LEAP DAY RESOLUTIONS

LEAP DAY RESOLUTIONS

I hereby resolve:

  • To ignore Jayson Blair and his inevitable upcoming publicity blitz, and not to become furious because other people aren’t.
  • To actually sign a real online petition for once. But not to expect too much from it.
  • To Tivo the Academy Awards and watch them in under an hour. Okay, maybe two. (But I’m definitely skipping over everything Billy Crystal says, and when he does his signature song-and-dance schtick, I’m turning my head and saying, “I can’t hear you I can’t hear you I can’t hear you!”)
  • To use this weekend to do my homework on every single damn race and issue on the ballot, and also to get my taxes done.
  • To update my blogroll.
  • To go back to Pavillions as soon as the supermarket strike is over and give a big smile to all the employees.

HERE COMES MY BREAKDOWN

HERE COMES MY BREAKDOWN

There’s a lot of crazy stuff going on right now, but is it too soon to call it a culture war? I’m not sure, but the fact that it’s all happening at once scares the shit out of me.

The bad people have wanted Howard Stern off the air for the last twenty years, but Janet Jackson flashes one nipple and now, suddenly, lesbian butt bongo or whatever he’s doing these days could be lost forever. Is it just me, or are we living in the Age of Overreaction? When even Rush Limbaugh is worried about free speech erosion, you know things have gotten bad.

In other news, George W. is playing the gay card to pander to his evangelical pals, who are sure that what Gavin Newsome has unleashed in San Francisco is the fourth sign of the Apocalypse (or however many signs there are — don’t make me look it up). Aren’t these the same people who told us the Rapture was coming four years ago because a bunch of computer programmers took a couple of shortcuts when setting up their date-recognition software? Sorry, but you only get to predict Armageddon once. If you’re wrong, you clearly don’t have a hotline to Heaven, so the rest of us don’t have to listen to you. Ooh, watch out, George, you’ve got Rosie O’Donnell pissed! As we all remember, when people lie to her, they get cancer. Who knows what God does to people who tell her she can’t get married.

Speaking of God, look for him to top Entertainment Weekly’s next Power List. Millions of people are rushing out to see to see his kid star in a movie called “Let’s Watch Some Rotten Jews Beat the Crap Outta Jesus” or something like that. See, the closer you are to God, the more likely you are to believe that the guy from “Braveheart”‘s version of some other people’s versions of something that happened 2,000 years ago, presented in super-splatter-vision with Dolby surround sound is the gospel truth. Oh, sorry, I’m not supposed to criticize the movie, because that just feeds Mel Gibson’s martyrdom complex, the way criticizing the Patriot Act made me a traitor. Sorry, Mel, but I don’t think martyrs should threaten Frank Rich’s dog. Yeah, I get it, you don’t want to contradict your dad because of all that stuff in your favorite book about honoring your father and mother. But you know what? My dad once told me black people were lazy, and I ripped him a new one. I still love the guy, but if he ever denied the Holocaust, there would’ve been truh-bullllllllllll.

I sure hope Charlize Theron wins an Oscar for “Monster” this weekend, because that’ll take my mind off all this terrifying shit for about five seconds. Oh, what a blissful five seconds that will be. I wonder what she’ll be wearing! And will Tom and Nicole cross paths on the red carpet? Joan and Melissa, take me away!

Part of me tells me to calm down. This is what Republicans always do. They have a couple of victories, then they get greedy, they go too far and the sensible people of America wise up and rein them in a little. Then part of me says people like me sat around Germany waiting for the sensible people to do their thing while a guy with a bad moustache forced the Von Trapp family to skip out early on their singing competition and flee over the Alps. (That’s right. I played the Hitler card. Prove me wrong, you right-wing kooks.) Then I worry that by getting angry, I’m playing right into the bad people’s hands, allowing George W. and his stupid amendments and Mel Gibson and his “I dare you to call me anti-Semitic” creepiness and the FCC and their new “Seven dirty words? Why not seven thousand?” policy to shove a wedge between me and all the stupid idiots I hate. Maybe the answer isn’t to call names, but to reach out with love. We can get through this. America will start to act like America again someday, and we’ll all live together in harmony.

Whatever. I’m moving to Canada.

THE ONLY WAY TO WIN IS NOT TO PLAY

THE ONLY WAY TO WIN IS NOT TO PLAY

So, Super Millionaire never called, Bush backed an anti-gay marriage amendment and Mel Gibson’s Jesus movie opened with expectations that it will divide the country along religious lines as never before. Overall, yesterday was not the greatest.

Not getting my one-in-a-thousand shot at a one-in-ten shot at making the hot seat was disappointing, because in my life, I’ve made more money on game shows than just about anything else I’ve done. Going on game shows is like panhandling, L.A.-style. You get money without really having to earn it, and you get to be on TV. Maybe the reason this one didn’t work out for me is that it’s taped in New York. Who goes to New York to be on TV?

