## May 15, 2007

### Here Comes the Zombies...Again

World War Z - An Oral History of the Zombie War
By: Max Brooks

Reviewed by Bryan Richardson

Let’s just start this off by saying that as a misanthrope and an avid fan of the zombie genre, it took me about 3.2 seconds to decide that this book was worth perusing while I took a dump at Borders. Written as a documentary, it does a great job illuminating humanity’s struggle to survive against hungry corpses.

On a side note, the author is the son of actor Mel Brooks. If you find it hard to believe that the son of that great thespian could write such drivel, think again. I’m sure Mel cries himself to sleep every night wondering if the Brooks name can ever be taken seriously again. What does the author’s pedigree bring to the table? Who cares.

Max Brooks originally authored “The Zombie Survival Guide” - a must-read for those of us who, at 3 a.m., dwell upon the remote possibility of a zombie home invasion, only to laugh it off the next day, then spend the following night again in sleepless terror. This guide provides helpful information on weapons, siege tactics and how to recognize and differentiate a class-two zombie horde from the American Idol audition queue. If you are thinking that this is stupid and that zombies don’t exist, you just haven’t been paying close enough attention. Were the recent May Day protests about immigrant rights or was it an undead horde looking for a meal? Are the periodic occurrences of civil unrest really Class-3 outbreaks? Are DMV employees captured zombies being used for slave labor? At any rate, the guide was little more that a novelty until Mr. Brooks fleshed things out with his novel “World War Z."

“World War Z - An Oral History of The Zombie War,” is a collection of stories compiled by the author from the survivors of the war. The diversity of the survivors prevents this book from becoming boring by continually illuminating the Zombie War from a unique viewpoint. These viewpoints flow smoothly together to chronicle the war and provide answers to questions such as:

1. Can humans and zombies ever learn to get along?

2. Can zombies swim?

3. Who is dumber - our government or the zombies?

4. How long does it take France to surrender?

5. Do zombies attack each other?

6. Can you pull a “Shawn of the Dead” and get away with pretending to be a zombie?

7. If you are starving and resort to cannibalism, are you any different from “them?”

8. And most importantly: what happens to our beloved celebrities during a zombie war?

The novel is a must for fans of the genre. The author, being a fan of Romero’s work, adds the social commentary prevalent in the Holy Trilogy (face it, the fourth one sucked). Delving into the problem of our unskilled, disposable society, he explains that in the event of a worldwide apocalypse, one would likely find that the class system of the survivors would be the opposite of what it is today. Society has developed to the point that most people no longer have basic survival skills such as working with tools for building and repairing, sewing, cooking, and cleaning (not vacuuming dumb-ass, we’re talking about skinning a carcass or field stripping a rifle). In a world gone mad, people with those skills would be valuable and those of us who specialize in Excel spreadsheets would be dinner.

If you are too lazy to read a book, don’t worry it’s available on audio tape as well…fat ass. Another incentive to read this book is that Hollywood is making it into a movie next year and after they ruin it, you will hardly want to read the book. So go ahead and wait for the movie, tubby.

## February 27, 2007

### Sudden Dumbas Death Syndrome

Another guest post from Dave in Texas? Yes, but this will be his last. Only because starting next week he will be joining us as a regular contributor with his own column.

I hesitated writing about this. I wanted to get it out. I did not want to expose it to the world.

A week ago Tuesday I had a little “episode” of mild chest pain and dizziness. It didn’t really hurt, but it felt weird. Something I had not experienced before.

I have made some poor choices over the years. I was way overweight. I might have smoked some.

I started turning that around 3 years ago. Quit smoking.

As of this week, I’ve lost 75 pounds and probably have about 30 left to get to my target.

You cannot imagine how pissed off I was prepared to be under the circumstances..

I made an appointment for Friday, but by Thursday I was still jumping like a cat over “this pain” or “that one”.

You get paranoid.

So I drove myself to the ER (impressive guy stupidity, is it not?), walked in, and said “I think I’ve got some chest pain and it’s worrying me a bit”.

Well, welcome to the Machine. There may be a hundred people in the waiting room, but if you come in and tell the triage nurse “my chest hurts”, you are in the express lane.

And by express lane I mean they immediately 1) pop an aspirin in you 2) take your bp and pulse, 3) do an EKG, and 4) take a lot of blood, to see if there’s any sign of cardiac trauma. Then 5) you wait hours for the next test and a doctor to come tell you his opinion of the results.

Well I thought after the EKG and the blood work (which showed no trauma enzymes), I thought they’d let me go home.

I was wrong. They admitted me into the hospital.

That evening, and the next day, I did more tests. Separated by hours of boredom. I went nuts.

Newton Minow was right, television is a vast wasteland.

When did these “stand up before a retired judge and explain why you are an asshole” shows become so popular?

I took more tests, and the results kept coming back negative (in my favor). And at 5pm they let me go home. And I was really ready to get out.

It’s funny, when you think you’re about to die, you want to hang out there. Treadmill test might induce cardiac arrest? Well hell, better here than at home pushing a lawn mower. But when all the tests run so far say I’m fine? Oh great, no big deal, I’m ready to leave now.

You feel a little chagrined, except everyone looks at your age and your history, and says “you should have come in on Tuesday”.

My one mistake.

Gentlemen (and ladies), those of us who are a little older and maybe have some risk factors, if you don’t feel well, don’t screw around. People depend on you.

Go check it out. You’ll hate it, I certainly did.

But you have an obligation to make sure it’s nothing. So go do it.

My heart did not attack me. According to the serious looking doctors, it won’t for a long time.

Guest Writer Archives

## February 20, 2007

### My Favorite Crap Car

Guest author Miker gets in on Car Week and tells us about his favorite piece of crap.

Say AMC to most people and they think "Ooooh, the Pacer. What a crap car." While it was a crappy car, the Pacer had personality. Especially if it had the faux wood panelling outside and you had the guts to paint fish on the windows inside. AMC's true entry in the Crap Car Hall 'O' Fame was the Gremlin. It was just as crappy, but without the Pacer's dubious charms. Even the special edition Levi's edition and the nasty hockey stick decals on the "X" model couldn't save it from the crapulence. I know, because Chappy, the '74 Gremlin I drove in high school had chocolate brown hockey sticks over oatmeal colored paint and it oozed crapitude.

To be fair, it was smokin' fast for a Gremlin because of the small block Ford 305 V8 which (believe it or not) came as a factory option and made it monstrously overpowered. When it chose to run, it'd run like a scalded cat. Because the car was so light, it'd grab air time if you went over a rise at any speed over 45 mph, which was good for many a Dukes of Hazzard moment. Other than that, it was an automotive trainwreck.

For starters, it was responsible for my failing my driver's test. The Fat Man wasn't appreciative of the driver's side door falling open into traffic when executing an otherwise perfect right turn. Any other time, I would have just held the door closed, but The Fat Man insisted on both hands being on the wheel. Go figure.

Then there was the gas gauge, or the lack of one. Not for lack of trying. It was replaced five or six times, with each one crapping out within weeks. Eventually I gave up and kept a notebook in the car to record mileage and the amount of gas put in the tank. Needless to say, I learned to carry a gas can with me for those tragic mileage miscalculations.

Speaking of mileage, it got around eight to ten mpg. My second car, the beloved Queen Elizabeth, got better mileage and it was an almost nineteen foot long '67 Buick Skylark sedan with a 340 c.i. V-8 under the hood and a trunk that could comfortably hold five standard sized beer kegs.

The exhaust leak was a problem too. I like fresh air as much as the next person, but driving around in the dead of winter with the window open to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning was uncomfortable. It did let me hang my arm out the driver's side window to keep the door closed during turns.

At the other end of the car, the windshield leaked. I was the only kid in high school who had to scrape snow and ice from the outside and inside of his car during the winter.

Mechanically, there was the air conditioning and the transmission which kinda sorta balanced each other out. The a/c worked almost too well, but there's an automotive engineer somewhere out there who's laughing his head off about the maximum setting, which AMC inexplicably chose to call "Desert Only," as if you would get frostbite if it was used on an average sweltering humid day during an Indiana summer. As well as the a/c worked, the transmission didn't. It would drop out of drive and into neutral at stoplights. You'd only notice it when the light turned green and the engine would rev higher and higher until finally it would drop into gear and surge drunkenly forward with an earsplitting chirp of tires. If it wasn't for those high-backed bucket seats I'd still be walking around with whiplash twenty-three years later.

I stopped driving it in '84 when the front suspension gave out and I began to hear the oilpan scrape the pavement while driving down a perfectly level road. Turns out that AMC designed the suspension for a four cylinder or a small six. That small block V8 was a teensy bit too heavy for it. After rusting quietly in the backyard for a couple years Dad sold it for five bucks to one of my little brother's friends who turned it into a white trash hoopty complete with a custom paint job and a lift kit like you can still see on pickups driven by the hillbilly elite.

Since then I've driven a lot of crap cars. Chevettes. LeCars. A Buick Electra that was worth more sold by the pound for scrap than as a trade-in. A Triumph TR-7. Every car I ever popped during the year that I moonlighted as a repo man. I still have a soft spot in my heart for Chappy, the POS that's made me appreciate any car that runs. There's a perverse little part of me that wishes I still had that car. It was so crappy that it's almost come full circle to being ironically cool.

Miker never fed his Gremlin after midnight.

## February 12, 2007

### The Great Depression And a Dead Man's Underwear

Another guest post from our friend in Texas, Dave. Originally appeared here.

In my first post on this fascinating topic, I posed a question, which was my theory that most of us wear as adults what our moms bought for us when we were kids and teenagers, and we just got used to it or whatever, and that was that.

As several people pointed out, except for special occasions I’m not really trying to make a fashion statement, I just want to be comfortable.

Part of the reason I find this theory so plausible is that my own anecdotal evidence supports it fully, so I can treat it like global warming theory. Another reason though is the special relationship a mother and a son share. It’s different from fathers and sons, and of course completely different from that of parents and daughters.

Unless a power tool is missing. Then you’re all equally guilty under the law.

However special and close the mother / son relationship might be, there are areas where open communication is not really a priority.

That’d be talkin about underwear. No boy, no adolescent, no teenager, hell who am I kidding, no man in his 40s wants to discuss this with mom. Not at all. Not ever. Don’t get me wrong, moms can talk about it all the time and dear God we wish they would just please shut up about it. “Look what I got for you at Target today David, the other ones were looking so thin and threadbare and yak, yak, yak, yak”. “Mom, ok, uh, yeah just, all right already, ok, ahh,, AIYEEEEEE”!!

So we wore what they bought and that was it. The alternative was discussing it.

When I was 19 my mom had a friend who lost a son to a premature heart attack. He was about 31. About my size.

I think you all know where this is going.

To understand my mom’s thought process in this nightmare, you have to appreciate (which I of course did not at the time) that she was a child of the depression. It affected her life profoundly. She grew up poor on a little farm in Alabama. Her dad was a carpenter. She was a teenager during WWII, and she remembered rationing. Most of you are aware that every single commodity you could buy was rationed. Meat, eggs, milk, bread, gasoline, tires, clothing.. No coupon, no buy.

People of limited means survived the depression by saving everything. You wasted nothing. They had grease drives for cryin out loud… save your grease drippings from meats.

So you might be able to understand when my mother came home from her friend’s house with two paper grocery bags, she thought she was doing a very good thing.

I swear to God, she brought me another man’s underwear.

A DEAD man’s underwear. And she had a co-conspirator, who probably came up with the idea.

“Martha sent these over today. They were Ken’s”. I open bag, look in, and drop it, backing away like it’s full of baby rattlesnakes.

I think I screamed like a girl. I don’t remember exactly. I said something.

“No way. Uh uh. Not happening” I said. She goes all ‘practical on me’.

“Oh hush, they’re practically new. And he was exactly your size”.

memo to self: this size can equal premature death from heart disease. think about it bub.

“Mom, they’re some other guys underwear. A dead guy’s underwear”.

“Well they only needed one pair for the service David. I don’t understand what’s wrong”.

Oh great, there’s one pair missing from the set.

“I am not wearing those. He is dead. Death could have jumped into them. Death does that, it doesn’t care where it goes. Those could be Death Briefs! Don’t you want grandchildren someday”?

I almost had her there. But she found her second wind.

She carried on for a bit about how ungrateful children were or something, I don’t know. At some point in my youth I learned to filter that frequency. It was a coping mechanism that helped me survive. Anyway, I took those bags and shoved them in the garbage can, and planted the lid.

Firmly.

Before I left to go back to school, I looked in the trunk of my car.

Yep. Tucked way up in the back. Behind the spare.

Depression children are not just resourceful.

They are sneaky as all hell.

Dave won't tell if he wears boxers or briefs. Or neither.

Guest author archives

## February 8, 2007

### If Viacom Sees This They are Going to Blow a Cow

Or: "Come On Over and Bring a Fat Spindle of Blank DVDs: The Daily Show is On"

As you probably know, Viacom recently re-cried-like-a-little-weaning-baby about YouTube hosting clips of their properties. Personally, I see very little difference in
uploading a clip and directing folks to see it and making them all copies on DVD-Rs and sending them around, except that I don't have enough interest in only slightly comical/interesting things to invest the time and money in doing so.

I went to upload a video clip to Youtube yesterday, because it was funny and I thought other people might like to see it. Youtube has at least two places before you get to the upload area where you check a box that you understand that if you are not the copyright holder you should not upload the clip. This is a disingenuous formality, of course, as the site would have the traffic of a geocities family site if it consisted entirely of babies farting and a guy spitting a tictac through an egg. I chose to not waste my time uploading a clip of the NBC comedy Scrubs, because I don't work there and haven't received permission to share the clip. Their loss, fuck them and Youtube.

If these artists and production companies were actually losing revenue rather than gaining it because of file-sharing I would give a shit, I really would. BUT, the facts of file-sharing are thiswise. Shitty music that nobody would have every heard of is being heard by people around the globe that like that particular kind of shitty music. These bands are able to tour and sell tickets and records in places they never would have because of a few of their songs getting around for free. When was the last time you bought an album you hadn't heard any of the material on? Other than a musical entity that you had heard other work from I would say never for most of us. (I sometimes pick up dollar discs out of the bin at the used place just for giggles, but I haven't found anything of value yet, and that kind of thing doesn't count, smartass.)

The same thing is true of Youtube and everyone involved is aware of it. That is, the same as there isn't a guy in Iowa churning out bootleg Kelly Clarkson CDs that he downloaded off the net, neither is there a huge black market of Daily Show clip discs being sold out of Chevy panel vans in the back alleys of Everytown USA. Hearing and viewing pieces of the whole attracts viewers and listeners to the commercially available product. It does not sate the interest, it enhances it, and since we all know better it would be a lot more respectful towards the audience were they to admit it rather than file nonsense claims and lawsuits.

I fully (ok, partially) understand the ramifications of uploading entire shows and movies to be viewed for free by thousands of people. None of the advertisers nor the intellectual property owners get anything and the viewers get free stuff. But nobody is arguing that, this is a perfect example of my understanding of a "Strawman" argument. Create a detrimental version of your opponent's viewpoint that can be easily beaten to shreds, like a figure made of straw. Since showing 90 second clips of TV shows is more likely to encourage viewing via television of the entire show it is a preposterous supposition that Youtube is impacting Viacom's properties negatively. Quite the opposite, but we all know that.

Creator's rights are one thing, but none of the plaintiffs in these situations is having bread sandwiches for dinner. Everyone loses some possible revenue to bootlegging, from "I taped my friend's record" to the Chinese factory made thousands of them, but truly, it's nothing new. I have listened to free music and then bought future releases from umpteen bands, but I never would have made any of those purchases without hearing the free stuff. Metallica wouldn't have gotten their portion of the purchase price from my three records, one tape, and one cd if I hadn't listened to my friend Scot's "bootlegged" cassettes. Which he made from vinyl records that he purchased, btw.

If I send someone a copied CD there are now one paid for and one stolen version in the world, and the property owners have seemingly lost revenue. However, since my interest in sharing my love for the property on a monetary basis falls well below the $14.98+ purchase price, (it's right around the 20-40 cents I paid for the blank cd, plus postage if any); the property owners would otherwise have lost a possible fan, possible future album sales, concert tickets, seat cushions, t-shirts, etc. The same goes for my sharing of a 13 second clip from "Scrubs", especially in the current era of selling television series on DVD. Seriously, the possibility that even one person might shell out$39.99 for a season of the show because of viewing my clip should have NBC emailing me begging me to upload clips. Let me go check my inbox for that.

[Thiswise is now a word. I coined it, you understood it, therefore it is now a valid verbal communication device that is fully acceptable henceforth.]

Somewhere on youtube is a video of Richard farting the Star Spangled Banner.

Previously by Richard
Guest Author archives

## February 5, 2007

### The Force Could Have Been With Him

Today's guest article comes from Dan, who writes at Baseball Crank. It orginally appeared here.

Re-watching some of Revenge of the Sith the other day finally crystallized my thoughts on the Star Wars prequel trilogy, now with a distance of some 18 months from the completion of the last of the prequels.

When each of the prequels came out, I enjoyed them (my review of Episode III is here). Of course, any male born between about 1965 and 1975 was hard-wired to embrace the prequels, given how much the original trilogy dominated popular culture in our childhoods and preteen years. It took a lot to alienate us Star Wars fanatics; although George Lucas nonetheless succeeded in alienating a good number, most everyone who loved the first three could find something to like in these - the Phantom Menace, for example, had all sorts of problems as a film, but the lightsaber duel between Darth Maul, Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan was the best lightsaber fight of the whole Star Wars series; likewise you would need a heart of stone not to get excited about finally seeing Yoda square off in combat at the end of Attack of the Clones.

Looking back, Lucas produced two uneven films (Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones), each of which had a bunch of fun scenes but also with plenty of cringe-inducing scenes and neither of which hung together that well as a complete film, and one good movie (Revenge of the Sith) which could and should have been a great movie but for a few potholes along the way.

If Lucas' goals were simply to complete his story arc his own way, make a bucketload of money from films, books, games and other merchandise, and play around with modern special effects, then he succeeded. But there was no reason to set his sights that low. The prequels could have been genuinely outstanding films.

The particular errors that Lucas made are well-worn ground by now - Jar Jar was a bad joke told for far too long, the midichlorians unnecessarily de-mystified the Force, the fish-faced Neimoidians with the Charlie Chan accents were silly and off-putting at best, racist caricatures at worst, and the handful of efforts at contemporary political commentary were distracting and incoherent.I'm more interested in not just the excising of particular mistakes but rethinking how the films could have been better, even within the parameters of the basic prequel storylines and characters as they have been laid out in the films, novels and the animated Clone Wars microseries.

