Monday, December 27, 2010

Put Your Camera Away

Some people think it's all about them. Kelley and I went for a walk today and were amazed at the number of cars stuck - and even abandoned - in the middle of the streets in our neighborhood. It was such an unusual sight that I decided to take a picture.

Now there were at least a dozen disabled cars within 50 years, so the idea that one guy thought I was taking HIS picture was pretty ridiculous - except for the fact that I actually WAS taking a picture of him. I mean, he was trying to drive into a snowbank that was higher than his bumper.

Guy in the car: Hey, put your camera away!
Me: I'm not taking your picture.
Guy in the car: What are you taking pictures of, then?
Me: The snow.
Random guy 1: You're not in Hollywood!
Random guy 2: You're not a rap star, nobody wants your picture!
Kelley: Ha ha ha! (pointing at the guy in the car)
Random guy 3: That girl's pointing at you and laughing at you! Ha ha!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What Not To Do If You Forget Your Combination

This is one of the lockers at the gym I go to. And this isn't in some ghetto gym. It's a decent gym in a nice neighborhood. The New York Stock Exchange is across the street.

When the banking system was falling off a cliff a couple years ago, I would watch Maria Bartiromo report from the steps of Federal Hall while I did sit-ups and silently prayed that some desperate banker might jump out a window before my eyes. All three endeavors were disappointing in their own way. Maria Bartiromo appeared to be kind of plump in person and not what I'd expect from someone nicknamed the "Money Honey". My sit-ups did little good. No bankers were even crying, let alone jumping.

Anyway, the locker room... It looked like someone went at the lock using a wrench, got 50% of the job done, and then just gave up. I wonder how the other people in the locker room at the time responded. I think they all pretended like nothing in the least bit unusual was occurring. The same way they do when some dude bends over, dries his butt crack with exaggeratedly dramatic sweeps of his towel, and then douses himself with perfume in a disgusting ritual of personal hygiene.

The question that lingers in my mind is why did I decide to use the adjacent locker to store my belongings?

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Most Important Gift Catalog In The World

A couple weeks ago I received in the mail "The Most Important Gift Catalog In The World". I wish I had some way of contacting Dell, LL Bean, Victoria's Secret, and every other company that sends me catalogs on a weekly basis to let them know that Heifer International has unilaterally decided that Heifer International's catalog is the superior gift catalog.

Is this some sort of bestiality-bondage catalog?

And in case this post is leaving anyone on my holiday gift list either worried or elated at the prospect of receiving a goat, llama, water buffalo, or bees from me, don't be. This is a charity catalog.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Albino Squirrel

There are probably times when you wonder why my girlfriend is so much better than your girlfriend (or wife or boyfriend or partner or whatever). The answer is quite simple, really: mine found an albino squirrel today and yours didn't.

Don't bother clicking on the image, this is as big as it gets.

And in case you're interested in learning more about albino squirrels while simultaneously researching cures for that case of genital warts your "friend" contracted, Google has just the site for you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

My Danish Hair Shirt

I just returned from Copenhagen, and aside from the joy of being reunited with my beloved Kelley, the thing I'm most relieved to be reconnected with are two conveniences that I hardly believe deserve to be called conveniences: shower curtains and towels.

I'll be brief with the shower curtain thing, because it's something that I've experienced a few times in Europe. When you don't install shower curtains, your bathroom gets flooded - EVERY TIME. Even the biggest slobs I know prefer to avoid that sort of mess. Even in a country where modern office buildings have holes in the ground instead of flushing toilets, showers have curtains.

Now, the towels... this is not a European thing at all. This is the hotel I stayed at. And I don't have a problem with the hotel. It has a rustic cabin meets Nordic design feel to it that's pretty cool. The last time I stayed there I had a nice room, and a bathroom that was so large the shower was able to flood only half of it. I don't even remember the towels.

Sustainable Basics towels are basically awful.

Something changed since February. They got these new towels, which have all of the qualities of a burlap sack (the look, the feel and the absorbency) and only one of the qualities of a towel (it fits on a towel rack).

Return like a shirt that's two sizes too large.

And slapping the word "sustainable" and "hand-made in India" doesn't make me more willing to accept these as towels. At some point we have to define the limits of our commitment to future generations. I think this is a good place to start.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Chinese might be an amusing language for English-speakers, with all of its "wangs", "wongs" and "dongs", but Danish is no slouch either. Consider the Danish word for "final sprint", which I noticed on the sign of a clothing store in Copenhagen.


