Now, I know you don't smoke. But you always say, it's not the gift that matters, it's the time you put into it. Remember when Molly glued that friendship bracelet to the piece of cardboard and called it a snake bookmark? Same concept, except I can't even begin to get into what our client had to do to get those cigarettes."

Time is running out, so I may have to go with Plan B: accessories for the alpacas.

technically, it's "dennis"

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No one should have to kiss my ass just because I'm buying groceries from them. It makes me uncomfortable when service personnel older than I am call me "Sir". I particularly don't require the overly familiar attitude adopted by Safeway clerks, just because I entered my Club Card number and they read my last name on the display.

So here's what I've begun doing:

Clerk: Thank you, Mr. Keane.
Me: Please. Mr. Keane is my father's name. Call me Sean.

iron comic!

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Whose routine reigns supreme? Next Monday, December 12th, I will be participating in an exciting, brand-new stand-up comedy event called Iron Comic. It is modeled on the cooking show, only with jokes instead of food, comedian Nato Green instead of food wonk Alton Brown, and an alcoholic barkeep instead of Chairman Kaga.

For those who have wanted to see me perform, but were dissuaded by the cost, fear not, for this show is free. For those who have wanted to see me perform, but didn't want to hear me re-tell jokes and stories you've heard hundreds of times already, fear not, for all the material at this show will be no more than twenty minutes old. For those who have wanted to see me perform, but couldn't drag themselves away from regular Monday evening boozings at the Gold Cane Bar on Haight Street, fear not, for this show is happening at that very bar!

While we Iron Comics are preparing our succulent banquets of hilarity, a slate of accomplished and funny local comics will be entertaining the audience. I only hope the secret ingredient is "speech impediments". The official announcement follows after the jump:

what i learned on thanksgiving

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What I Learned on Thanksgiving

Our dog, Cassidy, will wear a festive, holiday-themed bandanna without protest if one is tucked into her collar. Will she like it? Not really. Will she look cute? You better believe it. Is the bandanna reversible? Yes – Thanksgiving on one side, Christmas on the other. Do we have three other reversible bandannas for upcoming holidays? Oh, hell yes.

"menwholooklikekennyrogers.com" is an answer in the 20th Anniversary Edition of Trivial Pursuit. Unscientific research has determined that, if you are unsure about an answer in this game, your best odds are to guess "Belarus", "Kurt Cobain", "John Updike", or "Sweden".

My father is wrong about meat thermometers. He is on record claiming that they are "overrated", and that you "might as well just cut into it" if you want to see if your turkey is done. The day after Thanksgiving, at a different gathering, a meat thermometer calculated our turkey's cooking temperature in both Celsius and Farenheit, and also projected when the bird would be done with pinpoint accuracy. In fairness to my dad, that meat thermometer appears to be from the future, but if anything, it is underrated. And if we keep underestimating it, that meat thermometer will kill us all. Just not with salmonella.

Denver Broncos quarterback Jake "The Snake" Plummer is not particularly snake-like. People sometimes claim, "Oh, he's elusive, like a snake," or, "He often gets ill-advised passes intercepted, like a snake," but really, no one ever thought Jake Plummer was treacherous or venomous. The only reason he got that nickname is that "Jake" is one of the few male names that rhymes with the name of a dangerous animal. Currently, Plummer does have the best mustache in professional sports, narrowly edging out Jeff Kent and Bill Cowher. However, snakes cannot grow facial hair. That is a fact of science.

The dog would really like some turkey, if there's extra. Or turkey bones. Or turkey skin. Or even turkey fat. The dog isn't picky. Did you just eat some turkey? Or just throw a turkey bone in the trash? The dog would love to lick your fingers. OK, fine, but if you change your mind, the dog will be out in the garage.

It is a sad sign of one's maturity and old-growing when the most exciting part of Thanksgiving dinner is roasted brussel sprouts.

If you were willing to show up at Best Buy by 5 AM on Friday morning, they would have sold you a brand-new laptop for $300, and thrown in a free, white, Christian baby for your trouble.

My parents insist on referring to stuffing as "dressing". Even though I should have become accustomed to this practice by now, hearing them argue about how much dressing to make, given the weight of the turkey, still briefly evokes a disgusting mental picture of a turkey cavity filled with Hidden Valley Ranch.

Not that I didn't enjoy this year's turkey, but I feel almost compelled to up the ante next year, by preparing a turducken (a duck stuffed inside a chicken stuffed inside a turkey) or by deep-frying a turkey next year. If we do end up making a turducken, I think we ened to follow John Madden's example. The choicest cuts of meat go to the family member who showed the most toughness during the holiday, through drinking or tenacious Scattergories play. Every portion is distributed along with a brief speech about what they contributed to the successful Thanksgiving, and, if our budget allows, a Telestrator explanation of the contribution. Also, Dad will talk incessantly about the turkey's cankles, and yell "Boom!" ever time he makes a slice.


where? right in the crotch

New Cheers for Cal

My first memory of the Big Game was sitting with my little sister in the stands at Stanford Stadium. Even though we were surrounded by Cardinal fans in ugly maroon sweatshirts, we were undaunted. My sister even made up her own cheer that had a beautiful simplicity to it. It went: "Get. The Ball, Bears. Kick 'em in the crotch." It's remarkably effective, especially when the person leading the chant is five years old. You can try it at home, watching the game. "Get. The ball, Bears. Kick 'em in the crotch!"

It works in place of many standard Berkeley cheers:

Students: Hey alumni! Kick 'em!
Alumni: In the crotch!
Students: Kick 'em!
Alumni: In the crotch!

There's "Kick 'em in the crotch you bears". There's "You know it. You tell the story. You tell the Bears to get the ball and then kick 'em in the crotch." And, of course, "Give' em the axe, the axe, the axe. Where? Right in the crotch, the crotch, the crotch." Unfortunately, you really aren't allowed to kick the other team in the crotch, as much as they might deserve it.


A Short Play About Joe Ayoob


(JOE AYOOB is sitting at his desk, distraught over his poor quarterback play. He balls up a piece of paper and throws it fifteen feet past a wastebasket sitting roughly four feet away from him. He balls up another piece of paper and tries another toss, this one landing two feet short of its target. AYOOB sighs. There is a knock at the door.)

AYOOB: Come in.

(Offensive lineman RYAN O'CALLAGHAN enters. AYOOB raises a whiskey bottle, but misses his mouth.)

O'CALLAGHAN: Pull yourself together, Joe! We need you this Saturday!

AYOOB: What's the use? I got benched. I can't complete a pass to save my life, and I single-handedly ruined this season for Cal. I'm worthless.

O'CALLAGHAN: You're not worthless. No one on this team is worthless, Joe. Sure, you've had some tough stretches, and, sure you cost us the games agaisnt Oregon and Oregon State, and sure, no one's buying that "dyslexia" excuse, but would this team be the same without that Joe Ayoob smile every day in practice? That Joe Ayoob laugh? That Joe Ayoob tackle on interception returns? No way.

(AYOOB sighs)

AYOOB: You're right, Ryan. You're always right.

O'CALLAGHAN: Let's go out there on Saturday and beat those lousy Stanford guys.

(O'CALLAGHAN tries to high-five AYOOB, but AYOOB slaps himself in the face. O'CALLAGHAN grabs AYOOB's hand and guides it into his own for the successful high-five.)

BOTH: Stanford sucks!

O'CALLAGHAN: OK, I'll meet you at the Bonfire Rally. (O'CALLAGHAN walks to the door, and pauses.) Joe, it smells like you've been drinking. Want to toss me your keys?

(AYOOB goes into a crouch, springs up, and sets to throw his keys to O'CALLAGHAN.)

O'CALLAGHAN: Wait! (AYOOB fumbles his keys onto the ground.) On second thought, hand those keys to Marshawn instead.

Comparing the Alumni

Stanford has Tiger Woods, the most boring professional athlete in history. Cal has Chunk from The Goonies, the inventor of the Truffle Shuffle. Stanford has Chelsea Clinton. Cal has Jerry Mathers, The Beaver. And on Saved By the Bell, Zack Morris got recruited by "Stansbury", the fictional version of Stanford, but he and Screech, and Slater, and even Kelly Kapowski, decided to go to California University, the fictional version of Cal, instead. And you know who advised him to go to Stansbury? That's right. Mr. Belding.

A Short Play About Jeff Tedford
(JEFF TEDFORD is talking on the phone with AARON RODGERS)

TEDFORD: I just wish we still had you here, Aaron. I can't help but think this whole season would have been so different. I mean, do you know what it's like, every week, to have to sit there and watch your quarterback cost you your chance to win? Wild throws, poor decisions, interceptions, fumbles - he's killing us! Seriously, Aaron, can you imagine that?

RODGERS: Um, yeah, Coach. I back up Brett Favre.

TEDFORD: Oh. Right.

:

TEDFORD: In that game against Cincinnati, how far --

RODGERS: Four yards past the line of scrimmage. At least.

TEDFORD: Has he ever thrown an interception while diving out of bounds?

RODGERS: No, but we've got six games left.

TEDFORD: Maybe Joe Ayoob is just a gunslinger.

RODGERS: That's exactly what he is. He's a gunslinger.

a nickname update from chile

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Sister-abroad Molly has written in response to the recent post about her nicknaming style. Apparently, she has taken her brand of nicknomenclature to Chile, and it is no longer restricted to professional athletes. She writes:

In my group of friends at the house, everyone has a Spanish nickname if Spanish is their second language, and an English nickname if it is their native language. The list so far:

Molly - "Maldición", AKA "Dammit", and sometimes "Maldita", which you put in front of a word to use like "fuck". Por ejemplo: "maldita suerte" = bad mother fucking luck.

Ashlee - "Has leido", or "You have read".

Darcy - "Darse cuenta", to realize. It also means "Yes, give". This is especially funny because when you call a person "Yes (with a pause for the comma), give" in public, everyone laughs!

Eva - "Evacuación".

Felice - "Felicidades".

Rocío - "Misty river (a combo of "rocio", meaning mist, and the movie Mystic River).

Sofía - "Sooooo fine".

Perry - "Perrito" o "Perdición".

Soizic (French) - "Suavemente"

As you can imagine, I am extremely excited that the monker engine is still chugging away, and spreading to other nations. In fact, I have begun mentally assigning nicknames to my friends, which I often quietly think to myself while I say their actual names. Por ejemplo:

My roommate comes home from class. I say, "Hi Christine", but in my head I'm thinking, "Waffle". Because, Keagy->Eggy->Eggo->Waffles. And, because she's so sweet.

Also, she really likes waffles.

november 18th

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On November 18th , I will be taking the stage at 50 Mason as part of their Friday Comedy Showcase. I've played 50 Mason half a dozen times, but this time will be special, as it is my first headlining spot at that club. In fact, November 18th will be my first ever performance as a headliner anywhere.

I have hosted shows with outstanding comics like Dave Attell, Jim Short, Al Madrigal, and comedian-abroad Luke Filose, but those were all shows run by UC Berkeley's humor magazine, The Heuristic Squelch. Sadly, the Squelch no longer puts on comedy shows, but aspiring comics should still take note: It is much easier to get a prime hosting gig when you and your friends are doing the booking. Also, most comedians will be psyched to have beers with you after the show, provided there are attractive nineteen year old girls in your party.

There are a lot of misconceptions about one's responsibilities as a headliner. Some believe you must scour the nation's newspapers, searching for bizarre, typographically rich headlines to mock, and a sycophantic bass player to laugh at the punchlines. Others think being a headliner means you must be willing to put a watermelon on the line anytime someone challenges you to a game of horseshoes. A game of horseshoes! Still others harbor the foolish belief that you need to write a full twenty minutes of material, rather than simply delivering your ten-minute set at half-speed.

Really, you've got only one job when you're headlining: Bringing the funny. It's still a few weeks until this gig, so I can't state with absolute confidence that I will bring the funny, but I can say this: I'm packing the funny. I'm writing a note to myself reminding me to bring the funny I packed. I'm tying a string around my finger in case I forget to read the reminder note about the funny. I'm sneaking into the club on the 16th and stashing some emergency funny in the bathroom, and it's going to be good material. I don't want to be coming out of that bathroom with just some dick jokes in my hands.

So, mark your calendars, or better yet, headline your calendars for November 18th, at 8 PM. I won't be coming on until 9:30 or so, since, like Vanessa Williams, 50 Mason likes to save the best for last. Also, 50 Mason let an old boyfriend take some ill-advised "artistic" photos of itself back in college, had to relinquish its crown as Miss America, and later carried on a six-year relationship with former Los Angeles Laker Rick Fox. The parallels are truly stunning, once you think about it.

Some thoughts on the 3 Musketeers bar

The 3 Musketeers bar is just chocolate and nougat. If you want something really tasty, you get the Snickers bar, which has nougat, caramel, and peanuts. If you want something nut-free and still delicious, you can opt for the Milky Way bar, with nougat and caramel. The 3 Musketeers bar seems to appeal to people who like candy, but want to minimize its deliciousness.

Big on Chocolate, Low on Fat

Mars, Incorporated has begun to market the 3 Musketeers bar as a low-fat alternative candy bar, I guess for people who are watching their calories and/or carbs, but still purchasing and consuming candy bars. They do have "45% less fat", presumably compared to something like a Milky Way.

This may be a marketing strategy akin to Subway. In the last decade, Subway has begun to market itself as a healthy, alternative fast food outlet. The poster child for Subway sandwiches was Jared, whose inspirational weight-loss story centered around him walking to Subway twice a day for meals. Jared lost over 200 pounds due to a combination of exercise, a low-fat, sandwich-only diet, and a crippling methamphetmaine addiction. Sure, the sandwiches don't taste all that great, says Subway's parent company, Doctors & Associates, but they're much healthier.

However, Subway still keeps a big rack of chips right next to every counter. There is a discount on chips and soda with purchase of a sandwich. And the "low-fat" menu items become much more "high-fat" if you add the freely available mayonnaise or olive oil to your sandwich. It still isn't healthy by any means; it's just less unhealthy than a place like McDonald's. One almost wonders if Subway is intentionally attempting to lure in the obese, people who might identify with the "Before" Jared, only to eventually give in to the temptation of the Value Meal. People who overeat would seem to be a golden demographic for a restaurant chain.

Gateway bars

By the same reasoning, the 3 Musketeers might be considered a gateway bar. If the weight-watcher who buys 3 Musketeers as a less-tasty, less-unhealthy snack has a slip, he will hopefully binge on 3 Musketeers, rather than some other brand. Even while a healthy, Musketeer-heavy diet lasts, the dieter still has to get that selection from the candy aisle. Once he's there, there's little to stop him from getting a "harder" candy bar, like a Snickers, or even a Butterfinger.

Butterfinger is the candy aisle equivalent of heroin: its filling is sugar and peanut butter blended together in its most concentrated form, without any nougat to provide a protective layer of blandness. The Velvet Underground had an unreleased song where Lou Reed sang, "Honeycombed peanut butter center, it's my life, it's my wife." Even the official Butterfinger web site says that buying the largest possible Butterfinger bar to share with a date is a surefire "deal-sealer", whatever sort of honeycombing that is supposed to imply.

Urban Legend

Someone told me a story about the origin of the names of Milky Way and 3 Musketeers bars. The legend goes that Milky Way and 3 Musketeers were released on the same day, but the labels were accidentally switched. This has a strain of plausibility, because a Milky Way bar has three ingredients (to review: chocolate coating, nougat, caramel), and it is easy to envision the smooth chocolate nougat interior of the 3 Musketeers bar as a veritable galaxy of mediocre taste.

So, the labels were switched, and both bars were so popular, the candy company couldn't very well reverse themselves and change the names back after they were such a hit. And that is the Just So Story of why 3 Musketeers has only two damn ingredients.

However, Milky Way came out in 1923. 3 Musketeers wasn't released until 1932. Originally, it had three different pieces and three different flavors: vanilla, strawberry, and chocolate. This legend is just not true, though people in Mauritania might believe it.

Little differences

In England, our 3 Musketeers is known as a Milky Way. Our Milky Way is England's Mars bar. The American Mars bar no longer exists. Because of the metric system.

Digression

My lovely roommate bought large candy bars for the trick-or-treaters, only some of which were later confiscated by the author. Most kids demonstrated the proper awe for the too-much-fun sized candies, and the impressive selection, except for one bold young boy, dressed as a Power Ranger. (Kids still watch Power Rangers? That show is still on? I need to check in with Mom about this one.) The young Green Ranger reached in and snatched two full-sized Snickers at once. I was horrified by his greed, but quite impressed by his moxie, as the candy bars barely fit through the top of his plastic pumpkin pail.

Now, would he have demonstrated such courage for two full-sized 3 Musketeers bars? I sort of doubt it.

Fun Facts

My tireless Internet research has failed to discover when 3 Musketeers changed to their current flavor configuration. However, the FAQ on the official 3 Musketeers site yields some fascinating information.

The chocolate nougat (mostly egg whites and sugar – sorry, vegan friends) is covered in chocolate by a process called "enrobing" (in a facility that also manufactures peanut products – sorry, Matt). Enrobing involves "a continuous curtain of liquid chocolate" and also "a rotating chocolate covered wheel". Awesome.

Actually, since it's milk chocolate, the nougat didn't really make or break the candy's veganosity.

Spokesmen

After the runaway success of both the Count of Mighty Crispy bar, and Queen Marshmallots, candymakers scrambled to adapt another of Alexandre Dumas pere's adventure novels into a confectionary treat. They ended up choosing the Musketeers.

D'Artagnan represents the candy bar, though he's not one of the titular Musketeers. He stepped in when Aramis got the boot from Mars, Incorporated. Maybe it's because Aramis became a priest, and he's not a worldly, nougat-hungry gentleman like the others. After all, the 3 Musketeers® Brand Athos is "brilliant and brave but also clumsy like a nutty professor" and "a scatterbrained hero with a heart of gold." 3 Musketeers® Brand D'Artagnan is "always the first to charge into a fray". He's "courageous, gallant and always wins the day". Meanwhile, 3 Musketeers® Brand Porthos is "James Bond with a saber".

