Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Good Morning Beautiful...

Maria and I received a frankly gut-busting message on the phone this morning. It was delivered in a sleepy, throaty voice, obviously intended to be sexy - or something. If I were some sort of technological whiz-kid, I would post a recording of the message complete with a local news style 911 emergency call background. Alas, I am not that whiz-kid, so here's the message. Remember: throaty, sleepy, sexy and - ahem - from Brooklyn.

"Good morning beautiful. How you doin’? This is ST. I’ve been trying to get in touch with you, but – uh – you’re a hard woman to catch up with. Anyway, you should give me a call back. I’ll be in the house until about 1:30 if you wanna call back. If not, I understand. Have a great day. Bye."

Naturally my first instinct was to trace the call and savagely torture the person on the otherend of the line for trying to pick up my betrothed in so shameful a way. But in the end, I just laughed and cracked open an ice cold Schaefer Beer before shamelessly posting this sorry attempt at a pickup.

Fig. 1: It's the one beer to have when you're having more than one.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Robin Danger Action School of Culinary Excellence!

Many centuries ago (read: 11 months ago), I was approached by a shady stranger with a thick St. Petersburg accent as I sat on a bench by South Street Seaport. The stranger wore a rich brown fedora, dark sunglasses, gray tweed trousers and heavy trench coat. He slid up to me and muttered,
"I hear dare is g-r-r-reat veather in Moscow," after which he placed a nondescript leather attaché case at my feet.
"Um... I think you have the wrong --"
"You are not Screaming Eagle?"
"Well, yes I am, but this is not the appointed time or place for this to ha--"
And that is how Greg Mourino suckered me into working on his master's thesis project.
It is a fact already well known to my stalkers and readers that I used this SECRET PROJECT as a means of hiding a sneaky trip to Long Island wherein I asked my future wife's family what they thought about the two of us getting married. What does that mean? That this project happens to be the MOST IMPORTANT COMPUTER ANIMATED FILM IN THE HISTORY OF MANKIND.
Instead of going into mountainous waves of detail, I will instead share it without further ado. Enjoy - The Robin Danger Action School of Culinary Excellence.

I will always maintain fond memories of repeatedly shouting "SHUT UP!" and "WRONG!" into a very expensive microphone in a converted bedroom with mattresses against the walls to contain the sound. I can only hope my violent shouting struck fear into the hearts of the obnoxious children upstairs in Greg's apartment.

Friday, May 20, 2011

In This, Our Last Day on Earth...

It has come to my attention from certain reputable sources (i.e. people wearing t-shirts distributing pamphlets on the subway) that the world will end tomorrow, May 21st, 2011. Or the Rapture will happen and the world will be destroyed by fire in October or something to that effect. Whatever the case, I am here to dispel fears and reassure the frightened masses that the world WILL NOT END at the said date and time. And no, don't expect me to go into a scientific breakdown of the diarrhea that issues from senile West Coast ministers who haven't enough brains to blow on hot soup. I'm going to give you REAL reasons why the world can't possibly end and that it will endure far longer than any millenarian cultist will tell you. I present:


1. Maria and I have not yet married. They say you're supposed to present your strongest argument last, but to hell with that. Let us just say that if God decides to Rapture all his chosen people into heaven tomorrow after all the time and effort that Maria and I (but especially Maria) have put into this glorious event, he's got something worse than Satan's wrath to deal with - the wrath of Ms. Olsen. I am relatively sure that my mother would punch him in his perfect, omnipotent face if he did ANYTHING the mar the plans of our Blessed Event. I can already see him whining, droplets of precious blood staining his millennia-whitened beard, apologizing to the 5'1" behemoth that just bitch-slapped him. One minute with Ms. Olsen, and I'm certain that God would return the world to its former splendor and pretend that none of that nonsense ever happened.
Which reminds me, the vote! I had every intention of blowing off the dozens of voters who opted for the blue whale tie and choosing another tie. J. Press was having a sale this week, and so I popped into their store on Madison Avenue, where I was greeted by their best salesman, Mark Clark. I was about to buy a 25% off burgundy tie with white colored polka dots, but none was available. Whilst perusing the other ties, my eyes fell upon the whale tie. In the sales pitch of the century, Mark pressed the tie into my hands and said, "It was practically made for that suit." Long story short, you win voters. This time.

2. They Might Be Giants have not yet released their latest adult-oriented album, Join Us. Scientists have proven that God is a huge TMBG geek. No way would he call it all quits before Brooklyn's Ambassadors of Love, who have been installing and servicing melodies since 1982, got their chance to release another album. It's just - not - happening.

