Super Sunday Hamster Blender Blog

17 November 2009

Mama Angelica Said Knock You Out

It has been a long time since a blog appeared here. No writing block, no creative stumbling, just a simple matter of priorities – slaying dragons, solving poverty, fantasy football. The usual.

Anyway, to snap out of this literary funk, I did whatever a pseudo-writer is to do – I went to a boxing match. Apparently, Hartford held its first championship boxing match in the last one million years. And I had two free tickets in an Executive Suite box. So Gene the Bass Player and I went. Not that either of us are devout boxing fans. Frankly, I wasn’t even sure boxing still existed; the last I recall is Mike Tyson biting the ear off a frozen chicken patty or some such nonsense. Or was that Andre the Giant? Hulk Hogan? Colonel Hogan? More notably, a diversion called Ultimate Fighting, which is essentially a backyard brawl without the two-by-fours, has pretty much overwhelmed real boxing. And I can see why. Boxing in Hartford was as boring as, well, just about anything in Hartford.

Now, you may say, “how bored can you be in an Executive Suite with all the free food and alcohol?” Well, for starters, there was no free food or alcohol offered in our suite. A six of Bud Light cost over $30. It was a sobering affair, so to speak. The suite was nice: I mean, you could roam around and we were very comfortable in our rolling swivel chairs. And we had our own television, from which you could view the closed circuit close-up of the fight. Or watch the Eternal Word Network with Mother Angelica, as we did. It just seemed appropriate.

Now, the suite next to ours was pretty well stocked, and we were starting to plan a Viking-esque pillaging, but the occupants arrived and instead we listened to them gleefully shove free exotic foods like Slim Jims down their gullets. So we had to turn our attention to the boxing matches. Now, boxing matches, if you have seen them in movies like “Rocky” or “Raging Bull” or “Bridgete Jones’s Diary”, are filled with an overflowing crowd of passionate, berserk fans, chanting the names of the combatants as if they were Spartan warriors. However, this event was held at the XL Center, where championship boxing transformed it into an empty cavern of occasional flatulence. Maybe 300 people filtered in by the time of the big match. I read in the Hartford Courant that there was a crowd of 5,320 attending, which I knew was a lie since I was on a first-name basis with all attending. Maybe it looked full on HBO, which was airing the alleged excitement live, as the closed-circuit shots showed how they kept the camera angles floor-level low to highlight the denser packs of reluctant boxing fans. If they had at all panned one row up into the seats on the incline, you would have witnessed an ocean of sad, empty chairs. Way up high in the suite, I felt like I was hiding the at the top of Mount Doom of Mordor, spying from above, wondering if should just throw myself into the spewing fire and end this charade.

Anyway, it’s pretty hard for 300 people to get all riled up and excited (unless you’re one of 300 Spartans threatened by all of Persia), so there was virtually no energy, and Mother Angelica reigned supreme. There was one match where a 19-year old came into the ring with Frank Sinatra blaring, announced as the self-proclaimed Chairman of the Board, and proceeded to shimmy more like Jay-Z (with dirt on his shoulder). He won the fight when his opponent – get this – refused to come out and fight anymore. He wasn’t hurt, he just quit. A bit disappointing, although I found the shoulder-shimmy annoying as well. Now one fight with a guy named Harry Joe was fun. He came into the ring with his entrance music screaming “Harry Joe, Harry Joe.” If my name were Harry Joe, I might not want to advertise that loud. Or at least change it to just Joe or Joe-Z. After such great fanfare, he was pounded into the floor in the third round. His pain was our entertainment. The only other time I saw that much activity was when we were leaving and some guy in the parking garage was breaking down his dance moves right there on level 2. He danced longer then Harry Joe stood upright.

So the night belonged to the last fight, the championship bout, featuring a guy from New Haven who was the Intercontinental Wal-Mart Light Heavyweight East Coast School of Tractor Trailer Champion, and he had his head shaved with many symbols, of which I am sure were ancient runes laying out the path to Mordor. But instead of the excitement one might find while battling goblins and orcs and Spartans on the way to Mount Doom, his fight was like a bad night at the prom; nothing more than a bunch of tepid shuffling and unwanted groping. I am sure HBO had a ratings nightmare. They could have given Gene and I free beer, got us drunk, and then have us wrestle over a Slim Jim on the floor an there would have been much more entertainment value.

But who were the real losers here? Us for coming? Harry Joe’s quest for a nap? HBO? I would argue Hartford probably lost the opportunity for any more fights like this. But then again, there were Ashley, Michelle, and Latoya. These were the three “ring girls” who would hold up the round number cards between rounds, parading around the ring in their stilettos and black dress, amidst the occasional catcall and flatulence emitting from the suites above. I can imagine them telling their friends, family, and sexual predators that they were going to be on HBO. My guess is more people watched Mother Angelica, who already had the black dress and would have made one heck of a ring girl.

12 January 2009

Is There a Correspondence School for Grave Digging?

I think I have a solution to help ease the economic crisis we now find ourselves slogging about in. It is a tried-and-true formula embraced by Wall Street and the captains of industry. Very simply, I believe we should lay-off about one-third of the United States.

Why not? Companies lay-off all the time, especially when they face the slightest whiff of economic adversity, or anything remotely threatening an executive bonus. In this case, we are going after the big enchilada and simply booting people out of the country entirely, skipping the middle man, taking the bull by the horns, calling the kettle black, spooking the cow, making up clichés. Give roughly 100 million Americans an empty cardboard box, two weeks severance, and a plastic travel coffee mug emblazoned with “Thanks for Years of Dedicated Citizenship,” and that will quickly relieve us of a great deal of expense.

Sure, it sounds rash, but let’s look at the argument closely. Most of us, whether we like it or not, don’t do anything. I am not just referring to the unemployed, I am talking about those who have a job. This applies especially if you have an office job.

By this I mean if you don’t move something forward, as in bringing something useable closer to completion, then what you do probably has no meaning. Meaningful work involves things like taking a lump of steel or coal and making it into something important, like scissors or a dashing chapeau. Those who do real, hands-on work – such as building things like houses or cars or pies; things we need – can keep their job. Those who make things we don’t need, like blogs, YouTube videos, union contracts, internet pop-up ads, boy bands, and the Snuggie are certainly getting the heave-ho. If you are doing something to bring a necessary product or service closer to completion, then that is valuable. Unfortunately, most of us don’t move much of anything forward, except our bowels, and that is kind of ass-backwards, so to speak.

