Saturday, November 29, 2008

Thank God for Materialism

When I read on about the bargain-crazed Wal-Mart shoppers stampeded and killed Jdimytai Damour, 34, on Long Island the day after Thanksgiving, I shook my head in utter disgust at the inhumanity of our materialistic, consumerist society.

But then the article listed some of the prices that had been slashed – slashed, I tell you! – by that little yellow smiley face.

A Bissel Compact Upright Vacuum for $28! A Samsung 10.2 megapixel digital camera for $69! DVDs such as "The Incredible Hulk" for $9!

Thank you, ABC News, for providing such crucial context to this story. Had I not known how much money these shoppers were saving, I might have just assumed it wasn’t worth the loss of a human life.

Given the urgency of compensating for the fact that we never spend any time with most of the people for whom you buy gifts, it’s easy to see why we innocent holiday shoppers get a little carried away with ourselves, especially in this economy. No wonder people at the Long Island Wal-Mart “shouted angrily and kept shopping” when they tried to close the store for a few hours after the fatality.

Clearly, the shoppers are not at fault. If anything, the “victim” himself should shoulder most of the blame.

Not convinced? Consider a law in Kentucky passed in 2006 that requires the state’s homeland security department to acknowledge God as the first line of defense.

“Specifically, Homeland Security is ordered to publicize God's benevolent protection in its reports,” says the Lexington Herald-Leader, “and it must post a plaque at the entrance to the state Emergency Operations Center with an 88-word statement that begins, ‘The safety and security of the Commonwealth cannot be achieved apart from reliance upon Almighty God.’"

Now, I never met Mr. Damour, the Wal-Mart stampeding victim, but it seems fair to suppose that he had probably not been giving God enough credit for his own personal security.

In fact, with a name like Jdimytai Damour, it’s hard to imagine he was even a Christian. Why has the media spent so much time mourning this guy, when he clearly had it coming? He was practically begging to be pureed under a mob.

As you might expect, I daresay the Kentucky law doesn’t go far enough. When you think about it, don’t we need God for basically everything?

We should require the government to acknowledge God’s role in making sure we have air to breathe and food to eat. If corporate mismanagement of our fragile food production and distribution system ever leads to widespread famine, or if pollutants render our air unbreatheable, we will rue the day that we didn’t give God His props.

Without God, we would have no public education, because without God, there would be no children. Duh.

Tell you what. Let’s just cover all our bases by turning government into one massive prayer session. You can never be too sure that you’re worshipping ardently enough to avert catastrophe.

As for you degenerate heathens out there who don’t believe God interposes His will in human affairs on a regular basis… well, I know of a job opening at a Wal-Mart on Long Island that would be perfect for you.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why Health Care Costs So Much

Sometimes I wish I could happen upon authentic video of Elvis driving a Toyota Prius, so I could sell it to a tabloid and afford full family health coverage for a couple of months.

Why does health care cost so much? Because nowadays we expect to survive most ailments.

Let’s say you’re having mysterious abdominal symptoms. If you were alive 100 years ago, your experience would probably go like this:

  1. The local doctor visits your home. He gives you opium and leaches, and says, “take two of these and call me in the morning.”

  2. You die. (Or, in rare cases, God saves you… for a while.)

Today, no middle or upper-class American would dream of receiving this level of medical care. Instead, we expect something like this:

  1. You visit your Primary Care Physician, whose monthly malpractice insurance premium costs more than a college education. The PCP refers you to a specialist.

  2. The specialist makes you sit in the waiting room for longer than it takes to give an English bulldog a facelift.

  3. The specialist recommends a CT scan, which is not covered by your insurance. So she orders an ultrasound instead.

  4. The ultrasound machine, which costs more than a successful campaign for U.S. Senate by a black woman with a facial tick and a criminal record, is operated by a “technician” who is not allowed to tell you anything she sees, even if it is obvious.