Lucas started the films with two related and significant disadvantages - first, a lack of suspense, since everyone knew that the prequels had to end with Anakin turning into Vader, Obi-Wan headed to Tattooine, Yoda to Dagobah, Palpatine becoming the Emperor, etc. And second, limited ability to get creative with the storyline for the same reason - his endpoints were already set in stone.

But the films also started with tremendous advantages that most filmmakers would kill for: (1) an emotionally powerful, built-in double dramatic arc of downfall and betrayal, both Anakin's and that of the Republic; (2) a stable of pre-existing characters with known and in some cases reasonably vivid personalities, who require little further introduction, combined with a pre-existing fictional universe free from current realities of human existence; (3) employment of the best special-effects teams and the best film composer of our times; (4) a huge, built-in audience; (5) complete creative independence and an essentially unlimited budget, given Lucas' wealth and the justifiably high box office expectations; and (6) the combination of pop culture cache (especially for male performers of roughly my generation) with the prior two factors, making it child's play to attract the best talent in Hollywood to work on the films.

Bearing those in mind, here's four things Lucas should have done differently:

1. Don't Go It Alone. I'm hardly the first to make this point, but it was the original error that spawned so many of the others. Lucas is a man of considerable gifts, and some of these are still evident in the prequels - his imagination, his talent with special effects, his gift for the pacing of action sequences. But he has always had weaknesses as a filmmaker - he has no talent for directing actors, his dramatic and especially romantic dialogue can be horrendous - and one thing he did well in the original trilogy (well-timed wisecracks and one-liners) seems to have ossified in the intervening years as he went from quirky and ambitious film buff to merchandising tycoon.

All of that would have mattered a lot less if Lucas had made the decision to bring in the best help he could get from talented directors and writers to work over the films and make them wonderful and realistic and human. It's not as if Lucas would have had to worry about losing creative control, since he owns the place, and it's not as if fans and reviewers would have forgotten that this was a George Lucas production (how many besides Star Wars fanatics can name the directors of Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi?). The use of a revolving door of directors has worked quite well for the Harry Potter films, for example. If Lucas had only been willing to get the input of some other people, he could have worked with better dialogue, better performances, and people to point out huge mistakes before they hit the screen.

2. Combine the First Two Films. Since the original Star Wars ("A New Hope") billed itself as "Episode IV," the prequels had to be three films. But they didn't have to be these three. In fact, I think most Star Wars fans expected the first of the three films to introduce Anakin, the second to cover the Clone Wars, and the third to bring Anakin over fully to the Dark Side.

Had Lucas stuck with that order, a huge number of the narrative problems and omissions in the prequel trilogy would have fallen away. First, Lucas himself has admitted that he had to pad out Phantom Menace to get to a full-length film. Making an Episode I that covered Phantom Menace's storyline in 45 minutes before jumping ahead 10 years to pick up the Attack of the Clones storyline would have immediately removed or drastically shortened a lot of the filler and the redundant plotlines - the Gungans (Jar Jar even would not have been so bad with five minutes of screen time), the storyline where Anakin accidentally destroys the Death Star-lite, the fun but overlong pod race, the repetitive fight scenes at Padme's palace. As a corollary, instead of being off in a star fighter Anakin should have been present for the final battle with Darth Maul. That would have presented several opportunities - have him witness the death of his first mentor, intensifying his emotional scars. Have him play some role, through a not-entirely-intentional use of the Dark Side of the Force (perhaps even a Force-choke on Darth Maul that isn't noticed by Obi-Wan) that saves Obi-Wan and lets him kill Darth Maul, thus (1) establishing Anakin's unusual precocity without the need for a midichlorian blood sample and (2) serving as a sort of original sin in his relationship with Obi-Wan. Personally, I would also have laid out near the beginning the death of Sifo Dyas, whose critical role in ordering the clone army is never explained onscreen.

Granted, Attack of the Clones covers a lot of plot, some of which would get submerged if you combined the two, but with a full Clone Wars film to work with, the reworked first episode could have cut a lot of the romantic scenes with Padme, to be developed during the war. Some of the more video-game-y scenes could have been dropped (i.e., the conveyer belt scene). Certainly there was a half hour's worth of fat to be cut, and the films could have run close to three hours without exhausting audience patience if done right.

The resulting space cleared for a full-length film treatment of the Clone Wars would have given the trilogy much-needed epic scope (we see far too little of how the main characters' dramas affect the wider galaxy) and dramatic depth, as well as giving us a lot more insight into the character development and growth to manhood of Anakin, a little backstory to make cartoonish villains like Dooku and Grievous less incomprehensible, and perhaps space to let Sam Jackson take Mace Windu out to play more. Certainly the novels and the microseries offered numerous examples of the kinds of storylines available during the war - seiges, hostage situations, the deaths of Jedi in battle, intrigue among the villains, opportunities for Anakin to learn how to command, the whole whodunit story of the Jedi pursuing Sidious (leading to Palpatine needing to get off Coruscant to dry up the trail and thus motivating him to stage his own abduction). A full Clone Wars film could also have given us a live-action Asajj Ventress, a character who is vividly drawn in the novels, and who is naturally theatrical, with her shaved tattooed head, taut, leather-clad figure, double lightsabers and depthless rage; in fact, she could well have been a sort of Boba Fett crossed with Princess Leia in terms of combination geek factor and weird sex appeal. She would also have given us a chance for either Anakin and Obi-Wan combined, or perhaps Yoda or Mace, to get another lightsaber kill.

3. Rethink and Recast Anakin: Hayden Christensen took a lot of grief for his performances, but in Attack of the Clones I thought some of the criticisms unfair - he was asked to play a whining, petulant, self-important teenage boy, and he gave a very realistic portrayal of one. In Revenge of the Sith he was asked to do more as an actor, with decidedly mixed results - he stuck one key scene perfectly (the final showdown with Obi-Wan), gave a weak performance in the other (his conversion to the Dark Side), and proved incompetent at any scenes with Padme.

The core problem, though, wasn't so much Christensen himself as Lucas' failure to grasp Anakin's full potential as a character and cast him accordingly. While Obi-Wan is important to the plot, Anakin's personal drama is, after all, the center of the prequel trilogy. And the Anakin we could have expected from watching Vader in action and hearing about his youth had enormous potential as a classic film role: a young man who is cocky, ambitous, and supremely talented, but also rash, reckless, impatient, and subject to passions and rages he can't control and that ultimately consume him. Any screenwriter worth his salt would kill to write that character, any actor to play him. He could have been the ultimate bad boy anti-hero, James Dean with a lightsaber, the guy every teenage guy admires and every teen girl wants (indeed, ask Peter Jackson how it helps the box office to have teen girls swoon over your male lead). The role could have launched the next Brando, if written and cast properly - more swagger, more smirking, more volcanic temper, less whimpering and speechifying. Leo DiCaprio would have been perfect for the role if he was a foot taller.

4. Find A Han Solo: One of the critical elements of the original trilogy was the balance between the whiny, self-centered Luke and the wisecracking, free-wheeling Han. Throughout the films, Han (and his relationships with the other characters) kept the movies light-hearted, deflated some of the pretensions of even Obi-Wan and Leia, and generally injected the same retro 1940s charm that Harrison Ford would later bring to Lucas' Indiana Jones films. Han was at all times the movies' sense of humor about the absurdity of its own cosmology.

Obviously, neither Han nor Harrison Ford could appear in the original trilogy, but some character could and should have been given a Han-like personality to lighten the mood. There's no reason it couldn't have been a Jedi (the first two Jedi we meet are the mischievous Yoda and the dryly witty Obi-Wan, so there was no rule that says Jedi have to be somber and dull to be self-controlled), maybe even Mace Windu, but regardless, somewhere in the films we needed a foil for the overly serious tone. As discussed above, a better Anakin would have provided a little of this mood-lightener in the re-imagined second film in particular, and in fact a whole film focused on the Clone Wars would have created more room for a gun-wielding character who helps command the Clone Troopers.

Dan has just trumped Michele as the biggest Star Wars geek to appear on FTTW.

Guest writer archives

## January 16, 2007

[FTTWers note, this is from my blog where I had previously mentioned the extreme low classness of my cousin Flem, so for his small part in this narrative, imagine a toothless redneck that can't eat in a restaurant without stealing the silverware and once abandoned his children with his parents for 3 years to shoot heroin on the streets
of Daytona.]

When the Brits get involved it's a 'biscuit', but that's not what I'm going for this time. Reaching into the well of personal stories from my family, this week's guest star is my cousin Flem's son Jebediah. (Name changed to protect what innocence he has left.)

Once upon a long ago, GrandMama hitched her wagon to a star by the name of George "Tipsy" McStagger (name also changed). Tipsy is a so-called 'Health-Nut'; so-called in the sense that paying $4 for a bulb of "organic" garlic is contradicted by downing a bottle of wine every two days. Other than the excessive drinking, the health-nut reputation is well-earned, witness the horribly dry, grainy "organic" peanut butter in their fridge and the "sometimes with bonus blood spots in the yolk organic fertilized" eggs, etc. This is the South, so whenever a person enters a home they are quickly encouraged to eat, and excuses are not usually accepted. It is a knowing-glance-traded inside joke within the family that anytime you have anything to drink or eat in Tipsy's presence, you will be offered THE GOOD KIND. Want to make a sandwich, we got THE GOOD KIND of turkey, ham, whatever from the deli. The bread? Why yes, it is filled with whole grains, and some twigs and berries if I'm not mistaken. Because it's THE GOOD KIND. Some mayonnaise, butter, mustard, pickles, syrup, shoe polish? THE GOOD KIND is available, have no fear. Why the ordinary kind of a lot of things is kept around is not known, it is sometimes implied that GrandMama has stealthily brought in the sub-par versions just to irk Tipsy. One weekend not so very long ago, while Jebediah was visiting them for the weekend, his oft-repeated phrase "I'm hungry" escaped his reptilian lips. GrandMama responded that supper was not long off, would he like a few cookies to tide him over? Possessing neither the ability to stop time nor a flashy thing like Men In Black, I was not able to advise the boy against the offer without insulting GrandMama and Tipsy; so I said nothing. "Yeah!!" Jebediah happily exclaimed, and I watched helplessly as Tipsy moved towards the rooster-shaped cookie jar. Tipsy spoke with more than a little pride as he removed the rooster's head and offered the jar to Jebediah, "You have all you want of these, we made these yesterday, they're THE GOOD KIND." I waved off the offer after Jebediah greedily two-fisted himself headlong into regret. You see, THE GOOD KIND of cookie looks a lot like an ordinary chocolate chip cookie from a distance; and the right angle. The closer you get, you start to see bits of what might be un-ground wheat, oats, even something that looks like it was shredded off of a cattail. There are little brown clumps, (carob chips posing as chocolate); so a kid might overlook the stuff that looks like it was swept up off the floor and chomp right down. Jebediah sure did. The look on his face was very comical indeed, I can't describe it. Let's compare it to the hypothetical expression one might have if they were to drink from a glass of vinegar if they were expecting lemonade. Harsh is an understatement. Now you may have gathered that Flem is not too big on social graces, and might not have taught Jebediah about being polite, and you would be right. Less funny for my story, but he picked up the idea somewhere, and didn't immediately spit out the not-a-treat cookie and say what he thought of it. He actually continued to chew and swallow the cookie, and the rest that he now regretted taking from the Evil Rooster of Death. Quite a heroic feat, as chewing these cookies is a lot like eating at the beach, except there is usually some redeeming flavor in whatever you got sand in when you eat at the beach. Good for my story, he did try to palm some of them off on me, which we both got a laugh out of, believe that! *I don't know if reptiles have lips, or if his lips resemble them, I just wanted to write that sentence that way. * Carob is a brown substance that vegans and others will have you believe is "better than chocolate - and better for you!", which, you know, it may be healthier but nothing is better than chocolate, and carob doesn't even come close. Richard is thinking of starting a folk band called Tipsy McStagger. Or maybe that's what he's naming his moonshine. Previously by Richard Guest Author Archives ## January 10, 2007 ### 10 Memorable Moments with James Brown 1. New Haven Arena, 1968 or 1969. About 7 of us cram into a subcompact for the 200-mile roundtrip drive from Bard College to the New Haven Arena to see James Brown, not to mention our other favorites: Bobby Byrd, Vicki Anderson and Miss Marva Whitney. The show closer— "Please, Please, Please," with James Brown escorted from the stage, then shedding his cape and returning to the microphone— seems to go on forever, and even after the lights go up, we remain, silent, astonished, hoping that he will come back one more time. The difference between James Brown and Elvis Presley is that no announcer would ever say: "James Brown has left the building." And he never did. 2. A phone conversation with James Brown while he was in jail in 1989 for his misbehavior a year earlier. Patched from the jail through his Augusta, Ga., office, to my phone at home, James Brown says he feels good and insists on speaking only about "the positive." 3. "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag" on top 40 radio, summer, 1965. Remember: This is the the season of "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction," "Like A Rolling Stone," "Mr. Tambourine Man," "Eve of Destruction," "I Can't Help Myself" and "The Same Old Song," "Ticket To Ride" and "Help!" "Back in My Arms Again," "Help Me Rhonda" and "California Girls." It may be the greatest, most competitive battle-of-the-bands, ever. James Brown wins it with a song that invokes the great, near-great and forgotten dance manias of the previous 5 years: the Jerk, the Fly, the Mashed Potatoes, the Twist, the Boomerang...The Boomerang? 4. Fall, 1968. A trip to a thrift shop in Kingston, N.Y. yields mint condition singles "Ain't That A Groove," "Money Won't Change You," and "Bring It Up" which immediately go into heavy rotation on the afternoon dance parties emanating from the first floor Stone Row dorm room I share with T.V. Tom Vickers and the drunken guru known as "the Night Owl." 20 years before Prozac revolutionizes psychotherapy, "Bring It Up" is shown to provide temporary relief from clinical depression. 5. The only other job I ever wanted: Bobby Byrd—I'm pretty sure it's Bobby Byrd—chanting "get on up" on "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine." 6. James Brown's conversational vocal riff on "Ain't That A Groove": "Looka here. I gotta tell ya. Haha, dig this. This'll kill ya." He sings a few words, much less memorable. Then he delivers the real killer: "Hit me band." The band hits him. 7. The fade on "It's A Man's Man's Man's World." Without love, a man is "lost in the wilderness. He's lost, in bitterness." 8. The horn section, leading with the downstroke, on "Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose." 9. More than 25 years into the hip-hop era, I'm still waiting to hear a message as clear, direct and useful as "Don't Be A Drop-Out" and "Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proud)." Not to mention as functionally funky. 10. Scientific evidence of a supreme being; or, proof that this planet has been visited by superior beings, from another planet. No human being, not to mention group of human beings, could have possibly recorded "I Got You (I Feel Good)." The human race simply has not evolved that far. Wayne Robins is a former music critic for Newsday, Creem, Village Voice and Rolling Stone. He is currently an editor for Billboard and is working on a book about the cultural history of rock music. Guest Author Archives ### Houseguests - The Other White Meat Today's guest writer is Lovemonkey. According to her blog, she's a single, divorced, widowed woman with obvious and completely understandable identity issues. She has cats, candles and a tendency to overindulge in the use of parenthesis. And in this editor's humble opinion, she's hella funny. Enjoy. -F Way Too Long Introduction Because it's that time of year, and/or because I've been talking a lot about this lately, I will write about houseguests, even though it is a difficult subject for me considering all I've been through and my condition and the fact I think I'm coming down with the bird flu. Or Crones Disease. Or something. Anyway. Houseguests. Thoughts of people arriving at my door with a suitcase makes me start twitching uncontrollably. You see, other people's guests arrive with an overnight bag, while my guests tend to bring steamer trunks. Trying to Justify my Disdain for Houseguests I live in a small space and I've lived in small spaces for - well forever. But my cramped quarters never stop the overnight guests from arriving uninvited. They are used to small spaces, you know, like the ones on their credit card limits, places way too small to accomodate a hotel charge of$130 a night. Most of my visitors are family and well, what are you going to do - say no? No. No no's for family. Ok. But every once in a while you say a yes or you don't say a no when you know you should say no to non-family members. No, no, no, fuck no to be exact.

Like the time I didn't say no to the husband-at-the-time's- friend-I-had-only-met-once and his new-internet-girlfriend-who-owned-the-online-sex-toy-shop. Uh huh. I know. I win the Dufus of the Year award, thank you all so much I don't know what to say this is such an honor. Anyway Almost Complete Stranger and his girlfriend pulled into the driveway in the pickup truck, and I knew I had made a truly horrible mistake. Being alive I mean.

International House Guests, the other white meat.

You're going to think I'm making this up, because how can anyone be so Northern Canadian but I'm not kidding, she got out of the pickup truck and she had a mullet.

They came in immediately taking up more room than I had imagined and I tried to find some extra space for them - yes them and their several trunks. She immediately started talking about her online sex shop and didn't stop talking about it until she was getting in the truck to head home. In particular she wanted to talk (with my husband at the time) about her website - get his help with it, which it turns out was the whole point of the visit. Ok. I was happy to go into the kitchen (alone) to cook something. When I came back to check on the progress not much had changed. They were still sitting in on the same sofa and chair too small for their bigger than I imagined bodies talking. Then my husband at the time said something truly terrifying like

"Internet Girlfriend writes too. Maybe you can let her read some of your poetry?"

You know, you gotta love John Hughes. I mean even if you think his movies are silly pieces of crap, which I don't because I'm twelve, you have to admit, every once in a while you wish you could put a cool wacky soundtrack to your life, you know, like he did for his characters. At this moment, as the words were leaving my huband-at-the-time's mouth, I remembered the scene in Sixteen Candles when Molly Ringwald's grandmother suggests she take Long Duck Dong to the school dance. You know, not so much the gong noise, but the way her mouth dropped open and then she realized it was opened, so she closed it quickly. yeah, that's what I did. And then I said,

"No."