A Google image search for "slutspurt" reveals that I am hardly the first person to have noticed this word. And it comes as no surprise that adding a space after the first T results in an entirely different variety of pictures.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Most Unlikely Subtitle for Bozo the Clown Biography

Larry Harmon, aka "Bozo the Clown", died a couple years ago, but before he ceased to exist he wrote a book documenting his exploits. It was finally published earlier this month.

The Man Behind the Nose

It's prosaic to imagine what you might ask a dead celebrity if you could ask just one question, but I know what I'd ask him if I had the chance: Was the subtitle of the book your idea, because Assassins, Astronauts, Cannibals, and Other Stupendous Tales is pretty hilarious?

Friday, August 6, 2010

Bad Combination

"I felt both jealous of their youth and scared for their future. In short, I felt paternal and aroused, which is not a good combination"

Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

Monday, August 2, 2010


Kelley saw the video for "Kids" by MGMT the other night and knew I'd like it. As always, she was right.

It reminded me of this carnival poster that I had in my bedroom when I was a kid. The clowns in the poster always scared me. Years later I mentioned to my mom how the pictures frightened me. She said, "I know. That's why I put it there."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reconsidering Twitter

Ice T's "tweet" made me momentarily reconsider every negative thing I've said or thought about Twitter.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Brooklyn Bicycle Surprises

My neighborhood allows me to take advantage of all the hassles of life in New York City, and spares me most of its pleasures. There is one aspect of my neighborhood that I appreciate, however, and that is it's pretty bike-accessible.

This is due to Ocean Parkway. I was surprised recently to learn that the Ocean Parkway bike path was the first bike path created in the country, created in 1894.

The bike path follows the entire length of Ocean Parkway, meaning it goes from Prospect Park (Brooklyn's version of Central Park) to Coney Island (Brooklyn's version of Brooklyn). The distance between these landmarks is less than 6 miles, so it's not a long ride.

According to the signs that line the path, this is a dedicated bike path. In reality, it's mostly bikes, with enough pedestrians and dogs to provide a lonely rider with the companionship of annoyance while riding along. The frustrating part of this is that Ocean Parkway is lined with 6 wide pedestrian sidewalks and paths. And all 6 run the entire length of the parkway. One of the 6 is supposed to be used by bikes. That leaves 5 other perfectly suitable places for people to walk and for animals to roam. But the pedestrians use all 6.

Another biking-related surprise I experienced was that it takes me the same amount of time to get to Lower Manhattan riding my bike as it does taking the subway. I'm not a hardcore cyclist, and I don't ride particularly fast. The trains are slower than I realized.

Or are they? I discovered my last surprise after returning from a ride last night. My computer reported the maximum speed I'd achieved was 74.3 miles per hour. This is incredible, in the most literal sense.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Funny Part 1

I've been meaning to write about what I think is funny for a while. Here are a few. I hope you like them as much as I do.

Party Down
I'm not a fan of quirkiness. A couple years back Michael Hirschorn wrote an article titled Quirked Around about quirkiness in The Atlantic. Even though I do like a couple of the examples he offers - This American Life and Miranda July, which I only mention lest someone think I liked a moment of Garden State - I didn't enjoy most of the examples he listed. I can't stomach shows like Desperate Housewives or Glee.

Party Down features a cast of mostly quirky characters. It is definitely at the edge of what is, to me, an acceptable level of quirkiness.

But when Roman explains how Jesus was clearly "African-American" I almost spit out my drink. This is a great series. Maybe I'm the last one to figure this out. If you have Netflix you can stream it.

Terry Crew
There's something about this guy that cracks me up. I was at work when I first watched the euro training video. I couldn't stop laughing. It actually rendered me useless for the rest of the day. Now's he's starring in these bizarre Old Spice commercials.

Parks and Recreation
Yes, I can accept the argument that this is a ripoff of The Office. But as soon as a camera focuses on the character April and her weird scowl, I always lose it.

This is not a new book unless you consider something written in 2006 to be new, but this novel about a wannabe American was laugh-out-loud funny.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How Not To Get A Good Deal On Ebay

At the end of October I bought a Roku HD box. This device allowed us to watch streaming movies from Netflix. It worked great, but after connecting it to the television we quickly realized that the effort required to press the various buttons on the various remote controls in order to actually watch streaming movies greatly exceeded the effort we were willing to devote to the endeavor. As a result, we rarely used the Roku box.

