Friday, April 13, 2007

So I gave my calendar a cursory glance the other day and realized it's that time of year again...

...when I turn from bitching about shoveling to bitching about mowing. Ahhh, the glorious four seasons of Wisconsin: Cold, Fucking Cold, Coldish, and Wish it Was Cold Again. It being Coldish, that can only mean one thing: It's time for families to shrug off that sadly non-fatal cabin fever and spend quality time together...

... doing something that doesn't require them to actually interact with one another on any level.

Such activities include gawking at lethargic animals far removed from their natural habitats, sitting at a ballpark waiting for the top of the seventh inning so you can go home and do something interesting, and not catching fish.

And, of course, an event-free trip to the Milwaukee Public Museum.

Yes, for some reason, folks plan their annual sojourn to southeastern Wisconsin's premier collection of quartz in the less chilly months of the calendar year, despite the fact that all the displays are climate-controlled and decidedly indoors. I guess the rationale is that Winter (i.e. Fucking Cold) is reserved for watching such stimulating intellectual television fare as "American Idol: The Sixth or Seventh Season" and "Bachelor: Some Smug Prick Selects a Shallow Whore... in Rome!" Learning while being quietly bored is strictly a springtime activity.

The Milwaukee Public Museum is an ideal spot for anyone interested in dropping a week's pay to see dead things and exhibits that never change. It also boasts the Midwest's largest collection of dead-eyed, life-sized mannequins responsible for causing that crippling doll phobia of your youth. The following is a helpful guide for the uninitiated intended to suggest points of mild interest in this exquisite and breathtaking cabinet of curiosities.

Now, I haven't been in the building for over a year, but trust me. It's still the same. It's always. the. same.


The Streets of Olde Milwaukee exhibit harkens back to a day when the letter "e" was inserted at the end of adjectives to make them look more affected. This happens to be one of the museum's more popular setpieces as it reminds Milwaukeeans of a time when their city was just as filthy and boring, but refreshingly free of black people.

Things to look out for:

> The bell at the apothecary's office that fails to ring or summon anyone. Push to your heart's content, little ones! The damn thing doesn't do anything!

> The nickel-and-dime movie theatre. I seem to recall that once upon a time one could go in there and see piece-of-shit nickelodeons. This is no longer the case. Boo-fucking-hoo.

> That creepy old lady rocking on her porch

> That creepy old doctor standing in his office

> That creepy old photographer whose flash goes off just as you turn away

> The pub. There's a bust of a naked lady behind the bar. Hee hee!

> The candy store, manned by actual breathing people. Because Americans love to gorge themselves on sweets whenever offered the opportunity, this is the single most annoyingly crowded space in the entire building. However, brave the obese masses and fetch yourself some rock candy on a stick, as this will offer you something to grate your teeth against while enduring the rest of the museum's pulse-relaxingly dull offerings.

> The subtle lead-in to...


Tired of traversing the cobblestone streets of "yore" hometown? Then step onto the equally cobblestoned streets of olde-ish Europe. Which is basically exactly the same as the streets of Olde Milwaukee.

Only with chickens.

Many people don't realize that across the Atlantic, every city consists of precisely one house belonging to a family representing each of Europe's different nationalities. And to assist the nosy tourist, there is a helpful placard prominently displayed in the window of each house to let you know if you're spying on a potato-peeling Irishwoman or perhaps a side-switching Italian; a cowering Frenchman or maybe even an Armenian that nobody cares about.

One thing is consistent, however: Still no black people.

Don't worry. They get their own special sub-exhibit. Tucked in an out-of-the-way corner. Somewhere. I think. I've never really looked for it.

Things to look out for:

> Around Christmas, a special evergreen tree hangs suspended, upside-down, high above the fountain in the square, as if to say, "Start another war, you oven-lovin' krauts, and you'll wish we were just dropping fir trees on your ass."

> A Spanish lass beating a rug or something on a balcony. Near a chicken. On the roof. Because this is where chickens roost as a habit in Europe, I guess. Anyway, she's kinda cute for a mannequin. If, you know, if you're into that kind of thing...

> The display of ratty ethnic dolls


What better place than a faux rainforest to look at bugs, snakes, and bats, and hear teenage future trophy wives squeal, "Eek! Look at the bugs, snakes, and bats!"? The rainforest exhibit is actually fairly tolerable in that it allows one to enjoy both the fascinating natural wonders that the Amazon has to offer coupled with the piece of mind that comes with knowing they're all thoroughly dead. After all, rodent-devouring centipedes are cool on youtube; less so when digging their venomous fangs into your three-year-old son.

Actually, that would be kind of cool, too...

Things to look out for:

> The jeep that plays "La Bamba" on a continuous loop

> The "I Spy" plant with various tiny critters scattered around it and a diagram on the wall letting you know what to look for. Effin' sweet.

> The bat cave. Not the cool one with all the superhero gadgets; just a fake cave with some fake bats in it.

> An anaconda eating a caiman


*sigh* A snake eating an alligator.


Shut up.

> The dead bug preparation room. Complete with fake geeks.

> The howler monkey button; arguably the second best contraption in the entire museum. Push this just as old folks walk by. They hate that. Trust me.


Ahhhh, the dinosaur exhibit: the thought alone is enough to make every child's heart leap and every Bible Belt-ers blood boil, and not in the good old-fashioned "plague of" way.

It pains me to admit that I myself hate the museum's dinosaur section on account of its keynote display: a life-size depiction of a tyrannosaurus feasting on the juicy internal (now external) organs of a recently slaughtered ceratopsian. Never mind the fact that the carnosaur in question has not a scratch on him after apparently doing one-sided battle with a monstrous, multi-horned testorene machine that outweighs him by several tons (or "tonnes," if you're English and can't spell) --

Well, actually, mind that fact. The triceratops and its kin are my favorite dinosaurs, and I have no doubt they pounded the T-Rex's overrated ass left and right across the plains of Cretaceous Montana. Goddamnit. That exhibit pisses me the fuck off every time I see it. Total mind-boggling bullshit. How was I not consulted in the creation of that diorama? Double goddamnit!

CONCERNED CYNICKITE: Have you considered therapy?

Mind your own business.

Things to look out for:

> The glaringly erroneous claim that the stegosaurus weighed in at seven tons when it was actually closer to two. I knew this in kindergarten. Milwaukee is apparently where the paleontologists from community colleges are sent.

> The little screen showing a biome that changes from desert to tundra and back again at the press of a button. This is a gripping chance to exercise one's god complex... for all of two seconds. After that, you're just pushing a button. Which seems to be the museum's key selling point, now that I think about it.

> The room of quartz. Ahhh, experience the sundry wonders a cramped cubbyhole filled with sparkly glorified rocks has to offer. Actually, you have no say in the matter, cause you have to pass through here to exit the dinosaur exhibit.

> There's a fake paddlefish in the fake stream behind the fake tyrannosaur eating the fake pentaceratops. Pretty fakin' cool.

> Touching the giant false leg bone near the reconstructed torosaurus skeleton. It's just like not touching a real dinosaur fossil!


It is impossible to celebrate the heritage of our medicore state without devoting an entire museum wing to North America's casino-establishin', bead-barterin', firewater-swillin', thunderstick-fearin', totem-polin', bull-sittin' former tenants, the [insert current tepid politically correct phrase for "Indians" here]. In this unmemorable part of the tour, you'll see Indian mannequins in native dress dancing (read: remaining stationary while sliding along a concealed track in a predetermined path) to the sounds of pre-recorded native drums... all for the pleasure of the very white men who subjugated their people and named rivers after them.

Things to look out for:

> Indians are always blabbing about how in tune they are with Mother Nature and the Great Earth Spirit and all that eco-friendly horseshit...

... so naturally the setpiece of this exhibit is a graphic, life-size depiction of a group of bloodthirsty natives slaughtering the fuck out of a group of terrified bison. If these assholes were really so gung-ho about co-exisiting harmoniously with the world around them, you'd think they'd promote more of a vegetarian, non-majestic-bison-massacring lifestyle. At least the white man shot the poor dumb brutes from a distance while they were grazing peacefully, rather than running them down like a gang of sociopaths from a lousy Stephen King movie.

> The tiny diorama showing Indians living at the same time as the mighty mammoth...

... aaaaand driving said mammoth off a cliff.


> If you take nothing else away from this blog entry -- and you won't -- remember this: There is a small rattlesnake sitting on the righthand side of the anti-bison display as you face the exhibit. Embedded within the rocks near this rattlesnake is a small button that, when pressed, causes the serpent to shake his tail and emit a low rattling sound.


Press this button, and press it often. Show it to others* and receive their undying gratitude and adulation. Enjoy it, for this will be the only part of your museum trip worth repeating to your friend (no, that is not a typo).

* For example, Laura's sister Carrie, who would never have known of its existence without the gracious tutelage of yours truly. BWA-HAHAHAHA! Suck it, Carrie!


This is a giant tunnel that starts with tuna and ends with glow-in-the-dark shit you can't see. Kind of a metaphor for life, really.


The movies have attempted to convince mainstream America that mummies are, indeed, cool. Archaeology has done its level best to abolish this entrancing notion, and the Egyptian exhibit in the Milwaukee Museum has put the last nail in the sarcophagus, so to speak. In real life, mummies are highly unlikely to rise up and invoke curses against you, unless it's the Curse of Blowing 18 Bucks to Look at Rotting Child-Kings.

Things to look out for:

> The Cleopatra display. She's about to get her asp on. The display marker makes a point of informing us that Cleopatra would have been considered quite ugly by modern standards. Well, no shit, Cosmo. Nobody was attractive before the 1990's. Have you ever paged through your parents' yearbooks and wedding albums? Holy crapping Christ, people, it's a wonder the human race ever got busy in the first place. And that they continued doing it through the Dark Ages and the Nixon administration? Yikes...

> A double-decker display of mummified remains. Just... lying there. Remaining quietly mummified. *sigh* Leave it to Egyptology to make Death boring.

> Row after row of priceless historical artifacts... in the center of which is a TV screen showing clips of the Mankiewicz/Taylor debacle Cleopatra in all its gaudy, eye-soring glory. Not... not quite sure just who they're trying to appeal to there...


