Wednesday, December 30, 2009

CI #46 -- Sitting and eating

Is it possible to get tired of sitting and eating -- two independently desirable activities?


*Note: While looking for the above picture to steal, ahem, use for this post, Google suggested the following search term "thai sitting eating black man." So do with that information what you will.

Monday, December 21, 2009

CI #45 -- Dominick the Donkey

This time of year all we ever hear about is Rudolph and his unbelievably red nose. Rudolf, Rudolf, Rudolf. At least that's all I ever heard about growing up.

Being raised in the WASP-y South, I didn't know there was another option for underdog Christmas mascots. Well there is, and he's much more likely to be found hanging out with Sinatra than Rudolf could ever hope for. Suck it, Rudy.

He is Dominick the Italian Christmas Donkey, and I'm kicking myself for not switching to Team Dominick sooner. Behold.

Why do we need Dominick The Donkey?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

CI #44 -- Tape

What makes you think you can get away with that, Home Care Best Choice Brand?

"Invisible tape?" Man, I saw that shit. How do you think I knew to buy it?

Just for that, I will NOT compare to Scotch tape.

This post has been sponsored by the Greg's Attempts At Mitch Hedberg Jokes Foundation. Click to donate.

Monday, December 14, 2009

CI #43 -- Subway

If your chief complaint about New York is "there just aren't enough shopping malls," you're not looking hard enough.

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Atlantic Center Mall, which is just one Mrs. Field's Cookie Stand shy of being the real deal. So it makes sense that they'd have a Subway and that I'd eat there.

In general I support Subway, meaning that I eat there on a semi-regular basis. It's the perfect place to go when all you want is a moderately priced, mediocre meal.

That's their pledge -- and really every fast food chain's pledge -- to provide you with exactly the same crap no matter where you are. Subway: Guaranteed to be mediocre.

Friday, December 11, 2009

CI #42 -- Scrubs

It was nominated for a Grammy and reached number-one on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also the bane of my 1999 existence.

I'm talking about TLC's monster hit "No Scrubs." [for a reason that escapes my interweb knowhow, the video isn't showing up until you click on the link]

The song was catchy. The video was all future-y and directed by Hype Williams. I loved "Waterfalls." So what's not to like? Well, one thing in particular.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

CI #41 -- Trends

How do you know when both original trends and joke trends are over?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

CI #40 -- Heat

The gift of Prometheus. Well, I guess that was fire, but let’s not split mythological hairs.***

The heat at my apartment hasn’t worked in days. It wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we weren’t in the coldest stretch of days this season.

It’s remarkable that my landlord thinks it’s okay to let this happen. But what’s more remarkable still is the fact that I haven’t done anything about it.

Why haven’t I done anything about my heating being off?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

CI #39 -- Space

The final frontier. More specifically, I mean to investigate Hollywood's version of Future Space, the final frontier.

I started thinking about these matters while watching J.J. Abrams' "reset" of the Stark Trek series, which I found entertaining but also slightly disappointing.

It was a little too wink-wink for me at times (though a lot of it was no doubt intentional). But I tend to compare (unfairly) most sci-fi movies to either "The Empire Strikes Back" or the best episodes of "Star Trek: The Next Generation".

That said, Mr. Abrams' concept of Future Space as well as that of George Lucas, and Mel Brooks parodying George Lucas, Gene Roddenberry, and pretty much every other space story ever told have common threads, which raise common questions. For instance, ...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

CI #38 -- Pleasure Cruises

I'm headed this weekend to my first ever cruise. It's such an odd way to get away -- confining yourself to a boat for an extended period of time, but I'm really looking forward to it.

It seems that cruises are part remote resort hotel, part Las Vegas, and part summer camp (with both the pros and cons of the aforementioned).

Still inspired from my friend's marathon run, I've decided to set myself a goal: drink at least one alcoholic beverage in every place that will serve it. By my count, there are eleven aboard the Ecstasy (yep, that's what it's called).

Since I have yet to actually investigate this curious item, I'll leave you with a few questions to which I seek answers:

- What are the chances we'll be attacked by pirates in the Caribbean?
- If one is going to get intoxicated and toss oneself overboard, where is the best location to do so?
- If the captain falls ill, can the ship be piloted by a savvy video game player or gristly 'Nam vet?
- Does the captain ever utter the phrase, "Set a course for fun!"?
- How many keys are required to release the nuclear torpedos?
- I see that your cruise line is named "Carnival." What level of Freak can I look forward to?
- If we are indeed attacked by pirates, can I take a shot at one of them?
- Will there be souffles? What is a souffle?
- Do emotional scars from prior relationships count as "excess baggage"?

Bon voyage! Wait, that's your line.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

CI #37 -- U.S. Postal Service

Though Seinfeld was never known for satire, it pretty much hit the nail on the head with Newman.

I would love to have had a bucolic childhood where I had a friendly relationship with a reliable, whistle-happy mailperson.

I would hurry home from school with hopes that my X-ray specs from Boys Life were finally going to arrive today.

