Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clapping for Blasphemy

Last week’s legislative hearing in Augusta on same-sex marriage got a lot of attention, but there were a few stories from the hearing the mainstream media refused to cover.

I was there, and unlike your pretty boy TV news anchors and your write-it-before-it-happens daily newspapers, I’m not afraid to deliver the truth.

And the truth is, people on both sides of the issue accidentally applaud the wrong speaker the exact same way.

Perhaps you know the feeling. You aren’t really paying attention, probably thinking about how that pizza slice isn’t really agreeing too well with the Mountain Dew that washed it down, but you’re in the habit of smacking your paws together when you hear other people do it.

More than once did the suit-encrusted Mormon sitting two seats down from me catch himself applauding the latest homosexual at the microphone demanding equal rights. After three or four seconds, he would realize what he was doing and start rubbing his fingers, as if the whole applause thing was just a warm-up for that, then he would glance around furtively to see if anyone had noticed him clapping for blasphemy.

Then he would fold his hands in his lap and adopt a stern, disapproving expression, as if he was internally outraged at what had just been said.

I saw five different people on both sides of the issue perform this exact same routine, myself included. It was a long hearing.

It’s true: despite spirited debate over this contentious issue, people at the hearing had way more in common than the media would have you believe.

The sight of homophobic Baptists waiting 25 minutes in the same line with butch lesbians for the same grease-soaked slices of pizza and the same overpriced nachos ($4.50 a serving!) was quite moving.

People on both sides were probably surprised to see that Augusta now has a third exit off the Interstate. Who knew?

(It’s about time, really. It’s our state capital, for crying out loud. Even Newport has three exits.)

Of course, there were a few examples of differences between the two camps.

The Equality Maine people, who support same-sex marriage, organized their troops into a giant red-clad army of hippie tolerance. Groups of educated, articulate, speakers, including people representing various professional organizations (i.e. The American Pediatrics Society, The Maine Psychiatrists Association, etc.), used personal anecdotes and scientific data to support their arguments.

On the other side, people had darn few teeth.

That may seem mean, but it’s true. About 25% of the people packing the Civic Center opposed the same-sex marriage bill, and they were almost all senior citizens or people who looked like the closest they’d ever come to a toothbrush was a pine branch hitting them in the face while they were searching the woods for something to shoot.

And I’d like to be able to tell you what they actually said, but I couldn’t quite hear over all the Bible-thumping.

Of course, the biggest underreported story of the day was that there were actually quite a few children at the hearing, and none of them left any gayer than when they came in.

Aren’t you glad journalists with integrity, like me, are here to bring you the real story?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Brilliant Solving

Do not skip over this column! Failure to read it could result in severe personal consequences.

David Thurber of Battle Creek, Michigan had a chance to read this column, but ignored it instead. Now he is a homeless paraplegic with a boil the size of a tangerine on his face.

Linda Menendez of Roanoke, Virginia did read this column, and she now spends her days basking in perpetual orgasm while handsome male servants feed her exotic fruits.

Only a naïve fool would call this coincidence!

Why is this week’s edition so unusually valuable?

Because this is the first installment of my annual feature “Brilliant Solving,” or “B.S.” for short. I will dissect life’s most nagging and annoying mysteries so you can feel like you actually got something out of reading your newspaper, besides intellectual stimulation.

First question: When cleaning the bathroom, how do you manage to remove hair, as opposed to just wiping it around?

Seriously! I use industrial strength carcinogenic spray chemicals of doom in my bathroom. This stuff is so strong that it removes actual layers of porcelain from my toilet, and even hard water stains, if you can believe that.

But those pesky hairs just get swished around. Exasperated, I resorted to a pair of tweezers, which is okay for the outside but problematic in those “hard to reach” places.

To solve this mystery, I went back to my most trusted research method: ask any woman born before 1980.

It turns out I couldn’t pick up the hair because I was using paper towels. I’m told a coarse cloth of some sort, or even a washcloth, will pick up the hair. (What you do with the cloth after that is up to you. I recommend dipping it in acid and throwing it into a bonfire the size of a UPS truck.)

At any rate, I will definitely let you know how well this method works next time I clean my toilet seven months from now. I am thankful that I will no longer have to listen to my wife read me the riot act for inadequate bathroom splendor.

Next question: Where does the phrase “Read the Riot Act” come from?