Oh, and then there's AfricaAsiaSouthAmericaMiddleAmericaPacificIslandsThe Arctic.

Things to look out for:

> The ersatz igloo, pumped full of recirculated air -- you know, as per ancient Inuit tradition. People who enter it will invariably utter such profound statements as "It's cold in here" and "When are we going home?"

> The Eskimos stabbing at some poor seal through the ice. The curators seem to have a fetish for native americans eviscerating dumb animals.

> The hall of shrunken skulls in the South Pacific. Not to be confused with the disappointingly skull-free musical South Pacific.

> The moth-eaten collection of exotic animals in the halls of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. On the one hand: A dusty old Cape buffalo squatting in a swamp? Sure, neat, whatever. On the other: Stuffed squirrels and sparrows? Come on. I mean, was it really necessary to include an exhibit highlighting the very fauna I'm indoors trying to avoid?

> The rock garden in the Orient, land of mystery, rugs, head-scratching commercials, and footwear that can't be worn indoors. The fake rock garden. Because if there's anything more compelling than a real rock garden, it's a fake one.

> The dark alcove, also in the Asian exhibit, that houses an ostentatious display of... swords? chairs? chamberpots? I don't-- you know, I don't really know what they're showcasing in that glass case. I always check it out whenever I'm there, but I always come away as nonplussed by it as I am by all Asian culture, such as anime, paying large sums of money to eat uncooked flesh, and houses made of paper.

> There is no reason to visit the Middle or South American halls. Not unlike the regions they are modeled after.

THE IMAX-ed Out My Credit Card to Afford this Movie EXPERIENCE

Have you ever been to a movie theatre and thought to yourself, "Why isn't Harry Potter's head bigger?" Well, you're in luck! The Milwaukee Public Museum happily caters to the "bigger is better" style of living that has made Americans reviled the world over. And nowhere is this more evident than showing a documentary about sea cucumbers on a movie screen the size of an ocean liner. Evidently, this bloated excess is intended to enhance the moviegoing experience by immersing one more fully into the film. I believe this was also the prevailing theory behind 3-D movies.

And we all know what a runaway success that was.

Things to look out for:

> The screen. You-- you really have no other choice...


Here it is. The only reason any child endures a lengthy visit to Milwaukee's answer to Lunestra: the gift shops. I won't bother harping on the fact that they're criminally overpriced -- and, oh, Christ, are they -- but will instead focus on how painfully dull they've become as I've aged, perhaps in an effort to keep up with the tedium on unwavering display at the rest of the museum.

I mention this only because the museum gift shops of my youth kicked ass. Hell, I still have books, toys, and other memorabilia obtained from them after dutifully traipsing through the Hall of Human Waste*. But now-- now the shops kowtow to the pretentious, elitist artsy-historical set, people with plenty of disposable income and the erroneous yet steadfast belief that it will buy them class and intellect. It will not, but it will net them a pretty sharp mug shaped like King Rameses II's head.

* This did exist at one time. I kid you not. Had something to do with how wasteful we humans are. To drive home this monumentally obvious point, the brain trust behind this exhibit decided to add yet another garbage dump to humanity's legacy. Ironically, the exhibit has since been trashed.

Things to look out for:

> The rhinoceros viper stuffed animal. If you see this, buy it for me. It's only like $10, and I'm kicking myself figuratively for not getting it when I had the chance.

> The Exit sign


There. Now you've seen the museum this year. No need to support the furthering of human knowledge by paying to see butterflies flit about.

Yes, that's an exhibit, too.

In closing, get the blue raspberry rock candy. You will not be disappointed. Until you re-enter the museum proper.


Roughly this time a month ago, I had what can only be described as the single worst audition I have ever experienced in my life, even worse than the one in which the play was cast by the effeminate director while the rejects stood onstage with the winners. Fun night, that was.

Anyway, picture in your head the stereotype of the typical stage director. Got it? Glasses, arty, vague, pretentious, affected, purposefully disorganized, spouting meaningless buzzwords like "organic"... yeah, there you go. Well, loath as I am to admit it, this is not how many directors I've worked with actually behave. In fact, I was beginning to lose hope in the posturing, hippy-dippy theatre impresario caricature...

... until the auditions for The Importance of Being Earnest, that is.

This woman-- this... homely, stork-like talent vacuum -- who bore more than a passing resemblance to a female version of Egon Spengler from Ghostbusters -- put us through the ringer of pointless, ludicrous theatre activities, almost as though she were trying to prove the fact that just because it's a stereotype doesn't mean it's not true.

We lined up like obedient little mini-fascists and shared our favorite foods. Then we walked across the stage saying our names. Then we skipped across the stage saying our names. Then we walked across the stage again, this time without saying our names ... names which we wrote down on the forms she had in front of her vacant face for the express purpose of not having to chant them while skipping across a hardwood floor, the dizzy bitch.

Then we played imaginary dodgeball. Yes, you read that correctly. We played imaginary dodgeball... with an imaginary dodgeball. Because, if you know anything about the erudite, Wildean period comedy-of-manners The Importance of Being Earnest, you are well aware that imaginary dodgeball plays a critical part in the development of the plot.

Oh, and we're not done yet.

One hour into the auditions, and we still haven't touched the script yet. But there's still plenty of time to play "Weeds and Flowers!" What is "Weeds and Flowers," you ask? "Weeds and Flowers" is a theatre exercise used to determine if your director is an incompetent hack who couldn't direct traffic on a one-way street. If she makes you play "Weeds and Flowers," she is this kind of director. The women had to "become flowers" and the men had to "become weeds."

For this reason, I shall refer to this artistically-challenged non-wit as "the weed whacko" for the remainder of her unforgivable existence.

So the weed whacko finally got around to oddly matching us up in groupings that would make it impossible to effectively determine our compatibility with one another while reading poorly-chosen selections from the script. This part was almost as insufferable as all that came before. Leave it to a theatrical type to suck the joy out of one of the most brilliant comedies in the history of mankind.

And please let's not get me started on her ambiguous miscommunication about the callback and casting process, along with the cowardly, late-night mass email rejection I received from her cohort several days later. Because, believe it or not, my person can only sustain so much unfiltered bitterness and spite.

CONCERNED CYNICKITE: Didn't get the part, huh?

Er... no.

However, I will not succumb to my seething rancor and place her name in the annals of this blog, not so much out of uncharacteristic graciousness as fear of being slapped with a libel suit. If you're an actor in the Milwaukee area, however, feel free to email me at the link posted on my profile page and I'll be happy to name the drip in question as part of my community [theatre] service. Apparently she's a nurse who fancies herself an artist. If she were ever my nurse, I'd gladly choose death.

For her.

CONCERNED CYNICKITE: So, about that therapy...

Shut up.

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

So I was shovelling 3.5 metric tonnes of snow off of my driveway the other day and I thought to myself...

"God, I hate this [expletive deleted]ing state." And then it occurred to me: Perhaps I could channel this avalanche (LOL!!1!) of unrestrained rancor into a more useful outlet.

Such as a blog no one pays me to write.

Anyway, the following is a fun and fact-free romp through the natural world of the greatly negligible state of Wisconsin, focusing on its diverse and largely annoying population of indigenous animals (of the non-beer-swilling variety).

BLOG READER WHO SHOULD BE ENTERING EXPENSE REPORTS OR DOING SOMETHING EQUALLY DREARY: Wow. Kind of a long stretch from "snow" to "North American wildlife," don't you think?

Good point. Maybe I'll just skip this entry entirely and read the latest enthralling update on your online diary-uh.

BLOG READER BLAH BLAH BLAH: Oo, today's entry is all about a poem I found on somebody's myspace and a conversation I had with my sister about last night's "Grey's Anatomy!" I also embedded a youtube music video by an artist who's unpopular for a very good reason.

(long, uncomfortable pause)

Are we done here?


Right. Now, on with whatever the hell it is I'm crabbing about this month.

Greetings, children! Have you ever been rudely forced out-of-doors just as you sat down to watch the latest seizure-inducing episode of some creepy Asian cartoon featuring spiky-haired, round-eyed waifs throwing playing cards at one another while shouting gibberish?

What a bummer, right?


So very wrong, stupid. It is essential that you learn to leave the safety, warmth, and comfort of your sturdily-constructed home -- even though it symbolizes the endpoint of the entire reason our species evolved, exited the leopard-infested jungles, and cultivated civilizations in the first place -- for two excellent reasons:

1.) Your mother/legal guardian/babysitter/father's-friend-Lance needs "alone time" to "watch her stories" and "balance her serotonin levels with various prescription medications."

2.) You're getting fat, America. Or so the scare tactics on the television newsmagazine shows would have me believe.

Oh, and Nature is filled with wonders beautiful and intriguing and special and edible and fatal and recyclable and all that.

Why, here in my very own you'd-think-it'd-be-more humble state of Wisconsin, the creatures you're bound to run into while walking in the park wearing just your trenchcoat, or driving 15 miles above the speed limit on dark country roads, or blindly shooting at anything in range, are many and varied, indeed. For instance...

1.) The squirrel

The squirrel is something of Wisconsin's mascot. Only it's not. This is because squirrels are about as prevalent as grass, rocks, and glassy-eyed Packer fans in our state. Jittery, greedy, and ubiquitous, the squirrel is the bane of little old ladies' birdfeeders and acorn activists everywhere.

There are two main species of squirrel in Wisconsin: grey and red (which is apparently Latin for "kinda brownish"). As you can see, the scientific community didn't bother wasting any more time naming these humdrum tree-humpers than they absolutely had to.

2.) The white-tailed deer

This flighty, embarrassingly cowardly ungulate earns its name due to the white strip of fur located on the underside of its stubby tail. While bounding gracefully away from hunters -- many of whom, apart from being homely, are also apparently bad at hunting -- these yellow-bellied bastards flick the whites of their tails in the air as something of an artiodactylian "fuck you" to their would-be murderers.