If I had the fortune of running into Postman Barney on the way, I'd even ask him personally. "Hey Mr. Barney, did my X-Ray specs come today?" "Nope. Not today, champ."

You know why my X-ray specs didn't come that day?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

CI #36 -- Toilet Paper

Rest assured, the Government is protecting your favorite toilet paper brand from thieving competitors and unfair practices.

One might assume that toilet paper brands, like many products, have applicable patents. You figure there's one for the diamond weave texture for a dependable clean, another for the method that turns 100% recycled materials into a rough, rugged clean, and even another for the latest in cardboard tube adhesives.

But how many patents can a single roll of toilet paper possibly have?

Monday, November 2, 2009

CI #35 -- Marathons

Ever since Pheidippides sprinted nonstop from Marathon to Athens to send word of the Persians' defeat, spawning the 26-mile race in his honor, people have wondered, "Why the hell would you want to do that?"

Well, Sunday I found out. For all the crazy food items you get to have, obviously. I'm talking about gels and juices and jolts and salt tablets and various other things that are not only socially unacceptable to eat at other times -- you look downright silly consuming them. But not when you're running a marathon. Bring on the pastes!

Friday, October 30, 2009

CI #34 -- Halloween Costumes

Halloween is either my favorite non-presents-giving holiday or my most hated. I can't decide. It all depends on my costume -- or a frustrating lack thereof.

I hate running around at the 11th hour trying to pull something together. Yet, some of my most favorite costumes have come from a last-minute shopping frenzy.

The worst thing you can do is half-dress up. If you're not doing the whole costume scene, I respect that. But if you're going to attend a costumed party or event, you must make an effort. Now, an effort doesn't mean wearing your normal clothes plus a name tag and one wacky accessory. At that point, you're really just an Adam Sandler bit.

In my mind, there's only one rule for Halloween costumes. What is your one rule for Halloween costumes, Greg?

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ci #33 -- Record Fairs

My friend Brock and I attended the WFMU Record Fair this weekend, and it was a lot of fun. How do you know you're at a good record fair? Just look for Rolling Stone Editor David Fricke shopping there and Yo La Tengo member Ira Kaplan working there.

But calm yourself. That wasn't the exciting part!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CI #32 -- Organic Eggs

I normally don't buy organic foods, mostly due to the sheer expense of them (also, because if your organic food product X comes all the way from California via fossil fuels, is the net result really a gain?).

I'd love to imagine a day where all foods are organic (whatever that means, since the FDA/USDA doesn't really have a meaningful and consistent definition of it). And water would come right out of the ground, and we could drink it too!

I know. I'm a hapless romantic.

This week, however, I did happen to pick up some certified organic eggs. As most Americans are, I'm cynical about labels (How do I know my $5 Chinatown shades really block UVs?). But this is no laughing matter.

So how can you be sure that your healthy, environmentally-friendly organic food is actually healthy and environmentally-friendly?

Why just check the machine-stamped, ink label right there on your eggs, of course.

(not Photoshopped, by me or a 1980s robot. I promise.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

CI #31 -- 10-year High School Reunion

After much deliberating, equivocating, hemming (but not so much hawing, oddly), and Facebooking, Katie and I decided to attend our high school reunions, which happened to be the same night this past weekend, at the same time, 40 minutes apart.

It was hectic, but a lot of fun. I drank more than I should have, went to Waffle House at 2 a.m., found myself worried about being left out of group activities. In other words, it was just like high school.

(My high school, boasting as many windows as most federal prisons!)

Most everyone seemed to be doing pretty well and looked pretty much the same. The people who have really let themselves go don't show up. ("Hey, look at this sweet gut I picked up over the past decade!")

Suffice it to say I'm small-talked out. If I see you this week, please be prepared to carry the conversation. As always, the inevitable lead question at the reunion was "What have you been up to?"

Here's how many exchanges went. [Ed. note: Some words were actually spoken. Some were spoken in my head.]

ME: Oh, you have three kids under the age of 6, work in a cubicle selling insurance, and live in a subdivision sandwiched between strip malls? ... That must suck.

NOT ME: Oh, you're not married, currently unemployed, and live in an apartment with no windows in the living room? ... That must suck.

To each his own. I'm fine with mine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CI #30 -- New Penny

I'm going to go out on a limb here and call Abraham Lincoln a classy guy.

Not classy in the Kennedy Camelot mold, but the kind of guy who'd give you the shirt off his back so you could be classy (It's hard to be classy when you're shirtless). Then he'd just be shirtless. He'd do that for you.

The Lincoln Memorial has always been my favorite of the presidential memorials, and by extension I've been a fan of the Lincoln Cent. So I was a little taken aback when I found Classy, Distinguished Lincoln to be replaced with Cartoon Lincoln on the reverse of the brand new penny I got yesterday.

It was just one of a four-part series, this one being pt. 3, Lincoln's "Professional Life in Illinois." For this reverse side, the designers chose not to showcase the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Lincoln's classic stoicism, or his razor-sharp logic. Instead, they opted for depicting Lincoln after he'd moved to Illinois, gotten elected to the general assembly, and proven his ability to serve as a JC Penny catalog model.

