Monday, June 30, 2008

Remembering the Speak & Spell

Educational toys sure were the shizznat. Not only did the computronic voice of the mini-computer teach me to spell, it served as a companion and prepared me for a life without human friends spent waiting on the phone only to talk to computer-voiced automated mail programs. It also made me feel very good about my spelling career, which would top off in a sixth grade school championship. ‘Twas ironic indeed that the Speak & Spell and the artificial intelligence it distributed would one day be rendered obsolete by the all-seeing eye known as the Spell Check. I take solace in my Speak & Spell training with the knowledge that if computers ever go out of style and typewriters come back, I’ll be one step ahead of the other kids.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Lemonade from lemons

A couple of my hate-filled "WALL-E" comment-fiends left negative reviews about "Stormin Mormon" on its Amazon page. Oddly, some of those disgruntled folks must have bought the book as well, lifting the novel, which isn't sold by Amazon but is listed on the site so third parties can sell it, from the rank of #2 million to 244,000.

Thanks, I guess.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Feeling the fanboy love

People seem to be upset by my review of WALL-E.

Bring it, haters. Your comments are more entertaining than the film.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Glass Joe, the greatest there ever was

There’s something to be said for the value of hard work and intense competition. That something: They suck.

Nothing compares to effort-free victories, heartening easy-come successes and ego-boosting domination, and Glass Joe exemplifies all of the above. The Canadian boxer who serves Little Mac’s first opponent in Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out is the perfect cream puff, and I believe no one who has ever played the game has ever lost to him. Glass Joe just stands there dumbly, inviting you to pop him in the face with impunity, and will only unleash a weak pansy-slap of his own in your direction if you sit there unguarded for 45 seconds. My little sister took out Glass Joe in Round 1 when she was
4. On several occasions I’ve knocked him out using my toes on the controller. I’ve closed my eyes and punched him out by ear, just listening to the sounds of the game. One time I even turned the TV off at the beginning of the fight, pushed a lot of buttons for three minutes, then turned it on to see that I’d won without even getting hit. I estimate I’ve beaten Glass Joe about 45,000 times since 1987, and each and every victory has made me feel that much better about myself.

In the pre-match statistics, it says Glass Joe’s record is 1 win and 99 losses. The 99, I understand, but the 1 win? How did this guy possibly beat any other video game boxer? Did King Hippo get DQ’d for a low blow? Or perhaps Piston Honda had an off day? My theory is that Soda Popinski passed out in a drunken stupor. Oh well, whatever the case, Glass Joe TKOs my heart each and every time he flops to the canvas.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

My MySpace message to Jon Favreau

My MySpace depression I was stewing in after Mitt Romney had rejected my friend request was lifted when Jon Favreau accepted my virtual friendship. I sent him this message:

Jon, I've wanted to tell you this story for five and a half years.

In early 2003 Heather Graham came to Phoenix for an interview in support of "The Guru." It turned conversational and she was even asking me what she should do next in her career. We started talking "Swingers." I had just finished watching your DVD commentary where you talked about having a crush on her when you were rehearsing the dancing scenes at her apartment, and how disappointed you were when romance failed to spark.

I brought it up and she seemed sort of stunned, longing and regretful. She said she had no idea about your feelings and talked about how great you were. This wasn't glossy, prefabricated praise. It really came from the heart.

So I think you definitely could have hooked it up back then had you been a little more direct.

Her revelation hit home to me because in my meek single years I collected many similar friend-zone situations that have continued to gnaw at me and I've always wondered which ones might have panned out.

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin, the sun and Mickey Mouse

It was painful to hear that George Carlin got capped last night. That notorious gangster known as heart failure pulled out its nine and did a drive-by, and thus we're without the greatest comic legend mankind has ever known. I'll be pouring a 40 on the ground and getting a tattoo of a tear underneath my eye, in a figurative sense.