My first game show experience was on “Debt”, which aired on Lifetime in the mid-90′s. The premise of the show was that your winnings would help you erase all your debt — “…and leave with NOTHING!!!!” I had just finished grad school, and I had about $50,000 in student loans. Since this was cable TV, I would not be able to win quite that much. The viewers were told that my debt was $8,004, and I had to announce it into the camera by saying, “Hi, I’m Jerry, and I’m in debt because USC means the University of Spending Credit!” I was forced to say this line at least eight times until I managed to temper my embarrassment with just enough fake enthusiasm to satisfy the producers. “Remember, you’re not being yourself today,” the contestant coordinator told me and my two competitors. “You’re playing a role. You’re acting like a game show contestant.” It went without saying that we all knew what this meant.

Since it was Lifetime, my two competitors were women in their mid-to-late 30′s. I believe both were stay-at-home moms. If you’ve ever watched a Lifetime movie, you know they don’t like to make their audience think too hard, which was good for me. The questions on “Debt” were all super-easy pop culture trivia from the last 5-10 years. You know, like “Courtney Cox, Jennifer Aniston, Lisa Kudrow, David Schwimmer, Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc make up the cast of which NBC TV show which is on Thursday nights at 8 and whose title is a synonym for ‘Pals’?” The kind of stuff everyone knows, but that really doesn’t have any value unless you’re on a game show.

The game was played just like “Jeopardy” (although they warned us that if we messed up and answered anything in the form of a question, they would stop tape and beat the shit out of us — in a litigious world, nobody wants to be too much like “Jeopardy”). The host was Wink Martindale, and if all this “The Passion of the Christ” business has made me reflect on anything, it’s that Jesus died for my sins specifically so that someday I would be on a TV show with Wink Martindale. Before the taping, the producers led us through the procedure for answering questions. Our buzzers would be locked out until Wink was finished reading each question. Then, a little light would go on signaling that it was okay to ring in. To make sure we understood the concept, they ran a few drills.

I was sure that with my sharp eye-hand coordination, enhanced to superhero-like levels from years of obsessive video game play, I’d blow these soccer moms out of the water. But the first time they turned that light on — bing! Mom #1 beat me to the buzzer. They tried again. Bing! Mom #2. Bing! Bing! Bing! Bing! In trial after trial, the moms beat me. The crew members started wondering whether my buzzer was working properly. “Okay, this time, only Jerry ring in,” the stage manager said. Bing! My podium light went on. It wasn’t a buzzer problem. If you want to build your eye-hand coordination, I guess shuttling the kids around in a minivan trumps Zaxxon anyday. These moms were quick!

Thankfully, all that minivan time seemed to have prevented the moms from watching much “Access Hollywood” Once the game started, I was the first to ring in on almost every question. At first, I thought I’d somehow gotten the hang of the buzzer thing, but then I realized the moms just didn’t know the answers. What? Couldn’t everyone name all the actors who’d appeared in short-term roles in “Grease” on Broadway? Not to brag, but — okay, I’ll brag — of all the questions in the first two rounds of the game, there was only one I couldn’t answer. I totally froze up and blanked on Jon Secada’s name. It still shames me to this day.

My dominance clearly frustrated the moms. They started ringing in just for the sake of beating me to the draw, desperately struggling to narrow my commanding lead. Most of the time, they got the questions wrong, which only helped me, since “Debt” penalized contestants for incorrect answers. Meanwhile, I only got cockier and cockier. By this point, I was over my fears of being humiliated, and I relished playing the part of a game show contestant. I loved cheesing it up when picking new categories: “Well, we’ve been avoiding it for a while, but ‘Let’s Play Doctor’, Wink!” (This is the quote that gets thrown back at me most often by people who’ve seen the show when they want to mock me.)

The poor moms were falling apart. One question about songs from animated movies asked which movie featured “Be Our Guest”. Mom #2 rang in, and, remembering her instructions from the contestant coordinator, smiled her biggest smile, tilted her head and said with a big exclamation point on the end, “‘Fievel’s Great Adventure’, Wink!”

One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was not to laugh at that moment. I mean a) not the right movie, b) not even the right title, c) not even close to the right title. The woman realized her mistake about as soon as the words embarrassed their way out of her mouth, and that big, forced smile quickly melted into a humble grimace as Wink told her she was wrong. And to make things worse, there was a technical glitch that rendered the woman’s answer inaudible. The producers stopped tape, then made the woman repeat the same wrong answer into the camera. She asked if she could at least say “An American Tail” the second time, which was, you know, what she meant to say, but she was told no. The cruel gods of repressed laughter were taunting me that day, that’s for sure. Mom #2 repeated “‘Fievel’s Great Adventure’, Wink” for the camera, but the director didn’t think she was saying it with as much enthusiasm this time. So they made her do it over and over until she got it right. I struggled to hold it in, as I heard, “‘Fievel’s Great Adventure’, Wink!” “Again!” “‘Fievel’s Great Adventure’, Wink!!!” “Once more!” “‘FIEVEL’S GREAT AD-VEN-TURE, WINK!!!!!!!!!!”

