Thursday, February 28, 2008

The funnies

Leave it to people with more creative cynicism (and evidently more free time) than me to turn my least favorite cartoon strips into two of the funniest websites I've ever run across. The first is Marmaduke Explained, which, you guessed it, explains why the daily Marmaduke cartoon is supposed to be funny in 500 words or less. Here's an example with a typically Marmadukian scenario in which the oversized Great Dane is dragging his Owner Man behind him on a walk:

Marmaduke destroyed his owner-family's mailbox (and probably a number of other things) during his afternoon walk with his owner-man. Owner-Man makes light of the mailbox situation to his wife, yet another example of how the bulk of their communication is a numb, disconnected and empty series of weak jokes and ironic understatements deployed in order to distance themselves from the horror and futility of spending their lives as the prisoner-slaves of their powerful, self-serving ogre of a dog.

This site has been a steady stream of amusement ever since I first stumbled across it a year or so ago. It's well worth browsing through the archives to find the tasty bits about Marmaduke, the Owner Lady, and frottage. If my cubicle neighbors were ever wondering why I randomly choke on laughter, this is it.

Another revision of the Sunday Funnies worth checking out is Garfield Minus Garfield, in which someone with access to Photoshop strips every Garfield cartoon of the fat, lasagna-loving cat, leaving Jon looking like a sad, delusional man with predictably humorous results. Check it out:

Monday, February 25, 2008

Been busier than Javier Bardem

As any long-time reader of this blog can attest to, I don't lead a particularly bloggable life. This past weekend, however, was unusually action packed. The big news is that I'm an uncle! My sister gave birth to her first kid Saturday afternoon at 12:46 p.m., after a prolonged labor that started Thursday or Wednesday. The extended labor had everyone worried, but after several phone calls from my folks (mostly of the "Hi, we're calling to tell you that we don't have any new news" variety) everyone is now happy and healthy. In case you are interested, my new niece has brown hair like her favorite uncle, and also like her favorite uncle she is a Pisces. The extra good news is that little Zoe now takes off any pressure on me to beget grandchildren for my parents for the time being.

While becoming a parent will undoubtedly change my sister's life forever, my life also started down a new, exciting, and irrevocably nerdy path this last weekend. Say goodbye to normal socializing, books, television, bathing, shaving, feeding the cats, or giving a damn what the neighbors think: I got a Wii! The wife won it on eBay, and while it was technically supposed to be a birthday present for yours truly for the following week, when the UPS man finally delivered it on Friday (waiting till the last possible, infuriating minute, I might add) there was just no sense in keeping it locked up. And, O sweet Jeebus, I am never leaving the house again. It is ridiculously fun.

Now, I've never been hugely into video games -- in fact, I haven't owned a new gaming system since I had the 32X adaptor for my Sega Genesis, and even then the only thing that got me going was Road Rash II -- but the Wii has the sort of intuitively fun gameplay that appeals to a wide cross-section of demographics that happens to include both me and my wife. We played it pretty much non-stop this weekend, and already we've almost beaten the final Star Battle in Mario Party 8. My entire right arm is sore from all the thwacking, swinging, shooting, jumping, and sawing. The pain will go down eventually, right?

This was an extraordinarily generous gift from my wife -- especially considering how our early days of "dating" consisted of her coming over to my apartment to watch me and my stoned friends play Soul Caliber -- so this tells me that I was an even better husband than I had realized on Valentine's Day.

Speaking of dating, the wife and I actually had a decent excuse to get dressed up on Saturday night. After a dinner of Persian cuisine and chocolate milkshakes, we indulged in a little musical theatre with the traveling Broadway production of Avenue Q, playing at the Fabulous Fox Theatre (which features an elaborate "Siamese Byzantine" interior that truly is fabulous). The musical centers around a group of Sesame Street-esque puppets searching for their purpose in life, in affordable (read: slummy) apartments in New York City. The songs touched on racism, shadenfreude, closeted homosexuality, masturbation, and, most poignantly, "What Do You Do With a BA in English?" That's something I've been asking myself for these past four years. Despite the unnecessary Gary Coleman jokes (he was the super of the building), it was a really enjoyable production.