I like to think of D'Artagnan as sugar, Athos as milk chocolate, and Porthos as blended egg whites. Blended egg whites with a saber.

my trip to nascar

| 6 Comments

I went home to the Far East for a weekend back in June. My aunt's retirement party was Saturday night, and my cousin’s daughter was being baptized on Sunday. However, our plans changed on Saturday night when my dad learned that we could get free tickets to the next day's NASCAR event at Sears Point. Dad isn't particularly a NASCAR fan, but he has gone to a few motorcycle races in the past few years. I don't think I've even seen a NASCAR race on television before. Nevertheless, we were both curious enough about the world of NASCAR to accept the free tickets, plus baptisms are pretty boring.

Wardrobe

There was an immediate wardrobe problem before we even got going. I had packed my clothes thinking I would be visiting a church the next day, not an enormous racetrack in Sonoma. Clearly, my yellow button-down shirt and khaki pants was unacceptable, so Dad offered to lend me some clothes. He had a pair of shorts, but told me he didn't have any NASCAR-specific attire, "like a Hooters t-shirt."

I laughed, but then realized, thanks to a gift from sister-abroad Molly, I actually did have a Hooters t-shirt, direct from Santiago, Chile. Wearing a shirt advertising the Hooters in Santiago, Chile, sends a certain message: I enjoy international travel, and tits. I added a mesh hat commemorating the 49ers triumph in Super Bowl XXIX, and we were ready to go.

The Journey

We left the house at 7 AM for the race, which didn't begin until 12:30. Our first stop was at Safeway, to buy donuts and sandwiches. The clerk asked where we were going, and when we told her Sears Point, she shook her head, knowing the traffic we were sure to be facing. "I saw some other people headed out there, loading up on beer, but that was over an hour ago," she said. Yes, even a completely disinterested party - one who appeared to actively dislike NASCAR, in fact - knew we were leaving too late.

Our own high-powered vehicle was an early-90's Acura Integra, formerly Molly's college car. Having observed both my dad and Molly behind the wheel of that car, I can identify the main difference in their driving styles: Molly refuses to put the car in first gear, while Dad refuses to leave it.

Dad and I decided to root for Jimmie Johnson, no relation to the former football coach, since we got our tickets from one of his sponsors. His teammate Jeff Gordon figured to be the crowd favorite, since he is a local guy and wins at Sears Point fairly often. We would soon learn not to underestimate the incredible popularity of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. I asked my dad to refer to me as "Little K" for the remainder of the day, but he refused.

Once we merged onto 121, the expected traffic jam appeared. As we slowed the Acura to a crawl, a motorcyclist with "John 3:16" on the back of his helmet passed us on the shoulder. KFOG was the only radio station coming in, and so every driver that left his or her Tobey Keith CDs at home was listening to the same station. This was especially entertaining because KFOG was doing their "KGAY" format, in honor of Gay Pride Weekend. Upbeat 80's dance music provided the soundtrack as our cars crept toward the racetrack.

Would Gay Pride be factor in the race? Would Jeff Gordon, driving the rainbow car, have an advantage? Something told me they weren't going to mention Pride at the event.

Announcer: We'd like to take a moment, before I introduce the race's Grand Marshal, Larry the Cable Guy, to acknowledge the struggles of our homosexual brothers and sisters. We stand with --
Crowd: BOOOO!
Announcer: -- against prejudice, and unfair --
Crowd: BOOOO! BOOOO!
Larry: Git 'er done!
Crowd: YAAAY!

Just as we got within sight of the racetrack, the engine began to overheat, and we were forced to make a pit stop at the side of the road. To Dad's credit, Molly would have just kept driving. One popular feature of a NASCAR race is that fans can use their radios to listen in on conversations between each driver and his pit crew. If Dad and I had radios, fans could have overheard this kind of scintillating strategy talk:

Dad: Looks like there's still coolant.
Me: Yep.
Dad: You have no idea how an engine works, do you Sean?
Me: No, I do not.
Dad: Is there a rag to wipe off this grease?
Me: Molly has an old shirt in the backseat.
Dad: Give it to me.

That conversation would have been followed by five minutes of spitting and wiping sounds. Sorry, Molly.

Upon our restart, we ended up behind a car sporting an Earnhardt, Jr. license plate holder. The Acura wasn't doing a lot better, but Dad had developed a strategy of turning off the car while we were stopped, and relying on frequent restarts. This strategy kept the engine from getting into the red zone, much like how the 49ers' strategy of handing off to Kevan Barlow twenty times a game keeps their offense from getting into the red zone.

The Event

The Acura reached the parking lot unscathed. We got out fast, just in case the car exploded. Already there was a marked increase in: Winnebagos, country music, goatees, pickup trucks, and Port-o-Lets. Not as well-represented: Anti-war bumper stickers, teeth. On the long walk to the gates, the people behind us talked about peeing for a solid ten minutes. Dad wondered if he should have just peed on the radiator to cool it off. "Not one of these people would have judged you for it," I replied.

Dad and I both brought books, thinking we'd have a lot of pre-race downtime, but we kept them in our backpacks, so as not to alarm other spectators with signs of dangerous book-learnin'.

At a NASCAR event, it is difficult not to adopt fan mannerisms. Fifty yards into the gates, I was already tugging my cap in greeting to other Jimmie Johnson fans. Fifty yards further, I was taking my cap off and smoothing my hair back, along with the cap tug. Two hundred yards in, I had signed up to participate in a reenactment of the First Battle of Manassas.

The Race

Exceeding my wildest expectations, Larry the Cable Guy opened the race by saying, "Gentleman, git 'er done and start your engines!"

It didn't take long before I was hopelessly lost, trying to follow the race. I don't know the rules of how and when you can take a pit stop, or when you're allowed to pass, or what happens when there's a caution flag, so as far as I could tell, everyone was just driving in formation. To compound my confusion, Jeff Gordon made a late pit stop on the fifteenth lap, and the announcer referred to him as the "lucky dog". Even now, I don't exactly know what that term means, but it didn't stop me from referring to random drivers as "lucky" and "unlucky" dogs for the remainder of the afternoon.

My shirt was a big hit with other spectators. A Sears Point employee even stopped me to ask about it.

Female employee: Hooters, Santiago, Chile. I've always wanted to go there. I hear it's nice.
Me: My sister is in Santiago right now. She really likes it.
Female employee: No, I meant Hooters.

Jimmie Johnson disappeared into the pits quite early in the race. We sat in his sponsor section, stocked with food and Bloody Marys on demand, with a group of fans that were quickly slowly turning their interest to the promotional t-shirts and hats. One fan informed me that JJ was suffering from "tranny issues", which are nothing like Dave Stewart's, or even Eddie Murphy's tranny issues. Johnson was out of the race within about fifteen laps, taking more pit stops than a chalupa chef with IBS. Dad and I decided to root for Jeff Gordon, as a representative of Johnson's race team and also the Union.

The remainder of the race was unexciting, as a large number of crashes caused the last half of the race to run almost entirely under caution flags. This served as a preview of what our drive home would be like. Jeff Gordon was not a factor, and NASCAR bad boy Tony Stewart ended up winning.

Homeward Bound

We left early to beat the traffic. Unfortunately, we didn't leave early enough, as we had misjudged the length of the race. This confusion came from the track's distance being measured in kilometers, and our own shoddy mathematical reasoning. It was during a discussion about metric conversions that I realized how foolish I'd been to think that books would mark us as nerds, rather than our personalities.

The Acura's heater ran constantly, to pre-empt overheating, which made the drive literally hellish, especially since many parts of Vallejo smell like burning hair. It was a sleepy, half-drunken kind of scene, since every car on the road was coming from an afternoon of wine-tasting, or eight hours of drinking Coors Light in the sun. We may have been the two most sober men on the road.

Me: Do you think the NASCAR event helps the wineries?
Dad: I'm not sure if this is a wine-tasting crowd, Sean.
(Pause)
Me: Does Franzia have a vineyard around here?

In the end, NASCAR wasn't the best spectator sport, but it did let me spend a nice day with my dad. Really, our day embodied a lot of what NASCAR is all about: Family. Car trouble. Inadequate education. Distrust and fear of people that are different from you. And Larry the Cable Guy. Get 'er done, Sears Point!

*(11/2)Edited to correct the spelling of LTCG's signature phrase.

on correspondence with prisoners

| 4 Comments

A great majority of our clients here at the law office are incarcerated. So, the majority of the letters we receive come from prison. In my two years of reading prisoner mail, I have noticed a few recurring trends.

1) Improvisation: Envelopes and writing paper are often at a premium on the inside, so we will get correspondence on all different kinds of paper - paper torn from legal pads, scraps of other paper, or even the back of informational legal materials on Three Strikes, or Understanding Your Appeal. The creativity shown in finding writing materials pales in comparison to what we see in the elaborate folding of these letters. It's not origami, since convicted felons rarely attempt animal shapes, but it compares favorably to the note-folding I saw in high school.

2) Blessings from God: A surprising percentage of our letters don't ask for anything of us. Nearly all ask God to bless us. There are many missives that do nothing more than thank us for our help, or wish us well. It is a little bit heartbreaking to read a letter of that nature, and then look up the client's record to find that they're serving a life sentence, and that our efforts haven't reduced their time at all. Of course, their faith in God hasn't been shaken by the sentence, so their attorney has probably let them down less than He has.

3) Unintentional irony: Prisoners' letters are often filled with phrases that have been placed in quotation marks for no apparent reason. A message might read, "I am writing to request 'legal assistance' for my appeal. I have been 'unjustly' convicted due to the 'conspiracy' of the judge, the district attorney, and the public defenders office. If there is 'any way' you can help me, I would 'greatly appreciate' the 'assistance'."

These letters read like they've been run through The Sarcasterizer (unfortunately, now offline). It's as if these prisoners are incarcerated hipsters, too jaded and cool to get their sentences reversed, but going along with the appeals process just for the ironic value. They might be onto something. Roughly 80% all criminal cases that go to trial result in a conviction, a figure that jumps to almost 90% for indigent defendants, and only about 5% of criminal appeals are successful. California's criminal justice system: So bad, it's good.

blatant self-promotion

| 1 Comment

Much as I do most evenings, I will be spending Friday, October 21st sharing personal anecdotes and amusing observations with an unamused audience. The difference is that this particular evening, I will be holding a microphone, and the audience members will neither be trying to watch a televised sporting event, nor be a cat.

That's right, the comedic stylings of Sean Keane are returning to 50 Mason in San Francisco for the funniest ten minutes you're going to see from Sean Keane this month, unless I have to explain my educational career to someone or fall down an extremely tall hill. I am part of a lineup of seven comedians, headlined by the very funny Nico Santos, taking place at 8 PM. The show costs $10, which is only $1.43 per comic, and there is no drink minimum. 50 Mason sells assorted non-alcoholic beverages, and I have heard from past audience members that there is an extrenely convenient liquor store nearby, not that I nor 50 Mason endorse the smuggling of alcohol.

So, check out the show. If you're lucky, or possibly extremely unlucky, I might even do choreography. The official promotional announcement is after the jump:

csma/cd

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Gene and I are both active conversationalists, and we're also often struck by the same thing someone says. So, we often get into a situation where we both begin to talk at nearly the exact same time. Now, both of us try to react in as polite a manner as possible, but that doesn't exactly solve the problem. I will wait for him to talk, while he waits for me to talk, and then we'll both say, "Go ahead" at the same time, and then there's another pause, and it's just terrible.

So, Gene hit upon a solution to the problem. There is a protocol called CSMA/CD, which stands for Carrier Sense Multiple Access / Collision Detection. CSMA/CD comes into play when devices try to use the same data channel at the same time. When such a collision occurs, they choose a random interval to wait (which uses the Truncated Binary Exponential Backoff Algorithm, before trying to connect again. Gene saw an analogue to our own conversational collisions, and decided that CSMA/CD could be a solution to our problems.

Whenever we began talking a the same time, instead of apologizing to each other for interrupting, we would simply say, "CSMA/CD", and each of us would then wait a few seconds to begin speaking again. If we re-interrupted each other, it was "CSMA/CD" again, and a longer wait. With CSMA/CD on our side, awkward conversational moments would be a thing of the past, and smooth conversational data transfer would be the order of the day. That is, until we first tried it.

Gene and I were both at a party. Probably Gene was probably explaining something, and I was telling a story about a precocious child with a speech impediment. Nurse V said something, and Gene and I both replied at the same time.

"You know..." said Gene.

"That reminds me of..." I said.

We paused, pointed at one another, and said, "CSMA/CD!" But before we could wait the designated random interval, another guest wondered what the hell we were doing. We answered simultaneously.

"Do you know how a computer network...>" began Gene.

"Well, CSMA/CD is an acronym for..." I started.

We paused.

"Go ahead," we both said. We paused again. "CSMA..." we began, and then faltered. Gene and I looked at one another, then turned and walked out of the room in opposite directions.

"Those guys are nerds", thought everybody.

i am not an animal

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I rode on Gene’s bike last weekend for the first time in quite a while. Actually, for this particular bike, it was the first time ever, although it’s the same type of bike Gene had before. I didn’t consciously note that it was a different vehicle until I typed the previous sentence, which is a little bit disturbing. Gene replaced his destroyed bike with a near-exact duplicate, kind of like in “Face/Off”, when John Travolta replaces his dead son by adopting Nicolas Cage’s kid and then no one’s sad anymore.

Thankfully, we don’t live in a world with dangerous face-switching technology, at least not yet. An attempt at such a procedure would leave our faces with horrific scars, much like a motorcycle crash, which is ironic since one of the few people I could imagine Gene trying to switch faces with is Seal.

Previously, I had used Gene’s spare helmet, which was too big for his Special Lady, but fit my head like a heavy Kevlar glove. Since then, Gene has acquired a Lady-Sized Helmet, which is even smaller. Wearing it approximates sticking my head in a vise, albeit a vise with a windscreen. To make matters worse, I am becoming convinced that my already-massive Celtic head is growing.

I've always had an unmanageably large cranium, but it's been getting worse recently. I put on a party hat a few months ago, and it only took about fifteen minutes for the elastic to snap. My Giants cap fits so tightly that I can only wear it for a few innings at a time. When I turned it inside out for a Rally Cap, I could feel brain cells begin to die, as I cut off the circulation to my skull. And any novelty hat, be it pirate-, or fireman-, or even cowboy-themed, tends to simply balance atop my head, like a yarmulke.

There are no easy answers to explain what's happening to me. Is someone covertly slipping human growth hormone into my food? Am I empathizing too much with Barry Bonds? It can't be my swelling ego, since I'm usually just ashamed of myself, particularly when I think about my freakish, gargantuan skull. I may have to buy my next Giants cap a few sizes too big, just like shoe shopping for toddlers, only with less velcro and slightly more whining. I'll adjust my lifestyle to accommodate the noggin - always sitting in the back row of movie theaters so it doesn't block anyone, buying an extra seat for it on planes, and injecting steroids directly into my neck to help prop it up. Eventually I'll have to sleep sitting up amongst a nest of pillows, like John Merrick, so that the weight of my head doesn't suffocate me during the night.

And I probably won't be able to ride on a motorcycle anymore, since if Gene stopped abruptly, my head would drill him like a wrecking ball dropped out of a blimp.

In other bike-related news, my dad has purchased a pair of riding pants. All I know about them is that they are made out of "synthetic materials". I'm a little disappointed that Dennis won't be tooling around the neighborhood in leather pants, but I appreciate his commitment to the welfare of cows. Like the Elephant Man's mom said, nothing will die.

About a week ago, I drove up to the beautiful podunk town of Fall River Mills with esteemed companion Dustin and his bandmate Zach. Two hours into the drive, we had just passed the exotic town of Orland, and our hunger was beginning to get the best of us. We began to debate potential dining locations, with the favorites being legendary Red Bluff diner, The Feedbag, and a shockingly-racist, possibly-imaginary Chinese restaurant possibly called "Mr. Steamy's". But before we got to Red Bluff, fate intervened.

Dustin switched rado stations, and we heard the unmistakable strains of "The Gambler", by Kenny Rogers. Instantly, Kenny had us under his spell, and we were transported into that train, with the gambler, and the whiskey, and surprisingly, a fair amount of sexual tension. We knew from previous listens that when the night gets deathly quiet, that simply means that the gambler is preparing to dispense some valuable lessons about life/poker, but as Dustin pointed out, "It sounds like Kenny and the Gambler are about to get it on."

Thankfully, before we could further intellectualize the homoerotic subtext of the song, an omen appeared, in the form of the Rolling Hills Casino. This was no time to walk away, much less run. Kenny had spoken to us. We had to get off the freeway and get into that casino, and try our luck against the dealers of the Nomlaki Indians. Also, they had what we hoped was a reasonable buffet.

Twenty minutes later we left the casino, collectively up a whopping $115. Since we exclusively played blackjack, we never confronted the classic hold/fold them conundrum, but counting cards makes it a lot easier to determine the best time to walk away. (A sign near the smoking area expressly prohibited running.) We also counted our money while sitting at the table, even though there was obviously plenty of time to do so after the dealing was done. Maybe we didn't follow Kenny's advice precisely, and maybe cashing out right after a blackjack made me look like the coward of the county, but I feel like Kenny's spirit was with us all the same. Since the song only mentions whiskey and cigarettes, we didn't feel too bad about skipping the casino buffet in favor of dinner at The Feedbag.

Ultimately, I feel like Kenny really hooked us up, and for that I will be forever grateful, though not as grateful as I am that he never recorded a song about killing a hobo.

To protect their anonymity, I have assigned pseudonyms to my former roommates

"Mack": People at work talk about the houses they're buying or looking at, but they only ever talk about the square footage, just reciting statistics. I notice things like wood, structural things. Not - if you took this house, and removed all the furniture, and all the walls, how much area would you have.

"Dean": This is my girlfriend. She displaces 11.8 liters of water.

"Mack" I guess it's just assumed that every house has grey carpet, white walls, and a big garage. Maybe I'm alone in this.

