The Ramblings of a Madman

Rumors of my death have been greatly exagerated...

Monday, November 06, 2006

Advertising Industry Follies

Anyone who reads this sparsely updated poor excuse for a blog knows that there aren't many things that drive me crazier than the advertising industry - those champions of appealing to the lowest common denominator of the human psyche in the name of the almighty sale. Whether it's the slovenly, unshaven pigs and the hot women who inexplicably want their pudgy little dicks in Bud Light ads, the excrutiatingly annoying fucks who schill for the wireless telephone industry, or the "sure, I'll just drop 50 g's for a car" quasi-reality of the luxury car world, the geniuses behind these messages make me thank God each and every day that I invest $12.95 a month for Tivo.

I'm not bragging here, but I consider myself to be a relatively intelligent person. I can comprehend science, literature, history, math and geography with the aptitude of an 11th grade honor student (or so I believe). I can apply logic and reason to bridge the gap between the academic and real worlds. I believe that if I bothered to try, I'd probably be halfway decent at Soduku puzzles. To quote Charles De Mar from Better Off Dead: I'm no dummy. It is for this precise reason that I find advertising, particularly that of the television variety, to be so offensive. P.T. Barnum was truly on to something - there's a sucker born every minute, and in today's America, this theory is alive and well.

Now I know what you're thinking: "J, I'm one of The Nine and I take exception to ABC ripping off the moniker you assigned to your loyal, dedicated readers who have since left this site for dead, and slapping it on another feeble attempt by network television to capitalize on the 'let's fuck with viewer's minds over the course of several weeks until it addicts them to our show' success of Lost." Or, you might be saying: "J, if you don't like these commercials, and you have Tivo, why do you waste time watching them??" Well, given it's been over four months since I attempted to churn anything out for you, I need something to boil my blood and get those creative juices flowing. What better way than deciphering a message that's intended for someone whose IQ is around 60 points lower than my own? On to my thoughs on the recent (note: may not be recent) shit that clogs the sewers of our network television septic system...

You Can't Spell Idealistic Rebellious Acidhead without IRA

The Perpetrator: Investment houses

The Logic: The potheads, acidheads, militants, draft-dodgers and freaks of the hippie generation, those idealistic souls who questioned our involvement in Vietnam, who wouldn't stand for the lies perpetrated by the older generation, who believed in love, peace, social upheavel, et al, are approaching retirement age - what a great opportunity to sell some Roth IRAs!!

The Method: Like a flashback brought on by Woodstock's infamous brown acid, the various investment houses (who make money hand over fist off of our meager retirement savings) assault us with images of dancing free love advocates prancing barefoot in a field, wearing flowers in their hair, with popular (and since grossly overplayed) music piping in the background, and wow man, everyone's caught up in the spirit of love. The twist is that these folks are now sextegenarians and the drugs they use are less of the mind-expansion variety and more of the "it hurts when I open my other prescription bottles" type. Time is short, John Q. Hippie, and our 3.6% returns are tough to beat!

The Madness: While I'll admit that I enjoyed the commercial where the colorful cartoon flowers continuously bloom, touting the benefits of the company's no-fee loads in all of their psychedelic glory as Iron Butterfly's In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida blares in the background, it insults me that these companies think that so many of the people who lived through this era still carry the "Spirit of the 60s" with them today. Either they became extremely cynical thanks to the horrors of Vietnam, Kent State and Watergate, or they are sitting in a padded room because that 127th acid trip didn't quite agree with them. And where are the commercials targeting the brave souls who actually trudged through the jungles of Southeast Asia, fighting a mismanaged war as they did anything they could to stay alive? Oh yeah - they spent all of their paltry military retirement benefits to support the heroin addiction they picked up in 'Nam, so they don't fit the demo. Please spare me this shit and get busy preparing your disco-themed retirement investment commercials that will air in 2015.

The Dark Side of Adulthood

The Perpetrator: Miller Genuine Draft

The Logic: "Oh shit. All of the high school kids who used to ask some sketchy older dude to buy them our beer are on the verge of becoming thirty-something schlubs - what do we do???" Well, you simply change the way you market your product!

The Method: As a sad song lamenting a lost love drones on in the background, neo-hipster douchebags stare longingly at the implements of their binge drinking escapades as their killjoy girlfriends give them a "come on, I've almost completely emasculated you, we may as well go the whole way with it" look. Away go the foam-domes, talking beer openers (I still have one) and plastic keg cups, gone like the youth they can never recapture. Once they've discarded the things that actually made them fun, they receive comfort from their new, much less fun friends and imbibe in a bottle of MGD, the grown up beer.

The Madness: It appears that the good folks up in Milwaukee would have us believe that choking down that swill they call beer is the key to enjoying a more grown up brand of "partying", which apparently involves standing around some dickhead's tastefully furnished apartment with three other couples while wearing a sportcoat instead of doing keg stands and vomiting on the shoes of some girl you're trying to impress. Sure, each is its own version of hell, but only one leaves you with something tangible to bullshit over your next set of drinks with. Hell, if the point is to upgrade your beer choice, how about Pilsener Urquell, Duvel, or even freaking Amstel Light? Jesus Christ, if this is what maturity is all about I'm all for arrested development.

