Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Quick One: So's Your Mother!

I guess is was fitting that that journalist threw a shoe at Bush. I'm not saying it wasn't called for...but it put me in the strangest mood. I'm not sure if Americans are capable of being insulted.

I can definitively say we, Americans, are far superior to the rest of the world when it comes to insulting other. A shoe??? Calling someone a dog? Randy Jackson calls his friend's dogs on that stupid karaoke show every year. We love dogs! We give dogs more attention than the homeless in this country. Calling someone a dog is meaningless to us.

I know, in their culture its different. That's my point. When we insult you; you goddamn know it. We aren't subtle. Its usually with missiles, rockets, bombs and troop deployment, At the very least, we drain your resources and leave your infrastructure in shambles. Now that's an insult! A shoe?

And verbal insults alone still aren't offensive to us. Jeez, we have a contest called "snaps" or "the dozens" where we take turns making fun of each others' mothers! For fun! Calling an American anything really doesn't work. When thousands take to the street in protest burning effigies and and flags and spitting on our culture, what do most of us say? "Don't these people have jobs to go to on a Tuesday?"

Insults, thankfully, are not an international language. Love and kindness and all of that nutty liberal hokum that has been suppressed for so long could make a comeback and cause a few less shoes thrown our way. I hope so. It's such a wussy thing to see. I'd almost rather watch soccer.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Public Service Announcement

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I sit before you a changed man. The change is similar to a person who has conquered substance abuse or had an earth shattering realization in therapy that righted everything into focus. I know it to be true. I know I have rounded the corner on this ridiculous highway of life. I am certain for one glorious reason: I look back with repulsion.

It is like the ending of a bad relationship, a job, a friendship or anything that you'd have a prolonged, intimate association with in your life; when you assess it later, you feel like such a tool. How could I have wasted all of that time? What was I thinking? Why did I bother in the first place? Jesus, maybe I am seriously mental?

The feelings are normal and universal and probably healthy in some cathartic context. But for sure, when you have those questions, you know the ship has sailed.

I am ready to accept this fact. Scratch that. Too passive. I accept the FACT that I… Still too passive. Here goes: I will never be famous.

Oh my God, Jim! It took you this long???

I know! How the hell do you think I feel? I even wrote about on this site only a few short months ago, but the fangs sink in very deep. I want to be honest to the dozen people or so who ever read this: I honest and for true believed that one day I would sell a book and get to meet Jon Stewart. I really did. I honestly believed that all my lame jobs and sacrifice for one thing or another was all prologue for a great background story when I inevitably made it as a nationally-known writer or something. The something being...?

Here's why this is a mental disorder and is poisonous to your life. To detail the extent of its clutches would paint me as an infinitely deluded loser or childish ego-driven windbag. Either is close to the mark, but not quite the sweet spot.

I will say that this delusion can affect all of your major career decisions; but even more diabolically, your small decisions. I can't begin to imagine the number of potential friends I've dismissed because my mind was elsewhere. And besides the friendship and camaraderie, there is the sheer amount of contacts I could have made that would have helped your average sane person. There must be an endless gallery of missed opportunities based on wishes of something that I really knew would never happen. Yoda was right. Look it up.

It's faith, folks. It is an innocent thing. We need it. If we can't find it in church we turn to our lives and the potential we may possess. But for me, it just got in the way. Even when I realized it, when it hit me in the noggin, I thought: "I'll write this down and it will be an interesting chapter in the book I'll be famous for in the future…" NOOO! Then I took a breath and tried to go a day without thinking I was going to be famous.

I thought about my old career path that was abandoned for financial reasons yet seemed more practical after the cloud lifted. I wanted to be a college professor. A real, live, boring old stiff that knew more about Teddy Roosevelt than anyone cared to know. It felt nice. Then I thought about the long road of school ahead of me. There were still plenty of obstacles, but I was comforted by the process. I have not been truly 'busy' in a long time. I thought I'd have to sharpen my essay skills, because there would be a published paper or two in the future. And hey, maybe my book would be interesting enough to sell a few copies and it would get me a chance to be a guest on the Daily Show! Dammit!

It can't be your last chapter. I've written some books. Don't write the last chapter first. Write as you go.

I finished my day of normalcy with better plans. I'm really the same person. Only now, I don't care who knows it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An Early Christmas Card, Dammit

This essay will contain four-letter words.