(Lincoln outside the Illinois capitol building)

He really was ahead of his time.

Here's my curious question: Really? You take one of the most pivotal and influential presidents in history, and this is how you show he's important?

What is this posture or pose supposed to be saying? "Come to Illinois! We have a fancy building!" "Vote for me! I can point to things!" "'Ello, guvnah! Shine your shoes for a tuppence?!"

I know that public interest in philately is an all-time low [not fact-checked], but surely they could have done better. I also know that all the truly great coin designers died during a tragic fire in the Willard Hotel's sauna [also not fact-checked]. Yet still, I know that for better or worse, tastes and design preferences change over time -- and in this case for the stupid.

I'm off pennies.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

CI #29 -- Foamhenge

Yep, you guessed it. It's a full-sized replica of Stonehenge made entirely out of styrofoam. Foamhenge remains the only Stonehenge replica in the U.S. with that size distinction -- so the fact that it's made out of foam is really just gravy. Everybody wins.

Located in Natural Bridge, Virginia, Foamhenge is the perfect place to visit after realizing what a ripoff THE Natural Bridge is. "Eighteen bucks to see a rock formation?! It's not like you built the damn thing. Virginia is for assholes."

Foamhenge, on the other hand, is free. (It's not really a tourist trap if it doesn't cost money, right?). You seriously should stop here. It was the highlight of a recent trip from D.C. to Roanoke. The place is funny and odd and mindboggling and pointless and funny again.

I have to admit that while I was walking the grounds, I did find myself thinking "How was this made?" and then I realized "Oh yeah, we know. In a shop by "4-5 Mexicans [fact-checking needed] and one crazy white man. It says it right there."

"Do we need a full-size replica of Stonehenge made out of foam?" No, of course not. I don't know that we needed, per se, the original. We "need" it like I "need" a pen that also dispenses guacamole -- I can get by without it, but I don't want to. And (full-size replica?) Merlin certainly doesn't want to either.

Monday, October 12, 2009

CI #27 -- My Appointment With Death

I found this pamphlet on the windshield of a car down the street from me. Presumably, its goal was to get me to consider the end of my days, and I did. But what I didn't realize was how hilarious this pamphlet would be.

If you do indeed believe you have an appointment with death, is it possible to have a sense of humor about said appointment with death?" The answer is a resounding and apparent yes, at least with respect to the clever prose of Harold S. Martin. Consider the following:

- [Ed. note: Ever hear the one about] the man who said to his wife, 'Begorra, I wish I knew where I was going to die. If I knew that, I'd never go there."

Woody Allen, I know you're Jewish, but eat your heart out. On second thought, that's all the more reason to eat your heart out.

CI #26 -- Coincidence (?)

On Friday I watched Patton Oswalt's 2004 special "No Reason To Complain" for the first time. Way to be up to date on your supposed line of work, Greg. As expected, it was hilarious.

[Side Bar: Patton was part of what I call my "most New York moment." In 2005, my friend Brock and I were at "Invite Them Up" at Rififi, where Patton Oswalt and Todd Barry did sets and, "Wait, is that? ... Yep." Yo La Tenga just showed up and played a three-song set. It was awesome.]

Back to the special. He was doing a bit about the fact that if you were in 80s metal bands -- especially their videos -- you were basically gay (makeup, tight leather pants, etc.), and you apparently shoot your videos in factories that "produce only sparks."

Right as Patton landed on the word "gay" in the punchline, they cut to a guy in the audience laughing. Wait, wait. Is that Anthrax's Scott Ian?

My favorite thing you ever did will always be a cover of a Public Enemy song, but this is a close second.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

C.I. #25 -- Pyrrhic Victory

Do you keep finding yourself among friends who frequently use the term "pyrrhic victory"? If so, you should get new friends.

Nevertheless, you might find yourself asking "What's a modern day example of a Phyrric Victory?"

(Un)Fortunately, a poll provided us with one today.

According to the article, "opposition to Obama's health care remake dropped dramatically in just a matter of weeks" (to a 40-40 split).

You know times are tough when just getting people to hate something less is a win.

Monday, October 5, 2009

CI #24 -- America's Crumbling Infrastructure

On a handful of occasions, I've encountered the same ideas (dare I say themes) in some far-flung and unexpected places. I'd call it Fate, but I doubt Fate has the time or inclination to insert bull fighting into my life three times within one month (September 2006: Almodovar's "Talk to Her," The Sun Also Rises, and some short story not easily recalled from The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2005.)

That happened again last week, this time with coal ash, which apparently is pretty much the worst substance ever. My first encounter with coal ash was on a 60 Minutes follow-up about the 2008 incident that spilled toxic coal ash all over Kingston, TN.

The second came when I watched the History Channel special "The Crumbling of America," aka "The least sexy two-hour programming block ever to be broadcast." You laugh now, but what about when the decades-old water main beneath your very feet starts to crack, causing runoff to mix with waste from a hog lagoon, in turn allowing harmful bacteria to leak into the water supply, KILLING ONE THOUSAND BUNNIES IN THE PROCESS!!!