OK, We Get the Idea - We're American

The Perpetrators: GM (specifically Chevrolet) and John "Cougar" Mellencamp

The Logic: During that most Amreican of pasttimes, the World Series, We the People of the United States of America, in all of our Americanism, in these trying, turbulent times for America, desire images of American Americana and Americanified American American-do attitude, because hey, it's not "American't"!

The Method: Thankfully Chevy has answered our prayers by using images of this great nation of ours along with John Mellencamp to encourage us to exhibit our Patriotism by purchasing a Chevy Silverado. From the rock 'n' roll of the '50's to those ever-turbulent '60's to recent representations of our trials and tribulations, Chevy feels that by playing the National Pride card, their lagging truck sales will surge before the '07's come out. USA! USA! USA!

The Madness: Good God, what image of our recent past wasn't hijacked for this ad campaign? The funny part of the whole message is that there seems to be a certain demographic that Chevy targets here - white, working and farming class Christrian folk from middle-America who hold traditional American values near and dear to their hearts. Yet a few of the indelible American images Chevy uses seem to fly in the face of that group:

- Rock and Roll in the 50's: Unfamiliar, loud and often played by negroes, I doubt it sat well with these folks.

- Muhammed Ali: Yeah, I'm sure middle America in 1965 just loved a large, brash, outspoken black man who converted to Islam and refused to be drafted.

- Young People Marching for Peace in the 60's: Likely transcript of a person from the target demographic watching the riots in Chicago in '68 on their television: "YES! GO! SMASH THAT GODDAMNED HIPPIE'S HEAD IN!"

In addition, I find it quite offensive that three of the most unpleasant developments of the last few decades - Vietnam; The World Trade Center; Hurricane Katrina - are in a sense hijacked to inspire us to run out and purchase a fucking pickup truck. I guess they couldn't get rights to those videos of civil rights marchers being hosed down in Birmingham or of the Iranian students storming the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in '79 - what a shame.

Last but certainly not least in the realms of my dislike, John Mellencamp, the Champion of America's breadbasket. Spewing from his tobacco-tar-drenched lungs are ballads about scarecrows, shoddy homes, the escapades of young country folk outside the Tastee-Freez, and R-O-C-K in the U-S-A, he serves as the constant reminder that American music can be bland and unfeeling.

Oh, and this is our country.

Where All the Fat Women At?

The Perpetrators: The Fast Food Industry

The Logic: "If we present the patrons of our restaurants as young, hip, thin, good-looking people, we will in turn be patronized in droves by a) young, hip, thin, good-looking people, and b) the obese people who already patronize us extensively who now think it's more acceptable now that we've shown young, hip, thin, good-looking people doing the same.


"Ah, hell, the fatties will eat our shit regardless, but let's still go for those good-looking ones."

The Method: It's simple, really - pick a fast-food commercial, any fast food commercial. Next, closely observe the type of individual put in front of us as spokespeople for the product. From the leggy brunette who wantonly seduces the office cretin in the Burger King ads, to the Pam Beasly-esque girl next door who becomes extremely creeped out when her co-worker (?) professes his love for her after she invents a clever word (a Sniglet, if you will) to extol the benefits of a crunchy, chewy, cheesy Taco Bell product, we are assaulted of images of normal, healthy, clear-complexioned people who are frequent fast food patrons - and simply do not exist! Therein lies one of the sinister aspects of these ads - creating the fantasy world.

The Madness: After observing these commercials, pick a fast-food restaurant, any fast-food restaurant, get a bottomless Coke and sit your ass down. Then, watch the traffic flow and make note of their general physical appearance. Do you see any joweled, flabby, smelly, wheezin, pear-shaped men? Any waddling, pale, splotchy-skinned, saggy-bottomed, sweatpants-wearing women? Well, you've just uncovered the other half of the sinister truth - create the fantasy, but don't deliver.

Join me next time when I write about the Super Bowl Commercials, because God knows I'll be too lazy to do anything before then.

Until next time...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tales from the Lost Semester - The Second Wave

Yes, it's been far too long, but here I am.

First and foremost, after two months away from posting, I am quite certain that most of my nine readers have given up hope that I would ever put out anything new again. You've had two months to read and re-read my lament over the wretched gas I had back on April 26, 2006. This is unacceptable but not entirely surprising, seeing as there have been several gaps in my creative being over the years I have been churing out these writings. Now that I'm back, I think it's only appropriate that we pick back up with that sensation of sensations - the Tales from the Lost Semester!

Now I have a confession to make. Namely, I have spent a great deal of time fretting over the release of the coming Tales from the Lost Semester, particularly the next volume (as if that wasn’t obvious by the wide chasm of time between my last Tale and this one). Why, you ask? Well, aside from the fact that nine people who are not me will have the chance to witness firsthand the details of my downward spiral into a serious funk, one that took me significant time and effort to dig myself out of, some of what I will reveal to you is quite frankly very humiliating and questions my status as a normal, healthy adult male. I shudder to think of how you might feel about me once these stories of decadence, debauchery and despair rear their ugly heads and make their way onto this dark, scarcely viewed corner of the Internet. Consider this your disclaimer… no, your stern warning: you may never look at me the same way again.

In addition, as we all know, a few of my nine readers are actual participants in the madness that was the Lost Semester. Be forewarned, gentlemen: some of my stories refer to agony and heartache that at the time I perceived to be maliciously inflicted upon me by you all. As the years have gone on, we have collectively (and rightfully) reached the conclusion that most if not all of the misery I suffered through came directly as a result of how I perceived things in my own mind’s eye. However, as I am trying my best to relive these dark days of my life as accurately as possible, it is very likely that my perception had painted you as the bad guys in certain situations. I only ask that you don’t let it ruin your lives as a result – I think that’s not too much to ask.