Survival Tactics (or as I lovingly refer to them) - Plan B

I went back to cooking, somewhat relieved that I admitted to myself early on that I was not going to enjoy this so why even try. All that was left to do now was to figure out how I was going to spend as little time all cooped up with these guys as possible. I planned activities while I pretended to listen to Internet Girlfriend relate the story of her former abusive relationship and how she had met Almost Complete Stranger on the internet and that they were going to get married as soon as she was divorced. (See, I was listening!!!) I planned activities while Internet Girlfriend decided my futon wasn't going to work with her bad back and all and proceded to take the cushions off my sofa and put them under the futon mattress. I planned some more activities while I listened to Almost Complete Stranger snore louder than I thought humanly possible at 2:oo am, while at the same time found myself strangley relieved to hear the snoring because earlier in the night I heard what I really hoped I didn't really hear coming from the direction of where Almost Complete Stranger and Internet Girlfriend were um, "sleeping."

I shared my plans with all at the breakfast table the next morning as I sat across from Internet Girlfriends tits. Yeah, the girls were making their appearance underneath a too-flimsy-for-mixed-company-before-ten am nighty. Sidenote: mullets don't look any better in the morning. I didn't get much of a response to my activity schedule since Internet Girlfriend was showering my husband with gifts - a fuzzy rabit with a penis keychain and a brass mermaid cigarette lighter with light up tits and a fiery Whohah. Yeah, you heard me, flames came shooting out of her scaley crotch. They all pissed themselves laughing. I considered suicide. Again. Something very quick, I concluded.

I dragged everyone anywhere that wasn't my place all day long, feeling good about crossing one more day of their stay off the calendar. That night they made an announcement that they just wanted to "hang out" tomorrow. Yeah, I'm not kidding they said "hang out." Hey I guess that makes sense - you travel to somewhere you've never been, travel to another country and what you naturally want to do is spend all your time "hanging out" in a small overcrowded second floor walk up. Yeah, that seems about right.

So I did what I normally do in these situations. What anyone would do, really. I cried. I went in the kitchen to wash dishes and I called my sister and I whispered into the phone something like I can't stand these people anymore and I cried.

God Took Pity Upon Me

No. I'm not pulling the God card. I did not give up on this story and decide to pick a cheap quick way to end it. It really happened. God answered my prayers. Ok, I don't know if I prayed really. I mean there was no down on your knees stuff, but when I went to bed that night I said something like dear fucking god please make this stop. Or something. And at 3:00 am, a miracle. The miracle of birth to be exact. Internet Girlfriend's daughter (yes there are offspring) gave birth. See how this mullet thing gets out of control? Anyway, the next day they were sorry they had to cut their visit short but they really had to go. And oh isn't that a shame, but congratulations on the new baby and have a safe trip back - goodbye! I said as I stood in the driveway waving, waving, waving, shooing them away until they were safely out of sight.

Moral of the Story
Just Say No. No to mullets, pick up trucks, fat chicks in see-through, rabits with erections and fire shooting crotches. Simply put, say no to houseguests

Lovemonkey needs an "Unwelcome" mat.

Guest Author Archives

## December 21, 2006

### "Can't We All Just Get Along?" Holiday Edition

Okay people, just a few things we all need to remember during these hectic days of the holiday season. Winter is a wonderful time, the chill in the air keeps us all indoors crowded together more than any other part of the year. Add in the shopping and we are closer together than I personally am at all comfortable with; so we need to go over a
few basic concepts that hold our fragile society together.

Odor. If you use one of those metro-hip body sprays, that's great, always glad to see people making the effort to smell better. However, the key word there is 'spray'; not 'body'. It's for after you shower, not instead of. It's not a body-odor cloaking device, it's not shower-in-a-can, and it certainly isn't personal-cloud-of-flowery-funk. If people know you are there before you open the door, it's too much. If you are spraying long enough that visibility drops - you are spraying too much. And, perhaps the easiest to understand, if bees are roused out of hibernation to follow you around - it's just too much.

Sickness. All that togetherness allows the germies to hop easily from person to person, so it's more than likely you'll catch a cold or two. Facial tissues are a great, handy tool, but they have a lot in common with that other very common type of tissue: I don't want to watch you use them. I'm not asking that you find a stall every time you need to sop up your nostril drool; just please at least turn away from me. And if you have to honk and squeeze and then dig around I think finding some alone time is the least the rest of us can ask of you. We'll return the favor, promise.

Shopping. I fully understand the cleverness of splitting up and going to different stores; comparison shopping via cellphone, I've considered it on occasion myself. One thing to keep in mind, (and this goes for the rest of the year as well), I don't really give a shit what you have to say to your caller. I'm far beyond the point of being annoyed when people take calls in line at the register and go on and on about their personal business, I find it rather amusing most of the time that people are so oblivious of their own assitude.

But there are two things you can do to appease me and the few other people on the
planet that still have a modicum of class. First, use your indoor voice, anything you say is only becoming mock-fodder for those around you. Second, don't make eye contact and pretend that you are so put upon by the caller and/or your hectic life; you had the option of not taking the call. I'm not going to play along and eyeroll with you, you are the one carrying a self-imposed leash around, I'll only be eyerolling at you with other people.

No cuts, ever. If you want to save a place while another part of your party is still shopping, more power to you, but if he/she/it isn't back in time I'll be sure to point the way to the end of the line. And if your companion does make it back before your turn with the register jockey, there are limits, just so you know. I don't know an actual number, it's an unwritten, etiquette-type deal. Let's say 5 other things. Definitely no second shopping cart, that is beyond obnoxious. It's only common courtesy, but sometimes you gotta remind people.

This has been a holiday public service announcement from Richard , who implores you not to be "that guy."

Guest Author archives

## December 19, 2006

### Extreme Self Defense for the Modern Woman

DISCLAIMER: Ted Bronson is not a licensed self defense teacher, but much of what he has learned and is sharing in this article is the same kind of techniques that are taught in such courses. However, some of these moves, if executed improperly, could concieveably kill someone. We here at FTTW don't condone you killing anyone, but you should know what to do if you're attacked. That being said, if you find yourself in a situation where you utilize any of these techniques and they backfire, neither Ted nor FTTW can be held responsible.

The times they are a-changing. Used to be a mugger just wanted your money, didn't care about the ATM card or VISA, and only hurt you as a last resort because he knew it would increase his jailtime. Not anymore. You can't turn on the news without hearing about some punk who killed or maimed somebody for a mere handful of dollars, brutally forced them go the money machine and empty the account, or killed someone after raping them.

I hope to tell you a few things that can help avoid serious injury or death on your part if you ever get into a situation where your life as well as your money or virtue are at risk. I qualified that last statement, in case you didn't notice, and I did so for this reason: even given that violence in crime is unpredictable, and the horrors reported on the evening news are becoming more prevalent, statistically, a mugger or rapist gets what he wants then leaves. Resistance is why people get killed most of the time. But how can you be sure? You can't. Any cop in the world will tell you that the easiest way to get through an ordeal like that is to submit completely, don't fight back, because nothing you own is worth your life. I will not publicly agree or disagree with that statement.

I used to be in the armed forces of the US. I used to kill people for a living. Harsh, but true. In my tenure in the military, I killed almost 50 people in single combat (meaning not with a bomb or missile but directly, hands-on), and eight of those were with my bare hands (no weapons other than skill, drive to survive, innate meanness, and a hyperdeveloped sense of fight or flight directly from my lizard-brain.) I mention this for two reasons:

1) I know personally what it is to be locked in mortal combat;
2) I know what it feels like after you have killed a man.

First, let me address how a woman gets attacked. Knowing this may keep it from ever happening to you. Most women get attacked inside their own territory: their homes, places of work, the stores they frequent, etc. This is simple math, though -- if that's where you spend the most time, it's the most likely setting for an attack. You obviously can't avoid these places and you can't always travel in pairs or packs for protection. So how do you avoid the problem? Situational awareness. This is your territory. Learn it. Learn to notice when something is not the way it usually is. Look for broken light fixtures where before things were well lit. Look for a vehicle hanging around that doesn't belong. Pay attention to the people around you. If you look everyone you meet in the eye and make them realize that you see them, not just notice them out of the periphery of your perception, you will weed out a huge portion of scum who will see you as a hard target and they will go on to easier prey.

How you carry yourself motivates most people below their conscious knowledge. Walk proud, head up, eyes bright and open, shoulders square. These are the things that the top dog in the pack does when he knows he is in command of his environment. The little predator who picks women to attack will sub-consciously write you off as too big of a bite. This will obviously not work with everyone, like those who are impaired by drugs or alcohol may not be thinking clearly enough to notice the killing glint in your eye. Continuing, how you dress plays only a tiny factor in whether or not you become a target. But, there are some guidelines that can make it harder for an attacker, again making him seek easier prey. If you wear jeans or slacks often, good. Wear panties too. A rapist is looking for easy access, so delaying his access to your vagina or anus may prevent a rape from occurring at all. If you do go out wearing skirts or dresses, I cannot urge strongly enough the need for undergarments. A dress with no panties offers a prime target for a rapist. And you have to remember, a serial rapist knows what he's doing. He has a plan and is just looking for the most convenient target. He will be able to tell.

I will now address simple robbery. Again, I stress that nothing in your purse is worth dying for. If, however, you are robbed and can't give up your purse -- say, because your insulin is in it -- there are a few things you can do to slow down or stop the act.

1. SCREAM

And I mean scream like a fucking banshee. Let the world know that something is wrong. Most cops recommend screaming "FIRE" because that makes people run to see what is going on. A call for help is usually not enough to rouse our jaded society. The robber does not want anybody to see him or notice him at all, so he may abandon the robbery right there. Or he could stick a knife in your belly and gut you like a fish. It's your call.

2. FALL DOWN
Doing this may seem like an invitation to violence, and it is -- an invitation to the mugger to get his balls hit up into his throat. If you're on the ground, he is going to come after you. When he does, he's already feeling victorious and his guard is down. There are a few things you can do, here. Spring back up, holding both hands together in one big fist, and rack him square in the 'nads, putting the entire force of your leap along with all your fear and hate into the blow. Realize, of course, that you might miss. If you do, you now have scared and pissed mugger who just became more dangerous. So don't give him time to react -- keep at him. Go for his eyes, his throat. (I'll cover how to do this later in the article.)

3. RUN LIKE HELL
Especially if you can get to a more populous place in a few seconds. He will probably chase you. When he does, he is gonna be pissed. But if you have the chance to run, take it. He will not chase you very far, most of the time, because you have now made yourself a hard target. When he does catch you, though, he is likely to more out of breath then you so he will take you from behind, fall on you, and likely break your ribs, chin, or wrists. If by chance he does not knock you over, but instead grabs you from behind, use those heels. Kick backward with your feet against his shins, thighs, or knees -- especially the knees. The best way to keep a man from chasing you is to ruin his ability to walk. Kick the knee caps straight back, bending them backwards, or sweep the knee directly from the side. Either of these will fell him like the sack of shit he is, will slow him down immensely in any ensuing pursuit, and has the capability to cause life long damage, forever altering his ability to walk. Also, put those pointy heels to work on his feet, instep, ankles, etc. Remember, stomp straight down and use all of your weight in the blow. But just in case he does get you down, you're still not out. Again, go for the face. Use your knees to pummel his balls. Endorphins in your body are coursing like a river at this point, so you're likely not to feel the pain you're in yet. Just remember, running is an option only when you have someplace to go.

4. PSYCHOLOGY
This approach is only a delaying tactic. Apply in two ways: Come on to him, tell him how strong he is and how scared you are of him. This will make him think of you as the victim he wants you to be and throw him off for when you do make your physical attack. Or, pretend to break down completely, race from extremes of terror to rage, cuss him out. This will make him defensive because he thinks he is dealing with a crazy lady and needs to be wary, possibly making him abort the robbery completely. This is the least likely tactic to be effective, though.

The rapist is one of the lowest forms of life on the planet. I heartily endorse any act that would stop them from using up my oxygen. Keep in mind that most police still say that being a rape victim is better than being a murder victim. I can't agree with that. I've heard that one in four women in the US is raped or molested before they turn 16 years old. I've spent my adult life dealing with a succession of women who are survivors of rape and the stories they tell of how their life has been affected are staggering. I feel that it's possible that number may be much higher, thanks to crimes that are never reported. The same strategies mentioned before to deal with muggers apply to rapists, but now I am going to get much nastier.

1. GROIN PULL
I mean pull his balls down to his knees. Scenario: the rapist has you on your knees, a knife or gun to your temple or throat, forcing you to give him head. Tell him how much you love his dick, how great it tastes, how big he is, and whatever else you think will stroke his ego or is what he tells you to say. When he tenses up prior to his orgasm, grab one ball in each hand and jerk as hard as you can, straight down. His testicles will come off in your hands and he will bleed to death in a matter of minutes. The pain prior to death will be so great, he will be non-functional if not passed out completely. His hands will go his crotch, he will drop whatever weapon he has, and you can run like hell away from him. Or finish him off by crushing his throat with your heel. Your call.

2. EYE GOUGING
The idea here is to stick your thumbs (by far your strongest digit) through his eye sockets, pull out his eyeballs, and finger fuck his brain. Use this whenever you see the opportunity, because you may not get another chance.

3. FACE PEELING
The injury here is to an attacker's cheek or cheeks. Using your thumb, poke a hole through the bad guy's cheek and peel his cheek off his head. If you get lucky you can take the entire cheek, an ear, his lips, or the tissue around his eye. The pain factor is incredible, the perp will again be immobile or unconscious.

4. HAND PULLING
At some point, the bad guy has to reach for you with the hand not holding a weapon. This is just what you want him to do. When he reaches for you, hold your hands out in front of you as if to protect yourself. When he is in range, grab his hand with both of yours. Grab two of his fingers in each of your hands and yank them apart like a wishbone. His hand will separate up through to his wrist bones. The fingers are likely to come off in your hands, so be prepared. This pain is so shattering, the mugger or rapist will drop anything he is carrying as a weapon and instinctively try to cradle his maimed hand, if not just pass out completely.

5. THROAT CRUSH
This one is not easy, and you may not ever get a chance to do it, but keep it in mind for that golden opportunity. All you need to do to temporarily incapacitate a man is punch him in the throat. Barring a punch, pressure from your forearm, elbow, knee, heel, etc. can kill him if applied long enough, knock him out due to oxygen starvation, or possibly even crush his larynx, causing him to drown in his own blood.

I fervently hope that no one who reads this will ever have cause to have to do any of things listed here to protect their lives. But if you do, remember a few last things:

If you fight back, your risk of getting killed is much, much higher.

And finally, when you kill or maim your attacker, our justice system is just as likely to hold you up for punishment, either in civil or criminal court. So as always, you just gotta take your chances.

Ted Bronson is not a self defense instructor, but plays one on tv

Guest Author archives

Previously by Ted Bronson
Price of a Woman

## December 11, 2006

### The View From Japan: Anime Wheat and Chaff

The View From Japan is an occasional column at FTTW, written by Gordon who is, obviously, living in Japan.

It's a funny thing. When I first started thinking about coming to Japan, I was really interested in Japanese pop-culture, specifically in manga and anime. I also watched Japanese films, especially those creepy ones. No one does atmospheric horror better than the Japanese.

After I got the job with GEOS, was all set to come over, I delved deeper, downloading hours upon hours of anime, making video CDs, and picking up my copy of Shonen Jump every new comics day. I read every manga by Shirow Masamune that I could lay my hands on, the entire run of Battle Angel Alita, Akira...all the cool stuff.

I arrived in Japan in May of 2004. By July, I had watched all the anime I had brought with me, and had started buying manga. Only problem was, I couldn't read the stuff. I noticed something, too.

In Japan, the weekly manga are printed on paper that is not quite as elegant as newsprint. The inks smudge easily and you can't make out the details in the drawing. The print quality is VERY different than in the trade paperbacks and books that I was so proud of at home.

I noticed something else, too. There were LOTS of them. Many, many magazines, each containing many many stories, ranging from ridiculously puerile to downright pornographic...sometimes in the same magazine. Some good, lots of very derivative irrelevant crap. For every Ghost in the Shell, 20 half-assed GitS ripoffs.

Which is not really suprising when you take into account the sheer volume of comics cranked out every week. I can think of about a dozen books that publish weekly, each the size of a city phone book. It takes a lot of material to fill those covers, and of course it ain't all gonna be Eisner Award material.