  5. The Ultrasound results are sent to a radiologist. Why the radiologist can’t operate the ultrasound machine himself is beyond you.

  6. After returning from a Caribbean vacation, the radiologist eventually looks at the results and relays them back to the specialist, who relays them back to your PCP, who will call you when she is damn good and ready.

  7. The results were inconclusive. The PCP prescribes some pills, which were created by a team of chemists who each make more money than an army of Vegas call girls. They may or may not help you (the pills, I mean).

  8. The specialist orders more testing. Meanwhile, the pills are causing you to break out in hives, vomit, and fall asleep at random moments. To counter these symptoms, you get some more pills.

  9. Finally disgusted with the whole process, you go to see an “alternative” medical provider, who actually has pretty reasonable fees because she keeps her salary roughly in line with Tom Brady’s. She recommends acupuncture and tinctures.

  10. You start to feel better.

  11. You die. (Or, in rare cases, God saves you... for a while.)

If we demand this level of care from our medical system, of course it’s going to be expensive. The question is, who will pay for it?

The answer, of course, is “not me.” Unfortunately, this answer only applies to you if you are a professional whose employer supplies health insurance, or if you qualify for Medicaid.

Otherwise, you have to suck it up and shell out the dough.

If you’re short of cash, I recommend chemical pesticides as a can’t-miss investment. You could also start up your own fast food franchise, or maybe buy up barrels of High Fructose Corn Syrup while the price is still low.

Personally, I’m going to rent an Elvis costume and start a leech farm in my backyard cesspool. Wish me luck.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Encyclopedic Knowledge

More and more people are relying upon Wikipedia to learn about the world. But should we, when any revenge-bent chimpanzee can log in and change stuff?

What’s to stop me from telling the world the New York Yankees have changed their name to “The Overpaid, Menopausal Wimps?”

Approximately 36% of us online types use Wikipedia, according to the Pew Research Center. A staggering 96% of Wikipedia’s entries show up on the first page of a Google search.

A New York Times study a few years ago found that Wikipedia averages four errors per article, which sounds awful until you compare it with Britannica, which has three, or with the Bangor Daily News, which is just one giant mistake from front to back.

So the short answer is that we can rely on Wikipedia, at least roughly as much as we can rely on anything else.

But to be sure, I had to launch my own investigation. I checked what Wikipedia says about a bunch of topics on which I am already an expert.

Take navel lint. When I first discovered that the hairs on my abdomen had started combing fibers into my bellybutton, I was quite alarmed. Still, in retrospect, I should not have panicked and flung the lint ball into my future father-in-law’s Chicken Alfredo.

“Contrary to expectations,” Wikipedia states, “navel lint appears to migrate upwards from underwear rather than downwards from shirts or tops. The migration process is the result of the frictional drag of body hair on underwear, which drags stray fibers up into the navel.”

Complete B.S. If this was true, my navel lint would be white (or mostly white), instead of roughly the same color of whatever shirt I’d been wearing the previous 36 hours.

“The existence of navel lint is entirely harmless, and requires no corrective action.” Wrong again! Clearly, the author of this article has never accidentally revealed his navel during a blind date.

In 1997 I paid a sketchy guy (he was mostly bald, except for a mullet) $1000 cash for a ten-year-old car that looked like a cardboard box fastened to a Radio Flyer wagon.

The Volkswagen Fox was my first vehicle, and I loved it.

They don’t sell the Fox in the U.S.A. anymore, probably because it had a top speed of 55 mph before unsettling vibration set in, and I had to use bumper stickers to hold the fenders together.

Wikipedia doesn’t mention any of this. Slackers.

I am also a Scrabble aficionado. I don’t want to brag, but I have never lost since I started secretly using the dictionary when playing online.

I’ve studied the Official Scrabble dictionary, watched episodes of the old game show on Youtube, and read books about tournament play, all of which has prepared me for the ultimate Scrabble experience, which is to have everyone you meet think you are mentally ill and unfit for companionship.

