Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baccalaureate of Time Travel

As I have finally graduated after far too long a time period, I needed to have a little fun at my graduation ceremony, didn't I?
I can already hear your murmurings.
"Did he bring a flask of bourbon and keep a laudanum-soaked cotton ball in his cheek?"
"Did he bring a beach ball inflated with lithium to pep up the mood?"
"Did he steal the University President's speech and translate it entirely into Esperanto?"
Upon first arriving wearing my finest Spanish Inquisition robes, as Stony Brook indeed thought scarlet a most appropriate color for graduation, I was given a card with my name and pertinent information on it. The card asked for a phonetic spelling of my name in case it was difficult to pronounce. At the bottom was a special area for "Other commendations."
I looked around the gymnasium where the candidates were convening. Some had a "Cum Laude" sticker attached in this area. Fewer had a "Magna Cum Laude" sticker there. And for those who favored fervent study over the occasional sip of alcohol on the weekends, "Summa Cum Laude." Now, dear readers, I am a man of no small character. Some have called me a FORMIDABLE HUMAN BEING! Am I not worthy of some sort of special commendation merely for my sheer wonderment? I DO!
On a whim I scribbled the words "Time traveler" in this area, and thought not another thing about it.
After a painfully long ceremony wherein a singer hit notes she only IMAGINED she could actually hit in the National Anthem and megahours slugged by during the Doctoral Hooding, the long awaited moment arrived. I handed my card to the lady at the microphone. And she firmly, clearly, energetically announced:
I here turned around to correct her, only to hear almost immediately:
My complexion changed to the color of my stylish gown as I walked over to the President to received my much-deserved Baccalaureate of Time Travel Diploma. I had done it. I had successfully pulled a prank at graduation!
I met a person in the parking lot who was laughing about whoever added "Time Traveler" to his card. I confessed, receiving congratulations from the family, and the suggestion, "You should have put Time Lord."
Alas, ladies and gentlemen - apart from my snappy mode of dress, I share nothing in common with the famous Time Lord who flies about the universe in an outdated British Police Box. Still, I consider this one of the greatest successes of my life. And guess what - I HAVE ANOTHER TITLE TO ADD TO MY TITLERIFFIC NAME!
Until I receive my Doctorate of Theoretical Time Travel.
-Commissioner The Rev. Dr. Mayor William C. Olsen-Hoek, Esq., B. of Time Travel

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In Which I Have a Nightmarish Prophesy...

I had a most blood-curdling nightmare last night.
I dreamt that Maria, Kyla and myself scored tickets to opening day at Shea Stadium. The very fact that the Mets were still playing at the erstwhile Home of Amazin' set the tone for this surreal, terrifying phantasm. Somehow we were invited to sit on seats on the first baseline dirt in foul territory. You could not imagine my excitement, waiting for the Mets to unveil their new 1960s style uniforms. For too long my team has suffered from uniform disasters, though none so offensive as the 1980s racing stripes or the "snow white" cap of the late 1990s... or, and I shudder at the very though of this, the "Turn Forward the Clock" Mercury Mets uniform - WHICH WILL NEVER AGAIN BE MENTIONED IN THIS WEBLOG. Imagine the sheer horror coursing through my slumbering veins when the New York Mets took to a no-longer-existent field wearing - BLUE SHORTS and a BLUE HOODIE featuring MR. MET on the front and numbers in COMIC SANS on the back! Heart racing, I shot up in a cold sweat - shuddering, weeping, praying to the Almighty to erase this indelible mark from my somniferous mind.
The horror.
In other news, I have finally received all the sufficient credits and jumped through sufficient hoops that the State University of New York at Stony Brook has seen fit to confer upon me the mark of academic achievement entitled Baccalaureate. Oh frabjous day! And more good news - I have been hired as a substitute at my current place of professional development, MS 104 Simon Baruch School. My only hope is that this position lead to a full time commitment with the said school, as I have quickly become enamored of it.
Until such time that I have found something else so elegant of modern humanity in America...
Auf wiedersehen.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Godot? God No.

Some years ago, my grandfather and step-grandmother (whom I never address as step-grandmother - preferring to call her Denise which is not her given name) came to visit Long Island and brought us to a painfully expensive restaurant courtesy of Taylor Publishing. Grandpa was a big shot in the said publishing company, and was fond of showing how much he cared for us by buying us expensive meals about twice every decade. Denise (not her real name) upon hearing my analysis of the restaurant's faux pas in overcooking the flounder I had eaten stated how she imagined me one day becoming a critic. What type of critic she never said. It is true that I carry strong opinions about nearly everything. I find it difficult to harbor wishy-washy flip-floppery feelings about things. So being the case, I found no small amount of pleasure when I took a "Modern Drama in New York" class as part of the bullshit required curriculum of Stony Brook University. What this essentially entailed was going to see shows and writing critiques of them. Because I found this process so entertaining and was extremely pleased with the results, I here share them - one by one. I here present the one I most recently re-read - that of Nathan Lane, John Goodman, Bill Irwin, and John Glover in Waiting for Godot. This was my final submission for the class which ultimately resulted in yet another A.

The Roundabout Theater Company’s latest production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, staged in the perverse yet hallowed halls of Manhattan’s erstwhile disco orgy palace, Studio 54, seems more like an overpriced sleep aid than a play. Or, for up to $116, treat yourself to one of the best-orchestrated naps that money can buy. In what can only be described as the Roundabout’s plan to cash in on celebrity names, they have staged their Godot with a look and feel so fresh, you’d swear it was 1953.
It is quite impossible to imagine any self-respecting director sitting back in his chair and believing he has created his magnum opus in this particular production. Instead, it plays out like something of a Godot fanboy’s wet dream with this platitudinous dime-store formula: Well Established Comic Genius + The Set You’ve Seen Countless Times + A Dreary Bridge-and-Tunnel Audience = Success!
Steve Rubell with his usual nightly ration of cocaine would have had difficulty staying awake for the duration of this performance. Even Nathan Lane’s signature grating, Jersey-accented shouting and overly expressive gesticulations weren’t enough to sufficiently energize Beckett’s existentialist lullaby to keep much of the audience around for Act II. Witnesses to this tragedy of a comedy may find it easy to sympathize with John Goodman’s increasingly corpulent rotundity rolling around the stage blindly asking for help, but as the bobbing heads and drooping eyes from the theater’s mezzanine indicate, they won’t necessarily be entertained by it. The audience seemed so unsure of the humor in this clunker that they basically laughed when instructed to by Mr. Lane; that is, when he screeched or grotesquely contorted his face.
Bill Irwin’s Vladimir makes a gallant effort to outshow Lane’s porcine Estragon, but he and his thin frame vanish into the drab background between the two scenery-chewing behemoths, the twin moons of Lane and Goodman. Perhaps Goodman’s most sincere moment of acting was when he “feigned” heart palpitations, an event that left this reviewer wondering if he shouldn’t call the paramedics… just in case.
Godot as read may not be the most exciting play, but just as throwing a couple of hams into a pot does not a Sunday dinner make, tossing two fat funny men on a New York stage and hoping for the best is less a recipe for success and more for disaster. But perhaps disaster is too strong a word - the audience in this production was so mind-numbingly disengaged that had Lane and Goodman spontaneously burst into flame at the end of the play it is doubtful anyone would have been paying enough attention to think to shout “Fire!”

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Oscar the Grouch: TIME LORD

Having recently watched the new Doctor Who special The Waters of Mars, I have drifted to sleep these past 2 nights trying to come up with theories as to how the Doctor will regenerate. My nerdiest idea? The Master imbued the Doctor with part of his essence right before he died in the Doctor's arms - leading to the Doctor's dark turn in the most recent episode. Thus, the Master STEALS ONE OF THE DOCTOR'S REGENERATIONS... causing the Doctor grievous bodily harm and forcing him to regenerate. Another theory - he senses that his current regeneration has fallen from grace and willfully goes about the process.
As I've been thinking about Doctor Who and the 40th Anniversary of Sesame Street, it suddenly dawned on me.
Ladies and gentlemen, this seems a stretch, but I do assure you by the end of this transmission, you will be as devout a believer as I was when I saw this stark evidence. LET THE PROOF BEGIN!
The Doctor is well known for traveling around in an obsolete time and spacecraft called a TARDIS, a less-than-clever acronym for Time and Relative Dimensions in Space. Due to a broken Chameleon Circuit (a device which normally disguises the machine to match its surroundings), the TARDIS is stuck in the form of a wooden blue 1950's style British Police Box. Oddly enough, never were police boxes constructed of wood. Apart from being able to travel back and forth through time and through all points of space (not unlike the Infinite Improbability Drive of Douglas Adams' limitless imagination) the craft is well known also for being much larger on the inside than on the outside. See for yourself:
Exhibit A: Exterior with 6'1" 10th Doctor for scale.
Exhibit B: Interior w/ Camera Crew in background for scale

Where have I seen something similar? OH YES! Oscar the Grouch's garbage can in front of 123 Sesame St.! Observe!
Exhibit C: Oscar the Grouch in Garbage Can with 5'9" Tony Danza for Scale

Exhibit D: Interior of Oscar's Garbage Can
Oscar's trash can is obviously much larger on the inside. It is said to contain, apart from the items pictured, an elephant, a swimming pool, a china cabinet, and a portal to Oscar's home planet of Grouchland. I can hear your nerdly grumblings already: "But BillChas, surely you know that Time Lords are from the Planet Gallifrey in the constellation of Kasterborous at "galactic coordinates ten-zero-eleven-zero-zero by zero-two from galactic zero centre." I say it was a ruse - that Oscar was merely hiding his true home planet to live a low-profile life on a happy block full of happy neighbors singing about the alphabet in Queens, New York.
What may we infer? Oscar's trash can is a TARDIS!