Gradually, Mom #1 and Mom #2 were eliminated from the game, and Wink told me I had erased my debt of $8,004. “How does it feel to be debt-free?” he asked. “It feels pretty good, Wink!” I replied. Then came the game’s bonus round. The bonus round of “Debt” is a chance to go double or nothing on your winnings, based on a single question in a pop culture category in your specialty.

Since a lot of people seemed to pick the same specialties, all potential contestants were asked to come up with three possible categories for their final question. My first two choices were easy: “The Simpsons” and “Heathers”. I had spent about a hundred hours viewing each of them and knew I was un-stumpable. Just to make sure, I studied the Simpsons episode guide cover to cover. I watched “Heathers” again and took copious notes. I even spent hours memorizing the closing credits. But what to choose for that third category?

I knew my third specialty should have something to do with music. There wasn’t a trivial fact 80′s pop that I didn’t know — band names, lyrics, chart positions. But I wanted to make sure I didn’t end up with some tricky question on Philip Glass or the Oak Ridge Boys. So I called my specialty “One-Hit Wonders of the 80′s”. It was perfect. There wasn’t even anything to study. I was an encyclopedia on the subject. I just stood in front of the mirror and practiced spitting out my answer with humility: “Is it Timex Social Club, Wink?” “Hmmm… let me see… I think that would be T’Pau!”

It wasn’t until Wink walked me over to the part of the stage designated for the bonus round that I learned that “One-Hit Wonders of the 80′s” would indeed be my category. Now that I was one-on-one with Wink, he was being extremely friendly. Even after he told the camera we were taking a commercial break, he kept talking to me for a little while, asking me personal questions and taking a genuine interest in me. He was a class act, that Wink, a blow-dried class act to be sure, but a class act nonetheless. Then suddenly, he walked away. Not far away, only a few feet. I think he talked to someone briefly, but then he just stood there. An odd, blow-dried class act.

We came back from commercial, and Wink asked me if I wanted to gamble my $8,004 on the final question. “I’m gonna go for it!” I shouted. (I may or may not have pumped my fist in the air for emphasis.) And then, Wink read me the question: “Who sang the 1982 hit song ‘Key Largo’?”

Huh?!

Sure, I’d heard the song, but 1982 was just a little before my time. “The 80′s”, as I knew it, commonly referred to the period of time from 1984-1987. And “80′s music” meant New Wave. Everyone knew that. Except, apparently, the “Debt” writing staff. I had no problem spitting out my answer with humility, because I knew it was wrong. “Uh… is it Jimmy Buffet?” No, Wink said, it’s Bertie Higgins. It hadn’t occurred to me, in my mid-20′s, that the staff of a game show might be on average about 10-20 years older than me. Their frame of reference was a bit different, and their 80′s was a different decade than mine.

I was told of my consolation prizes, a $1,500 savings bond and a “Debt” piggy bank, which were supposed to encourage me to start saving up to pay off that $8,004 debt, which was really about $42,000 higher than that. Wink also let me keep the final question as a memento. He talked to me cordially as the credits began to roll, then suddenly fell silent again, then a moment later, he resumed the chit-chat. He repeated the cycle. Talk, an abrupt shift to no talk, then talk. I realized he was taking his cues by when the camera was on. When he clammed up and looked away, it was because the sponsor’s message was running or because the audience was being told what to do if they wanted to try out to be a contestant on “Debt”. Wink Martindale: seasoned professional; rude, blow-dried phony.

I held onto that final question, and I still have the piggy bank, but as for the savings bond, I cashed it in at half its face value the day it came due. Thankfully, there would be a bigger game show payday in my future, a couple years down the road. I’ll never forget the name Bertie Higgins, which probably makes me, by default, Bertie’s biggest fan. It cost me $16,008, and other than Jon Secada, it had been the only question all day I couldn’t answer.

Well, that… and how the hell did I keep from laughing?

HELP WANTED: FACT CHECKING CUZ* (LOCATION: SUBCONSCIOUS MIND)

HELP WANTED: FACT CHECKING CUZ* (LOCATION: SUBCONSCIOUS MIND)

I had a very disturbing dream last night, which involved a really mean gas station attendant who wanted to charge me $9.95 to recycle an Australian newspaper I had purchased at his establishment. I’m not going to overanalyze this, though I certainly could, as I’ve never purchased or recycled an Australian newspaper in my life, free or at a steep fee, and also, I spend as little time in gas stations as possible.

Another employee at the gas station, after witnessing his co-worker’s exceptionally harsh treatment of me, offered me some Pixie Stix to cheer me up. And it worked, at first. Then I noticed that the package, which clearly contained Pixie Stix, was actually labeled “SweetTarts”.

The dream kept going, but from that moment on, I wasn’t buying any of it. Suddenly, I knew I was in a dream. I managed to suspend my disbelief for all the factual inaccuracies up to that point, but seeing a mislabeled candy package took me out of the dream and made me wake up, horrified, in a cold sweat. Something was seriously amiss.