Now I must take some comfort in the fact that those who know me realize that I tend to overly dramatize matters that in the grand scheme of things are quite trivial – call it my “plan for the worst, hope for the best” mentality. I realize we all have skeletons in our closet that we must deal with, and sometimes to effectively deal with them we must swing the closet’s door open and expose its musty, murky inhabitants to the rest of the world. And no, all this “closet” talk does not allude to a forthcoming confession that I am gay – I am not, have never been and do not plan on being gay (not that there’s anything wrong with it, of course). And to keep the placing-of-J’s-issues-in-perspective theme rolling along, I am not guilty of any crimes, sins or other chicanery that would require me to be ostracized from society and/or humanity as a whole. Although this is technically debatable, I digress.

No friends, when all is said and done the Tales that follow simply divulge the actions and antics of a confused, misguided, insecure, nervous individual with too much of an appetite for mind-altering substances and not enough confidence or perspective to realize at the time that things were probably going to work out just fine. It is in that spirit that I continue down this path and bring you Volume 12…coming to these pages very soon.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

I Have Gas

This is a public service announcement - as of the time of this posting, I have gas.

This is not your every day, run-of-the mill gas. Were this so, I would not feel the need to profess my gaseousness across these blogwaves. This is not the gas that one typically gets from completing their regular cycle of eating, digesting and excreting. No, this is something more powerful, more dastardly, more sinister than your average bout of flatulence.

This is the type of gas that makes you question your own health and, yes, the existence of God. This is "Dear Lord, I hope nobody comes within 25 feet of me right now" gas. This is "oh boy, is this a fart or a shit?" gas. It is "any creature under 45 pounds would surely die if they caught a whiff of this" gas. It's brutal.

What have I done to deserve this? What could I have perpetrated against the souls that guide fate and the cosmos? What Karmic withdrawal did I instigate that has now come back to haunt me in the form of this vociferous, malodorous ailment? What crawled up my ass and died?

Please be mindful that great care must be taken in my current condition - I am surrounded on all sides by air-breathing individuals with a keen sense of hearing and a knack for visiting me at the most inopportune of moments. In addition, the temperament of this gas has somehow confused the section of my brain that alerts my bowels when to clench and my anus when to open in an effort to unleash whatever waste product lies within. Therefore, I am naturally concerned for both my social and physical well-being as a result of this gas. This is certainly disheartening.

Oh my God, here comes one....UGH!

Thankfully that was silent, but God forbid another human being come within my vicinity right now. They too will wonder just what unholy activities are occurring inside my digestive tract. They'll wonder if I've contracted some horrid, contagious ailment that I will pass on to them, leaving them at the mercy of their own foul odor.

Was it those steak tacos I had for lunch yesterday? Or the green beans from the night before? I am truly perplexed.

Yes friends, I have gas. Steer clear until further notice.

Until next time...

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Children's Toys, Adult Humor, and the Killjoys at Leap Frog

As a relatively new father, two of the greatest joys I now experience on a daily basis are 1) watching my boy play and 2) watching my boy learn. Imagine then, if you will, my sheer excitement upon learning that young Brooks had received Leap Frog's Alphabet Pal as a gift. For those of you not in the know, the Alphabet Pal is a 14-inch long purple caterpillar bearing a welcoming grin and a desire to teach your child the ever-important alphabet. The Pal has 26 legs, each one festooned with bright, appealing colors and one letter of the alphabet (in sequential order no less!). So Brooks not only learns his ABC's, he also derives pleasure by playing with a cheerfully hued giant insect that talks back to him (note: currently, he has mastered trying to cram the entire bug in his mouth, so I'm hoping the appreciation of letters is not too far behind).

While most of Brooks's toys provide little if any stimulation for yours truly, my initial review of the Alphabet Pal's features led me to conclude that I too would be able to amuse myself with this delightful creature. You see, this toy has four settings of interactive fun:

1. The Alphabet Pal recites the letter corresponding to the leg you press
2. The Alphabet Pal recites the color corresponding to the leg you press
3. The Alphabet Pal sounds out the letter corresponding to the leg you press
4. The Alphabet Pal sings variations of the Alphabet Song to your youngster

Considering these settings, I immediately determine that setting 2 does me no good, as I have had my colors mastered for some time now. And setting 4 does nothing more than make me want to hurl the beast out of my window, so I don't get much out of that one. However, the possibilities with settings 1 and 3 seemed endless! Immediately upon freeing the caterpillar from his cardboard prison, I flipped on setting 1 (reciting the letters) and set about the process of amusing myself:

"F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U. F-U."

"Hee hee" I thought as Michelle wondered why she married me. "This is too much fun!" After going through other clever combinations such as A-S-S and S-H-I-T, I decide that the hilarity could be driven to new heights were I to make this toy actually sound out swear words! I giddily switch the Alphabet Pal to setting 3 and go right for the throat...

I press F. "Ffffeh"

U. "Uh"

Now, the cherry on top, K...

"Heeheeheehee, that tickles! Kuh."

Wha? That's not supposed to happen! A glitch, I think, as I repeat the sequence...