Carlin and I saw things quite differently. He worshiped the sun, while as a Tucson resident I curse it. But one thing we always had in common was our hatred of Mickey Mouse. Why do kids today even know about Mickey? He's never in any movie or on TV shows. He's just an figurehead who rules by proxy, through no merit of his own. Now Carlin is free of this Mickey-infested world, and if heaven exists, though he adamantly didn't believe in it, I'm sure he'll find plenty of things wrong with it and turn the material into some fresh standup.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Is what my kid calls guacamole. Gotta teach the boy to pronounce multiple syllables pronto.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Old, worn-out sayings that can now be used ironically

"Hot enough for ya?" - I'm going to start using this every 110-degree day for the next several months, annoying everyone around me, which will bring me great joy.

"One in the hand is worth two in the bush." - There are so many uses for this one, all of them dirty. It's like a Swiss Army knife of filth.

"This is my jam." - Can be applied not only to music, but screechingly awful environmental sounds, or literally to raspberry preserves.

These three are all I can think of for now but I will add more as they come to me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The solution to all our oil problems

With gas prices so high, it's time we stopped our dependence on foreign oil and shifted the focus toward homeland reservoirs and even renewable resources. My plan wouldn't even involve wrecking the environment drilling in ANWR or offshore, nor would we need to turn to the risky proposition of nuclear power, dangerous coal mining or the expensive futility of wind and solar energy.

What people are forgetting about is we've got all the oil we need inside our borders, and the supply will never run out. The answer to all our problems rests inside the ever-popping pimple that adorn our nation's teenagers. Zits are it baby, and it's high time we realized this.

Have you seen some of these kids? There's enough white gold in one fast food worker's face to run our motors and grease our appliances for the next 40 years.

I hereby call for a ban on all Clearasil, Stridex, and especially Accutane, along with subsidized distribution of candy bars, Doritos and pizza in school hallways. Instead of sending drilling crews to each individual kid, we shall set up extraction centers much like plasma donation facilities and comensate the donors for the goods for nominal fees.

Admittedly I came to this inspiration by watching the film "There Will Be Blood." Now I'm determined to become the Daniel Day-Lewis of teen facial oil extraction, and will stop at nothing to make myself rich and alienate myself from society while becoming an oil baron. The term "I drink your milkshake" could get a whole new meaning.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

In memory of vibrator football

Before John Madden lurched his overweight likeness into an annual videogame series, even before the crazy Japanese Tecmo Bowl inventors put their bizarre, blocky-graphics spin onto the game, we had Vibrator Football to sate the lack of an interactive NFL in our lives. The game took place on a long sheet of aluminum, placed over a whirring, gyrating Woman’s Best Friend.

Little plastic players scurried around the surface, turning in concentric ellipses, while one player had a tiny, tiny foam football impaled on his jutting arm. You’d turn the vibrator on, then tear your hair out as your spinning ballcarrier unwittingly turned a 12-yard gain into a 7-yard loss, then back into a 14-yard gain, then into his own end zone for a safety. I don’t believe anyone ever played a full game of Vibrator Football, because it was so damn frustrating and poorly designed. It was always fun, though, to take the box out, set it up and tell your baby sister she wasn’t allowed to play.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Luke's first joke

My just about year-and-a-half-old son made his first joke yesterday. "Pizza block." For reference, "block" is what he calls sunblock, and pizza is his favorite food. He said "pizza block" and chuckled uncontrollably at his delightfully ironic play on words, which I took to mean "What's the deal with pizza? Sure, it tastes great, but it wouldn't make very good sunblock!"

I wonder if Jerry Seinfeld got his start this early.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'm glad I don't live in New York

Because I wouldn't be able to afford the rent. Dingy little apartments in crap parts of town go for more than I bring home in a month. If I ever had to live there, I wouldn't be able to afford sleep. I'd just have to stand in the street talk-singing "seven thousand nine hundred billion eight hundred thirty one seconds" or whatever it is they talk-sing in "Rent."

By the way, "Rent" in all its forms is horrible. I'm basing this condemnation solely on the movie, but if any of the songs or dialogue are also in the stage musical, I can authoritatively say that it's entirely worthless. The only good thing to come out of "Rent" was that it was so bad it got director Chris Columbus to stop making movies for the past three years. IMDB says Columbus is getting back on his horse and making another film, due out in 2009, but IMDB says that about everyone, including Screech and Urkel. Who, by the way, should make a movie together. I'd watch those guys in anything, except for a "Rent" remake.