For hundreds of thousands of years, the deer population participated in a finely-tuned predator-prey relationship with the wolves, cougars, and bears also found in our state. Eventually, however, scores of settlers of European extraction showed up and had a lot of firearms on their hands, but not a lot of legal reasons to shoot other European settlers (having duly cleared out the Not-Technically-Indians years earlier). Now, I imagine none of them had the foresight to actually plan to decimate the natural predators of the most common large herbivore in the Midwest in a concerted effort to skyrocket the deer population, thus granting future sportsmen a viable excuse to squat in the woods once a year and visit STD-riddled strip bars, but decimate them they did...

... And now I'm dodging North America's sorry answer to the antelope every night on Hwy 57. Thanks a lot, Puritans.

3.) The black bear

People are always disagreeing about the proper way to conduct oneself in the event they encounter a bear. Should you play dead? Offer it your backpack? Stand up to it? Poke it with a stick? Walk backwards calmly? Do the hokey-pokey? Turn yourself around?

Here is T.C.I.'s personal, time-tested strategy for avoiding a traumatic bear-mauling:

Don't go to where bears are.

Works. Every time.

4.) The raccoon

Ah, yes. The raccoon. Nature's hobo. Digging through your trash can, washing rotten apples in the local water supply, eating things that people listed in the Guinness Book of World Records wouldn't put near their oral cavities... the raccoon is truly a filthy fucking bum.

To make matters worse, the new mothers are always getting run over by cars, leaving their squalling, helpless babies on the side of the road to send shooting pains of sympathy down your aorta. Please be forewarned, however. T.C.I.'s family, being suckers for lice-ridden potential rabies-carriers, took it upon themselves to "save" two such orphaned transients once upon a time. This was fun for a few days...

...though not for the raccoons, I imagine, seeing as how they promptly died.

The point, my little cynickites, is this: God clearly hates the raccoon, and wishes him to eat garbage and suffer traffic-related deaths. It is not for you to interfere with His divine plan, no matter how sadistic and amusing it is.

5.) The mosquito

On the other hand, God, that unpredictable deviant deity, adores the fucking mosquito. Why else would they be so relentless, so prolific, so successful, so goddamned motherfucking annoying as all ass-loving shit?

However, they do help spread various useful deadly diseases, such as malaria (which primarily afflicts pretentious globetrotters who brag about crawling around in swamps during the two weeks off from their adventurous job in claims processing) and the West Nile virus (which gave an easily-panicked America something to obsess about after the anthrax scare died down). They also target sweaty fat folks with a procilivity for bananas. And woman-abusers rejoice: only the female mosquito sucks blood. So, that bug yer squishin' on that favorite BBQ-stained wifebeater of yours? It's yet another woman who jes' made you so durned mad sometimes, y'know?

But you still love her. She knows you do.

6.) The robin

The robin is Wisconsin's state bird. They're brown and orange -- the two ugliest colors in the Crayola box -- and are completely unremarkable in every way.

They pull a lot of worms out of your lawn, though. I don't -- don't know if that's good or bad, per se, but it's about the only damn notable thing I've ever seen them do.

7.) The opossum

The opossum is North America's only marsupial*. It looks like an acromegalic rat, behaves like a badger with hemorrhoids, and plays dead more often than your myspace-obsessed emo daughter (potential roadkill that pretends it's actual roadkill. Hee, hee. That Mother Nature is one amusingly twisted old bitch, I tell you what).

* An old Australian word meaning "freak of nature."

Everyone I've ever met has confessed an almost pathological hatred of the poor opossum, and frankly, it's a bit hard to argue with them. Mrs. T.C.I. is especially antagonistic towards the prehensile-tailed bastards. Them, and chickens.

She was raised on a farm. I offer this by way of some explanation.

8.) The rabbit

In case you've been wondering -- and, let's face it, you have -- the difference between bunnies and rabbits is this:

Bunnies are small and fuzzy and cute and appear on TV to hawk cream-filled chocolates during the Messiah of the Living Dead season.

Rabbits eat your pretty flowers, and therefore must be destroyed at all costs.

Mrs. T.C.I. was told that planting marigolds around one's less-obnoxiously-colored flora will deter the ravenous monstrosity that is The Rabbit on account of its vile taste. My sarcastic thanks to the old wife who told her that tale, because now I've got stupid yellow flowers all over my fucking yard, and I hate yellow.

Anyone even thinks about suggesting pink carnations as a natural deterrent to water mocassions and you can take the matter up with my fists, you ass nuggets.

Anyway, a rabbit is the first animal I ever killed after I first learned to drive. My girlfriend at the time, who was in the vehicle when the tragedy occured, thought this was rather humorous. She was also a mind-boggling slut. I'm not sure if one story informs the other...

9.) The water mocassion

Speaking of which, these are big, black, badass snakes, kind of the class Reptilia's answer to Shaft. They sound cool and are wildly deadly and apparently we have them around here.

Naturally, I've never seen one.

Now that I think about it, that might be a good thing. And since we're on the topic of dangerous reptiles...

10.) The coral snake

The coral snake is red and black and yellow, or red and black, or red and yellow, or black and red and yellow and black, or something. It looks amazingly similar to the king snake, which is also a combination of red and/or black and/or yellow, and is poisonous.

Or maybe it's the coral snake that's poisonous*. No one but the field guides ever seems to know, and they're probably just guessing to begin with.

* This is actually true: To be accurate, I should have used the term "venomous" when describing the coral and/or king snake. Animals are venomous; plants are poisonous. However, you are an ignoramus, so I'll simply pander to your deeply-ingrained lack of herpetological training. Idiot.

Here is a helpful, popular, thoroughly unscientific rhyme you can recite to yourself after a colorful serpent bites you in the middle of nowhere:

"Red on black, your name is Jack;
Red on yellow, and it might be a different species altogether, but maybe not. I'm not sure."

Or wait, maybe it goes like this:

"Red on yellow, you're an ugly fellow;
Red on black, there might also be a thin white band separating the two. Or am I thinking of a corn snake? A milk snake? You know, I can't remember. Forget I mentioned it."

Since the coral and king snake are so cruelly indistinguishable, there is really only one thing you can do when faced with such a reptile: Pick it up and let it bite you.

If your hand turns red and starts to swell, it means you probably shouldn't go around picking up wild animals, Marlon Perkins.

11.) The garter snake

Go ahead and pick these guys up. They're pussies.

12.) The bluegill

Bluegills are the pigeons of the sea. They're in every goddamned festering puddle of duckshit from here to eternity, and they're always eating your best nightcrawlers while you're out fishing for actual fish. The only purpose the bluegill serves is to convince the DNR to let you pour gravel around your pier, since the lousy panfish love building nests among the rocks.

Rocks that you laid down, enabling the bluegills to create more stinking bluegills, and thus the intricate dance that is Life continues...

... as sanctioned by the Department of Natural Resources.

13.) The Canada goose

I have nothing to say about these omnipresent shit-spreaders other than to bellyache about their common name:

If you want to specify which goose you're referring to -- "goose" being the noun in this phrase -- shouldn't the adjective used be "Canadian?" What's this "Canada goose" crap?

That's all.

14.) The honeybee

If I see one more woman yelp and jump and wildly flail her arms at the mere sight of one of these glorified mosquitos, I'm gonna give her something to yelp about. You outweigh the fucking thing by 165+ pounds, girlie. It's time to grow the hell up, don't you think?

If you see a spider, on the other hand, well... carry on. Spiders scare the shit out of T.C.I.

15.) The cicada

The cicada is a giant, grotesquely malformed fly that is renowned for its ability to hibernate for 17 years before emerging, perching on the drainpipe just outside your bedroom window, and emitting the most god-awful buzz for hours on end while you're trying to sleep in on Saturday morning.

16.) The blue jay

The blue jay picks on weaker birds, mocks larger ones, hogs all the good seed at the feeder, and abandons its young if a predator treads too closely.

Needless to say, this is my single favorite creature on the North American continent.

Okay, so those are more than enough descriptions of Midwestern food chain placeholders to keep you rascals away from your actual jobs for a few hours.

And please, don't anyone leave a comment saying "Oh, you forgot to mention the beaver! Hee, hee! Get it? Beaver! LOL!" I'm not listing every fucking animal that squats in this miserable wasteland, all right? I've got other things to avoid doing.

BLOG READER WITH TOO MUCH UNSTRUCTURED FREE TIME: You seem to bitch about your home state an awful lot. So which is your favorite state in the Union?

Um... Canada.

BLOG READER ETC.: First of all, not especially funny or original. Secondly, I thought you hated extreme cold and people who choose to speak French over English.

Oh, right. Okay, um... Mexico.

BLOG READER ETC: I thought you hated extreme heat and people who bitch about the government of the neighboring country they illegally sneak into rather than demand rampant reforms from their own nation's ass-munching president?

Oh, yeah. Well, I don't know. I guess Rhode Island hasn't pissed me off lately.

In closing, I also ran over a cat once. I got over it.

Please join T.C.I. in mourning the loss of an endless fount of unique anecdotes: As of the last day of February 2007, I am no longer employed at the fish lab. It was time for me to find a position closer to home, one that paid more and offered nicer (read: any) benefits, and one far less interesting, satisfying, or purposeful. That's right, T.C.I. is now a reluctant and continually kvetching clutcher of the bottom rung of Corporate America's Ladder of Crushed Dreams.

Sadly, the women of Corporate America are far less intoxicating to look upon than co-ed science hotties in their form-fitting tank tops. Ahhh, the sacrifices I make to shut my damn wife up...

Pressing question: Why don't more psychopaths go on bloody shooting sprees in the average office workplace? I mean, high schools, factories, shopping malls, freeways... all perfect places for the soul to wither away in, sure, but really: For pure, unfiltered insanity cultivation, is there any more ideal spot for a madman with a high-caliber rifle and a kink in his beleagured heart to express his dissatisfaction with Life in general than your run-of-the-mill cubicle maze?

Not-- not that I have any plans at the moment, mind you...

Heh, heh. Um, moving on...


The guy who plows our road

For reference, here is an artist's conception of what this jacktard looks like:

Yep. That's him. I imagine.

Since my house is located on the corner of two suburban roads, this dick monkey is always -- maliciously, I assume -- depositing mounds of heavily-packed, all-but-immovable snow right at the end of our driveway. And he's doing it on purpose. I just know he is.