3. I am not finished reading The Autobiography of Mark Twain. And even if this will be the last day of Earth, let it be known that I'm GLAD the last book I shall have read was Mark Twain's autobiography. Have you ever wondered what it's like to be an old, bitter man, sitting in bed reading newspaper clippings and ranting to a stenographer about how biographies SHOULD be written and completely dodge the subject of your own personal life and matters entirely? Then this is your book. Of the over 700 cereal box-sized pages, only about 250 contain the autobiography proper - if you can call this a proper autobiography. The balance consists entirely of scholarly bullshit more suited to the kindling pile than to literature bearing the name Mark Twain. I can just picture how Twain would have felt about 500 pieces of paper wasted by doctors and post graduates trying to guess and surmise what he wanted the people of 2010 to read. It's insufferable.
And as I said, Twain does everything in his power not to talk about himself. His topics range from the distasteful decorations of his living quarters, to the iniquity of Jay Gould, to explanatory notes on a biography written about him by his deceased daughter (which is brilliant), to overbearing landlords. And perhaps one of the funniest things is his insistence on bringing up the subject of a woman being escorted out of President Roosevelt's White House because the President hadn't time to meet with her.
Of course this anecdote only serves to prove his thesis that all news fades away and becomes unimportant; that big stories of the day just aren't as big as you get further from them. Still, those juicy little headlines are oddly entertaining to read 100 years after the events that caused them to be printed transpired. He apparently wanted to make a literary magazine consisting solely of seemingly inane newspaper clippings from decades ago. Notwithstanding, he keeps bringing up the subject of a woman being forcibly removed from the White House. Now naturally I was astonished by this whole anecdote, as the idea of a normal citizen waltzing into the national mansion is impossible to comprehend. No doubt they'd be shot by a sniper before they had a chance to wipe their feet nowadays. But Mr. Twain is BESIDE himself with anger at President Roosevelt for not dealing with this issue more delicately. Any modern reader would find this whole event asinine; the concept of someone entering the White House without a birth certificate and passport and a writ of consent signed in triplicate by Jesus Christ himself is baffling to the modern reader. But Mark Twain included it in his biography.
There is one matter of the autobiography that does pertain to tomorrow's (fictitious) events. Twain recalls the night in Hannibal, Missouri when the real person upon whom Injun Joe was based died. A massive thunderstorm struck the Mississippi River town that turned the streets into muddy rivers. Twain was certain that the thunderstorm was the Devil coming for Injun Joe's soul. It is perhaps coincidental that the weather here in Brooklyn has been rainy, and that thunderstorms haunt the forecast for the next 6 days as well.

4. If the following clip did not produce a black hole that consumed the world and all of time and space with it, THEN ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WILL DESTROY THE WORLD*.

Fig. 1: Daniel Patrick Moynihan v. William F. Buckley, Jr.

Wow. Just. Wow.
The late Senator Moynihan frequents this blog often - because he was the greatest senator of all time - but I think this marks Mr. Buckley's first appearance in this corner of the interpipes. What can be said of this video? Here are two persons who have mastered the English language on entirely different levels. Moynihan's command of English sees him picking esoteric, professorly words, intentionally fumbling whilst searching for words, over-elaborating vowels for the purpose of drawing attention to his word choice, and syncopating the syllables of important words. It's wonderful to watch. And I have always been jealous of his style of public speaking. There is something very commanding and patrician about his speaking style.
But then there's William F. Buckley, Jr., whose voice is like butter melting over warm blueberry muffins. Perhaps no one else on Earth has ever had such an accent; a mid-Atlantic verging on BBC received pronunciation, peppered with Southern twangs and toothy whistles on chosen S's. Listen to him say, "'Your immortal soul,' the monseigneur replied," on repeat, and tell me if you aren't immediately transported to the Twilight Zone. And how I ENVY someone who can get away with unapologetically pronouncing the highest office of the United States as "prez-dint," only to follow it with a pure New Orleans "Caw-tuh." Buckley's pronunciation of Jimmy Carter's name and title make the erstwhile Commander-in-Chief sound less like a cardigan-clad peanut farmer and more like THE MOST POWERFUL MAN ON PLANET EARTH.

Fig. 2: This style is acceptable only for soft-spoken Pennsylvanians on public television - not men who can hit buttons that annihilate entire nations.

So what does this have to do with Doomsday or the Rapture? Simple. The fact that two of the most fantastic public speakers in American history were able to sit next to one another in a television studio and exchange such exquisitely embellished English words without a space-time rift opening up and the voice of Stephen Hawking announcing the impending doom of Earth bears testament that this world will CAN WITHSTAND ANYTHING.
Ozone holes?
Global warming?
More like a tiny fever!
Bill Buckley and Pat Moynihan SPEAKING AT ONE ANOTHER.

* - The death of the sun will likely destroy this world, but humanity will likely have colonized space at that point - hopefully.

So ladies and gentlemen, we are quite safe. So long as Ms. Olsen, John Linnell, John Flansburg, Mark Twain's Autobiography, and video recordings of a well-spoken Senator and a butter-voiced conservative pundit exist, GOD WILL NOT DESTROY HIS MOST FAVORED CREATION.

...but have a drink on my account just in case.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Wherein You, THE READER, Decides What Tie I Will Wear at my Wedding...

Saturday was what you could call an "eventful" day for me. Jon and I went searching for something for my groomsmen to wear. It was raining and we were walking down 5th Avenue looking in the windows of all the expensive shops, wondering where Brooks Brothers had hidden its store. We ambled past a store whose window displayed a panama hat similar to the one worn by Harry S Truman - which just so happens to be the hat I wanted to complete my wedding ensemble.

Fig. 1: Harry Truman's ACTUAL panama hat. If someone could kindly steal this from his President Library, that would just be fantastic. Thanks.

That store happened to be J. Press. I'd never heard of the store, but Jon being the Resident Expert that he is informed me that J. Press was the official outfitter of Yale University.
To put a somewhat long story short, I walked into J. Press for a panama hat and left with a very expensive tailored-to-fit seersucker suit.

Fig. 2: Eat your heart out, Atticus Finch!