The Doctor's famous ability to cheat death by a process of regeneration, essentially changing of physical appearance and a general trend toward aging backward, has ensured that even 47 years into its broadcast the Time Lord abideth. Behold!
Exhibit F: The Doctor's 11 Regenerations

The Doctor changes appearance and mode of dress over his 903 years (debatable) of life. It is one of the most powerful and recognizable trademarks of any superhero. Indeed, the image of the Doctor suffering and dying only to cheat death is... wonderful to ponder. It is one of my favorite of his traits. WATCH THE DOCTOR REGENERATE AFTER CONTRACTING SPECTROX TOXAEMIA... my favorite regeneration.

And as for Oscar? Ladies and gentlemen, prepare to have your minds blown!
Exhibit G: The FIRST Oscar the Grouch (1969-1970)

Exhibit H: The SECOND Oscar the Grouch (1971-Present)
Ladies and gentlemen: YOUR MINDS ARE BLOWN! Oscar appears to have regenerated some time between 1970 and 1971. What the circumstances leading up to his apparent death are left to the imagination, but just let this shocking, STARK evidence of Oscar's Time Lordship settle in.
Still, a few questions remain. Why is he not sought out by the Doctor or the Master? Why did he leave Gallifrey? How could he have survived the Time War? Does the fact that he lives in a trash can suggest he is part Dalek? Is he still liable to fall in love with hideously bucktoothed British women with badly dyed hair and mannish eyebrows? I suppose that is the mystique of a Time Lord... and a question worth pondering.
I have no idea what I will talk about next.
This blog entry was brought to you today by the letter Q and the number 8.
Cue Doctor Who theme tune.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

MTA: Misguided Transportation Annoyance

You will pardon the interruption. Today's entry will not be about Oscar the Grouch: Time Lord, but instead is inspired by true events. The next entry will be MUCH more entertaining (read: silly). (This was posted to quell any comments Derek may make.)
Times are tough. Even life for we self-proclaimed mayors is not without its inevitable snares. Today, I had to write a pointed letter to the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing regarding a very serious issue that occurred this morning. At around 8:00 am, I arrived at the Franklin Ave. 4, 5 and Shuttle stop. Finding that my 30-Day Unlimited Ride Metrocard had expired, I approached a ticket vending machine, only to find that every single machine was not accepting credit or debit cards. I asked the station agent at the token booth who said there was nothing she could do for me and that I'd have to use cash, an extraordinarily inconvenient bit of news. As such, I had to leave the station and walk to a nearby bank to withdraw $100 in twenty-dollar bills, as I had no cash on my person at the time. When again I approached the machine to purchase an $89 30-Day Unlimited Metrocard, I was informed that it would only dispense a maximum of $6 in change. I again approached the station agent who very kindly made the change for me. Nonetheless, the entire ordeal caused me to be 20 minutes late for work. Given the current times, this is unacceptable. I expect and deserve a sincere written apology (not an automated reply) and a solemn promise that such a fiasco will never be allowed to happen again.

William Olsen-Hoek

I neglected to throw in my multitudinous titles for fear that they would be overwhelmed by my perceived importance. Let us hope that His Excellency Emperor Bloomberg, Defender of the Boroughs sees fit to improve this obviously flawed system. Now... if only we had a mayor with real ideas - say... A MONORAIL.
But for real, next time! OSCAR THE GROUCH: TIME LORD!

Monday, November 2, 2009

How Postseason Baseball Destroyed Baseball: A Nocturne of Too Many Commercials, Too Many Pitching Changes, and the Inane Ramblings of Incompetent Men

...Named Tim McCarver.
(Edit: Since this is a Nocturne, I suggest that all readers listen to Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 whilst reading along...)
I'm sorry, but the entirety of my thesis did not fit in the title box on Blogger. BLAST YOU GOOGLE INC.!
Baseball is the most important sport in history. As I allow that hyperbole to settle in, let me prove it. Baseball currently ranks second in the most popular team sports worldwide, topped only by football (the European flavor, that is). Baseball, however, is a much better and more important game, due entirely to the superior uniforms and the fact that it was invented in the United States rather than Great Britain. That its roots trace to bat and ball games played during the American Revolutionary War (wherein the United States annihilated the most powerful Empire on Planet Earth by hiding in trees and wearing subdued colors while their opponents marched in single file as gentlemen wearing lobster-red coats and powdered wigs) bears testament to its superiority to anything produced by a tea-obsessed monarchy.
Baseball traces its roots to the similar, but decidedly more English, sport of cricket - except that cricket is played on an oval rather than a diamond, participants have "tea" rather than a seventh inning stretch, players are given the ridiculously named field positions of "silly mid-off," bowlers (not pitchers) are allowed to bean the batsman to try and injure him, and it is not uncommon for a test cricket match to last three days... although it does seem that the current trend will see baseball games lasting three whole days in just a few years.
Why, you may ask? The answer: MERCHANDISING!
In the 1990s, baseball suffered from one of its worst decades of popularity. I attribute this to three main factors:
1.) Players became exceptionally greedy and demanded more money.
2.) Owners became exceptionally greedy.
3.) Canadian teams dominated the 1992, 1993 and the shortened 1994 season.
This third observation seems an exercise in xenophobia (which I here deny, being that I am a firm supporter of the Sovereign Dominion of Canada), but when you examine the facts (the Toronto Blue Jays winning the World Series in '92 and '93 and the 1994 Montréal Expos proclaiming that they were "Meilleure Équipe du Baseball" due entirely to their having the best record before the cursed strike) maybe we need to (dare I say) BLAME CANADA! Speaking of the Strike: World War II did not stop the World Series from being played, but money sure did in 1994. It would not be until the steroid-soaked home run hitting monsters of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa squared off in a battle royale to challenge Roger Maris's single season home run record that baseball would lick its '90s wounds. The resurgence in popularity also coincided with the steroid-fueled Yankees winning a million World Series and the completely forgotten Atlanta Braves (aptly named the Team of the '90s, though they only won the 1995 World Series) owning the National League (pennants in '91, '92, '95, '96 and '99; division titles in every year of the decade but '90 and '94). But at what price did this popularity come?
Specialization has ruined the pace of baseball. Game 5 of the 1969 World Series ended when Davey Johnson (ironically future skipper of the champion '86 Mets) popped up to Cleon Jones, just 2 hours and 14 minutes after the first pitch. Anyone who's attended a ballgame with me knows how much I LOVE short games. They usually indicate pitching duels and just enough scoring to keep the game flowing. In stark contrast, the most recent (miserable) World Series saw Yankees crowned again after a THREE HOUR AND FIFTY TWO MINUTE struggle. I've walked out of shorter operas (Tchaikovsky's Mazeppa)! Why? Take a good look at the pitching statistics for these games:
Game 5 of the 1969 World Series
Game 6 of the 2009 World Series
The Orioles and Mets combined sent three pitchers to the mound 40 years ago.
The Phillies and Yankees offered TEN.
It has gotten to a point where managers put a single pitcher in to face a single batter based on what hand he throws with. Pitching changes are an opportunity for networks to show MORE COMMERCIALS! Is it any wonder that the baseball postseason now ends in November? The '69 season ended some 2 weeks sooner than did the 2009. A whole extra month of slow-paced games featuring only 8 teams? That's a recipe for disgruntlement. Postseason games are also strategically spaced to air the games at prime time (often meaning games will not end until past 11:00 pm), whereas World Series games were often played in the daytime just a few decades ago. You had the entire rest of the afternoon and evening to celebrate your team's victory - a moment well described in Thomas Oliphant's Praying for Gil Hodges, when an entire borough celebrated together. There's something Amazin' about watching the last out of the '69 Series in the daytime. The sun adds to the joy of the moment.
And finally, one man has single-handedly destroyed postseason baseball.
October 16, 1941. One of the most mediocre baseball personalities was born. James Timothy McCarver was selected as an All-Star twice and twice won the World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals. His boring curriculum vitae and overall baseball ineptitude meant that he could never manage a team... perhaps also due to his disgusting Southern drawl. Listening to Tim McCarver call a baseball game is almost as bad as sitting in a family style restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania having an old man take 8 minutes to spit out the question, "Son, is Long Island part of Fire Island?" His obnoxious burbling only worsens his atrociously nonsensical observations on the game of baseball. A colleague said he is someone who, "when you ask him the time, will tell you how a watch works." His subpar baseball calling and confusion of rules leaves one wondering - why the FUCK do networks insist on having him call postseason baseball games? Perhaps as a Mets fan I am spoiled. My booth is filled with two Ivy League graduates and two former Mets whose combined curricula amount to 6 All-Star selections, 12 Gold Glove Awards, and 2 Silver Slugger Awards. Keith Hernandez, Ron Darling and Gary Cohen amount to the most talented and entertaining team of baseball analysts in baseball today. It makes one wonder how a hack like Tim McCarver gets such a job. Enjoy a wikipedia entry on the various criticisms of McCarver.
So how do we fix the postseason? I offer the following recipe:
  1. Bring back day games. Some of us have to sleep at night and besides, we all have the means to record it and watch it again later.
  2. Adhere to strict time limits in warmups and between innings.
  3. Fewer days between postseason games. At least TRY to confine "October Baseball" to October.
  4. Always provide a playoff berth for the New York Mets.
  5. Fire Tim McCarver... or at least ship him off to call cricket games, as his knowledge of baseball's British counterpart probably isn't too far removed from his baseball knowledge.
  6. Make me, The Rev. Dr. Mayor William C. Olsen-Hoek, Esq. into Commissioner The Rev. Dr. Mayor William C. Olsen-Hoek, Esq.. I imagine my name with full title regalia would look marvelous stamped on all official league baseballs! In fact, let's see what it would look like using sophisticated computer technology!