I assumed this is some sort of historical reference, in which some people were rioting, and parliament passed a “Riot Act,” and messengers had to go around and sternly read it to people in town squares, which probably resulted in more rioting.

Good luck finding a woman born before 1980 who knows anything about riots. So I consulted, which confirmed that I was basically correct, for a change.

The British Parliament did, in fact, pass a Riot Act in 1714, which allowed local authorities to disperse or arrest any group of 12 or more people assembled in one place. (This sounds pretty harsh until you remember men in Afghanistan are allowed, by law, to demand sex from their wives every four days, and women can’t leave their houses without a male relative.)
Authorities were required to read the act to such a crowd before they could begin beating people with clubs and throwing tear gas.

Last question: If your goal is to prevent people of the same gender from having sex with each other, shouldn’t you encourage them to get married?

I don’t think any amount of B.S. is going to touch that one.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Health Care on the Chi

A strange man has grabbed my wife by the armpits and lifted her off the ground. He rearranges her limp body, pushing and twisting, while I sit helpless in the next room.

In a few moments he will jab her with metal sticks and send electric currents through her body, and, again, I will just sit there, unable to escape the influence of People Magazine.

This may sound like a nightmare, or a typical experience of guests dining at the Blaine House, but it’s actually just another visit to our chiropractor, who uses an electrical acupuncture machine to supplement his spinal wrenchings.

Don’t scoff. There are plenty of things you don’t understand but don’t question.

If you spend any time at your local playground, for instance, you know that the absolute worst possible crime against humanity a child can commit is to climb up the slide.

I’ve seen 18-month-olds allowed to wander precariously toward openings ten feet off the ground, rambunctious boys throwing things with reckless disregard for smaller children, and more than one precious snowflake left to curse and drop garbage all over the place.

But if one kid starts up the slide, the nearest adult jumps in to scold him for his brutal act of treachery.

Does this make sense to any thinking human? Of course not. Same goes for Google, telecommunications, the financial world, earned run average, and structural engineering. These things may function on pure pixie dust, as far as most of us know. But we see them work, so we assume there’s an expert somewhere who understands it all, and we’re happy to reap the benefits.

Yet, inexplicably, some people remain skeptical about acupuncture.

Consider my story:

Since she allowed me to reproduce with her more than four years ago, my wife has experienced more body issues than a 1989 Nissan pickup.

She threw her back completely out of whack, her shoulder endlessly smoldered (from the baby carrier), her bladder went mad as a hatter, and her regular hormonal cycle did something that rhymes with “run for cover.”

Super Chiropractor-Acupuncturist Man cured all these problems. After the “regular” doctor said she might have to take medicine for the rest of her life for interstitial cystitis, our hero relieved her symptoms it in about four half-hour sessions.

If he manages to increase her libido, I will build a shrine in his honor.

How does it all work? A pamphlet in the chiropractor’s office describes “fourteen major energy channels” in the human body, through which “a subtle energy called Chi” flows.

“Any misdirection, blockage, or other derangement of Chi may result in pain, dysfunction, and ill health.” Acupuncture needles “restore normal balance and flow of Chi.”

To a scientist, this sounds rather absurd, since it is impossible to detect “Chi” empirically without eating certain kinds of mushrooms.

The Scientific Method is a relatively newfangled contraption in the eyes of the Far East, whose ancient medicinal traditions can be traced back thousands of years to doctors who grew tired of treating sick people with herbs and started poking them with needles just to see what would happen.

(This should sound vaguely familiar to anyone who has been prescribed antibiotics, “to see if that clears it up, and if it doesn’t, we’ll order some tests.”)

If you want to do your part to curb health care costs, try “alternative” treatments first (unless you’re bleeding to death or something), then seek help from the traditional MD.

And stay away from the Blaine House, for God’s sake.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Terrible Poems

Inspired by Garrison Keillor’s book “Good Poems,” I decided to create a poetry anthology of my own, entitled, “Terrible Poems.”

I thought it would be much more entertaining.

Then I realized it would be much easier to write my own bad poetry than to go out and find some that has actually been published (published on the Internet doesn’t count).

Every 17 years or so I start seeing the world poetically. My creativity comet has returned, this time passing closer to my surface than ever before.

Fortunately, the fit only lasts a few weeks. My mind spins reality and language together like a food processor, resulting in alternately delicious and revolting poetic snacks.