"Ffffeh...Uh...Heeheeheehee, that tickles! Kuh."

What the Ffffeh-Uh-Kuh is the problem here? I try again and again and again, but every time, this little shit has me figured out, claiming that I am tickling one of his 26 appendages rather than saying "Fuck" like I want him too. Undaunted, I shift gears...

A. "Aaa"

S. "Heeheeheehee, that tickles! Ssss."

"This can't be happening," I think. I press on...

D. "Duh"

I. "(short) i"

K (c'mon, please...). "Heeheeheehee, that tickles! Kuh."

Now I'm getting pissed! Why would those bastards at Leap Frog do this to me? The recommended age on this toy is 12 months to 3 years - those kids can't even spell! Why would they rob me of this small pleasure??? Are they so cold and calculating that they don't trust me to do what's right? Of course I'm thinking all of this while trying to spell out swear words on my five-month old son's toy, but come on! He goes to bed at 7:00, and the Alphabet Pal sits there and tempts me like the serpent with the forbidden apple, only I cannot take a bite. I finally reach my wit's end...

K. "Kuh"

U. "Uh"

N. "Nnn"

T. "Tuh"

VICTORY IS MINE! I beat those fuckers! Kiss my goddamn ass, you piece of shit! Of course, I am soon knocked off of my high horse by Michelle's look of disgust/horror (she hates that word, and rightfully so). At that moment I realized that I was corrupting my son's toy, his implement of learning, his window into a world he currently cannot comprehend. The shame is overwhelming, and I begin to sob uncontrollably. OK, that last part didn't really happen, but the message was clear - give it up, you can't win. Defeated, I shut the Alphabet Pal off, refusing to subject him to any future amoral activities that would taint his effectiveness as a champion of the alphabet.

Except, of course, for the occasional "F-U". Old habits die hard.

Until next time (when judging by the timing of the last posting, only God knows when that might be)...

Friday, March 24, 2006

News and Notes - March 24, 2006

Well, hello again everybody! To quote The Onion's Jim Anchower "I know it's been a long time since I rapped at ya, but I've had a lot of shit going down." Let's see what I've been up to:

- I am a sucker for the lowest common denominator. Case in point: NBC's Deal or No Deal. Just the sheer simplicity of the title itself should give you all the clue you need regarding the nature of this show: simple concept for simple people. The fact that it's hosted by a now-sheen-bald-soulpatch-sporting Howie Mandell is your other clue. The basic premise is that there are 24 suitcases, each containing a sum of money, ranging from $1 million to $.01. The contestant is charged with opening a set number of suitcases (6 at time in the early rounds, progressively fewer in subsequent rounds). Whatever amount is revealed in a suitcase is taken off the board, meaning the person no longer has a chance to win that amount. After each "round", Howie receives a phone call from "The Banker", a shadowy figure that looms ominously above the stage, who relays a money offer for the contestant if they will just stop playing this game. For educated people like myself and my readers, it is clear that the offer represents something that very closely resembles the median of the remaining numbers.

This is where the "strategy" comes in. The contestant is then asked by Howie: "Deal, or no deal?" That is to say "do you want to actually walk out of here with some cash, or are you going to foolishly keep gambling, likely ending up with even less than you have now." Given that each contestant is being egged on by family members, friends and the audience to go for broke, the answer inevitably is almost always "No Deal!", which certainly does not please the Banker (Michelle is no longer amused by my constant "If the banker is so outraged, why doesn't he stand up and start shaking his fist at the contestant" commentary that runs every time this clandestine mystery man graces us with his business-like silhouette). Are you frustrated yet by the sheer stupidity of this game? The only saving grace are the lovely ladies who stand and hold the suitcases, no doubt wondering if and when they'll land a gig with a little more substance. These models open each suitcase at the behest of the contestant, and they display one of three signature reactions: 1) Small Amount: "AH! I am SOOO excited for you! Great job!" 2) Medium Amount: "Hey, OK, it's not so bad, it could be worse, hang in there!" 3) Large Amount: "I'm really sorry I just ripped your heart out of your chest!". Every now and then, one will dare to speak, but she's immediatey lashed with a cat-o-nine-tails by a crazed albino mental patient. Yes, that last part is 100% true.

I'll admit it - watching rubes get duped via shell game antics on National TV gives me reason to live.

- OK, I just finished watching Nova-BC, and Jim Nance just commented on how ecstatic "Rowan Massamina" must be. I'm guessing Rollie Massamino is probably pretty stoked as well.

- You all know that from time to time, I make a feeble attempt to express my views on politics in this fair space. I'm sure you also know that my facts are often quite shaky, my positions foggy and my knowledge as deep as the pool of vomit Mama Cass passed away in. I have come to the realization that it simply does not matter what I think. During our Illinois primaries, which were stocked with Illinois politicians who carry with them that great tradition of those that have served and passed, in whose shoes they now walk. Which of course means, they're all crooks. OK, that's harsh, not true, but not the point. I received a call from one of the candidates' cronies, suggesting that I go vote for his man because "you're registered as a Democrat." As soon as I finished dry-heaving, I quietly said, "thanks, but no thanks." I am most certainly not a Democrat. At least not what Democrats are today: corrupt, money-laden machines on the local level; a stumbling, inept complainer with a persecution complex on the National level. Does this sound like a wise affiliation?