In early May, in a moment of great frustration and dissatisfaction with Cablevision, I decided to replace our Cablevision-provided DVR with a Tivo. After accepting a final insult served up by Cablevision (their insistance that I schedule - and pay for - a technician to come over and install the Tivo), we were freed of Cablevision's horrible DVR.

Why would anyone pay more for a used device than he would pay for a new one?

Which left me with an unused Roku box. I decided to sell it on Ebay, my preferred electronics graveyard since 1999. I figured I'd probably get less than $60 for it, and would have been thrilled with $70.

The auction isn't finished yet, and it's already at $90 (with another $10 added to cover shipping). I made it very clear in the listing that I was selling the Roku HD. There are even 2 questions from other users asking if this was the more expensive XR version. I also explained that an HDMI cable is not included.

This is very confusing to me. A new Roku HD box can be bought and shipped (with free shipping) for $99. This is the same price, incidentally, that I paid for my device last year.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

An Unprecedented Power Grab By AARP

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, on July 1, 2008 there were approximately 304 million residents in the United States. 94 million of those were at least 50 years old. This is the population AARP lobbies for.

In today's mail I was surprised to find an AARP membership card with my name on it. Are they not powerful enough by representing more than 30% of the population? If they reduce the minimum age for their membership to 35, they will represent 179 million people (or almost 60% of the population).

Is this an epic power grab by AARP? Did they decide that 50 is entirely too high an age to be considered a retired person?

I might enroll so I can get Kelley a discount on the cruise she's planning. If anyone out there wants to get some discounted orthopedic shoes or anything, just let me know.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Two Words That Have Probably Never Before Been Combined

"Dick Cavett" and "awesomeness", appearing together for what I believe to be the first time ever in a commentary on the New York Times website. Technically I guess that's three words. No matter.

Dick Cavett interview Mick Jagger in 1972.

Not that Dick Cavett wasn't a cool cat back in his day, but his use of the word "awesomeness" is ridiculously anachronistic. If you are old enough to have interviewed Mick Jagger when he looked like a young lesbian (as opposed to an elderly transgender woman), you should let the whippersnappers own that word. And by whippersnappers I mean the under-50 crowd.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Talhotblond now available on DVD

Talhotblond is now available for your home viewing pleasure - including from Netflix. I strongly recommend you rent it. And I even more strongly recommend you NOT read any reviews of it. Except mine, because I don't spoil the ending.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Taffeta's Book Of The Month Club

Is our cat contemplating vegetarianism? I hope not, because cats eat other animals. That's what they do.

Taffeta has been reading Jonathan Safran Foer's latest book.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Calms Forte Sleep Aid

Kelley's sister sent me these all natural sleeping pills. Immediately, Kelley noticed something slightly off about them.

A non-drowsy formula sleep aid?

The idea of a pill that helps you sleep without making you sleepy is an interesting one. I wasn't sure what, exactly, this pill was going to do to me. But I wasn't going to let that stop me from putting it in my body.

I have a hard time believing the pills actually do anything. When it comes to claims made by products labeled "herbal", "natural", "traditional", "alternative", "homeopathic" or "cherry flavored" I am a complete skeptic. And this product's packaging included most of those labels. I must admit, however, that I slept really well the night I took them. Like the best sleep I've had in a long time.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Lost In Translation

Being in New York means being in a state of constant curiosity. According to the city's count, nearly 170 languages are spoken here. I'm always wondering: what are those two shriveled old men laughing about? What is the headline of the newspaper story featuring W wearing his trademarked confused monkey expression while surrounded by beautiful women? What does that sign mean?

Signs are everywhere. Hand scrawled sign. Nicely printed signs featuring major American celebrities who (apparently) endorse stoop sales in Chinatown. And - my personal favorite - signs created using the method preferred by kidnappers and other nefarious schemers: meticulously cutting individual letters from various newspapers and magazines.

It is not unusual to see a sign in English and another language. It is unusual, however, to see a sign that clearly says one thing in English and something else in another language. That is what I noticed this morning as I passed a laundromat on my way to the train.

An invitation to be taken advantage of, in your choice of languages.