I have learned to loathe Scrooges. I do not use that Dickensian term in it's financially, fiduciary sense. I don't hate him for his love of the free market and how it cures all ills. It's for his pure hatred and disdain of Christmas.

He hated the warmth and sweetness of humanity that bubbled to the surface every time December rolled around. He thought it was fake and phony and for the weak-minded. Scrooge believed Christmas was for children and the immature.

He thought it was all a lie. Well, fuck him.

I honest to God don't believe in anything out there. (See, I had a little wordplay there. Words are neat!) Yeah, I'm not spiritual and I don't wear ugly holiday sweaters and I don't volunteer at the mission and I don't dress up as Santa and I've never been on Christmas vacation to anywhere and I've never been on a sleigh ride. But for me, at this very moment, prepping for my thirty-sixth Christmas season, I want everyone to know this: Have a great Christmas. Seriously. Do it.

Why, you ask? When I seem so jaded and angry and I am so very frustrated with my Mondays through Fridays? I know the Santa myth and I know the true history of Christmas as a market ploy in the 1850's, and that Jesus was born in March or something. I know the economy is in shambles. I know. I'm a big boy.

But this is, for millions of bored, sad and irritated Americans, the most fun we can have all year. And its good fun. You know, family-type fun; that stuff we all say we should have more of? I know it doesn't center around spoiled rotten bitches on TV, and there aren't strippers and mixed martial arts or gritty crime dramas…but there are those stupid pointless aspects of life to consider; those little spurs in our collective boots with have to dust of from time to time. Friendship. Good spirits. Selflessness. Reflection.

This is that time when we remind ourselves of who we are and where we want to go. It's almost painful to fight deep soulful reflection. Maybe it will bum you out, but you have to do it. We all do. Just give something. It can't hurt.

It is a spiritual reset. It is a mental rest. Society alters itself briefly. This is the time for tradition and obligation and going out of your way. Things change direction for a bit. It should be like a party. Go to one. Cater one. Plan one.

Celebrate whatever. Do it your own way. Spend a lot of money at the brilliantly decorated mall or make everything by hand. Go to church or hang out with your family who probably miss you.

Just don't give me the hackneyed speech about Christmas being a scam or a sham or completely bought and packaged and sold to us in plastic containers. Shut the hell up. You and all the jack-off Scrooges like you are totally killing my mistletoe buzz.

A Film Review Roughly 74 Years Too Late

(I tried to get a writing gig a while back and submitted this movie review along with other things that didn't get me hired. While I chew on bitterness, read my by-the-numbers review.)

There is an increasing amount of people out there who flat out refuse to watch old movies. Either they believe there is no way the movie could say anything meaningful to them, or they are allergic to wool suits and women who wear skirts instead of pants. I've tried dozens of times to steer a few people toward a little 50's film noir, Hitchcock, or Casablanca. (Why would you not want to see that film?!) But I am rejected and dismissed over and over. Usually what follows is an uncomfortable scene where I have to feign interest in the unfettered excitement toward Jessica Alba and Nick Cage's latest disasters.

Now when I try this, I use a true personal story about an American classic, It Happened One Night. It works. It draws their attention away from Kate Hudson in Hi-Def long enough to get them sucked in.

I was a sophomore in college in 1998 or so. I took a Film Studies course to compliment my major, and to watch free film on a big screen. During the semester, we took in among others: Life Is Beautiful, Trois Hommes et un Couffin, Pulp Fiction and, to my delight, It Happened One Night. It was the first movie to win the Big Five at the Oscars and I've always heard great things about it.

The pain is, I was older than my classmates by six or seven years, and the bulk of them were more interested copying homework or chatting in the back of the auditorium than watching great movies. Nineteen year-olds with no serious interest in anything then sleeping off some Natural Light or having inane conversations about The Real World. I wanted to watch the film and I wanted them to shut up for ninety minutes.

Within the first ten of the movie; silence. They were riveted. Four hundred kids, born in the eighties, sat eagerly in a darkened theater watching a movie that was older than their grandparents. Hell, its three years older than John McCain.

Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert had immediate chemistry that somehow enthralled a twenty-first century crowd. The story was simple. A hapless reporter finds a missing rich girl who is supposed to marry some famous millionaire. We knew what was going to happen next. This was a romantic comedy; from which a flurry of film plot points is taken. The penniless road trip through the backwoods of the United States, the mismatched lovers who can't express their attraction, the obligatory choice between keeping the woman you love or letting her go. The film is so sexually repressed it's hilarious. Colbert's leg in stockings is used to stop a car while hitchhiking. Scandalous before WWII; sweet and silly now. But the sophomores loved it. Whispers of "Spaceballs!" could be heard toward the end of the film. Mel Brooks spoofed the entire climactic wedding scene. At least they were paying attention.

It is the differences; the same reason people avoid classic films that make this movie a must-see. Clark Gable's antiquated looks and mannerisms are the predecessors of Tom Hanks' smirky jokes and the allure of pop figures like Patrick Dempsey. Gable was haggard and rough around the edges but looked good in a suit. Colbert's beauty is from the remnants of the Prohibition era. Her catty smiles and comebacks were so out of place to a 1930's audience but are commonplace today.

It Happened is a familiar story in black and white; before CGI and a pumped up R & B soundtrack. Somehow director Frank Capra, (You've at least seen It's A Wonderful Life, right? Come on!) kept a fun, fast-paced comedy without the help of Katrina and the Waves' "Walking on Sunshine". No sappy Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey stinking up the screen with insincere clich├ęs. The zany antics were kept to a minimum and the lack of pandering was incredibly refreshing.

When the final scene came, (it’s a romantic comedy, you know the ending) applause and whistles rumbled through the crowd as the lights popped on. It was the only film that semester where everyone stayed for the end.

If you love the movies, you have to back and rummage through some classics. Your fears are unfounded. Sure It Happened One Night was released in 1934, but it collected Oscars, drew fans and pleased critics for seven decades to come.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dad, When Did You Know You Were A Smart-Ass?

I've had two conversations in the last week about being funny. I don't mind saying it: I'm funny. Whether or not it translates into the written word is another matter; although I think I can write the funny, too. The conversations were with my son. He has a speech he has to give and there needs to be some funny in there, and the other topic was keeping funny socially during the hormonal cesspool that is high school.

But I began to wonder about Funny and all things in my life that revolve around Funny and how to try and explain that to people who appreciate funny but do not necessarily create or reproduce the Funny.

I though about it today by a duck pond, where I do all of my super important thinking these days. I have to admit it. I am obsessed with being funny. I'm also obsessed with laughing at funny things. If I am brutally honest with myself, it's the only talent I've ever practiced. Almost all of my motives have a trace amount of the yearning to make another human beings laugh behind them. This could be a very sad realization or the ray of light that beams down through the pine tree in my backyard, sidestepping the power lines and nearly missing the defunct ceiling fan to hit me square in the melon.

I was funny to meet friends and have fun with them. It's all I brought to the party. I used funny to get girls' attention. I use it to stay somewhat interesting to my wife. I use it to stay close to my kids.

But I also use it to stave off depression when life is boring and dull and uneventful. I use it to help others who are probably in the same boat and who would probably depress me if I didn't beat them to the conversational punch with a little observational ha-ha.

When my son asked me about comedy tips, I was a little stuck. It's difficult to explain how to be funny. Or, in essence, create an environment where your jokes are funny.

The truth is, if my kids weren't all that funny, I wouldn't care. Everyone knows it's just a defense. It’s a shield. I'd rather my kids be in the audience somewhere laughing and go home to a stable life and a real job. Funny people are in pain. They just want everyone around them to feel better. They constantly paint nearby walls with vibrant colors. The cans get heavy; when you walk around with them your entire life.

Man, my metaphors suck.

Here is my advice:

1) Steal. If it's just you and your friends, steal material like all the professional comedians do. References, old comedy bits, scenes from movies… I know these are tried and true, but I do suggest you dig deep. Don't quote something that just came out. Wait until the body is cold and in the ground before you dig it up.

2) Inflection. The reason you aren't funny has nothing to do with material. It's your voice and your timing. Some people have it and some people copy it. I suggest you steal again. Don't listen to what your favorite comedians say, just how they say it. They all have a rhythm and a tempo. I would also avoid straying too far from your demographic. Pasty white guys should not copy Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle, just like Latin guys would sound strange mimicking Jerry Seinfeld or Larry the Cable Guy. Although, I'm not saying that wouldn't be an interesting stage act.

3) Know your audience. I like to make people laugh. As a byproduct, I don't really care if they think I'm funny. See the difference? My goal is to get the laugh and set the other person at ease, even for five seconds. My attitude and life and personality is not the subject. The sense of humor of the other person is all that matters. You can't have the same act for everyone. That's how you get fired or divorced or arrested or your ass whipped.