I told you it was hot. Now, only one thing remains. I plan on wearing a white French-cuffed shirt with my suit, and have decided that a red-colored tie would be most appropriate to make me look like a walking, living, breathing American Flag - that happens to be getting married at the time. Here's the problem, a plain red tie is just - well - too plain for me. It needs a little something extra, and that's where I found myself in this little dilemma. You see, J. Press also sells these amazingly fun emblematic ties, and I have fallen in love with two in particular.
Fig. 3: A multicolored elephant tie - something you'd see someone from a Wes Anderson movie wear.

Fig. 4: A blue whale tie. Also... something you'd most likely see Royal Tenenbaum or "The Businessman" from The Darjeeling Limited wearing

That's where you come in. I need your help, dear readers, in deciding which tie should complement this god among suits. You'll notice that I've added a poll on the right side of my blog where you may feel free to vote to your heart's content.
Also, feel free to send donations to offset the cost of all this Ivy League haberdashery that I've mired myself in. And also - please everyone - remind to tell Maria that she looks so much better than I do on July 2*.

* - I will likely be slapped for this sentence.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

In Which We Share Electronic Missives from the Episcopal Church...

It has been way too long since I've posted. I believe I was supposed to tell you something about my top three worst fears. Does anyone really care to know? Fine... here they are:
3.) That Maria & I Are Becoming Hipsters.
1.) Megafauna.
All right... all right. Pretty much everyone who knows me knows that I harbor something of a grudge against China (not really a grudge so much as it is a spirit of healthy competition). This is perhaps due entirely to the fact that China silently because the world's largest manufacturer economy, thereby surpassing the United States in what right-minded pundits assure us is the first sign of the End of the Pax Americana. What's the real deal? China is heavily vested in the economic prosperity of the United States. If we fat, bloated, Capitalist pigs don't buy all of their little trinkets and Billy the Big-Mouth Basses and cheap paper cocktail parasols, THEN CHINA WILL CRUMBLE.*
* - Note: It will not literally crumble.
I believe our good friend Gale put my feeling about China best when she drew this webcomic.
Honestly though... my only concern is putting on a better spectacle than China. AND HOW DO YOU COMPETE WITH THIS?!

This is quite honestly one of the most amazing displays I have ever seen in my life. If my fear is based in anything, it is jealousy. Pure, prideful jealousy. So, that sums up my "fear" of China. The hipster thing? I was going to talk about food co-ops, living in Brooklyn, and wearing tighter fitting clothing (due to my weight loss), but... I'm not nearly dirty enough, nor do I live in Williamsburg. So I think I'm safe.
As for my very real and very paralyzing fear of megafauna. I will show you two pictures: Fig. 2 & Fig. 3.

Fig. 2: HOLY SHIT!


If these two images don't strike bloody fear into your veins, then you are scarcely human. I rest my case.
...ugh, that moose photograph gives me nightmares.

But more important than my silly (and not so silly fears), I think it highly appropriate to share the following email exchange between myself and Rev. Farrell, being the man who will preside over the blessed union between Maria and myself. Bear in mind, the good Reverend shot down our idea to play the beautiful exit music from the original Star Wars film, and so I perhaps took his control issues too far in asking about what may be thrown at Maria and me as we exit the church. I began:

Hey Fr. Farrell,

Granny launched a small investigation into the possibility of having a small punch & cookies reception in the upper Parish Hall immediately following the ceremony. From what she said, we need to seek your approval on the matter. I know that preparations need to be made for the 5:00 service, but we hope it won't be too large an inconvenience.
Also, we're wondering what the policy is regarding items that can be thrown at us as we exit the church. We've found a type of confetti made from earth-friendly materials and 100% biodegradable. It disappears after the first rain or with a once-over with a hose.
And one more thing - as I suspected, my grandmother would really love to bring up the sacraments with Maria's grandmother. Maria needs to consult with her grandmother on the matter, but I have a feeling that we may change our minds on the matter.
I believe that's all - or at least enough - for now. Let us know. Thanks!


Barring that horrible double usage of "the matter" in the final paragraph, I thought it was a reasonable letter. He responded:


People in the upper parish hall munching on cookies will not get in the way of the blessed sacrament at 5:00. You must also clear it with *******, who does scheduling. I believe that AA comes in at 6:15 or so, and everything would have to be cleaned and moved out of the way by that time, if I am correct. ***** will know.

Items that can be thrown at you as you exit the church? Cows are permissible as long as they are dairy cows and are thrown from the top of the tower. Knives are also acceptable if thrown by someone who is licensed by Circus Acts Licensing Agency. Whatever happened to birdseed? Is that what is dismissed as "slippery"? If you want that snow fluttering effect, let me suggest a January wedding. All right, all right. I quashed the Star Wars music, but desire less control of what goes on outside the church. Eco-friendly snowyflakey stuff is fine. I still might bring a cow, though.

The matter of who brings up the offerings is entirely in your court. (They are not yet sacraments, you know, or would you completely obviate the necessity of a priest? Are you some kind of anti-clerical Evangelical? Do you deny the meaning of the sacrifice at the altar? I don't think the Evangelical Pentecostal Gospel Church of Jesus in Bohemia is booked for a wedding on July 2. You might try there. God is watching you, Will Olsen-Hoek!)