Oh, the innumerable, crushing woes of the American bourgeoisie...

In any case, I hope he contracts West Nile virus and dies.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

So I wanted to compose a special Valentine's Day edition of my blog denouncing the inanities of womynfolk when it occurred to me...

... a healthy portion of my readership (approx. 5 out of the 7) is composed of baby-bearers.

And while I'm definitely not adverse to biting the hand that feeds me, gnawing it down to the stump seems just a sliver on the ungrateful side.

So, in the immortal words of every living Hollywood screenwriting hack, "to hell with originality!" I'm going back to the well of my limited creativity to take a few healthy sips and maybe, just, you know, jump in and splash around a little...

Here are five more movies I know will blow based solely on the merits-- or lack thereof-- of their trailers.



> The plot as far as I can tell from the trailers: Various ugly tree creatures decide that the magical dreamworld of Terabithia -- located just off the coast of Racine, WI -- has been disconnected from the mainland for long enough. They determine to build a self-anchored suspension bridge spanning the vast gulf that exists between the world of reality and that of computer-generated weird-looking shit.

> Why it will suck: Here we go again. I have no idea what the plot of this fantasy novel set in the Land of the Library's Young Adult Section happens to be, but I'm gonna take an educated guess and assume it involves some neglected child or children escaping the daily unspeakable terrors of his or her pampered suburban life by entering a mystical world of make-believe.

And while immersing themselves fully in this ridiculous waste of time, the spoiled, white bread crybabies conjure up a giant evil robot that steps on things. I guess. I don't know; the trailers are kind of vague on that point.

Anyway, I'm sick of these movies about some perfectly healthy kid boo-hooing about Daddy not playing catch with him every free second of the day. Oh, you poor thing. How selfish of your father to spend 40+ hours a week, toiling at some thankless, 8-5:30, cube-squatting, paper-pushing, interchangeable office job just so he could clothe and feed and shelter your ungrateful little ass. Who do you think bought you that baseball glove in the first place, kid? You think we belong to some socialist utopia that tosses them out for free, all hither-and-thither and willy-nilly-like? And you just throw the damned thing on your bedroom floor when you get home, anyway! Learn to respect the things your parents give you and then maybe we'll talk! Otherwise, get a job and then we'll see how much you wanna play catch after Old Man Jacobson tears you a new one for forgetting to add repeating headers to that Excel spreadsheet you slaved over!

*clears throat*

Ahem. Excuse me. I believe I was channeling my father there for a minute.

The point is, if the kids in this movie are even thinking about bitching about feeling ignored in their charmed lives as citizens of a free, democratic, first world nation, they'd better at least be getting abused on top of it. That's all I have to say.

And please, various gods of the sundry heavens and hells above and below, please, please don't let there be some obvious, tacked-on moral about how the industrial-technological movement is heartlessly displacing the environment and "the good old days" -- you remember, when children were regularly crippled by polio and smallpox and animators had to draw cartoons by hand.

> Why it may not be a complete bust: As I mentioned before, I believe I saw some giant, shadowy creature of a mechanical nature clomping ominously about the trailer. If this turns out to be a Decepticon -- say Devastator, or, ooo! ooo! Trypticon! -- who's become separated from his evil teammates, this is intensely cool.

If, as is far more likely, I was grossly mistaken and it's just some giant shadowy creature we never really get to see, well, fuck this movie. BUST BUST BUST.


> The plot as far as I can tell from the trailers: Head-scratchingly popular hack, Jim Carrey, reeeeeally wants that Oscar, so here's a psychological thriller rip-off of the actually funny Will Ferrell's recent existential comedy Stranger than Fiction.

> Why it will suck: Did I not just mention the words "Jim Carrey?"

Odd thing about the former token majority on "In Living Color:"

Jim Carrey in a comedy = not funny
Jim Carrey in a drama = funny

That Jim Carrey has two Golden Globes to his name is conclusive proof that entertainment award shows have outlived their collective usefulness... whatever that was.

The wife in the trailer seems concerned that Jim Carrey might kill her, as foretold in the plot of the novel his life appears to be mirroring. Seems to me that any woman married to Jim Carrey has far more pressing problems at the moment than her imminent death. Come to think of it, you kind of expect that she'd embrace her homicide with open arms rather than endure a lifetime as the bedmate of that egomaniacal toilet stain.

> Why it may not be a complete bust: Rest assured that Ol' Flubberface'll favor us with plenty of goofy expressions as he delves further into insanity's relentless grip. That should be good for a few unintentional laughs. Also, characters like this usually die at the end, so there's that.



> The plot as far as I can tell from the trailers: The Union of Scrawny, Pasty, Sub-human Freaks with Black, Dead Eyes and the Ability to Run Up Walls is contractually entitled to appear in at least one Hollywood horror film per calendar year. Enjoy.

> Why it will suck: Because movies about malnourished humanoids that only equally oddball children can see are never scary, never interesting, and certainly never original.

First of all, ghost movies are at an inherent disadvantage in that, focusing as they do on mere noncorporeal apparitions (the existence of which is apparently still a matter of extreme uncertainty), our colorless family of "heroes" is never in any immediate mortal danger. Ever. The most these folks have to lose is a few hours sleep and their credibility with friends and neighbors. Inconvenient, sure; possibly fatal, not so much. They should just be thankful they didn't move next-door to a homestead of cannibalistic hillbillies or a lakeside camp filled with horny young counselors.

Secondly, when are film families gonna realize that if the gorgeous, turn-of-the-last-century, recently-renovated, out-in-the-middle-of-cornfields-and-cross-burnings country home of their dreams is ridiculously low-priced... it's because it's fucking haunted? Honestly, people. A nervous realtor in the movies means a brutal, will-be-revealed-to-the-audience-in-sepia-toned-flashbacks massacre occurred in the house in the recent past, and you're about to purchase a home replete with vengeful demons that push picture frames off of shelves.

For comparison, a nervous realtor in real life means the paint used in the house was probably lead-based. This is a far more irritating problem to address than a ghost kid who meows.

> Why it may not be a complete bust: I 'unno. Don't movies like these usually have a pants-fiddlingly nubile young babysitter or blossoming-into-glorious-adulthood teenage daughter in them?


> The plot as far as I can tell from the trailers: Diane Keaton is slowly going senile, and wants it to be documented on film.

> Why it will suck: It seems to me that there exists a disturbingly large contingent of people in this nation who can't get enough of watching Diane Keaton fuck old men. This group of folks needs to seriously consider indulging this fetish in the privacy of their own homes with the appropriate "mature" movies specially produced for their, er, "mature" set, cause ain't nobody needs to see that shit while out on a date.

Now, I fully accept that it must be empowering for such people to know that old coots like themselves can still enjoy sex well into their second century, but why must this gruesome burden fall squarely on Diane Keaton's bony shoulders? Angela Bassett, Dyan Cannon, Amy Brenneman, Diane Lane... these are all perfectly acceptable hot old broads whose bodies need to be displayed openly and often. And for those of you female cynickites who have an equal gripe with decrepit, randy old geezers constantly getting paired with drool-inducingly gorgeous, just-out-of-community-college starlets...

... good for you. Believe me, I, for one, will be perfectly happy when Sean Connery decides to hang his by-now vestigial penis up for once and all and leaves the seduction of such fine young things as Zoe Saldana to the age-appropriate studs in the acting community.

You know, like me.

On another equally obnoxious note, how many goddamned "comedies" do we need telling us, "Hey! Sometimes mothers and daughters have trouble understanding each other! Isn't that wacky?"

Yes, girls. Your mothers can be flaky, or selfish, or old-fashioned, or domineering femynyst bitches, or spineless Stepford wives, or, in the case of Diane Keaton, clinically neurotic, bi-polar messes who flail about the place for no good reason.

And yes, mothers. Your daughters can be hyperemotional, or nasty, or anti-social, or superficial, preening bimbos, or whining, self-destructive emo-girls, or, in the case of Mandy Moore, lousy actresses.

We get it, ladies. You have trouble connecting sometimes. This concept is neither amusing nor fresh. So please, allow Diane Keaton to get back to what she does best...

Making geriatric porn.

> Why it may not be a complete bust: Blonde, perfectly-built goddess Piper Perabo is listed among the cast. Despite possessing one of the worst names in Hollywood history, there exists exactly zero physical flaws on that magnificent reincarnation of Aphrodite.


> The plot as far as I can tell from the trailers: A NASA engineer-turned-corn-pickin'-rube decides to build a rocket ship in his barn.

Somehow, this movie is not being marketed as a comedy.

> Why it will suck: I refer you back to the plot as outlined above. With my jaw dropped. And a stunned look on my face. And a significant loss of brain cells in having witnessed this commercial to begin with.

What the-- ? Who did-- ? Why was-- ? Why? I mean, really, guys, why?

Look, Hollywood screenwriters, just because critics and audiences alike have been bemoaning the lack of original ideas for movies lately doesn't mean that you should run with every original idea. I mean, I can't even grasp how I'm supposed to take this shitfest -- which sounds exactly like a lame Disney family film starring Tim Allen and some chick from the CW network -- seriously.

Apparently, the guy -- this... astronaut farmer -- used to work for NASA. Okaaay, fine. I'll buy that. So, at NASA HQ, was he the man capable of building an entire operable space shuttle... by himself??? And where does Farmer Joe Shmo happen to amass all of the materials required to construct an orbital spacecraft? Kansas must have some pretty impressive flea markets, I tell you what.

ASTRONAUT FARMER AT FLEA MARKET: So I'll take this here flyswatter, and that there chest'er drawers, and this porcelain cow looks kinda sharp, and-- oo, hey! Is that several hundred thousand pounds of liquid hydrogen propellant I see over there? Ya got that in oxygen, by any chance? (To his wife) Look, now, Enid, you put that back. My star-flyin' machine don't need no beaded seats!

I suppose all of these questions and more will be poorly answered in the movie, but damned if I'm wasting money that could be better spent on scotch finding out.