All in all, it was quite a weekend. Enough excitement to get me through my first five-day work week in some time, I expect.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


...and looking for something to do. Any recommendations?

Friday, February 15, 2008


Big day for Senator McCain. Today his former rival Mitt Romney endorsed the old man, with the grapevine also abuzz over a possible endorsement from George the Elder for the ex-POW. My only thought on the matter is this: if McCain wins the general election in November, my dad could have a second career as a presidential impersonator for at least the next four years. Could be interesting.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Happy VD!

Ah, Valentine's Day. My favorite time of year to pay tribute to the patron saint of generic S-shaped diamond pendants and artificial sentiment. Originally, the wife and I had planned to forego buying each other presents and instead put the money toward our trip in March (why spend Spring Break in Indianapolis when for a few dollars more you can go to, say, Jamaica?). But while she was verbally OK with that agreement, she also managed to drop enough clandestine hints to suggest that I would be a predictably unromantic cheapskate if I didn't get my new wife something to celebrate our first Valentine's together as a married couple. (She will, of course, deny this was her plan but I'm not as slow as I look. Women! Am I right, or am I right?) And considering I had completely skipped out on Sweetest Day, which was apparently a no-no even though as a holiday it's more contrived than Earth Day, there was an expectation to deliver this time around.

My excuse of "But baby, every day is like Valentine's Day when you're with me" no longer seems to get as much mileage as it used to, if it ever got me anywhere

So while the wife was out at her grad class last night, I headed out to the mall. The mall, if you've ever been, is hell on earth. Everything about it is designed to make you feel inadequate. Out in the parking lot, you're feeling snazzy and confident about your appearance and demeanor. And then as soon as you enter the sliding glass doors you feel like a pig farmer caught on To Catch a Predator. Your hair is a few locks into mullet territory. Your teeth are too yellow. Your skin is shiny. Your fingernails are packed with some undistinguishable grime. Your coat has too much cat hair on it. Your shirt isn't fitted properly and your pants haven't been washed in weeks. Your shoes are scuffed beyond the help of a shoeshine boy. It's a depressing experience, is what I'm driving at. I can see why so many people my age are in mountains of credit card debt - going to the mall to punish their self-esteem and buy expensive items they don't need to feel better about themselves.

I got in, got what I wanted, and got out. Okay, it wasn't exactly that easy. I got lost on my way driving to the mall (the highway is closed and I thought I was being clever with a shortcut; I was not), I parked in front of Dillard's and then got lost wandering around Dillard's trying to find a way out into the mall (hidden behind the perfume counters); and then I got lost walking furiously around the second floor of the mall trying to find the handbag of my pursuit (turns out the store was on the first floor). And then I impulse bought some earrings. I spent way more than my original budget of $0 allowed.

Back at home, I strategically hid a variety of eight different animal Valentine's cards with sickendingly cute expressions like "You're Purr-fect" (kittens) or "Valentine, I think you're fetching" (puppy with a stick), each with a temporary tattoo of the appropriate critter, to be dispensed at various times throughout the course of the day. I stowed away the gifts and the box of heart-shaped chocolates I had bought a long time ago. Last but not least, I finalized the playlist of the Valentine's Day mix CD I had been working on in lieu of actually updating my music blog (sorry Scotter!). The playlist, if you need any help on your own, goes a little something like this:
  1. The Lucksmiths - Adolescent Song of Mindless Devotion
  2. The Magnetic Fields - Absolutely Cuckoo
  3. Sakert! - Sanningsdan
  4. Jon Brion - Knock Yourself Out
  5. Belle & Sebastien - I'm a Cuckoo (Avalanches remix)
  6. The Shins - Strange Powers (Magnetic Fields cover)
  7. Tullycraft - Twee
  8. Brendan Benson - Alternative to Love
  9. Beulah - If We Can Land a Man on the Moon, Surely I Can Win Your Heart
  10. Saturday Looks Good To Me - Ultimate Stars
  11. Hidden Cameras - A Miracle
  12. The 6ths - You You You You You
  13. She and Him - Why Do You Let Me Stay Here?
  14. They Might Be Giants - Love is Eternity
  15. The Unicorns - Sea Ghost
  16. Devendra Banhart - Lover
  17. The Rosebuds - What Can I Do?
  18. Apples in Stereo - Seems So
  19. Go Sailor - Bigger Than an Ocean
  20. Ladybug Transistor - Splendor in the Grass
  21. of Montreal - Nickee Coco and the Invisible Tree
  22. The Rentals - The Love I'm Searching For
  23. Adam Green - Dance With Me
  24. The Mountain Goats - Going to Georgia
  25. The Zombies - This Will Be Our Year