I'll leave you with a quote from my 2005 review of "Rent."

The actors are now in their mid-30s, and some have aged more than others, making for the uneasy, mismatched, old-guy-at-the-concert effect. There's a moment in which Roger (Adam Pascal), the burnout rocker, singingly accuses Mimi of looking 16. She could have easily retorted, "You look 40."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Catch phrase

I heard someone say “wicked” the other day and it made me smile. “Wicked” is one of those words from my childhood - the 80s and early 90s – that never gets used anymore. Like “rain forest” and “recycle.”

I want to start my own catch phrase that will catch on and sweep the nation for a brief period, only to appear hopelessly dated in the years directly following. My first idea was “Get me a juice box, beyotch!” but then I remembered that such a phrase wouldn’t qualify, because I didn’t invent it. I copied that, as well as my political views and personality, from a movie I saw.

I think I’ve been unsuccessful at generating a catch phrase because I don’t talk to people very much. I communicate mostly in grunts, nods and glares, saving most of my intelligible messages for writing. Maybe I could learn sign language and start my catch phrase that way – through a weird finger symbol.

Oh, I know! I could wrap my wring finger around my thumb, then twist my wrists upside down while flapping my palms back and forth. This phrase would be PSL (Phil Sign Language) for, “Get the hell out and don’t let the bead curtain hit you on the way out, beyotch!” There’s a problem with this one, too, genius though it is, because I never stopped to consider whether or not the signal already means something else. Every hand symbol you can think of is probably already taken, because every worldwide language has their own sign language. What’s up with that? What is it with the deaf that they have to be so provincial, and can’t cross international borders to agree on a universal sign language. I mean, Europe agreed on the Euro, and the AFL agreed to become a part of the NFL.

Sign languages aren’t solely restricted to nationalities. I remember back in elementary school all the girls were able to chat with each other constantly throughout the day without passing notes, through only the use of their hands. I could never decipher what they were saying, only that the messages often concluded with the girls pointing at me and giggling. I bet at least some of them said, “That guy smells.” Which was true, because I didn’t start showering regularly until seventh grade. Who knows, they might have actually been talking about how hot they thought I was. If I could quantum leap, I would go back with a linguist to determine if indeed that’s what they were saying. Then maybe I could repeat my life for a 60-minute episode and get a whole lot more action in fourth grade than I did the first time around. And introduce "Don't have a cow, man" before Bart Simpson did.

Monday, June 09, 2008

The tyranny of food

I don't understand how people can enjoy cooking any more I do that they can enjoy picking weeds or raking leaves. It's a tedious, expensive process that trips you up from more important things like playing video games or sleeping. And it rules your life if you let it. Some spend all their free time either cooking, eating or cleaning up, and thus miss out on all of life's great pleasures, such as "American Gladiator" reruns. And I feel great sorrow for them.

People have tried to teach me to cook before, but it doesn't stick because I jhave no interest. It's too much work for too little reward. If someone makes me food, fine, otherwise I'll just defrost stuff. In the world of frozen meals, the man who cares not about cooking is king. As a result of my diet I may be 70 percent water and 40 percent preservatives, but that's OK. Maybe they'll preserve my youthful glow into middle age. Tombstone pizza and hot pockets are the stuff processed dreams are made of.

People like me place no value on the experience of eating and see it as an annoyance to deal with as quickly and cheaply as possible before moving on. We place no more value on the intake of food than its expulsion.

I've been asked why I don't cook at least rudimentary things just to help save money, such as the cliched Ramen noodles. The reason is Ramen takes too much effort, what with the stirring and the standing over the stove to ensure you're not over-or-undercooking the noodles. I once cooked Ramen regularly, when I was green in judgment and cold in blood, but have since moved on to 98 cent Michelena pizzas from Wal-Mart.

The grilled ham and cheese is another example of what I used to subsist on but discontinued due to the effort of having to butter the bread, open the individual cheese slices, get out the ham, start up the stove, measure out the grilling time so as not to burn one of the sides and ruin your meal. Way too tough.