Take, for instance, people in marketing and public relations. These people, affectionately known as frauds, do nothing to create any value. They generate stuff we do not need, like commercials, press releases, and lies. They actually spend their whole time crafting ways to convince/fool the general public to do or buy something. They design flashy labels and catchphrases. There is no value in a catchphrase. “Just Do It” is not a needed commodity. We can give these people their notice immediately.

So in determining who will be let go, some of it is common sense. Jobs like marketing, or anyone in human resources, are easy to distinguish as totally useless. If you are a CEO of a company, and before you lay yourself off, just get rid of your entire human resources department and see what happens. Absolutely nothing, except for a boatload of saved money, and a marked reduction in forced and humiliating team building events. Dignity restored and a pool of money to boot. On the flip side, jobs held by farmers, auto mechanics, and grave diggers are safe. If your hands are dirty with grease under the nails, you are probably worthy.

However, it gets trickier. Some of you hold fancy-pants jobs like “accountant” or “manager of quality” or “vice president of mid-market development of consumer operations southeast region.” And you may say, “hey, I, too, am bringing a product or service closer to completion!”

Help me out here – what is it exactly you are bringing closer to completion? A useless budget report that no one will read? Something terribly vague and inconsequential like “staff motivation?” Um, yeah…valuable stuff there…

General rule of thumb – if you routinely make PowerPoint presentations, clear your desk of your nameplate, snow globe, and yellowed certificates of appreciation.

A better rule of thumb is this - if you are “managing,” “directing,” “leading,” or the vice president of anything, you are probably not adding any value anywhere. Sure, you can eloquently give a rousing staff meeting discussion about the importance of controlling the supply budget, or approve a time sheet with great aplomb, but that’s all crap. It’s not moving anything forward. We don’t need time sheets and budget report-outs and parking policies, we need food and transportation and cotton-based products. On the contrary, most managers and alleged leaders actually make work more complex by introducing totally inane concepts such as reviews, controls, reports, approvals, and a host of other things that give themselves something to do.

Here is my open challenge to any large company with 6 or more layers of hierarchy – eliminate levels 2-5 – usually all managers and leaders – and see what happens. It’s just like laying off all of HR, but more satisfying. The real work – at the bottom-most level – will still get done. All the stupid work – the reports and meetings and metric dashboards – will disappear. In fact, the worker-level will become even more productive without all the interference.

It’s so ludicrous – we hire managers to manage mangers who are managing more managers, all who now need to hold meetings and demand reports to make sure that every manager is managing their reports and meetings. Meanwhile, the poor sap who needs to get a requisition approved for a half-inch box wrench so they can actually make something has to wait weeks and hear countless explanations that it is in the approval cycle and can he please write up a cost-benefit analysis projecting the savings over the next decade so his manager and his manager’s manager and the manager’s manager’s manager can all have something to sign.

Unfortunately, most companies, when they have to lay-off, go right for the bottom and actually get rid of the people who do the work, such as that guy who needs the box wrench (“that bastard, always wanting more!”). Or the mail room guy, the one who actually does something tangible, and who makes a lofty $25K a year. Meanwhile, the guy who fired him, four levels up, does nothing but come up with “concepts,” and makes $200K. That’s because the $200K guy gets to make the decision on who lives or dies.

Just for kicks, Mr. CEO, next time, layoff the leader, pocket the $200K savings, hire another mail room guy and still have $175 to throw one heck of a Christmas party.

Now, this has nothing to do with limiting immigration like all good Republicans believe because immigrants are doing jobs that no one else will do. First of all, if it is a job no one else will do, it is probably real work. Most of us like to avoid real work and would rather sit behind a desk and motivate our email to send out directives and funny, naughty videos of Sarah Palin in a bikini holding a dead opossum (which really isn’t that funny or naughty, if you think about it). Since the immigrants are willing to work, they get to stay. End of story. Welcome them with open arms and a spot on the assembly line. We need more people willing to smooth out asphalt on a southern highway in the August heat for 12 hours a day. The guy dictating the memorandum reminding people not to park in his newly paved reserved space; well, I hope he likes soup kitchens.

On a personal level, I have to admit that I, too, face being let go. I’ll let you know what my manager says after I finish converting this blog into a PowerPoint. But I am not worried; I saw a slick commercial which told me that being an immigrant is a growing field.

12 April 2008

Living Among the Cows

To live the life of a farmer! Unfathomably hard work, with incredibly long hours, but the payoff – you work for yourself, see the immediate results of your efforts, and bring food to your countrymen – must be immense. To me, it is work that actually matters. Like doctors or teachers. Unlike, say, corporate executives of retail stores. Telemarketers. Accountants. Any kind of middle manager who does nothing but take whatever is said at the top and say it again to the bottom. Farmers actually make a difference.

If you think about it, farmers have a great deal of control, and they add a great deal of value in the work they are doing. They are accomplishing tasks to bring food closer to our dinner plates. We sort of need food to survive. Compare to a company that sells sneakers, which tends to bring third-world exploitation and obnoxious marketing in exchange for their massive homes and kids with BMWs. Farming is difficult, physical work. Stressful, make-ends-meet work. But it is meaningful and self-satisfying.

I am sure the majority of the three readers of this blog have never worked as a farmer, and hence, we probably cannot comprehend this level of self-satisfaction. We see manure and splinters and getting up at 4 AM and losing an arm in the thresher. We tend to be from the corporate environment, which, as we know, is far more advanced with its organizational structural hierarchies and self-interested board room power shuffling of paper. However, if we put it in a different perspective, I think we can come to appreciate and embrace the farmer.