Needless to say I loved this email. I replied:


Rest assured that your previous electronic missive will be transcribed by a highly paid calligrapher, writ in gold upon blue whale leather parchment, set in a frame fashioned of reclaimed teak from the Titanic, and hung in the portrait gallery that Maria and I have secreted away in the dark, cavernous recesses of our tiny Brooklyn apartment.
I must now insist that you bring a cow, if only to re-enact the likely apocryphal story wherein soon-to-be-President William McKinley forced a cow to the roof of Bentley Hall at Allegheny College because he'd heard that cows were unable to walk downstairs, and wished to see what shades of scarlet the Dean's face would turn upon discovery of the bovine nuisance.
As for birdseed, I carefully read the instructions on granny's wheelie walker and discovered that the mechanism is distinctly sensitive and prone to explosion in the presence of birdseed. The insurance burden St. Ann's may incur in such case frankly terrifies me.
Upon calling the Evangelical Pentecostal Gospel Church of Jesus, I discovered that they don't take kindly to apostates such as myself who worship under the sinful diocese that makes bishops of - GASP - homosexuals and - EVEN WORSE - women. I'm not entirely sure about the nature of the rest of our conversation as the Pastor had for several minutes delivered me a long, apparently angry diatribe entirely in tongues. He hung up on me after he ran out of breath. Long story short, it's a no-go with them.
So I suppose we'll settle with St. Ann's - and throw our sinful organic confetti, shove cows up the bell tower, convince our friends to group juggle flaming chainsaws outside, and gluttonously gorge ourselves on punch and cookies in the Parish Hall! After all, wasn't it Mother Teresa who once said, "If this church is a-rocking, don't come a-knocking"?

-Sir William, 571st Baron of Sealand

Post Scriptum: Thank you for ******'s email. I'll let her know about our intentions in the Parish Hall and that it's cool with you.

It's emails like this that make me proud to be an Episcopalian.

Fig. 4: If anything may be said of the world, Monty Python has said it better.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself.. and These Several Other Things.

For a large part of my life, I was deathly afraid of roller coasters... in fact, I was deathly afraid of most amusement park rides. Indeed, one of my favorite things is the tears that well in my grandmother's eyes as she nearly dies laughing while recalling that one day at Disney World that I fell on the floor crying, begging her not to bring me into the Haunted Mansion. In fact, it wasn't until college that I actually developed a taste for roller coasters - though generally the more tame of the bunch. I in fact love the Coney Island Cyclone in all its bone rattling, arthritis-inducing glory that is so indicative of the wild ride the Nation was experiencing during its 1927 construction. Still, when I ventured to New Jersey for Fright Fest at Six Flags, I looked up in disgust and horror at an abominable steel cathedral of death: Kingda Ka.


I still consider this fear conquered to a certain degree, as I have ridden Nitro in near total darkness and El Toro, a wooden coaster that rides like its steel cousins.
So what do I still fear? Watching Jeopardy! tonight, I was reminded of a cold, terrible, dormant fear that grips the depths of my mind. What else could I do but compile them into a list that my enemies may exploit to my detriment.


No. 5.) Scientology.
It burns, I know. If you have a lazy Sunday that needs whittling away, might I suggest reading this eye-opening piece about Scientology. It pays more respect to the details of the religion than I do in this short, hilarious, self-serving blog of mine - and makes many of my observations seem childlike and ignorant. Needless to say, that article is an example of journalism, and this is an attempt at comedy.
Yes, I love the Constitution of the United States - and yes I realize that the very first amendment to it guarantees religious freedom to anyone within the borders of this great nation... in so many words. I don't begrudge people their religion, except to those apostates who defect from the Episcopal Church because of our tendency to elect female and openly homosexual bishops. I do, however, find the "Church" of Scientology to be a horse of a different color, something that needs be scrutinized in league with the likes of snake oil salesman and Vince the Sham-Wow guy. Okay, I get it, Xenu is an evil overlord who imprisoned the souls in paleolithic humans or something... and the only way we can clear ourselves is to give L. Ron Hubbard our fortunes to become Level 8 Thetans.

Fig. 2: An Inconvenient Truth
See, doesn't that sound like something from a video game? I have always been wary about this religion because of its origins in the mind of a really bad science fiction pulp writer. Then someone I knew personally - someone I liked and respected, became a Scientologist.
One bizarre evening, he came back from California after several months auditing with the Church, or whatever it is they do. By this time, I had experimented with Red Bull for the first time with disastrous results - namely that I went on an all-night bike ride the previous night and had suffered more than 48 hours of jittery wakefulness. Our Scientologist friend had invited us to Starbucks. Accompanying him was his fiancée - a cold, enigmatic Asian woman who spoke almost no English. What I remember of the event was that my friend showed us a series of cards about depression, confusion and "clearing" yourself. It shook me. Here was a friend of mine behaving like one of those people who offered "stress tests" in the Times Square subway station.
Scientology shares way too many things in common with the medieval concept of buying indulgences, which goes something like this:

It is the Middle Ages. Lord Chestermoreton wishes to do ungodly things and get away with it. He brings with him an enormous chest full of precious gold, diamonds and rubies stolen from the Holy Land. He approaches Pope Charlie XII who is seated upon the Throne of St. Peter.

Lord Chestermoreton: Your Holiness, I wish to divorce my wife. Her cooking is an atrocity against humanity. There is little difference between her stew and the contents of my chamberpot after choking down the said stew.

Pope Charlie XII: I see, my son. Well, you know full well the church's view on divorce. Marriage is, after all, a holy sacrament.

