Friday, March 24, 2006


"Dammit, Gordie - put that sun down and come finish your homework!"


Life is far from perfect, as I'm sure you are aware. But that doesn’t prevent us from dreaming of all the different ways it could be closer to perfect. I’m in the process of compiling thoughts for a coffee table book I'm calling “In a More Perfect World,” and it's going to feature a bunch of silly statements about the world and how things could be so much better than they are.

Here are some initial thoughts:

In a more perfect world…

• Pork products would fight cancer. Of course, in a perfect world there wouldn’t likely be cancer to fight in the first place, but we could pretend while we’re eating greasy fried bacon strips out of potato chip bags.

• Postal employees would be psychic, so you wouldn’t have to spend any time addressing stuff. You could just send off a stack of blank envelopes and they’d all get to where they’re going.

• Cars would run on air, and car engines would actually purify the atmosphere as part of the combustion process – so cities would remain completely smog-free.

• Dog crap would melt into the ground the second it landed, to expedite the fertilization process and spare us the agony of having to deal with it at all.

• The advertised Lottery jackpot amount is the ACTUAL amount that you win.

• Envelope glue would be vitamin fortified.

• Nose hair would be considered “cool.”

• Health insurance, like most other forms of insurance, would be for super expensive, unexpected things – like accidents and emergencies – instead of everyday shit like exams, tests, and drugs. (There’s no co-pay arrangement with your auto insurance company when you change the oil in our car, and you don’t file a homeowner’s claim every time you have work done on our house!) If health insurance were actually treated like INSURANCE instead of a government subsidy program, it wouldn’t cost nearly as much to get coverage, and health practitioners, hospitals, and clinics would all be forced to adjust their prices to reflect what people can actually AFFORD out of pocket, instead of gouging a bloated health insurance industry already bursting at the seams.

• Cheetos would make you taller.

• There would be only one drug to cure everything, and it would grow naturally – like a weed. It would be called “weed.”

• Smoking cigarettes would be dirt-cheap and completely legal everywhere…and no one would do it.

• David Hasselhoff would be the Chancellor of Germany.

• The earth would come with a Thermostat and everyone would agree that it should be set at the same temperature.

• Paris Hilton would only be a hotel.

• People would get paid based on their disposition.

• Rebates would be taken off at the register.

• Islamist martyrs and suicide bombers would actually get their 70 virgins in heaven – and they’d all be big, strapping men, lined up and ready for their turn.

• Cauliflower would be considered junk food, while deep-fried apple fritters, glazed donuts, and bear claws would be loaded with anti-oxidents.

• Pajamas would be considered "business casual."

• Cabs would come with oxygen masks.

• Elevators would come equipped with an alert system capable of pinpointing the person who farted, and then broadcasting this information via a computerized voice: "The odor in this elevator was produced by the blonde woman in the purple suit coat carrying a black bag. This elevator will smell for approximately 9 more minutes."

If you've got any brilliant ideas on how the world would be a more perfect place, feel free to post them here!


I'm sure it's a lovely cul-de-sac, but this can't be good for property values.


Well, I’ve fought it as long as I could, but it looks like I’m going to end up on the losing end of this one.

My good buddy Bobby Earl and I have been lobbying hard to end the incorrect use of “impact” as a verb for years, yet people keep throwing it out there everywhere you turn.

Instead of “having an impact” on something, people tend to abbreviate by saying “impacting.” According to the American Heritage Book of Usage, 84% of the Usage Panel disapproves of using the word in this way. But the train has already left the station, so I doubt we’re going to be able to catch this one.

I’d better shift my focus back to fighting for the always-correct inclusion of a comma before the last item/word/phrase when items/words/phrases are listed in series. Lots of people like to skip that last comma before the word “and,” regarding it superfluous and unnecessary, but such an omission is not always correct, and often serves to confuse the reader.

This is a battle it appears I am winning, as evidenced by the countless links to handbooks and other online writing resources advocating the consistent use of a "Serial Comma" before the word “and.” I would include some of those links here, but you people should really be able to trust me by now. How long have we been dating?

But if you insist.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


This link ought to keep all of you conspiracy theorists going for awhile. It’s an interesting online documentary about 9/11 that summarizes, in hindsight, everything we now know about the event and the circumstances surrounding it.

Plenty of eyebrow-raising stuff if you’ve got the time to sit through it. A well-assembled video account – and disturbingly comprehensive in detailing our inability to provide adequate homeland security. I actually found it pretty absorbing. Kind of like a Bounty paper towel.


Here’s a kickasstic website you MUST check out. There’s this dude who’s really talented with chalk. You won’t believe some of the sidewalk art he’s created. Scary cool.

And quit looking at my bum, you cheeky monkey!


“Kids have it right,” I said to Geri one day while we were stuck in traffic on I-290 outside of Chicago. “In part because they have less to worry about…but also because they don’t take tomorrow for granted.”

I pointed into the backseat where the 5-year-old H-man was humming along cheerfully to something on Disney radio. “If I asked him right now what makes him happy, what would be his answer? I bet it’d be profoundly at the heart of what it means to be happy.”