It's not easy making a mix for someone who shares your entire music collection, so obviously there are going to be songs on it that she's familiar with, but I think I managed to sneak in mostly new stuff on there for her. It's a tad twee-heavy, but I needed a theme to work with.

The rest of the day will include kabobs at our favorite neighborhood restaurant, followed by gelato at our favorite dessert place until the Ted Drewe's Frozen Custard stand reopens in the spring. Oh, and keeping the wife away from the computer until after she's received everything she's gonna get.

Do you think this will earn me any romance points? Nah, who am I kidding, I'm just barely skating by on even.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mystery Kibbitzer

I saw in the news today that the Coen brothers have acquired the screen rights to film Michael Chabon's novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union. (Okay, not that I consider Variety magazine to be the "news" or that I check it regularly, or ever, but this is exciting news nevertheless.) I can't imagine a better-suited team to handle the mixture of mystery and comedy that pervaded the novel than the Coen brothers. In fact, the entire time that I was reading the book, my handicapped 21st century imagination kept picturing the events unfolding as if it was a movie, from the sour patzers at the Einstein Chess Club to the daring, near-naked escape from Peril Straight. I just can't wait until I start to hear about the casting. Who could possibly fill the role of Willie Dick, the miniscule Indian police chief whose office and motorcycle are built to two-thirds scale? For some reason I kept picturing Mel Brooks as the boundary maven Itzik Zimbalist.

Is it only a coincidence that the publishers of this book originally marketed it with a movie-like trailer?

I started a book club in St. Louis a little while ago, and the first book we discussed was The Yiddish Policemen's Union. Not as many people showed up as I had hoped, but what we lacked in quantity we made up for in quality. Everyone seemed to enjoy the book, even if the ending did go a little too far-our, Law & Order for our tastes. (If you watch Law & Order, particularly the SVU variety, you'd know that I'm not saying the book got bogged down in technical legal jibber jabber, but how solving one murder case somehow spirals into much larger, less believable conspiracies that always manage to implicate well-organized, nefarious criminal entitities. I imagine the Coen bros. could make this absurd escalation more enjoyable.) I selected the book after falling in love with the much touted, Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, which, incidentally, is also being made into a movie.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Sometimes I wish I had a camera on me at all times

Yesterday, because I was sick and had taken the day off, I was headed to St. Louis Bread Co. (what the rest of America knows as Panera) for some chicken noodle soup to lift my spirits. And lo and behold, what should I see but a make shift stand advertising "Ashes To Go." You cannot make this shit up. There were three individuals standing around in flowy white robes with a synthetic sheen to them, apparently imposing ash marks on the foreheads of busy city dwellers who care about repentance and eternal salvation but not enough to actually go to church.

One of the enterprising ash-givers was a woman, so I knew they weren't priests. One of them was eating a burrito, which I found to be a particularly humorous sight. The last one was engaged in a long, drawn-out transaction with a passer-by. I don't know about you, but if I wanted my ashes in a hurry I wouldn't want to be troubled with excessive chatter. There seemed to be an exchange of money. I couldn't tell if they were charging for the ashes, or simply asking for a suggested donation, but something about a pay-per-blessing scheme seems a little Medieval to me. But what do I know? That's capitalism for ya.

Ashes To Go. God's honest truth. If I only had a camera.

Monday, February 04, 2008

What's today's top story?

Thanks, Post-Dispatch, for sharing the really important stories.