Lord Chestermoreton: What if I were to offer you this ring? It was stolen from the finger that blasted Mohamadan, Suleiman the Impeccably Dressed, after my forces ransacked Jerusalem.

Lord Chestermoreton offers the Holy Father an immense golden ring with an emerald the size of a peach pit. Pope Charlie XII leans over, examines the magnificent jewel. He strokes his chin, and says...

Pope Charlie XII: For this my son, you can put that lousy cook to death with my blessings.

Lord Chestermoreton: Splendid! Now that we've settled that, I'd like to marry my prize horse, Broomhilda.

Pope Charlie XII: Now just a moment my son! The Bible clearly states in Leviticus that --

Lord Chestermoreton's kicks open his chest of precious things. It sparkles and radiates with the priceless contents within. Pope Charlie XII leans over, examines the contents of the chest and whistles.

Pope Charlie XII: So... when's the wedding?


The only way you can advance to higher levels in the Church of Scientology is to pay - OUT THE NOSE. Mr. Hubbard recognized that he could profit from his new religion, and thus actively sought out wealthy celebrities and offered them higher status in the church the more money they gave. Our friend gave an awful lot of money to the Church in his own time there.
It scares me that intelligent people can fall for something like this. And what did our friend get out of Scientology? Well, to give you an idea, the last time I saw him was at a bar. He took out his keys out of his pocket to retrieve his wallet. I noticed a plain golden ring holding all his keys together. "Is that what I think it is," I asked him. Sure enough, it was his wedding band. "Yeah... at least it's good for something at this point," he responded.
Sham marriages. Practical slavery. Buying indulgences. Xenu capturing human souls. A failed sci-fi writer. This is some scary shit, people.

No. 4.) The Zombie Apocalypse.
Good grief. I hear about this stuff all the time. Apparently everyone in the sci-fi community is convinced that we will all perish when some mutated virus from space or from some secret defunct Soviet-era laboratory or from monkeys. And not only will we perish, we will then walk the earth with glazed over eyes and puckered, rotting flesh with an insatiable hunger for brains. Even Robert Frost hypothesized the world would end with the Walking Dead when he wrote his famous short poem, Fire and Zombies.

Fire and Zombies
by Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in zombies.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of Hate
To say that for destruction, zombies
Are also great and would consume we.

Mr. Frost gave up at the end with so trite and contrived a rhyme. But really, what useful word rhymes with zombies. NONE.
But I am relatively sure that The Zombie Apocalypse is the new euphemism for MASS GLOBAL PANDEMICS THAT WILL DETROY US ALL.
Now that's really something to be frightened of. Oh, there's the occasional scare that we get. First we were all going to die from SARS. Then anthrax. Then swine flu. Seriously though, most of these frightful, terrifying diseases are either a.) easily treated or b.) easily preventable. Indeed, these Angels of Death could be fended off with hand sanitizer. THAT IS NOT SCARY. Not even the flu epidemic of the early 1900s is truly, bone-chillingly terrifying, considering that some attribute the mass deaths from the said outbreak to overdoses of the new miracle drug, aspirin.
No, the real rider upon a Pale Horse are culprits like the Ebola virus, which some scientists speculate actually has EXTRATERRESTRIAL ORIGINS.

Fig. 3: I knew he was in with a bad crowd, but it was worse than I imagined. ALIENS!

The very thought of a virus that attacks and kills in a single day and hops onto the next nearest available host, leaving in its path a wake of death and destruction gives me the willies! Those unfortunate victims need not rise from their deaths to begin feasting upon the living. NO WAY. It's scary enough as it is.
Plus, everybody knows that if the zombie apocalypse were to really happen, you need only find a baseball bat and several humorous friends. BOOM - suddenly you're a survivor!

Recap: So, we've covered that I fear Scientology and The Zombie Apocalypse. I will save my top 3 fears for next time.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Epistle Wrought by a Victim of the Snowpocalypse... FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE

Greetings internet colleagues. For those of you not living in the Northeastern United States (being the only part of the said country that really matters), you may or may not be aware of the fact that every soul in the said geographical area has been wiped clean. Alas, it's true. In New York impatient people perished waiting an extra 10 minutes for a bus to arrive. In Boston thousands met their end from the minor inconvenience of having to hop over a slushy puddle. In Philadelphia literally thousands met their doom when they had to send their hideous UGG boots to the dry cleaner to remove rock salt stains. In short, I'm sorry to say, but we are all dead. I met my tragic end when I received an annoying telephone call at 6:15 AM telling me that New York City public schools would be closed that day. The tragedy of having lost $154.97 in daily wages was too much for my heart to bear, and thus, in the darkened, overheated* gloom of my Brooklyn apartment, I withered to dust. Using the latest high-speed necrofiberoptic technology, I was able to download my consciousness into the nearest electronic device with a programmable memory (nothing fancy, mind you - by an unlucky coincidence a coffee maker was the closest object at my time of death) and am thus able to deliver this missive to you, Dear Readers. Let's talk about the economy.