An enormous thank you to Greg for his outstanding work in imagining what baseballs will look like under my Commissionership.
Next Time! Oscar the Grouch: TIME LORD.

Monday, October 19, 2009

In Which Atticus Finch Gives 12 Racist Men a Faceful of Scowl...

First, read this article. I'll wait.
Malcolm Gladwell is a media whore. I look at him and see a pimply faced weirdo who probably wore trench coats unironically in college and constantly pestered professors with non sequitur questions. He is the author of such abysmal affronts to good science and economics as Blink and The Tipping Point. One of his most dubious downfalls is his almost religious belief that correlation indicates causality. Using very small pools for his social experiments, Gladwell tends to make gross exaggerations verging on hyperbole, assuming that because his data challenges the status quo, that it immediately indicates that he has done something brilliant that deserves praise and adoration. The problem is that this modus operandi actually works for him, as his books tend to spend ridiculous periods of time on the New York Times bestseller list. Not only that, my good old alma mater, Stony Brook, required that I read Gladwell's The Tipping Point in my freshman year. Why? Well, people think that the only way to get uneducated people to talk to one another about something other than reality television requires that they read some trashy book and discuss it at length, praising only what is in the text, and not critically analyzing it. "At least they're talking!" supposes the New York State Board of Regents.
This particular article that I have forced my noble readers to suffer causes me no small measure of consternation. As an adamant admirer of Atticus Finch, the noble lawyer of Maycomb, Alabama in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, I found this particular article offensive, almost dangerous. I venture to use the word dangerous here because I fear that in the hands of unthinking cretins around this world, such information would downplay the importance of Atticus Finch and thus Mockingbird as an entire piece. He compares Atticus to Jim Folsom, a man well known for seeming to believe that hypocrisy scribbled by Thomas Jefferson saying something about "all men [being] created equal." The parallel is weak. It is true that Atticus worked in a small area of "friends and neighbors" in Maycomb, but Gladwell seems to conveniently ignore the time that Atticus spends at the state capitol. Mockingbird is, at heart, a narrative of the experiences of one young girl growing up in a small town in the Deep South during the most depraved depths of American racism. As such, we never know what Atticus is up to when he is not in Jean-Louise's (a.k.a. Scout's) immediate presence. For all we know, Atticus may have been drafting a Civil Rights Bill in his spare time. While this may sound a stretch, and borders on fan fiction, one cannot discount it. But even based on his language and convictions on equality, one can assume he was not a proponent of Jim Crow.
Gladwell accuses Atticus of being nothing but an inactive character in the civil rights movement, and thus commits the same crime the Maycomb County jury did when they proclaimed Tom Robinson guilty - he ignores facts in favor of his own prejudices. As Tom wouldn't have the money for his own lawyer, the judge appointed Atticus to take the case, knowing that Atticus' belief in universal equality and justice for all would guarantee at least a good fight against the jury's obvious racist slant. Atticus went well beyond his call of duty. Another lawyer in Alabama during Jim Crow wouldn't have bothered to visit Tom's family to make sure they were keeping afloat during these trying times. Atticus did just that. Another lawyer wouldn't DREAM of waiting outside a prison to protect his client from the cruel hands of a lynch mob. Atticus did just that. Another lawyer wouldn't bother going for the appeal process, but Atticus swore to do just that.
We never asked Atticus Finch to be a Civil Rights leader. Stripping him to his essentials, what is he but a loving father, an avid reader, a terrific checkers player, a dead eye with a rifle, and a staunch believer in equality for all people. Gladwell seems to hold the idea that people are inherently different because of the color of their skin; he would favor making laws that protected people whose pigmentation appeared darker than some set scientific standard. It is my belief that Atticus transcended this belief. Rather than championing the single cause of rights for Blacks, Atticus instead challenges humanity to look deeper, seeing that there is no inherent different between people, no matter what color, religion or sex they may identify as. Atticus would fail to see the need of affirmative action, noting that color shouldn't even be a consideration when applying for a job - that giving jobs specifically to minorities is itself racism, as it identifies these people as inherently different and declares them more deserving of something as a result.
I've wasted too much breath downplaying Gladwell's importance in society. Any person with even a scrap of intelligence can see through his wishy-washy pop-economics. If people still think reciting his bogus claims at parties counts as intelligent conversation, so be it, but he will not be allowed to bash well-established literary heroes - NOT ON MY WATCH!
Stay tuned NEXT TIME for my EPIC deconstruction of our NATIONAL PAST TIME!
My Thesis:
How Postseason Baseball Destroyed Baseball: A Nocturne of Too Many Commercials, Too Many Pitching Changes, and the Inane Ramblings of Incompetent Men Named Tim McCarver.

Monday, October 12, 2009

In Which We Dine in the Style of "Diamond" Jim Brady and Brave New England...

Saturday marked Julie's birthday celebration. Being she happens to be a citizen of the rival principality to the Kingdom of Brooklyn's north - the Queendom of Queens - she adhered to the Treaty of Orchard Beach §485.99 which declared that any celebrations requiring the attendance of Subjects of BOTH rival territories shall be had on a neutral THIRD BOROUGH. She chose the famous Delmonico's restaurant in the Financial District of Manhattan.
Those unfamiliar with this establishment's fabled past need LOOK NO FURTHER, for I herein provide and COMPLETE and ACCURATE history of Delmonico's in the fashion of a timeline.

18 A.D. - Jesus and 312 of his closest friends celebrate his 18th birthday and inadvertently invent the Jägerbomb - a drink recipe still on the menu, still at the low, introductory rate of 30 pieces of silver (FORESHADOWING)!
1890s - Renowned psychic Edgar Cayce visits Delmonico's and slips into a deep, dreamlike state wherein he mumbled "Sewards icebox... Alaska... 49th state... vice president?" amongst fevered ramblings about the lost continent of Atlantis. Chef Bjørn Strangelove immediately invented a meringue encrusted ice cream dessert to prematurely celebrate our penultimate state - Baked Alaska.
1910 - "Diamond" Jim Brady becomes the first customer to ask for a snow shovel with which to heap food into his obese girlfriend's gaping maw. Geologists of the time believed that Jim used the massive heat and supergravitational force that was his lady friend in order to make MORE DIAMONDS! Customers may still request a snow shovel to enjoy their suppers.
October 1929 to ca. 1980's - After thoroughly enjoying a brunch of Eggs Benedict, President Herbert Hoover enlisted the Army Corps of Engineers to design a TIME SHIELD to protect the restaurant. Simultaneously, he had the secret service subtly influence the market, causing a massive panic resulting in the Great Depression to ensure that NO ONE BUT HE could afford such a luxurious dish! It was not until stage magician David Copperfield decided to cause the Statue of Liberty to disappear, accidentally focusing his TIME MAGIC on the financial district, that the restaurant was once again open to the public. When authorities searched the grounds, they found Hoover hunched over a plate by a fireplace shoving entire eggs and English muffins down his throat, quenching his thirst with an oriental vase full of Hollandaise sauce.
Yesterday - Dressed in a double breasted seersucker suit, a foolish young man asked for truffles atop his steak, garnishing a $40 surcharge - thus ensuring he would have a funny story to tell for the rest of his life.