Oh, and a side note for all you Democrats out there: please don't chuckle or, gods forbid, laugh uproariously over the embarrassingly weak WMD joke featured prominently in the current trailers. I mean, I'm all onboard with condemning beady-eyed, talking turd Bush and his Jesus-sanctioned war, but supporting lame topical humor -- particularly in a mind-anesthetizingly pointless film like this -- just isn't going to help the cause.

> Why it may not be a complete bust: For the rest of his career, Billy Bob Thornton can pretty much coast on the good will he engendered with his laugh-out-loud, painfully funny, and unrepetantly nasty tour de force performance in that anti-holiday classic Bad Santa. If you have not seen this movie and have no desire to, you also have no business reading this blog. Take a hike, Snowflake.


Mocking people far more successful than I am is a very constructive and healthy use of my free time, I like to think. Of course, I am writing this from work...

In any case, don't go see these movies. Or do. Whatever. Once you jokers navigate away from this page, you're really no longer my responsibility.

In closing, Jim Carrey and Diane Keaton's epileptic fits have been mistaken for quality acting for years now.


It's gonna drive me nuts if I don't mention a trio of classic plays that deserved inclusion in my Classic Literature that Doesn't Suck section from this entry, so here they are:

> The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde and The Country Wife by William Wycherley, two period comedies that are -- gasp! -- actually funny.

> Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes, a family drama in which the bad guys win... throughout. My favorite character is Machiavellian brother Ben Hubbard, a courtly southern gentleman who'd sell his family and his soul for a couple extra dollars and whose dialogue is a cynic's delight. His penultimate monologue concerning the people who "will own this country one day" is chillingly prescient:

“I say to myself, years of planning and I get what I want. Then I don’t get it. But I’m not discouraged. The century’s turning, the world is open. Open for people like you and me. Ready for us, waiting for us. After all, this is just the beginning. There are hundreds of Hubbards sitting in rooms like this throughout the country. All their names aren’t Hubbard, but they are all Hubbards, and they will own this country one day. We’ll get along."


So my last entry regarding cynical definitions to common theatrical terms seemed to have gone over like a batch of beer-soaked bear claws at the Policemen's Ball (though it wasn't an especial hit with directors, oddly enough). Therefore, I have decided to add a few extra definitions for the snickering pleasure of my more dramatically-inclined constituents.


Lighting Designer: A glorified lightbulb hanger.

A favorite catchphrase of the lighting designer is "Find your light, dammit!" One would think that "finding the light" would be the job they were expressly paid to do, and one would be wrong.

Set designer: An architect who designs houses nobody can live in.

Stage Manager: This bossy little martinet is like a director, only she knows what she's doing. Stage managing is, without question, the most thankless task in the entire theatre world. Stage Managers know this, and therefore make it a point to be insufferable bastards throughout the show's run.

Open auditions: Auditions open to anyone, including people the director hasn't already pre-cast under the table.

Precasting: When a director tells his favorites to try out for an open audition so he can "fairly" offer them the roles he promised them three weeks before.

Some theatres dispense with this charade altogether and openly place actors in roles without auditioning them. Until someone does this with me, these theatres consist of narrow-minded elitist pricks.

Should a theatre decide to pre-cast T.C.I. in the future, please expect this definition to be updated accordingly.

Small parts: According to directors and lead actors, these don't exist.

"Break a leg!": To the layman, this term means "Good luck with the show!" Among those in the theatrical know, it translates roughly to "I hope you break your fucking leg, asshole."

"The Scottish Play:" Shakespeare's ominous tragedy Macbeth has a long and storied history of bringing bad luck to any theatre bold enough to produce it. Some claim it is cursed; others that it is kinda boring and its supporting characters are severely underdeveloped. Either way, thespians being a supersititious and asinine lot, if you simply must mention this classic within the confines of a playhouse, it is considered good manners to refer to it as "The Scottish Play."

That being said, I implore everyone reading this to scream "Macbeth" loudly and frequently should you ever have the misfortune to enter a theatre. This is very rude and annoying and hilarious.

Myspace: This well-known Internet abyss of shameless onanism is apparently utilized by actors and other theatrical types the world 'round for "networking" purposes.

Networking: Inviting others to witness your unrestrained narcissism through the use of garish webpage designs and an irritating loop of a crappy acoustic version of your favorite song. Those who "network" efficiently find they can quickly amass hundreds upon thousands of online "friends." This is far less time-consuming and satisfying than actively going outside of one's home to make offline friends.

Here's a safe rule to help you decide if myspace is right for you: Are you a giddy female under the age of 20? No? Then I regret to inform you that high school ended some years ago. Welcome to the rest of the planet.

Which, sadly, you'll find is not a whole helluva lot different. Still, enough with the myspace already, people. Your list of interests is, ironically, not all that interesting.

OBSESSED, POORLY-GROOMED MYSPACE ZEALOT: You hypocrite! Look at you! You keep a blo-og! It's the exact same thing! Now, I'm gonna go on my myspace account and tell all of my friends I've never meet that you're a big jerk! LOL!!11!1!!1

Myspace is about acquiring friends. Have you ever read my blog? Does it honestly sound like I'm trying to make friends around here?

Curtain call: When the actors line up to take their various bows immediately after the play ends. No matter how strategically the director plans this out, someone will get pissed about their order in the bows. And this person will invariably be you.

Intermission, or Intermezzo: The theatrical equivalent of "halftime." This is the time for the audience members to stretch their legs, purchase concessions, use the restrooms, read the playbills, wonder what the hell happened in the act they just watched, ask their friends what the hell happened in the act they just watched, decide no one knows what the hell happened in the act they just watched, collect their belongings, and drive home.

After the Intermission, the actors are left to wonder what the hell happened to the audience that was just watching.

Popcorn, Raisinets, Goobers, and Snowcaps: You're in the wrong theatre. Actors don't generally have heads that are fifteen feet high.


And finally, on a serious note, I'd like to take this time to say good-bye to a woman who was not only a wonderful influence on my life, but made life wonderful as a rule: "Aunt" Donna Ford.

Aunt Donna was the aunt of two of my dearest friends, Lynda and Angie, and as I've always been an unofficial brother to them, she was my unofficial aunt by extension. She was a warm, charming, highly intelligent woman with a wickedly dry sense of humor. She was also a loyal and vocal supporter of my writing and acting abilities, such as they are, and of all the people in her life whom she cared about.

I will not go into further specifics -- this simply isn't that kind of blog -- but I just need to say that Aunt Donna... Aunt Donna was the kind of individual who makes me wish there was a Heaven, because to never get to laugh with her again seems like the cruelest kind of Hell...

Rest in Peace, Aunt Donna. If I'd known you forever, it would not have been long enough. We miss you.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

So Mrs. T.C.I. has made it clear as Crystal Pepsi that she doesn't like me wasting so much of my valueless time working on my blog...

... and that reminded me, "Hey, it's time to work on my blog."

This week's entry is brought to you courtesy of a failed audition I recently had for a local production of motor-mouthed limousine liberal Aaron Sorkin's military drama, "A Few Good Men." Seeing as "Cwazy" Tom Cruise, Demi-Talented Moore, and Jack "The Self-Caricature" Nicholson (kidding. I love Jack. Even cynics are required to adore that irrepressible old badass) were unlikely to appear in lower Canada (i.e. Wisconsin) to cold read for the leads in question, I figured I might have a genuine shot at the starring role of lt. jg. mr. pu. qt. Daniel Kaffee, the cocky, sarcastic young work-avoider who does a complete and implausible 180 in Act Two to become as noble and thoughtful and serious as any standard, paint-dryingly dull hero is required to be.

It appears I may have grossly overestimated both the broad-mindedness of the highly political theatre system and my own woeful lack of dramatic range. I did, however, reacquaint myself with two hard and fast rules of the theatre:

1.) Directors have decided who exactly you will or will not play long before you even lay eyes on the audition notice in the paper.

2.) Heroic roles are too goddamned boring to enjoy playing.

Hmm... you know, before I let this petty rant spiral into a Charybdis of narcisstic self-pity, it occurs to me that perhaps I should educate those of my rational and intelligent cynickites who wisely choose not to allow theatre within 100 feet of their lives. And so, to my constituents from such illustrious fields as, say, industrial printing press maintenance and athletic supporter sales, please enjoy the following...


A building nobody goes to where gay people act straight and straight people try to convince the rest of the world they're not gay.

Auditions, or Tryouts: The process by which the director decides you are too tall, too old, too fat, too female, too black, too hairy, too interesting, too moral, too intelligent, too not-one-of-his-favorites to suit the part of Man Holding Spear #3. He determines this through an intricate method which entails ignoring you while you stammer over a poorly-selected piece of trite dialogue (or side) as he whispers to his stage manager... who happens to be sitting five rows away from him.

Callbacks: An extension of the audition process. A callback is when you travel 50 minutes out of your way for 5 minutes on stage to hear a decision the director reached 2 days ago.

Producer: An invisible yet surprisingly loud individual who backs the show. He makes all of the stupid decisions, starts all of the problems, takes all of the credit, and does none of the work. Naturally, he makes all of the money.

Director: A producer who, sadly, is not invisible. For a closer look at T.C.I.'s true feelings about a very "special" kind of director, please consult this article (section 2).

Playwright: The guy who writes the words that won't be spoken correctly during the performances. He is the sworn enemy of the director, who believes he can improve on the playwright's ideas. He then goes on to prove he cannot to a remarkable degree.

Romantic leads: The roles young, good-looking people get because they're too boring to be character actors.

Character parts: The roles old, colorful people get because they're too ugly to be romantic leads.

Jack-all shit: The roles T.C.I. gets because he's too not-made-of-cardboard to be a romantic lead and, evidently, too attractive to be a character actor (though he personally knows an entire high school full of women who'd be happy to refute that latter claim).

Ingenues: Pretty young things the director and/or lead actor tries to sleep with.

Bitter, catty old hags: Ingenues over 27.

Extra, or Chorus member, or Supernumerary: An actor with an ego inversely proportional to the size of his quark-sized role.

Ego: The fuel that runs the theatrical machine. Everyone involved in said machine possesses it in spades and trowels, from the star actress who refuses to accept that 85 other people in the city could perform her role as well or better than she can, to the set decorator, who honestly believes the production would grind to a screeching halt if those were irises on the UR. end table instead of lilies.