There are a lot of messages out there in the world.

How to improve yourself. How to lose weight. How to make more money. How to realize your true potential. How to find God. How to get the most out of your personal relationships. How to get rich quick. How to have the body you’ve always wanted. How to find true love. How to cheat at poker. How to score big in real estate. How to be a better parent.

What’s with all of these tips on life? Can’t we figure anything out on our own? What did people do in the tens of thousands of years before self-help? I wonder sometimes if all of these messages aren’t giving us inferiority complexes. I’m usually pretty content with myself, generally speaking. But I see all of these messages out there and I start wondering if I shouldn’t be a little more worried. All these people losing weight except me. All these people getting rich in real estate except me. All these people getting into heaven except me. Why do I even bother getting out of bed in the morning?

One thing is common to all of these messages – they all assume that I couldn’t possibly be happy with the way things are now. Not when so many other people out in the world are changing their lives for the better every day!

Marketers bombard us with messages promising us we’ll be loads happier if we do or change something about the way we are living our lives. Many religions give us the very same guarantee. And I think that’s true in a way. We CAN be happy if we do or change something. But if you ask me, all we really have to change is our mind. It's the best way to ward off the lifesucking preachers of discontent.

Here's a mantra for morning: I am happy now, dammit – with my beer belly. With my 220 cholesterol level. With off-white teeth. With the many psychological dysfunctions that make me who I am. I don't need anything other than what I have to be happy in this world. I am perfectly content with my life.

In our culture, happiness is always tomorrow – forever a day away. It’s even written in our nation’s Declaration of Independence that we have the right to “pursue” happiness. We don’t have the right to BE happy – just the right to die of exhaustion from chasing after it our entire lives.

I think about all of the people all over the globe who will live their whole lives in the same community, surrounded by the same people, eating the same staple diet, wearing the same clothes, and performing the same job year after year. Am I really any happier than they are?

I’ve been to more professional basketball games than they have, but am I happier?

I’ve been to more trendy (read: expensive) restaurants than they have, but am I happier?

I’ve got enough clothes in my closet to wear something different every day for three weeks, but am I happier?

Sure, I have the right to pursue happiness. But happiness isn’t something to be pursued – it’s something to be experienced right now. I think we spend too much time chasing future happiness and not enough BEING happy.

When does our pursuit of happiness end so we can finally be happy?

Consider children. Children don’t share in our quest for future happiness. In fact, children are quite the opposite. They live entirely in the now – the concept of delayed gratification doesn’t exist, and when we attempt to explain it, the idea isn’t well received. From a kid’s point of view, “Why would I wait until tomorrow to eat that brownie when I could eat it and enjoy it right now?” Waiting to be happy simply doesn’t make sense. That mindset makes it easier for children to experience happiness…while so many adults are bent on pursuing an uncertain future of it.


“Kids have it right,” I said to Geri one day while we were stuck in traffic on I-290 outside of Chicago. “In part because they have less to worry about…but also because they don’t take tomorrow for granted.”

I pointed into the backseat where the 5-year-old H-man was humming along cheerfully to something on Disney radio. “If I asked him right now what makes him happy, what would be his answer? I bet it’d be profoundly at the heart of what it means to be happy.”

That made me curious, so I asked him.

“Hey – H. What makes you happy?”

He was taken a little off guard by the question and seemed unsure what I was asking him. So I repeated myself to be clear.

“Think about when you are feeling happy. What exactly is it that makes you happy?” I waited while he pondered happiness.

“Ummm, I don’t know,” he said, then cocked his head to the side and offered, “I guess I would say…morning?” He questioned his answer because he wasn’t sure if it was right or wrong. What he didn’t understand was that there is no right or wrong – there just is. And morning makes him happy. Could there be a more perfect answer to that question?

Morning. The miracle anti-depressant. The elusive secret to happiness. All of these ads, books, articles, and promises for a better life everywhere you turn…when healthy, well-adjusted kids the world over are getting high on a daily dose of morning. Sucks to grow up, doesn’t it?

Sure, life’s not Chuck E. Cheese’s everywhere you go - and there are a lot of kids who likely don’t share H’s enthusiasm for a brand new day. But his answer was still telling. Happiness isn’t tethered to something you do, it’s a byproduct of being. It’s about waking up every day and breathing. That’s as true today as it was when you and I were 5 years old. Happiness is recognizing that each new day is full of endless possibilities, and virtually anything can happen. At some point it seems we give up on today and start living for tomorrow. The tragedy, of course, is that tomorrow never comes. Tomorrow is always a day away.

Seems to me the best way to find happiness is to stop chasing after it. Let happiness chase you for awhile. You're a lot slower than happiness - you might actually get caught every once in a while.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006


Don't you just hate it when you get a crack in the windshield?

Thanks to the hobbling Wetnap for sharing this bad boy. Or should I say bad girl?

(Somebody roll the windows up, please!)


I'm going to tell you a secret.