I'm not sure what the two other languages are. Bengali and Urdu? Whatever they are, the language in the middle is offering - or threatening - $400 for doing something. And it's an offer that does not appear to apply to non-speakers. All I'm sure of is that responding to this sign will probably result in the transferring of money from your wallet into someone else's. Move along.

* UPDATE (3/22/2010): A friend from Bangladesh confirmed that the middle text is Bengali. He provided a translation for me. According to him, the $400 is referring to $400 billion, which is listed as the amount of government funds that are allocated based on the census results.

He also said the wording is the exact same wording provided on his census form, which is important only for the fact that the US government considers Staten Island to be something that most of us who live near it don't: something worth counting. Thanks, chodna!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

More Facebook Status Silliness

It's been a while since anything on Facebook made me laugh out loud. But last night something did.

I wonder what part of this status update the 2 people who "liked".

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It's About That Time Again...

Last weekend's hassle was 20 inches of snow. This weekend's honor belongs to our local street fair. This poor guy didn't get the memo. Talk about adding insult to injury!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Here's a Tip

I'm not sure where this guy is finding $4 bottles of beer in New York, but he has written a good article expressing the frustration some people feel over being expected to tip everyone and everything in New York: Hey, Waiter! Just How Much Extra Do You Really Expect?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Denmark + Me + Hookers = Today

I'm in Copenhagen for the week, staying at a hotel that I was warned is in the red-light district. There is a strip club across the street, but it has thus far showed no signs of life.

On my walk back to my hotel this evening I passed a small person all bundled up like an Eskimo. I could tell that someone was coming towards me, but I didn't look up. The sidewalk was a sheet of ice and I was trying not to slip.

Just as the person was about to pass me I hear a woman's voice say hello in the unnaturally friendly tone of someone about to ask for something. I assumed she was about to ask me for directions.

Hooker walking towards me, though I didn't know it yet.

As I looked up at her I saw, inside a warm fur lined hood, a dark skinned face decorated with unnaturally bright red lipstick. I knew she didn't want directions, but I also knew I still wasn't going to be able to help her. I'm not sure exactly what she asked me. It sounded like "looking for fun?" or "you want a friend?" or possibly - hopefully - something much more explicit in Danish.

There are many unfortunate situations I imagine a prostitute can find herself in. Walking the streets in the dead of winter seems distinctly sad.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


In the fall Kelley took a Spanish class that required an incredibly overpriced workbook. Instead of buying the book at the college bookstore, we bought it on Amazon.

Since Kelley needed the workbook quickly so she could do her assignments, I decided to order from someone local. I found a seller who advertised that the book would be shipped "next day" and that he was located in New Jersey.

Neither claim was true. The book could not have been shipped the next day (though it did arrive inside of the dates promised by Amazon). It was shipped from California. That's fine. The problem is that the workbook had a bunch of pages ripped out. Not just any pages, either. Gone were those pages containing the assignments a student would submit. The "work" pages from the workbook were missing.

On December 14 I wrote the seller to explain that the book he sent me was worthless to me:

The book I ordered from you is a workbook used in a Spanish class. Pages with the exercises on them were ripped out. These pages are essential because they are our homework assignments. As a result, the book you sent me is worthless. I am writing to request a full refund, including shipping charges. thank you.

I never received a response, so on December 23 I filed a complaint with Amazon. On January 1 I received a complete refund from Amazon.

On January 23 I got the following email from the seller:



I really hate the resurgence of "douchebag" as a term of derision. But I love the little smiley face he included. I'm not entirely sure how to take it, however. I responded with:

According to Amazon I am not required to return the defective item you sent me.

But you didn't provide a return address so that I could return the item if I wanted to. What is your mailing address and phone number.

I sort of hope he decides to waste his time trying to sue someone who lives in New York in a California small claims court.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

No Words Needed, Part 2

Words may not be needed, but they help.

No Words Needed, Part 1

Words are not needed to tell this story.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

My Enthusiasm For Repertory Theater Has Been Renewed

I don't mind going to see small theater productions featuring friends.  With one memorable exception in Harlem that involved a homeless woman interrupting a performance, I seldom feel the need to encourage other people to attend.  But last night Kelley and I attended a performance put on by The Complete Theater Company that I really enjoyed.