Here are a few samples, some serious, some whimsical. I cannot guarantee their quality. If you don’t like them, take comfort in knowing that I’ll be back to myself again next week.

* * *


My empty mind
Filled with the day’s concerns
Did not see nor hear
The last square of toilet paper;
A warning dangled
In the current that rises from the baseboard.
The hollow linen closet asks me
What I will wear to Hannaford.

* * *


A stubbly co-worker with a Goodyear blimp belly
Mixes his eggs with his baked beans and jelly.
“It all goes to the same place,” he explains,
As my stomach lurches and face color drains.
The next day I regain my normal composure,
And set up my lunch of dirt and manure.
With a glass of brown water and grain seed for dessert,
I ready myself for a bit of culinary sport.
“It all comes from the same place,” I will say,
“and returns there again in less than a day.”
Alas, his absence turned my fun soft:
My corpulent friend had just been laid off.

* * *

Thank You, Disney

Stifled in the Pixar dust,
A robot’s post-apocalyptic longing
Coaxes prickly female trust,
Despite all outward explosions, revealing
What she truly wants.

Innocuous Inaba, just nice,
Not harsh, not funny, but always smiling,
Her bland butter counters spice;
Tune in to see Len and Bruno’s judging,
And Carrie-Ann’s hair.

The world stops for March Madness, ESPN,
Give us 118 hours of programming
Devoted strictly to the men.
Thank you, Disney, for deciding
What our women will be.

* * *

Daddy’s Song

She holds the pen high in the air
(Miniature fingers pinch its point
For the first time)
And asks, “is this the right way?”
I nod.
She struggles to scratch a misshapen ‘o’ and squeals as I clap –
Later pounding puddles
With a surgeon’s countenance,
Then a mischievous giggle
At my soggy sweats
As her absentminded fingers curl
Around mine, which leash and steady
Indecisively –
She pulls on her own socks
While I earn,
And excitedly shows me
When I return
So that we stay in step
On our thrilling march toward emptiness.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Salary Crap

The New York Post (suggested motto: “Just as reliable a news source as Dilbert, on a good day”) alerted the world last week that one out of every three Americans thinks the federal government should cap earnings for professional athletes and movie stars at $1 million apiece.

I can’t decide if this poll is believable. Is the Post just pulling our leg again, or are 100 million of us somehow maintaining biological functions even though we have salad dressing for brains?

Sure, David Ortiz makes $13 million per year playing for the Boston Red Sox. That works out to more than 80 grand per game. And he doesn’t even have to field, because he’s a Designated Hitter.

Absurd? Of course.

But you won’t hear anyone complain about how much money Red Sox owner John Henry makes because Ortiz is on his team.

Millions flock to Fenway each year to see Big Papi swing the bat. Millions more put up with NESN for a facsimile of the same privilege. Every time somebody buys a David Ortiz shirt, money clinks into John Henry’s piggy bank. It all ads up to enough to make one player’s salary look like chump change.

I wonder how many people think we should cap earnings from corporate ownership at $1 million a year. Probably very few.

(Just to be sure, I conducted my own survey, and the results corroborate my suspicions. Three out of three members of my household agree that I should just say whatever I need to say so I can get this column done already and start dinner.)

Why the discrepancy? I suspect race has something to do with it. Owners tend to be white, and it’s rare to hear someone grumble about the money pulled in by hockey players or NASCAR drivers.

Okay, so it’s rare to hear anyone say anything about hockey players or NASCAR drivers.
But what about Tom Brady at $625,000 a game? “He earns every nickel.” Paul Pierce for $22,000 a game? “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

How much does Bob Kraft or John Henry make each game? I don’t even know what kind of search term I would type in to Google to find that information.

But there are dozens of sites that can tell you exactly how much every Red Sox player will make this season.

The players, like 95% of us, are just another gear in our economic engine, collecting (hopefully) our fair share of what people are willing to pay to benefit from our skills.

You’ve seen this bumper sticker: “It will be a great day when schools get everything they need and the Air Force has to old a bake sale to buy a bomber.”

Well, the Air Force gets everything it needs because of defense contracts that spread wealth to various congressional districts. Until public schools can generate profit, they’ll remain low on the priority list, right down there with veterans’ hospitals, municipal rec programs, and other pointless money pits.

If you continue to get paid even though you cost your employer money, you are either an executive in the financial services industry, or a teacher.

If you’re not in one of those categories, then just shut up and watch the game.