That might as well have been the tone of the show -- sensible and scary as hell on its own, but way over the top in execution. Long story short, we're screwed but not necessarily immediately. Our bridges, canals, levees, damns, overpasses -- you get the idea -- are way out of date and, guess what, funding for maintenance for these projects is disappearing faster than the public option.

The problem is, infrastructure isn't sexy. Most people don't care to think about it, and fair enough. But I'm wondering (cq) Is there a way to make infrastructure sexy?

No, regardless of what Fergie says.

Coincidentally, Happy 100th birthday to the Manhattan Bridge.

Friday, September 25, 2009

CI #22 -- Art

I went to the Brooklyn Museum of Art for the first time today, so I thought this Friday evening would be the perfect time to breezily analyze the mammoth pillar of human existence that is ART.

I would say I know as much about art as I do about wine, which is to say I know what I like when I see or taste it (The wine is more often than not red. The art may or may not be.)

I do, however, know that "What is art?" or "What constitutes art?" seems to be an important question among those who do know about "art" when it comes to everything from home furnishings to paintings involving feces. Many times walking down Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg, I have asked myself this very same question with respect to this:

(Again, click if you can't read or see it. Also, there's not usually trash around it.)

So I decided to write a former professor I had for an art theory/criticism class about it. He also happened to be my adviser (long story). I asked him (cq) Is this stump art? (or is it a joke, which could make it art? Regardless, I'm pro-stump).

Here's his response:

I would need to know a couple things before I could go very far into this discussion. First, what does the answer matter? What is at stake in this stump? And second, does the "estimate -- $89,000" refer to anything? Was, for example, that the cost of turning the tree into a stump? If so, the piece may be some sort of social or political protest, using its form (a parody of a work of art) as a way of protesting inappropriate public expenditures or the loss of shade for local residents, or ....

If the $89,000 does not refer to anything, then the piece is a
work of
in the sense that it is itself a visual metaphor for "work of art" which it becomes just by parodying the captions on works of art. In this respect, one notes that the style of caption is dated--it mimics the way captions were done 80 years ago, so it may be that it is the caption more than the stump that is the work of art, though the stump needs to be there in order that there be a caption.

As a metaphor for a work of art or for a caption for a work of art, it is somewhat illuminating, as metaphors always are. But the luminosity is pretty low, less than 15 watts, I think. You didn't ask whether it was a GOOD work of art, or an IMPORTANT work of art, just whether it was art at all.

I could go on and on, as you remember that I always did. It was great to hear from you. What else are you doing in Brooklyn besides looking at stumps?


As you can see, his response cries out for further research, none of which I have done. But what fun is art if you have to think about it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CI# 22 -- Economic Indicators

As the economy is starting to recover (or isn't, depending on who you're talking to), we're hearing things like "green shoots," "consumer discretionary spending," "housing starts," and a lot of other jargon. So I was wondering, Is there some kind of "economic indicator" we all can easily understand?

Turns out, yes.

(Taken at the NYC public gym at Metropolitan Ave and Grand St.)

CI #21 -- Moral Dilemma

You had a good day at the arcade in Cape May, NJ. You have 28,000 tickets. Do you go for the Maxi-Matic Oven Toaster or blow it all on the Fajitas & More Buffet?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

CI #20 -- Moving

No one likes to move. No one likes helping someone move. No one can stand packing, wrapping, shuffling, storing, repacking, rearranging, securing objects with ropes (or extension cords), re-rearranging, unloading, -- not to mention it eating almost a month of the mover's life and killing at least an entire Saturday of anyone helping out.

There's not enough beer and pizza on Graham Avenue [insert incredibly specific geographic reference here] to make it tolerable.

So you can imagine how pumped I was when my new creepy neighbor *Gary asked me to help him move some things in the other day. "Just a couple bookcases I got on 92nd Street."... "Oh."

You might say, "Well, Greg. We help each other move. It's just part of being a decent person." Yes, we do help people move, and I help people move, but "people" are generally friends or loved ones.

Gary was neither (would he become one!?) when he approached me on my doorstep with my key in the door. I had seen him with bookcases atop his minivan on the other side of the street on my way back from the grocery store. We exchanged glances. Mine said, "Nope. I don't want to," but Gary was unfazed. I walked up the steps to my building, and suddenly found middle-aged, slightly doughy, matted gray hair, cargo shorts outfitted Gary right there behind me.

"You got a second?"
"I just need a hand getting these two bookcases upstairs."
"...How many stairs?"
"Two flights. [Pause]. I'll give you a couple bucks."
"Okay. Let me just put away the groceries [THAT I STILL HAVE IN MY HAND]."

So, I decided to help Gary, and I wouldn't take his money. What else am I doing anyway? Plus, if did accept money, I would have to be a good mover. I'd be a professional. There'd be pressure.