Sean: (extending arms) My new house holds *this* much popcorn.

full-priced baseball

The Two Dolla Wednesday Alternative Four Dolla Tuesday Turned Ten Dolla Tuesday went OK. Our attempted aluminum can discount was not to be obtained, so we paid full price. Full price baseball! Heresy!

The A's won by seven runs, but that paled in comparison to the trouncing they gave the Giants on Sunday. The Giants can only beat the A's while wearing the "Gigantes" jerseys, it appears. Possibly the "Gigantes" retro look makes Giants players believe the game is taking place twenty years in the past, when many of these regulars were actually in their primes.

Dustin has figured out a reason for Oakland manager Ken Macha's success with a young team like the A's. He sees Macha as the ultimate Little League manager - always supportive, never angry, always supportive. One imagines that at Ken Macha's house, there is an entire cabinet full of Kudos bars, and there are always two varieties of Capri Sun to choose from (currently Surfer Cooler and Red Berry).

Later, when Mariners 6'8" first baseman Richie Sexson stood next to 5'9" second baseman Bret Boone, it was also very evocative of Little League. Sexson looks like a character out of folklore - he's a huge, bearded lumberjack-looking guy who hits lots of home runs, strikes out a lot, and towers over other players. Here, he also looked like he was going to take Boone and Ichiro out for ice cream after the game.

Sexson was the comedic highlight of the entire evening. He walked to the plate waving his telephone pole of a bat, and I may or may not have been yelling that this was a game for normal-sized human beings, not giants, when it hit me. His name is Richie Sexson, which could easily have been "Dick" Sexson. Dustin pointed out that, besides being hilarious, the name presents a causal chain: Dick. Sex. And then, Son.

The next two innings were a bit of a blur as we giggled and giggled over possible Sexson family members. What about his father, a religious-minded scholar named Oral Sexson? The other kids would make jokes, but Richie would get very indignant about it. "Oh, real mature, guys. It didn't mean that back then when my grandpa picked the name. 'Oral' is a Bible name!" Then they'd ask about his grandpa, and Richie would have to admit that his grandpa's name was Anal Sexson. "It's a German name!", he'd yell, to no avail, and the other guys wouldn't let up until Coach Macha started hitting grounders and promised they could go get root beer floats later if they'd stop screwing around already.

I'd also like to commend Marco Scutaro on his incredible play during games that I attend. In other games he is fairly ordinary, even kind of sucky, but he rises to the discount baseball spotlight like no other. He has had the walk-off, game-ending hit in three Two Dolla Wednesday excursions over the past year and a half. Tuesday night, perhaps unaware we had paid full price, he hit a home run. It's appropriate, because Scutaro is like the major league baseball player equivalent of Two Dolla Wednesday; he makes the minimum salary, he's better than people realize though still not all that great, and he doesn't mind waiting in long lines to get hot dogs for the veterans.

Chicago Appointa-Bulls
Philadelphia Threateners of Elected Public Officials, A Violation of Penal Code 76-ers
Portland Trailblazers

In Communist Russia, Volga River paddles you! Luckily, in good ol' capitalist America, we canoe on the Russian River. We haven't begun the era of perestroika yet, so this expedition will still be centrally planned for Sunday, July 10th, the anniversary of the beginning of Boris Yeltsin's first term as president of Russia.

The fun starts around noon, or 11 PM Moscow time, and should last until about 5 or 6 PM (or 4 to 5 AM, for Muscovites). We will leave in caravans from the Safeway parking lot, at Church and Market, at 10, so we have plenty of lead time for traffic, life jacket mishaps, and the inevitable 3-4 hour bread lines in Forestville.

DO bring: $27.50 each ($55 per two-person boat, though the boats can hold a third non-paddling person. In Russia, everyone has to paddle "oar" KGB investigate family!), sunscreen, river shoes (don't bang them on your desk!) lunch, the spirit of liberty, water, beer, fond memories of Yalta, a change of clothes, a sun-deflecting hat, and sunglasses.

DON'T bring: Rubles, fur hats, feudal economic structures, anti-cossack prejudices, borscht.

Because the KGB has not yet turned its attention to the Internet, secret Russian River history announcements can still be found here and here

Photo documentation of past covert rafting operations can be found here and here

Dossier on our canoe providers here

Our impending dominance of this River will be a metaphor for America's Cold War triumph over the Russkies, only with more singing and fewer space lasers. Be there, or be reported to the House Un-American Activities Committee.

happy 37th to me

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It's my birthday today. I share this birthday with, among others, Giants broadcaster Duane Kuiper and unfunny comic strip cat Garfield. This year, I also share a birthday with Father's Day, which happens every few years. When I have my own kids, I'm fully prepared to hear, "This is for your birthday and Father's Day." Temporary roommate Angela, who has a birthday near Christmas, sums up the issue this way: "I spent five extra dollars on your present, so it's just like two gifts." Of course, my kids will probably be sending me crap like cardboard bookmarks or lanyards or molds of their handprints. "This finger painting is for Father's Day and your birthday, Dad." Boy, don't knock yourselves out there, kids.

When I was a kid, the birthday was centered around food. I could choose the menu at every meal. Each one was served on a red plate that read, "You Are Special Today", which was my parents' way of saying, even though it's your birthday, you're still sort of retarded. Don't get arrogant, birthday boy. We know your true colors.

Father's Day hasn't changed throughout the years. Dad gets up at dawn and does chores around the house. Any available children are then rounded up for a forced march nature hike, along with our dog. This year, the hike has been skipped, bcause Molly is in South America, and seeing the remaining children's physical fitness might make Dad ashamed of having sired children in the first place. Later, Dad will do another six or seven hours of housework while international soccer football blares from the television. Three to four weeks later, Dad will receive his Father's Day gifts - lanyards in the shape of the Arsenal logo.

Happy Fathers Day, Dennis. Thanks for using the rhythm method.

Now that I have nearly completed my college education, I've been thinking of how college life is depicted in the movies. I would like to see a movie about clown college. It would follow the same setup as "Animal House" or "PCU" or even "Old School". There would be a clown fraternity, full of all kinds of misfit clowns that banded together. Maybe you'd have the sad clown that couldn't stop laughing, or the clown who drove a big SUV, so it wasn't impressive at all when ten or twelve people piled into that car. There would also have to be some rival clown fraternities, like one full of rich clowns, or even one filled with members of the Insane Clown Posse.

The problem I would find in this story is that, traditionally, the underdog fraternity clashes with its rival fraternity and the dean through a series of hilarious pranks and wild behavior. However, this movie would take place at clown college. Pranks and wacky behavior would be de rigeur at such an institution. So, I think the way the clown heroes of this story would react would be through Gandhi-style passive resistance.

Picture it. The dean sprays a bottle of seltzer at our hero, Chuckles. Chuckles turns the other cheek. The mean clowns from the rival fraternity throw whipped cream pies at our heroes, and they respond by circulating a petition, and organizing a boycott of the traditional Clown Carnival. There would be a tense scene where the clowns link arms and sit in protest, as clown college security guards approach menacingly on unicycles.

The climax would come when the underdog fraternity is faced with the prospect of being kicked off campus. The school agrees to let them stay, if they can win an elaborate contest against all the other clown fraternities, a seemingly impossible task. We watch as our clowns train on trampolines and tightropes, as they work on gymnastics and also human pyramids. The clown gym is crowded, but a surprising number manage to fit themselves on a single elliptical trainer.

Finally, the big day comes when our clowns step up to the challenge. They've prepared, but it still seems impossible that they'll prevail. Suddenly, just as the competition is about to begin, the underdog clowns' attorney approaches. He's got an injunction, preventing the clown college from removing the fraternity. The dean gets agitated and stomps on the legal paperwork with his comically-oversized shoes, but the clowns are safe! They celebrate, as the soundtrack kicks in with Billy Ocean's "Get Out Of My Dreams (And Into My Car)". The credits roll over footage of the clowns exercising at the gym and quietly reading books about circus theory.

The last Heuristic Squelch of the academic year just came out, featuring brand-new and quite possibly the final contributions ever from Sean Keane. So enjoy, and cherish:

Ancient Greek Philosophy, Stripped Of Its Artifice

And

Everything At Berkeley Is Uphill

The Squelch era began with the oft-mocked Cal NERDs Aim Virtual Sights High and continued until the present day: calling Plato a pedophile. My news bylines progressed from "The Boss" to the last one, "Trying to Spawn". Which is ultimately a pretty good encapsulation of 1999-2005 for me, if you really think about it.

Like Lance Armstrong, I'm announcing my retirement. Like Michael Jordan, I've pretended to retire in the past, only to return with progressively diminishing returns following each subsequent unretirement. Unlike the College of Cardinals, my successors don't hate Jews, aside from their own self-loathing.

Goodbye is too good a word, The Heuristic Squelch, so I'll just say, Fare thee well*.

laughter is the best medicine

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I've been absent from Zembla, as I have been ill, and my brain mostly hasn't been working. For the past two weeks, my left tonsil has been gradually swelling, my ears become gradually more irritated, and I've gone gradually more insane. I thought I had strep throat at first, and initially worried that I'd infect all of my co-workers and classmates. The pain was getting unbearable, and the four ibuprofen pills I was swallowing every two hours were just barely making a difference, so I finally hauled my sick carcass down to the Tang Center, UC Berkeley's student health service.

I couldn't get an appointment, so I dropped by their urgent care facilities. Even though I was pretty miserable, I felt somewhat weak, and ashamed to fill out the emergency information card and check the box next to "sore throat or other". My interview with the nurse brought in another tidbit of shame, as she asked what medications I was taking. "Ibuprofen," I told her. "And Sudafed for congestion."

Then I thought, maybe this is important. I should be as clear as possible. "Actually, that's Wal-Phed", I explained. The nurse raised an eyebrow. "Um, Walgreens store-brand generic Sudafed. I think it's the same thing, probably. Also, that should be Wal-buprofen. And I took the non-aspirin sleep stuff last night, too. It might be called Wal-enol PM, I don't know."

The nurse just stared. "So, no prescription medications, then?" I shook my head no, resisting the urge to explain to her how Walgreen's had excellent and personable pharmacy technicians. She made a quick examination of myt hroat, predicted that I had strep, and sent me off to wait for a doctor.

Eventually, the "doctor" came in, though upon reflection he may have been an imposter. He had no stethoscope, no lab coat, none of the traditional trappings of a medical professional. I was reassured by his polo shirt, the read "Berkeley Sports Medicine", but in hindsight, those are available at the student store for about twenty-five dollars. In keeping with his lack of a medical degree, Doctor Not-son avoided diagnosing me with an ailment, or writing me a prescription. He referred to my tonsil as "inflamed", but suggested I continue to eat Walbuprofen like Skittles, and treat myself to a "Slurpee" if I experienced severe discomfort. Sadly, the same crappy student health insurance that forced me to go to the Tang Center in the first place won't cover a Slurpee, only an Icee.

I spent the next week sleeping erratically, loitering at local convenience stores, and considering a switch to Walxcedrin, or even trying to get some medicinal walijuana. The only thing that kept my spirits up was the exciting launch of a humorous news site called The Modern Snail, created by my former Heuristic Squelch associate Dan Freedman, and maintained by other Squelch alumni including yours truly. If you like sarcastic news headlines and pithy commentary, check it out.

After my midterm on Tuesday, I returned to Tang and this time saw a real physician, or at least a far more accomplished faker. She actually flinched upon looking at my throat, which is usually a sign that your ulcerated tonsil is something special. I got some antibiotics, but more importantly, I got a small supply of Vicodin. The improvement in brain function was immediate and incredible. I could read for minutes at a time. I could move my tongue from the roof of my mouth without triggering a near-migraine.

In the next few days, I saw even more wonderful effects. Academic lectures became positively enthralling. I sat, glassy-eyed, hanging off the professors' every word, taking twice as many notes, yet seemingly using only half the space. I am a bit concerned about extended usage of opiates, as one professor discussed some racist 19th century literature, that suggests that such habits might lead me into the Chinaman's depraved world of white slavery.

As evidenced by recent personal history with painkillers, my affability has been off the charts. I have befriended baristas and bus drivers. I've had in-depth discussions about the evolution of Mountain Dew Code Red with stadium vendors. I told a Mexican cook at Steve's Korean BBQ that their kim chee was "simply unbelievable". Also, I guess the antibiotics may have had some effect on my ulcerated tonsil, but I've been much more focused on looking out of windows and finding the softest possible place to sit.

Also, The Modern Snail is even funnier when you've taken a Vicodin 25-30 minutes before perusing the site.

Tuesday was without a doubt the best trip ever to the Tang Center. I got treatment, I got to meet a real doctor, and unlike nearly every person that has ever visited the Tang Center, I was not accused of having an STD. I think I should send that doctor some flowers.

upcoming events

Next week has got some big events coming up, all for the combined low low price of just $12. First, I will be returning to the stand-up stage at 50 Mason Lounge for their Saturday Night Showcase on April 9th, at 8 PM. I've performed at 50 Mason Lounge (located near Union Square, at 50 Mason Street) twice in the past four months. With this third appearance, I hope that I can do for this place what Tony Randall did for the Ed Sullivan Theater, and vice versa, except without me fathering a child at age 82 and subsequently dying. Admission is $10 with a ZERO drink minimum, to see probably eight comics of varying degrees, including mine, the M.F.A. of local highbrow unpaid funnymaking.

To prepare for my upcoming set, I have been trying out some new "racial" material, since it seems to be a popular subject among some of my open mic brethren. Here's a little sample:

"You ever notice how black people get hassled more by law enforcement? They're like, 'What seems to be the problem officer?', and it turns out they're getting pulled over because of racial profiling! Whereas with white people, it's more like, "Whoops, I ran a red light! Guess that cop didn't see me. Turn up that Linkin Park CD, man.' (point to front row) I see *that* guy knows what I'm talking about. And don't get me started on opportunities to play professional hockey! I mean, more like, professional *honky*!"

The official promotional show info is after the jump.

The second big event comes on April 13th, when Two Dollar Wednesday emerges from its seven-month hibernation to bring discount baseball and joy to the good people of the East Bay, plus whatever Raiders fans also buy tickets. It's nice to know that in a world where a movie ticket is $9.50 and MUNI fares are about to jump up to $1.50, the price of Wednesday night major league baseball, just like a Super Nintendo, is holding steady at 16 bits.

Just think, to see the playoff-bound Oakland Athletics battle the unfailingly-polite Toronto Blue Jays (7:05 PM, Network Associates Coliseum) will cost just 50 cents more than what it will soon cost to take the N train downtown. Of course, for those of us who will be taking MUNI to a downtown BART station to get to the ballpark in the first place, it's sort of irrelevant, but you can't ignore those savings! Hot dogs are only $1! Beer is still overpriced, but you don't mind as much when they're practically giving the baseball away for free. You mind even less if you've rigged up a hands-free camelback hydration system to smuggle in beer, but it's a great deal even without such a setup.

What a week. Two great events. Two great towns. Twelve small dollars. I hope to see many people there. Besides, have you ever noticed how white people illegally smuggle alcohol into professional sports stadiums? I bet that guy knows what I'm talking about!

A letter has recently fallen into the hands of Zembla, explaining perhaps why Officer Toughkins singled out Shakes, the innocent Toyota Corolla, for harassment. (Boldness added by me, all spelling errors are CSSA's own. My dad's name changed to protect his anonymity.)


Dear "Emmis",

The California State Sheriff's Association (CSSA) is a professional law enforcement organization, which has provided all 58 elected Sheriffs of California with a unified voice on matters of public safety for over 100 years. Through our collective participation, we are able to bring our combined resources and knowledge to provide the highest level of service to communities throughout California.

Every day the Sheriff's Office, as the chief law enforcement agency in each county, works very hard to keep us safe in our community and to apprehend individuals who break the law and would do us harm. As criminals terrorists, and predators become more sophisticated, technologically advanced, and better armed, the job of a peace officer becomes even more dangerous.

We are writing to request your assistance in this effort by becoming a Member of the California State Sheriff's Association. For as little as $25 a year (about $2 a month) you will be supporting the preeminent law enforcement organization in California. Your dues will be used to provide programs on crime prevention and awareness, provide training for Sheriffs and their personnel, and educate the public regarding law enforcement information, functions, and events. These dues are essential as the current budget crisis in California threatens to gravely impact law enforcement spending priorities. Most importantly, through participation in CSSA, the Sheriff's (sic) of California are able to work with other state leaders and organizations to ensure our Officers receive the tools they need to be effective in our criminal justice system.

Membership privileges include a membership card, bumper sticker, two window decals, and a years (sic) subscription to California Sheriff, our quarterly publication.

Thank you in advance for your consideration to become a member of the California State Sheriffs' Association. Please send your check TODAY as serious issues facing law enforcement must be addressed immediately.

Sincerely,

Executive Director


Apparently, our local sheriffs are threatened not just by evil terrorists, but by "predators" like mountain lions, grizzly bears, and perhaps coyotes. More importantly, our sherrifs are running an informal protection racket, where a $25 membership fee can ensure safety from troublesome traffic stops. Otherwise, why would one need a bumper sticker or window decals proclaiming membership in the Association?

I can imagine Sheriff Warren Rupf making the pitch to drivers directly: "You know, that's a pretty nice driving record you've got there. It'd be a shame if it got some moving violations on it." Then he scrapes the registration sticker off your license plate, breaks your tail light with his billy club, and then dashes into the forest to wrestle a mountain lion, a mountain lion with a distinct technological advantage.

in greek, it'd be sunergos

I am taking 18 units this semester in my triumphant encore performance at UC Berkeley. Like "The Family Guy", I left amid poor reviews and little to no popular following a few years ago. Only my die-hard supporters ever dreamed I'd return. They thought my academic career was unfocused and prone to going off on tangents, albeit interspersed with moments of brilliance. They had little no interest in the further adventures of the chubby protagonist, me, but now I'm back. Why? DVD sales, my friend.