Also, not everyone is in the mood for your crap all of the time. The timing of the joke is just as important as the timing of when to tell it. Use it sparingly.

4) Listen. Hey, funny guy…do you hear any laughs? Does anyone find that borderline sexist joke the least bit funny? Has the old broad with the designer eyepatch that works at the reception desk ever laughed at any of your zany comments? Comedy isn't like painting, writing or music. You can instantly tell if you've succeeded. No laffy, no funny.

For the love of God and the ghosts of Carlin and Pryor, if no one's laughing, you ain't funny. If they aren't smiling and giggling and giving you something back, you blew it. You need to regroup. Maybe abandon Funny. Try being Helpful or Kind. The world needs a lot of that, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Who Asked You?" - Married Stuff

My anniversary is coming up this month. November is also the time I specifically take time to look inward. Okay, I do that way too damn much, but in November I intend to shuffle the deck and scratch at the skin. I suppose that one year, sooner or later, someone will ask me how we did it. How do two people, who married young and have three kids, stay married and apparently have no plans to murder each other? Now, here's where I get up on the soapbox and bore the hell out of everyone…

Be on the same team. This may be the toughest one to explain. When we were first married we were super broke and super stupid about life. It was all of those struggles put together that strengthened our relationship. Those times, hopefully, relax eventually. We still bump and bumble through life but that youthful fear is gone. We had to find a new plan or a new strategy. When I say be on the same team, I mean follow the same game plan. Know each other's game plan for life. One thing you may find is not only will they differ often; one person may have no goddamned clue what they want to do. That's okay. That's when you get to be the coach for awhile.

Don't talk about it all the time. Marriage and love are unusual in life. An institution and an emotion that we do not fully understand, but have strong annoying opinions about. My secret is to avoid analysis. If you feel something is wrong in your marriage, your first mistake is to assume your instincts are correct. Most likely, you have a problem and you are looking for you spouse to solve it or be a scapegoat. A long marriage (it's not really a marriage until four years have passed) is not full of thrills and romance and all of those lies women are told. It is tepid, soft, dry life. The key is to not have a rollercoaster. You want to avoid throwing up.

Don't compare and contrast. The reason you re-examine your marriage over and over is the dumb couples you meet or see on TV. First, TV marriages are staged like pro-wrestling and photo-ops. And those people you met last weekend who seem to have it so together are probably assholes to each other on the way home. They might be thinking the same about you. (That you have it so together, not the a-hole part. But, maybe…) You must avoid comparing your relationship to others because like snowflakes, they are six-sided crystals of water. That, and they are all unique. What works for them may not work for you. There are quiet couples and loud couples and reserved couples and nutbags. There are mixes of all of that in between. And don't listen to Oprah. She's not even married.

Have a movie star crush. This is an odd one, and it could be one of the aspects of a marriage I just got through explaining that would not work for everyone, but give it a try. The Mrs. and I used to watch "X-Files" when we were first married and somewhere in Season 2 or so we talked about how she thought Mulder was a cutie and that I had a thing for Scully. I mentioned this to a handful of co-workers months later and they each looked at me with awe, like we were swingers or something. They thought if they even mentioned to their spouse, for even a split second, that they thought another person in the universe was attractive the world would explode. Smashed windows, screaming and six weeks of fights ending up in divorce. What the hell? It’s a movie star. If you are a guy that talks about wanting to hump the babysitter in front of your wife, than you are retarded. (Unless you're into that. I've seen the movies!)

Other than that, loosen up. If you've put some years in and you love each other, it's okay to let your wife know that you have a serious thing for Kate Winslet. And I do.

Leave a wide berth. There is one consistent piece of advice I've heard from every article and sociologist and book on this subject. It is simple because it is a great idea and all great ideas are simple. Leave each other the hell alone. Respect space. Period.

A Small One: Considerations on the Releasing Of The Hounds Of Hell.

I have to make a confession.

I had a knee-jerk reaction when the all the votes were tallied on November 4 and I finally felt the last years of ineptitude, shame, disgust, division, stupidity, shot-sightedness and belligerence slip away. I had cartoonish supervillian thoughts that I am not entirely proud of. There has to be a few Americans out there, spread out in the purple areas from North Carolina to Alaska, that envisioned one more piece of the ridiculous Bush legacy fall into place.