To achieve this perspective, let’s visit a farmer, who I call Farmer Farmer (not feeling especially creative at the moment), and imagine he is thrust into the corporate world, the one most of us are routinely intimate with…

For starters, Corporate (located in New York City) needs to know how Farmer’s farm (in Kansas) is performing. Since New York City is far from Kansas, therefore dissuading Corporate from actually seeing, experiencing, or understanding what is going on, they instead request from Farmer weekly status updates. These updates require Farmer to report the number of eggs produced, the number of eggs defective, average number of eggs produced per chicken per day, chicken utilization, number of chickens per square foot, and each chicken’s favorite color. This elaborate reporting scheme is, of course, repeated for all his cattle. Cows, unfortunately, are sub-divided into two categories; Beef Production Utilized Cattle and Non-Beef Production Milk-Only Utilized Cattle. Soon, Farmer Farmer is using acronyms like AGMPDPNBPMOUC (Average Gallons of Milk Per Day Per Non-Beef Production Milk-Only Utilized Cattle). It is phonetically pronounced “ag-MA-pud-pun-BEP-mok” for convenience.

Apparently, the figures and clever acronyms alone are not enough. Corporate prefers to have them in graphical format. Farmer, not especially schooled in charting, is sent to and spends a day in PowerPoint training. Farmer is doing such a good job at graphing that Corporate asks for more. Twice a week. With conference calls. Farmer has to answer questions like –

“You have 12 chickens not producing any eggs. Why is that?”

“Because those are roosters.”

“Hmmmm. Non-egg producing chickens; NEPCs. You’ll have to lay them off.”

“But, I need the roosters, er, NEPCs, to propagate the chickens. It gives me more chickens.”

“Have you considering outsourcing?”


“Outsourcing the rooster-work. Propagation is not one of our core competencies. We don’t pay for propagation, we pay for eggs. Come on, Farmer, do I have to think of everything?”

So the roosters are laid off, and substitute roosters are vendor-supplied in to help propagate the chicken population. The cost to hire prostitute roosters is much higher compared to actually owning the roosters, and the measure of Cost Per Egg-Producing Chickens & Un-Roosters Per Day (CPEPCURPD) rises to disturbing levels. Corporate calculates it is now cheaper to buy the eggs and re-sell them, and decides to outsource all the chickens to Mexico. 200 chickens are terminated and given severance. The Corporate Newsletter calls it “a fortunate right-sizing of our ability to satisfy our beloved customers and shareholders.”

“Well, I still have my cows,” muses Farmer Farmer.

And a new hire. Because of all the outsourcing, Corporate requires Farmer to hire a Vendor Manager who has to implement “Vendor Quality Programs.” This turns out to be a fancy title to indicate a job where you get to visit other companies and verify that they are not doing what they are being asked to do, but you get to enjoy some free dinners and a round of golf here and there. And this requires a whole new set of reports.

Farmer now spends two days a week preparing and presenting reports, some of which are never read, but deemed critical to the operation. Sort of like the Bible for most Christians. Losing two days a week is actually hampering his ability to get farm work done, such as, you know, harvesting and milking and threshing and the occasional square dance. Farmer has to hire a farm hand.

Now with two employees to manage, Corporate mandates that Farmer must execute Performance Management – that is, he has to give employees performance reviews and develop their careers in a sporadic series of humiliating meetings highlighted by forms imploring how good this is for you. Like when you fill out tax forms.

Farmer quickly assesses his two workers, and they are doing a great job. He gives them both the highest possible rating of “Outstanding.”

However, Corporate mandates that, statistically speaking, not everyone can be Outstanding, and performance must follow something called a normal curve; the number of ne’er-do-wells must equal the number of superstars. Farmer has a hard time understanding what is normal about being forced to categorize people unjustifiably. For his reasonable questioning, Farmer receives a “Needs Development.” Anyway, the quota on Outstanding is typically reserved for senior leadership as it helps accelerate their bonus. Therefore, Farmer must rate one person above average, and one below. He assigns “Outstanding” to the farm hand, and “Unmotivated But Valued Scum” to the Vendor Manager.

Shortly thereafter, the mandated, force-fed company-wide employee survey reveals that 50% of Farmer’s employees are unhappy with their job. 50%! Farmer is sent to three weeks of “leadership training” and Human Resources organizes a team building event to help improve morale. Ironically, they found a really good one in Iowa where you built camaraderie through working together on a farm for a day.

Now with two extra workers, and half of Farmer’s time spent not doing any real work, costs again rise, most noticeably in the metric Total Dollars Per Capacitized Revenue-Acre (TDPCRA). With the chickens all gone, revenue on the farm has dropped, thus implying it costs more to raise cows. Corporate, launching into action, hires a consulting group to do a 6-month study at a cost of $2 million to bring back the summary of:

“You have no chickens on your farm.”

Farmer is called to New York to discuss the summary findings over a two-day meeting, in which the report is called “alarming.” Farmer is questioned why there are no chickens.

“Don’t you remember? We outsourced all the chickens and the egg laying.”

“Who’s idea was that?”


“Of course it was my idea. And it matches the report exactly, so we must be doing exactly what is necessary to be successful.”

Corporate spends the night celebrating their obvious success and awards themselves a bonus, and gives Farmer a coffee mug with the Corporate logo. And because of the accuracy of the report, the consultants are retained in order to bring forth a recommendation to their original study. Another $1 million yields:

“Costs are too high. You have too many cows. Reduce your cow-force by 100%.”

So all the milk and beef are outsourced, and there is nothing being left produced on the farm. However, three more Vendor Managers are hired, and since they travel remotely so often, a brand spanking new computer system is installed to help greatly with managing all the different businesses spread out over so many different places. Not to mention to help expedite the PowerPoints and to add even more breath-taking animation. For the record, two Information Technology people are needed to support the system - one to install new software, and one to fix the software installations.

So, with four Vendor Managers, two Information Technology people, one Human Resource person, Corporate also adds a Financial Controller (since costs just seem to be getting worse every year), and the occasional consultant. Farmer, who is now not doing any actual farm work, is having trouble keeping up with the reports and performance reviews and budgets and those damn team building events Human Resources make him do every month. Corporate approves his request for an Assistant Farm Manager and a Director of Vendor Management.

This, of course, leads to a reorganization. And a brand new PowerPoint. T-shirts are printed and bagels served one Friday to hail the new transformation. To complete the transition, Farmer Farmer is asked to create a Vision Statement.

“A what?” Farmer asks uneasily.

“A vision statement. It’s what you want your farm to be in 3-5 years.”