I could not find a single error in Wikipedia’s extensive article on Scrabble. But they did fail to mention that some sinister Mattel employee has been voodoo hexing game racks, as evidenced by the fact that I’m always stuck with the ‘Q’ at the end of each match.

Guess I’ll have to plug in that info myself.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Shameless Self-Promotion

Ladies and gentlemen, you are looking at “Tongue-in-Cheek” column number 98.

That’s right. Almost two solid years of churning out this God-forsaken drivel week after week.

What have I learned from it all?

You can tell a lot about a man by looking at his blog tags.

You see, I post each of these columns to a blog (, which keeps them neatly archived so I can go back and check which immature jokes I’ve already used.

Each entry has “tags,” or key words that make the blog to appear when someone searches for one of those words.

I thought I’d show you my tags. Sure, it sounds dirty, but it would give you an idea of what this column is all about, in case you’re new to it. (As you’ll see, I’m not afraid to take on the “tough issues,” such as paranoid elk.)

These keywords have NOT been rearranged for meaningful effect. Honest. They are simply in alphabetical order.

For example, the phrase “Earth-Raping Pirate Pillagers” appears next to “electric company.” That’s not a reflection on my views of the electric company.

Well, okay, maybe it is, but only by coincidence.

Say… that gives me an idea for a cheesy contest.

Scan my tags and see if you can find any other places where two seem to fit together. Write to me at and let me know which ones and why. Whoever comes up with the best one will get to have lunch with me. (It would be like meeting a celebrity, albeit one who is not the least bit handsome, interesting, or famous.)

I’ll announce the winner in my 100th column, two weeks from now.

Here they are. Good luck:

Abstinence, Alfond Arena, anarchists, Anthem, armpit gland surgery, arsenic-laced Wheaties, atheism, Babe Ruth, Baldacci, beer tax, biodiesel, Black Death, black market drugs, bowl of popcorn, brass knuckles, breast feeding, Brian Setzer Orchestra, bronchitis, brothel,
carpet mold, cat vomit, cataclysmic explosions, cherished personal orifice, Cheshire Cat, Christian Civic League, cigarettes, Civil Disobedience, Clint Eastwood, clown college, coccyx, collective flabbiness, complete apocalyptic chaos, consolidation, Conway Twitty, Criminal Scum, Curt Schilling, cute matte finish,
darn corporate greed, democracy, diapers, Don Imus, driving, Earth-Raping Pirate Pillagers, electric company, Engelbert Humperdinck, engorged testicles, Etch-a-Sketch, even more sex,
fantasy baseball, fatherhood, feminism, festering wound, fjords, foam packing peanut finger puppets, Food Network, Fox News, fraud, freaking Panama Canal, fungal evil, furry woodland creatures,
Garbanzo Beans, gardening, gasses escaping, gay rights, Genghis Kahn, go-karts, Gray Poupon, Green Party, grenade launcher,
Halo, Hannaford, haphazardly-trained orangutan, heating oil, heebie-jeebies, Hillary Clinton, hip waders, hockey, Home Depot, hopeless drooling losers, Hormel, horticultural terrorist, household spiders, Human Growth Hormone, hunting, Hurricane Ike, Husqvarna Mafia, hypnosis,
Idaho, insect toilet paper, insurance, Interstate Highway to the Sun, intimacy, investing, Iraq, James Bond, Kleenex, larger ice cubes, Larry Bird, lead paint, leprosy, Lewiston, loofah, lucky briefs, Lunar Rest Area, lust,
Manny Ramirez, manure, Massachusetts, menacing muscular manliness, meth-addicted howler monkey, Molly Ivins, Moons Over My Hammy, mosquito coitus, Mother's Day, Motor Booty Affair, Mrs. Beasley, mucous, municipal landfill, Muppets,
nerds, Nintendo Wii, Panic of 1893, paranoid elk, patented detergent additive, Patriot Act, pepperoni stick, pffft, Philip-Morris, pointy trout antics, poison ivy, poisonous gases, pus, Queen Elizabeth II,
Red Sox, religion, remorseless evil, Republicans, rinky-dink town, Roscoe P. Coltrane, rotten cantaloupes, Route 1, Rubik's Cube, sado-masochistic plaything, scythe, Senator Collins, sewage treatment plant, sex, Sherlock, shrunken head, snake advisory, sophisticated nod, soul-bending fiery passion, SPAM, spastic hand gestures, sphincters, spider self-esteem, steamed crap, Steve McKay, swarthy lying scumbag, Sweet-n-Low,
taxes, The American Way, The Man, thrilling capitalistic orgy, toddler, toilets, Tom Brady, traffic laws, transmission fluid,
underwear-staining alarm, utter foolishness, Uzi, vacuum, vampire, vasectomy, video games, virgin poultry, wedgie of doom, weeds, wet Chihuahua, Wiggles, Wikipedia, wrinkly texture, writhing, yoga, youth sports, zzzzzzz.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Getting In Touch With Your Inner Elmer Fudd