And really, it isn't intended to be. Manga is generally regarded as a light, throwaway experience, a way to kill time on the train or bus. Those big fat books only cost about $3 and quickly find their way to the recycle bin, or wind up abandoned on the aforementioned buses and trains. I've actually picked up quite a few books this way. Animation also has a very broad range of quality, maturity, and availability. On the broadcast channels, there is the standard fare of kids stuff in the afternoons...Doraemon, Pokemon, Hamtaro, and their ilk. Prime time is blocked up with news, cheesy dramas and inscrutable panel dicussion/variety/comedy extravaganzas. Then, sometimes, very late at night, you can catch a little more "grown-up" anime. No tentacle-rape, but a bit edgier than Ampanman. There is also a Japanese "Cartoon Network", but it also tends to emphasize the kid-friendly fare. Older shows like City Hunter and Cutie Honey appear, as well as sports anime, especially baseball cartoons. Interesting stuff pops up here much more frequently, but not on a set schedule as far as I can tell...it just kind of sneaks up on you. The big outlet for "good" anime seems to be in the DVD and video releases. You can buy it or rent it, but you've pretty much got to pay if you want to see it. Which kind of makes sense when you take into account the production costs for high quality animation. I think they only run the series once or twice on broadcast TV, to build up the buzz if for no other reason, then BOOM to the retail outlets. I've actually rented quite a few really cool titles (Planetes springs to mind), but most of them don't have english subtitles, so it gets a bit confusing. Mostly I've stopped worrying about anime and TV in general...not because its bad or anything, its just simply too much work. I think the sheer volume of anime and manga (and PS2 games) is the reason for my waning interest in the genres, and the cause of the rise of Otaku. Otaku, an epithet sported with pride in the USA, is really a very negative thing here in Japan. Otaku are cut off from the rest of society in a very real way here. Going through the reams of comics and sitting through hours on end of animation leaves the otaku with very little time to interact with his of her fellow men, which in turn leads to serious atrophy of the complex Japanese social etiquette. The isolation of the otaku comes from the resulting lack of meaningful social contact, and drives them deeper into the ever-widening ocean of pop. Sounds dire, doesn't it? In reality, however, very few otaku are driven to this extreme. Most folks just decorate their desk with little Gundam statues and spend their weekends browsing the stacks at the local used book store (75% used manga). It really takes a long time to parse all the stuff to find the nuggets, and these folks enjoy doing just that. They find it, then share it with friends and draw the attention of the larger populace to the work. It is at this point in the cycle that a comic or anime blips on our radar in the states. By this time, the work has undergone a thorough vetting by a decidedly picky Japanese audience, and has proved to have enough substance to merit a wider distribution. This process is almost invisible to the average American manga reader, but it is decidedly invaluable. The obsession of the Japanese otaku allows the rest of the world access to the good stuff in Japanese pop without having to go through all the crap to find it. For me, this process is why I could find so much great stuff to read back home and so little here. Language concerns aside (I'm studying...), I'm on the wrong end of that great editing mechanism. I'm overwhelmed with choices, and not well enough equipped to separate the wheat from the chaff. I can only try a little here and a little there and hope that I pick up a tasty morsel. Mostly, though, I stick to the tried and true series, like GTO or Gunnm (Battle Angel Alita...I'm rereading it it Japanese). Its a lot like strolling into a Tower Records and picking up a copy of Appetite For Destruction or Synchronicity...but hell, I do that too. Maybe I'm just getting old... Gordon only has three Gundam figures on his desk. And no tentacle porn. Previously by Gordon Guest Author Archives ## December 6, 2006 ### The Five Second Rule Stacy returns with another parenting issue. The old saw that parents are more laid back about their second child isn't so much cliche as cold, hard fact. Everything about the first child is steeped in mystery and reverence...their first poopy diaper, their first step, their first word...all the stuff of diligent documentation. Everything about the second child is, well, unsurprising. It's not that the second child's firsts aren't special (because they most certainly are), it's that we parents just don't have the energy to get as worked up as we used to. Consider, if you will, the bit of food dropped on the floor. With our first child, no matter what kind of food was dropped, it went straight into the trash. Once the second child came along, if the food isn't overly sticky to begin with and doesn't collect any visible cat hairs after the fall, it is still eligible for consumption. "Just blow on it," we say. And the Five Second Rule is officially in effect: pick it up before five seconds have elapsed and it's just fine. Similarly, the baby bottle and pacifiers that were previously boiled between uses are now just rinsed under a lukewarm tap and popped back into place. Or maybe just wiped free of lint and such with our hand, depending on the day. Handling of the children changes also, upon the advent of a second child. We handled our first child, if not like actual spun glass, then at least like something that would chip dreadfully if bonked in the slightest. With our second child, it is often like we are test driving her for Road and Baby Magazine's special Off Road edition, making sure her suspension holds and her chassis is sound. Not that we are dangling her by one leg while we change her diaper or anything. Well, just the once, maybe. Boo-boos are similarly now rather unexciting. Our first child's every scrape and scratch was soothed with kisses, hugs and the odd Band-Aid. Until the time, at the age of 2, when he gashed his head open on a Christmas ornament and we spent five hours in the Emergency Room. That pretty much used up our available panic for the next 30 or so years. So these days, if they're not actively gushing blood, a pat on the head and a "you'll live," seems to do the trick. Before you call Child Services on us, for unfairly favoring our firstborn over our second, understand that they both now get treated this way. With the arrival of the second child, two very important things come into play: 1) the relative resilience of the first child has been established and 2) it's hard to be coddling, cooing and/or dancing attendance on small creatures when your fine motor skills have drastically deteriorated due to four solid years of fragmented sleep. Trust me, our children will be just fine consuming five-second Oreos, being swung about in raucous games of Airplane and getting Mommy-hugs instead of Bactine. We promise. Stacy has two children who have yet to feel any negative effects from the five second rule. Yet. Previously by Stacy: Guest Author archives ## December 4, 2006 ### The Crap Tree Several years ago my wife conceived a plan to take over Christmas decorations in our home. She's been very patient, moving so carefully that I only realized the scope of her plan this year. This fight isn't over, not by a long shot. But I've lost a lot of ground. I am what you would call a 'Christmas kind of guy'. I love Christmas. I love the lights and the pretty packages, the wreaths, the greenery hanging everywhere. I like Christmas plates and coffee cups. Christmas cookies, Christmas music, Christmas towels in the bathrooms, Christmas napkins, Christmas movies and books, if they had Christmas toilet paper I would buy two cases (does anybody know if they make that?). I think Christmas lights on pickup trucks look terrific. As soon as the clutter is cleaned away from the Thanksgiving feast, I'm up in the attic getting boxes down. I know where every one of them is, and I pretty much know what's inside of them. Not because I pack them up every January (that always makes me sad).I suppose it's just that we tend to use the same boxes for things. You could sum up my taste in Christmas decorations in one phrase. Colored lights. Yes, like the late Michael Kelly wrote on the topic of Christmas lights, there are white light people, and colored light people. I'm in the second group. Years ago I conceded the inevitability of teeny lights taking over. I gave up trying to find strings of lights with those big painted bulbs that burned your fingers. I miss them, but I understand. Technology changes things. But even if they're teeny, I have to have colored lights. This theme extends to other decorations. I have an affinity for Christmas-schlock. The cheesier the better. A dancing Santa Claus with an electric guitar and sunglasses? Oh yes. Strings of lights that look like jalapenos? Lovely. Elves laid out in a winter North Pole Office Party display, holding little cans of Bud Light while singing drunken Christmas tunes? I am so there. And you have guessed the dark secret of Christmas in our home. My wife is not a colored lights kind of person. She is a white lights gal. I don't blame her, taste is subjective, right? Eye of the beholder and all that. We can coexist. We can cooperate, compromise, a little give here, a little take there. We'll find a way to get along. You know, the Russkies and the Americans. Detente baby. limited edition strat and twin reverb amp ornament Well, I was wrong so I didn't see it coming. It started with a new Christmas tree. She brought it home a few years ago. It's bigger than our old tree. 10 feet. It's frickin ginormous! Me, I'm all excited. What could be better than one Christmas tree? Two trees! Oh yeah, two sets of lights and ornaments and glitter, extra room for more presents. This will be so cool! I set the new tree up first. In the formal dining room, right there in the front window where everyone can see it. We decided the older tree would be just fine in the family room, we moved some things around and set it up there. Looked just fine. I didn't even notice when my wife pulled the strings of white lights out that something was amiss. 'Sure', I thought, 'woo... fan-cee'. What the heck. White lights on the new tree. Then I noticed we had packages (really nice packages, you know, the kind of shopping bags you keep cause they're so pretty?) with more ornaments in them. Impressive looking ornaments too, glass and crystal and gold. Wow. But hey, 10 foot tree, sure, we'll need more stuff to put on it. It was when I reached into a box to pull out my favorite lights, the string of little Fender Telecasters, and headed for the new tree, that the plan in its entirety was revealed to me. She said 'STOP right there!' evenly spacing her words using a tone of voice that said I should seriously consider stopping right there. 'There will be none of that on this tree', she said. Same tone. I said what most husbands say when they are confronted with possible wrongdoing. 'Wh-a-a-at?' Real slowly, dumb-like. 'No guitar lights. No old pictures. No jalapenos' she said. And she was deadly serious. She looked right at me and announced 'this is the 'nice tree''. The Nice Tree™. In the front room, prominently displayed in the big window. I looked around. The other decorations in the room began to make sense to me. The special Christmas china was set on the formal table. The expensive candle holders on the table by the entry, with long tapered white candles in them, you know, the kind you can't get at Wal-Mart (10 for .55 cents). And then I understood. This room, was going to be 'pretty'. Like a Christmas display at some expensive store on 5th Avenue, the ones whose names I can't pronounce correctly. I looked at what was now my tree. Guitar lights. Ornaments from Fender. The decorations my kids made in Sunday school with funny shaped noodles and gold spray paint. Popsicle sticks and yarn and pictures. Hidden in the family room where no eye shall be offended. No one can see it. I began calling my tree the "Crap Tree". The Nice Tree has gold swirly things on it, and a special tree skirt thingy made of silk and shiny stuff. It's really pretty. It looks like something you would find in one of those stores in Salado. The Crap Tree has an old skirt made of something that looks like shag carpet. It has a pattern that sort of resembles a Christmas tree, at least, the way a Christmas tree looks to a myopic drunk. In a moment of weakness my brother in law crocheted it for us. It's been more than 15 years and I still kick his ass about that. II am not allowed to put my special guitar ornaments on the Nice Tree. Who am I kidding? I'm not allowed to put anything on the Nice Tree. Every now and then, I sneak one on it when no one is looking. It doesn't matter. My oldest daughter finds it and moves it back. At lease I'm not completely alone in my fight, my youngest daughter will take one of my ornaments and sneak it back on the nice tree.Occasionally sibling rivalry will overcome their natural tendency to gang up on you because of gender affiliation. Which is nice. ornament wars The Crap Tree has lights on it from The Hard Rock Café. I think those are my favorite, although the lights that look like jalapenos are a close second. Ever since my wife debuted the Nice Tree, Christmas in our house has been looking a little different. The living room is starting to spread out. Our old Frosty the Snowman and Christmas tree hand towels we used to put in the guest bathroom have been replaced with much prettier hand towels. None of us is allowed to touch them. You wash your hands in this bathroom, you better wipe them off on your blue jeans. My 'singing Santa' with the electric guitar and the sunglasses is now back in my bedroom on the dresser. The battery has been removed. This year I couldn't find the Drunken Office Party Elves. My wife says she has no idea what happened to them. She says it in a way that makes me think she knows exactly what happened to them, and I will never see them again. Olive, the other reindeer So I know what I'm up against. Soon, next year, or maybe the one after that, I will find myself engaged in a desperate battle, a last stand in front of my dearest Christmas decoration, the Crap Tree. She may relent. The Crap Tree has ornaments that have all our Christmas memories on it, 22 years worth. Decorations we bought when we spent our first Christmas together. Things our friends gave to us. Decorations that her students gave to her. Special ornaments with years on them from Christmases past that go back before our kids were born. Pictures of the girls when they were little in red and white Christmas dresses, hugging Santa and telling him how good they had been this year. So long ago, before cars and boys and college. Every now and then I find a little bit of attic insulation in one of the branches, from a Christmas years ago when I slipped in the overhead and put my foot through the ceiling, right over the tree. The youngest looked up and said 'Mommy, it's Santa'! I think she was 4. I love the Crap Tree. It is an old friend. It's the decoration in our house that says "Christmas" to me, and I hope it always will. an idiot and his tree Dave lives in Texas, where legislation is underway to outlaw Nice Trees. Because everything is gaudy in Texas. You can visit dave at his blog, Dave in Texas. Guest Writer Archives ## November 28, 2006 ### Singing On The Brain This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession Daniel J. Levitin (Dutton, August 2006) 314 pages, hardcover$24.95

Book review by Andrew Careaga

So you wake up one morning, feeling pretty good about life, when before you rub the sleep out of your eyes the random playlist in your head cues up a song you haven't heard in ages. Worse, it's a song you don't even like, something like Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," or worse, Barry Manilow singing the chorus to "Copacabana." Over and over. You can't seem to shut it off, even as you struggle to sing something else in the shower.

Where do these insipid tunes come from? And how do they become so entrenched in our minds? Those are a couple of questions examined by Daniel J. Levitin, a former record producer and session musician-turned-neuroscientist. In his book This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, Levitin draws from advances in neuroscience, evolutionary psychology and computer processing to tell the story of why music matters so much to our species.

For readers who (like me) struggled with science in high school, This Is Your Brain on Music can be a tough read. I had to revisit several sections in order to comprehend a some of the neurological activities Levitin describes. This is no fault of Levitin's, however, as his subject is much more complex than many of us would suspect. "At a neural level," he writes, "playing an instrument requires the orchestration of regions in our primitive, reptilian brain -- the cerebellum and the brain stem -- as well as higher cognitive systems such as the motor cortex (in the parietal lobe) and the planning regions of our frontal lobes, the most advanced region of the brain."

Even non-musicians' brains are busy processing the "organized sound" of music when they hear a tune, Levitin writes. Just the simple act of tapping your foot to your favorite song engages your brain in many complex processes. "We know that there are neural circuits specifically related to detecting and tracking musical meter, and we know that the cerebellum is involved in setting an internal clock or timer that can synchronize with events that are out-there-in-the-world," Levitin writes.

Thanks to the emerging field of evolutionary psychology and advances in neuroscience -- both aided greatly by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which captures images of brain activity in real time -- scientists now understand more about how the brain works than ever before. Levitin applies these advances in neuroscience and psychology to explain how the brain processes music.

For readers with a background in music and music theory, the first couple of chapters might come across as remedial. But stick with it, for here -- as Levitin explains the differences between a tone and a note, rhythm vs. tempo, timbre vs. loudness, etc. -- is where Levitin builds the foundation for the rest of the book. Even if you think you know a thing or two about music, you might learn something here. (For instance, I didn't know that timbre was pronounced tambre.)

As I mentioned earlier, the reading gets less penetrable as you go along. But Levitin handles the topics well, using analogies and a good dose of humor throughout. In one passage, Levitin explains why we have trouble appreciating the brain's complexity. It's "because the numbers are so huge they go well beyond our everyday experience (unless you are a cosmologist)."

The average brain consists of one hundred billion (100,000,000,000) neurons.Suppose each neuron was one dollar, and you stood on a street corner trying to give dollars away to people as they passed by, as fast as you could hand them out -- let's say one dollar per second. If you did this twenty-four hours a day, 365 days a year, without stopping, and if you had started on the day that Jesus was born, you would by the present day only have gone through about two-thirds of your money.
As for the humor, it is sprinkled lightly throughout, but Levitin's timing is appropriate. As he writes about the functions of the brain's four lobes, plus the cerebellum (the oldest, most primitive part of our gray matter), the subject gets bogged down in textbookish prose. Then he explains:
The surgical separation of a portion of the frontal lobe, the prefontal cortex, from the thalamus is called alobotomy. So when the Ramones sang "Now I guess I'll have to tell 'em/That I got no cerebellum" in their song "Teenage Lobotomy" ... they were not being anotomically accurate, but for the sake of artistic license, and for creating one of the great rhymes in rock music, it is hard to begrudge them that.
One thing readers should take away from Your Brain on Music is an appreciation of the brain as a marvelous music machine, more sophisticated than anything humans have come up with. Levitin's book might not make that song in your head go away, but it will give you insight into how music creates neural pathways in our brain. And maybe it'll make you think more about your choice of music.

Andrew Careaga is a music lover, PR flack and occasional-freelance writer who blogs regularly at bloggedy blog.

## November 24, 2006

### An American Baseball Fan in Japan

Fictional Universe is on vacation this week. Please welcome in its place, Gordon - an American in Japan who will occasionally write about that for FTTW

Sports. Eh?

A few weeks ago I went to my first Japanese professional baseball game. As I understand it, it is a right of passage of sorts for Americans in Japan. I'm not so sure about all that, but I do have to say that it was a memorable experience...except for the parts I can't remember.

Can't remember...it bears noting that in Japan, like in the States, beer is an essential part of the ballpark experience. And real beer too, none of this pussy-ass Bud Light crap...only the premium stuff, in BIG goddamn 500 ml cans for about five bucks a pop. Cheaper than a bar, for chrissakes. So of course the first (and second and third) thing we did when we arrived at the park was beer up.

Who is this “we” you might ask. Our crew consisted of Canadian Les, English Matt, Loud-Ass Norm, and me (Smart-ass). It was my first Japanese game, and Matt's first baseball game EVER. He loves to study, however, so he read up on baseball fairly thoroughly before we went, which led to a lot of awkward baseball theory talk, especially after the game got underway.

Where, you might also ask. The Nagoya Dome, home of the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons is where we went. The Dragons had clinched the Central League Championship several days before, and were playing with a noticeable lack of enthusiasm. The team they were matched up with was the basement dwelling Yokohama Baystars. Can you picture the excitement? No wonder our tickets were so cheap.

Which leads to a quick explanation on the nature of Japanese pro yakyu (baseball). If you noticed, the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons have three names. Most teams in Japan have a corporate sponsor whose name is included in the team name, and often, the team is referred to simply by the sponsor's name. Nagoya's sponsor is the Chunichi Shimbun, the big regional newspaper. Yokohama is simply known as the Baystars Guess somebody was too cheap. My favorite team name, however, goes to this year's Japan pro-yakyu champs, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Say that name a couple of times to yourself. Then consider that they are often referred to as “the Ham Fighters”. Then stop giggling...really, stop... I'll give you a second. Ok. Whew.

Other than that, baseball is baseball. There are the same overblown egos, outsized paychecks, and massive disparities between the big-market teams and the small market teams, and more marketing than you can shake an official Chunichi noisemaking stick at. The play tends to run along conservative lines...lots of pulling up short and lots and lots of bunting. There are some teams styled after American League slugfest teams...big hitters and pisspoor defense, but at the moment they are the exception, not the norm.

So we went to watch the newspaper Dragons play what was basically a throwaway game against one of the worst teams in Japan, and hoping to instill an understanding of the intricacies of the sport in our cricket-loving compadre. What we witnessed alternated between disappointingly listless and mindbogglingly incomprehensible. Maybe the beer contributed to that, but there were times when trying to find the beer guy was the funnest thing we could do.

As I said before, the Dragons had pwned the Central League, and were looking ahead to the Japan series, while the Baystars had nothing to lose, but not really anything to gain either. The only really good stuff I saw came from the pitchers...Baystars pitchers wanting to look good against a quality side, and the Dragons wanting to use everybody to get them sharp for the Series. That turned out to be a good thing, because when the ball was actually put into play, the defense was so lazy (Dragons) and inept (Yokohama) that it was almost painful to watch.

The absolute worst foul-up that I think I have witnessed was also perpetrated by a Yokohama baserunner. He had actually gotten on base, which, judging by what we had seen up to that point, was no mean feat. 1 out, 1 man on, big bats coming up...what would you do? Well, this knucklehead decided he was gonna steal second. Ok, not the play I would call, but I can see that. So our runner is taking his lead, the pitcher has the ball...looking squarely at the runner...and the runner breaks for second while the pitcher has the ball and is watching him! There is a beat while the pitcher shakes his head and rubs his eyes, then the easy toss to second...OUT. Astounding.

By this point, though, we were all pretty drunk, so it took some checking and cross referencing to make sure that we had all just seen what we thought we had just seen. Sure enough. Even English Matt fully appreciated the spectacular stupidity of that particular move...”Shouldn't he have waited till the pitcher looked away?”...yes Matt, yes he should have.