Right now, all my classes are running together. In my Irish literature class, thousands are fleeing Ireland during the potato famine. In my American Studies class, they're arriving in Philadelphia and bothering everyone. Stephen Dedalus is critiquing Shakespeare, and so is John Milton. Yeats is quoting Milton. Joyce makes fun of Yeats and the Irish Revival while Stephen Dedalus makes his students read Milton's Lycidas. My professor is also making me read Lycidas. Even Middle Eastern Studies shows an overlap. Thursday on BART, I read a speech from Yeats in the Irish Senate, denouncing the Catholic majority's hardline stance on the legality of divorce. Six hours later, a professor discussed the implications of a majority Shiite party attempting to impose religious law on the country's religious minority. And, of course, Yeats again referenced Milton, whose tract on divorce we'll be reading in two weeks.

This is no accident. A truly balanced acadmemic curriculum has the qualities of wholeness, harmony, and radiance. To create an environment where all of one's classes inform and influence the others, requires careful academic planning, or the liberal use of hallucinogenics during the BART ride to the East Bay.

Here's the plan. One, 68-page, all-encompassing paper tying together everything I've learned in the term. Five entire pages written in Irish. Two in Arabic. It'll show that Hamlet's grandfather was Milton's son, the eerie parallels between Flann O'Brien and Naguib Mahfouz and why the original sin of Adam and Eve has barred the Philadelphia Eagles forever from the glory of Super Bowl victory. There will be seven pages of footnotes, two pages of daguerrotypes, and whole thing will be held together by a sharp-looking clear plastic binder. Make room on the Dean's List, UC Berkeley, and tell those pinheads at the MacArthur Foundation to get some fellowship money together already. That is, once I finish the reading. I'm a little behind.

shakes vs. officer toughkins

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I got pulled over on the way home from Tahoe Joe's tonight, driving the Corolla. Shakes' registration had expired in November, unbeknownst to me. I wasn't speeding or drunk or violating the law in any way, so I was probably as relaxed as I've ever been at a traffic stop. The cop looked about my age as well, lessening the intimidation factor even further.

We were eating dinner to celebrate my sister's successful move back home. Both of her roommates moved out at the same time, so she's back with mom and dad, making them almost as proud of her as they are of their 25-year-old undergraduate son. The complication is that mom and dad, giddy or depressed over the last of their children leaving home, converted two of the former bedrooms into "offices". For dad, that meant bookshelves, a desk, and the couch from the family room. For mom, that meant bags full of fabric, egg cartons, handmade greeting cards from preschoolers, books, quilt patterns, and seasonal teddy bears strewn wildly across the floor. In addition, my youngest sister recently began a semester in South America, and all her apartment stuff came to mom and dad's house. There is no space. Kelly had to rent a storage facility for most of her furniture.

A note on the seasonal teddy bears: My mom has teddy bears for every conceivable holiday. For Christmas, there are Santa bears, reindeer bears, mostly wearing red and geen doll clothes. For Valentine's Day, the house is decorated with bears holding or wearing hearts. There are Thanksgiving bears, Easter bears, and even one lone Independence Day bear with a tricornered hat and what looks like a bugle. For the most part, each season also has an accompanying flag, which goes on a pole next to the garage (The flags are bear-free). It is a serious business in the suburbs. Mom got very agitated about a neighbor flying their Valentine's Day flag two weeks ago, thinking it was ridiculously premature. I suggested she respond with a display of civil rights-themed bears in honor of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, complete with a miniature bus. She told me to shut the fuck up.

Over a lovely mushroom appetizer, Kelly told us that her storage space was inaccessible after 9 PM. Not that she was planning to store additional items that evening, but the owner of the facility still gave her a stern warning. "The K-9 unit of the Pleasant Hill, PD, they use the facility at night for training the dogs," which was an obvious lie. No one is training police dogs at 10 PM at Stor-All, not on a school night, and especially not to provide free watchdog services.

While the cop was running the plates, two additional cop cars showed up for backup. The cop grilled me about the car's owner and my intended destination that evening. I asked what the problem was, and he lied that the car hadn't been registered since 2002. "That's a misdemeanor!" he shouted. "I could bring you in right now!" He was right to an extent, if by "bring you in" he meant "write a $20 fix-it ticket". It was an awkward dynamic. Clearly, he knew he couldn't arrest me and wasn't planning to, and I knew it, too. Was he showing off for me with empty threats and hollow intimidation? For the other officers? Maybe he was just sending a message to the whole fraternity of shiftless San Francisco punks like me, who like nothing better than to zoom recklessly down Contra Costa Boulevard at 35 MPH in badass early-80's Toyotas.

Still, I sat silently with my hands on the wheel. From one of the backup vehicles came the frantic barking of a police dog. To think, my traffic stop had delayed the important work of police animals and jeopardized the security of a discount multi-level storage yard. I hung my head in shame as he scratched off the old sticker, and received my returned license with a whispered thanks. Officer Toughkins reiterated his threat about taking me in, then advised me to get home as soon as possible. His final words were, "If I see this car out here again tonight, I'm gonna tow it." Which, you know, he also couldn't do.

Final totals:

Ineffectual police threats: 2
Tickets written: 0
Registration stickers: -1
Lessons learned: 1

There is something horribly sad and desperate about the NFL sideline reporter. This role is the province of former athletes trying to stay attached to the game, unsuccessful game analysts, and female sports journalists who have hit the glass ceiling. Only by the loosest possible definition of the word are they "reporters", as there is very little news occuring on the sidelines. With fifteen television cameras covering the event, there isn't a lot of unique insight provided by the sideline reporter, even after they stand on the field, exposed to the elements, while the higher-paid broadcasting talent sits in a heated, covered booth.

The sideline reporter also has the thankless job of the halftime interview. Usually, this involves chasing after the coach of whichever team is leading, in order to prompt a cliched exchange. "Coach, how are you going to approach the second half?" "Coach, what are you going to tell the team at halftime?" "Coach, can you find an answer for Kevan Barlow?" The coach is obviously not going to give away any real information or strategy, so he mutters a few cliches about being balanced, staying focused, and maintaining a balanced focus on fundamentals. I would prefer to see coaches dispense with the cliches and blantantly lie:

"Suzy, we're gonna run a double reverse on every single play in the second half. They'll never expect it."

"Look, it's obvious we can't stop Corey Dillon, so we're just hoping he pulls a hamstring, Pam."

"At halftime, I plan to tell the team to load up on amphetamines and painkillers, Armen, while I myself will enjoy a large glass of whiskey."

The saddest sideline reporter moment from the football weekend came from CBS's Armen Keteyan. Just before the start of the second half, Keteyan told the announcers what the Patriots coaches said during their halftime speeches. The content of the speech was the usual, "Stay focused, don't look at the scoreboard" stuff one would expect, but the sadness came when Keteyan revealed he'd gotten his information by listening at the locker room door. The image of an adult male kneeling in a concrete hallway, furtively straining to hear a football coach repeat cliches about giving 110%, was too much for me.

In the playoffs, the networks double their sideline presence, so the reporters are either twice or half as worthless, depending on your perspective. They might as well just send a comedian down to make stuff up, which is sort of what FOX does with behemoth Tony "The Goose" Siragusa* (Click on "MORE" for a perspective on The Goose from last year).

Sideline guys are so sad, you almost forget how pathetically insecure the color analysts are. Broadcasters such as Troy Aikman and Joe Theisman, although Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks, still feel the need to drop names and remind the viewing audience of their popularity, by way of their personal relationships with coaches. Aikman delights in delivering insipid insights, presumably gained through these inside relationships: "I was talking to defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, and he told me they have got to cover these Atlanta receivers." "At breakfast, Andy Reid told me they need to run the ball." "While I was rubbing his shoulders in the sauna this morning, Donovan McNabb told me he believes in this football team."

Theisman is content to merely name-drop assistant coaches, crediting them every time the team makes a successful play. Quarterback sack on a blitz? It's the result of the defensive scheme, thanks to the defensive coordinator. Quarterback throws for a touchdown when the defense blitzes? It's the play-calling by the offensive coordinator. There is a valuable drinking game to be made about ESPN's entire Sunday night crew. Drink once when Theisman mentions a coordinator. Drink again if Paul MacGuire prefaces a replay with, "Watch this! Watch this! You see this?" And if a Hall of Fame quarterback propositions any member of the broadcast dream, drain whatever is in your hand.

More thoughts from the playoffs:

The sad march of technology: Wireless technology has been a boon for the NFL. Coaches can stalk the sidelines unencumbered by their headsets' cords, and quarterbacks can communicate directly with coaches and coordinators via devices in their helmets. I miss the days when Joe Montana would come off the field and talk to the offensive coordinator on a huge rotary phone on the sidelines. Invariably, my dad would announce, "Joe's ordering a pizza!" Also invariably, I would crack up.

Does Robert De Niro have a gambling problem?: Or maybe a drug problem. Or a shady accountant. Whatever the reason for his need for cash, it seems like he hasn't turned down a movie role for about six years. He did an American Express commercial that ran during the game. In his newest film, he shares top billing with a ten year old girl. Somebody get him a good script and keep him away from the dog track.

Erection pills and the NFL: The NFL and the TV networks have been very cautious about offensiveness since last year's Super Bowl. Prematurely balding FOX announcer Joe Buck had a hissy fit after Randy Moss pretended to moon the crowd in Green Bay. FOX pre-emptively changed the name of one of their pregame programs to "The Best Darn Sports Show Period". CBS has an elaborate setup to enable five-second delays on all live broadcasts, just in case there's stealth nipples about. This does not extend to advertising, however.

Erection pills are one of the firmest supporters of NFL telecasts. Levitra commercials pop up about every other commercial break, urging the fans at home to get a fucking boner already. Is Randy Moss's dancing really more harmful to a young viewer than hearing, "If an erection lasts more than four hours, seek medical attention"?

These advertisements have moved from raising awareness of impotence remedies, and now appear focused on brand differentiation. Levitra suggests, "If you're on another ED medication, maybe you should switch." I can't wait to see how Viagra responds to try to separate themselves, and build a strong, unique boner pill identity.

"Alone In The Dark": Heavily advertised suspense movie starring Christian Slater and Tara Reid, and also a description of how you'll end up if you go to see this film in a theater.

Fan signs: This is a pet peeve of mine from way back. Look, if you're going to spend the time making a sign on posterboard with paints or markers, and hauling that sign to the game, and then annoying the people in your section by holding up the sign, you ought to make sure it's a good sign. Have a friend check the spelling. See if anyone laughs. Some Philadelphia fans had Randy Moss-related signs, proclaiming the stadium to be a "No Moon Zone", or asking Moss, "Boxers or Breifs?" (sic) Those signs could have been kept at home.

Injuries: My favorite type of injury comes when a player is hustled to the locker room for unknown reasons, and the broadcasters can't even find footage of where the purported injury happened. At those times, I like to imagine that the player is not being treated, but instead being told that his kids have been kidnapped by gamblers. If he returns to the field and plays poorly, it might be the injury, or he could be throwing the game. You just never know.

Troy Brown goes both ways: Brown is a wide receiver for the Patriots who this year, at age 33, started playing defensive back as well, due to some Patriot injuries. Now, a few defensive backs have played wide receiver part-time over the years, like Deion Sanders or Champ Bailey, but that was more of a novelty. Also, they were young. Brown is the third DB, so he plays quite a bit, and especially in crucial third-down or long-yardage situations. Not only is he succeeding, he intercepted three passes this year. Really, this story still hasn't gotten nearly enough attention. The equivalent in another sport would be J.T. Snow responding to the Giants' bullpen woes by becoming the closer, and then racking up ten saves in October. Beyond that, it's just cool that in an era of football where some teams are so specialized they have separate kickers for field goals and kickoffs, it's heartening to see a guy knock down a pass on one play, return a punt on the next, and then catch a pass for a first down on the third play, as Brown did verus Indianapolis. I bet he'd wear a leather helmet if it weren't against the rules.

i know, they're called doctors

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Not a lot going on in Zembla these days. My computer monitor at home doesn't work, and I only work part-time. Why only part-time? Well it's because I'm going back to school, back to school, only partially to prove to my dad that I'm not a fool. While many of my peers are finishing masters degrees, studying for the bar exam, and beginning their medical residencies, I will be putting the academic pedal to the education metal in hopes of emerging with a bachelor's degree. Still, it's a lot better than meeting professors, lawyers, and doctors at the ten-year reunion and not having a college degree, so I'll take it.

Currently, I am enrolled in four different English classes. One deals with Irish writing in the early 20th century, and another is on James Joyce, an Irish writer of the early 20th century. It's called synergy, friends. My other two courses are a study of the second-greatest blind poet of all time, John Milton, and a strange History/English hybrid course about the cities and literary traditions of New York and Philadelphia. Since my own college career could be described as a strange History/English hybrid (or "train wreck"), I think this is right up my alley. Old Man Alley, to be specific, right by the intersection of Disappointment Way and Wasted Potential Boulevard.

After two days of class, no one seems have noticed that I am way too old to be at Cal, or they're too polite to say anything. I credit this to two factors:

1. The baby face: My features are soft and doughy, and often always flushed with pink. If I can still get carded in every bar I step into, I can blend in when I'm in a college classroom.

2. I'm still not the oldest: There are always a few seniors in Berkeley classes, particularly in the English Department, and I'm not talking about students with more than 90 semester units. Sometimes, they can be a delight, sharing their wisdom and experiences with all. Mostly they slow things way down, asking for things to be repeated, passages explained, and their food to be mashed up. Studying The Faerie Queen many years ago, one of my aged classmates was vexed by a certain passage. The professor's explanation of the thematic issues did little to ease her confusion, and it helped even less when he explained where Spenser had made an allusion to Ovid. Finally, she exclaimed, "I just want to know what happens to the Redcrosse Knight in this part, OK?", and he consented to give her a literal summary.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Hey Sean, what about those college girls? Aren't you excited about that?" Actually, I'm not, which may be explained by two factors:

1. I'm older now, and my tastes have matured with me: Sure, in the past, the presence of nubile freshman and sophomore girls would have thrilled me, their beauty only rivaled by their freshness. Now, perhaps, I want something more in a woman. Perhaps I want someone old and wise enough to relate on an intellectual level, putting aside petty physical concerns in favor of a more cerebral match. Or, perhaps...

2. Girls at Berkeley just aren't that hot.

Obviously, further investigation of this topic is necessary.

What I'm really looking forward to is the beginning of class discussions, which will be happening tomorrow. I plan to wow my classmates with tales of 56K modems and grunge rock. "Seriously, everyone wore flannel, and most people still had all their pubic hair. We sent email with carrier pigeons, and we used to have to carry checkbooks, not like now with your fancy debit cards and PayPal accounts. I'm sorry, professor? Oh, I think it symbolizes the disconnect between Philadelphia's reputation as the nation's primary cultural center and the growing reality of New York's predominance in that area. Also, we all carried pagers!"

Hopefully, all this book-learning won't distract me from attending to Zembla, but seriously, who am I kidding? The posts will be infrequent, full of incoherent ramblings about Dublin and unreadable Middle English puns. Maybe I'll get a new monitor, sure, but my ten hours each week on BART are going to severely cut into my Zembla time. And though I've spent a long time typing this one out, you really are only supposed to use the computers for twenty minutes at a time. Research takes precedence. This is a university, goddammit.

Artificial intelligence has made great strides in recent years, but I have never felt like I was living in the future so much as I did today at work. My co-worker "Pepe" received a handheld electronic game called "20Q", which plays a near-perfect game of Twenty Questions. The future is now, and 20Q is leading the way.

It's not just that the 20Q is bright, and obviously quite good at Twenty Questions. Relying solely on on yes/no/maybe responses and a pre-loaded set of questions, 20Q guessed such challenging objects as "volcano" and "post-it notes". It's more that the 20Q takes time to talk electronic trash, warning you of its imminent victory in between questions like "Is it bigger than a loaf of bread?" and "Is it heavier than a duck?" Somehow, a taunt like, "I am onto your game...You can't fool me" is all the more devastating when it shows up one line at a time, with a dramatic pause while the wee processors try to catch up. Bizarrely, the 20Q will occasionally ask, "Is it heavier than a pound of butter?", which sounds like a riddle until you realize that one only has to do with feathers and gold and antiquated British measurement systems.

The 20Q is not by any means perfect. There is some confusion when words have double meanings. For example, an affirmative answer to the question, "Does it roll?" led to a guess of "Is it a beer can?", though the mystery object was actually a condom. We had posited that the 20Q might have some sort of adult content filter, until its final guess of "lubricant", which came remarkably close to the right answer.

20Q was also defeated by "Rolodex", though it guessed both "notepad" and "index card". This was likely due to the fear of trademark infringement, in the same way that news organizations are scolded to never use "TiVo" as a noun or verb - only an adjective. I can imagine the 20Q researchers revising their programming codes with heavy hearts, after receiving a cease-and-desist order from Rolodex's legal department.

The final test of 20Q: Could it identify the mystery object if it were the 20Q itself? "Pepe" argues that one of the most important parts of intelligence is self-awareness. Should the 20Q successfully identify itself, I would be much more inclined to accept it as sentient, albeit handheld being. And at that point, what is our next move? Start teaching the 20Q basic accounting skills and household tasks? Buy another 20Q and see if the two can reproduce? Destroy the 20Q, before it can reproduce and take over the planet? Perhaps the 20Q itself could enlighten us. Is the 20Q's potential danger to human civilization bigger than a loaf of bread? Is it heavier than a pound of butter?

The public has spoken, and soon Seankeanester.com will become a reality! Though Seankeanester.com will be primarily devoted to Sean Keanes, friends and associates of any Sean Keane might enjoy a visit. Until then, you can spend your office downtime and holiday dollars at The Shirt Off Sean Keane's Back, a rapidly expanding online shop. Be the first one on your block to declare, "I'm Not Sean Keane, But My Boyfriend Is". Once I figure out the merchandiser setup, all profits will go to breast cancer research (no, really).

Cassie Wu was responsible for the majority of the T-shirt design work at The Shirt Off Sean Keane's Back, so she deserves ample and heartfelt. props.

In non-virtual Sean Keane news, San Francisco Sean Keane (AKA me) will be returning to UC Berkeley in the spring for what I like to call a redshirt semester. I'm hanging out with my old friends John Milton and James Joyce, as well as my twin nemeses Close Reading and Mandatory Attendance. Hopefully everyone will just assume I'm a TA. Otherwise I'll spend way too much time explaining to freshman and sophomores what it was like to connect to the Internet with a modem, or why there's hair on the back of my shoulders. I will continue with my current job of helping to free political prisoners, but only part-time.