Well, we seriously enjoyed it. It was an historical experience, and atrociously delicious as well. Thanks be to Julie!
Maria and I required respite from the State of New York, and so plotted an escape to that neighbor to the United States' north - Red Sox Nation. Formerly a geographic area known as "New England," so named because of the area's propensity to drink tea and worship a monarchy, the states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut incorporated into one obnoxious political unit in 2004 in celebration of the third rate baseball team - the Boston Red Sox - winning a championship for the first time in 89 years. In a stunning blow to Red Sox Nation, their much beloved army (whose actions are mostly confined to football playing) the Patriots were crushed by the New York Football Giants (literally persons who suffer from gigantism) in the 2006 Battle of the Superbowl. But I have digressed.
Red Sox Nation is very beautiful this time of year. October, being my favorite month, is marked by the caramelizing tree leaves and brisk, bright weather. It was really breathtaking driving past gilded birches and scarlet sugar maples. For all of its obnoxious sports fans, Red Sox Nation is far and away the most beautiful part of America in the autumn.
We drove our adorable silver Volkswagen Jetta (courtesy of Zip Car) to the Northampton area of Massachusetts. There we went to Atkin's Farm, a produce market so popular that the parking lot suffers from traffic congestion. There we feasted on a mug of warm apple cider and cider donuts, a product that was pretty much the main reason we made the whole trip. Indeed, if it weren't for Maria salivating at the very thought of these confections, no way would we have driven up there. A little ways away, we went to an apple orchard, where I went apple picking for the first time. It felt a little like we were on a movie set - picking apples amongst autumnal trees, bright blue sky, green, gold, red spotted hills... and I practiced my cricket bowl with the fallen, spoiled apples.
I declare this the finest usage of a three day weekend. I am currently re-reading Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird and scouring it for evidence of Truman Capote's handiwork. Do NOT be surprised if any of my forthcoming entries contain Atticus Finch worship - though that might be an interesting topic: challenging Malcolm Gladwell's essay denouncing Atticus.
Until I decide what to write again...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Tally of My Murderously Delicious Wake...

Some basic math will come up with the following rough tally of the animals that had to die for my meals today:
  1. At least 2 pigs.
  2. At least 1 cow.
  3. At least 2 chickens (most likely 3)
  4. 6 oysters
  5. 2 clams
  6. 5 mussels
  7. 1 lobster
This amounts to AT LEAST 19 animals. I consider this a day well spent.
And now, I set off to write a lesson plan wherein I make my students write a letter to Sen. Schumer suggesting a law that ought to be passed. At ease.

Monday, October 5, 2009

In Which We Catch Up...

I have just been informed that I won tickets to see They Might Be Giants perform on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Does that mean I have to sit through Jimmy Fallon for an hour or more? God help me.
Well, I certainly have been remiss of my updating duties, haven't I? I promised to mention the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) [D-for deceased] in this entry. Well, I've just done that. And when I write my long winded entry about my proposed Mosesesque P-Train, you will certainly hear more about him particularly pertaining to my views on the proposed Moynihan Station across the street from Pennsylvania Station.
Student teaching has been swell. I have an exceptionally smart and informative cooperative teacher, Ms T - a native of Germany whose educational excellence has garnered her a principal's license. I work at The High School of Health Professions and Human Services on 15th Street in Manhattan - the former site of Stuyvesant High School, a fact which original engravings still boast on the 16th Street side of the school. Autobiographer Frank McCourt actually taught English two floor below me just a few decades ago, and to celebrate this fact, I read Teacher Man, his account of working in the New York City educational system courtesy of the G.I. Bill.
I am in charge of two periods of Global History I (JOY!) and three periods of U.S. Government (RAPTURE!). Long story short, I couldn't have chosen better classes with which to whet my teaching skills. I have already incorporated Star Wars and the HBO miniseries John Adams into my lessons. So far: it appears that my professor is happy with my performance - going so far as to suggest that I work towards an administrative position once I've achieved a teaching position.
Problems? I have a few. Certainly learning all of my students' names has been a bit of a challenge, and I estimate that I still don't know about 35% of them. Even so, I believe I am not entirely at fault, as some of these names are entirely new to me: Dazia pronounced as "desire" with a New York accent, Ivyz as "EE-vee," Satabangkot as "Fern," &c.
It is already October, which was officially declared The Finest Month by Scientific Proof Magazine. Two days from now marks Maria's and my second anniversary. Given my current financial situation, it will prove a modest celebration, though certainly a very happy one. I certainly can't believe that the imperious, aristocratic, moody, sanctimonious behemoth with which she resides hasn't driven her away, but I genuinely thank her and owe all of my new-found success to her. Were it not for her selflessness and complete dedication to our relationship, I probably wouldn't be back in Stony Brook and headed towards the goals I should have achieved years ago.
It is worth note that yesterday was the Atlantic Antic Festival along Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. This is far and away the greatest of all street fairs. As proof, I offer the meal I had just while walking around!
  • Oysters and clams on the half-shell
  • Delicious Six-Point Amber Ale
  • Generous handfuls of kettle corn courtesy of Bob
Now, last year I was served a tremendous slice of red velvet cake from a wonderfully charming old black woman from one of the churches on Atlantic Avenue. For $3, I was given approximately one QUARTER of the cake (red velvet being one of my favorites, for cream cheese is certainly the most appealing of all icings) and granted only one fork, because, as she said, "Honey, I know you ain't gonna need no help eatin' this cake." How endearing is it when a kindly old lady makes fun of your obesity issues?! Endearing enough to ask for another slice next year.
My October resolution is to write more observations in this journal - so I trust all six of my beloved readers will press me on the matter and keep me true to this resolution. Until then, as my cooperative teacher's people say:
Auf wiedersehen!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In Which I CREATE Such a Thing As a Free Lunch...

Franklin D. Roosevelt, fondly known by contemporaries as Ol' Legs Don't Work, once boldly promised FOUR THINGS to a country ravaged by the despair of a broken economy. Oh, you all went to grade school and saw those atrocious Norman Rockwell affronts to good taste. Let's say them together!
1.) Freedom of speech and expression.
2.) Freedom of religion.
3.) Freedom from want.
4.) Freedom from fear.
Now, these are not such lofty or novel ideas. The first two are, in fact, guaranteed in our own Bill of Rights. The third goal essentially wrapped up his bizarre idea that people should have federally funded potted chickens and garaged cars. PSH! Number 4 requires an interesting historical analysis. New reports seem to suggest that FDR was, in fact, a Time Cop who posed as a crippled Depression-era president in order to learn more on the whereabouts of the infamous Evil Time Pirates called F.E.A.R. - Federation of Errant (time) Argonauts or piRates [it here should be noted that this will be considered a reasonable acronym in the year 802,701 A.D.. We weren't to fear a war in Europe or complete economic collapse. While commonly quoted as, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," Roosevelt actually wrote, "We have nothing to fear but F.E.A.R. itself." But I digress.
These freedoms are largely the product of a great speech writer editing Roosevelts inane doodlings on a cocktail napkin from the night before - a night filled with booze, cigarettes in tortoiseshell holders, more booze, and a transgendered prostitute known to modern historians as Eleanor Roosevelt-Roosevelt. The original fears, only corrected during a massive, strange Roosevelt hangover (commonly called a Bank Holiday nowadays) were.
1.) Freedom from Japan.
2.) Freedom to give me five bucks so I can pay this painfully attractive transgenduhed hookuh. [Roosevelt wrote in his famous highbrow New York accent when drunk.]
3.) Freedom from F.E.A.R..
4.) Freedom from Lunchlessness.

Throughout our magnificent history, we human beings have sought the best of "free" things. We pen fancily scribed declarations to mad kings on small faraway islands asking for "freedom." We futilely quest towards harnessing "free" energy from the UNIVERSE. We will knock down fellow human beings when smiling costumed sports mascots fire "free" t-shirts from dangerous pneumatic firearms at us during the 7th inning stretch. FREEDOM is the ULTIMATE GOAL of MANKIND!
There is an old saying supposedly attributed to a science fiction writer back in the 1930s - and we all know that ALL THINGS WRITTEN BY SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS (especially L. Ron Hubbard) ARE TRUE! That saying is "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."
Free country. Free energy. Free... LUNCH?!
We have our Free Country! And Free Energy is nothing but an idle daydreams best left to Mormons and obese steampunk fans. But free lunch?
And ladies and gentlemen of the scientific world, I here present conclusive evidence that I, WILLIAM C. OLSEN-HOEK, have discovered FREE LUNCH!
It was not so hard as you might think. Whilst sitting in my rocking chair pondering the mysteries of the universe, I thought of the long-term benefits of harnessing FREE LUNCH. Free lunch would mean the end of midday hunger for all humanity forever. The economy would benefit from a workforce required only to produce TWO meals per day. Just think of all the peanut butter and jelly (resources vital to the development of cold fusion as per the December 1987 issue of Scientific Proof Magazine) we could save! And just then I came back to reality - I have to go to a student teaching orientation tomorrow and have no idea what I need to bring.
I wrote to Natalie, my instructor for this semester, asking what I would need to bring. It should here be noted that the meeting will take place at Theodore Roosevelt's Fortified Midtown Bastion-Castle of Learning and Technological Achievement - renamed the American Museum of Natural History by an asthmatic boring middle aged tweed-wearing knucklehead who obviously had no concept of who Theodore Roosevelt was. I received the following email:

"No, I have everything we need...just a pen and some paper for notes. We
will also give you a voucher for lunch in the cafeteria there.