I stood idly by as I watched Gary remove the ties, which were extension cords, from the bookcases. Gary took his sweet time, untying at all four corners, when he could have just done two and come back later. On the plus side, however, these precious few moments allowed me to learn the following facts about Gary:

- he used to live on the Upper East Side. 14 years.
- rent was "getting crazy" up there, on the Upper East Side
- his minivan's back door got hit a couple years ago ("jackasses") and hasn't opened since
- he was given his minivan by a "good friend in Jersey"
- "sometimes it's nice to get away, you know"

Gary was the Oscar Wilde of obvious generalizations. Oh, and did I mention Gary had psoriasis? I'm not sure really what psoriasis is, but he was covered in something [remember to chop hand off later, if we come within inches of contact].

We move one bookcase up no problem. Then comes the second one. The heavy one. "I'll take the heavy end." "Okay. [You should]."

Gary moans and groans his way up the first flight of stairs. His face is really red. He's out of breath and heaving and lurching. And then terror sets in. I realize "Gary is going to die right here. He's going to have a heart attack and drop dead right in front of me. And I'll be the only one to handle it. There goes my WHOLE afternoon."

Fortunately for me, Gary did not die, and after a brief moment wondering whether my subconscious had stolen this nightmare from Curb Your Enthusiasm (still not sure), I decided I was going to accept money after all.

We got the second bookcase upstairs, and as he's walking me out he says:

"Let me give you a couple dollars. I wish I had more." I'm thinking, "$5. Whatever, it's a footlong. No biggie."

And then he pulls out a crumpled up one and hands it to me. "Hold on." "Okay."

He then proceeds to dump the entire contents of his cargo shorts pocket into his hand, against his belly. He motions me to come over and put my hand (ostensibly) against his belly. I do it, mostly because I believe it'll speed up the process.

The payment was now complete. And if you've ever wondered, (cq) "What's the going rate for helping someone move two bookcases up two flights of stairs? It's apparently $2.20, or $1.10 per bookcase.

I'm all but running back downstairs, and Gary's following me, which he continues to do across the street, to my door once again.

"So, like I was saying, I work in computers."
["Hmm, no, you weren't saying that, but whatever."]
"Oh, cool."
"So if you ever need any help with your computer, technical help, maybe you want to learn Word better [I'd made the mistake of telling him I was a writer], you know, I can help you out with that."
"Okay, cool."

And to top it all off, Gary finished with a limp, clammy handshake, which I found infinitely more offensive than $2.10.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

CI #19 -- Lady Gaga's VMA Performance

If a rapper hadn't acted like a jackass and then the President of the United States hadn't called him one, we'd still be focusing on the real story of the MTV Vide0 Music Awards -- the many faces of Lady Gaga.

Behold the Student Film Widow From The Future...

(Special shoutout to my boy, Kerm.)

the Doiley-Masked Evil Fairy Queen...

... And the Mascot For A Feathery Donut Store.

And those weren't even all of them. Okay, so the outfits are interesting, but what about her performance, the one that was supposed to solidify her presence as The Biggest Female Pop Star?

- creepiest bunny mask known to man? Check.
- backup dancers from the gay Lost Boys? Check.
- grand piano played with theatrical gusto and one leg up? Suck it, Liberace. Double check.
- inexplicable glut of stage blood? Check.
- backup dancer in a wheelchair? Check.
- one staged death? Check.

As Katie pointed out, she had it all, yet I still felt unfulfilled. For me, something was lacking. Was there anything that could have taken her performance to the next level, you know, really made it memorable? So I ask (CQ) What was Lady Gaga's VMA performance possibly missing?

Midgets. Serious oversight. She probably didn't call on the little people because Britney Spears used them on her recent tour. Nevertheless, I'm nonplussed. What a bland, run-of-the-mill showing, Lady Gaga. Maybe go all out next time, huh?

Friday, September 11, 2009

CI #18 -- Mystery Substance X

Arriving fresh out of the NASCAR from suburban North Carolina, I've been in NYC for over five years now. Obviously, the two places are quite different. (For instance, if you're one of the people I grew up with, you might be bristling with rage right now because "NASCARs" are actually "stock cars," but I digress.)

Some differences between the Country and the City were stark and immediately obvious: In NC, there are living things. In NYC, not so much. (Positive corollary though: No living things = no allergens to congest the author). Other differences, however, took time to detect and puzzle me to this day, like for instance the case of what I'm calling "Mystery Substance X." And so I ask the curious question, What is Mystery Substance X?

I'm not sure where or how I first stumbled upon Mystery Substance X (MSX). At once, it's instantaneously foreign and yet somehow familiar. Its appearances are irregular, though usually occurring on sidewalks. (In NC, there are no sidewalks.)

In my casual observation of MSX, I've noticed it appears more frequently in areas with fewer Starbucks in Manhattan and in the outer boroughs in general. Take, for instance, this specimen found in my Brooklyn neighborhood:

My gut tells me that it is some sort of organic compound with a lifespan of about a week (though this appears to be drastically reduced by extreme heat or cold). I've deduced that it must be generally harmless. Why else would NYC residents -- or NYC officials for that matter -- allow it to be so pervasive? However, close, street-level encounters with MSX do appear to induce a type of "total body halitosis," especially indoors.