For a few days, I wanted to release the hounds of hell on all of them.

I wanted Bush and Cheney and Gonzalez and Rove and every single person that had anything to do with the war, Katrina, the deregulation and the poison-toothed separatist "me vs. them" mentality that has infected this country strung up and placed in the center of town. I wanted hearings and jail time. Put them in stocks and we all take turns with spoiled tomatoes and stale Ding Dongs. I wanted a tribunal and pleas for immunity from people who used politics to advance the policies of a select few for the sole purpose of making more money. I wanted them to at least get kicked in the crotch like a strip-mall Santa.

Now that the economy rests in the hands of the very people they stole from and now that a new presidential tenant has inherited a dank, trashed, soiled and foul-smelling government to clean up, I wanted them to pay.

But they won't. They never will. They will get out of it and they will be rich until they die.

Then oooooooh… I remembered. We don't do that. That's the type of crap they do. The right and righteous minded have no practical ideas so they spend their lives slamming and punishing those who think and those who serve others. They waste taxpayer money on hearings about the meanderings of a presidential penis. They waste time demonizing gays and the female body and science and helping your fellow man…

Sorry. Forgot. Lost my head for a minute there.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's Over.

Not the election. Although I am very happy that juggernaut news orgy has finally been put down. No, I mean something else.

I started writing this about a month ago. When the numbers were very much in Obama's favor, my first instinct was to wonder what happened to all the NASCAR dads and hockey moms and frightened geezers out there that got Bush elected. Then a theory started to percolate. Their ranks have shrunken. There aren't as many. Fundamental, simplistic, overtly religious do-nothings are slowly watching their country leave them.

Can you feel it?

The following is a series of ideas I tried to tie together. But since the actual historians have been typing away en masse, I thought I'd freely speculate. Plus, what the hell do I care? I'm not getting paid.

…Maybe I'm jumping the cultural gun, but it feels like the dawn is breaking. Sometimes that first shiny spot of sunshine catches your eye in a way that changes you. It could be for a full minute or for the rest of your lifetime, but something is different inside your head.

Those ideas that millions have clung to for a full generation of two are crumbling like ash in their hands. I'm wondering how they will react. History says people respond violently when ancient traditions are threatened. I think Middle America is too tired for that. Maybe there is no Middle America anymore. I think they might be just weather worn from so many promises made on their behalf but not delivered. I think they have been duped so many times, like a violent stepfather who begs for forgiveness over and over. I think the red states might just want to lock the door and not let him anymore…

…Your policies do not work. We can prove that Reaganomics does not work. The model is broken, flawed, awful… It is not good for the country. Democrats are constantly cleaning up your messes. Your governing ideas are divisive; they are costly and they are just incorrect…

…There are some facts you will have to face. The first is, the word "fact". A fact is something that is proven through repetition or the scientific method. It is a matter of math or sworn testimony. It… is. Nowhere in there did I mention the word "believe". You have been bellyaching and screaming about your beliefs and values for far too long now. Your beliefs are your own business. I have no interest in changing them. But when it comes to the laws and polices of our country, belief is never as important as fact.

Another thing, smart people should be in charge. Not your buddies. Your buddies don't have their shit together and they are probably dumb. You have an irrational fear of smart people. It is unfounded. Smart people have all the same flaws the rest of us have. They are just human. But when it comes to making decisions, they rarely shoot from the hip. They weigh options and strategize. They understand that thinking like a cowboy is for movies and kids' games. You want smart scientists and doctors and teachers and leaders. That is what they have to offer our culture. Let them do their thing.

You must also begin the arduous task of reconciling faith and science. It has to happen or we will never advance this country into the future we all want. Most industrialized nations have had to do this. Japan is an example. Ancient traditions and religions exist side by side with technology and progressive thinking. That's right, progressive. Liberal. Maybe you don’t know, because it certainly is not popular to talk about, but it is fact. America is a liberal nation. We have a constitutional democratic republic that has no monarchal rule. It is designed to be updated and changed to suit the needs of its citizens. We had human slaves. We had a war and set them free. Women could not vote. Now they can. Laws came to protect the land, the water, the air, the workforce. Although you guys tried to get rid of them, we'll get them back. It's the right thing to do. You know that…

…You can have your personal beliefs and America has no interest in taking them away. You have wanted to change the way some of us live, again and again. But you always lose. Its time to let go. Yes, your culture has changed but it has been that way for quite awhile. Pay attention.