Of course it goes without saying that I'd sooner play chess against Death himself (and I suck at chess) than associate myself with the Republican party. I just finished watching an excellent PBS special on the Reconstruction - the Republicans were doing everything in their Godgiven power to make sure those newly freed African-American slaves were given a fair the South. You see, the Feds wanted to bring the South back in because shit, there was CASH to be made! But in order to get them to behave, they thought it would be a fine idea if they forcibly introduced their former chattel into their economically crippled society. I mean, sure, all of the Northern cities were still almost completely segregated, with a wide chasm between living conditions and civil rights, but we won the fucking war, so tough shit! It is said that it had to be like this - Abraham Lincoln was truly working towards upholding the "All men are created equal" jive in the Declaration of Independence. I guess you can say the modern Republican party owes John Wilkes Booth a debt of gratitude.

"Jeez, J, that was 1873, what about now?" What about now? Today, instead of being run by bloated bureaucrats who only wish to force their agenda on the general public because they stand to profit from it, the Republicans are run by...uh...hmm...moving on. Besides the euphamisms, half-truths, legal troubles, speculation, propaganda and outright lies, there's that pesky little matter of the Religious Right. Call me crazy, but I'm not huge on associating myself with someone who adopts a literal interpretation of a book written approximately 1600-2000 years ago, mainly in a time that was known as the "Dark Ages"? Plus their stadium-style churches are tacky as hell. And finally, your Republican Party is rounded out by...this week's contestants on Deal or No Deal!

Card-carrying Independent, my friends. I can be had - whattya got?

- I've looked back over my years of writings, and I've noticed a pattern. Every time I write about the White Sox with even a twinge of hope, they do a belly-flop and have one of those Tartabul-Navarro-Belle-Wells years. Last year I wished gonhorrea on Kenny Williams for his idiotic moves, and joy ensues. This should come as no surprise to anyone who is remotely aware of my sports prognostication skills (or complete and utter lack thereof). I am the one who bet on the 1994 49ers twice, and those were the ONLY two times they didn't beat the spread all goddamned season. I'm also the guy who's notorious for his 0-5 five team parlays. And I've gone approximately 2-28 in single games during all my time in Vegas. Sensing a trend? So here's my official, iron-clad prediction for 2006: They are not going to be good. Here we go...

- While watching all of this basketball action, I came across a commercial for Old Spice men's deodorant. The ad featrured a lusty young woman with a sweaty bare midriff, skin tight leather pants, a breast-accentuating top and a come-hither look that would render any mortal man to weak for comprehension, gyrating suggestively to sultry jungle music. As you are mesmerized by the display of raw sexuality occuring in front of your yearning eyes, up flashes the following string of words: "There's no such a!" Um, I know of a few gentleman in Chicago's own Boy's Town area that might take you to task on that one, Old Spice.

Until next time...

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tales from the Lost Semester - Mid-Semester Break

“The Lost Semester was a time of discovery; a time of missed classes, missed opportunities, frat house living, late night food, 12-packs on Monday nights, vomiting, low self-esteem, high friends, hockey, hallucinogens, jury duty, conflict, poor decisions, bad grades and good times. Oh, and tons and tons of pot.”

That’s right, folks – on May 19, 2005, a new phenomenon was born unto the world – a phenomenon known simply as Tales from the Lost Semester. The 49 words listed above barely gave you, my nine preferred readers, a glimpse into the madness that was to come. Up until a few years ago, I lived in complete denial of the fact that I was a stammering, drugged-out head case with little academic skills and no romantic prowess to speak of. Only recently, as my ongoing maturation process continued, did I come to the realization that those were indeed some awkward times for yours truly. The next step after admitting that you were wrong, of course, is to come clean to those around you. The Tales have served as a great way for me to get some pesky things off my back, like the fact that I actually gave a speech professing that the Grateful Dead were the best thing to ever happen to music – hell, I’m not even sure if they were the best thing to ever happen to jam bands at this point. But that’s what maturity brings, friends – realizations that your views on what seemed acceptable, normal or sane at one point of your life don’t always age very well.

It took a scant 9 months, but I have cranked out a whopping 11 volumes of the Tales to date – a quick recap:

1. Intro/The Paper (Volume 1)
2. Where the Happy People Meet (Volume 2)
3. The Most Fun You’ll Never Want to Have Again (Volume 3)
4. The Nevada House (Volume 4)
5. Caps (Volume 5)
6. Are You Nervous? (Volume 6)
7. Stupor Bowl XXVII (Volume 7)
8. The Greatest (Volume 8)
9. The Dead (Volume 9)
10. Attius (Volume 10)
11. Are You Experienced? (Volume 11)

Quite an eclectic group of stories, if I do say so myself. However, there’s one thing that really frightens me about the Tales – these 11 initial volumes are in many ways innocent, endearing and amusing, and they don’t make me appear to be very troubled at all. However, as I peruse the subjects of the remaining volumes, my throat starts to dry up, my palms begin to sweat, my stomach begins to flutter, and I get just a teensy bit…nervous. Some of the things I plan to reveal about myself will make you scratch your collective heads and wonder how it is that I am a) employed and/or employable, b) married, and c) alive. Most of these stories are only known by a few select individuals, and some things have not been revealed to anyone – yes, you read that correctly. There are certain elements of my Lost Semester life that, for the first time EVER, I will come clean about. Oh, imagine the possibilities! For me, a load off of my mind; for you, an entertaining way to realize that you really weren’t so screwed up by comparison. Needless to say, I look forward to it.