Finally, this Friday marks my triumphant return to the world of stand-up comedy in front of a paying audience. No more laundromats and empty coffee shops until next week, says I! Instead, it's a Comedy Showcase at a club called 50 Mason near Union Square (it's located at 50 Mason). Think of it as a normal evening with Sean, where I only monopolize the conversation with tedious stories for 7-10 minutes instead of two or three hours. The downside is that it costs ten dollars, but the upside is that you won't have to eat my attempts at Mediterranean cooking. I've hosted a show on the night of September 11, and opened for Dave Attell, but I've never played 50 Mason before. It ought to be a hootenanny. I will try not to wear that same green shirt on Friday.

The official announcement is below:

Gene called me up last week to give me the big news.

"Your page is the second-highest listing for 'Sean Keane' on Google", he told me. "Seankeane.com is the only one ahead of you. Good job."

Zembla has been around for a little over two years, which works out to about seven months when you adjust for frequency of updates. Just a year ago, the Sean Keane page rankings were dominated by Irish folk singer Seán Keane (also known as "the real Seán Keane) and wee Zembla was barely in the top 100. Now, as my internet famousness has grown, Zembla has pulled itself up the Google ladder, delighting a tiny group of my friends and relatives while confusing thousands of Irish music fans and Nabokov scholars.

If there's one thing I've learned from my meteoric rise up the search engine charts, it's that you can't get complacent. Look what happened to the other Irish musician named Seán Keane. He's a world-renowned fiddle player and a member of Ireland's greatest folk band, the Chieftains. He's also only #3 in the rankings. Maybe it's time to put down the tin whistle and starting working on the HTML, Seán.

That's why I've searched extensively for any and all Sean Keanes that might threaten my Google near-supremacy. You never know when some young Sean Keane might come around, trying to make a name for himself by Google bombing and clawing his way to the top. The way to prepare for that, as both Branch Rickey and Canteen Boy could tell you, is scouting.

The Sean Keane Report

Seán Keane, Finest Tenor Vocalist In Ireland

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This is the big daddy of all Sean Keanes. Mr. Keane is wildly popular among Irish folk fans and has won a ton of awards. Q Magazine calls him "the finest singer of his generation". I'm not even the finest singer in my own house. Now that he and his brothers have formed a group (Citizen Keane), he may have locked up his #1 ranking for years to come, as well as stealing the title of my unpublished memoirs. He may be tough to beat, especially with the arrogant "á" in his first name, reminding everyone that he's a bona fide Irishman, not just a California kid who doesn't tan well.

Verdict: Stiff competition, angelic voice.

Fiddler/Tin Whistle Player Seán Keane

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The emergence of folk singer Seán Keane probably hit this guy hard. He had a great, multi-decade run of success with the Chieftains, complete with show-stopping fiddle solos and traditional folk groupies throwing their panties and tam-o'-shanters on stage. Suddenly, a superstar emerges in the mid-90's. Sure, he doesn't have the same track record or following as The Chieftains, but the difference is, this Seán Keane sings, so suddenly one of the greatest fiddlers in Irish history is now the "other Seán Keane". It's a damn shame.

Verdict: I don't think he's gaining ground on Zembla anytime soon.

Hockey Sean Keane

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No longer a defenseman/forward for Manhattanville College, Hockey Sean Keane is not competition in the page rankings, unless he catches on with a minor league hockey team or something. I am impressed by two things about this Sean Keane. One, he's enough of a versatile athlete that he played for both the hockey and golf teams at Manhattanville. Two, he led the hockey team in penalty minutes AND won the MVP, meaning he is both a tough and talented son of a bitch. His biography even refers to him as "grizzled" at the age of 22. Hockey Sean Keane, you truly are a valiant man.

Verdict: Minimal threat, but I'd totally buy him a beer.

Photographer Sean Keane

I don't know much about this Sean Keane, except that he's skilled in web design, and he has a hot wife named Candy Keane. "Candy Keane" is one of the punny names my parents reportedly considered for me and my sisters, along with "Peachy". It's funnier that it doesn't even appear to be this model's maiden name.

Verdict: Minimal threat, but I'd totally buy his wife a beer.

UPDATE: Photographer Sean Keane is a Navy SEAL, making him the toughest Sean Keane on this list. Apologies to Tae Kwon Do Black Belt Sean Keane, the former toughest Sean Keane in the world. I don't think this affects Photographer Sean Keane's status as an internet threat, because Google does not take hand-to-hand combat into account when they calculate page rank. I would like to amend my earlier comment to read, "I'd totally buy his wife a beer with his permission."

Black Texan Sean Keane-Dawes

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So much for those haters who insist that all Sean Keanes are Irishmen or fighters. Mr. Keane-Dawes is a talented attorney specializing in immigration law. It's probably unlikely that he and I are relatives, but I have family members who swear that New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter is my distant cousin, so you never know.

Verdict: Mr. Keane-Dawes will provide aggressive representation, but not an aggressive web presence.

Photoblog Sean Keane

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This guy even has his own members-only clubhouse, while I don't even have my own Members Only jacket. He has a photoblog with amusing and funny pictures, and he's also interested in Early Childhood Education. In other words, this guy is a rival. Hopefully he will stick to teaching preschool, because anyone who can create an image like the one below is a serious threat.

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It checks messages from space! Brilliant!

Verdict: Serious threat.

Penn State Sean Keane

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This guy wants a job in IT. He's still in school until 2007, so I think he won't be making his mark on the Internet until then. I just hope his college doesn't poach my college's football coach in the offseason.

Verdict: Go Bears!

Engineering Grad Student and Gun Rights Advocate J. Sean Keane

J. Sean Keane is concerned with gun rights and Vietnam veterans, though I think he's a pretty young guy. He writes eloquently about concealed weapons permits and the Second Amendment. Unfortunately for his Google status, he doesn't appear to be a big arguer or name-caller, so he won't attract enough criticism and venom to truly launch his internet famousness. I do wonder what the "J" stands for.

Verdict: Armed and dangerous, but not so much dangerous in terms of page ranking.

PalmPilot Artist Sean Keane

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If PalmPilot art takes off the way that some art critics expect it to, this Sean Keane, whoever he is, might become quite the Internet superstar. "Great Expectations", shown above, is nothing special, but check out "Super Dizzy-Phat" at the link above to see why I think PalmPilot art might have some promise.

Verdict: If he moves on to Blackberry-based art, we may be in for a rivalry.

UPDATE: PalmPilot artist Sean Keane and Photoblog Sean Keane are one and the same! I should have recognized the artistic genius. I told you he's a threat.

Friend To The Van Den Hende Family Sean Keane

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Looks eerily like a teenage Dennis Keane.

Verdict: Eerie, but not worrisome.

UPDATE (12/6/05): Another Dennis-like photo can be found here here. Damn if there aren't some handsome Sean Keanes out there.

Irish Golf Course Construction Company General Manager Sean Keane

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Pros: Has met Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus. Fine bushy mustache.

Cons: You can't play golf on the Internet.

Verdict: Or can you?!?

Albany Police Detective and Drum Major Sean Keane

Detective Keane can handle a snare drum and a service revolver. He may also regularly wear a kilt. This combination is highly valued on many online personal sites, so Detective Keane might well become more popular than he could imagine, given some basic programming skills and an open mind.

Verdict: Intriguing.

Secretary of the North American County Board of the Gaelic Athletic Association Sean Keane

I'm just happy that this organization exists.

Verdict: Overjoyed.

Union College Basketball Reserve Sean Keane

m-keane.JPG

Can shoot the three. No longer playing.

Keane played six games for the Dutchmen, averaging just over one point per contest and just under one rebound. This Sean Keane played sporadically for a talented team that just missed a championship, (he's second from the right) which was eerily similar to my own basketball career. Of course, he's a college athlete and I was in fourth grade. While it's likely that neither of us can dunk a basketball, he probably knows a lot more people that can dunk than I do, too.

Verdict: Left open on the perimeter, this Sean Keane is a threat. As an internet presence, less so.

Senior Journalist Sean Keane

This Sean Keane seems to inspire a lot of ire from one particular blogger, though I am not versed enough in local Irish regional politics to know whether the criticisms are fair.

Verdict: Until Kilkenny People develops a better interface to search their archives, this Sean Keane is not a threat.

Irish Taekwon Do Black Belt Sean Keane

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This Sean Keane could kick my ass harder than any other Sean Keane on this list. Unless Hockey Sean had a hockey stick, and Detective Sean had pepper spray. Damn, those three would make a kickass crime-fighting team.

Verdict: Awesome.

Residential Businessman From Connecticut Sean Keane

According to the minutes, Sean Keane doesn't have a lot of enemies in Westchesterfield.

Verdict: Not a threat, unless his home business involves routers or pornography.

UPDATE: Another Sean Keane located!

New Jersey Sean Keane

Likes Tupac. At 5'11", this Sean Keane is a good four inches taller than many Sean Keanes, at the tender age of 17. Plus, the ladies love him. Clearly, this is a Sean Keane to keep an eye on.

Discovering this Sean Keane also alerted me to the existence of Keansburg, New Jersey, which might be a good spot for Sean Keane World Headquarters, assuming there is a good place to build a secret underground cave or at least a tree fort.

Verdict: A rising star in the Sean Keane universe.

UPDATE: Another Sean Keane located!

Southern Connecticut State University Soccer Sean Keane

This Sean Keane is a fullback for the Southern Connecticut State Owls. According to his roster information, he's 6'1" - quite tall for a Sean Keane. I also played defense in my days as a soccer player, but that was because I couldn't dribble and was five years old.

Soccer Sean Keane is also Canadian, making him the go-to Sean Keane for cheap pharmaceuticals and legal weed. In the team photo below, I think he's third from the left on the top row:

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Verdict: More of a threat if you're using the metric system.

UPDATE: Another Sean Keane located!

Newlywed Sean Keane

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This Sean Keane was married last September on Long Island. According to his wedding page, Newlywed Sean Keane "enjoys watching sports, movies, music, computers, and enjoying time with his friends", proving that there are some pleasures common to all the world's Sean Keanes. Newlywed Sean Keane has a degree in Information Technology, so he certainly has the firepower to mount a page rank assault.

Verdict: A sleeping giant.

how we met, part three: dan small

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For the good of the permanent public record, and expose the unreliability of human memories that aren't mine, I will be presenting a series of "How We Met" tales about various prominent figures in my life. The third in this series is about Dan Small. (Read How We Met, Part One: Kristen Larson, and How We Met, Part Two: Dustin Reed)

In the spring of our freshman year, Kristen brought a tall freshman to the Tree Group during lunch. He had glasses, a shock of auburn hair cut in classic mid-90's "floppy" style, and paler skin than even I had. He told us his name was Danny, which we immediately ignored.

Our friend Dan B. had recently waged an extended battle with his parents and peers over his nickname. After twelve years of "Danny", he decided he wanted the more mature "Dan". After two years of this struggle, we'd been conditioned to expect a brusque, "My name is Dan!" if anyone were to use the childish moniker "Danny".

Dan lost his nickname immediately, even before Kristen could invent an alternative name for him, but he and I didn't bond just yet. That came later, in World Civilization. That class was taught by a balding hippie who was later immortalized in the classic Keane-Vigil detective tale, "The Bald-Headed League". He believed in long class discussions instead of lecture, writing letters to political prisoners, and spending weeks memorizing the countries of the world in lieu of opening a textbook or writing. During class time we watched "Cry Freedom", "Gandhi", "Schindler's List", and, bizarrely, "Medicine Man". Each quarter, our hippie teacher would ask us what grade we felt we deserved, and then we would write a short essay defending the award. (Note to younger Zembla readers: the answer to that question is, "An 'A'.")

The practical result of this approach to teaching was that class was usually about 90% discussion. Not discussion about world civilizations, or the rain forest, just talking amongst ourselves all day. One such day, Dan-n�e-Danny came to sit at our table. Our ostensible assignment to make "art projects addressing a South American environmental problem" had predictably devolved into the usual unregulated chatter, so it was a free day.

I had finished my project a day earlier, which would have been quite impressive if said project wasn't a musical about cattle ranching and deforestation in Argentina. I had no qualms about talking since the libretto for "The Sound of Moo-sick" was totally done. Dan's respect for the teacher, and this project specifically, had been done even longer. So, while Katie tried find a worthy closing line for her poem about wistful rain forest parrots, Dan and I began talking classic sitcoms. Our rapport was such that within five minutes, we were belting out a heartfelt duet on "Love Is All Around", the Mary Tyler Moore Show's theme song, interrupted only when the hippie teacher sat down to explain how, with a little editing, he was pretty sure "The Sound of Moo-sick" could become a very tight, powerful one-act for the Drama Department.

Dan rolled his eyes behind the teacher's back, and it was like he'd turned the world on with a smirk, taking a nothing class and suddenly making fun of a jerk. It was enough to make me want to joyfully toss my baseball cap in the air, but instead we waited for the teacher to leave and then did "The Facts of Life".

door-to-door fighting

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When I was in eleventh grade, our history class studied World War Two. I wasn't quite the pinko peacenik that I am now, but when we got to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I definitely had some questions. Like, "What the fuck was our country doing dropping atomic bombs when the war was basically over?"

I would have been a lot more prepared for debate if I'd had some Zinn or Chalmers Johnson handy, but even our history textbook admitted that come August of 1945, the Japanese were right on the brink of surrender. When I brought it up in class, however, our teacher shook his head at my naivete. Obviously, he said, the deaths of those hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians ultimately saved millions in the long run. Besides, he added, "If we'd invaded Japan it would have been door to door fighting."

That was his counter to any and all of my arguments.

"It says that the Japanese would have given up if they could keep the Emperor."

"Sean. Door to door fighting."

"But, Tojo even sent a message to the ambassador talking about surrendering."

"I'm not sure you heard me. Door. To Door. Fighting."

"But . . . "

"Door to door fighting!"

I was left with a mental image of an army battalion going through a neighborhood, knocking on doors like Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts with bayonets.

(Knock knock)

"Who is it?"

"It's the US Army."

"Who?"

"It's the United States Army. We'd like you to come out and surrender."

"Just a second. Let me just put on a kimono."

And then there'd be a big sword fight at the door, and the Japanese guy behind the door gets shot, and McDaniels, the quiet kid from Ohio, takes a ninja star to the throat, and the captain asks why, God, why, and war is hell. And then they repeat the process at the apartment next door.

This week, nearly all the reports about the assault on Fallujah echo this same approach, only "house to house fighting" has been substituted for "door to door fighting". Ostensibly this new attack is to ensure the legitimacy of the planned democratic Iraqi elections in two months by capturing and killing all of the insurgents, which coincidentally was Karl Rove's original plan for winning the state of Ohio. The insurgent leader has reportedly escaped, probably because his house was pretty far down the block.

American troops: Do not be fooled if an insurgent insists that he needs to put on a birkah, or that he's preparing some doogh that needs his urgent attention. It may be a trick! Do not be deterred by a "No Solicitors" or "Beware of Dog" sign. Fallujah hasn't had electricity or water for quite a while, so most pets and solicitors have already expired from thirst. Above all, do not lose faith in the righteousness of your mission. It is only a coincidence that this effort began a few days after the election. It is totally not just a distraction. Democracy is a door to door effort, and we're counting on you boys.


my election night journal

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7:00. Jack is having trouble switching gears to election coverage, after a month of tense October baseball. "Can Bush bring in Mariano Rivera when he gets within three states of winning? What does it mean if Kerry goes to the bullpen in the eighth?"

7:12. My vegan pumpkin pie comes out of the oven and I prepare to head to Berkeley. The tastiness of the pie is judged "too close to call" by kitchen pundits. Zogby International says that the pie is actually a tray of blueberry muffins.

7:40. The pie is knocked over for the first of what would prove to be four separate times on the journey eastward. It ends up as sort of a pumpkin pudding, in a graham cracker shell.

8:35. BART, Richmond line. Two drunken passengers are railing against Bush and the electoral college. One of them claims that if he had an Uzi, he'd assassinate the president for $100,000. The other guy says he'd do it for $200. No one is impressed, except the Secret Service agents waiting at El Cerrito Plaza.

8:45. After interrogating other passengers for five minutes about whether they voted for Kerry (and inadvertently knocking over my pie again), our $200 version of Lee Harvey admits that he didn't vote at all.

9:15. I finally arrive. Allen makes me some rice noodles. Florida has been called for Bush since I left SF, along with every other state without a coastline. Peter Jennings is unruffled, the smug Canadian bastard.

9:25. We decide that we're bored with ABC and decide to check other channels. Tyler struggles with the remote, while I advocate for CBS and Dan Rather.

"It's getting pretty late on the East Coast", I say. "This is when Dan Rather gets tired and starts explaining everything in elaborate metaphors about swamps and alligators."

Two minutes later, Rather tells Bob Schieffer, "If a frog had side pockets, he'd carry a handgun."

9:45. Proposition N, summarized on the KGO newsticker as "Withdraw Troops From Iraq", is passing overwhelmingly in San Francisco. Gavin Newsom helicopters to the Presidio in combat fatigues and declares, "Mission Accomplished!"

10:00. Nobody knows the name of the cyborg-like Fox News anchor. I'm going with "The R-1000".

10:15. Tyler receives a phone call just as ABC calls Oregon for Kerry. The seven electoral votes from Oregon narrow Bush's lead to roughly 70, thought Fox News has him ahead by 152. Triumphantly, I begin to celebrate and disrupt Tyler's phone call. "Oregon, bitches, Oregon! Seven votes! Salem what? Portland what?"

10:20. Tom Brokaw is now simply reading aloud whatever random facts are placed in front of him. "Great tradition, Ohio," he drones. He then lists the seven presidents that were born in Ohio. Allen is in the kitchen for this. When he comes out, I ask, "Did you know that seven US presidents were born in Ohio?" Tyler and I proceed to recite them all to a weirded-out Allen.