Occasionally a small specimen of MSX will appear next to a larger one, which makes me wonder Are they growing? Are they multiplying? Are they ambulatory, possibly mobilizing at night?

I know I'm not alone in my concern for MSX. Why? because I've come upon specimens that have clearly been inspected by other third-party observers. Like in this case:

Clearly it has been disturbed, possibly by precocious neighborhood children the way they might examine a slug. Yet MSX continues to disturb me, especially when I see this:

Why would someone go through the trouble of collecting MSX in what can only be a "sterile lab pouch" only to leave the collected specimen sitting on the street?

Shifting gears, allow me to propose an alternate theory. Based on how ubiquitous MSX remains in NYC, the Capital of Culture, it's possible that MSX is a viral marketing campaign, perhaps for UPS, Buster Brown, or maybe the next Tyler Perry project. I can't say for certain.

Due to a lack of conclusive evidence, I have no choice but to assume conspiracy, and one that is much, much bigger than one blogger.

If you have desperately needed comments, questions or clues, please write to Let's take back our streets.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

CI #17 -- Quotation Marks

This weekend I caught a few minutes of NY1 a.k.a. "the channel your cable box automatically tunes itself to." I'm convinced this is where most of their viewership comes from -- that and from people directly involved in New York City political campaigns.

They were doing a piece on some sort of school program designed to promote the sciences among middle school students (I believe an appalling lack of beakers was the number-one problem), and they decided to see what 13-year-old Jonathan Spielman had to say on the matter. Seems appropriate.

But (cq) was using quotes to emphasize that Jonathan is in fact NOT an actual scientist really necessary?

Of course he's not a scientist. He's THIRTEEN. Way to kick a guy when he's down, NY1.

Friday, August 28, 2009

CI #16 -- Bad People

Flipping back and forth between Letterman and "Conan" (still not comfortable with calling it "The Tonight Show") last night, I realized that the most interesting part of the New Late Night Comedy Wars is not the comedy itself but rather the guest booking. In this category I think Letterman has clearly been winning very recently, but last night it was a dreadful tie.

There was Mike Tyson on Conan for this new documentary and Rachel Ray on Letterman for having had some sort of cyst removed. I have to admit I've always been amused by Mike Tyson. But he's best enjoyed when taken out of context and cut into a montage that is so absurd you kind of trick yourself into believing A) that did not just happen and B) he is not an actual human being, and therefore gets some kind of pass.

I'm not a huge fan of Rachel Ray these days either (her segment failed to change my mind), and so that led to the curious question "Who is the less bad person, Mike Tyson or Rachel Ray?"

I decided to tackle this with a classic con/con analysis. Here's the breakdown. (Click on the picture if it's hard to read.)

And after all this I'm still undecided, but I think we all learned a little something in the process

Thursday, August 27, 2009

CI #15 -- Grape Jelly

Plain old grape jelly. We pretty much take it for granted. Perhaps that's because it's most commonly found on sandwiches alongside peanut butter or on English muffins if you're fancy, or simply English.

But what happens when a mundane, everyday object like grape jelly appears in an unusual or interesting place? It gets elevated to a whole new level and suddenly becomes a lot more exciting. Like cheese, for instance. On a plate, it's cool but no big deal. On some dude's head, it means "I'm at this Packers game, and I came to party!"

A situation just like this recently presented itself to me when Katie and I were watching TV. She was eating a PB&J sandwich when, all of a sudden, a glob of jelly fell out of the sandwich and onto her chest. She was wearing a V-neck shirt, and it landed north of a "crevasse," if you know what I'm sayin' but was definitely bordering interesting territory. And Katie, always the courteous Earth-dweller, had decided to forgo a napkin. Needless to say, we had ourselves a quandary.

I silently began to think "Oh man. What should I do? Should I... Dare I lick it off? That's not usually my style, but then again..." And then I realized that the question "Should I lick grape jelly off my girlfriend's chest?" is really like asking oneself (cq) "Hey Greg, do you enjoy being alive? Or do you just want to go ahead and start the painful countdown to your ultimate demise?"

So I licked it off and we kept watching TV.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

CI #14 -- No-nonsense Equestrianism

Let's say you like to ride horses. You've been an avid equestrian for quite a while, perhaps since you were a wee tot. It's stress relief for you. You'll trot around your prairie/dell/meadow, maybe check in on the fox hunt, but not necessarily participate. You don't see much need for showy galloping without proper cause (or proper attire), but you'll canter. Oh boy, will you canter. You most certainly will not, however, ride bareback or even think about shouting "Woo doggie, ride 'em cowboy!!!"

In colloquial terms, when you're in the saddle, you're all bidness. So, (cq) what kind of literature is available for you, the no-nonsense equestrian?

Who says print is dead?

Monday, August 24, 2009

CI #27 -- My Appointment With Death

I found this pamphlet on the windshield of a car down the street from me. Presumably, its goal was to get me to consider the end of my days, and I did. But what I didn't realize was how hilarious this pamphlet would be.