You don't eat Hot Pockets (actually, Hot pockets are more classy and expensive than I usually like to go) or frozen chicken patties for the taste, that's for damn sure. You eat them to lift a middle finger at the tyranny of food.

Friday, June 06, 2008

My running mate predictions

I think Obama will pick Bill Richardson and McCain will go with Charlie Crist.

Reasoning: Obama needs the Hispanic vote and McCain needs the Christian vote.

This decade has no name

There were the 70s. Then the 80s and 90s. But what is the decade we're currently sleepwalking through going to be called? The 00s doesn't sound right. I think people are going to skip over this one and the next because they're unnamable, so we won't be in a named decade again until 2020.

Thus, we're stuck in a 20-year-long nameless era with no tone or personality. The future will never look back on us fondly with That '00s show or its ill-conceived, short-lived follow-up, That '10s Show. No radio stations will have 00s lunch hour, and gaggles of college girls will never flock to nightclubs' 00s nights. We're deadspace, an asterisk glossed over to more numerically significant times.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Hurricanes are entertaining. They give me something to read about and watch on the news. I don’t see how you can be mad at them, since they’re simply forces of nature minding their own business, trying to put on a good show. I feel no more sympathy the trailer park residents who lose their homes in each of Florida’s several dozen hurricanes every year than I do for ants in my backyard. Just as the ants are fully aware that I’ll kick over each and every one of their hills at my earliest convenience, Florida trailerparkers should be aware that a ‘cane will do some double-wide dissection at least once every other year. The ants don’t complain or receive federal aid, and the Floridians should follow the example.

What’s that you say? It’s wrong to find hurricanes entertaining because they kill people sometimes? Well, I like dogs even though they’ll chew on people every now and again. And I like the movie XXX, even though stuntman Harry O’Connor III was killed in the making of it. At some point, you need to be able to separate the tragedy of death from the joy of entertainment. At their tender core, hurricanes are just delightful aquatic showmen.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The book that changed my life

An editor asked me to write a couple paragraphs about "the book that changed my life" for an upcoming online compilation. Here's what I came up with:

Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson

It's a smallish, black-and-white graphic novel about the turtle Chunky Rice who leaves his girlfriend, a mouse named Dandle, to make it big in the wide, wondrous world. It sounds like the premise for a children's book, and maybe it is, but it transcends age and just speaks to the crossroads you encounter throughout life, as you make crucial decisions that will effect your destiny.

The emotion on the page is palpable, from the simplistic illustrations that resemble kids' doodles to the flowery, cursive-style lettering reminiscent of notes passed in junior high. The little book thumps with a pulsing heartbeat, and I connected to it so strongly that I shiver as I type this.

"You're like a little flower that's outgrown its pot and needs to be transplanted in order to keep growing," says Dandel, so understanding even as she's crushed. He asks her to run away with him, but Dandel refuses, insisting she knows this is where she belongs and she wants Chunky to find a place that feels the same way.

I read the book when I was in a situation much like Chunky's. I was graduating from college, was dating a girl who was a year behind me at school and had a post-grad internship at the San Francisco Chronicle beckoning. At the time I was half-convinced I had outgrown my Tucson flower pot and needed to see new horizons. The book seemed to be a sign from above that I should follow Chunky's example and go off. But I didn't. I couldn't bring myself to leave my girlfriend, who became my wife. Nor could I abandon my hometown, even though I had no job prospects here at the time. Now that I look back I'm not so sure I went against the message of the "Good-bye Chunky Rice," which could just as easily be read as a lament against leaving for the sake of leaving by someone who made a choice that still hurt him as he bled his thoughts to pen and paper.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Every time I hear the real estate industry is doing badly, it makes me feel good. Just like whenever I'm depressed about how the Cardinals are doing I take a look at the Lions, see how they're doing just as bad or worse, and I feel a little better.

Watching realtors (I refuse to capitalize the r out of spite) lose their jobs at a faster rate than print journalists is a the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine down while I wait for newspapers to figure out how to make good money online or for people stop wanting their news immediately and revert to waiting for it the day after.