“I want it to be a farm.”

“No, no, no. It must be visionary and compelling; inspiring.”

“I want it to be MY farm.”

“I see you will need our help on this, Farmer.”

So corporate hires an outside consultant for a 3-day vision development workshop held in NYC, and with travel, cost Farmer a full week. Corporate assures him it was worth it when they came up with his vision:

“Our vision is to be a world-class synergistic agricultural entity, serving with excellence our board of directors, shareholders, employees, and community in conjunction with Mother Earth and political lobbyists and God, too. Bless us all, support the troops, and free the baby seals. Amen.”

Corporate insists Farmer print it on a big plaque, put in on a barn with great fanfare, and be inspired by it.

Farmer protests. “But it… It isn’t inspiring. It doesn’t provide any real direction. It’s just a bunch of hollow words. No one will remember it, no one will refer to it, and it will never be used for anything of value.”

“I see you have an attitude problem. I imagine this is affecting the performance of your team…”

“No, for God’s sake, don’t send us back to that fucking farm in Iowa…”

At the end of one particularly tiring day, just after his return from Team Building Session 12 (“How to Manipulate Your Employees with Trinkets and Empty Praise”), Farmer retires to the beige cubicle they installed in his farmhouse. He looks out the window – he has a window office, since he is in charge, one of the great perks bestowed upon him – and gazes across the abandoned fields that used to be his until everything but the house was sold off. He fills out his electronic time sheet and submits it, and reflects back on the day. He spent…

Three hours in meetings to review last month’s results; the “ag-MA-pud-pun-BEP-mok” is not doing well, and two committees were appointed; one to find out why and one to come up with a better sounding acronym;
Found some excellent cow-porn on-line;
Submitted a Request for Purchasing Approval to Corporate for a $4 mouse pad;
Learned how to add sounds like ‘applause’ to his PowerPoint presentations;
Glued the Human Resource person’s stapler to their desk, just for laughs;
Took a catnap in the bathroom stall; and
Drew the conclusion that it is a lot easier to shovel real cow manure than to live metaphorically in it for a lifetime with leaders who are stupider than cows.

24 March 2008

It's Mondale Time

When I was a teenager, I worked in a restaurant – a Ponderosa, home of fast-food steak. I used to be able to cook over 100 cow-parts in an hour. We called it “shoveling shit.” Anyway, I was part of the opening crew on the weekends and we would come in early and setup for the day. The manager wouldn’t arrive until later, so we generally acted how teenagers would act when left alone in a restaurant - hide carrots in people’s coats, stick your hand in a tub of French dressing, and lock each other in the meat freezer. Once, Cheri, a member of the setup crew, asked to be given a tour of the men’s bathroom, as she had never been in one before. Of course, I acquiesced.

She walked in and saw the urinal.

“What is that?” she inquired

“That’s a special sink,” I replied, with the appropriate amount of confident enthusiasm.

“A special sink for what?”

“Well, some men are prone to dry skin, so this sink has water which is rich in minerals to help add moisture.” I flushed (the urinal, not me) for effect.

“Then what’s that?” she asked, pointing at the little deodorant cake sitting in the basin of the urinal.

“That’s a special abrasive soap used for removing the dead skin.”

I could sense her disbelief, so I added “Mr. Carrier uses it all the time.” Mr. Carrier was one of the restaurant managers.

“Ohhhhh. I didn’t know that.”

Satisfied, the tour ended. When Mr. Carrier arrived, Cheri asked him about his hands. Mr. Carrier was bit perplexed that anyone would think he washed his hands in a urinal.

Anyway, the point of is to highlight the similarities between this story and the current presidential brouhaha.

The American public is represented by Cheri – easily led, easily amused, easily easy. I represented the presidential candidates – I make stuff up and Americans blindly buy in. Based on the current crop of candidates, we Americans have been fooled to wash our hands in the urinal. Over and over again.

I have never seen so many Democrats and Republicans unsure and uncommitted of their candidates. The hopefuls are too black, too female, or not evil enough. And they all are incompetent to run the country.

Now, perhaps, if I were a woman, I would vote for Clinton (either the woman-Clinton or the limelight-hogging, womanizing bastard-version; I have trouble at times deciding who the real candidate is). If I were black, it could be enough reason to vote for Obama or possibly Will Smith (except he’s white). If I were into frozen potatoes, McCain might be my man. If I were a sex offender, my vote goes to Nader (OK, so maybe Ralph isn’t really a sex offender, but he looks like one).

I fail to mention Huckabee, and not because he dropped out. It’s just that no one in their right mind would vote for anyone named Huckabee. It sounds like a Mississippi-based catfish-only restaurant with special hand-washing urinals.

Speaking of Nader, in the 2000 election, my kids and I started a Ralph Nader web site. We wrote a story about how Nader, upon losing the election, became a tripe salesman in Florida for a Japanese company called the Happy Lucky Sunshine Fun-Time Tripe Company. We noted how he won the coveted salesman of the month award, therefore easing the pain of his most recent election defeat.

We also wrote about how people would fall into the meat processing machines and get grinded into tripe hot dogs and subsequently served to the public.

I am surprised my children are not in prison yet.

Truth be told, politicians and their political parties are idiots. Republicans and Democrats are two very different breeds of idiots, however.

On the Republican side, one could argue they are masters of intellect for figuring out how fear can be leveraged into a political platform. In their narrowly-focused world of supreme right, they at least focus on one issue – world domination. That’s it. They have not swayed from this stance ever since the Revolutionary War. We won that one, and we can – no, rather, we are required to by God – to win them all. It’s in the bible; Cheney 6:66.

Not only does this include owning everything from the oil fields to the ice caps, but in keeping America physically isolated. I was once in a small town in the Czech Republic, and the homes were all surrounded by high walls. Broken glass lined the top of each wall, just in case anyone tried to climb over. This model has served as the Republican immigration policy.

Yes, world domination is a stupid plan. Liberating/terrorizing Iraq is a stupid plan. George Bush is a stupid man with this stupid plan. Yet we keep voting him in. This, I find, is not only embarrassing to the Democratic party, but clearly illustrates how their little minds haven’t figured out how to kill a dead elephant. Their guns are loaded, they have them pointed at the immobile beast, and they pull the trigger and poo comes out.