If you do indeed believe you have an appointment with death, is it possible to have a sense of humor about said appointment with death?" The answer is a resounding and apparent yes, at least with respect to the clever prose of Harold S. Martin. Consider the following:

- [Ed. note: Ever hear the one about] the man who said to his wife, 'Begorra, I wish I knew where I was going to die. If I knew that, I'd never go there."

Woody Allen, I know you're Jewish, but eat your heart out. On second thought, that's all the more reason to eat your heart out.

CI #12 -- Steel Balls

In case you've ever wondered (cq) "What do steel balls do?"

They lock it solid. ... Raise your hand if you got it right.

The picture is from the box of my bike lock, which incidentally is heavier than my bike. In all honesty, this is perhaps the least curious of the Curious Items because it's all laid out there for you, really.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

CI #11 -- True Blood (via "Mine," Season 1 Episode 3)

In discussions with friends yesterday, we decided that Pirate was the new Ninja; Viking was an interesting flash-in-the-pan; and Bacon, which has already become passe, is the new Pirate. And all of these things are bad for you, except perhaps certain ninjas, like American ones.

Notice anything missing? ... Yes, of course: Vampire, which is so hot right now in a different way. And that leads me to the first and only episode of True Blood I've seen.

I won't attempt to make any kind of evaluation of the series as a whole. One thing I know for sure though is that if I do watch another episode, this one will determine how I view it.

Consider the following exchange, taking place between the ultimate star-crossed lovers, Southern Belle "Sookie" (Anna Paquin), who can for some reason read people's minds, and Vampire "Bill" (Stephen Moyer), who has startled her by showing up all vampire-y and unexpected on her porch:

Sookie: Why can't I hear your thoughts? ... (long pause) Do you
have any thoughts?

Bill: Oh, I have thoughts. Many lifetimes of thoughts.

Now I admittedly know very little about vampires. I've never seen any version of "Dracula" all the way through, never read the novel, and never read or seen any of the "Twilight" series. I've never even had so much as a bowl of Count Chocula. Still, I find it hard to believe that the burning question on anyone's mind was ever (cq) "Do Vampires have thoughts?"

They have to, right? If they don't, they're reduced to shark-like robots. "Oh, look there's a juicy human I want it wait I can't I'm full oh look there's a juicy human oh wait that's the one I just decided I couldn't suck on, speaking of suck on, I'd sure like to suck on some human, oh wait, it's daytime I should wait until later, but while I wait, I'd love to enjoy some nice, fresh blood and oh, seriously? I've seen this episode of Family Guy like a million times..." and so on.

Okay, so those were still thoughts. But that's my point exactly. I'm not saying you're bad, True Blood, but you've made an irreversible first impression for the entire series.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

CI #10 -- Healthcare ClusterF#&!

Editor's note: The following opinions, views and statements expressed by Greg Volk do not necessarily reflect the opinions, views and statements expressed by Greg Volk. Oh, and also, I plan to "tackle" issues like this here very rarely.

One thing I think we all can agree on about the "Health Care Reform Debate" is that no one really knows what the hell is going on.

But here are some takes on what has become most expensive and most depressing Circus since Roy got mauled (and had to go the hospital! Full. Circle. People.)

- Medicare -- Isn't it already socialized medicine, except we've chosen to cover only the elderly? (Yes.) Extending those kind of benefits (whether a good idea or not -- arguable, of course.) to other citizens is, at the very least, a logical progression, right? (Yes.)

Do people who enjoy Medicare benefits already get to complain about "socialized medicine"? No, regardless of the number of guns they own, unless they acknowledge that what they're getting is already a version of socialized medicine or sign a contractual waiver saying they don't want it anymore.

-"Death Panels" -- Why would we want to let the government determine how we end our lives? Aren't health insurance companies, which fight tooth and nail to avoid coverage at all costs already doing this? (Yes.) Plus, as I "understand" it (and I use that word lightly), the goal of what has been misnamed a "death panel" is to streamline and improve care before it gets to the "vegetable" stage (sorry), and to promote living wills. It's hard to control your emotions enough to make a sensible decision about the end of your life when even controlling your tongue is difficult (I imagine).

- The Daunting Umbrella Of Socialized Medicine. ... (Shh... we already have it, even aside from Medicare.) And it's the worst system of any industrialized nation. How is this the case, you might ask? The outrageous premiums and co-pays maintained by the insured currently subsidize the "ER" -style care of the uninsured.

You are already paying for someone else's (albeit terrible) medical care -- through your rising premiums, through the rising premium your employer pays for you (making the company less likely to offer you a raise or cover you at all), and, of course, through plain old Tax Dollars that go to the existing government health plans.

Hospitals are businesses, and they probably should be. But just because someone showing up at the E.R. to be treated for a deep-fried turkey explosion doesn't have insurance doesn't mean the hospital can decide to pay less in rent. They've got to make it up somewhere.

- That snake-like thingy with wings that you keep seeing. What is that snake-like thingy I keep seeing? A caduceus.

It's a Greek snake-like thingy that's used to symbolize medical care.