Without ego, the theatrical world would not only run smoothly, but become an example of enviable harmony and true, artistic vision to be held up for the rest of the planet to aspire to. This idea is about as popular in the world of performing arts as geothermal energy is in the world of reality.

Absurdist, surrealistic, avant garde, and performance "art" pieces: Theatre that is a migraine-fomentingly utter waste of the audience's time, money, and patience. Needless to say, this is the only kind of theatre the National Endowment of the Arts is interested in funding.

Drama: A play that wins awards and cures insomnia.

Comedy: A play that people actually enjoy; therefore, not art.

Farce: A loud, annoying, surprisingly unfunny style of "comedy" that keeps door manufacturers steadily employed.

Musical: A play where the characters break into song after every six minutes of dialogue to mask the fact that the author has only prepared about seven minutes of story. Tourists find nothing odd about this idea and spend exorbitant amounts of money to attend such productions.

Ironically, as much as straitlaced John and Jane Q. American enjoy the flamboyantly homosexual concept of the musical, they still manage to vote against the gay marriage amendment every November. Speaking of which...

Democrat: How you are required to vote if you plan on being welcomed into the theatrical fold. If your views, opinions, and beliefs veer from this rigid norm by even a nanometer, you can expect to be reviled, taunted, and shunned without mercy. Which is ironic, seeing as how the Democrats claim to be the party of open-mindedness.

Set: What the actors are trying not to bump into. Either the best or worst part of any production.

Costumes: Ill-fitting, unflattering, anachronistic clothing an actor constantly complains about while backstage.

Props: What T.C.I. is always forgetting to carry onstage.

Rehearsal: Practice. Pretentious, "serious" actors really hate it when the uneducated masses refer to their rehearsals as "practice," so please, by all means, do this constantly.

Notes: The time immediately following practice when the director gathers his cast and crew together to bear witness to his impassioned love affair with his own voice. This is also the time of the evening when T.C.I. doodles in his script to make it look like he's writing down the director's weak suggestions. Shhhh...

Blocking: Where the director tells an actor to go, which is invariably in direct opposition to what the playwright intended. Whatever the director decides during practice, he will change his mind completely just before opening night.

Opening night: The only time an actor can expect his friends and family to show up and offer either half-hearted sympathy or ridiculously over-enthusiastic praise. After this performance, all he will see is old people. Row after row of very, very old people...

Roses: What women who don't have enough talent to warrant them receive on opening night.

Method actor: Someone who can't act.

Shakespearean actor, or Classical actor, or Tragedian: A prick who thinks that reciting the words of geniuses somehow entitles him to justified feelings of grandeur; a social retard.

Vaudeville: A broad, obnoxious, outdated, and dismally embarrassing form of "acting" that I could have sworn died out in the early half of the last century. Unfortunately, its spirit appears to be alive and well in the black void located at the heart of every ham, mugger, and scenery-chomping hack who thrives in community, college, and professional theatre.

A vaudevillian makes two unforgivable and egregious assumptions: one, that the audience is composed of idiots who need to be winked at, prodded, and informed directly whenever a punchline is about to be delivered, and two, that he or she is funny.

I have never known this second assumption to be the case.

Critic: A job created to allow the metally-retarded to pursue a career in literature.

There it is. The entry that will effectively keep me from being cast in any show ever again.

Not-- not exactly sure why I wrote it, then...

And considering how the preceding adequately conveys the contempt I feel for my chosen "profession," you can only imagine how much I must hate every other career path open to me.

In closing, if my wife asks, this article had a ghost writer.


Goe fuk yursellvs.


T.C.I.'s MOVIE REVIEW MINUTE: This past weekend, Mrs. T.C.I. and I watched the recent blockbuster smash Superman Returns... to Piss Away 2+ Hours of Your Life. Now, I will spare you the obvious criticisms -- i.e. the nobody who played Superman was instantly forgettable; Kate Bosworth made a wretched and colorless Lois Lane, and didn't even do us the favor of being nice-enough-looking to jerk off to; James Marsden played yet another non-variant on his tired "lockjawed, Wonder Bread, All-American boyfriend" shtick; Frank Langella's talents were wasted in an underwritten role as editor Perry White; the movie should have focused exclusively on the unimpeachable pair of Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey as a deadpan Lex Luthor and his socialite floozy girlfriend, Kitty Kowalski -- and instead share a (poorly constructed from memory) conversation I had with my wife during the last big scene in the film (before an interminable "Will Superman die while laid up in the hospital?" bit that anti-climactically caps this sorry sack of superhero shit):

T.C.I.: Wait, wait, wait. He's lifting a fucking island? How is he lifting a fucking island?

MRS. T.C.I.: He just drew his powers from the sun.

T.C.I.: So? That was awhile ago. There's no sun anywhere near him now! He's in a part of the ocean where the sun isn't shining and he's under a giant fucking piece of rock.

MRS. T.C.I.: But he was just drawing his power from --

T.C.I.: Yes, the sun, I know. Who cares? In the beginning of the movie, he was struggling to hold up a runaway jetliner... while the sun was shining brightly for all to see. Now -- with no sun in sight -- he's effortlessly manhandling a fucking landmass... which happens to be made of Kryptonite. And the last time I checked, an airplane weighed in at slightly less than a small continent and had far less Superman-killing Kryptonite in its physical makeup.

MRS. T.C.I.: (giggles)

T.C.I.: What?

MRS. T.C.I.: Nothing. That was just funny.

T.C.I.: This movie is dumb. I wish he died.

Right. How stupid does one have to be to honestly believe that Superman, Lois Lane, or their mop-topped bastard child will ever be in true, life-ending peril during the course of the first movie of the new Superman franchise?

And should I feel somewhat ashamed that I rooted loudly for the trio of store-bought thugs as they kicked the crap out of a weakened Superman, America's Hero? I mean, man, seeing never-not-cool Lex Luthor knock Captain Flawless down a rocky incline... that's pure movie magic right there, people.

Anyway, it's long and boring and has Marlon Brando not playing The Godfather, so don't bother.







Ahem. In case your Sarcast-o-meter is reading off the charts right now, I'm actually not kidding. T.C.I. loves the Chicago Bears, and he hasn't been this excited since he saw The Transformers movie trailer last summer.

Yes, Grossman will choke. Yes, the Colts will undoubtedly fold the Bears into little origami floral bouquets. Yes, Peyton Manning is one of the weirdest creatures to lurch across the face of this stack of fossilized animal remains. And yes, the Half Time show will suck it -- Big Time.

But it's the Bears, people! Illinois's Team! And some of Wisconsin. And parts of Indiana. And Iowa? Maybe Iowa.

You know, I've got-- I've got this weird feeling brewing inside me all of a sudden. It's like-- like suddenly my heart doesn't feel the overwhelming urge to disengage itself from its aorta and bleed itself out. And I no longer fervently wish that the Winter our nation was experiencing was decidedly more nuclear in nature.

Is this... is this feeling... "happiness?" Is that what this is? Am I experiencing what you people refer to as "joy?" "Contentment?" It makes me feel glad to be alive, to be an active member of the society of planet Earth.

I don't like it.

So, to alleviate my inner emotional confusion, I will now start shouting pro-Bears propaganda at the top of my Net lungs:







Also, the Packers suck.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

So I've been revisiting some of the literary classics that were forced upon me by the stale teaching curriculum of my youth...

... and I thought, "Who doesn't love reading about people reading?"

So here it is -- finally -- T.C.I.'s long-awaited, quasi-scholarly critique of...



Now, in order to fully appreciate the concept of turd-sniffingly rotten "classics," one must first ascertain exactly what kind of literature qualifies as a "classic." In order to do this, you must ask yourself the following questions:

1.) Does it hold your interest? Do things happen-- intriguing, exciting things-- at regular intervals throughout the story? To characters who don't make you want to shove your fist through the cheap drywall in your mother's basement?
2.) Is there a beginning, middle, and an end, occuring in precisely that order? Does it not drag out its insomnia-ending plot well past the breaking point of any sane reader?
3.) Does it refuse to harp in a heavy-handed manner on an extremely obvious theme symbolic of the author's frustration with the state of the world at large and his/her contempt for those who could overthrow the status quo but instead choose to do nothing useful... like, say, write a mewling book about it?
4.) Does it have widespread public appeal? Is it championed by regular, normal, likable, down-to-earth, humble, approachable individuals who don't pat themselves on their throbbing cerebellums whenever they let drop a pithy bon mot.
If you answered yes to any or all of these questions, you most definitely do not have a classic on your hands.
And in case you were wondering, you also do not have a John Grisham novel on your hands. Writing skills above the level of a third-grader are generally required before a book can be considered literature.
Classics are randomly selected by self-appointed critics and scholars, or pricks, who judge a literary work on its various merits, such as how effective it is in boring the ever-loving crap out of people, or how shamelessly it promotes socialism. For instance, does it have dinosaurs? That would be cool, so no, it is not a classic. Does it feature existentialism, homoerotic themes, and French people? Bingo! I probably had to read it in high school.
The following is an incomplete list of classic literature that I have read, partially or in full, that, quite honestly and without debate, reeked of day-old chamois shit.*
* The chamois (pronounced incorrectly) is an antelope indigenous to the mountains of Europe whose skin is apparently useful in washing convertibles and constructing bike shorts. Such is the majestic nature of humanity's love for its fellow creatures.