As the game lurched toward the 9th inning, we devoted most of our attention to the beer guy. The Dragons eventually put it away, to the delight of the somewhat sparse but wholly partisan crowd. What followed was the super-awesome regular season wrapup spectacular celebration ...which consisted of a couple of speeches and the longest group photo session I have ever tried to ignore. The coolest part of the post-game do was the appearance of the “Don't Throw Shit” girls.

The “Don't Throw Shit” girls are simply girls that file into the aisles and balconies holding signs asking people politely to not throw things onto the field. I got a picture of our DTS girl, and was talking to her a little when she got a nasty look from her supervisor and was relocated so that she could devote all her energy into holding up her sign with no distractions. We did get yelled at though, thanks to Norm's home-made Dragons banner (bedsheet and magic marker). He figured we'd get on TV, we just got in trouble instead.

We bailed out of the Dome and into the crowd of politely enthusiastic Dragons fans milling around the stadium. There was a little restaurant selling 200 yen ($2) 600ml beers, so we beered up again, one for each of us and an emergency backup beer. We then waded into the crowd and I got a few interesting pictures, and we finally got to use Norm's banner, which attracted a few curious folks wanting to practice their English and meet the asshole foreigners. I bailed out early though...I had a job interview bright and early the next day. Turns out that was the best play of the evening, as the fellers went out to the bars afterwards and Les ended up locked in the ladies room curled up around the toilet. All in all a quality evening, but the next time I see a game, its gonna be a day game, outside, and featuring the Hiroshima Carp (second funniest name in Japanese baseball, and snappy infield D). Gordon knows the locations of every used panty vending machine in Japan Guest author archives ## November 20, 2006 ### Price of a Woman Ted Bronson is back with another guest author piece and he says he is owed. Women, dump the change out your purse. See any nickels? Send one to me - you owe me. My wife got me thinking the other day about money in general and we vectored off to how much money it takes to find and marry the right woman. The sheer dollar figure astounded me. Let me explain why. I am an average 32 year-old American male. I spent seven years in the US Navy to defend our interests abroad and domestically. While in the Navy, I would spend at least three nights a week in bars, looking for women to meet. Now, follow this closely: Each bar has a cover charge of ten bucks or so and my buddies and I would go to two or three bars in an evening:$10 x 3 bars x 3 nights a week = $90 just to see and meet women. Once in the door, drinks get purchased: 3 or 4 drinks @$4 per drink per bar = $16 x 3 bars x 3 nights a week =$175 for social lubricant. That's $265 per week x 50 weeks (two weeks off to recover) =$13,250 per year, just trying to MEET you!

If things progress with a young lady and I actually start to date her, the date-related expenses begin:

Condoms: $3 a week Dinners:$150 per week (three dinners at 50 bucks a pop)
Movies: $40 a week ( two people for two movies, plus snacks) Gas:$30 more a week than usual
Hotels: $100 a week if you go cheap but clean Sub Total:$323 per week ($58 a week more than the hunting weeks) x 50 weeks =$16,150 after we meet, JUST TO KEEP YOU.

Considering that most of my relationships while I was in the Navy never had that kind of week to week continuity because I would have to go to sea at regular intervals, some of this amount can be reduced. Call it a nice round number of $10,000 a year either in pursuit of or in trying to hold on to a woman. I feel this figure is probably an underestimate, but I'll let it slide. I was in the Navy for seven years. 7 years x$10,000 = $70,000 spent on women. Don't get me started on how much I spent in strip clubs or shopping for women too, I just don't wanna know. I met and married a fabulous woman three years after I got out of the Navy. Thank the gods. I don't know how I could have possibly maintained the pace anymore. But those three years prior to our meeting revert back to the higher totals of full time, not at sea, boyfriend-dom: {$70,000 + ($13,250 x 2)} + 16,150 =$99,400! Since I'm only a guy, I will only tack on $600 for the mental stress of having to balance my life in the pursuit of you all for a Grand Total of$100,000.