Here I am, at the computer, pounding my brain against the keyboard, trying to think of something to write.

“Dearest God of muses and creativity, breathe your essential nectar into my soul, so I may continue to inspire the languishing masses with my mediocre writing skills, and collect undeserved paychecks.”

And there, as if on cue, a flock of wild turkeys crosses the road and starts to pick all the rye grass seeds out of my garden.

I wouldn’t mind shooting one of them, but I don’t own a gun. So I have to settle for running out and scaring them away, which is fun (it turns out turkeys do fly), but it doesn’t help me with Thanksgiving Dinner.

If you’re like me, you would rather shoot your own food than have it delivered to you via an inefficient system of corporate farming and trucking that leaves a larger carbon footprint than the entire city of Houston, Texas.

While it may be hard for us animal lovers to pull the trigger on Bambi’s mommy or daddy, it’s better than contributing to the cruelty, torture, and corruption of the meat industry.

(When you hear the word “slaughterhouse,” do you think happy thoughts? No. There’s a reason for that.)

Therefore, everyone should learn to hunt.

Think about it: if every family in America got its meat from hunting instead of from the grocery store, we’d run out of wildlife faster than you could look up “cannibalism” on Google.

With everyone eating each other, the daunting problem of unfettered global population growth would go away on its own.

The alternative would be giving up meat. Ha! As if.

Widespread vegetarianism is hardly a realistic choice, even if it would result in a much more efficient food distribution system.

So I’ve decided to learn how to hunt. But there’s a problem. I come from the generation that can’t learn anything without the help of the Internet, and when you look up hunting on the Internet, you get very scared.

It turns out hunters get up very early, like 3 a.m., an hour when no human should ever wake up longer than it takes to fish a slice of leftover pizza from the fridge.

Hunting is expensive. Every hunter has his own lucky combination of deer-urine scents, skinning and dressing knives, binoculars, camouflage, and blaze orange, which have the combined effect of making the deer double over with helpless mocking laughter, which makes them much easier to shoot.

The best site out there for hunters is, where you can find all kinds of useful stuff, including pictures of guys named Leon and Bert posing with recent kills. They also have links to hunting tips and video of a guy dressing a whitetail doe.

I thought “dressing” meant he had some pretty blouses and panty hose for it to try on. Turns out I have a lot more to learn.

Instead, he unseamed the poor animal and scooped out her entrails, all the while narrating his actions as if he was hosting his own show on the Food Network.

“Hear that? That’s gasses escaping.”

“I’m pushing down on the intestines as I slice through the meaty portion, to keep them out of the way.”

“Now I’m going to reach up and grab the esophagus and pull it down as far as I can.”

Yeah… maybe I’ll learn to hunt next year.