1.) Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
> Plot: A saucy cat named Heathcliff beats up dogs and eats lots of fish in a comic strip set on the tempestuous moors of England. He's also a completely irredeemable dick who fucks up every life he touches with impunity. Oh, and his girlfriend, Catherine, is a fucking bitch, too.
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Cliff's Notes
> Why it's considered a "classic": We have flighty, pillow-headed womenfolk to thank for this one, folks. Throughout history, it has been proven beyond possible argument that women just loooooove bad boys. Heathcliff is the prototypical bad boy. Therefore, he's a misunderstood, romantic soul who simply needs a woman strong and caring enough to set him back on the right path. And the perfect woman for this ridiculously futile task? Why Catherine, the world's most manipulative [harsh slang term for female genitalia], of course.
I hated these two self-absorbed, crybaby bullies. They're pissed off because life is hard. Yes, that's right. Once again, literature foists on us two young, perfect, pretty people who whine about how unfair the world is to them. Excuse me for a moment while I cry into my handkerchief, please (Editor's Note: In the previous sentence, please read "cry" as "vomit" and "into my handkerchief" as "repeatedly on the grave of Emily Bronte"). How is it that the plain Jane people of this planet cannot seem to get enough of reading about underwear models with flawless complexions who piss and moan about how rough it is to be gorgeous while they're busy fucking other underwear models with flawless complexions?
And ladies, enough with the "bad boy complex" that seems to be an in-born trait with your gender. Bad boys steal your money; cheat on you with your best friend; count date rape among their "special skills;" freely abuse drugs, alcohol, women, various health codes, and the English language; and usually end up in prison as the property of some other bad boy. So how's about we give that cool guy with the motorcycle/your yard boy a rest and go on that date with Bill from Accounting, hmm?
Oh, does that sound boring to you? Well, something tells me you'd tire of "love marks" on your right eye after a few years, too.
> There must be something good about it: The character of Hindley fits T.C.I.'s bill as the much-maligned and unfairly reviled pseudo-villain that he tends to favor.
DEWY-EYED BRONTE FANGIRL: Oh, but he's so mean to Heathcliff! That, and he's unattractive.
Wow. Hindley is mean to Heathcliff. The same Heathcliff who gets taken in by Hindley's father to be favored and preferred over his own natural-born son at a formative age, the same Heathcliff who gets showered with affection by some crazy old codger at the expense of the dotty man's less-photogenic male offspring. Add to that the fact that Hindley's sister is the colossally repugnant princess, Catherine, and I'd say Hindley has more than one valid reason to be Asshole Quarterly's "Justified Misanthrope of the Latter Half of the 1800's." Oh, and then, after Hindley loses his wife Frances, the one person who actually gave a rip about him, Heathcliff helps the poor guy drink himself to death and immediately lays claim to his orphaned son to raise as something of a rancid little Heathcliff, Jr. Gee, that Hindley. What a jerk.
Another good point: Heathcliff and Catherine both die before their time. Unfortunately, it is not at the pincers of a crustacean-shaped robot from 8500 years in the future. So that's no good.

2.) A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
> Plot: Two cities -- er, let's say, Paris and... Waubeka -- have a tale to tell, so sit right back and you'll hear... a tale. Anyway, a bunch of hypocritical, whiny-ass radical Frenchmen, in a time when French people didn't automatically appease anyone who gave them a dirty look, overthrow the oppressive aristocratic regime and, like any true adherents to the principles of equality and love for your fellow Man, proceed to slice everyone's head off with a large blade. Also, this story takes place in an era when every romantic hero had a deux ex machina in the form of a slovenly, dispensable lawyer who happened to look exactly like him. How convenient.
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Cliff's Notes
> Why it's considered a "classic:" Are you kidding me? It has all the essential ingredients: a tepid central love triangle, a paper-thin pair of young lovers, rampant political oppression and revolution, themes a-plenty, knitting, and, above all, it's so very, very dreary!
I will say this much for Old Man Dickens. The guy could sure come up with some catchy, memorable names: Uriah Heep, Mr. Murdstone, Ebenezer Scrooge, Martin Chuzzlewit, Seth Pecksniff, Wackford Squeers, Peg Sliderskew, Miss Snevellicci... I mean, come on. Those are some powerful, kick-ass monikers right there...
... Which almost makes up for the literary equivalent of dust and mildew the man's pen spewed forth with alarming regularity.
Anyway, the novel contains a noble, almost motiveless act of self-sacrifice in the name of unrequited love and an honor found too late in life. Critics love this kind of unrealistic horseshit. People who want to read about royal fatcats getting their heads handed to them -- guillotine-style! -- may want to look elsewhere.
> There must be something good about it: A large number of French people are miserable, killed, or both. No wonder the English love this book.

3.) A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
> Plot: Tennesse Williams loved tiresome Southern belles who can't seem to shut the hell up, so here ya go.
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Finished it. For two different classes. Goddamnit.
> Why it's considered a "classic:" It's that fucking "bad boy" bullshit again. Stanley [some Polish last name] is, if you can believe it, an even bigger dick than prissy li'l Heathcliff. Stanley is about as cultured as a hunk of coprolite*, not nearly so intelligent, and puts himself above all others. Oh, and he also beats his wife and rapes her sister.
* Fossilized turd. Hee hee.


Oh my God. OH MY GOD. OH MY GOD.


You know what? I'm not even gonna apologize for that egregious breach of Netiquette. The fact that an abusive, beetle-browed rapist with the IQ of something that is physically incapable of having an IQ can be touted as any kind of sex symbol is conclusive proof that the human race is just a fad on this sorry lump of future Sun food.
Okay, enough about Magilla Gorilla and his raw animal magnetism that symbolizes the pent-up savagery of the human race unleashed on an innocent blah de blah de blah de blah. It is also worth noting that Blanche is a drip, Stella's a masochist, and that American Express guy is arguably an ever bigger idiot than Stanley. Also, the play is duller than the backside of a cardboard box.
Unsympathetic, dreary characters unleavened with humor or interest of any kind? Insta-Classic, my friend!
> There must be something good about it: The minor character Steve tells an amusing joke about a horny rooster. That's it. Really.

4.) Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
> Plot: A salesman dies.
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Finished it.
> Why it's considered a "classic:" Career sad sack Willy Loman is a failure as a father, a husband, a salesman, a human being... and a driver, apparently, because he crashes his car and dies. Aside from the unrelieved misery of the plot, the characters are instantly forgettable and there is absolutely no comic relief of any kind. Everybody whines, everybody feels sorry for themselves, and everybody thinks they have it worse than any other person who ever trudged across the face of this pathetic planet.
Critics, who love feeling superior to others, naturally cream themselves at the mere thought of this play.
Not Remotely Fun Fact: I had to play Willy's personality-deprived son "Happy" in a scene for a Dramatic Interp. class. How's that for irony?
> There must be something good about it: No matter how temple-throbbingly tedious the going gets, the title assures you that Willy will, in fact, die at some point.

5.) Lord of the Flies by William Golding
> Plot: Kids left alone on an island try to govern themselves and fail miserably. Not unlike every group of humans that has ever gathered together in one place at one time.
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Finished it.
> Why it's considered a "classic:" There is a wildly popular theory prevalent among educators that any "classic" featuring characters of an age relative to that of the individual forced to read said "classic" is destined to be a winner.
This theory is stupid.
In any case, a bunch of spoiled shits acting like savages and killing one another while proving that humans are innately and irretrievably assholian in nature evidently appeals to the inner jackass of the literary scholar. I believe the novel also has something to say about the state of society vs. the individual. Or something about conch shells, I'm not really sure...
So guess which major characters die? That's right: the fat, ugly, unpopular one and the sweet-natured quiet boy.
Not Remotely Fun Fact: I had to write a paper about this novel on a topic offered by the teacher. Our teacher, a rabid Christian, naturally offered "The character Simon as Christ figure" as an option. T.C.I., being an equally rabid idiot, naturally chose this topic, knowing next to nothing about Christ or how the hell he figured into this putrid book, and proceeded to pen a god-awful (no pun intended) composition about... something. Anyone who got below a B- had to rewrite their paper. This amounted to about 90% of the class. T.C.I.'s grade?
And she knew I had no idea what I was talking about, but since I chose her savior as my theme, I got a free exemption from a useful writing exercise. All hail this Christ fella!
That reminds me: my equally evangelical shop teacher gave me an A on the world's shoddiest-looking cross because I chose to forge it instead of an anchor or a key.
I had no need of an instrument in school; I could play people like fucking fiddles, I tells ya.
> There must be something good about it: I dunno. That conch shell sounded kinda cool...

6.) Oedipus Rex by Gary Sophocles
> Plot: Guy unknowingly kills father. Guy unknowingly sleeps with mother. Guy finds out about this fucked-up shit. Mother/Wife hangs self. Father-killer/Mother-fucker blinds self. Brother-in-law/Uncle inherits kingdom and own set of shit to deal with.
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Finished it.
> Why it's considered a "classic:" It's a pain in the ass to read and everyone overacts embarrassingly, even on paper. The only thing critics love more than histrionics are heavy-handed and inaccessible histrionics.
> There's got to be something good about it: The plot synopsis itself reads just fine. And now that you've read it, skip it.

7.) The Tragedy of [Reading] King Lear by William Shakespeare
> Plot: Senile asshole treats golden child like shit and shitty children like gold. Shitty children return favor by treating senile asshole like senile asshole.
In a related story, another senile asshole treats golden child like shit and shitty child like-- well, you get the idea.
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Finished it. But, oh, was that a tight race with "just give up..."
> Why it's considered a "classic:" This play is so much more criminally sleep-inducing than each of the Bard's other justifiable classics, Hamlet, Othello, and MacBeth, that it naturally leaps straight to the top of every self-respecting scholar's "Best Shakespearean Work" list.
I don't care about King Lear. I don't care about his dizzy daughter, Cordelia; I don't care about his noble dickhead supporter, Kent; I don't care about too-good-to-be-human, Edgar; I don't care about doddering old Gloucester; I don't care about the doesn't-come-anywhere-close-to-the-accepted-definition-of-the-word-"witty" Fool; I don't care about anything at all in the entire play. Everybody's a jerk, and deserves exactly what they get. And good riddance to the lot of 'em.
> There must be something good about it: Goneril and Regan, the deliriously wicked daughters, are, along with Mama MacBeth, the best female parts Shakespeare ever wrote. And bastard-in-every-sense-of-the-word Edmund has his moments (though he pales in comparison with Shakespeare's villainous master stroke, Iago [see below]).