Up until now, the Tales have been told solely from my perspective – everything you have read is based strictly on my memory of what went down that fateful Spring Semester. I feel that this cheats you out of the full Lost Semester experience, and my goal in these writings is to bring you back there, to live as I lived, drink as I drank, smoke as I smoked, hallucinate as I hallucinated…well, you get the picture. On that note, it is my great pleasure to present the Tales from the Lost Semester Mid-Semester Break – a forum featuring a few key participants in the madness. Our panelists today will be CS (a Room 23 resident), Sadahara, Pops and Mayo – quite an esteemed bunch, I must say. I hope that their input will provide you with some additional insight into the sheer madness that was the Lost Semester. So, without further adieu…

J: Gentlemen, welcome. To start us off, please discuss your favorite Lost Semester memory I’ve shared thus far.

CS: The most outstanding/everlasting memory about Room 23 was that at those lazy times of my existence, I owned the right to the most comfortable bed and recliner at the same time, not to mention the fact that I could never get out of bed for my only Tuesday/Thursday class at 12:30.

Sadahara: I enjoyed your walk home from the Nevada house and your speech to argue that the Dead was the best band of all time mainly because I'd never heard either. I almost barfed out of Pavlovian response with the Nevada story.

Pops: Got to be the episode on booming – I felt like I was there and it made me smile A LOT. Puliter Prize-winning stuff.

Mayo: Volume 11 (Are You Experienced?) is my favorite piece that you have written thus far. You did a great job capturing that evening. One thing I will never forget is the first time we did shrooms and how they put me in the best mood. I felt like we should redo the food pyramid and put shrooms on the top (or is it bottom). Fantastic.

J: Well, I’m glad you’ve enjoyed them. Given that you all spent so much time in Room 23 (which is why you’re all so prominently featured in these Tales), I’d be interested to hear your feelings on the Room 23 musical rotation. Maybe it was because I was so wasted, but I got the feeling that it was quite repetitive. And I always got the feeling that folks like Sadahara weren’t too well represented. Thoughts?

CS: The musical rotation really could have only lasted for the four months that we lived there. Truly a shooting star and sometimes maddening for Sadahara. However, I think we offered a much better alternative to a "Cure" soaked Room 20 (Dirk’s room).

S: Actually, I felt it was the best music in the house. People were very conscious of it and it was meant to enhance and include. No, I am not a big Dead fan, but there was always the Repo Man soundtrack. Also, Shakedown Street was a very nice catch-all album. Cypress Hill, Jazz, Beatles, The Rapper...I could go on and on.

M: The Room 23 musical rotation was a duumvirate. Did Miser own any music? Not that I am complaining as I enjoyed the musical rotation, but outsiders did not have much influence on what was played.

P: As a proud Deadhead I loved the music – the Dead and Allman Brothers. It was all good with me. Room 23 and (the Dead’s) "Unbroken Chain" will forever be linked. I also loved CS singing along to "Shaft". Hilarious.

J: Talking about the other important aspect of Room 23, what was your favorite “utensil”?

All (in unison): The Aquapipe, hands down.

J: Gee, I’m shocked that no one picked the shitty wooden bowl that I constantly had to farm for resin. Moving on – CS, in Volume 2, I describe you as "wily", "Slick bastard" and "Room 23 Alpha Male". How does this make you feel?

CS: The Volume 2 characterizations make me feel like I have become more refined in my later years. "Room 23 Alpha Male" was all bluster on my part. Miser could have snuffed me in a heart beat, but at least not without me taking a vital organ or two.

J: What about your role in the infamous “Paper” scandal – do you feel that the whole debacle was worth it? Was your grade justified seeing as I got a C?

CS: The First Triumvirate Paper Scandal was worth it a 100 times over. I felt I earned that B by my expert scheming and the fact that I won Rock-Paper-Scissors fair and square.

J: Yeah, I guess I shouldn’t be such a sore loser. Speaking of losers, you guys, be honest – just how fucking nervous was I?

S: Very nervous. Occassionally painfully nervous. To be honest though, so was I.

CS: I didn’t think you were that nervous; you were (and still are) verbose. But the hairdo didn't help.

P: J, you had your moments, but you were not nearly as bad as you think they were. Everyone was nervous at some point in their college career, as Sadahara alluded to. I think the Chronic would freak you out every once in awhile, and some of our friends loved to instigate trouble; yet all of our boys get unconditional love.

M: You were not that nervous! The only truly nervous times I can recall were when we were hacky-sacking.

J: Mayo, while I appreciate the sentiment, I think I have to side with the others on this one. It’s painful for me to think about. Must…fix…hair… OK, moving on. Sadahara, in Volume 8, when walking to That's Rentertainment, when did you make the determination that you would be renting "The Greatest"? Were there any other movies under consideration?

S: The decision to rent "The Greatest" was not made on the walk; that is for sure. I'd never heard of the movie before I saw it on the shelf. As I mentioned above, I too was pretty nervous in college and I honestly did not want to rent something that the crowd would poo-poo. In the state of mind I was in, I over-thought things about a billion times too much and ended up with "The Greatest". I'm guessing "History of the World" and "Weird Science" were both considered, as well as "McVicar" starring Roger Daltrey.