10:25. Peter Jennings goes to ABC's "terror expert", reporting from a silent office building about Al Qaeda's efforts to undermine the election. He concludes that the US has done a fine job keeping the elections safe, but cautions that, "Tomorrow, the focus shifts to the holiday season."

10:40. Tim Russert is sharing the anchor desk with Brokaw on NBC. He has a teleprompter which he's using to calculate electoral vote scenarios. We don't see the initial explanation when we flip to NBC, just Russert's childish handwriting and elementary school-level artithmetic filling the screen. Tyler speculates that Ms. Thompson's second grade class is weighing in with their electoral prediction. I wonder if John Madden sees this amateurish teleprompter usage and shoots his televsion.

10:55. CBS refuses to call Ohio, even after every other network has done so. Dan Rather reminds us that CBS is broadcasting from "Accuracy Central", which may or may not be located between the crick and the fishin' hole.

11:05. A conversation with Allen:

ALLEN: Scotch?
SEAN: Yes.
ALLEN: Ice?
SEAN: Yes.
ALLEN: Water?
BROKAW: At this point, it would take a miracle for John Kerry to come back.
SEAN: No.

11:11. Who will be the scapegoat when Kerry loses? The Las Vegas odds:

Gay Marriage - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 5:2
Terry McAuliffe - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 3:1
Michael Moore - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 6:1
The Curse of the Bambino - - - - - - - - - 9:1
Ralph Nader (for old times' sake)- - - - 20:1
"Lambert Field" - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 25:1
Howard Dean's yell - - - - - - - - - - - - - 75:1
John Kerry himself - - - - - - - - - - - - 100:1
George Lakoff - - - - - - - - - - - - - 1,000: 1


11:25. I wish we could see some proposition-specific victory parties. Specifically, the supporters of Oakland's initiative to make enforcement of marijuana laws the lowest priority of the police. I like to think that Too Short spent the day calling likely voters and reminding them to go to the polls. Berkeley's "Grow as much pot as you want and nobody can say shit" initiative appears to be losing a close race.

I'd also like to see prosecutors whooping it up and high-fiving each other about the DNA database for felons. Or a bunch of somber tribal casino owners playing blackjack dejectedly. Or, a live shot of some anti-66 activists getting together and beating prisoners with billy clubs and lengths of rubber tubing, because you know they're totally doing that.

11:45. Tim Russert is showing far more wear than any other TV talking head. His hair is messed up, his eyes look bloodshot, and he appears to have grown quite a bit of stubble in the last hour. In contrast, Brian Williams looks like he's just had a facial, a massage, and sex with Tim Russert's wife.

12:05. I have decided that the entire state of Ohio is worthless. Fuck Chad Johnson, William Howard Taft, Alex P. Keaton, Drew Carey, Lake Erie, Chief Wahoo, Jeff Garcia, Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, and especially Pete Rose.

12:30. I'm drinking more scotch. No one is paying attention to the coverage any more. Someone begins a discussion of exotic places to have sex at Berkeley's vegetarian co-op. When the conversation turns into a debate over hot tub sex, and I hear the phrase "vaginal bacteria", it's clearly time to go.

1:00. Relocation to Albany. We fearfully eat tacos and lose more hope with each bite. Possibly, this is due to grease and not despair.

1:30. Aaron is drunk, and passionately stumping for the election of Josiah Bartlett. Matt socks him. He then switches to his alternate stump speech, "Libertarians are fags". Matt socks him again.

2:05. Fox News presents "a conservative and a liberal" to talk about the status of the election. The conservative begins by talking about the negative media coverage of President Bush. They go to the liberal, and he begins discussing why Kerry and Edwards need to concede as soon as possible, in order to heal America.

Aaron and I begin arguing about which guy is in fact the liberal. It was especially unclear after they both agreed that Kerry was embarrassing himself and America.

2:15. Wolf Blitzer is a machine. He's still up, methodically running down the county-by-county voting possibilities in New Mexico. For whatever reason, Larry King is also still up, though he doesn't appear to have moved nor spoken in at least half an hour. Finally, a producer escorts Larry off the set as he mutters, "See you in four years."

Please enjoy Campaign-Trail Quotes From George W. Bush, If He Were Running for President in 1848, running today and forevermore as part of the Lists section of the McSweeney's online magazine. Read, laugh, tell your friends, and send money.

The Funny

Read Part One

Zembla is proud to present the highlights of Sean Keane's performance in "HOU Explorer", an educational CD-ROM produced by the Lawrence Hall of Science. The game takes you inside a virtual observatory where you can learn about stars, supernovas, and just how mind-numbingly boring astronomy can be. Your tour is led by an animated dog/punsmith. At one stage of the game, the dog references "arfstronomy".

I play Alan, a tenth-grader with a burning love of astronomy and a smoldering lust for my classmate, Jen (played by Store Girl). Though I was nineteen years old at the time of filming, I feel I was able to really get inside the character of Alan. I took inspiration from the great fake-teenager actors of my youth. Ziering. Macchio. Carteris. Zabka. The performance speaks for itself, but I have provided captions to help readers understand Alan's hopes, Alan's dreams, and just what the hell is happening with the supernovas.

BUY IT! BUY IT! BUY IT!


Scene 1:
Establishing the Character

"I'm Adam, and this is Jen. We're students in Mr. Townsend's tenth-grade science class. We've been looking at some galaxy images, and we think we found a supernova . . . Yeah, 'cause that means we did find a supernova!" Note the coordination on the high-five.

Scene 2:
It's a Fucking Supernova!

This scene occurs after a positive initial supernova identification. "This is so exciting!" A veritable train wreck of exposition and instruction concludes with an extremely flattering freeze-frame. And, remember, when tenth-graders discover a supernova, it goes in all the papers.


Scene 3:
Supernova Match - See You Later

A second successful match confirms the image's supernovaness. Alan is nothing if not psyched during this entire sequence. Eyebrow Acting abounds.


Scene 4:
Older and Wiser

Jen's flirtatious new position and come-hither glance show that time has passed since the early, innocent supernova-identifying days. It's only coincidence that they're wearing the same clothes as before. The trappings of fame and extra computer time have changed Alan and Jen, but they remain humble enough to ask for help with the supernova team. Also, Jen and Alan are totally doing it.

Scene 5:
Lightning Strikes The Same Place Twice

That's right. It's another fucking supernova! What are the goddamn odds? Alan would probably know, that smug bastard. Listen to the disdain as he asks, no, demands to know the type of supernova. Focus on "Thanks".


Scene 6:
Success Upon Success

The supernova love fest continues. Alan thinks the new supernova will increase the chances of publication. But haven't they already been in all the papers? This is the ending you get if you successfully complete all of the supernova stages, the "Thank You, Mario" as it were. There is no animated victory sequence, no scrolling list of programmer names. Instead, more Alan-Jen sexual tension and a threat to come out of the CD-ROM and visit your school. Chilling.


Scene 7:
Check That Shit Again

Jen was sure we'd found a supernova. Wordlessly, Alan concurs. Check that shit again, dumbass.


Scene 8:
Wrong Again, Copernicus

This wasn't exactly what Jen was expecting. Alan is too disappointed to move. After all this rewatching, I feel like I should look Store Girl up, see if she's got some free time, if she still wears the brown sweater.


Scene 9:
Try Looking At The Graph Again

Maybe you missed something. Like a SUPERNOVA. Does Alan have to spoon feed this crap to you? Do you even know what a graph is? Jen's pouty lips concur. Seriously, check it again.

Scene 10:
Confusion

"We're a little confused by some of your data." 'Nuff said.


This concludes the highlights from HOU Exlorer. Eventually, stills from this landmark CD-ROM will appear alongside a cybernetic James Lipton on my edition of "Inside the Actors Studio".

LIPTON: Your first musical appearance, you played - ?

KEANE: A chorus member.

LIPTON: And your specialty was?

KEANE: I would be paired with the tallest girl in the cast, and when all of the girls fell into their guys' arms at the end of a number, I would fall into the tall girl's arms.

LIPTON: Now, the CD-ROM. HOU Explorer. (Audience gives standing ovation) You played?

KEANE: Alan.

LIPTON: Co-starring with?

KEANE: Um, a girl who worked in the gift store.

LIPTON: The initial discovery of the supernova? One word. Transcendent. (Audience gives additional standing ovation. Cybernetic Lipton kills cue card guy with robotic laser eye beams.)


For the record, my favorite dirty word is "motherfucker".

disturbing trends in the triangle

I'm a little distressed by recent outdoor advertising trends in my neighborhood. Since I moved in a year ago, The Triangle has consistently featured many garish billboards for chat lines and internet personals. Sure, every few weeks Manhunt.net would take the place of Gay.com, but nearly all the ads have celebrated beauty and the joy of life. It's comforting.

There was a time when one could navigate to our apartment simply by using fifteen-foot high half-dressed male models as landmarks. "Go past the two guys in leather chaps, and turn right at the shirtless black guy coming out of the pool in a cowboy hat. If you reach the hugging leather boys, you've gone too far." But no longer. The Triangle's billboards are becoming a downer.

Last month, a new one popped up at the end of our street that was hyping the Neptune Society. I've been conditioned to expect that such an ad would likely feature some Prince Namor lookalike, possibly displaying a trident and/or a come-hither glance. Instead, I realized that the ad was actually promoting columbariums; that is, large vaults used to store the ashes of the dead.

Is something terrible happening to our neighborhood? Is everyone giving up on finding love and moving on to estate planning and living wills? Does Clear Channel know something I don't?

I thought the new billboard cycle might bring us back to our usual carefree ways, but no such luck. The replacement billboard announces a service that reports positive STD tests anonymously, via e-mail. I guess it's reassuring that we're back to sex, and not death, looming above us. Still, don't give up on your carefree ways, Triangle advertisers. Leather Pride was only two weeks ago! Cowboys, not crypts! USA! USA!

BLATANT SELF-PROMOTION

I have a piece up on the main page of McSweeney's Internet Tendency today. The permanent link for the piece, entitled, "Scenes From A Blockbuster Action Movie Featuring A Technology Expert With Approximately My Own Real-Life Skill Level", can be found here.

Enjoy. Tell your friends, relatives, and high-profile Hollywood talent agent acquaintances. Zembla will eventually feature something besides self-promotion and semi-humorous, over-long pieces about baseball, but maybe not until after the League Championship Series.

let's just say larry brown wasn't invited

Labor Day weekend featured wedding bells for Zembla, or, more accurately, wedding bells near Zembla. Yes, one of my many cousins tied the knot on Sunday, and my hundreds of relatives descended on Palo Alto for the occasion.

An unnamed former NFL quarterback was part of the wedding party, which was quite exciting. One of my aunts was quite unimpressed. "Who's got a ball?" she repeatedly asked during the reception. "Let's go outside and see what he's got." The rumors that she made the choke sign as he walked down the aisle are as yet unsubstantiated.

I felt closer to my family than ever, recognizing how much I loved them all, but, more importantly, how much of what I think is my own personality and tastes is really just deeply embedded in my DNA. For example:

Standing at the generous open bar next to two of my aunts, I ordered my standard summer drink, a gin and tonic. Immediately I realized that both aunts are also drinking gin and tonics, as was nearly every blood relative in sight. Since it was Labor Day, I began musing about the imminent end of gin and tonic season. "Of course," said Aunt #1. "You have to switch drinks once the weather gets colder." I was shocked, given that I thought I came up with the habit of season beverage switching on my own. We even agreed on the correct autumnal beverage: Jack and coke.

That's not all. Certain addictions run through my family, besides the booze. There's definitely a nurture factor to these things, but I also firmly believe that a Keane child stolen at birth by wolves and raised in the forest as part of the pack until adulthood would return to regular human society and immediately begin chewing blue gum, doing crossword puzzles, and drinking Diet Coke fanatically. Maybe the wolf-boy would opt for regular Coke or the Jumble, but that's about the furthest that the apple would fall from the family tree.

Personally, every day I become more of a clone of my father, Dennis. At the wedding, I was told by multiple horrified guests that my "dancing" was disturbingly similar to his. Since I had already been thinking of my continued Dennimorphosis, I noted the incident on a Post-it stashed in my pocket, only to recall that earlier in the weekend that Dennis himself had written notes to himself on scraps of paper and Post-its he kept in his own pockets.

It only gets worse (or, I guess better - you could become a lot worse than Dennis). On Saturday night, I tried to open the vent on a hot barbecue lid with my bare hands, barely avoiding a severe burn. While I was telling Mom about my stupid actions, I was interrupted by a yelp from outside, as Dennis made the exact same mistake. Later, at a gas station, I locked the driver's door when I got out to pump gas, even though there were people sitting inside the car. As I unlocked the door, my younger sister shook her head sadly, and mouthed "DEN-NIS".

So maybe my personality is much less unique than previously thought. Still, I find it comforting to know I can nerd out about Tolkien with Dennis anytime, that I can shamelessly steal funny voices from my mother and aunts, and that even when it's 3 in the morning and I'm drinking Budweiser out of cans next to a hotel pool, my cousins will agree with me that there's no better way to deal with the empties than constructing an Egyptian-style beeramid. I have some tentative blueprints on the back of an Arco receipt I shoved in my pocket, if you want to see.

Though apparently anallergic to hippies, patchouli oil, and huge puddles of mud, my friend Kristina has a severe reaction to mosquito bites. This came up at Dustin's house, and, like a grandpa, I told Kristina that mosquitoes liked her because she was so sweet.

"What are we even going to be like as grandparents?" pondered Kristen. It was a fair question. Both Kristen and I are (not-so-)hipsters, and as such tend to be restrained in our appreciation of things, always remaining slightly-too-cool for even our favorites. We realize that there is social credibility to be acquired in seeking out music, clothing, and entertainment that one actively despises. We wonder if anyone else kind of thinks Cat Power sucks.

This is in contrast to my grandmother, who will talk with enthusiasm on a myriad of subjects she's passionate about, from gardening to dogs to how Daniel Day-Lewis could stop by her house anytime and that would be just fine. Grandma also mentions her age at the conclusion of all of these stories. "How many other 72 year-old women who could weed an entire garden on a 97-degree day?" she'll challenge us. "Do you know any other ones?" She's delighted by her cell phone, her tattoos, and visiting Branson, Missouri.

Besides buying my grandkids ugly clothes to wear, what would I do as a grandparent? If my current path is walking away from the mainstream in an ironic t-shirt and a zip-up hoodie, I could be a mega-hipster in fifty years or so. By the time I'm old I'll be driving to my children's houses in a ramshackle VW bug, wearing a bright yellow raincoat and flip-flops. The radio will be on, blaring calliope music as I pull into the driveway. I'll embrace my grandchildren and one will ask, "Why are you wearing that enormous sombrero, Grandpa Sean?" With a bored look I'll explain. "Because I hate it."

Will our offspring rebel against us with sincerity and genuine behavior, to counter our geriatric, too-cool-for-old-school attitudes? Or maybe, I'm not giving grandparents enough credit for the ultimate super-hipsters they truly are. After all, I have CDs by Wesley Willis, a street singer with chronic schizophrenia. That's pretty hip. However, my grandmother has decorated her house with art made by elementary school students for nearly fifty years! Way hipper. My sister went to see Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in concert while she was in college. My grandfather was listening to swing music back in the '40s. He must have looked at Jon Favreau with disdain, thinking to himself what a bunch of poseurs twenty year-old swing dancers were. I probably don't even have to mention how far ahead of the thrift stores he was when it came to vintage clothing.

A Chinese company is cybersquatting www.oldster.com, and I think with good reason. Once they truly embrace the internet, those senior hipsters will be unstoppable, though some will probably hold out for the Google community version of Oldster, or continue to focus on early bird specials instead. I just hope they don't leave the old/hipster bar set too high when I get there, or I may have to add clown shoes to my future grandpa ensemble. Or learn to whittle.

you're on their turf

| 8 Comments

On a Saturday morning not too long ago, I dragged myself off Molly's friend's couch and staggered into a beautiful Isla Vista morning. My hungover sisters and cousin and I piled into the minivan, and we went in search of a Breakfast of Rejuvenation. Settling on the Cajun Kitchen, we sought to nurse our damaged and famished bodies to recovery via breakfast burritos.

The breakfast couldn't come soon enough. Five minutes after we ordered, Molly suggested going to Subway and buying a bag of chips, to tide her over until the food arrived. I looked at tiny Molly in amazement. "We just ordered breakfast," I said.

"Sun Chips, Sean. Just Sun Chips." she explained.

"You're not getting out of this booth to go get chips."

When the food finally arrived, our table became silent as we gave ourselves over to the breakfast. In the silence, we could hear the girl at the adjoining booth, discussing marine biology.

"Sure, seals look cute at the zoo. But those seals are trained. You go into the seal's habitat, it's different. You better watch out, you're on their turf now. A seal will fuck you up."

I didn't fully realize the meaning of those words until Sunday afternoon as I lay in the back of the minivan as we drove up 101. Vague memories of the night we'd had flashed through my alcohol-poisoned mind. There was a girl carrying a snake, an ill-advised bottle of rum, a boy named Flounder, an even iller-advised bottle of Jagermeister, and an important lesson in "chiefing"*. I groaned and reached for my water bottle. In the daytime, the kids of Isla Vista had looked so cute. But at night, well, I was on their turf. And you don't have to be a marine biologist to figure out what the result was.

I had the day off from work today, a day owed to me due to my working through the Reagan Memorial Day that state employees received earlier in the month. Even in death, Ronald Reagan managed to cut government services one final time. My office manager announced that those of us who had to come to work on the national day of heavily orchestrated mourning could take a different day off later, to honor whoever we wanted. She herself was taking the following Wednesday, "in honor of Ray Charles."

Rather than devoting my thoughts to the Gipper, I spent the day thinking about the Gimper. That is to say, my mom, who was going under the knife once again today. This time, she was having her kneecap removed, above the artificial knee she got two years ago. Her sensitive, caring children like to call it her "pretend knee".

The procedure was designed to reduce knee pain, though the surgeon admitted he'd never done it in these particular circumstances before. Kneecap removals, we learned, are not usually a part of the knee replacement process. These procedures are generally reserved for gunshot victims or the recipients of Mafia violence. Maybe Mom has been spending too much time at the track, I mused.