- Politicians. Why aren't politicians on all sides -- hell, any side -- clearly expressing these points (assuming I've raised any valid ones)? Beats the pre-existing condition out of me.

If I've missed the mark on simply identifying any of this, please compose a heartfelt comment, then save it as a draft and keep it to yourself. (I kid.)

Second Editor's Note: If there were more straightforward opinions in this post or more references to Adlai Stevenson, I would have just "gone on a rant here." And I'd be sorry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Curious Item #9 -- Apples

I was recently informed that I've been using apples wrong. (And yes, I do meaning "using.")

I've been eating an average of one a day for decades, and to hear this after all this time is unsettling. It's challenging my worldview, quite frankly.

Here's what happened:

I go to a produce stand to pick up four or five of my usual go-to fruits, red delicious. I select the best ones, put them in a bag and take them up to the counter.

I put them down on the counter. And the guy at the register looks down at the apples, then back up at me, and says "Uhh, what do you eat those or something?!"

"Umm, yeah." But more importantly, (cq) what do YOU do with apples?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Curious Item #8 -- Terrorists' Hatred of Americans

Terrorists hatred of Americans doesn't get nearly the play in news coverage that it used to. And like Ron Livingston says in Swingers, after a while you kind of miss that pain (or at least the things people would attribute to otherwise nondescript "terrorists").

Don't get me wrong. This is a good thing. I'm incredibly thankful our country has managed thus far to avoid another 9/11. And to you brave men, women and bomb-sniffing robots who've helped achieve this, I am forever indebted.

We also haven't seen much from Osama Bin Laden in a while (also a good thing), though another threatening audio tape from him did surface in June. Speaking of, yes, it is scary. But also, it raises the question, why is this guy still using tapes? (bonus CQ!) How threatening/powerful can he be if the basic, digital power of the PC eludes him and his support staff?

Yet, the fact remains (I'm sure) that he continues to represent a dangerous and hateful sect of people -- people who hate us for who we are, what we are and where we are. And some of that will never change.

So, (CQ) why do terrorists (or any foreign group of people really) continue to hate us? I believe it's because of this.

We, the richest and most powerful nation of the past two centuries, built a symbolic room in a symbolic residence and said "You know what? We don't need right angles." How's that for bull-headed Americanism.

We can't figure out how the pyramids were built, but who cares? We're awesome, and we're going to eschew millennia of conventional construction and design knowledge. Just throw it out the elliptical-shaped window.

No wonder people think we're assholes.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Curious Item #6 -- Tupelo Honey

K* and I are both big fans of Van Morrison (if you don’t know who K* is, then I’m surprised you found this blog). We occasionally find ourselves involved in inane discussions of mundane things.

Frequently, it’s me just talking and K* indulging me, but there are some topics that get us both excited. And one of them is the meaning of Van Morrison’s song “Tupelo Honey.” Specifically, this passage:

You can take all the tea in China

Put it in a big brown bag for me

Sail it right around the seven oceans

Drop it smack dab in the middle of the deep blue sea

Because she's as sweet as tupelo honey

So, (CQ) what the hell is Van Morrison talking about?

K* inteprets it like this: The song’s character is a powerful man, a tea mogul perhaps (can you imagine how much all the tea in China would be worth?! Probably, like a lot.) And he’s saying, you know, I can have any worldly possession and do whatever I want, but none of that matters much because what I really want is you and your sweet, sweet love.

Now I interpret it like this: The song’s character has imagined a scenario wherein he’s turned all of the world’s oceans into one giant cup of tea. He did dump all the tea in China into the ocean, after all. And what he’s saying is that she’s so sweet, so incredibly saccharine, that she can still sufficiently sweeten this world-sized cup of tea (by jumping into it presumably). Now that, my friends, is sweet. (And, might I add, she has yet to be found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Powerful stuff.)

(Imagine all of the blue stuff as tea. Crazy, right?!)

What do you think? The more I think about it now, I think K* may just be indulging me.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Curious Item #6 -- Natural Male Enhancement that actually works!!!

I was watching a commercial for a natural male enhancement product the other day. I think it was Maxoderm (does it matter)? There was a creepy short guy dancing in the background who had clearly gained so much confidence through the use of their product that he was determined to show her just how enhanced he was -- whether she liked it or not. For added effect, he was biting his lip while he grinded (ground?) on her.

After minutes of endless searching, my fingers working feverishly like a master artisan, I was forced to admit defeat to the Internet. I couldn't find that particular commercial. But I did learn that actor Ron Rogell has posted his starring role as an aspiring rapist on his Myspace page.

You don't really have to watch that. You've already seen it. But you do have to know this. (CQ) What are the odds that a guy from a Maxoderm commercial has Nickelback on his MySpace playlist? 100%.

P.S. Nothing will ever beat Steve Martin's product.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Curious Item #5 -- Yoga

I've never tried yoga, though I probably should. But (CQ) if yoga's such an intense, total body workout, then what do you do afterward? Stretch a little more mildly?

Also, how the F@^* do they do that?!