I mean, does my subconscious mind not know the difference between these two sugary snacks, because my conscious mind sure does. This is not a detail I would ever miss, so how did it make the final cut? Was there a screw-up in the prop department in my head? Or am I so totally deranged that this subtle switcheroo, a very minor background detail in a dream with a long, complicated narrative, actually has meaning and represents some kind of clue into my seemingly boundless neuroses? Maybe to me, even the sweetest of the sweet seems just a bit tart. Maybe it’s a warning about not taking gifts at face value. Maybe SweetTarts are what they call Pixie Stix in Australia, like how overseas, Smarties are really M&M’s.

Or maybe somebody in the subconscious fact-checking department really screwed up. And if that’s the case, heads are gonna roll.

_______________________

* or “cous” if you prefer.

I WANT TO BE A SUPER MILLIONAIRE!

I WANT TO BE A SUPER MILLIONAIRE!

Honestly, I’d settle for just being a plain old millionaire. I’m not greedy.

When you call the phone line for ABC’s new “Super Millionaire” game show, they ask you five fastest finger-type questions, in ascending order of difficulty. The first two times I called (they limit you to one attempt a day), I couldn’t get past the second question. They were hard!

But today, I tried again, and this time, everything fell into place. Question #2 was still pretty tough, but #3 was surprisingly easy. Then, when I heard #4, I was sure my run of luck had come to an end. It was about British history, something I know absolutely nothing about. (I wouldn’t think of posting the actual questions. Those networks have some mean-ass lawyers.)

But it turns out, my luck held out a little bit longer. The odds of getting a fastest finger question right by guessing randomly: 1 in 16. Well, there are fifteen strangers who are very pissed off at me right now. I got it right, but I still wasn’t too excited, because I knew #5 was going to be impossible.

Then I heard #5. It was about… get this… pop music! As if you have to ask…

I passed the test!!!!!!

The nice automated phone lady made me give my name and phone number and even pick a tape date. Oh, my God! Could I really be a Super Millionaire? I immediately started spending the money in my head and practicing my banter with Reege. “How do I plan to spend the money? Well, I’m going to give it all to whoever has the best chance to defeat George W. Bush in November.” I’d be a super millionaire — and a darling of the Left all at once! Then, sadly, the sensible part of me thought to check the official rules.

According to ABC, they estimate that 250,000 people will play the call-in game every day, and that 4% of those people will get all 5 questions right. While it’s nice to know I’m in the top 4%, that means the odds of being one of the 10 people picked for my tape day are a mere 1 in 1,000.

I’ll still be waiting by the phone between 6am and 9am on Tuesday, when any potential call would come. But I’m not calling Kerry’s campaign headquarters just yet.

But just in case, who wants to be my lifeline for British history?

PIZZA PARTY

PIZZA PARTY

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE WOMAN WHO ORDERED THE PIZZA IN HONOR OF JENNY’S LAST DAY AT THE OFFICE:

As we both know, today was not the first time you’ve ordered pizza for some office occasion or other. You’ve been doing it for years. As someone who’s never ordered pizza for the office, perhaps I’m a bit out of my jurisdiction to give you pointers on how to perform this important task, so forgive me in advance. However, I feel that there are several basic concepts about ordering pizza for a large office that, despite your extensive experience in the matter, you’re still failing to grasp.

First of all, people like pizza. People especially like free pizza. Please take this into consideration when determining what quantity of pizza to order. Do you notice how people swarm into the conference room at the mere announcement that the pizza has arrived, literally trampling over each other to get their grubby, jutting hands on those big greasy cardboard boxes? And how people come away from the conference room with far more than they actually intend to eat, their paper plates drooping from the weight of whatever haul they managed to make? That’s because we all know that your inability to correctly calculate how much to order makes shortages a virtual certainty. We’ve all felt the sorrow of being the guy who didn’t get to the pizza party on time and came away empty handed. You’ll witness all these same behaviors at U.N. food distributions in Namibia — the eagerness, the primal brother-against-brother bullying, the sad, famished sorrow of the weak and the slow. It’s human nature. The only way to change it is to order more food.

Secondly, while I appreciate how you order a diversity of toppings and I understand that this is your attempt to please everyone, you should realize that in actuality, you are pleasing no one. Pineapple pizza is quite an acquired taste, enjoyed by an elite few. That’s why the pineapple pie is always the last one to be touched. Yet time and again, we can count on you ordering a pizza covered in that pungent tropical fruit, in stubborn defiance of the obvious.

Conversely, other toppings are quite popular. Do you notice how quickly the BBQ Chicken pizza disappears? Perhaps you could order two of them next time, or, better yet, five. Why there were two mushroom pizzas today, I’ll never know. Sure, some people like mushrooms, but nobody really seeks them out on anything. We just kind of tolerate them when we happen to find them in our food. And if anyone really is that fond of them, they can get them on the vegetarian pizza, which also contains ample mushrooms. Do we need three pizzas with mushrooms? Am I unaware of a recent surge in popularity for this fungal foodstuff? For people like me who are not particularly fond of mushrooms, we find ourselves instantly shut out of three entire pizzas, and, unless we arrive within the first nine seconds and the gods see fit to bestow upon us a sacred BBQ chicken slice, our options are severely limited.