VOUCHER FOR LUNCH?! Just then I threw open the windows and shouted to Mr. Watson insisting I needed him! I decoded the Rosetta Stone and fell backward in my chair yelling EUREKA! I left my excommunication trial and shouted "E pur si muove!" Just a short pondering and I INVENTED FREE LUNCH! Humanity may bow down and praise me! the Nobel committee will be visiting Brooklyn this year! I have yet another accomplishment to add to my campaign! And so world! I have given you free lunch!

Comrade Derek wrote me today informing me that basketball personality Karl Mallone has a car dealership in Salt Lake City. This brought up a conversation about how the Utah Jazz can retain the name after the team left New Orleans being that Utah had no part in the history of jazz. I said they ought to have changed the name to the Utah Absurd Cultists.

This ends my consortium on FREE LUNCH.
STAY TUNED NEXT WEEK - for I will mention the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) in my next entry!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wherein I Metamorphose into a Television Cooking Personality...

The number four movie this past week was Nora Ephron's estrogen-soaked "it's never too late" comedy Julie & Julia. The premise revolves around a self-involved inhabitant of the Empire of Queens (a well-known rival of my own superior borough of BROOKLYN) who decides that life being a telephone operator who takes angry phone calls from post-9/11 suffering New Yorkers isn't noble enough a career. In attempt to make herself well-known, she begins a challenge wherein she tries to cook every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Needless to say, I only went for the aspects of the movie related to Julia Child and was disappointed by Meryl Streep's Aykroydesque (and here I point out that Ephron needed to include the entire SNL skit wherein he bleeds on a chicken and hammers home the importance of "keeping the liver" in order to reel out young male laughs) portrayal of one of my most cherished culinary heroines. Also, they ripped off Douglas Adams' famous line about deadlines and the whooshing sound they make as they go by. Honestly? Get your own goddamned material. The makeup of the movie audience was what everyone should expect; that is, most of the aisles were blocked by walkers, the most common conversation outside the theater was how the showing would be $6 instead of $5 due to a Sony Pictures rule, and it was nearly impossible to hear the film over the hum of respirators, pacemakers, and obnoxiously loud observations like "THIS IS ABSOLUTELY TRUE! ABSOLUTELY TRUE! SHE WAS A SPY!".
I need not mention now that I WAS SPIRITUALLY INSPIRED BY THIS FILM!
Now, it's no secret that I love television cooking. I currently own autographs from Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Anthony Bourdain, Alton Brown and - apropos to this entry - Paul Prudhomme, head chef of K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen and author of Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. I don't pretend that Prudhomme is as famous as Child, but I do argue that with his patented white golf cap, propensity to GUAR-AHN-TEE that we'll like a dish, and his immense girth that ultimately caused him to cook entirely from a Rascal scooter, he has changed the way we look at cooking. Not to mention his book is considered an essential of New Orleans creole and cajun cooking.
Thus far, I have cooked 2 recipes directly from his book - Gumbo and Rice Pudding. To give unfamiliar readers a sense of Prudhomme's buttery influence, the rice pudding required folding in meringue and the seafood and the gumbo requires that you first DEEP FRY the chicken. Yeah baby - that's my kinda cooking.
So in the spirit of Julie Whateverhernameisbutirefusetolookitupbecausei'mmuchfunnierthanheranyway, I have decided to star the OLSEN-HOEK-PRUDHOMME PROJECT! I here outline what this will require:
1.) I will cook all 214 recipes in Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen in a time period defined as from this point until the Milky Way collides with Andromeda and Time for the Human Race Matters No Longer.
2.) I will gain no fewer than 300 pounds, though not as a result of cooking crawfish etouffée in butter sauce. This will be undertaken PRIOR to the event, first requiring the purchase of a Rascal scooter.
3.) I will purchase 19 white chef's coats, 22 stretchy white chef's pants, and 38 individually wrapped and numbered golf caps.
4.) I will do everything in my power to whore up my blog so that I get as many hits as is humanly possible. This will require the help of my readers. Also, you may as well just start forking over the cash. I mean, I'm unemployed and all this tasso, andouille and lobster isn't gonna pay for itself now, is it? How do I set up a Pay Pal thing?
5.) I will enlist the help of Ron Howard - NO! - Steven Spielberg - NOOO! - I will reanimate the fetid, rotting, fat corpse of Stanley Kubrick as punishment for proclaiming that Eyes Wide Shut was the best movie he ever made. He will direct, write, and STAR in the blockbuster movie adaptation, which will be titled Mastering the Art of Getting Fat; or How to Get Paid For Being Prentious. Because I found Julie & Julia so boring, I will add the following improvements and - ahem - elaborations about my story.
  • Boat chase sequence involving Nazis.
  • Mike Piazza as my father.
  • Gratuitous depictions of SEX and VIOLENCE!
  • A magic wand duel at Weehawken.
  • Daleks.
  • M. Night Shyamalan TWIST ending. The twist? It was all just a DREAM! No... everyone but me is a ROBOT!
You know, I think this is a better money making scheme than making my future daughter a well-respected doctor and my son a Major League pitcher. So, everyone start sending me checks (made out to cash) to support this very important and much more entertaining project than the Julie & Julia project.
I will keep you all updated as things progress.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

In Which God Smiles Favorably Upon a Motley Crew...

The Automatic Blogging Device (ABD) has auto-generated the fact that my astrological sign is Pisces - the fish. Being that I put about as much stock in astrology as I did in Florida land speculation prior to the Stock Market Crash of 1929, this information seems senseless and superfluous. However, perhaps the gods of stellar divination sought my attentions... AND HERE'S HOW!
On Sunday afternoon last, the Brother Captains Michel & Michel invited me and a crew consisting of Jonathan, myself, and the beautiful and voluptuous Maria out for a promenade en bateau across the Great South Bay, a small saltwater lagoon between the kingdom of press-on nails, hairspray and broskis named Long Island, and the Eden-like homosexual romping grounds called Fire Island. Perhaps it was my having a water sign (bullshit) but I have felt a spiritual connection to this body of water my whole life. My great grandfather, a Dutchman by the name of Adrian Hoek, was a well-respected oysterman and clammer on this beautiful lagoon. His superior genetics in the area of ravaging bivalve populations seems to have gifted me with an extraordinary love and ability for collecting clams. Our crew made for the flats of the Great South Bay where clamming is its very best. Along the way, my eyes espied something black bobbing up and down in the water. Thinking it was a backpack that we may return for a reward, Captain Michel the Younger turned the craft around. As we approached, we recognized the item as a soft-sided cooler. Having been waterlogged for some time, it was immensely heavy and it took both Jonathan's and my own strength to salvage the floating treasure from its watery prison. The heavens opened and bathed us with an ethereal light - a seagull which is interpreted as the Holy Spirit descended upon us. We opened our treasure to discover A FRISBEE-DISC, a WATER-LOGGED ROAST BEEF SANDWICH, a BOTTLE OPENER, and (calm yourself ladies and gentlemen for the next revelation) BEER! Now, all of us being of a certain age where finding strange consumables on the open water doesn't prevent us from consuming them went ahead and enjoyed the fruits of our bounty, toasting whatever Divine Clockmaker deigned that we should quench our thirsts on cold, frosty, FREE BEER! And off to the flats we sailed, singing shanties and singing our own praises.
Folks, I must say that in past years, the clamming situation had waned precipitously, no doubt due to pollutants running off from the immaculately tailored front lawns so coveted by the adult male constituency on Long Island - also probably because god wished to punish that Sodom & Gomorrah that is Cherry Grove. However, in just one hour Captain Michel the Younger and I dredged 84 clams from the bay bottom! Again the Whore Goddess that is The Great South Lagoon found favor in our sight! After a refreshing and relaxing respite at Sailor's Haven beach, the Captains Michel and we made back for Long Island, where by our combined culinary talents and using a book authored by a pedophilic ex-Episcopal priest, created a sumptuous dish of linguine in white clam sauce, using the natural bounty of clams in their own liquor - torn from their protective carapaces with my own deft skills with a clam knife (thank you Popeye Hoek) - and victory garden chives & parsley. Surely nothing beats feasting by the sweat of one's own labors - especially when wine is involved!
In other news, I have seen the film Julie & Julia with Maria. It was a subpar film that I feel the necessity to make fun of. As such, I WILL USE THE SAME PREMISE IN MY OWN BLOG! As Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking has already been used, I instead choose Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen. I will discuss this idea...
Until Then,
Bon Appétit... or should I say Good Cooking, Good Eating, Good Loving!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In Which I've Gone and Done It This Time...