Item 1: Return to the Gold Standard
Now, in my life, I was a titled Baron of the micronation of Sealand - a decrepit World War II remnant currently decaying in the English Channel. Sealand's economy as well as the rusting support beam keeping it from the watery abyss below are, not to put too fine a point on it, rather fragile. In these dark time the middle and lower classes find themselves quickly slipping back into standards of living roughly equal to that of medieval Scottish peasantry. Sealand took a cue from L. Frank Baum's economic treatise The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
I'll explain. In this timeless classic, an uppity little girl, Dorothy Gale, from gloomy Kansas senselessly murders an innocent sorceress by dropping a house on her. After looting the body of a priceless pair of silver slippers, the deceased's sister, a fellow sorceress hailing from the West relentlessly pursues the murderous thief, who quickly allies herself with such questionable company as a straw man, a tin woodsman and a lion. Dorothy evades the sorceress's machinations by following a road built entirely of yellow bricks until she meets the Wizard, who is nothing but a failed politician (and a worse hot air balloonist). Eventually Dorothy and her rag tag crew murder the western sorceress, steal her broomstick, and are given gifts and a way home by the Wizard and a rival sorceress. All this is actually a cleverly conceived allegory for sticking to the gold standard. See, Dorothy was able to complete her barbarous, blood-drenched quest by using "silver" slippers and following a yellow - or GOLD - brick road and by surrounding herself with brainless, cowardly, heartless brutes. That's what we have governments for!
Why did I tell you all this? You see, Sealand, as I said, took a cue from L. Frank Baum's beloved "children's" classic, and made its currency nothing but solid gold and silver. I, a titled Baron, suddenly realized that I had no gold and little silver to back my aristocratic ways. However am I to afford my rusting, cold, salty, wet estate in Sealand? Naturally I needed to buy some gold. I went right to a source that Baum would have applauded: The United States Mint.
A few weeks ago I purchased a 1/10 ounce Gold Eagle coin.

Fig. 1: Only 4 bald eagles and 1 depiction of Lady Liberty? What kind of majesty is that?!

Alas, I should have known that the Mint, with its infamous TIME AGENTS, have thwarted me by creating a TIME PARADOX DIFFERENTIATOR DEVICE. This abominably conceived machine causes quite the temporal anomaly - in that all important dates are made 2 weeks away from the current date. Thus, at the time of purchase, the site said my purchase was back ordered until January 31 of 2011, yet each day, the ship day was a DAY LATER, to the point where I am now told that it will not ship until February 12th of the same year. Oh, the very thought of those TIME AGENTS gives me a headache. How dare they get between me and a keepsake to mark the year of Maria's & my wedding!
Now, if only the United States would follow in the footsteps of the famed economic philosopher L. Frank Baum and the entirely farcical Principality of Sealand, maybe we could dig ourselves out of this mess.

Item 2: How to Feed Yourself in a Harsh Economic Climate
My last meal before perishing in the Snowpocalypse of 2011 happened to be at the famed Delmonico's steakhouse on Beaver Street in New York's Financial District. I have previously written about the curious history of Delmonico's. It was a fine meal of Lobster Newberg, slow braised beef, seared sea scallops, filet mignon and reasonably priced Chilean wine.
I wasn't always able to enjoy such fine feasts. In my youth, my family had very little money to throw around. My mother, ever the spendthrift, invented one of the finest cheap meals ever conceived; a dish that my sister and I retroactively entitled Ghetto Meal. I here share the recipe:

Ghetto Meal

  • 1 package Velveeta Shells & Cheese
  • 1 package frozen peas (the cheap kind, mind you - nothing a self-loving locavore would even consider edible)
  • 1 package Hillshire Farms Polska Kielbasa
  1. Slice the kielbasa on a diagonal and brown in a large skillet.
  2. Prepare shells & cheese as directed on the box. Make sure you squeeze every last drop of that luscious "cheese" product out of the space-age wrapper. Add to the browned kielbasa
  3. When that mixture is nice and warm, add frozen peas and heat through to the desired texture.
  4. Get yourself a paper plate and enjoy!
If I am feeling particularly adventurous, I may just chronicle the making of an haute-cuisine version of this recipe for my next entry.
Now, many of my readers would be put off by so low a recipe, but as you can imagine, for my sister and myself, this is the paragon of comfort food. When we bring up this recipe to our mother, she thinks we're making fun of her, but in all honesty, we applaud her for concocting a meal that could feed four hungry people and contain an ingredient from nearly every food group. I also reckon that with 1988 dollars, this meal would come to little over $1 per person, though this is purely conjecture.
The point is, you have to make do with what you have. In the Great Depression and World War II, people learned to grow their own vegetables and settled with eating much cheaper offal instead of Perdue "All-Natural" corn-fed, factory separated skinless boneless chicken breasts. Just ask my grandmother who relishes a nice plate of liver and bacon. To be fair, there is a bit of a pricing problem when a McDonald's Big Mac is $3.75 and a single red bell pepper is around $4 (yes, I paid that much for a bell pepper, and consider it one of the direst errata of my entire life -- along with the time a Japanese store clerk charged me $1.98 for an onion, forcing me to pay with my much-loved $2 bill). Still, there are cheap ways of feeding your entire family out there. That said, I got sort of disgusted when I was at the grocery store last week. A woman in front of me placed on the cashier's conveyor belt a six pack of juice boxes (an expensive variety depicting Sesame Street characters) and a deli counter sandwich with a self-adhesive price tag declaring that it cost $6.25. To my horror, the woman opted to pay with her WIC card. I am perhaps no expert in the area of food stamps and the like, but I am relatively certain that you cannot purchase any prepared foods with federal tax dollars. Every bodega and grocery store has a sign declaring that. Still, the cashier said, "It's okay, my manager says it's all right," and rang up the overpriced juice box and $6.25 sandwich. This is by no means the first time this has happened, as I've seen plenty of people pay for egg sandwiches with EBT and WIC cards. SIX DOLLARS AND TWENTY FIVE CENTS. Let's make better economic sense, shall we? I call this section:
How Not to Pay $6.25 in Taxpayer Dollars on a Sandwich
  1. Buy a loaf of bread for $1.99. I've seen it available at that price. The average loaf contains 20 slices of bread. For a single sandwich, you need 2 slices, bringing the total price of the bread used to 20¢.
  2. Buy a tomato for less than $1. I sliced a tomato and got around 8 slices. Let's say you want 2 slices of tomato on that sandwich. I liberally estimate this to cost between 15¢ and 20¢ - for the sake of this experiment, let's make it 25¢.
  3. Let's say you splurge on the lettuce. I can't find the price of a head of lettuce (it's $1 in the summer time) in the KeyFood circular, but they do offer expensive, pre-packaged salad blends (containing lettuce) on sale for $2.50. I once again liberally estimate that it will require 10% of this package for the sandwich, meaning the useless, tasteless green stuff on your sandwich will cost 25¢.
  4. What luck! Fancy Boar's Head Honey Maple Turkey and American Cheese (white or yellow) are on sale this week. $7.99 for half a pound of each. The recommended serving sizes of turkey and cheese are 2 oz. and 1 oz., respectively. That amounts to 50¢ of turkey and 25¢ of cheese -- and this is the premium brand, too!
  5. Hellmann's Mayonnaise is $3.99 for a 30 oz. jar. A serving size is 1 tablespoon, or roughly 1/60th of that jar. All that delicious pure fat that really brings the sandwich together will put you back $0.0665. For the sake of argument, we'll say it costs 7¢.
Conclusion: Make yourself a sandwich. TA-DA! Lunch cost you (and by YOU, I mean the hardworking TAXPAYERS) $1.52.