Here’s a suggestion: maybe next time, you could order a plain pizza. You know who eats plain pizzas? Everyone. Sure, some people prefer to have toppings, but in the absence of toppings, they’ll make do with plain. And for people who don’t like toppings at all, plain is pretty much the only option, isn’t it? If you order only pizzas with toppings (and you do), I pity the person who enjoys his or her pizza plain. Might I suggest buying a couple of plain pizzas as backups? Maybe you’re worried that people will find plain to be a bit bland or unexciting. Maybe you’re trying to get pizzas that are “edgy” and “hip” or that “test through the roof” with the “MTV generation”. But this is really a case of knowing your audience. We’re not hip, we’re not Hawaiian, and we’re not a bunch of truffle-sniffing pigs. So skip the pineapple, halve the mushroom order and serve up some plain pies already. Trust me, plain’s a perfectly respectable pizza and we won’t think any less of you for ordering it. And if anyone doesn’t like it, then they can just shut their lousy trap as far as I’m concerned.

After all, it’s free pizza. It’s not like anyone has any right to complain.

REVISIONIST KYLIE

REVISIONIST KYLIE

I’m pissed off at those Big Bad Record Companies! No, it’s not for any of the standard reasons — you know, because they’re suing preschoolers or inflating CD prices or failing to promote Michael Jackson’s music. The main reason I find them very, very devilish is the way they shafted Kylie Minogue throughout the 1990′s and denied the U.S. public some of her finest years as a recording artist. Maybe I am alone when I utter Kylie’s name in the same breath as Nelson Mandela’s or Leonard Peltier’s, but I find the wrongful imprisonment of Kylie’s music a breach of my human rights, so take that, Tommy Mottola!

See, Kylie’s first album, which in case you missed it was called “Kylie – The Album”, was chock full of Stock-Aitken-Waterman goodness and did pretty well here in “the States” (as she and her “mates” back in Australia would call our country). After that, she continued her reign as a hitmaking powerhouse almost everywhere in the world. But she lost her record deal in the U.S., and most of her chart-topping music was never even released here.

Well, now that she’s back on the charts, BMG Records has dredged up her back catalogue, which was denied to us for so long, and put out a compilation of the music they cruelly kept from us for all those years. They’ve even had the gall to call it “Greatest Hits 87-97″. Hmmm… wouldn’t a more appropriate title be “Songs That Would’ve Been Hits if We Hadn’t Locked Them Up In Our Vaults When They Were Current Enough to Have Really Mattered and Made Kylie the Stateside Star She So Rightfully Deserved to Be”? I think that’s a bit more honest, don’t you? (I wonder why I never got that job in A&R…)

Now that I’ve purchased “Greatest Hits 87-97″ and finally heard Kylie’s closeted gems, I love them, but they do seem a bit dated. And that’s not fair. They weren’t dated when she recorded them. Because of those boneheaded record companies, Kylie’s music never had a chance to feel fresh and new to U.S. listeners. These songs should be reminders of days past, but instead, they’re lost in some historical void, like eternal anachronisms stuck in some pop music purgatory. Well, no more. The only way to give these songs their due is to assign them to the memories they would’ve attached themselves to if only I’d heard them at the time.

All those nights I spent hoping that Kylie would marry Rick Astley, I could’ve completed my fantasy by pretending it was Rick dueting with her on the smash ballad “Especially For You” instead of half-hit wonder Jason Donovan. “Especially” would surely have been one of the candidates for my high school’s Senior Prom song, along with “This is the Time” by Billy Joel and “Honestly” by Stryper, which caused a mild stir because no one was sure whether it was really about Jesus and therefore an inappropriate school anthem. The day Kari told me she was going to vote for me for Prom King and tell all her friends to do so as well, a.k.a one of the scariest days of my life, I would’ve gone home and listened to “Especially” and dreamed that I could be king and Kylie could be my queen and that that would’ve made me happy and that all the Jesus freaks and messiah hatas in my high school would come together in a moment of unity as Kylie and I shared the floor and I whispered into her ear and told her that this dance was especially for her.

“Enjoy Yourself”, Kylie’s second album, would have been the soundtrack for my freshman year at college. I would’ve bought it as a cassette, since I didn’t own a CD player yet, and I would’ve put it on whenever I wanted to annoy my roommate or get back at him for blasting that “YOU CANNOT PETITION THE LORD WITH PRAYER!!!!” thing by the Doors that he played almost every day to get attention from the neighbors. He would’ve mocked me relentlessly, but within a few months, he would’ve known all the words to “Never Too Late”, and I would’ve overheard him singing it in the shower on one of those rare occasions when he actually bathed.

Early freshman year, I discovered that my Logic & Rhetoric instructor, a serious but spacey grad student, knew nothing about pop culture, but for some reason, she loved the references I would make to “Fat Albert” and “The Facts of Life” in my essays (including details I would make up just for fun, like the nonexistent episode where Tootie befriended a mime). I’ll bet I would’ve fashioned an entire homework assignment around “Wouldn’t Change a Thing”, which I would’ve lied and said was a political statement about Perestroika that was banned in eight countries, and which surely would’ve scored me her standard grade of A-/B+.