Cluttered desk = cluttered mind.

It's true. Ask Confucius.

How can you expect to maintain order in your life, when you can't maintain order on your desk?

Making space for order is easy once you learn to throw things away. Fold your clothes and put them in closets, drawers, and hampers. File your important papers in a cabinet and throw the unimportant ones away. Everything has a place. When you clean your room, you clean your mind. When you create order on a small scale, order is created in your mind - the grandest scale of all.

Look around you right now and throw five things away. Go ahead. You can do it. I know you can. I have complete confidence in you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Geri and I watched the movie "Walk the Line" last night and it was like deja vu all over again. I was certain I hadn't seen the film before, yet there was something about it I felt was all too familiar. And then it dawned on me.

"Walk the Line" is "Ray" with white people.

Emerging music icon comes of age. Trace his humble beginnings from childhood. Early religious influence and financial hardship. Watch the lead character pursue an unlikely career in music, rise to fame, commit adultery, abuse narcotics, and cheat death. I found the similarities between the two life stories (as told by Hollywood) quite striking - right down to the tragic loss of a brother during childhood. It was as if someone sat down with the "Ray" screenplay and edited it over a few beers. Replace onset of blindness with abusive, distant father. Replace needles with pills. Replace Foxx with Phoenix. It was essentially the same movie. That's not to say it wasn't interesting - it was just a little late.

Speaking of movies, here's one I've been meaning to recommend for some time now: "The Machinist," starring Christian Bale. We rented this one a while ago, around the same time we first saw "Crash," and both were quite moving - for different reasons. Crash succeeded thanks to its storytelling. Each character was a caricature of prejudice, and the story leveraged its frustratingly hyperbolic stereotypes to create intense, dramatic scenes that swelled with dynamic tension. I am not embarrassed to admit I liberated several tears during that one.

The Machinist, on the other hand, delivered a similarly powerful message without the constant stream of dramatic intensity. Where practically every scene in Crash delivers a jolt of some kind, The Machinist is slow and steady...until the end. I spent the entire movie wondering, "What the fuck?" It was creepy, confusing, and intentionally slow-going. But it'll keep you guessing from start to finish as you try to solve the mystery. A Kafka-esque fable for the ages, and very well done. And those aren't special effects, friends - Bale actually lost something like 70 pounds to play the role. The guy looks like a broomstick. The movie is worth renting for that reason alone, nevermind the important life lesson it shares.

Finally, while we're on movies, feel free to avoid Broken Flowers starring Bill Murray. It's a dreadfully slow movie with a curiously uninteresting plot and no resolution. I say the plot was "curiously" uninteresting because it was SO uninteresting you assume something good HAS to happen at some point. So you keep watching - curious - waiting and watching and waiting and hoping and waiting and wondering. And nothing happens. And then the credits roll and you look around the room for the Candid Camera folks because you think this HAS to be a joke.

Honestly, I think I would have had more fun clipping my toe nails. Or someone else's for that matter.


There’s a new Kitten Cannon champ in town. Eric H. just sent me a screen capture of his mind-blowing score of 6,010. Upon hearing that one, I resigned completely. I do not think I’ll be topping that any time soon.

On the flipside, here's an impressive score sent in by Sheila K., who'd like to know where we're going and why she’s in a handbasket.

I really haven’t the heart to tell her.

Monday, March 20, 2006


For years, people have asked me how I manage to stay so thin. The truth is, I don’t think I’m all that slender, but I guess compared to the national average I would be considered among the more svelte members of the American population.

I think what amazes most people with regard to my light-weight frame is how I eat, which my dietitian girlfriend would describe as “unwell,” to put it politely. I personally don’t think I eat all that unwell – again, comparably speaking. But then, I don't have a degree in nutrition.

What's my diet? I enjoy things like Cheetos and potato chips, lots of dairy, plenty of pork, and large helpings of homemade brownies. But I also eat a lot of sushi, salmon, spinach, and other vegetables (when forced to). To me, a balanced diet means eating what you want, but only half the time. The real skinny is exercise, and I have a very special exercise technique that enables me to stay active all day long regardless of where I am and what I'm doing. It's called THINking.

All my life, people have been telling me I think too much. About everything. I worry and I obsess and I fret and I imagine the worst. Blah blah blah. I’ll have you know that all that extra thinking requires a LOT of extra calories. Yeah – my secret to staying so fit is a long-term regimen of extreme mental fitness. The more I think about stuff, the world, my life, my personal relationships with friends and family, my job, my health, and so on, the more calories I burn.

I stay thin by THINking too much. I think in the shower, in the car, in the elevator, in the bathroom at work, in line at Subway, and pretty much everywhere I go. Always thinking. Constantly jogging around a pool of ideas in my mind. Tirelessly climbing stairmasters of thought, and lifting tons of imagination over and over again. It's quite a work out, but it gets results, as evidenced by my girlish figure.

So if you're looking to shed a few pounds or shave a few inches off your waistline, consider becoming a heavy thinker. It works for me.