- $1.52

By a miracle of spendthriftery, I have saved us all tons of money that we can use to reform health care or visit Mars! You're welcome, America!
I plan on seizing control of the Rent is 2 Damn High Party (yes, that number two became official) and using the Sandwiches Are Too Damn Expensive For Taxpayer Dollars platform to launch my political career. First stop, Daniel Patrick Moynihan's old seat followed by the Oval Office.

In summary, dear friends, we don't need a State of the Union address to tell us the economic shape of things. The United States Empire is in no danger of collapse - even though its entire Northeast and all its occupants, myself included, were destroyed by snow. I'll borrow from our British cousins and leave you with the following:

Fig. 2: Can we replace that crown with an eagle clutching an American flag or something?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Most Honorable Company, Ltd.

Did you know that is it currently January of 2011 and that I haven't written a single thing in this weblog since October of last year? Alex-sensei, blood-drenched samurai Lord of Hitoyoshi Castle knows and he was none too happy with me upon our glad reunion on this New Year's Eve. I know that it's practically a federal crime at this point to deprive the populous with my charming wit and masterful command of the English language; and so before a government SWAT team breaks down my door, I will relate to you, my dearly deprived readers, several developments in my life. Please note, that I am being paid for writing this blog entry. God bless the prep period!


If you have not seen 2010's greatest Broadway musical, then you really ought to be ashamed of yourself. It closed on January 2nd because of lazy people like you who don't realize that a musical about the life and times of our 7th President is just a goddamned brilliant idea. Hell, it's an entertaining thought just sitting here in a quiet classroom. On a whim, I decided to check the reduced price Broadway tickets folder in the main office of the school where I had been filling in for a maternity leave. Sure enough, there stamped in red on a thin strip of paper was Andrew Jackson's Levis-clad butt, a stars & stripes hanky stuffed in a rear pocket, and a holstered Colt revolver hanging beside. Tagline: History just got all sexypants.

The theater was completely redecorated; taxidermied bear, a hog-tied horse hanging from the ceiling, broken portraits of long-dead Federalists & Antifederalists, abused chandeliers... essentially some bastard child of a log cabin and the Oval Office - a fitting arena for a musical about Andrew Jackson. On our way to the theater, I specifically told Maria that I would be beside myself if there wasn't a number in the production called "Populism: F**K YEAH!" The lights dimmed, Jackson showered us with an innuendo-laden introduction, and the company went on to sing "Populism Yea Yea." I was pleased.

I appreciated their treatment of Andrew "The American Hitler / Hero" Jackson. As a historian myself, I am torn between the legendary story of the first log cabin president, an unpretentious man of the people going on to govern the people, and the brutal and seemingly uncaring executor of the Indian Removal Act that constituted nothing short of genocide of an entire native population. That's America, folks - for better or for worse.


Every year around the holiday season, Union Square goes from its normal obnoxious, hippie-strewn, hobo-hangout (populated with such choice characters who refer to themselves as "Air" and describe their life philosophy in such wishy-washy, detestable ways as "undecided") to an even more obnoxious bastion of consumerism and overpriced hipster goods - The Christmas Bazaar. Helen, Varun, Maria and I visited the said Christmas Gay (our own rebranding) so that Varun could buy Helen the pillow she'd had her eye on. I found a handmade watch for $300 that was made of hand-hammered copper, but couldn't convince myself that the movement attached to the pretty hand-work was worth it. Naturally the four of us got to thinking about our absolute favorite topic: the differences between Japan and the United States.