God knows the woman loves her TLC makeover shows, so I harbor suspicions that it was a purely cosmetic decision. I became wary when the initial knee replacement was done by two of our neighbors, who took two entire days to get the job done, though they did stay within their thousand-dollar budget. Mom was pretty surprised afterward, let me tell you. Clearly, the old kneecap was totally out of style with the rest of the new knee, and arguably a legitimate fashion emergency.

My sisters and I tried to be as sympathetic as possible as the surgery date neared, never asking directly about the provisions of Mom's will, or if she'd get to keep the kneecap in a little plastic jar afterward. (The wire she had removed in the last surgery is still a legendary item, though my suggestions to turn it into a Christmas tree ornament have received a lukewarm reception so far) Megan called Mom the night before to ask if she could have her aquamarine ring if anything went wrong. Kelly broke into the conversation, declaring that she was staying the night at Mom and Dad's to be a source of comfort, and to make sure she knew where the good jewelry was hidden. She also added, "Sucka!"

All black comedy aside, I spent the day very worried about Mom. Would she be OK? Would the procedure work? Would she embarrass the family by speaking in a British accent under the influence of sedatives? My anxiety grew when her surgery was delayed, because someone got "stabbed" and needed "life-saving surgery" or they would "die". Whatever, Kaiser Permanente.

Finally, they took her into the operating room in the late afternoon. There was a strong sense of relief all around, and not just because her complaining ended. When they wheeled her out in the evening, she met Dad with an anxious look, full of questions about those she truly cared about.

"Who's winning the Giants game?" she asked.

"Giants, 1-0," he answered.

"Who's pitching?"

"Rueter."

She frowned. "No, he's not. He pitched this weekend against the A's."

And then I knew she was going to be alright. That is, unless she had money on the game, which the Giants' craptastic bullpen blew in the bottom of the eighth. If so, there's no telling what those Mafia animals might do to her this time. I should start searching the house for jewelry right away.

blogcleaning

| 5 Comments

Zembla has new friends, now visible on the "Outsiders" section of the links. Click to explore the short films of Australian media superstar Dan Ilic, the occasionally-movie-tagline-obsessed writings of former Squelch editor and Berkeley expatriate Kenny Byerly, the street-smart courage journalizing of fellow Fitzpadrick associate and Mike Pagliarulo admirer Brian Dermody, and the library-and-bling-based writing of Heuristic Squelch alumnus Cynthia.

Also, fans of discount baseball and smuggled hard alcohol should take note of the Two Dollar Wednesday Baseball mailing list. The Oakland A's offer two-dollar tickets and dollar hot dogs for Wednesday home games, and we cheap bastards like to take advantage of the promotion. They've scheduled a lot of the games in the afternoon this year, so the list will also announce and coordinate non-Wednesday baseball outings. I think there's a promotion that involves Mountain Dew cans and an absence of personal dignity that will also give you cheap tickets.

Ten days ago, there was a tremendous Two Dollar Wednesday game, as the A's defeated the Cincinnati Reds 17-8. For those of you scoring at home, that works out to twenty-five cents per run. If that weren't enough value, Oakland starter Rich Harden entered the K ZONE!!! by striking out eight batters in his 5 1/3 innings of work. As a result, each fan won a free two-liter bottle of soda. It's like they're paying you to come to the games! Get in on the action while it's still ice-cold and carbonated, dammit.

It's good to have Zembla back up and running, especially with link-heavy entries that let me feel like I'm doing a lot of writing, even though I'm mostly just typing. But, as Mao Tes-tung famously blogged, "The journey of a thousand characters begins with a single keystroke. C U L8R."

David Foster Wallace speaks tonight at the Swedish-American Hall, and I am so there. So is Kristen. In the past, I have attended these readings with the same mindset as attending a rock concert. Because Neal Pollack actually is a rock star, this attitude has served me well. But for David Foster Wallace, is the classic white t-shirt, replete with hand-scrawled slogan, the best way to go?

On a side note, I think that authors really should try to make their appearances more like rock shows. As a former amateur stand-up comic, I know from experience that these kind of performances go a lot better when the crowd is drinking. If nothing else, the writers should sell t-shirts, keychains, posters, thongs, anything that will move. People coming to these sort of events probably already have the author's most recent work - book sales aren't the way to clean up. Besides, book sales are just going to feed some fat corporation's profits. As any indie rocker could tell you, the merch is where the real money comes in.

For Mr. Foster Wallace, I considered a few different slogans:

"The T-Shirt of the Trial-Sized Dove Bar"
"Curious Boy With Ordinary Hair"
"Wheelchair Assassins, West Coast Chapter"

And, of course:

"David Foster Wallace Is A Son Of A Bitch"

None of these seemed that great. I didn't have too many spare shirts. And, more importantly, I realized that I'm probably not going to meet him at this event, which is for the best, because I figure he's a little high-strung, what with the obsession with word usage and refusal to fly on airplanes.

I thought, "What would David Foster Wallace himself do, faced with this dilemma?" Then it came to me. Just like he did when he neared the thousand-page mark of Infinite Jest, I would simply stop. So, if you see me tonight, strolling towards Cafe Du Nord, remember that I'm wearing normal clothing, not because I was too lazy to actually make a t-shirt, but because life itself is incomplete.

me got game

With all the time I've been devoting to work, growing facial hair, and unsent fan letters to David Foster Wallace, I have had little time for flirting with the ladies. Tonight, I was lucky enough to learn that I still have just as much game as ever.

The scene: On Haight Street with The John Francis, after watching televised baseball at a bar. We stop to pick up ice cream at a convenience store that, for a moderately-sized corner market, has a staggering selection of Ben & Jerry's ice cream. My companion nabs his favorite flavor easily, but I have to lunge to reach the Peanut Butter Cup sitting at the bottom of the freezer bin. Staggering selection requires a staggeringly deep freezer bin, I realize, as I thrust my entire arm, and nearly my head into the freezer in pursuit of dessert.

My struggle does not go unnoticed my the mildly cute alterna-girl brunette behind me in line. The sight of two young men buying pints of ice cream at ten o'clock on a Friday night is a clear signal that a wild night lies ahead for them, after all. Shockingly, she compliments my dairy-grabbing effort, rather than cringing at the gluttony it represents. I spar back, telling her that the Peanut Butter Cup is worth the reach. I can feel my long-dormant game rising to the surface. I sense that "it" might eventually be, dare I say, "on".

I hand my money to the counterman, and the alterna-girl mentions my luck at the ice cream's proximity to the cash register. "In case you were winded from that move," she says, smiling. The John Francis places both ice cream containers in his bag. I freeze, already out of small talk, but manage to mutter something about having just enough energy left to handle scooping the ice cream, provided it was left out to soften.

I receive my change, and notice the John Francis walking out. Clearly, it is time for a memorable exit line. "Well, have a good time tonight with your stuff," I say, and turn to go. Not until the last consonant sounds are leaving my lips do I notice that her "stuff" consists solely of a four-pack of toilet paper. Even Parker Brothers ain't got game like me.

We walk home, together and yet alone. The alterna-girl is gone, but my game remains. The John Francis ends the scene with some much-needed perspective.

"At least she wasn't buying tampons."

There is no state religion in Zembla, as Zembla is a godless and spiritually barren land. Still, Zembla still sympathizes with Catholicism out of family loyalties and nostalgia, plus it's no stupider than any other religion. Much less stupider than a lot of them, in fact. I mean, come on, Wicca? Please, dude.

Anyway, Easter is probably the number one holiday around these parts, combining family togetherness and gluttony with surreal traditions like the dyeing and hunting of eggs. It lacks the commercialism and gift-buying stress of Christmas, the revisionist Pilgrim-Native-American-friendship history of Thanksgiving, the fascist jingoism of Independence Day, the smug botanical arrogance of Arbor Day. The only holiday with a higher percentage of edible celebratory items is Thanksgiving, and Easter has significantly more chocolate, as well as a near-absence of yams.

Several years ago, my family attended a brunch with our relatives to the near south, at a place called the Circus Club, a name that would take on unanticipated significance later. I was nattily dressed in my Easter best, a green plaid shirt, slacks, and my beloved blue Vans when we arrived at my uncle's house, excited at the prospect of family togetherness and all-we-could-eat breakfast fare. Before we could depart for the club, however, my uncle looked at my outfit with dismay.

The Circus Club required young men to wear ties and jackets. I had to find appropriate apparel in my uncle's closet before gaining entry to the Club, and its buffet full of delicious eggs and hash browns. Showing a droll sense of humor I was not yet aware of at the time, my uncle presented me with an over-sized tan jacket, along with a red tie. I put them on, and we headed out to the Club.

When I got out of the minivan, my sisters got their first look at my ill-matched outfit. Green plaid, red tie, blue shoes, ill-fitting, clashing sport coat. Sister Kelly was the first to vocalize what everyone else was thinking.

"You look like a clown."

Immediately, my cheeks went red, adding to my comical appearance. Still, there were brunch waiting inside, and I am always willing to swallow my pride if I can also swallow many platefuls of hash browns. We stepped inside, and many eyes looked amusedly at me. Despite the name, the Circus Club was not actually a big top-themed place, except for a harlequin figure making balloon animals for the kids. Everyone else was in clothing that, while perhaps not Easter Best, was a whole lot Easter Better than my ensemble.

My sisters could not help chuckling when they caught glances at my outfit, or my pained expression. It only got worse when a throng of children approached our table, under the impression that I too would be making balloon animals and performing pratfalls for them. I wanted to run back out to the parking lot, either to our car or even a small Volkswagen Bug impossibly full of young men dressed like me, but instead, I headed for the breakfast meats, ignoring the amused glances and the calliope music.

Back at the table, I accidentally spilled ice water all over the front of my shirt. I also dropped bacon into my lap. My sisters were in near-hysterics. Suddenly, the other patrons stopped staring. This wasn't a clown, they realized. This was a mentally challenged young man, allowed to dress himself for the holiday. Maybe he was going to spill food all over himself, maybe he didn't realize that red and green plaid didn't match, and maybe he was unaware that he was muttering "Hash browns" under his breath like some kind of Zen mantra. But it was Easter, dammit, and though he probably couldn't hunt eggs nor successfully grasp the beautiful mystery of Our Lord's resurrection, he had as much damn right to gorge himself on scrambled eggs, free from curious glances, as the rest of the Circus Club folk.

I lifted my fork awkwardly to my sisters and cried, "Happy Easter, everybody!" Then I went for more potatoes.

So tonight marks Night 18 in the growth of the Facial Hair of Emotional Recovery, a watershed event unmatched in human history, or at least, my own solipsistic view of human history. It would be the most beard ever grown by a person with my DNA, except that I shaved off some of the extraneous neck hair early this morning. The FHOER doesn't look shaven as much as it looks less dirty, but the general effect at present is that of a man with normal testosterone levels who has opted for a Caesar cut for his beard. Ladies, line up on the left for make-outs . . . if you dare!

It also marks with first time I have communicated with Sean's Former Girlfriend since the breakup. Appropriately for a nerd such as I, the communication occurred through e-mail, my preferred medium for dispassionate conversation and Nigerian investment opportunities. The subject concerned the ability of men and women to remain friends outside the context of a romantic/quasi-sexual relationship. It was a lot like When Harry Met Sally . . . only without the humor and fake orgasms. Dispassionately, I wrote back. Indiscriminately, I scattered puns and bon mots. And yet, my hand trembled as I finished composing my reply, and clicked the "Log Out" link. I initially shook it off, insistent on continuing my tabbed web browsing experience, headphones on my ears and determination in my eyes.

Minutes later, I was reading an interview with Paul Simon's old A&R man, who was dogging the one trick pony by attributing his success to Art Garfunkel and the nation of South Africa. As I browsed, Winamp delivered me another random MP3 from my gargantuan playlist, this one "November Rain", by Guns & Roses. The record executive was telling a story about Meat Loaf's "Bat Out of Hell", and calling himself a consigliere, but I found myself distracted by Axl's music. "It is hard to hold a candle in the cold November rain", I thought, or imagined, as if it rained more than nine or ten days per year in San Francisco.

I hardly cared about the executive musing about his decades of sexual harassment and cocaine abuse, focusing instead on Axl and Slash and Duff and Axl's beautiful words. "November Rain" ended, and I sighed audibly, only to be confronted with "Don't Cry (original version)" next. Winamp was set to "shuffle", but honestly, I've seen better shuffling from my seven year-old cousin Ryan when he's trying to do a card trick. Come on, Ryan, use your fucking thumbs! It's not that difficult!

And then, listening intently to the music, my game of Free Cell temporarily forgotten, I felt tears welling up in my eyes. Yes, so fragile was my emotional state that Axl Rose reduced me to tears, though to be fair, the underrated harmony vocals from the late Shannon Hoon played a small but significant role in my maudlin reaction. Still, even though Axl assured me that, though I had to make it my own way, I'd be all right now, sugar, I did cry, just a little bit, contrary to the demands of the song's chorus.

I think it's out of my system now, though it was touch and go for a little while there. I'm sure I'll feel better tomorrow, in the morning light. Still, gentle readers might wonder, it's been nearly three weeks. Aren't you ever going to get over it, Blogger Sean? For answers, I can only look to my new muse, W. Axl, and say, "Maybe, baby, someday."

is it feti? - no, fetuses is fine

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Last week, the Senate passed a bill which made it an extra crime to harm a fetus during commission of a violent crime. This bill was informally named after Laci Peterson, which is appropriate, since her husband probably would have thought twice about (allegedly) killing her if he knew he was (allegedly) committing two felonies.

Now, though some people might argue that this bill is a transparent attempt to weaken abortion rights, I think it's long overdue. You see, I work for a non-profit company that helps provide free legal assistance for people convicted of felonies. And day after day, we see hundreds of pregnant women committing crimes and getting sent to prison, while their unborn children get off scot free. That is absolutely unfair. Some people might just see an embryo in those cases. I see an accomplice.

Once anti-abortion gr. . . er, victims' rights advocates can finally push through legislation that gives personhood to fetuses, we can finally get some justice. I believe so passionately in this, I don't care that it makes my job harder, since the majority of unborn children have no assets or regular source of income. We'll have to figure out some kind of procedure for getting an official Declaration of Indigence from them, but I think most judges would accept a sonogram of the fetus giving a "thumbs-up". Once the thumbs develop, of course.

Crime is going to have a bite taken out of it, even if the perpetrators don't yet have teeth. We'll be able to get these kids off the streets, out of the wombs, and into the justice system where their kicks can't hurt anyone else, or their uterus. With the pesky question of fetal personhood settled we'll be able to move onto more important topics, like deciding when a district attorney can try a fetus as a juvenile, or determining the admissibility of amniocentesis testing at trial.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

There is a lovely low-priced Indian restaurant near my workplace in San Francisco. It's a short walk from the office, and their chicken wraps cost about five dollars. Any establishment that can cater to my frugality and my laziness at the same time is sure to gain my patronage. Unfortunately, I have recently jeopardized my relationship with the fine people who run the place. And like most tragedies in human history, it all began with a beautiful girl and a dikka-style wrap.

Since I first began lunching at this place, the service and efficiency have picked up tremendously, at least in the area with which I am concerned, phone orders. The ordering process is brief but affable, and the food is nearly always ready in the brief time it takes me to stroll down the street to pick it up. Part of that seems to be due to new staffers, including an affable British manager who effortlessly handles lunch crowds and calls you "chap". The newest addition to the staff is a stunningly pretty register girl, whom I am assuming to be from India because of her accent. She is also extremely nice. This is where my troubles began.

Roughly two months ago, I made one of my semi-weekly calls to the restaurant. I gave the girl my name and order, and walked down to the restaurant, where I waited. And waited. The Stunningly Pretty Register Girl did not call my name, though the plastic bag behind her looked suspiciously like it might contain my dikka-style chicken wrap. Finally, I overcame my natural reticence to approach pretty girls or ask for anything from anyone, and came up to the counter.

"Is there an order for 'Sean'?" I asked. She shook her head.

"I think that might be it," I said, pointing to the wrap. She shook her head again.

"No, that is for 'SAY-on'," the SPRG informed me. Now, obviously, she was unfamiliar with the subtle nuances of Celtic names. Plenty of people from America don't realize that "S-E-A-N" is pronounced shon, after all, let alone people from India. But instead of explaining to the poor girl, I simply said, "Yeah, that's me," grabbed the bag, and walked out. That was mistake #1.

The next time I ordered, the SPRG had been promoted to phone-answering duty. I ordered, she asked my name, and I told her.

"S-H-A-W-N?" she asked.

I am always uncomfortable with people doing things for me, whether or not it's their job. Often, I reconcile this by not asking for what I want, or trying to simply tell the person what they'd like to hear. Perhaps it was a bizarre, misguided desire not to inconvenience her, or maybe I was just in a hurry, but instead of correcting the SPRG, I said, "Sure, you got it."

This is when it really began to fall apart. I continued to patronize this establishment for the next few weeks, but I didn't always talk to the SPRG. Sometimes I spelled my name correctly. Sometimes I didn't spell it at all. Usually I just went with whatever they suggested.

One day, not realizing that I was talking with the SPRG, I spelled my name "S-E-A-N". The SPRG got very quiet and asked, "Not . . . S-H-A-W-N?" Clearly, she felt like an idiot, thinking she had been screwing up my name for a month. (Upon hearing this much of the story, my colleague Monica Fitzpadrick suggested, "She should have come to America by way of Dublin, instead of by way of Illiteracy Land, where she clearly had a stopover.") When I arrived to pick up the food, just five minutes later, the SPRG was completely out of sight.

So I felt awful about the whole situation. I avoided the place for a couple of days, but a week later, I decided to patch things up. I called in, ready to confess, apologize, beg forgiveness, maybe even give her flowers. Instead, a guy answered the phone. I was disappointed, but I still wanted a dikka-style wrap. So I ordered quickly, and headed down to the place.

The place was almost entirely devoid of customers when I arrived, as it was late in the afternoon. There was a guy behind the counter, with one to-go order in a small bag. Clearly, it was my dikka wrap. I walked up, and he asked, "Name?"