J: Personally I got a kick out of it, but you definitely were not so lucky with the others. But that was all part of the fun of our group – in many ways we were quite different, but we all found common ground (i.e. pot). On that note, Sadahara and Pops, you guys lived in Room 7, which can best be described as the not-quite-as-friendly version of Room 23. Where did those differences lie for you guys?

S: I suppose that Room 7 was the fun, but less-friendly, less-charming and more-drunken half-brother of Room 23. Way more booze, capping, metal, thrash, shit-talking and general meanness in Room 7. Please bear in mind that I'm not bad-mouthing my old room, for it had its own charm to be sure. I loved it. But Room 23 was more relaxing, quieter and cleaner. Plus, you all were more likely to have girls hanging out in your room so that was good. Really, I guess it boils down to fact that 7 had it's foundation in booze and 23 had its foundation in herbal delights and everything kind of goes from there, no?

P: I agree with Sadahara, your room was nicer (especially when you have the Big O and myself ripping most everyone we didn't like on a daily basis, and Sadahara would jump in but nearly as bad as us) and we did drink more. I think we got a little more traffic just because people were afraid of the "old" Room 23 and we never went to bed. Your room was a lot cleaner (we had Mickey's Big Mouth bottles and Keystone Light cans on our floor for the entire month of March – we’d just push them around for space on the floor to watch TV). But both rooms were arguably the best rooms in house – that's why we had all the guest partiers.

J: Well said. Speaking of girls, Pops – I alluded to the fact that you happened to date one of my close “relatives”. Describe if you will the awkwardness you experienced as a result of your dating Emma. Do you regret this relationship, and if so, why?

P: I have no regrets – it was a lot of fun. I probably wish I wasn't such a prick to girls, but college boys will be college boys. As far as awkwardness I just didn't want you to be pissed off at me, and I think you were damn cool about the whole thing – God knows what I would have done in your shoes.

J: Yeah, you’re just lucky I was a nervous little shit, or I might have pounded you. Or not. Let’s talk about Hell Week – Mayo, you definitely stand out in my mind as one of the key players of that miserable experience. How utterly disturbed were you when I rode the bike through the basement during Hell Week wearing tighty whiteys?

M: Actually, it was both funny and disturbing. At that point we had nothing left and that was the sign for me. sort of like when one of the losers going through with us was doing push ups and fell flat on his face and blood from his nose started falling down the front of his face and he refused to do anything about it in fear of being punished. But it was a very original idea and got many laughs!

J: Jesus, if there were laughs, I didn’t hear them. One last question – what is your favorite shrooming experience down at school?

(Editor’s note: I had to withhold many of the answers received to this question as it would provide a major spoiler of one of the most mind blowing Tales yet to come).

J: Well you guys, I really do appreciate you taking the time to weigh in on all of the goings on that semester. Needless to say, it would have been a lot more “lost” without you all (wiping away a tear…).

Friends, please stay tuned for the next 11 installments of the Tales, which as mentioned should be disturbing, hilarious, sad and enlightening all rolled into one!

Until next time…

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

News and Notes - March 1, 2006

Greetings and salutations to my nine readers. Here I come on the run with a burger on a bun, and a dab of News and Notes on the side…

• Well, another season of The Bachelor has come and gone, and I did my best to stay up to date and informed on all the desperate husband hunting goings on (OK, that's bullshit, but whatever) – sadly, these efforts did not translate into postings on this fair blog, and for that I feel shame. So in order to make it up to you, here’s a handy primer of everything you would need to know in order to appear Bachelor-savvy at your local watercooler:

o During my commentary on the opening episode, I referred to Ali G (no, not that Ali G), the freakish troll woman intent on starting the reproductive phase of her life. As I told you, when she was not selected in the first MOST DRAMATIC ROSE CEREMONY EVER, she confronted the Bachelor (Travis) and demanded to know why he didn’t pick her: Too short? Not pretty enough? Boobs too small? Well, yes, yes and yes. But say “reproduction” to a single man and he will likely drop you quicker than Matrix dropped Sully over that cliff in Commando. So she basically made about as complete and total of an ass as one could possibly make of themselves…on national TV! In what comes as a shocking turn of events, she declined the invitation to appear on the “Women Tell All” episode. My question: wouldn’t you think that ABC would have made this a contractual obligation of being on the show in the first place? Isn’t she in breach of said contract by not facing the music? Isn’t there a lawyer somewhere who stands to profit off of this?

o The show was tabbed “The Bachelor: Paris” but at least 1/3 of the time was spent in another European location or in the U.S. doing the obligatory “meet the families” escapade. And while we’re on this topic, has there ever been a family in the history of this show that remained skeptical of the whole fiasco even after the visit was over? No matter how hard-ass the father/brother/mother/drunken grandmother tries to profess themselves to be, by the end they’re always gushing about what a great guy the Bachelor is and how they could really see their daughter/sister/drunken granddaughter ending up with him. Ball-less wonders, each and every one of them.

o The Canadian girl who lived at home with her parent in Winnipeg was so drunk when Travis kissed her that she didn’t remember it when they were talking the next day. I’m not sure what part of that sentence scares me the most.

o Travis narrowed down his choice down to two decidedly different ladies (there’s a shocker): a homely-yet-cute Kindergarten teacher from Nashville and an attractive-yet-psychotic brunette from LA. The teacher basically had to beg Travis to make a move on her, was loved by his family, was great with kids, and had a frumpy mother who had real reservations about the possibility of her ever leaving Nashville. The brunette was constantly being undressed by Travis’s eyes, liked to surf, had an asshole for a father and an attractive stepmother, cried at the drop of a hat and, when asked questions like “why do you like our son” by Travis’s parents, started bawling and saying things like “Do you know what it’s like to look at someone and see your own soul?” and “He rocks me to the core”. Yikes. If history held true, he’d pick the hotter chick who’s fucked in the head, but he bucked tradition and went with the safe bet. I’m sure it’s going to last.