Dear Readers,
My former roommate and trusted adviser - Jonathan - and I took a brief but lovely sojourn to Robert Moses' paradise on Earth, namely Jones Beach State Park. There we enjoyed an entire six-pack of Red Stripe Beer and 4 liters of Kentucky Colonel George's Meier's Patented Southern Style Sangria. Combined with the August heat and saltwater, we certainly made merry ourselves on strong drink. But I digress.
Normally I don't bother my intent readers with the trivialities of my daily life. But today, however, I found out something regarding a personal physical issue.
Back on a cloudy, rain-threatened April day, my sister and I decided to play a game of catch. She, being of superior genetics and having far more capable facilities in the realm of baseball throwing, trounced me thoroughly and I went inside to have a small relaxing sit down. Upon getting up afterward, however, I found an intense pain in my right knee that I attributed to a lack of warming up prior to our early-spring catch. As the weeks passed, the pain waxed and waned directly proportionately to the amount I used the knee; generally weeks where I stood on it more, the pain increased, while more restful periods saw the pain nearly disappear. I noticed that trips to the beach where clamming, climbing, running and swimming were involved, the pain became intolerable, to the point that I visited my goodly physician, Dr. L.
She suggested that I get an X-ray, which was inconclusive. Next, a magnetic resonance image, a technology perfected by my own imperfect alma mater - Stony Brook University. I telephoned Dr. L today and discovered the nature of my injury - a torn lateral meniscus of the right knee. This setback may require that I have physical therapy or, in a worst-case scenario, arthroscopic surgery.
Alas, my previous employer known as DEATH STAR COFFEE in this blog, which is (in point of fact) a coffee company named after a lesser character in a painfully long Herman Melville novel, has severed its ties with me. As such, I shall lose my health insurance benefits (which are required things to all my non-American socio-communist readers of European principalities) and will not be able to maintain a salubrious course of action that alleviates the pain of my right knee. Thankfully, my future (BETTER) employers ought to be more understanding of the situation, being that said employers will allow such novel innovations as UNIONIZING and COLLECTIVE BARGAINING and other such employee protection, which Heywood Schwartz and his rag-tag bunch of soulless, unthinking degenerates so hatefully fear.
So until then, I promise to entertain you with my inane, megalomaniacal ramblings which you so love to hear.
I think I shall talk about school mascots.
Anyhow, godspeed and good luck to you all.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In Which We Give Shit Away and Still People Bellyache!

Allow me first to thank Heywood Schwarz, president of DEATH STAR COFFEE, Inc. for the brilliant Free Pastry Giveaway day today. Surely he hatched this brilliant plan with the finest of intentions! Give every overweight American yet another free pastry perfectly parch their insatiable eating holes so that they crave MORE black caffeine infusion. While it made my day busier than usual, I did take a small measure of joy in refusing pastries to patrons who arrived at 10:31am, one minute after the offer expired. So too did I relish telling people that they required giving me a tangible coupon or else show one to me on their handheld device - charging full price for anyone who failed to produce. This brings up yet another wonderful thing about working for DEATH STAR COFFEE, Inc. - taking people's money!
When I joined the corporation, I was told they were looking for "genuine" people who kept it real. People who genuinely smiled and thanked people for their patronage. I mean, my smile is so genuine that I'm TOLD to give you one! Did you know that I am spoken to in private if I don't smile enough?! So ENJOY my GENUINE smile in the morning!
Another illusion is that I joined DEATH STAR COFFEE, Inc. for the wonderful health benefits for which people think I should be so appreciative of. Well, considering an emergency room visit on July 4th for a nasty cast of conjunctivitis cost me handsomely, and the fact that I believe health insurance a birthright in this great nation, this reason for joining DEATH STAR COFFEE suddenly seems insignificant.
No. I really signed on for TAKING YOUR MONEY!
MONEY MONEY MONEY! I love taking your money and giving you less money in return. I love swiping your credit card in the magnetic reader and depleting your already annihilated debit account. I anxiously await the next time I can charge you 50¢ for soymilk (which is actually juice) - 35¢ for extra syrup - 40¢ when you ask for caramel on your beverage which isn't supposed to have it. I love when you pick up one of my overpriced sandwiches, add a Frap to that and rack up a bill of something like $11.79! I love the ridiculous faces you make when you incredulously ask me "Is that total right?" after buying you and your whole family my delicious, sweet coffee treats! I FUCKING LOVE TAKING YOUR GODDAMNED DELICIOUS MONEY!
Just imagine how it pained me to give you a free treat this morning. Well, enjoy it while it lasts because tomorrow, that donut is going to be $1.25 once again.
Until we meet again.
I'll see you in Coffee Hell.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In Which We Lament the Death of the English Language... Then Have a Viking Funeral For It

My post was originally going to be about this article. Independence Day is when we communally celebrate the birth of this, the Greatest Nation on Planet Earth*, by crossing state borders to illegally purchases fireworks, drink excessive amounts of alcohol, and acquire third degree burns on our right index and middle fingers. That isn't actually a third-degree burn... it's the burn of liberty coursing through our veins. At no point during an awesome display of violent, colorful firepower intended to percussively remind us that our country was baptized in the fires of bloody conflict did I wonder - hey, is this good for the environment? I could go on, but I will merely leave this with an &c. and talk about English.
My beloved girlfriend, Maria, informed me that the morning news (you know, where everyone smiles and laughs at each others terrible punny jokes to the point whether you wonder if the first qualification for appearing on the morning news is the removal of ones central nervous system) reported that Merriam-Webster added a few "questionable" words into the hallowed, sanctified halls of the English Language. Among these additions include:
  1. fan fiction
  2. staycation
  3. webisode
  4. frenemy
  5. açai
  6. locavore
I here point out that my spell checker underlined all but one of these entries in red. Now ladies and gentlemen, I freely admit that I do enjoy what is often deemed old-school. I think umpires should always have a place in baseball. I think a good seersucker suit is a better alternative to anything I see certain "fierce" persons wearing into my coffee shop, THE DEATH STAR. I think cast-iron beats Teflon any day. And if I had a telegraph, I would fucking use it! But I am adaptable. Home run review is okay. I tried to steal a nonstick pan from my mom. I realize things must change lest we devolve, but these words are abhorrable and deviant and perverse! I here DESTROY each of these words and reveal them for the FRAUDULENT, UN-ENGLISH CONGREGATION OF ROMAN LETTERS that they are... in my own particular order.

5. Açai: a small dark purple fleshy berrylike fruit of a tall slender palm (Euterpe oleracea) of tropical Central and South America that is often used in beverages ; also : the palm
This is offered in many health drinks in expensive smoothie shops, including Jamba Juice, the SWORN ENEMY OF DEATH STAR COFFEE. I have recently taken a hatred to smoothies because of DEATH STAR COFFEE's introduction of V---o Smoothies. Any time someone orders a V---o Smoothie, an unholy orchestra of Demons begins evilly scraping their cursed instruments until I can bear it no longer and throw cups all over the place and curse in French, just to show how intelligent I am and how the occupation in which I currently find myself is well below what I ought to be doing. Also, this is not an English word.

4.) Frenemy:
: one who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy
ENGLISH HAS THIS WORD MANY TIMES! I suggested the first synonym that came to mind - traitor - to a thesaurus, which yielded such long-standing gems as: backstabber, double-crosser, renegade, fifth columnist, turncoat, defector, deserter, collaborator, informer, mole, snitch, Judas, Benedict Arnold, and quisling. Even snake-in-the-grass, two-timer, rat, fink and scab were accepted as informal. But FRENEMY? It's too adorable to get its meaning across! Try this: next time someone two-times you, try the following sentences on them:
  • "You double-crossing, backstabbing Benedict Arnold!"
  • "You frenemy!"
See which one elicits the more appropriate response.

3. Webisode: an episode especially of a TV show that may or may not have been telecast but can be viewed at a Web site
What's so wrong with using the word "episode" in this case? Honestly? And I'm noticing a disturbing trend of "adorably punny blending of words" in recent years.