Bob Brown is a friend and former coworker of Kelley's.  She describes him as one of the nicest people she's ever met.  At one point Bob confided in Kelley that he had a dream of trying acting.  Kelley made her living as an actor and comedian for many years, so she was hoping that he would follow his dream.

Through a series of events that she ascribes to fate - and that I think was just dumb luck - Kelley learned Bob was going to be performing this weekend.  So on a cold Saturday night we set out to the Richmond Shepard Theatre to watch The Original One-Act Festival.

The performance was a collection of 6 one-act plays, all of which were surprising creative, interesting, well written.  Despite the fact that each play was only one act, the characters were all developed to the point that I cared as much about them as any character who is developed over the course of 2 hours.  The dialog was smart and funny.  My favorites were "Run. Run. Stop." and "Compass Rose".

And the acting was equally good.  Bob did a great job, as did pretty much every actor.  There was very little of the over-acting or under-acting that I expect when seeing from small productions. 

I'm not a theater connoisour by any stretch, but last night was every bit as entertaining as most of the Broadway plays and musicals I've seen, with a fraction of the expense and hassle.  Unfortunately the last performance of The Original One-Act Festival is happening as I write this, so you won't be able to see it for yourself.  I hope the show was successful.  The people who put it on deserve to be very proud of their work.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Cat Was Never Sexually Molested

Some people out there would have you believe that, prior to being adopted by me, that my cat was abused by a sex offender in Oregon. Not just abused, but sexually abused. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this claim.

I was never molested.  Now, can you please leave me alone?

The rumor started because one person heard an animal abuse story from a probation officer. Through the power of this person's imagination - and imagination alone - the victim of this story became my cat. Almost 10 years later this person continues to besmirch the reputation of my pet for her amusement.

My cat was never sexually abused. The reason why my cat was surrendered to the Oregon Humane Society seems to have been that her owner got a dog.

Taffeta's adoption record.

Don't believe me? I was doing some cleaning this morning and I found the original paperwork I received when I took her home. Of course, I don't expect the lies about my cat to stop any more than I expect that certain OTHER people will stop incorrectly calling the Astoria Column the Astor Column, but a man can dream.

Monday, January 4, 2010

You Should See Talhotblond

I take back every disparaging word I've muttered under my breath and every time I rolled my eyes at Kelley as she watched what seemed to be an endless variety of true crime stories on an equally endless variety of basic cable channels. I was misguided. Now I understand that. She was, as usual, right.

What I didn't get is pretty simple really. When you're drilling for oil you probably end up with a lot of empty holes. That doesn't mean there isn't oil under there somewhere. Most of the time there isn't, but you might just hit black gold. And that's just what happened last night with Talhotblond.

In my own defense, I must say that a lot of the shows she watches are pretty bad. For example, before we were rewarded with Talhotblond we endured Held Hostage, a Lifetime dramatization of a true story that, despite featuring dynamite and its possible application to a child as a form of punishment, still managed to thoroughly disappoint.

Kelley just stumbled upon a documentary titled Talhotblond on MSNBC last night. She settled on it as soon as she realized it involved murder. I started paying attention because of the strange way the story of a murder was being told. It almost seemed like the narrator was mocking individuals involved in the story. He kept explaining that someone ends up dead, but his delivery style was incongruous with this sad ending.

Here's how the documentary describes itself:

Talhotblond is the true story (and screen name) of a beautiful teenage vixen who uses Internet game rooms to lure men into her cyberspace web.

When she discovers she's been double crossed and lied to by one of her victims, she wants revenge, and unleashes a fantasy on line that escalates into real life murder... all because of a girl no one ever met in person.

Not another internet pervert story...

I assumed this would be just another of those To Catch A Predator stories, featuring gross, creepy, disturbing and pathetic characters. The people in Talhotblond are definitely gross, creepy, disturbing and pathetic, but these people have elevated strange behavior to an art. No matter how questionable your own online exploits may be, they are nothing compared to what these people did.

When the story's final twist was revealed, Kelley and I both screamed "NO WAY!" It's the kind of story that, had nobody been hurt, would make you laugh your ass off. Instead, it's a really sad reminder of how dangerous and unpredictable people can be.

Now I purposefully haven't included a link to the Talhotblond website. I wouldn't have enjoyed the show nearly as much had I known anything about it, especially the ending. The site is easy enough to find if you want to read about it, but I strongly recommend watching the documentary before you do.