For starters, in the last two elections, the Democrats have faced George W. Bush. In the 2004 election, Bush’s approval ratings were so insanely abysmal that even a block of wood could have won. In 2000, Bush’s first run, we probably didn’t fully realize how moronic he is, so the Democrats might have needed something with a tad more substance to win the election. A toaster would have sufficed.

But, no, they gave us Al Gore – a self-indulgent, pompous, windbag block of wood – and John Kerry – a rich, pretentious block of wood from the palace of Massachusetts. Having grown up in Massachusetts, and having done a quite a bit of traveling, I realize that most of the United States hates Massachusetts. Justified or not, it doesn’t matter. It’s candidates are boring (Kerry), have 18 wives (Mitt Romney), have unbelievable first names (Mitt Romney), have more money then Iowa (Mitt Romney), or believe on taking their date for a swim off a bridge (Ted Kennedy).

Bottom line for the Democrats is if they want to win an election, they must have a candidate who follows NASCAR.

I did accomplish a 2008 New Year’s Resolution, which was to watch the entire Daytona 500. I am not a NASCAR fan; not in the least, but it is something I can put on my résumé. During the four hours of motoring, the commentators did a lot of yippin’ and yee-hawin.’ I now understood what wins elections – gophers.

You see, they had this little cartoon gopher who would pop up from the screen from a cartoon hole. His name is Digger, and he wears cartoon goggles, and as the real-life race cars come varooming across the screen, he animatedly panics and ducks back into his hole. The commentators – grown men – all would giggle with glee and say things like “look out, Digger!” or “uh-oh! Digger better git movin’!”

NASCAR, apparently, is aimed at the 8-12 year-old market. More accurately, the American public has been conditioned to act like 8-12 year olds who are (a) into world domination and (b) not into blocks of wood or toasters.

The learning point for the Democrats is to ditch Obama and Clinton, and get a cartoon gopher. McCain wouldn’t stand a chance. Just imagine the debate:

John McCain: “I learned about integrity from Viet Nam..and courage…and the American dream can only be fulfilled with a strong sense of family…and frozen potato-type products…”

Digger: “Woo-hoo! Carburetor!”

Gopher 1, McCain 0.

Think about it – would a gopher take the rubber strainer at the bottom of the urinal and run it through the industrial dishwasher of a restaurant, the very same dishwasher used to wash the dishes the customers eat off of? Would a gopher use cooking tongs, the very same cooking tongs used to cook steaks, to pick up the strainer from the urinal and place in the dishwasher? I think not. And the lesson here is to not only to never, ever eat in a restaurant employed with teenagers, but we know this shit happens and we keep going to the same restaurant.

We know all these candidates are moral felons. Seriously. They exploit the taxpayer’s dollars, waste our time, lie about themselves and each other; they snipe and bitch and pretend, pretend, and fucking pretend to be someone they are not. They market themselves. And marketing, as you should know, is a bunch of lies conceived to get us to buy something. The harder one markets, the bigger piece of crap they are trying to sell.

There is very little integrity, just pontifications and the proper words a speech writer figured out we would latch onto. Anyone buying into their cocked rhetoric is washing their hands in the urinal. And some of us are eating from it, too.

That said, I voted for Walter Mondale.

There, I admitted it. It’s like going to confession and telling the priest you take steak out of the trash – the one that originally fell on the floor - and put it back on the restaurant grill because you were one short.

Now, to be honest, I was very young, and did not know Walter all that well, and he was probably a crook like the rest of them. But he seemed like a decent guy. His opposition was the dreaded Ronald Reagan, who at the time, was universally hated by anyone under 25, including gophers. But I did not vote for Mondale in order to vote against his opposition, I voted for Mondale the Man, Mondale the Marauder, Mondale the...well, loser.

He did not stand a chance. He lost against Reagan (evil triumphs), 42 million electoral votes to 13. Jello Biafra, of the Dead Kennedys, went on to include him in a monologue, saying that “Mondale” would be a great name for a band. Walter had to feel humiliated; worst landslide in presidential election history, and the only one paying him tribute is someone called Jello from band named after Massachusetts (ack!) politicians.

I don’t even feel like we have a Mondale. Or even a toaster. That makes me sad.

We – the American public – have already voted in actors, sports figures, and a “professional” wrestler. Because we recognized their brand name. Ask Jesse Ventura. Nice work, Minnesota (home to Walter Mondale, coincidentally).

All because we have to vote for someone, right? Because we – for whatever reasons – don’t want to spend the time and effort supporting someone we believe in, no matter what little chance they stand. Whether a president or town council, senator to school board, it’s so much easier to sit idly every four years, complain, and then vote in the lesser of a thousand corpses. Frankly, I get tired into buying in the pre-selections. I, too, am guilty of being politically nonchalant and inactive, of whining (see previous one million words). But my complacency does not require me to vote for someone who is a tool, and I don’t feel the least bit guilty or un-American in ignoring my privilege. It’s my privilege to not vote for a jerk. I refuse to vote for idiots, liars, and thieves.

Bu that’s fine. The next election will be upon us before we realize, and I am sure we will get someone with a trace of integrity.

OK, America. Time to get jiggy. Will Smith, 2012.

17 February 2008

Twelve Inches Taller Than Usual

The Bobka Girl turned to me, saw my benevolent grin, and asked with her own beaming smile, “why are you so happy?”

I can’t recall my answer exactly, namely since I stumbled over my tongue and recited phrases-sans-verbs.

But the Bobka Girl’s observation cannot be denied. I wasn’t just happy; I was stupidly, unambiguously, ludicrously happy. I was perfect in my spot.

I know, this isn’t something to over-question or poke at with a skewer; however, for me, it was a revealing moment to be prodded.

No, wait, that’s a lie. Nothing was revealed, there wasn’t an epiphany.

It was just coming face-to-face with a collection of gratifying details; like the leaves of autumn at your feet. Pretty, yes; but if you ate them, they would taste good, too.

No matter what, everything at this moment would taste good.

And why not? Well, for starters, as the song goes -

I’m paranoid, I may be skeptical, I’m also hesitant, and I’m cynical.