6. Locavore:
one who eats foods grown locally whenever possible
I am relatively certain this word was invented in the trendiest parts of Brooklyn. I can just imagine a person unironically wearing a bandana on her head on the streets of Park Slope, slurping down a $9 Chai latte and proudly proclaiming what an honest "locavore" she is and how important that is for the environment and what a good person she is for being one and why we should be one too.

1. Fan Fiction:
stories involving popular fictional characters that are written by fans and often posted on the Internet —called also fan fic \-ˈfik\
It is probably my distaste for the practice of fan fiction that I hate this entry so much. First, it is two words whose meaning is self-evident and does not require elaboration or a place in a dictionary. Secondly, FAN FICTION WRITERS ARE THE LOWEST FORM OF SENTIENT BEING ON PLANET EARTH - and that's using "sentient" very liberally. Fanfickers, especially SLASHERS (person who writes stories about science fiction and fantasy characters homosexually macking on one another) have no place in healthy society. They are not thinkers. They are not doers. They are simply there riding the coattails of (possible) genius as they sit in their darkened rooms brooding about The Tenth Doctor's obvious man-love for Harry Potter who then attempts to time travel to Hogwarts to fill him up with butterbeers and steal his anal virginity. Then they, the slashers not the characters, drink too much, cry about their feelings, and complain about all other slashers on their Live Journals, much to the delight of unknowing Midwestern girls who think the New York slash scene terribly glamorous and attempt to emulate these obese, bad-skinned losers. (I pause here to catch my breath)

2. Staycatio
n: a vacation spent at home or nearby
I had a small stroke when I heard this word. Not only does its atrocious punness rake against my happiness and peaceful state, but seriously... staycation? Vacation comes from "vacate" meaning "to boogie out of town." Ergo and thus, not "vacating" or "going on vacation" means you stay at home. You cannot "staycate" and you cannot go on "staycation"! IT IS NOT POSSIBLE! And now that I have revealed the atrocity of this word to the world, I can only demand that it be CLEANSED and PURGED and if need be BLASTED from the lexicon to prevent future generations from thinking this is a terribly good word to use in their upcoming Doctoral thesis which is probably laden with abbreviated text language anyway! I WILL NOT STAND BY AND ALLOW WESTERN SOCIETY TO DECAY IN SUCH A MANNER! You have stayed at home and done nothing instead of travelling to Switzerland or Jamaica! YOU HAVE STAYED HOME! And I urge anyone who even THINKS of using this word to STAY HOME ANYWAY because you are probably SOCIALLY INEPT and CANNOT BREATHE WITHOUT CONCENTRATING AND WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY EVEN THEN!

Please, Merriam-Webster, reconsider your great mistakes. You are only doing our great language harm. Until next year when they release even more unspeakable crimes against the lanugage I bid you adieu.

*-Proven in the July 1776 "Scientific Proof Magazine" and ratified by the Convention of Versailles on February 11, 1936.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wherein I Declare Myself Mayor...

People carry many titles nowadays. Missus. Mister. Doctor. Professor. Captain. Viscount. Archduke. Lord. Her Highness. His Majesty. Darth. Titles let us know who people are immediately. For example, Doctors are all pretentious high-nosed sophisticates in argyle sweaters with stethoscopes about their necks. Lords are all fat and carry watch fob chains dangled with intricately jeweled lorgnettes. Darths tend to try and kill Jedi with glowing light swords. I myself have carried only two titles in my 25 years - Master and Mister. While the former certainly sounds important, when you realize it's merely a tag for a boy under a certain age, it loses no small measure of its grandeur. Mister... the requirements just aren't that difficult. I have sought what I consider the finest of all titles.
I have been declared by various sources the MAYOR of at least two geographical locations: Montpellier, France and Sayville, New York. Alas, these have been in name only, as neither location has voted for me... at least not to my current knowledge. My Mayordom of Montpellier amounted to nothing more than a brief oration to my beloved onlookers from a balcony on Rue St. Guilhem served with a massive hangover (courtesy of the Shakespeare Pub) and a mouthful of pain au chocolat and café au lait. Sayville offered me a few of the benefits of mayordom including:
1.) Never paying overdue fines at the library.
2.) Free rides on the Fire Island Ferry.
3.) My name shouted out of moving vehicles while I go for an evening stroll.
4.) Complimentary ginger beer from the owner of The Sweet Gourmet.
5.) A "wink" and a "move along" for public consumption of alcohol.
But I want something more. I want to walk around in a three-piece suit wearing an important looking sash boasting my title - THE MAYOR. I want a pair of novelty oversized scissors in my back pocket for any impromptu openings and christening events I may need to attend. And best of all... I WANT TO IMPROVE NEW YORK CITY!
Those who have been in my company know that I have a few improvements already in mind. I HEREAFTER LIST THE IMPROVEMENTS.
  • The installation of a monorail. This will be provided FOR TOURIST USE ONLY. All monorails will run local and will dispense little tidbits of (made up) trivia about New York City narrated by the computer simulated voice of Jerry Orbach, thus keeping bumbling confused map-wielding Midwesterners off my more efficient, faster subway.
  • Related to the monorail, the Mayor's Mansion will be converted into a HAUNTED MAYOR's MANSION, wherein tourists may ride slowly around a dusty, cobwebbed house haunted by an overly talkative Fiorello LaGuardia.
  • The return of the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants to their rightful homes. Since Brooklyn is already a crowded borough, I suggest we build an underwater arena off Coney Island only accessible by a shark-infested fun-tunnel like you see in those fancy aquariums across our great nation. Room for the newly returned Giants will only require selling the Yankees to New Jersey. Deal with it.
  • The banning of the following terms, words and phrases: power lunch, OMG, fierce, metrosexual, txt, "he/she 'friended' me on facebook," Google, pow-wow, IDK, "please make me [INSERT NUMBER] Frappuccino(s)," fart, and the infamous "What stop do I get off on," (esp. on the Grand Central Terminal / Times Square Shuttle.
  • Improving the oyster population to clean our rivers and fill our bellies.
  • The removal of tax on all beer, wine, spirits and poltergeists.
  • The Brooklyn Museum will be made into my central Mayoral Palace. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden will be my personal Entertaining Lawn / Croquet Green. Jacques Pépin will be my personal chef in my personal catering hall of Grand Central Terminal.
  • The Treaty of Bethesda Terrace - a declaration of peace and goodwill between motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • The building of canals where several choice avenues used to be. The canals will be frozen in all possible months so that New Yorkers may ice-skate to work.
  • All non-essential electricity will be shut off and cell phone towers disabled one day per week for Back to Basics Day, when everyone has to learn to love each other without the warm, friendly glow of a television / cell phone screen.
Now if all these great ideas don't make me mayor in this upcoming election, then I have no faith in humanity.
NEXT TIME: Of Patriotism, Pyrotechnics, and the Greater Conspiracy for Greenpeace Terrorist Hippies to Destroy Independence Day

Monday, June 29, 2009

On New York Transport and the Forgotten Faction...