The small town values you speak of are quite wholesome and idyllic. However, living in a small town also means you are outside of the action. You are on the sidelines of American growth. Most Americans live in cities now, and more people are moving there every year. You have been trying to change the rules of the land for people you never come into contact with. They never return the favor. They ask to be left alone to run their own lives; just as you want to in your little town. It must be wonderful to be left alone…

…Stop running candidates on platforms of undefined values. Run the guy who actually does something for you. The next time someone asks for your vote, don't grab for the flag and start waving until you investigate…

…'Real America' is an awful sentiment. It's divisive. Bush and Company knew that would get you pissed off. They used you like Reagan did. What did that get you, exactly? How's that pension? Mortgage?...

…No one wants to be rid of you. You are necessary. A conservative force is needed to slow down the speed of technology and progress. (It has a habit of getting out of control.) You are the cinderblock tied to the racehorse of liberalism…

…Finally, let's stop looking at the big picture for awhile. I need to write more pieces about cartoons, holidays and those goofy teardrop-shaped bike helmets people are wearing these days…

Monday, November 3, 2008

It's Getting Bloggy In Here

I lifted an idea from Kurt Vonnegut. I interviewed myself. Half writing exercise, half mental illness. All good works are. This one really isn't. Its just the first part.

However the bloggy stuff goes somewhere else.

What would life be without stupid rules?

Some Stuff I've Learned About Men and Women and Families From Watching the News, Commercials and Sitcoms.

Women have license to cry. Men may only cry if their team loses the Super Bowl of if they kicked in the crotch.

Parents must be reminded every day to talk to their kids or they will neglect doing so.

All single people are afraid of commitment.

A fat guy can marry a thin, beautiful woman. A fat woman gets ugly guys or cats. Or nothing.

All fathers of teens wear sweater vests and glasses. It is impossible for a woman under the age of 29 to have children.

There are no ugly men or women in bars.

If a mother stays home to raise her kids, she is a "stay-at-home mom". If a father stays home to raise his kids, he is a "Mr. Mom".

All teens are wise-asses.

When women see other women in wedding dresses, they feel self-conscious and cry.

Single people believe that all married people are miserable.

The only sport kids want to play is soccer.

Every single mother has a crazy, hectic life.

Everyone waits until they are well into their thirties before having children. The disparity in age between grandchild and grandparent is never less than 55 years.

Fathers are stupid and clueless.

All women love shoes. All men love golf.

Mothers who microwave dinners for their children are heroes and must do so in a $60,000 kitchen.

The one thing families on TV rarely do is watch TV.

Smooth skin, body spray and beer make women go insane for a man.

If a couple has a child on TV, their lives barely change at all.

A man and a woman, sitting in two old-fashioned clawfoot tubs anywhere on earth, is the same as having sex.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Who the hell doesn't like doughnuts? I know there are those out there who prefer the dramatic cinnamon roll or would skip breakfast sweets altogether in favor of savory eggs or a nice congealed meatstuff, but all those people are clearly insane. And communists.

The doughnut is shrouded in mystery. Well, not really. Although food historians are not positive on its origins, I'd like to think it came from the European innovators of baked goods, the Dutch. They gave us pie and fritters and all that, but when some sly baker in the mid-nineteenth century poked a hole in the middle so the dough would cook more thoroughly, he stumbled onto greatness. It would soon kick the sorry ass of rolls, scones, bagels and biscuits in any brawl in any flour-lined dark alley from here to North Carolina.

Why mention the Tarheel State? That is where the finest doughnut franchise was created. Krispy Kreme makes the single finest doughnut available to Americans in a mass-market. I'm sure there are some enterprising young bakers out there that could argue, but I don't know where they are. And, I would ask these pastry punks: "Do you hand out warm, free samples to people waiting in line?"

Hell no, they don't!

The original glazed doughnut is soft and sweet and does everything a good doughnut should. They pair up with either hot coffee or cold milk and the breakfast bread goes down smooth. Sometimes it sticks to the roof of your mouth like the first scoop of peanut butter.

I personally prefer to spell doughnut with the "ugh". Krispy Kreme misspells everything in its name except its product. Dunkin Donuts bats .1000. There is something satisfying about the word itself. It has the 'dough' up front. That word seems to be from another age, when mothers used to cook for their children. It's folksy; you can only find it inside the cooking world anymore.