Autobiographical, yes, but I will not delve into its boring depths at this time. Let’s just say that finding the perfect spot where even the leaves taste good is a welcome affair. The song where the aforementioned line resides is Super Sunday Hamster Blender’s The Love Behind Our Backs, which is actually passionately optimistic. And singing it Friday night at the Hall of Fame Billiards; well, I don’t think I have ever been happier singing. Which isn’t too shabby for someone who really – let’s be honest – cannot sing. The stage lights helped blur the faces of the crowd, and I felt blind to my own self-consciousness; alone in my own glorious skin.

But I wasn’t alone. The brothers’ backing vocals gave me the chills. It swelled around me, and I wanted to rip each word out of the air and swallow it. I imagine I might have actually been smiling during the song.

So, yes, Bobka Girl, you are correct. I am so happy. Happy you let us share your 21st birthday with you, your friends, and your family.

I am happy and – forgive the religious overtones – blessed to be able to play in a band with your Dad and a pair of Uncles. They are amazing to work with. Besides tolerant and patient with my unsubstantiated Stalin-esque qualities at times (“Continuity! We need more continuity!”), they are talented, modest, and remarkable people.

Just to be able to play out in our goofy little band, and have family and friends be supportive. To come see us, to spend their night with us, all the kind words and encouragement – shit, yeah, happy. Why not? Blessed, thankful, you name it. Friends do that for you.

Hell, I got to sing from a stage. OK, it was more like a platform a foot off the ground, but still, it was a place where I wasn’t accustomed to be, and it felt like being an eight-year-old on Christmas morning. Trivial, sure, but not insignificant.

There wasn’t anything insignificant…

…Kara and her SSHBWear, all torn and saucy. Andrew and Cee Dev, capturing moments from behind their respective lenses. Recent New England transplant and co-worker Pickles, coming by herself, making the grave error in telling me her nickname is Pickles, to see what? Us? Who the fuck are we? Everyone’s time, effort…

…Bobka Girl’s flat-mate Leah (I apologize for the spelling, as it is probably wrong) singing all those horrid Third Eye Matchbox Goo Goo songs, word for word…and still liking our music. Maybe that inspired her to kick Cam’s ass in pool. James/Jim talking about Minor Threat, just like my kids…

Yeah, my two kids, who began a band before SSHB had any amoeba of an idea of playing out. When Dan and I saw them play and how they just went and did it – learning to sing and play guitar, writing their own songs, booking themselves in bars and playing their hearts out in billiard halls like this; well, it became reality for us. Maybe we could do that, too. If it weren’t for them, I never would have had my platform moment.

Maybe it was the smattering of collegians in attendance bringing my kids to mind, but in talking with the Bobka Girl – who remembered us playing Waterfalls in practice a decade ago, playing with Peachy the Chicken with my kids – I recognized her sense of independence, optimism, and confidence that mine have as well.

And that makes me happiest of all. Something about having faith in them – in youth, I suppose; theirs, ours – that keeps us on the platform, one foot higher than we are accustomed to.

I imagine it would be very easy to become accustomed to, and it’s probably easier than I think. How’s that saying go? Something like “you don’t stop playing when you get old, you get old when you stop playing.” It’s just a platform. And the leaves taste pretty good up here.

Super Sunday Hamster Blender sincerely thanks Gene’s family and friends, The Bobka Girl for letting us dominate her party, and all our friends who came to see us.

15 December 2007

Not a Creature Was Stirring, Not Even a Sheep

Being the Christmas season, and being as religious as I am, I thought it would be appropriate to address the meaning of the season. As the saying goes, “Jesus is the reason for the season, and Judas is the reason for the treason, and Mary Magdalene is for squeezin’ and for pleasin.’” At least that’s what they say in Kentucky.

Speaking of Mary, wasn’t The DaVinci Code the absolute worst movie ever? Talk about blasphemy; totally wasting the talent of French actor Jean Reno and French actress Audrey Tautou in one film. Why couldn’t Mr. Reno stick with classic scripts, like those he enjoyed in Rollerball and Le Godzilla? And Tom Hanks; well, he was just stupid. With bad hair. Really, really bad hair. It made me miss his masterful films of yesteryear, like Bachelor Party.

Basically, it comes down to this – I want Audrey Tautou for Christmas.

OK, granted, I think I am developing an addiction to bug-eyed girls (although I should probably avoid saying bug-eyed out of respect and to avoid a faux pas – that’s French, for my dear Audrey – and instead refer to them as wide-eyed, or, perhaps googly-eyed). I am also smitten by the girl, Sara, in the Ford commercial; the one where she is riding in the back seat of some odious looking vehicle staring out the moon roof, totally oblivious, totally thinking about me. She, too, has big bug, er, wide eyes. And being oblivious means she could possibly tolerate me. Anime works, too. And anime’s best deal is that they aren’t even real. I think you get a decent tax break for imaginary spouses.

Anyway, I was thinking how we have been paying homage to Jesus like good Christians for centuries by lavishing each other with gifts. What represents good Christian love more than a Nintendo Wii? Especially if you give it to yourself. Yes, Jesus got his chain totally yanked by Christmas. At his birth, he got myrrh and manure, but Mary and Joe Christ definitely scoffed them up, just like when you got US Savings Bonds for your birthday and Mom and Dad held onto them “for college” and then chartered a cruise.

I found some myrrh online for $10.99. The wise men were not only wise, but cheap. And myrrh was used for embalming and cremations. What a nice gift. Nothing says Merry Christmas, Baby Jesus like funeral home supplies.

OK, so the wise men probably did not say “Merry Christmas” for Jesus’ birth. They probably said “Happy Birthday” or “Merry Birthday.” I would have said “Myrrhy Birthday,” laughed sheepishly and moved to the back of the stable.

Laughing sheepishly in a stable means you go “baa baa ha ha ha.”