Now here is why I want a nickel from you. I figure that in my dating career, I saw or met about 2 million women. $100,000 divided by 2,000,000 = five cents. I spent ten years after I got out of high school trying to meet the perfect woman with which to share my life and raise my family. Now that I finally have, I think I deserve a rebate. Pay up. Dan accepts Visa and MasterCard. Leave your American Express at home. Previously by Ted Bronson: Men's Underwear Stinks How To Cheat on Your Wife and Why You Shouldn't ## November 16, 2006 ### My Battle with Inertia He was 38 and had been divorced for less than a year. I was 21 and had been cutting a swath through that summer's crop of eligibles. You're all rolling your eyes already, aren't you? It started out beautifully -- going out to dinner, movies, plays, concerts, museums. It ended gradually and long before we actually stopped seeing each other. I, like so many other women, became a victim of Inertia. \in-'er-she\ - n. - a property of matter by which it remains at rest until acted upon by some external force. We had next to nothing in common: he liked to run, sex was the only reason I enjoyed sweating; he was Catholic, I was pagan; he believed emotions were best repressed, I liked the world to know how I felt. But we were hot for each other and lonely. Either one of those conditions are mistaken for love all the time. The two together were particularly potent. Gradually the fun times tapered off, as did the sex. Many times he'd invite me to spend the night only to roll over and fall asleep. I would lie awake for a time, libido raging, unable to see the forest for the trees. I felt something was wrong. I thought it was with me, so I began to change. Where I would previously have been balls-out, I was now restrained and cautious. All I knew for certain was that I didn't care for being alone. Things came to a head one summer night during a visit from one of his college buddies. We waited at his house for the buddy before stepping out to a local club. After the buddy arrived, the two of them spent a good 25 minutes admiring each and every picture in a brand new Marilyn Monroe calendar. 25 whole minutes. We finally went to a club to hear a very good blues rock band and the two of them immediately struck up a flirtation with a comely redhaired waitress. I stood there next to him, numb, I suppose. Not angry, not jealous, just numb. It wasn't until another man leaned over to him and said something, indicating me, that I felt something. When he moved back gesturing for the other man to take his place next to me, my clarity returned in a rush. I turned on my heel and exited through the rear of the building. I wasn't far from home and I was by-God walking. I could barely hear past the blood furiously pounding in my ears, I could only see the path directly in front of me, outlined in moonlight as if in neon. "This way to freedom," it seemed to say. Suddenly, he was in front of me. "I thought you'd get a kick out of it," he said. At least that's what I think he said. I just stared at him, flint-eyed, until he stopped talking. He asked me to wait at the car so he could collect his friend and drive me home. I waited, the night air as sharp as diamonds now. I was in awe of how crisp and fresh everything felt, even my pain. He and his mortified friend drove me home. I felt slightly sorry for his buddy as I slammed the car door with all of my rediscovered strength. I went into my house, placed a chair in the center of the living room floor, sat down and waited. Ten minutes later, he knocked on my door. I let him make his own way in. His words came in a rush: he wanted to see other people, I was only the second woman he had ever been with and he was afraid he was missing something. I let him speak until he was done. Then I looked at him and said, "Don't come back." It hurt for a time but I know now that it was my pride and not my heart that was injured. I had been so afraid of being alone that I became less than whole. I diminished myself, thinking that would better suit him until I became paralyzed with Inertia. It took the external force of an innocent, horny stranger to set me in motion again and show me how lessened I had become. A year later I was happily married and pregnant with the child of a man who wanted all of me - and in motion. by Stacy Previously by Stacy Guest Writer Archives ## November 10, 2006 ### A Musical Education By The Germ Getting into music is one of the best experiences in my life. Well, I think it is one of the best experiences in many people's lives. Some of you probably remember the first time you realized you were hooked to music as clear as a bell, I don't remember exactly, but I have a reason. I was five. Most kids don't REALLY get into it until around their teenage years, my friends didn't, a lot of people I know didn't. Maybe I'm not the only one, but really how many of you took music seriously when you were a kid. You usually listened to whatever had an upbeat and made you happy. But me, I had three older brothers who, at that age, were 9, 12, and 13. They definitely were into music. You may not believe me, but I'm not lying. It started for me when I was two. I don't have really many memories from that age. But, according to my brothers, I would attempt to sing along with "Smells Like Teen Spirit". Apparently they also taught me a nifty maneuver called headbanging. I had good brothers, I think. 1994-1995 though were easily the years that got me into music. The magic three bands were Nirvana, The Offspring, and Green Day*, yes Green Day. My brothers collectively had albums like Nevermind, Siamese Dream, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, Smash, Ignition, Dookie, Insomniac, Superuknown, and Core. All those famous 90's bands and albums. They were played over and over. Then I just seemed to really get into this stuff, I was always asking to borrow an album. I begged my parents for a CD player until their heads exploded. All this time though I never really knew what punk was at all. Learning about punk music was the ONLY good thing about middle school (which is bullshit, seriously, how can you be late to lunch, then get detention for it). And it all started with, you guessed it, Green Day. They were on some television show and were talking about their influences. Then the magical words that spilled out of (of all people) Billie Joe's mouth that changed my life (Well not that dramatic, but it changed how I looked at music). He mentioned the Ramones, and Clash. I quickly asked, "Who are they?" to myself. After that I was asking people who they were all day long. I found out about the Ramones, but it was kind of on accident. I was watching the movie "Carpool" and "I Wanna Be Sedated" came on. After that I watched the credits until I found out who did that song. BOOM! the Ramones. I was hooked. I got Ramones Mania soon after that. I found out about The Clash from my brother who had bought the Singles album. So to make that story short, hooked. I listened to that album to no end. For many years after that I slowly got into punk, band after band, getting deeper into it as time went by. Every band just led to another great band. I was on a high. Along the way. though, I was listening to some music that was regrettable. But since then my music tastes have changed, the high has gone away, and I mostly don't listen to same music I used to when I was a kid. But the Ramones and Clash will always have a special place in my heart. And I realize that I have some cool brothers, with a wide variety of music tastes. Their music tastes have changed some too and we all went in different directions, so we all end up arguing and recommending music a lot. Here are their approximate music tastes. Oldest brother - He likes basically a little of all kinds of rock. Screamo, Emo, Classic Rock, Punk, Pop Punk, Metal, Industrial. Whatever, he likes some of it. Older brother #2 - He likes everything, and I'm not kidding. Have you ever meet someone with She Daisy and Megadeath is the same music collection? Then you got to meet him. Brittany Spears, Dead Kennedys, Snoop Dogg, NIN, The Dicks, Cyndi Lauper, Led Zeppelin. he likes everything. Older brother #3 - He likes Metal basically. New stuff, old stuff, and Classic Rock. Pretty much sums it up. Oh, he also likes some rap. Me - Punk, Post-Punk, British Invasion (Beatles etc.), Pre-Punk, some Classic Rock, Rockabilly. Pretty much my tastes. It's fun to live in a family who loves music. Later Days, The Germ :) <------ yeah I'm cool * The Germ still listens to Green Day and says "yeah yeah, I don't flaunt it or even really defend the band at all. So bite me, I don't care, it's my really guilty pleasure." Guest Author Archives ## November 9, 2006 ### Playground Dynamics By Stacy For the average adult, being on a playground is much like being in an elevator. Well, with the notable exception of retribution/finger-pointing for accidental flatulence…on a playground that’s actually considered ‘street cred.’ But for the rest of us non-gaseous types, there’s the same awkwardness inherent in any enforced proximity situation. In other words, lots of tentative smiles, avoidance of prolonged eye contact and, very rarely, meaningless small talk. Sociologists and cultural anthropologists are pretty much the only ones who enjoy this kind of interaction. Playground adults come in five varieties: 1. Soccer Moms – Regardless of whether their kids actually play soccer, these overdressed, overcoiffed and overbearing Junior Leaguers are called Soccer Moms. They drive hideously expensive mini-vans or SUVs, don’t have a job and aggressively ensure their kids have ‘fun.’ Rigorously scheduled, vigilantly supervised ‘fun.’ These are the women who bash your ankles with their strollers when their children are infants. The ones that debate preschool choices with all the gravity of international policy makers. These women are not fooling around and you’d better not be either. A sub-species of the Soccer Mom is the Big Shoe Woman. They’re always inappropriately dressed and prone to posing picturesquely on whatever is handy…park benches, swing sets, monkey bars, etc. They’re more interested in whether anyone is looking at them than whether their children are having fun and/or kidnapped. 2. Solo Dads – These guys come in two species: 1. The Interrupted Businessman – The guy who’s wife/girlfriend has threatened him with bodily harm if he doesn’t get the kids out of her hair for one bloody hour, JUST ONE! He is invariably on a cell phone, completely ignoring the kids, ranting at some hapless underling and wishing he were back at the office. 2. The Fun Dad – This guy loves the playground as much as his kids do. He’ll slide down the slides, unafraid of friction burns. He’ll crawl in the wood chips, oblivious to splinters and poked knees. He’ll play the Happy Meal game, ordering Lizard Burgers and Fried Flies at the top of his lungs, to the delight of everyone under four feet tall. He’ll do whatever it takes to ensure his kids have a good time, regardless of the glares from less accommodating parents. 3. Weary Couples – These poor souls usually have more than one toddler and their lives are a nightmarish haze of broken sleep, temper tantrums and the Teletubbies. They bring their kids to the playground so they can get some rest. You’ll see them slumped together on a nearby bench, eyes glazed over or outright asleep. Be generous and keep an eye on their kids for them, wake them when it’s time to go home. 4. Barely Post-Pubescent Girls in Skimpy Clothing – These tarts are at the playground for one of two reasons: 1. Their tired mothers have kicked them off the phone and forced them to go amuse their younger siblings. 2. They’re hanging with the “bad boys” whose idea of a fun time is to come to the playground and smoke cigarettes. Either way, they’re usually wearing ultra short cut-offs and midriff baring tops. A teenaged girl is thrilled with the effect she’s beginning to have on older men and will take any opportunity to see how far she can go. That it might be completely inappropriate behavior to exhibit in front of small children means nothing to her hormone riddled brain. Neither does the fact that wives/girlfriends are witnessing the whole thing, murder in their eyes. Wholesale slapping is recommended for these types. 5. Aging Couples – Take the Soccer Mom and the Interrupted Businessman, add 15 years to them and one small child and you have the Aging Couple. They’re like large, graying shadows, dogging their child’s every move around the playground, as if they’re desperately afraid of soil or breakage. Do not approach Aging Couple’s child as you most definitely have Cooties. Children, of course, have known each other for years. There’s never any awkwardness, introductions are perfunctory and seniority seems to be based solely on height. Playground children come in four varieties: 1. The Future World Leader – This child is in charge within seconds of arriving at the playground. He/she is organizing games of chase and hide and seek, assigning tasks to other children with all the efficiency of a…well, an efficiency expert. We should tag these children, and observe their progress closely to make sure they use their powers for good. 2. The Gardener – Digging for acorns, bugs, hundred year old bottle caps or whatever. As long as it involves getting dirty, this child is game. 3. The Non-Conformist – Goes up the slide instead of down, spins instead of swings, definitely marches to the beat of their own drummer. 4. The Dissident – Steals the Gardener’s acorns, throws rocks at the Future World Leader and knocks the Non-Conformist off the slide. They’re usually the progeny of the Interrupted Businessman and/or the Big Shoe Woman, go figure. Playgrounds are fun pretty much only for kids and sociologists. The rest of us had rather be trapped in a crowded elevator, flatulence notwithstanding. Then at least we’d know when we could get off. Stacy is raising two Future World Leaders. Previously by Stacy Guest Writer Archives ## November 6, 2006 ### Men's Underwear Stinks by Ted Bronson Don't let the title fool you, I don't necessarily mean in the olfactory department. I mean in the comfort and style departments. I don't wear underwear any more. Call it a rebellion against upbringing. Call it a fashion choice. Call it whatever you want. Just don't expect me to wear it unless I am wearing wool pants. I was raised with plain white briefs, like probably most of the guys out there, because that is what my mother bought for me and I didn't know any better. This unfortunately lasted until I was in my twenties. I did try boxers at one time at the insistence of a girlfriend, but I can't say I enjoyed the experience. They seemed too bunchy and bulky for me. A different girlfriend bought me a thong. The thong lasted maybe three seconds longer than the relationship. I have issues against the construction of underwear for one thing. If a man is wearing briefs and has to take a leak, he has two choices: 1) un-do the entire front of his pants and pull down the waistband, whiz and shake while keeping his belt or any other part of his clothing from touching the urinal that he just saw somebody even drunker than him barf in, then do it all in reverse with the added labor of straightening shirt, tie, etc..-a labor intensive piece of work when one is drunk as a monkey or 2) bend his crank into a 'Z' shape to piss through the stupid little hole/flap in the front, knowing that the constriction of his unit will cause at least a few drops of urine to avoid 'the shake' and end up making the front of his pants look like those of an excited pre-schooler. Boxers are not much better to wear, but at least they usually have a much larger opening for ease of access. But this is not enough good to balance against the evil of 'bunching'. You know you are in trouble when you go to stand or sit and suddenly a clear, bright soprano note the Vienna Boy's Choir would kiss a girl to hit escapes your twisted rictus of a mouth because the boxers have managed to grab hold of your balls and are attempting a vasectomy. Now since I don't wear undies any more, I can stagger up to whatever pisshole in the snow I happen to be diving in that night, whip it out, do my thang, give it a good shake and leave without all that effort and potential for either clothing or fleshly disaster. Plus I don't have to worry about what my skivvies are doing in there, if they are grabbing or pulling or just plain sticking to things. I know what my wedding tackle is doing and it stays where I put it. Then comes the issue of style. Let's face it, the genitalia of a man is not an attractive thing to view. So why in the hell should we try to pretty it up? It is a simple fact that form follows function. So a dick pretty much has to look like it does. But they are not attractive. Barring the occasional Dirk Diggler out there, most of them aren't even impressive. And a man's ass, c'mon!! Who would want to frame a fat, hairy, pimpled thing like that in anything "sexy?" The contrast is just too much to take. But the commentary women put into magazines and calendars with the likes of Beckford Tyson in his shorts rivals that of men who look at magazines showing completely nude women. I don't get it and I'm not sure I want to. Besides, there are only two people who are gonna see me without my pants on: my wife and my doctor and they have both seen me naked anyway. Style to a man is really just classy comfort. So if nobody can tell that my Armani suit is covering nothing more than bare skin, why bother? (An aside here, indulge me: If an average guy wears a Speedo, he is showing more skin than anyone wants to see in public on an average day. But if he walked out on the beach or to the pool in his underwear, he would be vilified as some kinda pervert. Why? Is there a stigma attached to undies that does not connect to swimwear? Solve the problem, stop wearing either.) Finally, the issue of 'support' rears its head. I somehow don't think that the Greeks, Romans, Celts, and other toga or kilt wearing societies ever worried about their balls flopping around while they were out conquering continents. It is a null issue. Since our society has decided that men should wear pants of some type, only then have we decided to wear underwear. I wear pants in public because I have to and don't want to go to jail. But the pants I wear are cut well. If any support is required, the pants give them. When I am home or at a civilized beach or campground I just let 'em hang the way nature intended. Let me tell ya something folks, in the last few years, my dick has gotten bigger, an issue most men would not have a problem with at all. A friend of mine at a nudist camp once told me the same thing happened to him when he started going nude and without underwear. I gotta think this has something to do with unrestricted blood flow, efficient cooling, and gravity. And if that's not a good enough reason to stop wearing underwear, I don't know what is. Ted Bronson goes by the nickname Captain Commando. ## November 2, 2006 ### Font Geeks Characterized by their obnoxious honking call of "that's Morpheus!" whenever the commercial for any Playstation Game airs, the Font Geek is incapable of actually being affected by advertising as they are more interested in the font choices involved than the actual message. The Font Geek refuses to use Times New Roman for body text, EVER, and will doggedly use Verdana or Tahoma instead, due to their lack of small pointy things. At least until it becomes easier to embed fonts in HTML, that is. The Font Geek has over 1000 unzipped fonts sitting on their hard drive. They can only unzip a few at a time because the repetitious use of WinZip causes their brains to twitch and they invariably pass out. Therefore it will be the latter part of this century before they are done. Perhaps there will be an operating system in existence then that can handle more than 150 fonts at a time without slagging. The Font Geek's fondest wish is for a freeware program that will both organize their massive collection of fonts and install them to their chosen program, without any interruption in their workflow. The key word here is "freeware." The Font Geek is well known for it's devious nature. At one time the Font Geek was heavily recruited by the CIA, but every single Font Geek agent they sent overseas never came back. Research has since determined that when Font Geeks encounter fonts in unfamiliar languages, they lose all small motor control and wander around aimlessly until struck by lorries. Sadly, many rare and beautiful Font Geeks were lost this way. It is sad but true, some Font Geeks will actually turn to the streets to satisfy their uncontrollable cravings. You can see them on street corners, their gaudily painted faces reminiscent of Edwardian Script ITC or Engraver's Roman Bold BT. This is the Font Geek at it's most pathetic, a sorry, scrabbling version of the proud creature that once roamed the halls of Design Schools across the world. Do not heed their pitiful cries of "please mister, I'll do anything for some Elphinstone!" or "come on, just one sans-serif, I'm really hurtin' here!" for you will only contribute to the dissolution of this proud creature. Nothing can be done for the Font Geek turned Font Whore, they must want to help themselves to make the recovery. So few of them do. If you encounter the Font Geek in the wild, approach with caution. Take special care to not be wearing articles of clothing with any visible logos and/or slogans lest you agitate the Font Geek and provoke them to attack. The attack of the Font Geek is truly terrifying, usually involving art markers and, occasionally if very unlucky, gouache. It is best to approach the Font Geek bearing some sort of offering. Chocolate is highly recommended. Just make sure it doesn't have any words printed on it. Guest author Stacy collects fonts, but so far she has kept it from being an obsession. So far. Guest Author archives ## October 29, 2006 ### How to Cheat on Your Wife and Why You Shouldn't Please welcome our guest author Ted Bronson, who will appear here from time to time. O.K. guys, we have all been there. Things at home are boring or stressful or otherwise making you nuts and you think that all you need to do is pick up a little strange wool and you'll feel young/handsome/in control again. Guess what. It ain't gonna happen!! What you are gonna feel instead is even more stress trying to balance your mistress with your wife and kids and job and everyone will feel it and get suspicious and pissed and your old lady is likely to pull a Bobbit on your ass. Think guys, your wife has put up with enough of your shit by now don't you think? Even if she works, statistically, she still does most of the housework. If you have kids, she probably does most of the care giving--- taking them to and from school, soccer, doctor, whatever. She gives them their baths, feeds them their dinners, packs their schoolbags, does all the laundry in the house, and all the other myriad jobs that come with raising YOUR kids. You OWE her to not fuck around. You OWE her to be there for your kids. In short, you owe her your time and cheating on her is like stealing from her what is her due. Besides, cheating on your wife WILL be found out, eventually. We as guys generally think too much with our dicks and not enough with our heads and you will make a mistake eventually. Finally, when you do fuck up, it makes the rest of us look bad. Whenever my wife tells me about the girl at work who has slept with every guy in the office, married or not, it casts the shadow of suspicion on all the women I work with at MY office. With that said as a disclaimer, this article will give you some ideas on how to cover your tracks a little better so that you WON'T make us all look like assholes. First and foremost, DON'T FUCK SOMEONE YOU WORK WITH!!! I cannot stress this enough. The stereotype is there for a reason. Yeah, things suck at home and the sweet little copygirl has been making eyes at you and trying to get you to help her 'fax' in the mailroom for weeks now. DON'T DO IT!! This same little twiff is the one who can bust you for sexual harassment just as soon as you forget her birthday or don't sign off on her promotion recommendation form, or anything else she sees as the tiniest slight. So then you lose your job, your wife and kids, your reputation, and in some places face jail time or lawsuits on top of all that. This, guys, is a classic form of screwing yourself. My wife tells me about a guy she works with that tried to kiss the receptionist, in his cubicle, in the middle of the work day, while other people were a mere 3 feet away behind a partition. This guy is a rock with lips. Sharp as a bag of marbles. Just plain dumb. Fortunately for the guy, the receptionist laughed him off and walked away, telling no one but my wife of the incident. Besides being dumb, this guy is very lucky. A good rule of thumb: If she works in the same building, don't try to pick her up. Of course, that means trying to score somewhere else. Remember, your wife probably knows down to the penny how much you get paid, how much is in the bank, and reads all the credit card bills. Since we all know how much it takes to support a girlfriend, how can you possibly expect to start suddenly having one? I have a friend who had a credit card his wife knew nothing about. He had the statements come to his office, he kept it in a drawer in his office, had it completely hidden. Or so he thought. After about a year of running around on her with this little piece he picked up at a lunch counter, he had quite a credit history on that little piece of plastic. Motels, lunches, gifts, etc. Then they decided to move into a new apartment. Of course the guy didn't think anything about it when asked to provide credit references and give a home number for a contact point. So when his credit report comes back and the wife hears about this card, she does some investigating thinking it is a case of identity theft. She manages to bully the credit card company into faxing her a history on the card. She sees everything, including all the gifts he bought that she didn't receive. Needless to say, the guy is now single and that is the only card he has left, his mistress left him, and his grown kids won't speak to him. So how can one get around this? Easy. CASH. Take out X dollars every week for 'incidentals' to include gas, lunches, smokes whatever. The wife will agree naturally to limit what you are putting on Mr. Plastic and think nothing of it. Be sure to bring home change every day and put it in a jar or something to prove your 'economizing' is working. But what she won't know is that you are really spending it on slapping uglies at lunch. Course, it means you are going to have to give up your real lunch and smokes or whatever. Remember, this is going to work only as long as you don't forget a receipt in you pocket or go to the ATM more often that SHE thinks you ought to. Next, if you suddenly get a cellular phone after not having one forever, you damn sure better get your wife one first, for her 'safety'. And for damn sure don't give the little lunch counter girl the number, just use it to call her. But be sure to get a trace-block on it so the 69 she does on you isn't *69. I have another married friend who was sitting down with his wife when the cell phone rang. It was the husband of the girl he was shagging. The guy made it sound innocent, and asked for the wrong name, explained that he found the number 'cleaning out his boss' files' and thought he may be a potential customer. Turns out his little fling was foolish enough to leave his name and number programmed into HER phone and hubby got curious. This brings up two other points: 1) if at all possible, find a married woman to diddle with- she has as much to lose as you, if not more, and is less likely to try to destroy your life: or 2) find someone who is content being the other woman because she is fucking several other guys at the same time she's fucking you. As with ANY chance encounter though, make absolutely certain she can't get knocked up. This can mean finding an oral artist and being happy with that, only having anal sex, or even better, getting a vasectomy. Nothing ruins a night at home with the in-laws and grandparents faster than a process server knocking on your door with a paternity suit. But even if you take all these precautions, WEAR A GODDAMN RUBBER. A dose will make you not only suddenly single, but a laughingstock as well. Not to mention possibly dead or a murderer if you give your wife AIDS. Big things here NOT to do. Statistically, when a guy starts fucking around, he makes the same mistakes as the million guys before him. 1. He starts to work out. Don't you think your wife will notice when you suddenly start going to the gym, losing weight, etc. when for X number of years you have just been the thing she vacuums around? 2. He starts to lose interest in having sex with his wife. No matter how hosed your marriage is, if you stop having sex with your wife completely, she is gonna think something is up. 3. He starts making changes in bed and wanting more sex. The first time I ever tried to finger my wife's ass while giving her head, she almost divorced me because she wanted to know where I was getting ideas like that. Same when I quit smoking and realized that my appetite for more than food had increased. Needless to say, I would never go around behind my wife's back. I am deeply committed to our relationship, love her with all my soul, and don't want to lose my kids' respect. But even with all that going for me, she sometimes gives me the skunk-eye. Hell, writing this article has made her have doubts and she KNOWS better. Finally guys, and this is the biggest thing so pay attention, no strange pussy you ever pick up can give you all the things your wife does. No way. No how. Not ever. The only thing another woman can offer you is sex--not the love, support, friendship, and stability that your wife can. The risks are too high, you make all men look like pigs, and you throw away your own self-respect. But, if you feel like you just gotta go get some freak, that you just can't keep up your end of the bargain you made with her, that in the final analysis you have failed to keep the lizard brain at bay, then be honest enough to tell her and ask for a divorce. A divorce like that will cost you a lot less than it will after you get caught. And you will get caught. Don't kid yourself, buddy. Women are smarter than we are, talk more about their sex lives than we do with their girlfriends, read more and watch more, and are more suspicious because historically they have more to lose. Ted Bronson has a wife, two kids and a clean credit history Guest writer archives ## October 23, 2006 ### You Don't Live Here No More, Part II: Shock Treatment Part 2 of Chris Harry's tales of his time spent as a repo man. When approaching a house that you're about to repossess you have to learn a lot based just on its appearance. Are people still living there? Are they the owners, or squatters? If there's no one in are they likely to be back soon? Most of this becomes instinctual. You just "know." I can still pretty much look at a house while passing and tell if it's occupied and what kind of people the occupants probably are. When I went in first I carried a Rounders bat in one hand (Rounders is a game played by English school girls. It's most similar to baseball and it's played with a shorter version of a baseball bat, about 20 inches) and a flashlight in the other. I wore heavy leather gloves and I was "on," that state where you hear, see and feel everything. See, not everyone who gets their house repossessed is happy about it. Some people are pissed and they trash the place, shit and debris everywhere, broken windows and furniture. Some showed attempts to burn the place down. Other people were really pissed that we were coming and set booby traps. This is where Darren became invaluable. He was brave. He was fearless. He was dumb. Well not quite dumb. You Americans don't quite have an equivalent word. We called him thick. The kind of person who acts and has no real idea of what the consequences of his actions could be. I usually sent Darren in first. He would walk in without a care in the world. Usually yelling something like (imagine a London accent here, think the boxing promoter from Snatch) "Eah, any of you fackers in 'ere are there?" "Oi, fackers, come on then." We had a few occasions where bemused squatters would walk out and just leave. Most times there was no one there, and rarely any one put up a real fight. If they did, Darren was handy (note I'm using the English meaning of handy here, sorry I'm not fully bilingual yet. In England handy means, in this context, very good at street fighting). He grew up on a council estate, the English equivalent of the projects. So, booby traps. They were always fun. See, these people may not have had the imagination to figure out how to pay their bills and hold onto their home, but when it came to fucking with us they were amusing bastards. In America people seem to like round door handles-in the UK we like door handles with an actual handle on it, you know the long lever arm type. These, according to those being repossessed, were just perfect to glue razor blades to-invisible to the eye but more than obvious to the hand. Fortunately neither I nor any of my lads was ever cut. We heard about this trick from another repo team, we made sure to always wear gloves, and never to wrap our fingers around a door handle. We did a house where the lovely previous occupants had cut almost all the way through the stair supports to welcome us. It didn't quite work. Mouse, who weighed about 90 lbs wet through, was walking up the stairs and heard them crack, creak, and groan. He got the fuck off them, quick. We looked under them and saw the damage. Assholes 0, us 1. My favorite booby trap was an electrical one. I was/am an electrician. Repos were just an interim thing to pay the bills until the construction industry could support us again. So we were about halfway through the house, all the crap was out. Time to drain down the water systems. Darren was sent to take the air vents out of all the upstairs radiators (radiators: metal water filled room heaters-water is heated by a boiler and circulated through them) this helps to get all the water out quickly, which means that if the house freezes there won't be any water damage. Darren goes upstairs, and 2 minutes later lets out a yelp of pain. Shit. Did we miss someone? Miss a booby trap? I run up to find him in the bathroom staring at the radiator. "What happened Daz?" "Fackin radiator's live init!" he yells. "What do you mean live?" I ask. "Well I touched it and got a fackin electric shock, din' I." He looked at me willing me to believe him. "That's fuckin impossible Darren, you're imagining it. Probably static. Touch it again, you'll be fine." See I'm a nice boss, just trying to help the guy out. "Yeagghh Fack, shit, aagh" yelled Darren after touching it again. I figured that it was electrically live at this point, probably a booby trap. We use 240 volts for household outlets in England. It hurts. "Darren, quit being a pussy and take the valve out" we did have a job to do afte rall. "I fackin can't ya cunt, it's live." "Darren mate, stop fucking around, it can't be live, just touch it again, you'll see" I said, using all my will power not to laugh. He did, he touched it again. Another yell, more cursing. I told him again that it couldn't be live, he told me to touch it, finally. Thick boy… Now as I said I'm an electrician, a sparky. Years of receiving electric shocks teaches you not to react. If you make a fuss of getting a shock while at the top of a ladder, you've a whole world of hurt coming very soon. I touched the radiator. Held it for a few seconds and let go. It was not pleasant. I can feel the tingle of an electric shock as I sit here typing. Your body remembers it. It is fundamentally wrong. Darren looked at me confused. "Facker" he said. "How come you can touch it and I get a shock?" He asked, getting frustrated now. "Because it's not live Darren, you're full of shit" I said, trying not to laugh. He reached his hand out, tentatively, trembling. He pulled back, two or three times. I asked if I had to do his job for him. That did it, he grabbed the radiator, then jumped back, screaming, shouting, yelling. He almost fell backwards into the tub. I couldn't hold it. I was crying with laughter. Darren was not amused. He spent the rest of the week cussing and glowering at me. It amused the hell out of me. I straightened out the electrics. The previous occupants had wired the entire copper plumbing system to the hot side of the main incoming supply. Un-fused, it would never have stopped flowing. No matter how much Darren cursed at it. Chris Harry is a bit of a sadist who writes for FTTW ocassionally. Previous story ## October 21, 2006 ### One Dot at a Time Today's guest author is WJD, who may be the only person on the planet who reads more into video games than Michele. What's the point of Pac-Man? Are there life-lessons in Pac-Man? I think there are. Reduced to biological terms, the point of life is to stay alive long enough to procreate. Since Pac-Man don't fuck (at least, you don't get to make Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man make a Pac-Baby, not for your 25 cents anyway), your mission in life while playing Pac-Man is to stay alive long enough to collect enough points to get on the High Score board. How do you do this? You score points by eating dots. You show up, you go new places, you get points. 10 points for a regular dot, 50 points for a power pellet. Show up, go new places, eat new things, get more points. Easy. You can also get points by eating the fruit and eating the ghosts but I think these two last methods of points-scoring are fraught with risk that outweighs their perceived benefits. I recognize, that at some point you have to take risks just to stay alive but you got to be smart about it. But hear me out here... I'm going to argue that taking the fast-road to lots of points is a bad idea, especially when dealing with the fruit but also when chasing the ghosts. First, eating the fruit. What do you get when you eat the fruit? At first, it's like 100 points. 10 dots. Big deal. It moves up a bit, sure. 300 points. 30 dots. 500 points. 50 dots. Nothing to sniff at, 50 dots. But, look, it's a long, long time before eating the fruit pays off as a risk/reward endeavor. You have to wait to go after the fruit. You chase the fruit too much and too early… you can get burned. The fruit is there, tempting, sweet, juicy… waiting to be plucked and eaten. But it doesn't move for you. It WAITS for you. And… while it waits for you, you are being hunted. Is that a good thing? No! Please, do not chase the fruit. Eat the dots. The dots will get you to the next level. The fruit will get you killed. I mean, who doesn't like fruit? Everyone likes fruit. But that's the problem!! You start chasing fruit, you lose your focus. Bottom line: if you happen to be in the neighborhood, by all means, count your blessings, eat the fruit, and move on. But seriously, don't chase the fruit. Second, eating the ghosts. This is important, because there are a few levels on which you can argue this one. The ghosts in Pac-Man are the only things that can kill you. But then the only times they can't kill you are the times when you eat the power-pellets. What's that mean? A couple of things… 1) the ghosts are incapacitated and that is prime dot-eating time. Freedom to roam, freedom to eat, freedom to help you get to the next level. Zero risk, all reward. But… 2) since the ghosts are incapacitated, YOU can eat THEM for a change. Talk about turning the Establishment on its head! Talk about subverting the dominant paradigm! Once you eat the power-pellets, you are thinking that it's time for some R-E-V-E-N-G-E!! You are wrong. Do not fall in to the trap. And it is a trap. You go chasing those incapacitated ghosts and you fall into the same trap as chasing the fruit. All of a sudden you've got a few of the seven deadly sins lined up against you. And they're not called "deadly" for nothing. Yeah yeah yeah, you get points for eating ghosts, but I'm telling you it's a trick. You get GREEDY. You seek VENGANCE. (Not to mention you LUST after the incapacitated ghosts…and do you really want to be seen as having lust for something that is incapacitated? Isn't that the least bit sick?). All of a sudden you're 3/7 on the SDS meter. That is not good, my Pac-Friend. You need to be pure of Pac-Mind and Heart. You need to eat those dots. You need to stay alive for the long haul. The easiest way of staying alive and therefore the surest way of getting points is to remember: don't chase the fruit, take advantage of your enemy-the-ghosts' weaknesses. Avoid seeking revenge (although I think, like the fruit, eat 'em if you got 'em). Stay alive for the long-haul, end up on the High Score board. Simple. WJD's living room houses six MAME cabinets, a cat named Joystick and two volumes of Ms. Pac-Man porn. Guest author archives ## October 17, 2006 ### You Don't Live Here No More This is Chris Harry's second guest column with us. This is part one of an occasional feature here about the life of a former repo man. There's a certain mind set that occurs when you're a repo man. I call it "I'm taking your shit and you can't do anything about it." Yes I was the repo man, not in this whacked out gun toting - crazy ass country, thank god. I was a repo man in England, my home country where our "customers" rarely waved guns at us.. We kind of fell into it, I was working for my dads construction company. This was the mid nineties – not a good time to be in construction. We'd spend days sitting in the office willing the phone to ring, it rarely did. One day it did, it was a contact of ours at a mortgage lenders asking if we knew anyone who did repossessions. Of course we do. Us. "Really?" he asked. "Oh yeah, done loads of 'em mate" says my dad. Thus we were repo men. Yep you read it right; for mortgage lenders. Not those wussy ass guys who sneak up on cars in the dead of night and tow them away. It's pretty difficult to take someone's house from them, while they're asleep in it. We did the whole knock on the door, meet the folks and ask them to leave routine. People who are being repossessed are a pretty interesting and diverse bunch overall, there was the hooker who had what I assume to be the worlds largest collection of dildos artfully arranged to cover every available horizontal surface of her home. Seriously, I have never seen so much rubber in one place. Darren, one of our guys who I'll get to later, was fascinated by them. Even picked a few up to see them closer. There were the average Joes who just weren't making ends meet and there were the professional debters.Then there was the amateur pornographer, he was out when we emptied his place and none too pleased when he returned. Let me explain. We didn't earn much doing this work; about$500 per job. That had to cover a team, of 3 or 4 guys, a truck, diesel, tools and a new lock set for each house. We didn't hang around too long, nor did we spend very long agonizing over how to empty a place with the least amount of damage. Our mandate was simple, gain entry, make sure that no one was still living there, turn off and drain the water systems, turn off the power, change the locks and clear the place out. No one ever said "Ooh, and be careful with the shit they leave behind."