Kylie’s next album, “Rhythm of Love”, came out during the first Gulf War. I can’t think of a better song to chill down to after watching endless Colin Powell briefings on CNN than “Step Back in Time”. I remember going to my first anti-war protest on campus. Michael Moore, who had recently moved into the neighborhood, was the surprise guest speaker, and he taunted the tiny counter-protest of College Republicans by getting us all to chant, “Send Neil Bush!” There was a gigantic American flag, lots of news cameras and a creepy sense of uniformity to the whole thing. I remember thinking as everyone shouted, “1-2-3-4, We don’t want your fucking war!” in unison that this is what Nazis do, except the words were different. I still opposed the war, but I started doing it from the comfort of my dorm room, where, if only those record companies had been kinder, I would’ve lain back on my bed, gazed out my window at the street lights on 113th and Broadway and listened to Kylie sing “Better The Devil You Know”.

“Let’s Go To It”, Kylie’s next album, came out about midway through my college life. It was one of Kylie’s less successful albums, and I’ll bet it would’ve disappointed me as well. I’m not saying it sucked. It just wasn’t the kind of music I needed at that point in my life. I doubt that “Finer Feelings” would’ve been much comfort to me over that spring break when things got awkward in my family. “When your father gets home, I’m going to ask him to go for a walk,” my mother said. “If he asks you to join us, say no.” I believe I went upstairs and put on a Pixies album — or was it Nirvana? — while Mom and Dad went off to have what was surely a serious talk about something. And when they came back forty-five minutes later and told me they were getting a divorce, would “Word is Out” have given me an outlet to express my frustration? I think not. (I’ll thank a song called “Jeremy” by Pearl Jam for that.) I’ll bet I would’ve started to doubt Kylie’s staying power at that point, even if my waning interest in her had less to do with her music than with my personal issues and ever-evolving taste in music.

But it would only be a couple of years later, right around the time I was moving out to Los Angeles, that Kylie would’ve reminded me of what made her so Kylie-licious with the release of her first “Greatest Hits” compilation. I’m sure there’s no album I would’ve played more on that long cross-country drive to California than “Greatest Hits”, and each song would’ve been a hi-NRG trip down memory lane. Remember my freshman roommate singing “Never Too Late” in the shower? Good times, Jerry, good times…

Within days after arriving in LA, I applied at my first temp agency. I told Rewa, my fortysomething employment agent, how I had moved out here to be a screenwriter, and she told me that she had done the same thing twenty years ago before she gave up and started working for a temp agency. It led to a discussion of our favorite filmmakers, during which Rewa told me that John Waters had died a while back “… of AIDS“. She said this in a whisper, as if sharing a shameful secret. I knew she was wrong, but I played along because I wanted Rewa to like me, and because I really needed a job. On the way home from that interview, I would’ve cranked up Kylie’s cover of “Celebration”, one of the “Greatest Hits” album’s new tracks, and imagined what a fabulous funeral it would’ve been, if it had actually been true.

The eponymous “Kylie Minogue” album was released as I began film school. It was Kylie’s attempt to redefine herself, and it couldn’t have come at a more appropriate moment in my life. My new friends appreciated my sarcastic, sometimes subtle sense of humor, and I slowly started coming out of my shell. Being in such a creative world made me feel like a popular kid for the first time, and I felt like I was able to express who I was better than I ever had before. I’m sure I would’ve gone home after every directing class and cranked up “Confide in Me”, thinking of how Kylie was simultaneously winning over critics and new fans alike with her fresh, mature sound. And I’ll bet I would’ve put “Put Yourself in My Place” in my short film, instead of that Rage Against the Machine song, and everyone in my class would’ve said not just, “Good film, Jerry”, but “Hey, Kylie’s back!” And that would’ve given me two reasons to be happy.

Looking back now, Kylie has always been a big part of my life, if only retroactively. To be honest, I’m not that crazy about her new album, but something tells me that Kylie will be back someday, at just the right moment in time. So Kylie, let me take this moment to thank you for recording so many wonderful hits, and for always being there for me.

THE CASE OF THE MAN WITH NO HEART

THE CASE OF THE MAN WITH NO HEART

I am a suspect in a crime I did not commit. I stand accused of stealing a man’s heart.

On Friday, the day before Valentine’s Day, the Office Manager came around and passed out chocolate hearts to all the employees at my company. My boss was out of the office on Friday. Normally, this would be cause for celebration. But in this case, it set in motion a horrific crime which sent shockwaves throughout the entire office. Little did we know the generous heart-distribution gesture made in the spirit of St. Valentine was about to upend our workplace’s fragile peace…

Perhaps forever.

The following is an approximate timeline of the chain of events as they unfolded on Tuesday morning, following the long weekend:

7:30 AM - Boss returns to office following his time off and begins his post-vacation ritual of making sure employees were suitably oppressed during his absence.