It is time to payback Jesus. Not with the emptiness of blind worship, but rather, with prototypical Christian materialism. Pretty much the entire US population, save for nuns, monks, and anime characters, have acted selfishly and ignorantly. We bestow each other with gifts and totally forget the reason for the bleatin’ (baa baa ha ha ha). Imagine if we all decided to throw Jesus a real birthday party with real gifts. And a Judas-shaped piñata. It would almost be as important as the Super Bowl. I know what you are thinking – Jesus is hard to shop for. I mean, he’s the Son of God. My advice is to not get too hung up on titles, and instead, examine what he has – a bed sheet and a diaper for clothes, some Birkenstocks, a clothesline-sized cross, and poor personal hygiene. You can get this man anything.

My short list of gifts for a Jesus B-Day Bash includes the DVD Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter, a gift certificate to The Grooming Lounge, the DVD Amelie starring Audrey Tautou, some CDs by Stryper, a trip to Hedonism, funeral home supplies, and a snake .

Jesus and a snake! How cool would that be? It be would be, like, so punk rock, so hardcore. Jesus would be pumped!

“Holy shit! A snake! Fuckin’-A, man! I cannot believe it! I…I don’t know what to say…this is the best gift ever. Bless you…bless you, man.”

And then Jesus would totally ignore the rest of the gifts and play with his pet snake. Other people; you know, like Tom Hanks, would be “hey, Jesus, open my gift…c’mon Jesus…it’s great… I got you a rose bush.”

Faux pas, Tom! You idiot! Roses? Did you ever think about the thorns? Did you ever stop to think that Jesus may have a few bad memories about thorns? Tom Hanks can be such an insensitive dumb shit, sometimes.

Audrey Tautou giggles at my calling out of Tom and holds my hand and whispers in my ear “he’s such a dick.” Except she says it in French, because she took French I, II, and III in high school, and it sounds like “heez sutch a deek.”

Which reminds me of fifth grade. We were in a French language class, and placed into pairs and asked to develop a short dialogue, all in French. We would then perform our little skit in front of the class. Well, these two guys get up and start their deal. It’s going OK until one of them says “litz isk did.” Madame Williamine, our teacher, asks them to repeat.

“Litz isk did.”

Madame is perplexed. “What is it you are trying to say?”

One of the boys replies (sheepishly, no less), “Let’s ask Dad.”

Christ, that was the best thing ever.

So, anyway, to get back on track, I tell this little anecdote to Audrey, and she giggles again and she agrees to marry me and Jean Reno is my best man at our wedding. The band is Jesus and the Punk Rock Snakes because Jesus loved his snake so much it inspired him to form the band and he got signed to Hellcat Records. The band plays our wedding song, which happens to be Nine Inch Nails’ “We’re in This Together Now,” which they totally crucify and even though I am not a big Nine Inch Nails’ fan, I love this song, having blown the speakers in my ’94 Corolla with it. You just can’t blow your speakers playing The Righteous Brothers, Christopher Cross, or Vanilla Ice, like so many have tried.

I hope to God you picked up on the crucify, Nails, and Cross references.

There was a movie on the other day that starred Vanilla Ice. It was called Cool As Ice, and he plays a biker or pet store owner, I can’t recall. Anyway, Audrey and I rent it since we like to watch bad movies and make fun of them, but I trick her and I put in The DaVinci Code and she is, like, “oh, you bastard!” but with giggling and in French so it comes out as “litz isk did!” Whenever she speaks French, I have no idea what she is saying, so I nod enthusiastically and laugh back and give her diamonds. She finds this endearing and always plays Nintendo Wii with me. I make a little Mii character (for those who don’t have a Wii, a Mii is a type of Aviator, like Leonardo DeCaprio) of Audrey. It has huge, bug eyes.

Happy birthday, J-Dog.

19 November 2007

Three Gallons of Water With Brains, Please

Who had a particularly disastrous last two months? And who was prepared for those disasters? Yes, prepared. You had warning, since September was billed as National Preparedness Month. I pretty much missed it. I guess I was unprepared.

So, yes, September was officially and federally designated as National Preparedness Month. Besides preparedness being awfully clumsy to say, it’s also awfully clumsy to do. Supposedly, this month was to make us aware of and be prepared for the many dangers lurking overhead, underfoot, and in our hearts. I imagine the reason they dedicated a whole month is because we have a boatload of worries to be prepared for, and, even then, a month hardly seems like enough time. Besides the usual slew of natural disasters – earthquakes, hurricanes, blizzards, Republicans – we also have to worry about terrorists, peace activists, vegetarians, vegans, mini-vans, mini-vegans, octogenarians, demons, aliens, cavemen, dinosaurs, canker sores, bed sores, bed bugs, computer bugs, email viruses, the Catholic diocese, and, of course, the giant squid.

When does it end? It doesn’t. The list is too big, too overwhelming, and I have a regular day job which prevents me from being prepared (add driving-into-Hartford as another terror to prepare against).

So what does one do? Cower in the basement and play Halo all day, every day? Absolutely. But that’s not being prepared, that’s being re-active. We want to be pro-active (which is a hell of a lot better than being amateur-active). Checking out the web site is one place to start, although like most government initiatives such as flying cars and common sense, they are woefully inadequate. Apparently, the answer to just about everything is to have 3 days of food and 3 gallons of water on hand per person. And a flashlight, a whistle, TV Guide, batteries for your wireless XBOX controllers, and a fully-staffed hospital. I really don’t see how having 3 gallons of water is going to discourage a giant squid invasion when obviously they will be craving all the water they can find.

However, in defense of this site, it is tough to be prepared for everything. Certainly, having some rusted water and stale saltines around will help if you find yourself trapped inside for minutes during a light drizzle, and I encourage everyone to begin hoarding supplies and burying them randomly throughout your neighborhood. But we also must prioritize, and spend our precious preparedness on the most imminent dangers. Lucky for you, I have boiled them down to The Top Three Major Magnum-10 Magenta Threat Level Dangers to the United States and Its Developing Colony of Arkansas:

Number 3 Threat - Zombies

In case you haven’t noticed, zombies have taken it up a notch over the last few years. Zombie Model 1.0 – from the 50’s and 60’s – were a slow, stupid plodding bunch, similar to the elderly driving in the highway passing lane. Or the Democratic party. The current Zombie Model 2.0 can now run. They are also smarter; beginning to learn how to use tools and other intuitive devices, such as iPods. The zombie threat, once easily extinguished with fleet feet and a two-by-four to the head, has now intensified, requiring us to be much savvier in our preparation.