• From the “People are a bunch of miserable fucks” department: Michelle, Brooks and I were flying home from Florida on Friday, where I had spent the week in training. We checked in, got through security and got to our gate with no issues. However, as we readied ourselves to board the plane, I looked at our boarding passes and noticed that good old United had given us two middle seats! What stellar work on their part! So we reluctantly head to our seats, and I linger in the aisle, hoping that the kind soul holding the ticket next to Michelle’s seat will see it in their heart to let these new parents sit together with their 3-month-old son.

Much to my chagrin, the two people I see bearing down on our row are two frumpy, haggard, violently ugly women bearing menacing scowls. “This should go well” I think. As they approached our row, the lead woman, who bore a striking resemblance to Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, belts out in her wretched three-pack-a-day-smoker voice “THAT’S my seat.”

“Excuse me ma’am, this is my wife and son, and this (I point to my middle seat across the aisle) is my seat, and I was hoping…”


Fine, you horrid bitch, I think to myself, but I quickly, calmly say, “OK, thank you” and start to gather Brooks up because, hey, this plane’s going to take off and I want to get situated. So Leatherface wheels around to her equally-disgusting friend and barks, “Do YOU want to switch seats?” “I just want to sit down!” With that response, Leatherface doesn’t even try to hide the contempt in her voice when she wheels back to me and says, “OK, FINE, GO AHEAD, WHATEVER!” I quickly try and gather my things together before her dark lord and master Satan implores her to change her mind, and very nicely say, “thank you very much, we really do appreciate it.” To which she of course responds:


At this point my face is so purple that Michelle thinks blood is going to start shooting out of my eyes. Guilt trip??? What in the holy living fuck are you talking about? Is my baby the source of this guilt trip? Gee, I’m sorry my wife and I decided to procreate last year, you vile creature. Michelle can see that I’m about to do something that would likely get me declared an enemy combatant and thrown in a prison for several months without being charged, so she calmly encourages me to let it go. Cooler heads prevail, and I take my new seat. But will Leatherface let it die? Of course not! She’s shooting us dirty looks. She’s making all kinds of comments: “I can’t believe I’m in a middle seat again!” “We took the time to make sure we reserved the seats we wanted, why can’t THEY?” Remember how I told you all that I regularly wish gonorrhea on people? This was seriously the closest I’ve ever come to wishing death on someone – she was truly despicable.

After we took off, the woman sitting in their row’s window seat must have caught wind of their smelly vibe, because as soon as she found out there was another seat available, she bolted like she was fleeing the Grim Reaper himself. This left Leatherface and her hideous friend room to stretch out in their seats, sleep, snore like an emphysema-riddled vagrant with their legs spread, exposing their likely-barren wombs to the world. Michelle, Brooks and I took the high road, made friends on the plane and returned to our happy lives. Leatherface and her friend went back to their sparse, depressing one bedroom apartments to eat canned dog food and wonder what life had been like had they not been born such ugly people (or so I hope). And all was right with the world.

• I have previously mentioned in this space that one of my guilty pleasures (no, not autoerotic asphyxiation) is watching many of the fine programs featured on Gen-Y Wasteland MTV. From True Life to My Super Sweet 16 to There and Back (one of Michelle’s favorites) I can’t seem to get enough stories about guys on steroids, ludicrously rich girls whose fathers throw them $100,000 parties and buy them cars for their 16th birthdays and a former boy band member who must now get a job like the rest of us schleps. However, the show that has captured my imagination most recently is Parental Control. The premise: Parents whose teenager is dating an undesirable interview several potential candidates to replace this undesirable as their child’s significant other. The mother and father each select a date for their child, and then (this is great) they sit in their living room with the undesirable and watch footage of each date, all the while trading smarmy comments and witty barbs about the child, the dates selected by the parents and the undesirable’s status as a loser. For example, the parents of one boy, who must be a huge Ali G fan because he kept saying “sexy time” and had a tattoo that said (yep) Sexy Time on his stomach (there’s no way he’ll regret that when he’s 35). His loser girlfriend, a sardonic harlot wearing too much makeup, sat with his parents and commented how their son would not be interested in a girl the mother had selected because her breasts weren’t big enough. It was surreal and delightful at the same time. My only question: who is initiating participation in this show? Is it the child dating the loser? Presumably they’re quite happy with the loser, which is why the parents are upset in the first place. Could it be the loser who wants to prove his/her worth? Why would they risk it? In the other episode I watched, the loser guy with no prospects for the future was jettisoned in favor of a tennis-playing aspiring financial professional, whereby he commented that he felt he needed to upgrade from his girlfriend anyway. Or is it the parents? This would seem logical except for the fact that I can’t figure out why the parents would be watching MTV, unless they stumbled upon the show as their son and daughter watched – but then who started it all? It’s the chicken or the egg. It’s baffling, but quite entertaining and well worth a viewing.

Until next time…