Perhaps the natural hierarchy dominating the means of transport around New York City has degraded slowly since the Industrial Revolution. A fierce battle has erupted between the two powerful factions of those using automobiles and those using bicycles. I here include profiles of your average automobilist and your archetypal bicyclist.
THE AUTOMOBILIST - or car-driver - is typically overweight to the point where his nose upturned and veins the color of heart attacks pop out on his face. He is wont to wear monocles, top hats or driving-caps, long flowing scarves of many colors or simply white, and generally takes any opportunity to smoke a cigar. His gargantuan girth is almost always held in by houndstoothed waistcoats of tanned panda skin with fasteners of blue whale ivory. Favorite foods include truffles, foie gras, fresh ortolan, and any provisions stolen from orphans.
THE BICYCLIST is generally from the mountains of [INSERT MOUNTAINOUS STATE HERE, though most likely in New England or the Pacific Northwest]. He subsists entirely on granola, sun-baked hemp, and manna bestowed by his various tree-gods. He wears only organic flannel or ironically sloganed, earth-friendly t-shirts that smell of aged, musty cabbage boiled in pig-sweat. He most likely hates the country he was born in, but cannot leave for fear of losing the trust-fund of a beloved great aunt.
The sheer number of cars and the way they have changed the general understanding of transportation may dictate that automobiles may be the more powerful faction. Indeed, the facts that cars are a great deal heavier (i.e., have a great deal more inertia) and are capable of approaching speeds that a bicycle could not even dream to achieve, that is provided bicycles do in fact dream, seem to suggest that cars have come to OWN THE ROAD.
Bicyclists seem to agree with this assessment. In a stunning development, they have taken to using a slogan designed to remind the pig-headed aristocratic fat-cat automobile drivers to share the road: "SHARE THE ROAD." One may even see this slogan on municipally funded street signs for which taxpayers - including TAX-PAYING CAR-DRIVERS - must pay.
Bicyclists accuse drivers of hogging the road. Drivers accuse bicyclists of not obeying traffic laws and being in the way. The fight has escalated to the point where a commercial was released on television about bicycle safety and automobilist awareness!
Indeed, in all the hot air blowing between the two aforementioned factions, the lonely pedestrian seems to be forgotten. Cars take up entire city intersections and honk incessantly as if imploring physics to rethink its laws so that the cars in front of the source of the honking will vanish in thin air. Bicyclists ignore signal lights and crosswalks with little regard for the pedestrians who are attempting to take advantage of the little blue walking person on the yellow square attached to the pole ahead of them. In the battle between bikers' rights and automobilists' superiority complex, the pedestrian is left to fend for itself - a neutral just trying to go about its business, but inevitably caught up in the tide of war.
I mention this because of my intent to FOUND A NEW POLITICAL SOCIETY! No, it is not New York Pedestrians Againts Motorists (NYPAM). Nor is it The Society for the Re-Education of Hippie Dippy Bicyclists Who Think That Two Wheels is Better Than Both Four Wheels and Two Legs (SR-EHDBWTH2WBTB4WTL). Nay! It is the Friends of the Concept of Invincible Pedestrians (FCIP). FCIP will troll through various magical understandings of ancient societies and glean from the best of these metaphysical schools the choicest spells for the preservation of persons trying to walk across the street. I have already encountered a Spell Which Causes Automobiles to Innocently Pass Through Human Flesh Without Harm engraved in hieroglyphics upon the walls of the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Combined with a Mesopotamian Spell of Obliviousness in Pedestrians, and a Maori Charm of Invisibility, I am quite sure that New York pedestrians will be able to pass as ghosts through even the most war-torn intersections in New York City while nonchallantly chatting about the weather with their neighbor as if nothing were happening. Classes begin whenever the hell I feel like it at the cost of several hundred thousand dollars. I am, after all, brilliant to have come up with this.
Before I leave, I would like to point out that it seems that my (currently) 6 readers haven't spread the word about Line Etiquette, as a man told me to hold on while attending to his phone conversation and a woman mumbled through a mouthful of food that she wanted a coffee while searching her pocket-book for change that she didn't actually have. I'm terribly upset with you all... if you're still reading at this point.
Until my society prevails...
I am ever faithfully...
Your Humble Barista

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In Which I Set to Improve the Society of Lines...

Believe it or not, I've found that one of the things Americans find most difficult to do it properly wait in a line. The concept of a waiting in line serves as a paramount example of the success of civilized society. Every part of the line adheres to a social contract. Everyone agrees that the person ahead of them deserves to be served first because they arrived at an earlier time. In a healthily functioning society, free from runs on the bank caused by an ancient investor stealing tuppence from a little boy, lines maximize efficiency and cut down on confusion.
Perhaps society is not so healthy, for I see blatant abuses of the privilege of waiting in line nearly every day. Being a talented register cashier at THE DEATH STAR (the aforementioned coffee shop not far from one of the oldest skyscrapers in Manhattan), I represent the ultimate goal of the line - the person to whom you give your order and your cash in return for fattening goodies and caffeinated beverages that you pretend to be addicted to in order to elicit various responses from your painfully hip co-workers. I here outline some of the vilest offense against good taste, blatant violations of the social contract.
KNOW YOUR ORDER: When you stand in line, you are standing in line for a reason. When visiting THE DEATH STAR, you want expertly steamed milk and bacon-fat coated donuts. As such, take time while you are in line to KNOW YOUR ORDER. Promptly giving me your order ensures that the line moves which in turn ameliorates the healthy flow of society.
HAVE YOUR METHOD OF PAYMENT READY: Here I wish this were a video blog such that I could humorously demonstrate some of the more incredulous transactions I have experienced. Instead, I will list phrases that oughtn't be uttered when you arrive at my smiling, unshaven, sleepy face.
  1. "Lemme see if I have 86¢... in PENNIES."
  2. "Can you break a hundred for this, my $1.90 coffee?"
  3. "I think there's enough money on my gift card."
  4. "Do you accept traveler's checks?"
  5. "Can I owe you [INSERT AMOUNT OF MONEY HERE]?"
  6. "Do you accept checks?"
  7. "I know one of this multitude of credit cards hasn't been maxed out yet."
DO NOT CUT THE LINE: This is in bad form and is considered rude in many circles, including all countries east and west of the Prime Meridian. I include this hint here because of one instance that I must relate to you. Not long ago, a transvestite and his boyfriend (who had just been released from prison) caused a major problem in my store by waiting in front of the register while an entire line of hungry, caffeine-starved customers patiently waited in THE LINE. The transvestite, who was very rude, demanded that I abandon my post dealing with THE LINE to refill his personal mug with hot coffee. I explained how a line worked, and how if he wanted service, that he would have to wait in line until it was his turn to be served. At this, his boyfriend (the one recently released from prison), started directly at me, pointed at me, and accused me of being "A BITCH... you can tell just by looking at him he's a little BITCH!" He was ejected from the store, only to burst in a few minutes later with this: "ANY TIME YOU WANNA GO, BITCH, JUST FIND ME! IT'S GONNA BE BLOODY BLOODY!" At the time, this infuriated me, but now I can only laugh.
"DO NOT USE CELLULAR COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES IN THE LINE": Line time is waiting time. You are there to wait. Here are some of the things you may wish to do in a line that are socially acceptable practices that are not addictive, and do not cause you to stare zombie-like at a tiny screen while cognizant persons still part of the healthily functioning waking world are attempting to take your order:
  1. Read part of a book, magazine, newspaper, &c.
  3. NOTHING - it's a line after all, goshdarnit.
I reserve the right to entirely ignore you when you ignore me. Sure, my company tells me that I need to be welcoming and hospitable, but show some reciprocity! There is nothing that makes my blood boil so quickly (at sea level, see alternate instructions for high altitudes) as a person who approaches the register on a cell phone. You see them fidgeting with their Blackberries reading emails. They scroll through long text conversations on their iPhones. They APOLOGIZE to the PERSON ON THE OTHER END OF THE LINE, when I kindly ask them how I may help them, whereas I get a whispered order whilst the customer's hand covers the receiver so as not to interrupt their conversation. Just don't do it. DO NOT USE CELL PHONES IN LINE!
Using these guiding principles, I'm sure that we can all live in a happier and healthier society, free from obnoxious cell phone abusers and time wasters.
Until next time...
I am very truly...
Your Humble Barista

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

In Which A New Chapter Begins...

Having reached the tender age of 25 some months ago with little in the way of fanfare, I have decided to graduate myself from the angst-clad shackles of Dead Journal and enter the entirely more sophisticated and acceptable realm that is BLOGGER. Considering that I simply typed BLOGGER.COM into my URL bar and it practically set up an account by itself, I consider this switch predestined.
So what of my life now? Certainly there have been many great changes. I have moved from the borough of Manhattan, so-named for the misogynistic cap-wearers that purchased it from Indians who didn't even own the land in return for tiny glass trinkets and small-pox, to the mythical Kingdom of Brooklyn, a small land at the westernmost terminus of Long Island where persons exchange oyster shells for currency and appreciation for baseball is mandatory. Here I live in a small but comfortable apartment in a neighborhood not far from the Brooklyn Museum, a grandiose palace filled with facsimiles of great paintings and originals of modern atrocities against good taste. Such is the nature of this neighborhood that signs intended to curb loitering must be written in English, Spanish, and broken French. Currently living with me is my talented and beautiful girlfriend, Maria, who spends winters teaching autistic children in the New York Department of Education and summers praying for beach days. Among our most prized possessions are a cast iron skillet that we have meticulously seasoned with our above-average culinary skills, a scarf knitted by Maria in the style of the fourth regeneration of Doctor Who, and a rocking chair that once belonged to my great-grandfather.
I myself still slave away behind a very expensive espresso machine in coffee shop belonging to one of the largest corporations on this, our Spaceship Earth. Shamefully donning my green apron in a shop not too distant from one of the oldest skyscrapers in New York City, I strive to finish my Baccalaureate Degree of History and Social Studies Education from Stony Brook University. As I will be student teaching in New York City's public school system this upcoming fall to finally complete said degree, I trust that this web log will become ever so much more interesting in the not-too-distant future. Until such time, I shall spend as much time as possible complaining about my coffee shop, which I will heretofore refer by the randomly selected name, THE DEATH STAR, and extolling the wonders and virtues of my friends and loved ones. Occasionally I hope to write about an interesting dream I have, since I tend to have extraordinary night-visions that people occasionally find entertaining.
God-willing, readers will find my writings and musings entertaining, educational, and yes, perhaps, even a trifle outrageous, though never maliciously so. Should they have any questions or concerns, they ought to exercise their curious desires and contact me using the usual internet channels. Until then...
I am truly...
Your Humble Barista

NEXT TIME: The Etiquette of Waiting in Line