I'm enjoying this while I can, because in five years things will probably be different. I'll be jobless and foreclosed on and some realtor will be making a commission off of selling it for four times what it's worth now.

By the way, I'm amazing because I spelled schadenfreude right on the first try. 1990 De Grazia elementary spelling bee champ REPRESENT.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Self-evident truths

Crunchy cheetos are superior to puffy cheetos.

Spider-Man only gets to live because Superman is too nice to kill him.

Of the three Chipettes, Brittany was by far the hottest.

Every time you get the instinct to go to Subway, an absolute dipshit who either can’t decide if he wants tomatoes or is ordering sandwiches for seven other people gets the same instinct at the exact same moment as you, only he’s 17 seconds closer to Subway than you and will get right in front of you in line.

Men who drive H2s have small penises.

John Mellencamp has completely lost it.

You don’t know as much as you think you do about what happened on 9/11.

Gasoline now costs more per gallon than blood.

People who like NASCAR were beaten as children. Furthermore, they fully deserved the beatings.

The bands Pearl Jam and U2 have yet to make one good song.

Refs gave the Pittsburgh Steelers Super Bowl XL.

Coke and vanilla ice cream are both tasteless and disgusting by themselves, but Vanilla Coke is freakin’ incredible.

The best time of the year is October, when McDonald’s Monopoly is going on.

I am better than everyone else at Tetris DS. Whenever I lose online it’s because of bad luck.

Spyware is made by spyware protection companies to boost sales.

Matt Leinart’s smile in his Arizona Cardinals jersey NFL draft photo was fake.

Scientology is the coolest name for a religion ever.

People who sell Amway share the same weird, glazed-over look in their eyes.

The human brain gets dumber and less creative each year after the age of 25.

Always bet on black.

Guns don’t kill people. Blood loss from bullet wounds kills people.

You can drink your own urine and not get sick. The same cannot be said of watching Pauly Shore movies.

Teens who promise they’ll remain virgins until marriage are either incapable of getting laid or are lying to their parents so they’ll continue to pay for their cell phone and car insurance.

All country/western love songs sung by men are actually written with cows, not women, in mind.

Cabbage Patch kids come to life at night and try to kill you while they sleep. They’re usually unsuccessful because your toaster is able to fend them off.

Every time you’ve eaten a Cadbury egg, you’ve feasted on the unborn corpse of a zygote that would have grown up to be a cute chocolate bunny.

Even after Sylvester Stallone finally dies, he’ll still figure out a way to make more Rocky movies.

Jay Leno, George Lopez, Rita Rudner and Sinbad have something in common: None has ever told a single funny joke in his or her entire life.

Nine-three percent of all men diagnoses with “tennis elbow” also subscribe to Playboy.

The only thing eviler than gas companies are insurance companies. And the only thing more evil than insurance companies is Ryan Seacrest.

The person who decided iTunes can only play on iPods and not other MP3 players is extremely lucky I’m not the one who decides who gets sent to hell.

On a women’s soccer team, the ugliest player is always the goalie.

You may think your boss is dumber than you, but what you don’t realize is he thinks you’re dumber than him. He’s more correct because he’s put himself in a position in which he can order you around, plus he makes way more money. But you still win because he hates his life more than you do yours.

The NFL has a bigger problem with steroids than Major League Baseball, made all the worse because of supposed testing policies that supposedly keep steroids out of the game.

Computers get slower and slower the longer you have them. They’re designed that way in order to frustrate you into buying a new one every three years.

If a movie cast includes Matthew Broderick, it has five times a greater chance of sucking.

If Madonna is in the film, it’s got 10 times a greater chance of sucking.

When you’re sitting in the holding cell at a doctor’s office (the room the nurse puts you in after you’ve rotted in the waiting room for an hour), the doctor won’t come to see you until you’ve gotten so bored that you’re digging through the cabinets.

The only time you’ll hit all green lights on the way home is when you’re hoping for a red light to give you time to shovel chili cheese fries down your throat.

For every story your friend has about winning money gambling, there are seven stories about him losing money that he isn’t telling.