Feet are a very effective furniture deconstruction tools. As are 14lb sledge hammers. Get in, get the stuff out, get on to the next one. – So Mr. amateur pornographer arrives home just as we're closing the roller shutter on the back of the truck. He's a little confused as to what four rough looking guys are doing with a truck backed up to his house. Now bear in mind we've just emptied the entire contents of his house into our truck and we're ready to go. Locks are changed, power is off. We also have a newly
acquired intimate knowledge of his possessions and perversions.

He looked perplexed when his key wouldn't open his front door. We fired up the truck and waited for the air pressure to build so we could leave. He tried his back door. That wouldn't open either. He checked the house number. Then he really saw us for the first time. Gears started grinding, he asked us almost casually, "hey did you fuckwits do something to my house?" "Yes we did sir, we repossessed it." "Oh shit" he says. He pulled out his cell phone and called his mortgage company, a few minutes of frantic arguing and credit card transactions later he asked me to talk to his lender. I spoke to
them briefly and told them that if they were legit they could look me up in their system and call my cell phone. They did, he'd bought himself some time they said. Unload his stuff they said.

We opened the roll up door on the truck and started loading his stuff back into his house. The blow up dolls, the fruity clothes, photographs that educated even us perverted heathens, the leather and rubber, erm, implements and the home dark room equipment. He was somewhat embarrassed. His once proud press board furniture fragments were stacked in loose piles in the appropriate rooms, you get the picture. He was less than pleased. I understand that he later sued his lender and won a significant amount of money due to their over zealous and too early use of our services.

Next time: Darren.

Guest author archives

## October 16, 2006

### The Rush of the Crush

Deb isn't really a guest writer, as she writes the hockey column at FTTW, I'll See You on the Ice. Sometimes our columnists will make appearances outside of their normal places. This is one of those times.

That’s right, not only do I know all about hockey, I also am a Romance Writer (not an Author, yet). Writing romance is my second full time job and I loved it from the moment I put pen to paper.

When I am writing I fall in love almost everyday – well, in lust anyway.

Some writers find their inspiration from music, some from movies and their stars, I find mine on my commute to and from my day job.

Somewhere around graduating from college and getting a “real job”; I lost sight of the true art of the fleeting crush. On the road to maturity we lose sight of instant reaction and stop really looking. We tend to concentrate on looking for a Relationship with a capital “R”.

Writing romance has reintroduced the crush into my life ah, oh, the fun I have with my different crushes.

Some are fleeting. Like the handsome fellow who cut me off on my morning walk, causing me to stumble. Now usually I would have told him off and continued on my merry way, but not this time. This time he was forgiven because he caught me, smelt like sin, apologized and had just one dimple when he smiled. I’m sure that that dimple has gotten him out of a lot of situations. Our interaction took no more than 30 seconds, but I got my Alpha fix.

Some crushes last longer. Like the guy at my work that turns me into a stammering fool every time he talks or stands near me. I’m sure he thinks I’m a moron whose natural skin tone is bright red. I don’t care – blushing is good for your completion, it keeps the blood flowing. He’s my Beta.

Celebrity crushes are special. With a few swift keystrokes you can bring up a myriad of pictures and information on even the most minor of Hollywood player. *Sigh* This is great, but if you’re anything like me you have an obsessive need to know absolutely everything you can about them. Unfortunately for me this tends to kill the crush and ruin the fantasy (darn you Google).

I do, however, enjoy crushing on certain fictional characters, regardless of which former celebrity crush is playing the role. I just re-write certain scenes in my head* casting myself as the heroine.

Truth be told – I just like the rush of the crush and like an addict I actively seek it out everyday. It helps me to invoke those “first rush” feelings when I am writing my love scenes, or describing the initial feeling that my hero and heroine feel for each other.

So to all those unsuspecting men out there – Thank You! I couldn’t do it without you (well, I could, but this way is a lot more fun). And who knows, maybe someday one of my crushes will turn out to be my personal hero.

* Or in the case of the last “Star Wars” (ep. 3); ALL the dialogue and most of the plot – Don’t EVEN get me started.

Even though Deb writes romance, she’s still tougher than your Mom. Got it?

## October 13, 2006

### Snow Job

by Christopher Harry

Cars are freedom to me. They transport you from places you don't want to be, and lead you into situations that sometimes you'd rather they didn't. I used to drive fast, a lot, usually late at night. Sometimes I'd be driving alongside someone else, fast, just to see who could get there first, wherever there may be. The police didn't like this, called it "street racing" and frowned a lot when they pulled us over; but that's not where I was heading.

I grew up in the North of England - the frozen north I call it - not so much for the weather, but more for the general attitudes of the people who live there.

One night, many years ago I was heading home after driving too fast - not getting caught and not being beaten too badly - when it started snowing. It was about 2AM. I had work in five hours. I didn't even think about continuing on home. I called my buddy Kelvin (yes, in the UK we had cell phones way back then) and drove to his house to pick him up.

About 4 inches of snow accumulated, fast. I drove a mini (not the BMW kind!) with big fat (for a mini) street/race tires that just kind of floated over the snow. We slid around corners completely sideways, did 360's in the streets, spun out and had a blast. But you know how it is, it's only so much fun if you're not the driver.

We went and got Kelvin's car. Stock, old crappy Ford Fiesta. yep like the POS that was sold in the states. Now don't get me wrong. Kelvin is a fantastic driver. We'd drive the single lane country roads flat out with me making up rally style pace notes sometimes. Never a problem. He just had poor equipment.

We'd been out in the snow a while and played and not hit anything or attracted any unwanted attention from the boys in blue. We were heading back to his place, it must have been about 4:30AM. The road we were on is a wide, two-lane residential street. We were doing about 50 on four inches of snow and crappy, skinny tires.

As we got into a sweeping right hand bend I could feel the car fighting to go straight. No problem, right? Kelv's a good driver. He'll get the tail out, apply some opposite lock and power through it in style, right?

He panicked. I felt it before he even touched the brake. A little dab was all it took. Treads filled with snow, straight as an arrow. Closing fast was the only other vehicle in sight. A small van parked safely out of reach on the extra wide sidewalk. BANG. Ow, fuck. You OK? Yeah? You? Yeah! Fuck.

Kelvin asked, whadda we do? I looked around, no one, no lights on, no faces in windows. "Kelvin mate, start the fucker up and lets go." I said. {Cue engine turning over noise} It fired, and idled. He stuck it in reverse, popped the clutch, stall. Try again, fuck. One more time. Shit. Fuck. Bastard. We get out of the car. The passenger side wheel is wedged, oval shaped, between the front bumper and passenger footwell. We're not going anywhere. Too many ID tags on the car to cut 'em off and abandon it. "Let's go knock on doors," says I. We start walking to the house closest to where the van was parked. It's now a good 50 feet from the small patch of bare pavement where it stood five minutes ago.

First house, "No, not mine mate go next door."

Next door.
"Sorry to wake you, but do you have a white van?"
"Yeah? why?"
"Err, we just hit it." I'm talking, I've always had a good supply of quality bullshit.
"What happened?" asked white van man.
"Well we were going around the bend at about 20, 'Cos it's snowing, like, and the car just slid and hit your van. Sorry" Oh shit. Here it comes.

"Are you lads OK?" he asks with genuine concern. Yeeesss! I think.
"Do you need a drink? Tea, whisky or something?"

Now bear in mind this is some dude we've never laid eyes on before, who we've dragged out of bed at 5:30ish AM and told him we'd just destroyed his van, the vehicle he uses to earn his living. Well maybe we hadn't got to the destroyed part yet.

"We're fine, mate" I tell him. "Can we just exchange insurance and all that, It's kinda late."
"Certainly, yeah let's do that." He and Kelvin exchange details, we're clear, all we need to do now is leave and collect the car later.

"Let's go and take a look then" says white van man. Shit.
"You sure? It's really early and cold and snowy out there" I offer.

He puts on a coat, we all traipse out to review the wreckage. He looks at the patch of sidewalk with only a thin covering of snow, where his van was left. Confusion creases his brow. He slowly turns his head following the gouges carved into the snow by eight tires.

"FUCKIN 20!!!" he explodes. Fuck.
"Erm, yeah, 20." gulp.

The next few minutes is a blur, of me pointing at Kelvin and three guys slipping and sliding falling, cursing in the snow. Then a long ass hike/run/hike/jog back to Kelv's house.

We recovered the car the next day (or, I guess more accurately later the same day). We parked down the street in my car, and waited to make sure he wasn't around. The van was gone. I took a pry bar and bent the front of the car back from the tire. Took a 4lb hammer and 3" chisel and cut the passenger footwell clear of the tire. The Fiesta started and moved. Success. It limped home to Kelvin's place, abd we parted it out on his driveway.

Kekvin should just about be able to afford insurance again by now.

Christopher Harry never learned his lesson and still does 360s in the snow.

## October 12, 2006

### The Scarf That Wouldn't Die

The following is a guest author submission written by Mike, who has gained valuable life lessons through knitting.

I blame my niece.

Sure, I've gotten it in my head to do or learn things that are wildly inappropriate. SCUBA diving comes to mind (pasty white skin, landlocked in Indiana and that near-drowning incident at the bottom of the local pool with the regulator in my freakin' mouth, etc). Teaching myself to play guitar and my stint as a temporary repo man (The crackheads were scary, but man, did I get some good stories). I can blame those on my usual dumbassery or the job I had at the time. The scarf is Kate's fault.

It all started years ago when she insisted I read Harry Potter. Ten-year-olds can be amazingly persistent so I gave in and was hooked. A while after the first movie came out, I got a Gryffindor house scarf as a gift. It was nice, but I like long-assed scarves. This one was pretty short and the colors weren't as bright as the ones in the movies. So I decided to knit one for myself. It couldn't be that hard, could it?

Problem one: I could pick a set of knitting needles out of a lineup and locate the yarn section at the local Michael's, but I didn't know how to knit.

Problem two: Between certain family issues and my work schedule I couldn't sign up for lessons.

Solution? I bought needles, a skein of cheap, vile acrylic yarn-by-the-pound and a couple of teach-yourself-to-knit books thinking that I'd be wearing my jazzy new scarf by ChristMuccaKwanzzAnalia.

Stupid stupid stupid!

It took an entire year to learn to get the yarn onto the needle, otherwise known as casting on. I still couldnt make stitches though, so I gave up and occupied my time with bar hopping, picking up guys, and one memorable night in the Marion County lockup. Fun times. My ass was saved when I found out that my sister both knits and reads my blog, and that her mother-in-law knits as well. After wearing out batteries in a remote while watching dvd's, hands-on instruction, and lots (and I do mean LOTS) of practice, I could knit. Another or two after that I could purl.

Barely.

Definitely not well enough to waste thirty-odd bucks on good yarn for my scarf. What I needed was a victim. A clueless test-monkey lab-rat who I could make a scarf for. Someone who wouldn't be inclined to find too much fault with the sorry-assed mess that would result would be great. What I needed was someone who was either blind, mentally challenged, or a sweet, trusting child. Ideally, all three. Enter my nephew. Five years old. Obsessed with the color red, the number five and James, of Thomas the Tank engine fame. He wouldn't care how fugly the thing was as long as it was red and had a James patch sewn to it. Plus, he's five, which meant that the scarf would be easier to make since it wouldn't be ungodly long or wide. Even though he isn't blind or mentally challenged, he was about as perfect a sucker victim test monkey as I'm likely to get.

That's when the descent into hell began, back in April. I bought a skein (number one) of acrylic yarn in fire engine red and experimented. And experimented. And decided on the pattern. I got to work. And messed it up. I started over, got further along, then messed it up again. Here's where I learned a hard lesson: It's nigh unto impossible to un-knit cheap-ass acrylic yarn without it going kerflooey and becoming impossible to knit again. Several failed attempts at different times taught me that one. I'm nothing if not stupid and persistent at times. It was painfully slow going, literally. Later on I found out that my shoulders shouldn't have become twisted knots of aching muscles whilst knitting, but I didn't know that then.

April turned into May. Towards the end of that month, a new co-worker saw my latest creation. Jack's scarf, version four. Still heinously ugly, but I was on yarn skein number two after having wasted the five hundred yards of yarn in skein one, so there had been some slight improvement. I still don't know if she's blind or just easly impressed, but impressed she was. Impressed enough to consider teaching herself how to knit as well. Misery loves company, so I gave her my copy of Knitting for Dummies and a set of needles. Meanwhile, my short attention span had caused me to mess up the pattern a few more times. By this time I was starting on the third bunch of yarn (that's 945 yards for those of you keeping count) and scarf version five.

May turned into June. The scarf was finally going really well. It was two feet long with no major setbacks. 2/3 of the way there! Then a visiting friend moved it off the coffee table to set down his gin and tonic. When I saw it the next morning it had been used as a play toy by the friend's dog. All things considered, I was probably lucky to not be cleaning dog blood off the carpet since he could have easily impaled himself on a needle, but it was back to square one. Again.

The scarf got stuck on a shelf for a bit because I would have set it on fire and laughed like Sideshow Bob if I had to keep looking at it.

August rolled around and I picked it back up. I only had four months left if I was gonna give it as a Christmas present, after all. By now, I'm halfway through skein number four. As the month ends, I'm telling myself that those foul-ups aren't foul-ups at all. No... they're design features!

I left it there to remind the five year old that this was hand-made and not some machine made dreck from Kohl's*. Like a five year old would care, right? My friend Becca visited over Labor Day weekend. We'd go out with friends during the day, but by 10:00, we'd be back at Casa Apathy. She with her beadwork, and I with my knitting. We must have made for a demented Norman Rockwell type picture... crafting and chatting in my white-trash living room with a huge Herb Ritts picture of a half-nekkid man, a cement lawn gargoyle wearing Mardi Gras beads on the 42" altar projection tv, and Elvis and Jerry Garcia Christmas ornaments that never quite got put away last January watching over us. I messed up one time many again and had to start over. Even that ideal victim, the blind, mentally challenged child (remember him?), would have spotted this blunder.

Enough was enough. I was gonna finish this scarf if it killed me. I cleared my exhaustive social calendar, kept the tv off, threw in some tunes, and knitted. And knitted. And knitted. And finally, mercifully it was finished. Feast your eyes. Fifty inches long by 2 3/4 inches wide. Pretty harmless looking, eh? That monster ate up more than three thousand feet of yarn before I got it right, and I still have to put the fringe on it, but that can wait. I'm working on my scarf now, and it's going a damn sight better.

I did learn some things though:

Never knit poolside when there's eye candy about.