Me: Sean. I think that one is mine.

Him: This is for John.

Me: No. I'm Sean.

Him: (pause) This says John.

Me: (hesitating for only a moment, and then grabbing the bag) OK, whatever.

("This is not how you make friends," Monica adds.)

So I haven't gone back, and I'm not sure if I ever can again, unless I arrive with flowers, candy, maybe even jewelry, and a name tag. The storybook ending would involve an apology speech, many tears, laughter, a marriage proposal, two musical numbers, and a lot of naan, but realistically, I will probably just go to the Chinese restaurant on Second Street a lot more. There, when you order, the woman behind the counter just gives you a poker chip.

goateequest 2004: the first ten days

goatee_2.jpg

The Facial Hair of Emotional Recovery continues to grow in, with its attendant Itching of Well-Being and Scruffiness of Eventual Acceptance. Last Sunday night, the seven-day anniversary of the FHOER, many family members complimented the facial hair, though I suspect it was because they hadn't seen me in a while. You can't criticize too severely your prodigal nephew, or his pathetic attempt at a beard, when you have no idea whether it represents a whim or a conscious lifestyle choice.

My father Dennis expressed approval, but then laughed when he heard I hadn't shaved in a week. "It's been seven days?" he guffawed, incredulous, and my hairless cheeks burned with embarrassment. Dennis displayed the arrogance that comes from having successfully maintained a full, hippie beard for over a decade, and then a mustache for ten years more. He was polite enough not to explicitly mention my lack of testosterone, expressing only the wishful belief that the "patchiness" would eventually fill in.

"Patchiness" is a kind word for the goatee, which mostly looks like my chin has somehow been magnetized, and then dipped into a bowl of iron filings. It is fuller on the right side than the left, which could indicate a parietal lobe injury, or a rare case of beard-based dyslexia. Most likely, it's due to my own sloppiness. I never know exactly what shape the goatee is supposed to have, or where to stop shaving. Like Reepicheep in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, I am curious to find the edge, but I know not where it is. Perhaps Aslan could help, but you know he'd just tell me to grow out the whole thing, along with my hair. Also, he'd roar at me about going to church, and I just don't need that from the magical Jesus-lions in my life right now, OK?

More goatee here

Many wonder what's next, not just for Zembla the Blog, but for Me the Person. Zembla will continue to feature the content you know and love, like "How We Met", "Socially Antagonistic Behavior From My Youth", "Dialogue-Based Piece About Historical/Literary Figure", and "Petty Rant." Your favorite characters are still here, including Young Sean, Sean's dad, and Henry Kissinger, along with new faces like Henry Clay (the Great Compromiser) and Sean's Former Girlfriend, who will sometimes appear in entries, since we are still friends.

For Me the Person, it is a time of upheaval. I am rudderless, adrift without the guidance and support I've come to take for granted in the past few months. There is no one to let me know if my hair is styled fashionably, or grossly caked with texture cream. I can't tell by myself. I am the only one who decides if and when to go to bed at night, if and when to wake up in the morning. Even if I were motivated and chipper, rather than sad and depressed, there would be no real need to dress up, to cook nutritious food, to shower regularly, because I'm not trying for anyone's approval.

It is in this spirit that I announce my plans for regrowth, and not just the emotional kind. Since Sunday afternoon, I have been growing a goatee, or, as I prefer to call it, Facial Hair Of Emotional Recovery (FHOER for short). Three days later, there are at least twelve individual hairs adorning my chin. I am well under way.

I can already anticipate the protests:

Goatees look miserable.

Yes, they do. Still, I feel miserable, so it wouldn't be a dishonest look.

Can you even grow a goatee, Sean?

I plan to find out. I have no doubt that I can grow an impressive patch of hair on the very bottom of my chin. The mustache and the parts that run down either side of the mouth, maybe not so much.

Why shave at all? Why not grow the biggest and best beard you can, if you're growing one at all?

First, I would like it to be very clear that I am not becoming slothful, or neglecting my cleaning and grooming habits. My cheeks will be clean-shaven, as will my neck. The Facial Hair Of Emotional Recovery will be a defined zone of beard and healing, not a patchy, haphazard scruff. OK, it might still be patchy, but the FHOER will be clearly an intentional choice, no matter how horribly misguided a choice it is.

Don't put conditioner on the FHOER. It will make your chin break out.

Duly noted.

Come on, goatees are the worst thing ever! I'd rather see a sweaty, hairy armpit than some lame frat boy beard!

I've also given up shaving my armpits.


The Quest for Regrowth and Recovery (QFRAR) has already begun. Check this space for updates on the FHOER, the QFRAR, and the REVULSION of polite society. The noble goat inspired the words for "tragedy" as well as for "shitty chin beard". Clearly, that is no coincidence.

play it again, zem

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It's been too long.

It gets progressively harder to come back, as you watch the days, weeks, soon months between posts piling up, at the same time realizing that just seven posts ago is an apology for an earlier extended absence. Zembla has been weblog in name only. It has been a skeleton, a ghost, something to pick through for jokes and ironic commentary on '90s hip-hop. If Zembla were a real place, it would probably sell hard candy out of enormous bins by now. And I would have to pay royalties to the Nabokov family to avoid a big(ger) lawsuit.

I tried to break through writer's block, I really did. Please to note this post from January 11, which never made it past "draft" status.

Winter can do terrible things to a man.

Increasingly, I was away from my computer at night. I couldn't write multiple drafts of public transportation-based song parodies during leisurely days - I had to work. I used to say that people got less funny when they got into relationships. I attributed it to the absence of misery. In a stable, nurturing relationship, there would be less need to settle the score with angry mock-newsflashes, less reason for elaborate efforts to be funny simply for attention.

Observe my sporadic posting habits of the previous six months, while in a stable and supportive relationship. Maybe I didn't feel as much of a need to show off. Maybe I was able to simply bore my girlfriend with trivial minutiae about my workday, my eating habits, and assorted opinions regarding politics, fast food, and Marvin "Young MC" Young. She was able to fall upon workplace stories like they were cuteness grenades, shielding innocent people of the Web from adorability shrapnel.

While I was drafting various incarnations of the Zembla Returns post, I was going to suggest the notion that my earlier belief about relationships being Comedy Poison was perhaps unfounded - Zembla was Returning, after all. Now, this post will be premiering one day past the breakup of this relationship, so maybe my thesis is still intact. It might make a good dissertation idea for Clown Graduate School, at least.

Here's what really made me step back and take a look stock of my weblog. I was on BART last week, headed to the Near East, as I have been so many times in these past months. There was an inebriated man, possibly crazy, arguing with another passenger in an animated fashion.

"No more instant messages!" he shouted, whipping his right arm out in an arc, as if to symbolically wipe instant messages off all of our screens. "No, what they're doing instead is blogs!"

I winced, remembering my own abandoned blog, its virtual feet bound, left to die in the metaphorical cyber-mountains, cast aside like so many unwanted instant messages. The man must have sensed something in my reaction, because he wheeled around and looked at me intently.

"What's that mean?" he asked. "You know, 'blog'".

I felt ashamed. "It's short for 'weblog'", I stammered. "Like, an online journal."

He smiled in recognition.

"More accurately", I said, "It's like a pie crust website - easily made, easily broken."

"Then, why blog?" he asked.

"We - Some people do it because they have something to say. Some do it to stay updated with their friends. And some people do it because, well, because it's been too long, and the little Post-It notes with ideas on them are piling up, and Kristen read through all the archives, and I should really tell the story about the Indian restaurant even if it's better with the accent, and what the hell else am I doing that's so godamn great?"

"..."

"But mostly, it's that some people are just sick and tired of instant messages."

More to come...

Along with three loft beds, two separate examples of homemade, cinder-block-based furniture, and a refrigerator that would shame the Grinch, my new apartment features two bathrooms. Jack and Gene share one, leaving the second to me alone. This throws my normal resident-to-toilet ratio so out of whack it's a little ridiculous. Growing up, we had a few years of sharing one bathroom between six people. Then, after the remodel, it went to a 4:1 ratio, with the other 3 besides me being girls.

It got worse in college. Each year, five toilets were split between 32 hall residents, plus whatever guests or significant others happened to be there. At Ward Street, it was again 4:1, plus girlfriends, but at least the overwhelming maleness and one resident's consistent 45-second showers kept things manageable.

So now, I have my own bathroom. Waiting for a shower, or holding it are things of the past. The only downside is that my toilet kind of sucks. It seems to flush with very little water, often requiring me to depress the handle multiple times. It looks gross, because it is gross. I decided to take some action.

I called our landlord, Scott. Scott is a lawyer practicing out of Auburn, California, who manages our building because his dad is the owner. Scott occasionally stops by for repairs, such as when our neighbors' bathroom ceiling collapsed. At such times, he always apologizes for his profuse sweating, and he never removes the headphones of his Walkman. The general impression we have of him is that of a nervous fraternity pledge, stammering and awkward, yet chummy. We could probably bully Scott into making a beer run if we were forceful enough.

Scott returned my call tonight, a week after my original call. I explained to him the nature and grossness of my toilet problem. He was sympathetic, and suggested I examine the toilet tank. I lifted the the ceramic slab, and Scott began to explain in detail how I could incrementally adjust the level of the float ball.

"You may need a screwdriver to remove it - actually, I'd take the whole thing off at..."

At this point in the conversation, I was shocked to discover a glass jar full of dirt inside the toilet tank.

"Oh my God!" I exclaimed. "Scott, it looks like there's a glass jar full of dirt in here! I think I found the problem! Wow, this is so weird!"

Scott paused, only momentarily. "Well, as I was saying, if the float ball is higher..."

"Oh, wow, there's another one! Two glass jars full of dirt, in my toilet tank! I'm taking them out. God, where did these come from?"

Scott seemed to understand I was distracted. "Yeah, that's a, uh, water-conservation device. We may install, uh, low-flow toilets in the future... we reserve the right to do this..."

Only then did it dawn on me that Scott had placed the empty condiment jars, full of dirt, in my toilet. Since his dad's company pays for our water, he was trying to save an incremental amount of money each month. All of my embarrassed, labored flushing for the past three months, all of my self-conscious toilet brushing, all of this was due to Scott being a cheap, cheap bastard.

That is offensive, to be sure. He tried to gouge us on one of the most basic tenant rights; that of expelling human waste from one's place of dwelling. But now that I've had a chance to reflect on it a bit, I realize Scott's cheapness is not nearly as offensive as referring to empty glass condiment jars full of dirt as a "device". He's not just insulting my intelligence, he's insulting the whole English language.

The toilet flushes like a beaut now, by the way.

Fall of 1998 found myself and Mr. Aaron "Bin Lloyden" Vinson living on the 7th floor of one of UC Berkeley's fine dormitories. Expectations were high for the year of co-habitation, but the alarming number of Jesus enthusiasts along with both of our caustic personalities dashed our hopes fairly early in the academic campaign.

It didn't take us long to change tacks. Within two weeks, we didn't care at all what any of our dormmates thought of us, except maybe Angie, our talented and beautiful next-door neighbor. We were after our own amusement only. And it wasn't like these people were anything great. One girl laughed like a donkey. Two guys named Andy* once left their stereo on, blasting DC Talk and Jars of Clay for hours, while they were away at youth group. Our neighbor on the other side of the hall used to play the first thirty seconds of Dave Matthews' "Rhyme or Reason" on guitar over and over again for hours. Clearly, something needed to change.

We found our inspiration in Tommy Tutone's 1981 smash "867-5309/Jenny". We played the song over and over in our dorm room, singing along. Our rendition got progressively more sophisiticated, switching off vocal parts and even adding in harmonies. Outside the room, we'd drop lyrics into conversations with other people. No one understood why I said I had tried my imagination, and it was disturbed, but they themselves were certainly disturbed by it, and thus, the plan worked. Occasionally, when we spotted one another at opposite ends of the hall we'd point, and exclaim, "8-6-7-5-3-0-9!" and then high five.

No one was really sure if we were kidding, or if we truly were Tommy Tutone's biggest fans. Mostly, they just didn't care. I guess when one's goals are to discover new ways to be jackasses, and annoy the crap out of other people, success can sometimes be anticlimactic.

Besides, once we got sick of "Jenny", Aaron discovered "Metal Machine Music", which proved we had nothing on Lou Reed when it came to antagonistic behavior.

The time was 1998. Bill Clinton was president. Mike Piazza had just become a Met. Savage Garden wanted to stand with all of us on a mountain. I had just completed my first semester at Cal and was back living at my parents' house in Pleasant Hill. Best friend and future roommate Aaron "Bin Lloyden" Vinson was attending his UC Berkeley orientation, called CALSO, the day after his high school graduation. I got a page from him around 9 that night. Not surprisingly to those who know Aaron, or who knew he'd been at Grad Night until the wee hours of the morning, he'd fallen asleep in his temporary dorm room once he'd been properly oriented. Would I like to come to Berkeley and hang out, he wondered.

We met up, and decided to wander around campus. Very little at Berkeley is locked up. You can usually look at the T. Rex in the Valley Life Sciences Building, or throw a frisbee on the field at Memorial Stadium any time of night. Our meanderings took us to the Greek Theatre, where a wide-open gate swung invitingly.

There was no show that night, though it looked like one was imminent because of the guys driving forklifts around on the stage. Aside from them, it was completely empty in the Theatre. It's a shame that so many Cal students miss out on Berkeley in the summer, easily the nicest time of year, and this night was no exception. We sat on the grass and talked about cognitive science, school, and our plans for the upcoming semester for hours. The roadie-type guys below kept racing the forklifts, sounding more and more drunken, but we didn't pay much attention until we tried to leave.

When we walked down to the place we'd come in, we were met by one of the roadies. His eyes were red, and he had a dog at his side.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he asked us. He refused to believe that the gate had been left open and ordered us to leave "the way you came in", indicating the top of the gate. The dog was barking, the roadie-type guy was angry, and we retreated hastily, fuming at the ill treatment we were receiving. We notched a moral victory as the clearly-unlocked gate swung open upon first touch, but we didn't look back.

As we walked down the hill, I seethed. That drunken roadie-type guy had ruined a wholly pleasant evening with his bullying. Who did he think he was, bossing us around and accusing us of trespassing? Worse than the anger I was feeling was the helplessness; that the roadie-type guy had pushed us around and there was nothing we could do about it. Or was there? I had an idea.

We stopped at Top Dog so Aaron could get a root beer, both for refreshment and laugh-disguising purposes. Then I used one of Berkeley's omnipresent blue security phones to call the UCPD. Within minutes, a fresh-faced young officer was there to take a statement. I told the story just as it had happened, up to the point when the roadie-type guy had begun yelling. Then, I added a small fabrication.

"The guy told us we had better go out the way we came in," I told the cop. "And then he..." Here, I paused to take a deep breath. Aaron clutched his root beer and avoided eye contact. I continued. "Then he said, 'Get out of here right now, or I'm gonna grab your dick, you little bastard.'" I paused again to let it sink in. "So, you know, we got out of there. I'm pretty sure that guy was drinking."

The cop looked befuddled. Even in Berkeley, a terrorist threat regarding dick-grabbing was not an everyday occurrence. He appeared sympathetic, but told me, "You know, I'm not sure we're really dealing with a crime here. I could maybe charge him with disturbing the peace... well, disturbing your peace... I'm not sure what to say. I could talk to him, though."

I nodded gratefully. I didn't want to press charges, I told him. I'm sure the guy just had a bit too much to drink. "I just don't want someone else to, you know, get their dick grabbed or something like that", I explained. Aaron nearly spat out his root beer.

The cop shook our hands, and headed up the hill. With any luck, the roadie-type guy would get really pissed off at the dick-grabbing accusations. Maybe he'd yell. Maybe he'd have to stop racing the forklifts. Maybe he'd even take a swing at the cop. The only thing we knew for sure was that we were getting the hell out of Berkeley once the cop was out of sight, after giving him two phony numbers.

PILE OF SHIT: An Oral History of The Neal Pollack Invasion's Punk Rock Show and Book Signing, October 12, 2003

MONICA FITZPADRICK: The last time I saw Neal, I wore a T-shirt that read, "Neal Pollack Is A Son Of A Bitch." I knew I had to top myself this time. So I had Sean write on my stomach, with a black Sharpie, "Neal Pollack, You're Still A Son Of A Bitch!"

SEAN KEANE: Monica was pretty mad when I used an exclamation point instead of a period, but then again, it was almost 6 PM, so she'd been drinking pretty steadily for nearly seven hours. She took a couple of half-hearted swings at me, and then calmed down when I promised we could take some bourbon on the train with us.

MONICA FITZPADRICK: Sean really wanted to write on his stomach as well, but I told him it was a bad idea. Because he's a little heavy, you know? It's for his own good. And mine. And Neal's.

EVERY GODDAMN BOSTON FAN IN THE WHOLE CITY: We decided to get on the same train as Monica and Sean to ensure that neither one of them got a seat and that they were as late as possible to the reading/punk rock show, even though our game would be rained out. And it worked.

NICO: I didn't go to the show, because I'm dead, but if this had taken place thirty years earlier, I would have attended. Afterward, I would have seduced Neal and given him the clap.

COMMENT CARD #1: The only thing worse than the band is the singing.

SEAN: Neal was touring with a band to support his rock-and-roll-themed novel, Never Mind the Pollacks, which is relatively unprecedented in the literary world. Sure, John Updike used to do readings at New York Dolls shows, and Elmore Leonard lived and toured with the MC5 for nearly 18 months, but this is different. This tour is funded with website donations.

NEAL POLLACK: I do it to promote the books, sure, but I mostly do it for the music, for the kids out there who need to be rocked, the dads and moms who have forgotten how to rock, the comparative literature majors taking off their tops during our encores. And, of course, the smack.

MONICA: When I first saw Neal, I was enthralled, and a little afraid. Then I noticed something odd. Neal appeared to be wearing sweatpants, and in a non-workout environment. I was a little more afriad, but somehow, even more enthralled.

FRATTY-TYPE GUY WHO CAME TO THE BAR T