10:00 AM - While visiting the office of a colleague down the hall, Boss notices a half-eaten bag of chocolate hearts and inquires as to their origin. Reports from the scene indicate that he was informed the office manager had passed the candy out to all employees Friday morning in his absence.

10:01 AM - Boss returns to his office to look for his own candy. A thorough search of his office turns up nothing but discarded phone message slips and blueprints for his home remodeling.

10:05 AM - Boss visits Office Manager to inquire about his missing candy. He’s told that she did in fact deliver a bag of chocolate to his office on Friday morning, and she claims to have no idea as to its current whereabouts. He is also told that all the candy has been distributed and there are no leftovers that he can have.

11:59 AM - While heading to lunch with Sycophantic Associate, Boss mentions the missing candy. Sycophantic Associate reports that he entered Boss’ office on Friday afternoon to drop off some paperwork, and at that time, he spotted the candy in question on Boss’ desk, confirming that at one point, the candy was in fact on Boss’ desk as it was supposed to be. This leaves no doubt in Boss’ mind that he was the victim of an Evildoer.

1:38 PM - On returning from lunch, Boss asks me if I know anything about his chocolate. As it’s the first I’ve heard of it and don’t immediately recall the candy delivery from last week, I ask, “What chocolate?” Boss thinks I’m playing dumb and becomes suspicious. He explains that sources have confirmed to him that candy was delivered to him Friday morning, but by Tuesday morning, said candy had disappeared. He asks if I saw anyone go in his office. As his office door is not visible from my desk, I truthfully respond, “No.” Boss informs me that Sycophantic Associate in fact entered his office on Friday and saw said candy, as if to contradict my claim. Realizing I’m under suspicion, I exhibit my trademark ability to appear guilty even when I’m not guilty. My face goes red, I avoid eye contact and I begin stammering nervously. “Wh-wh-why would anyone take your, uh, your ch-ch-chocolate? We all had our own.”

1:42 PM - As soon as Boss is out of earshot, the woman who sits next to me asks, “Did you take his chocolate?”

4:36 PM - Boss stops by again to let me know that what really bothers him isn’t the chocolate, it’s that someone went in his office (the door to which is always wide open) without permission.

4:37 PM - Boss walks by eating a foil-wrapped chocolate heart. Apparently, he has been investigating the Case of the Man With No Heart for most of the day, and another employee has taken pity on him and shared his own chocolate with Boss.

5:14 PM - After an entire day of his complaining, Office Manager informs Boss: “I think you’re making too big a deal about these chocolate hearts.”

Wednesday, 9:07 AM - I notice a bag of chocolate hearts on Boss’ desk, unopened and undisturbed. I ask Boss if someone confessed to the crime and returned the candy. He responds “no”. He informs me that the Office Manager went out and bought him a new bag.

Identifying the culprit in this crime has not been easy, especially since every single employee of the company was spotted in possession of an identical item at some point on Friday. Thankfully, I am not the only suspect. Among the others:

Disgruntled Outbound Administrative Assistant: Since giving her two weeks notice last week, DOAA has made no secret about how upset she was when Boss recently moved from his old office down the hall to one directly across from her, which he remodeled and expanded to suit his whims. Not only was she closest in proximity to the crime scene, allowing her easy access to the pilfered goods, but she has confessed to entering his office repeatedly in the past, although it was only when he was screaming at someone on the phone and she wanted to close his door.

Borderline Retarded Junior Counsel: BRJC might at first glance seem to be too obvious a candidate. He is clearly not in complete control of his mental faculties and, since he has been certified by the State Bar of California, there is ample evidence that he doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong. But as movies have taught us, it’s often the creepy outcast, though just a bit player, who is in fact guilty. Plus, BRJC’s excessive girth suggests a love of chocolate that would not be satisfied with just one bag.

Sycophantic Associate: As the only person who claims to have seen the missing item on Boss’ desk during the day on Friday and the only person besides me and Office Manager who admits to having entered Boss’ office, SA is an obvious suspect. Perhaps this is a frame-up job. Has SA figured out that nobody respects him because of the way he doggishly kowtows to Boss, laughs at Boss’ inane and/or offensive jokes and always seconds Boss’ point of view, no matter how inane and/or offensive it may be, thus providing Boss with his sole source of validation for his slimy existence? Knowing Boss as well as he does, maybe SA chose to hit Boss where he knew it would hurt the most — his candy — in hopes someone else would be fingered for the crime.

Phantom Custodial Staff Member: When in doubt, blame the cleaning lady. No one knows who the PCSMs are, and as they float through our offices after hours when nobody else is around, there would be no witnesses to any candy thefts they chose to commit. Did PCSM pull off the perfect crime?

Office Manager: It’s no secret that OM has grown tired of Boss’ constant demands, as in the time he asked to move his office down the hall to one that could be enlarged and remodeled to suit his whims. Did she finally decide to get her revenge? She was in control of heart distribution; didn’t she have the most opportunity to deny him his candy? She was also the one who became most visibly annoyed by Boss’ investigation of the Case of the Man With No Heart. What is she hiding?????