We eventually came up with an amazingly brilliant idea to take Japan by storm. Taking a page from the boom in the 1980s of Japanese businessmen, we have decided to form MOST HONORABLE COMPANY, LTD..

At MOST HONORABLE COMPANY, LTD., our motto is "PUT FOOD ON TABLE." We take this to mean, SUCCEED AT ANY COST, EVEN IF THAT COST IS THE ENTIRE NATION OF BELGIUM. Now, all Japanese companies must adopt an adorably inappropriate mascot that has nothing to do with what the company does at all. I remind readers that baseball teams in Japan are not named after the cities where the clubs play, but rather after enormoous companies. Hence the team name Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Our mascot is none other than everybody's favorite GOOD EVENING CAT.

Fig. 1: Good Evening Cat (designed by M.N. French)

Having a mascot is all well and good... but even a tophat and a monocle do not a business make. What is a company without its products, and I am here to introduce some of the products and services that MOST HONORABLE COMPANY, LTD. will offer.
1.) The Purchase and Re-Branding of Giga-Pudding. I have seen this commercial twice, and that is two times too many.

Giga-Pudding will become a pharmaceuticals company - the kind that has important ties to various shady government lobbies throughout Washington. The purpose? We want nothing more than to make commercials showing people enjoying themselves on the beach, living life to its fullest, and playing soft, inoffensive music in the background - WHILE WE WARN YOU THAT THIS PRODUCT WILL CAUSE: fever, rash, upset stomach, shock, forgetfulness, irregular heartbeat, nightsweats, swelling of the tongue, inability to produce tears, severe cardiac events, Demonic Possession, violent erotic nightmares, instantaneous death, hallucinations, and an unexplained fear of the color blue.

2.) Pop Chan. Soft drinks are where the real money is made. It took a long and arduous conference meeting (that is, 2-3 minutes on a crowded subway) for our panelists to dream up the name of and invent flavoring for POP CHAN: EXCITING NEW NUMBER ONE GOOD SWEET DRINK! Pop Chan comes in the following flavors:

  • cola
  • strawberry
  • Giga-Pudding
  • seaweed shrimp kelp microplankton
  • melon

Yummy! But the most exciting part about Pop Chan is its viral commercials.

Pop Chan Commercial : Japanese Businessman

A shady, empty side-street at night. Flickering neon advertisements are reflected on the fresh rain upon the cold cobbled road. A man in thick glasses and a cheap double-breasted suit approaches a vending machine. Only a dog barking and the electric hum of the machine break the silence of the evening. He peruses the choices, and opts to purchase a pair of girls' panties, becaue urban legend has it that you can purchase things like than in vending machines in Japan. He puts the money into the machine and pushes the buttons for his selection. A can of POP CHAN falls from the machine instead.



The businessman is beside himself with anger. He composes himself and notices a tab on the can that reads "Pull Here" (however that is written in Japanese). He pulls the label to reveal a pair of girls' panties hidden beneath.


POP CHAN!!!!!!

Stars, rainbows, and flowers explode from the bottom lefthand side of the screen. One of MOST HONORABLE COMPANY, LTD's Presidents (William) pops in. He winks, displays a Churchillian V for Victory.


It's-a numbaa one goooooood!

The POP CHAN logo appears on screen, wreathed in a halo of golden light. For a brief nano-second, the image of GOOD EVENING CAT blinks on screen to the sound of television static.


If that doesn't outsell Coca-Cola in a matter of a single fiscal year, then the world is all but lost.

Item 3: Alcoholic Beverages. One of my dreams is to create my own brand of bourbon using only the finest ingredients from God's Chosen State (New York). Honestly, how great would a bourbon distilled from Long Island sweet corn and pure, clean Catskills water taste? Mighty fine, I'd bet. MOST HONORABLE COMPANY, LTD realizes the great value put upon so-called "premium" spirits nowadays. It seems that the larger and more streamlined a product becomes, the more expensive it grows. This is especially so when a hip-hop artist decides to mention a crappy brand of booze in one of his or her songs. And now such standbys as Hennessy and Courvoisier cognacs are nothing but artificially-colored ethanol. Here are some of our questionably named products:

  • Fun Drink Rum - you know, for those damned mojitos that 20-something females from Long Island and New Jersey think are delicious because it makes them seem exotic and tropical. Please notice that Fun Drink Rum shares its initials with one of Japan's favorite American presidents.
  • For Pete's Sake - GET IT?! Sake - like the fermented rice wine and sake as in, you know... for the sake of all humanity. It... it's a homograph! Ugh... never mind.
  • Little Boy Vodka - a flavor explosion in your... oh my god, I went too far. I apologize.

I'm pretty sure we had other ideas for MOST HONORABLE COMPANY, LTD. but they currently elude my memory. Of course we plan on forming our own shady holdings company, namely LEGITIMATE BUSINESS HOLDINGS, INC. which will compete with MOST HONORABLE COMPANY, LTD. in every respect until we artificially inflate our prices to the most insane levels imaginable before sinking LEGITIMATE BUSINESS HOLDINGS, INC. and reaping the profits until INTERPOL issues warrants for our arrest and we are left to liquidating our asset into pure gold bullion and retiring to our own sovereign island nation of Sealand (where I am currently a titled Baron). It's good to have dreams and goals, kids.

I have made a New Year's resolution to post more than once per month. We'll see how long that lasts.


W. Charles Olsen-Hoek

Co-President and Co-Founder MOST HONORABLE COMPANY, LTD.