Likewise, never knit while watching Beefcake shows like Footballers Wive$. Cheap yarn is Hell to work with. Don't listen to music that's too mellow. On the other hand, Megadeth didn't work so well either. Guns 'n'Roses, Husker Du, NIN and the Cult were very motivational. It's better to have a clueless patsy model your first attempts than you doing it yourself. That way they're humiliated by the person rolling on the floor rather than you. *Oh, and I love Kohl's. Almost as much as Target. In addition to knitting fine acrylic products, Mike blogs over here. ## October 9, 2006 ### DVD Review - Star Wars Original Trilogy This is a guest author submission by Dorkafork A lot of you probably already own a copy of the Star Wars Original Trilogy, and you may be wondering if there's any point in buying yet another copy, namely the new limited release DVDs of the Original Trilogy. Though I have difficulty recommending it, it's still the best version that is and will be available for the foreseeable future. Even if you have a DVD backup of the laserdisc version. While that is good, it is also tragic, since the DVDs are not nearly as good as they could have or should have been. She'll make point five past lightspeed... What are on the DVDs? Each film is sold separately, no box set. Each comes with an Original Trilogy DVD, plus a decorative coaster that plays the Special Edition version if you put it in a DVD player. Each Original Trilogy DVD contains a demo of Lego Star Wars II for Xbox. And each begins with a quick animated title menu. That's it for special features. The sound is Dolby Digital 2.0, and the DVDs install PCFriendly if you put them in a computer drive. This deal is getting worse all the time... The film itself is a direct transfer of the 1995 Laserdisc release. As far as video quality is concerned, it is virtually indistinguishable from the Laserdiscs. This also means the DVDs have the exact same flaws as the '95 Laserdisc release. There are a few instances of telecine wobble that are noticeable. The DVDs are not anamorphic. In plain English, this means the video quality will suffer if you try to watch it on a widescreen TV. The worst flaw the DVDs have is the layer changes. This problem may vary depending on your DVD player, but probably not by a whole lot. What happens during the layer change is that there is a noticeable pause in the playback of the DVD. I've only noticed it in 4 places. The first is in Star Wars, right before the Millenium Falcon comes out of hyperspace near Alderaan, and is barely noticeable. The other 3 are all in the same place: a noticeable pause right before the end credits in each movie. This pause is probably the worst in Empire, with the slow buildup of the music leading to the more energetic Star Wars theme. It sounds like the first blaring horn has a hiccup. (Here's a recording.) They told me they fixed it! It's not my fault! The video quality itself is good, better than any other version I've seen, but it isn't nearly as good as it could have been. Although the original Laserdisc versions were "Remastered", this wasn't a "remastering" of the sort you find on modern-day DVDs. The video quality is a bit rough in places. The colors don't look quite as vibrant as they could have. There's quite a bit of dust and scratches visible throughout the movies. For the most part it isn't too bad, though it is more noticeable in scenes in space. Again, these are all flaws from the Laserdisc version. It is still slightly better than any Laserdisc-to-DVD transfer around, and depending on the Laserdisc player may give a slightly better picture than the Laserdiscs themselves. (You can do a comparison for yourself here. "GOUT" is the new release.) The main thing that differentiates the new release from other Laserdisc-to-DVD transfers is the sharpness of the picture. Other LD-to-DVD transfers tend to look blurry, there's some loss when the analog Laserdisc signal is captured, plus possible loss depending on the quality of the Laserdisc player. This sharpness does have minor drawbacks. Because the picture is so sharp, this makes the specks of dust and scratches more visible. It also gives some scenes a particularly grainy look. (For an example, look at Scene 6 in the previous link.) Ultimately I think this is a small price to pay for such a crisp picture. Who's scruffy-looking? Despite its flaws, it is still fantastic. In fact, if there's a silver lining to the flaws in the video, it's this: they are the types of flaws you'd see in the film projections of the movies. I felt like I was in a movie theater, and that I'd walk outside, get in a Chrysler Cordoba, and drive to the store to buy a mood ring and some Pac Man cereal. The Original Trilogy DVDs will be available until Dec. 31. P.S. Obligatory rant about George Lucas. He's more machine now than man. Twisted and evil. No, no better version of the Original Trilogy is going to be released. Not for next year's 30th Anniversary, not in HD-DVD, nothing. How do I know this? Besides Lucas' previous comments on the matter, the current release shows how little he cares about the movies we loved. It's a copy of the freaking Laserdiscs. This is supposedly because Lucas cut up the original footage to make the Special Editions. So there is no master film copy of the Original Trilogy in the Lucasfilm vaults. (Not much of an exaggeration.) Then there's another spit in the face: the fact that they upscaled the resolution for the European release (due to technical differences in the TVs), but did not upscale it so it would be an anamorphic release. Anamorphic is pretty much the standard for DVD releases. Daredevil, Gigli, and From Justin To Kelly all had anamorphic releases, but Star Wars did not. If that crime was not enough, if that ignominy was insufficient, here's the final insult Lucas had for the fans: The DVDs of the Original Trilogy are labeled "Bonus Disc". Not "Original Trilogy", not "Theatrical Release", but "Bonus Disc". "Bonus Disc". So when Lucas said "A hundred years from now, the only version of the movie that anyone will remember will be the DVD version [of the Special Edition]...", I tend to think that he still feels the same way. I think this was less an attempt to squeeze further cash from the wallets of Star Wars fans, and more an attempt to stop the irate hate mail he gets daily. From me. About how he shat all over a piece of film history. Dorkafork is a Star Wars Geek who writes here ## October 3, 2006 ### Love Of The Game (and baseball playoff predicitons) Please welcome guest author Jay of Pop and Sports. Today Jay writes about his love of baseball and also gives us predictions for the the playoffs. My son who is 9 recently asked me, "Dad, why do you like baseball so much?" It was interesting question. I answered quickly as I am sure somebody with the attention span of a nine year old wouldn't want to listen to me wax poetic about my love of the national pasttime. But it got me to thinking more about it and why it is a sport that is so special to me. There's a number of reasons. Some are more personal, some are grounded in the game itself and some are historical. On the personal front, my father introduced me to baseball. I spent the early years of my life in Sunnyside, Queens. We lived in an apartment in Sunnyside Gardens on Barnett Avenue between 44th and 45th street. The LIRR trains would go by right across the street behind this big long row of garages that for whatever reason, I can't remember anybody using. Outside the apartment we had a small yard where my father taught me how to play baseball. It was amazing because for a guy from Brooklyn with a hot temper, my father was amazingly patient teaching me to throw, catch and hit. I can remember vaguely being pretty bad at first, but over time getting better and better. My best friend for some time was a Korean kid named Eugene that lived in the apartment building up the street. My father would come out and be the automatic pitcher while Eugene and I played against each other. My loyalty as a fan to the NY Yankees came from my father as well. Frankly, I am surprised I wasn't raised a Mets fan. My father was raised in Brooklyn. Thankfully, he didn't migrate to the Mets after the Dodgers and Giants left for California. He remained a Yankees fan. I lived in Queens, which for the most part was Mets country. Still, I remember my father telling me how the Yankees had won the World Series in 1977 (I was still too young to stay up and watch). But what made me a Yankees fan for life was my first trip to Yankees Stadium in 1978. As much as I have forgotten about that trip, there are a few things I remember vividly. One is that we sat in the right field stands. Prior to the game, Reggie Jackson turned and waved in our direction. The Yankees were playing the Tigers and the Yankees lost 3-1. The Yankees loss became somewhat of a running joke in our family. It seems every time my father took us to a game, the Yankees lost. Fast forward to 1996. The Yankees are once again in the World Series. Things looked bleak after two games. The Yankees were beaten handily by the Atlanta Braves. However, the Yankees reeled off three straight in Atlanta and were going back to the Bronx. By this time, I was 26 years old and married. My wife and I were expecting our first child and I was working as a commodities broker in New York. During my time there, a shipping company we did business with quite a bit was always giving us Yankees tickets. I got a call from the rep and he wanted to speak to my boss. She was busy and didn't want to talk to him. She told me to ask what it is he wanted. He replied, "Tell her I have World Series tickets." My heart skipped a beat. I relayed the message to her. She looked at me for a moment and said, "You take them." I practically fell out my chair. The only decision to make was whether or not I wanted tickets for Game 6 or Game 7. I took the two tickets for Game 6. Up until this time, I had never even been to a playoff game, let alone the World Series. Here was the chance to go to the World Series with a chance for the Yankees to win it. We all know how it ended. The Yankees celebrated their first World Series title in 18 years, and all was well with the world. Baseball is also a sport of moments. Specific moments captured in time that change games in an instant. Think of the famous home runs. Bobby Thompson's 'Shot heard round the world.' Carlton Fisk desperately waving his ball fair in the 1975 World Series. A gimpy Kirk Gibson walking to the plate in the 1988 World Series and hitting one off Dennis Eckersley and doing that arm pump. Joe Carter's walk off game winning and World Series winning home run against Mitch 'Wild Thing' Williams in 1993. Jim Leyritz's three run homer off Mark Wohlers in the 1996 World Series that tied game 4. There are the down moments as well. A ground ball under Bill Buckner's glove in the 1986 World Series. Dave Dravecky going down on the mound as if he had been shot, his humerus bone snapping after a pitch to Tim Raines. A severly blown call by first base umpire Don Denkinger in the 1985 World Series. Then there are the defensive moments. Derek Jeter and what has simply become, "The Flip." Ron Swoboda's diving catch off Brooks Robinson in the 1969 World Series. Willie Mays and what has simply become "The Catch" in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. These moments defined sometimes not just a game, but a series or a season. Baseball is also filled with history. Baseball stadiums are all different. In the other three major sports, the dimensions of the field of play are all the same. In baseball, as long as the mound is a certain height and 60 feet six inches away from home plate and the bases are all 90 feet apart, there aren't many other rules. That's what makes so many parks unique. Certain parts of the park have simple names and the fans know what they are. 'The Ivy' at Wrigley Field. 'The Green Monster' and 'Pesky Pole' at Fenway Park. 'The Black' and 'Death Valley' at Yankees Stadium. And who can forget the nicknames? It isn't as common as it used to be, but no sport has nicknames like baseball. 'Lefty', 'The Sultan of Swat', 'The Iron Horse', 'Hammerin Hank', 'Scooter', 'Charlie Hustle', 'Stan The Man', 'The Splendid Splinter', 'The Georgia Peach', 'The Yankee Clipper', The Wizard of Oz', 'Mr. October', 'Donnie Baseball', 'Big Papi', 'The Mad Hungarian', 'Space Man', 'The Big Hurt', 'The Big Unit', 'The Rocket', 'Big Train.' This list can go on and on. Even in the world of cinema, baseball reigns. 'The Pride of The Yankees', 'Bull Durham', 'The Bad News Bears', Eight Men Out', 'Field of Dreams', 'Major League', 'The Sandlot', 'The Natural', and 'The Rookie.' All of those movies have their own charm and cover all aspects of play from the streets, to little league, the minors and the majors. Finally, baseball is a game that doesn't rely on a clock. It has no time limit. In baseball, a team doesn't have to worry about another team running out the clock. They don't have to intiate a hurry up offense or use timeouts seletively in order to get more runs than the other team. They don't have to do a toin coss to see who gets the ball first in overtime. The game is not over until last man is out. The personal relationship. The history. The gameplay. All of it combined makes up why I love the game of baseball. With that in mind, what better way to celebrate the game at this time of the year than to go out on a limb and offer predictions for the upcoming MLB playoffs. I am a Yankees fan, so one might construe my choices as biased, but the Yanks are the real deal this year. Rested, healthy and hungry. A bad mix for their opponents. ## September 14, 2006 ### Let the Bodies Hit the Floor: Drowning Pool Live from Iraq The Safety Officer took the stage and admonished the crowd, telling them that the USO wanted to make this a very safe, and fun event. Because they wanted the event to be fun, the Safety Officer informed the crowd that Command wanted to slacken the rules just a little bit. Soldiers were told they could bend the rules, but not break them. As such, moshing would be allowed, so long as there were no attempts to injure anyone and crowd surfing as well was within the approved limits of what would be tolerated, so long as there were no bodies being tossed or thrown rather than carried aloft. Following a one minute Moment of Silence in tribute to the victims of September 11th, Drowning Pool rocked LSA Anaconda. From the first verses of "Sinner", the crowd took advantage of the loosened rules as Ryan McCombs tore his throat open straining to sing through the dust and dry air. ## August 27, 2006 ### Rollins Band Reviewby: Mr B and W Goddamn, there are few things finer than being psyched for a show and having it kick ass... I've been to way too many shows, but there have only been a few that solidly rocked my ass.... MrBandW knows exactly where I'm coming from... a side note... I just wanted to say a big "Thanks" to Turtle and Michele for letting me take care of the house while they were away. I really enjoy writing for FTTW and am grateful they continue to give me the chance to do so. Thanks guys.... -finn Before this epic begins, I'd like to just say congratulations again to Michele and Turtle. Hope you guys had a good week!! ROLLINS BAND I drove to The T (more commonly known as 'a subway') station just outside of Boston and made my way up the ramp, past all the dejected Red Sox fans on their way out of the city, fresh from the latest loss to the NY Yankees. I was heading in, they were heading out. I stopped at the change machine to get the$3.00 fare and found that all of the machines were out of order, most likely out of money from the throngs that had passed through earlier in the day on their way to see the Red Sox / Yankees game.

Unsure what to do, I walked over to a bench near the train boarding area, sat down and waited. I had the money for the train, just not the exact change. I figured one way or another, things would work out. Eventually a man in a T uniform walked by. I told him how I had tried to get correct change but the machines were not working, showing him my \$5.00 bill for emphasis.

'Don't worry about it, my train is the next one out, I'll let you on'

Nice. Things were working out already.

I had dreaded taking the T into the city simply because of the duration of time it took to get through all the stops, but the traffic was light at this time of day, around 5:30 PM, and most of the people were coming out of the city not going in.

I arrived at the Fenway T stop a little past 6:30 PM and made my way a few blocks down the street towards Lansdowne Street, which happens to be located directly across the street from Fenway Park and is the address of The Avalon, the place where I would be seeing The Riverboat Gamblers, Rollins Band and X later that night. I could see the brick facade and the dimmed lights of Fenway reaching up into the sky ahead.

The main reason for my little solo outing into the City of Boston tonight was to see Rollins Band.

### vlad the impaler by tonkin

When I was a kid, we'd party in the woods... Just for reason's like Tonkin describes below... By the way... Ouch....
-finn

I was at a party at a friend's house where there were about 200 people, the bulk of whom were underage, including myself. You know when there are get togethers in affluent neighborhoods the police always show up.

Well I am good and drunk - it's the middle of the summer so we're all outside on the back patio - and the house we're at butts right up to a rather steep ravine.

Someone yells "COPS" so we scatter - I have two friends with me and I'm leading them through the woods along the ravine. We come up to a wooden picket fence and I boost my two friends over the fence and then climb it myself. Then I look around. We had climbed INTO some asshole's fenced-in backyard.

FUCK I say. So we run to the other side of the guy's backyard and I boost my friends over the fence, this time when they go over the side I hear "aaaaaaahhhhh, *thud*" both times.

I shrug it off, and start climbing the fence. I'm a bit tipsy and my balance isn't great, and I go to push off with my foot and three of the pickets break and I end up straddling the fence, and another picket impales me in the inner thigh, then it breaks off in my leg, and I fall off the fence... and roll down the fucking ravine.

At some point the fucking shank of wood has been dislodged from my leg, and as I lay there, bleeding and disoriented, at the bottom of the ravine, I hear my friends say "HOLY SHIT, are you okay?"

They picked me up and helped me back to the party, which was dead at this point, and got me cleaned up and I finished my binge where I left off.

## August 26, 2006

### Worst Experience Trying To See The Yankees by Jay

Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you keep trying.... For that day, or that task, you are destined to fail.... The world will keep fucking with you until you just give up in disgust... Good news, it works the other way, too... It's a bad day for Jay.... Here's hoping he got some good ones as well....
-finn

I'm not even sure how old I was when this happened. I'm thinking I was like 19-21. That would put the year at 1989-1991. Thinking back, I have to slap myself for even wanting to go see the Yankees during that time. It was an era that I would rather just forget, since they were so bad. This was the Dale Berra/Bobby Meachem era.

The day started out like any other. It was a Saturday. There was beautiful weather. I can't remember what I was doing, but my brother comes up to me and says, "Carlton's mother has 4 tickets for the Yankees game and said we could have them." Of course we could. Who the hell wanted to see those losers? It was like giving away Royals tickets today. But it was the Yankees, the tix were free and I had nothing better to do.

## August 25, 2006

### 100 albums that changed my life: Nos. 60-51by: Andrew

Little bit of music for you on a Friday night... Andrew recounts a few albums that changed his life (check his blog out... lots of goodness there....), and I ask you, dear readers, to post one.... Just one that held and captivated you or opened your eyes to something entirely new.....
-finn

I count it a great honor to guest-post here at Faster Than the World. I'll try not to sully Michele and Turtle's stellar rep as true punks, but if you think this entry doesn't meet the typical fttw standards, just remember: I didn't crash this party. They invited me.

## August 24, 2006

### key west styleby: Kali

Howdy partners.... Kali is up next with a tale of one of my least favorite things to do in the world, moving.... You'd think with all the times I've done it, I'd get at least a little bit used to it..... You never really do, though.... And there's always that one thing that really fucks with you when you get there... You know the one... Kali does.....
-finn

in the mid-nineties i was living in key west. i had moved down there with my best friend because up here in baltimore all of our friends were turning into zombies (read:herion addicts) and it was getting pretty gross. so my friend told me key west was great (she'd been to visit with some guys we met at marti-gras) and that we should move there. i'd just "graduated" from college so i say what the fuck. i could wait tables here or in a tropical clime. key west won out so bye to our friends bye to our haunts…

### drunk elvis by: tonkin

We all do goofy things when we're drunk... Tonkin seems to do them while dressed as "The King".....
-finn

Friday night I had to bartend, but we were very slow. A group of about 10 or 12 of my friends came in and kept buying me shots, since they were my only customers. Well the end of the night rolls around, and I am three sheets to the wind. Mind you, I'm dressed like Elvis, staggering up to campus from downtown Akron (about 5 blocks uphill) to stay at a friend's house because I'm too lit up to drive.

I get to his apartment complex, but cannot remember the number, nor can I remember what it even looks like. Somehow I come across a group of orange parking cones surrounding a pothole in the street, so I do what any drunk bastard would do and pick one up.

As I'm carrying the cone I hear a "woooooop wooooop" police siren and the intercom "Hold it right there!"

Now a rational person would admit defeat, but not drunk Elvis. I started running, with the 40lb parking cone, until I realized it was slowing me down.

So I dropped the cone and kept running, at this time I decide to also lose my jacket, sunglasses, and wig, thinking that they won't be able to recognize me. It didn't occur to me that I still had a GIANT WHITE POLYESTER JUMPSUIT on...

So I round a corner into a parking lot and BAM! Six cops waiting there for me. I threw my hands up and they got me. They threw me up against someone's car, patted me down even though I was wearing a skintight Elvis suit. So it was pretty apparent that the only thing I was packing was between my legs. And oh, yes, that was clearly visible.

One of the cops says "Why were you running, boy?" To which, I reply, "Why were you chasing me?"

I didn't have a wallet or ID, so I gave them my SS# and they ran it, asking me all sorts of questions like what the hell was I thinking, why is a grown man stealing traffic cones, etc.

In the end they let me go, laughing hysterically at the drunken asshole in an Elvis costume that tried to steal a 4 foot orange construction cone.

## August 18, 2006

### the great turtle conspiracy begins...

What are the chances?

As our turtle is getting ready to take over New York, this happens:

The common snapping turtle drew unanimous support in the Senate, but faced a slightly more cold-blooded reception in the Assembly, where it was approved 115-19. So noted: "The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows: The common snapping turtle (chelydra serpentina) shall be the official reptile of the state of New York. This act shall take effect immediately."

This has gotta be an omen, right?

Planets are aligning, dudes. Everything is falling into place. The turtle is king in New York.

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