8.) The School for Scandal by Richard Brinsley Sheridan
> Plot: A catty bitch runs a school for vicious gossips in 18th century London. Like all things in 18th century London, this proves to be far less interesting than it sounds.
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Finished it.
> Why it's considered a "classic:" As one of the most famous comedies of manners, it's incisive and witty and sharp and laugh-out-loud hilarious!
Or so I was told. I was grossly misinformed.
The play starts out well. We meet self-obsessed, morally-bankrupt she-weasel Lady Sneerwell and her consortium of informants, minions, and fellow rat bastards. Rumors are relayed, lies are spread, secrets are shared... and then the plot kicks into gear, the lifeless main characters are introduced, and the reader and the audience proceed to forget to refill their prescriptions for Ambien CR.
There's also the infamous "Screen Scene" in which the Teazles and the Surfaces hide behind a screen and hilarity is expected to ensue.
It does not.
The play ends with Sneerwell and cohorts, but too little, too late, Sheridan, you old dead windbag.
Not Remotely Fun Fact: In college, I was cast as Trip, a dopey servant who puts on airs. The character, while amusing, has one page of dialogue in a three hour play. I weighed the options and, after receiving a meandering, arty lecture from the pompous jagoff of a guest director, decided that playing a bit part in a play I loathed -- and which would take valuable time away from my liver-deconstruction -- was just not worth it.
Oh, and on the description list of physical traits he was looking for in my character, posted with the cast list for all to see? "Weird-looking." I scheisse you nein, my friends. What a cocksucker.
And T.C.I.'s Number One Most HATED "classic" of all time...?

9.) The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
> Plot: Wouldn't that be nice?
> Did I finish it, resort to Cliff's Notes, or just give up: Finished it. Oh, that I had just given up...
> Why it's considered a "classic:" I don't know. I honestly just. don't. know. Some kid has various life experiences that amount to pretty much nothing important over the course of a short book. Whoop-de-ding-dong. And this qualifies it as the novel-of-choice for rebels and delusional conspiracy theorists the world-round?
HOLDEN WANNABE CURRENTLY FOAMING AT THE MOUTH: You don't understand, man! Goddamn! It's all about a child's coming of age in a society--
Yes. Yes, moron. I got it. Society is cheap and commercial and Life is violent and cruel and People are selfish and shallow and the only way to effectively deal with it all when you're a young man coming into his own is to say "goddamn" a couple hundred times.
Very deep. Very profound. Very waste of my goddamn time.
> There must be something good about it: I lifted the slang term "helluva" from this book and use it in my writing constantly. For example: "I hope J. D. Salinger remains a recluse for a helluva long time."
Have you, my ever-loyal cynickites, grown weary of my constant bitching and belittling? Well, why have you stuck around here so long, then? In any case, as a slight respite from my avalanche of ire and just to try something new, the following is a list of classics which, in my undebatable opinion, rightly deserve their assignation as such:

The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark
by William Shakespeare
Justly if arguably regarded as the greatest play ever written. Believe it or not, this grand tragedy contains more genuine laughs than all of Shakespeare's "comedies" combined. And what killer supporting roles, man: officious Polonius (another much-maligned non-villain who happens to be my favorite Shakespearean character), conniving but capable King Claudius, foppish Osric, the interchangeable duo of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and the Gravedigger, that dispenser of drolleries and skull histories alike. Shame the women are such wooden saps.

The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice
by William Shakespeare
Forget the breast-beating theatrics and crybaby cries of racism from the monumentally dense Othello; forget his wispy twit wife, Desdemona; and please forget the plastic romantic "hero," Cassio; there is only one reason to herald this play as one of the most fascinating ever conceived, and his name... Iago.
Iago is the great-granddaddy of all villains. Every memorable bad guy created since must bow down in abject worship of this manipulative master-hater. Surrounded on all sides by imbeciles, hypocrites, and boors, it's hard not to sympathize with Iago's cynicism and bitterness. After all, he alone understands just what the hell is going on at all times. He drives his boss insane, destroys the resident pretty boy's reputation, and runs his wife through with a sword. I guess you could say he was living the American Dream. And through it all, he still manages to maintain a wicked sense of humor and scathing wit. This is one hateful, unrepentant son of a bitch.
In fact, he-- he kind of reminds me of someone...

Inherit the Wind
by Jerome Larence & (non-General) Robert E. Lee
Easily my favorite American play; a masterful, clever, incisive condemnation of willful ignorance and bigotry (against rational thought and the free will to think for one's self, no less)... and it also features the character of E. K. Hornbeck, a super-cynical columnist based on hilariously acid-tongued misanthrope H. L. Mencken. I had an opportunity to play Hornbeck once (and hope to do so many times in the future) and damned if you could tell the difference between the two of us.
Oh, and it's not meant to be a documentary, Quietly, it's a creative re-envisioning free to implement poetic license, so eat it with a side of shaddup. Ohhhh, snap!

by George Bernard Shaw
One of the select few Shaw works I can enjoy without feeling like I'm drifting off in some required socioeconomics class, it also stars that crown prince of smartasses, Prof. Henry Higgins. Higgins despises ignorance, fluffy-headed feminine ideals, linguistic butchering, and being wrong about anything. Needless to say, he's always been a dream role of mine.

by Voltaire

"What's Optimism?" asked Cacambo.
"I'm afraid to say," said Candide, "that it's a mania for insisting that all is well when things are going badly."

How could a scathing, unrelenting indictment of blind optimism not be on my list of favorite books? I especially enjoyed Martin, the quintessential pessimist, and Signor Pococurante, a cultured Italian fatcat who collects famous works of art and literature and criticizes them without mercy. Highly recommended.
Are you seeing a trend here?

Brave New World
by Aldous Huxley
Meant to be a bleak dystopian vision of the future, the people in the society in question are allowed to fuck whoever the hell they feel like whenever the hell they feel like it.
Not-- not quite sure how this qualifies as "bleak," exactly, but hey, a good read is a good read, am I right? Especially when it's got a concept I can get behind (hee hee).
Keep an eye out for World Controller Mustapha Mond's telling and captivating dialogue with John Savage towards the end of the novel. Mond is a would-be baddie who allows people to have differing opinions without summarily slaughtering them and even thinks for himself, insofar as it's safe for him to do so. If only all world leaders tried this...

by George Orwell
Fascinating and relentlessly oppressive, this is an even bleaker dystopian vision of the future, where War is a business, sex for pleasure is forbidden, thinking for yourself is even worse, and everyone worships their leader with a frightening, unflinching fervor.
Pat Robertson called it "... the feel-good story of the less than 10,000 years the Earth has been in existence!" and President George W. Bush said, "I can't wait for the year 1984 to get here!"

Cry, the Beloved Country
by Alan Paton
Here is your very rare glimpse into the softer side of T.C.I.'s tortured, demented psyche: This is one of the most moving, poignant, powerful books you'll ever read, and the scene towards the end on the mountain between the black priest (father of the murderer) and the white landowner (father of the victim) left me, unashamedly, in tears. Do yourself a favor and give this one a shot. No cynicism here. Just magnificent storytelling.

by Jean Anouilh
Want to read a one-sided, laughable account of the Antigone story in which the heroine is unimpeachable and her antagonist has no redeeming values whatsoever?
Then go read the lousy Sophocles version, little Ms. Femynyst.
Wanna read an intelligent discourse on the trickiness of balancing the common good versus the needs of the individual, in which King Creon is a complex, rational personality hopelessly harangued by that self-righteous, uncompromising hypocrite, Antigone? Pick up a copy of Anouilh's version. It's loaded with great dialogue and moral complexities.
Ironically, I'm reasonably sure Anouilh intended Antigone to be the more sympathetic of the two. She definitely doesn't come across that way. Self-appointed martyrs rarely do, I suppose.

Animal Farm
by George Orwell
Pigs = Humans
Don't trust anyone named Napoleon
Crows represent organized religion
Hard work will only land you in a glue factory
Goats can read
Children enjoy fairy tales about barnyard animals' inevitable descent into an oppressive totalitarian regime

I see no problem with any of this.

The Devil's Dictionary, or The Cynic's Word Book
by Satan Ambrose Bierce
A book so chock full of brilliant, nasty, quotable definitions to common words that I won't risk neglecting any by listing some examples here. Just check it out, please.
And, despite the fears of a Baptist office manager I once knew, I assure you it has little to nothing to do with the Church of Satan.

The Grapes of Wrath
by John Steinbeck
Ha. Right. Just wanted to see if you were still paying attention.
A friend of mine who slogged through this mess (I only had to work backstage on an interminable stage version of the novel) told me that an early chapter deals entirely with a turtle crossing the road. Symbolic hoo-ha notwithstanding, it seems to me that turtles and the Dust Bowl would make ideal crests for the coat of arms of ponderous, unreadable classic literature.
Well, look at that. For once a list of my hates is tempered, albeit mildly, by a list of my likes.
I think I need a shower...
In closing, I hereby generously offer myself as the new sex symbol of the millenium. Have at it, ladies. Dakota, put that thing away.
What I'm currently reading: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene
What I'm currently not understanding: The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory by Brian Greene
What I wish I was reading: Anything in the Uncle John's Bathroom Reader line
As a man who is perpetually at odds with the planet and life in general, it should come as no surprise to you, my misery-adoring constituents, that 75% or more of T.C.I.'s dreams are nightmares of one sort or another. Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I inform you that on the night of Saturday, January 6, 2007, I was subjected to not one, but two sweet-ass dreams in succession.
1.) I was actively existing within the universe of the upcoming Transformers movie, which starred Kelsey Grammer as the voice of a troubled Soundwave. Best part: I dreamt that I found my missing Ravage action figure, a cool cassette tape that transformed into a black panther and was the pride and joy of my childhood. Alas, upon waking, its whereabouts remain unknown...
2.) I got to take a tour of Jabba the Hutt's palace, which was not unlike a natural history museum. Whatever. The thug slug turned out to be a surprisingly ingratiating host. He was also married, I seem to recall. Good for him.
It suddenly occurs to me that I am a dork. I used to have dreams that Charisma Carpenter (circa early "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," when she was my ideal woman with those ideal thighs) and Pamela Anderson (circa early "Baywatch;" not in her current haglike state) were jousting for my affections. Now I'm revelling in REM sleep that should be reserved for a ten-year-old living in 1985.

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