Your company or school certainly has emergency evacuation procedures, so I would immediately inquire on special precautions relative to a zombie outbreak. Chances are these procedures were last updated in 1967, and simply tell you to “run faster than them.” The authorities may look at you a bit funny when you approach them on this matter, and may even scoff and ask for proof that the undead are even a threat. Scoff back, and remind them that The Police toured this year.

The changes to be made are basic. For example, an update could include:

“Zombies tend to go to places familiar to them when they were alive, such as shopping malls. Instead, seek safety in places where no human would ever go, like Dick Cheney’s house,” or

“Kill Sting. He’s the leader.”

Since a zombie outbreak can occur suddenly and multiply rapidly, you need to always be ready. Unfortunately, carrying the anti-zombie weapons of choice – the shotgun, or Microsoft Vista – is frowned upon in most of the United States (except for the Developing Colony of Arkansas). As an acceptable and temporary measure, please carry spare brains in your pockets, backpacks, and handbags at all times. If a zombie comes, toss a couple of lobes at them to keep them momentarily occupied while you make your getaway to Dick Cheney’s house. And you know Dick will have a shotgun or eleven available.

Number 2 Threat - Anything that starts with a lower-case “e”

You know how this goes – eWhatever, to signify some vast cyber-intellect and post-modern info-twaddle. It started with eMail, then eBusiness. eMarketing. eBanking. eCommerce. eCards. eJesusHChrist.

The "e" stands for electronic, and has come to symbolize anything that has to do with a computer, tangled cables, or dance music. Once upon a time, back when we were still trying to figure out why everyone in the Twentysomething Chat Room was fortysomething, email was called Electronic Mail. Then it became e-mail. Then, the hyphen disappeared and now email passes spell check. Next thing you know, we get off playing The Sims. Of course, fortysomethings all pretend to be twentysomething.

This is akin to a viral infection. Pretty soon we are putting lower-case e’s on eVerything:

eVil – electronic evil; cyber-devil, Bill Gates
eTernity – electronic eternal life, Bill Gates
eWoks – small, furry, and unfunny electronic Asian cooking apparatus that just about ruined Return of the Jedi with their second-grade theatrics
eAster –a Christian religious holiday that resurrects eJesus into small, furry, & unfunny rabbits who deposit colorful cyber-eggs (“junk mail”) into your eMail account.

And do not get me started on the on-line self-prostitution service, eHarmony. Electronic harmony? What the fuck is that? Has anyone ever achieved harmony with electrons? Anyone who has a Windows-based PC certainly hasn’t, with all its crashing and infections and crapping all over the floor.

Not to mention that Apple, realizing that all the e’s were being taken, turned to i’s - iPod, iTunes, iPhone, iCult. Microsoft, not wanting to be left behind, went for the next available vowel – “7.”

The best defense against this menace is primarily not to use the e-terminology and instead, say “electronic” or anything else of your choosing. Preferably in a British accent. For example, start calling “email” “shitmail” around your company. Be consistent, and it will catch on. ShitHarmony works for me, too.

As a precaution, please also avoid using sister terms like cyber and virtual. I actually heard a high-level senior business leader say “we need to socially organize virtually.” As a business strategy. Not “we have to make more money than we spend” or something meaningful. He might as well as said “I like beets.” What an asshole.

Number 1 Threat - Work

First of all, work does not come with any warnings. No one tells you once you start working, you have sold your soul and every dream you ever had, the company you work for really does not give a shit about you despite the avalanche of free t-shirts and “we care” sloganeering pasted in dingy cafeterias, you will be trivialized and humiliated by performance reviews or team building events, you will endure unheard levels of frustration and depression watching so-called self-diagnosed leadership trumpet overused jargon and bring no value to the organization yet enjoy pay and bonus eclipsing yours many, many, many times over.

Actually, the only warning you probably got was perfumed advice from your graduation speaker telling you how much you can the influence the world and spread your wings and soar into the gossamer heavens. Chances are, your graduation speaker only got this honor by acquiring their position and status through cheating, lying, sleeping around, and stealing cable. Do me a favor, think of their speech five years after your first job, right after you sit in your performance review and are rated as “average” (read as “mediocre and barely tepid”), given a stellar 1.5% raise, and you finish plotting the murder of your graduation day speaker.

This endless, droning highway faced by college and college-bound hooligans is paved with absurdity – you pay to go to college, and in return, they educate you and you get a degree, which helps you get a job. The tables are turned; when you get that job, you get paid now, and in exchange, you give up everything you learned in college, not to mention your integrity, optimism, and dreams.

All you punk rockers, metal heads, liberal activists, idealists, zealots, Mac owners, compulsive flossers - anyone who stands on their principles – as soon as you start taking money and you toss aside those principles so you can buy power, sex, and shiny objects, you are eFucked. You sold out. Next thing you know you are sitting in a three-hour meeting hearing about “socially organizing virtually” while you’re daydreaming about going to Home Depot to admire the new paint color called Martha Stewart’s Placenta which might do wonders for the family room.

An excellent test of your work-futility is to try and explain what you do to some kids. If you feel yourself struggling and cringing (“Mommy makes sure people stick to their budgets, and a budget is…oh, fuck this…), then you’ve been assimilated in the working place of the damned. There are, of course, notable exceptions. Some occupations are very easy to explain without embarrassment, especially if you’re a cowboy, astronaut, or pelican.

Unfortunately, unless you find a job you love – which usually means you are doing something obscenely overpaid and adds no value to society, such as athletes, celebrities, and senators – you are screwed. Your best preparation is to accept this fact as soon as you can, and try to beat the system from the inside. The best way to be prepared for an impending lifetime of poorly paid hell is to have a plan of survival measures all based on actually working as little as possible. Now, technology is working against you, since they can see every site you surf and every piece of electronic shitmail you send. So you must resort to more primitive (i.e., classic) means. Taking naps in the bathroom stalls, making up religious holidays, planting heroin in your boss’s desk, wrapping both of arms entirely in black electrical tape and saying you have carpal tunnel syndrome, hiding every computer power cord in the office, releasing hundreds of mice, are all effective survival measures.

And carry some brains with you. Work tends to be the breeding ground for the undead.