Me: Several witnesses place me at the crime scene during the period in question. In fact, they’ve seen me go in and out of my boss’ office again and again, just about every single day! What else have I stolen? Paper clips? Memo pads? The satellite radio, multiple (unopened) DirecTV receivers or Tiffany clock which have been sitting undisturbed in his office for months while his candy remains so frighteningly unsafe from thieving hands?

This is by no means an exhaustive list. As Boss himself has made clear, everyone is a suspect.

The Case of the Man With No Heart remains unsolved. If you have any evidence as to the whereabouts of my boss’ heart, please inform me at once.

HOW I’M WASTING KILLING TIME LATELY

HOW I’M WASTING KILLING TIME LATELY

  • Want to figure out which candidate is the best match for you? You’ll have to do lots of research and follow the news every day. Want to know which candidate is the best match for you, and you only have five minutes to devote to the subject? Just take this handy quiz! (Thanks, AOL/TimeWarner!)

    And of course, the one I score 100% on is the goofball candidate. Surprisingly, though, Kerry was my #2 with 94% compatibility, followed by Sharpton with 90%. Honestly, I didn’t know Al and I disagreed on anything except his electability.

    My compatibility with G.W.B.: a mere 8%.

  • Here’s something everyone can agree on: the brilliance of spam poetry!
  • Who’s Kristofer Desrocher, you ask?
  • My new favorite game: find a crazy petition and try to guess how many signatures it has. I sure hope they get their Roxette DVD.

STEP OFF, Y’ALL!

STEP OFF, Y’ALL!

People always ask me: Jerry, who’s up in your grill this week? Well, I’ll tell ya who’s up in my grill. Everyone!

Scalia, you need to recuse yourself. If I’m not mistaken from all my years of watching David Kelly shows, judges recuse themselves not because they can’t be impartial. Judges (in theory at least) can always be impartial. That’s what makes a good judge. But judges are supposed to recuse themselves to avoid the appearance of bias. When you and a litigant in a case you’re trying are hunting buddies, that looks like bias. Why not just step aside in the name of justice? The only reason not to would be if you know your pal is up shit creek and could really use your help to save his shaky case. This whole mess just makes both Scalia and Cheney even less credible than ever. I move for a mistrial!

Eisner, it’s time to take your piles of money and ride off into the sunset. Did you know Disney actually opened a second theme park next to Euro Disney? Surprise, surprise. It’s losing money. And how could he let Pixar slip away? It’s not like Disney has ever relied on having, you know, a profitable animation arm or anything. This overpaid exec should’ve been kissing Steve Jobs’ pixellated ass, not to mention Roy Disney’s. The flood of people leaving Disney aren’t being petty, Mike; they’re jumping ship, and the stockholders will be next. Eisner’s turned the most profitable and well-known entertainment company in history into a Mickey Mouse operation.

Howard Dean: it’s time to quit. You were good for the race, you were fun, you got people to care again. But you’re becoming a joke, and you’re actually starting to damage the one cause you claimed to stand for: defeating Bush. Sure, you still have a loyal base of support, but so does Michael Jackson. If you really think there’s a value to having a posse that will follow you blindly into the abyss, I’ve got two words for you: Ralph Nader. Face the facts: two million college kids and Al Gore can’t make you president, but they sure can screw it up for somebody else. Sorry, but in this sitcom, you’re the wacky neighbor. It’s time to wrap up the b-story so the lead actors can do their thing.

Sorry, FCC, but the exposure of a woman’s jewelry-pinched nipple isn’t “a new low”. Calling that incident a new low is a new low. I mean, really, has the FCC been watching TV for the last fifty years? Have they seen “Fear Factor”? “Mr. Belvedere”? “Celebrity Naked Hidden Camera Extreme Sex Blowout”? (Now in development at FOX.) For America’s new breed of internet-bred youngsters, a nipple exposure is about as thrilling as watching paint dry, or listening to Janet Jackson’s music. “A new low”? Hardly. Is it just me, or is hyperbole right now worse than it’s ever been in all of human history?

Evangelical Christians: you guys stink. I’m all for freedom of religion, but maybe it’s time we start promoting freedom from religion. I don’t need you trying to convert me everywhere I go. Yeah, I’ve heard about Revelations, and I’m willing to take my chances, so step off, okay? Now I can’t even fly from LAX to JFK without being proselytized to. How about you guys preach all you want in your place of worship and leave the rest of us alone? I’ll say amen to that.

American Idol judges: why’d you can Scooter Girl? She’s got personality, she’s got a great voice. Okay, so she’s a freak, but try to remember this is reality TV. Mark Burnett and the Donald kept Crazy Sam around for three weeks, not in spite of his freak factor, but because of it. Scooter Girl deserves a second shot to entertain America! Who would be a better wild card than the wildest contestant of all? (Ugh, I can’t believe I actually signed an online petition for this.)

And finally…

Me: Seriously, what’s my problem anyway? I couldn’t get through a single post without a reality TV ref? It figures. Enough, Jerry, enough!