Doughnuts are also friends to singles and tweakers and club kids and drunks and people on the fringes, especially here in Portland. Be sure to visit Voodoo Doughnuts if you're in town. I suggest leaving the kids in the car. The doughnuts are very tasty but the "Triple Chocolate Penetration" and the "Butter Fingering" selections may give you a clue that it's not your normal mom and pop doughnut shop. It's a little f@#!*d up, actually.

Why are these delights in a box so special to me? Simply that. I keep them special. I don't have them very often. I could have doughnuts all the time. I live in America and I could shovel them hand over fist in my fat face, like Homer Simpson's hellish room of Ironic Punishment. Whenever I go out of my to buy them, it is a surprise to everyone. It’s also a surprise that everyone enjoys. Even the grumpiest bastard in the family or the oldest, crustiest curmudgeon in the office likes some type of doughnut. It’s a cheap way to make nice and great way to get people to leave you alone for awhile. A hermit's dream.

Powdered. Chocolate. Cream filled. Jelly. Who cares? If you can't enjoy a goddamned doughnut I don't know how to make you happy.

Just Make A Fuss, Dammit

Thanksgiving is a hassle. Christmas is a pain in the ass. Halloween is so wasteful. It's that time of year when the national whining begins and we all coalesce in to one giant bitch-fest about money, materialism, long lines, Santa's lap, travel, weather, ninja costumes, plane delays, turkey, my feet hurt, why do I have to do this, blah blah blah.

I thought I romanticized the holiday seasons from years ago. My parents actually got their act together during the holidays and put on as good a show as they could for me and my brother. It was really the only time of the year that we felt that the spotlight was on us. As an adult I can safely say they earned some decent scores. But hold on…

We were broke all of the time. The houses we lived in had crappy appliances and my parents both worked long hours. The same with my grandparents. They also cooked for more people on Thanksgiving, and entertained more people on Christmas. I remember neighbors would pull out the stops for those two big ticket holidays and managed to weave some Halloween magic as well. Maybe a costume party or an attempt at a haunted house. Were these people millionaires? Nope. Modest little homes, maybe even apartments, and somehow they found the time to give their families something to remember.

That thing was not food. That think was not a party. That thing was not a gift. It was that we belonged. We were welcome. We were special to our family. It was the sense of attention, of caring, of giving and…buckle up everyone born after 1970…selfless generosity.

(I know. Didn't that die out when Madonna started waving her crotch around in the 80's?)

There is an attitude out there in this country which is similar to one in hundreds of cultures. Parents go out of their way to show love and devotion for each other and their families by work, chores, painstaking detail and sacrifice. It could be a mother toiling away to put food on the table in Paraguay, or a father breaking his back to make some money in Morocco. We are so damn lucky over here that for most of us it doesn't come to that. We can rest more. We can buy more. We can eat more. We can live longer.

Somewhere along the way our culture equated selflessness with being a doormat. (I wonder what that Big Lebowski-looking dude in the New Testament story would say about that?) I'm not religious or even spiritual, but apparently most of you are out there. How about Karma or the golden rule? Is all of that dead now, like Smurfs, Rubik's Cubes and Crystal Pepsi? Ladies and germs of my culture: A change should come. We know the presidential election will change a few things but my proposition is bolder.

Its called kindness, bitches.

We can start at home. Instead of thinking you are a doormat, you can feel a sense of accomplishment and appreciation for the attention and fuss you create. Everyone remembers that stuff anyway. They remember the big parties and decorations long after the crap in the gift-wrapped box is used up and thrown away. Its just a Thanksgiving meal. One meal. Make it awesome.

Men, put up the lights on the house. Go to the stores with whoever drags you there. Build the plastic bicycles and assemble the playsets and actually tie the bows. Tell some stories. Take some time off and take the kids to see lights. Hell, that's free. Ladies, don't get upset when you are expected to be more than you are the rest of the year. This is a holiday. It's supposed to be special. Wrap the gifts and hang the decorations. Stop thinking that cooking a meal equates to submissiveness. It’s a damn turkey.

And for those of you out there (myself deeply included) that gripe about commercialism and materialism: This is America. This is the country you live in. This is how we do shit. You are free to celebrate lavishly or plainly; just celebrate for Chrissakes.

You live here.