Friday, January 28, 2005

A CVS Prank Gone Awry

Another anecdote remembered after a conversation started on ZUG:
One time I took a photo negative of my daughter in her christening gown to get made into prints to the local CVS. When the clerk took the negative she held it up to the light to see what the picture was and, unable to really make it out, asked me if it was a picture of our dog. I pretended to be really offended and started chastising her, saying that just because my daughter has a cleft lip (she doesn’t), she did not deserve to be called a dog. The expression on the clerk’s face was hilarious but I had to hold in my laughter while I verbally bludgeoned her, causing my eyes to water and my voice to quaver which made me look like I was on the verge of crying. When I saw that it looked like the clerk was on the verge of crying too, I figured I had gone too far and told her I was only kidding.
The clerk then got really upset and started yelling at me, telling me that she had a niece with a cleft lip and that it was no laughing matter whatsoever. She told me about the painful medical procedures she had to go through, the teasing at school she had to endure and, after a few minutes of being pummeled by her vindictive oral abuse, I was reduced to blubbering my profuse apologies while holding back my own tears.
Then that buck-toothed, bug-eyed, beer-bellied bondage bitch told me that she was only kidding too.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

More Notes From Skid Row

Being a Republican in the Downriver Area of Detroit can be a dangerous business. Downriver is undeniably Democratic, and the inhabitants of the communities bordering the Detroit River laud the DNC with unbridled enthusiasm. Downriver is among the bluest areas of blue state with a working class population, a strong union affiliation, an inherent distrust of corporate management and a healthy respect for the man who manages to buck the system. It is an area where someone can, in one breath, admire a crafty employee’s ability to regularly be at home on his couch watching Jerry Springer reruns two hours before someone punches him out of work while in the next breath express genuine shock over the pace with which American manufacturing jobs are being re-located to less expensive overseas locales.

Democratic politics a la Downriver however, are of a much different flavor than those expressed by the East Coast liberal wing of the party. I notice far more pro-life bumper stickers on cars than pro-choice. While sitting in local watering holes I have overheard many people that, though initially against the war in Iraq, now advocate military tactics that Attila the Hun would find morally reprehensible. The Downriver attitude towards racial equality is also very contrarian to traditional Democratic dogma. This area is among one of the most racially segregated lands in the United States and a large segment of the citizenry’s ideals of racial harmony are akin to those one would expect to find among some of the more notorious backwoods locales of Mississippi’s Klan Kuntry. Downriver’s zealous dedication to the Democratic Party originates from its dogged support of organized labor and pretty much ends there as far as I can tell.

Still, Downriver-ites possess a passion for punditry. Civil debate on the West Side of Detroit is a rare animal and virtually every bar room conversation I have ever heard regarding politics was waged with clenched teeth, clenched fists, a copious collection of colorful colloquialisms and an underlying implication of violence that never seems to materialize. After all, the area is so heavily Democratic that the conversational combatants usually share the same opinion. The best they can usually do is work themselves into a sort of hysterical frenzy fueled by gratuitous amounts of Jim Beam and Stroh’s and then, after arming themselves with pitchforks and torches, spill out into the streets in search of someone who looks like they belong to the Rotary Club.

Under normal circumstances, I would be an enthusiastic participant in any activity that involved a combination of bourbon, beer, menacing agricultural tools, fire and an alleged Rotarian other than myself, but I make it a personal policy to refrain from taking part in political discussions in area drinking establishments. There are two reasons for this. The first is that my political pendulum does not swing left of center and I am not risking having the bartender cut me off for initiating “a disturbance” by injecting verifiable facts into a heated argument. Second, the whole premise behind The JEP Report is to try my hand at writing humor and when you depend upon events escalating out of control for comedic material, it is best to avoid logic and socially responsible conversation.

Still, I recently slipped. I stopped into a local bar for a quick beer and sat myself down two stools away from two burley mechanics heatedly discussing the Iraq war. They were both talking in a volume that in other places would presage fisticuffs though, true to my aforementioned stereotype, from what I could tell they actually seemed to be agreeing with one another. Following my personal policy, I kept to myself but left my ears open to what was going on. At some point, halfway through my beer, one of them made the point that the war was nothing more than a fascist takeover of an oil-rich state for the personal enrichment of “that faggot Bush” and his administration cronies. After making this point, he turned towards me and asked, “Am I right, brother?”

After dispelling a disquieting visual image that emerged from the depths of my subconscious of our nation’s president walking down some San Franciscan avenue wearing vinyl lederhosen and holding up a sign professing his undying affection for Richard Simmons, I turned to him and said something along the lines of, “No. The war is about showing rogue states that there are consequences to encouraging malicious acts of violence against American citizens.” I then wondered to myself whether or not I had actually said that out loud and then cursed my own stupidity once I realized that I had.

The mechanics, both of whom were significantly larger than myself, turned and leered at me while the barmaid seemed to reposition herself from out of the line of fire. I had to start weighing my options. I had an open path to the door so flight was still on the table if they lunged. That would be a straight foot race that I could very easily lose though and I decided that one of them would have to be taken out first if things deteriorated to that point. Taking one out could have proven to be a challenge however. They looked like bruisers and appeared far better versed in the art of bar room combat than I so I guessed that they could probably take a punch fairly well. The bottle, normally a trusty weapon, would draw me in too close and could be taken away and used against me if I my first shot was off. Luckily the seats were not bolted down so in the end I settled upon one of those as my preferred option if things suddenly took a turn for the worse. When cornered within a confined space I can swing one mean bar stool, a fact that can be independently verified by anyone that has ever seen me accidentally cross paths with a hairy arachnid in the hallway powder room.

The bruiser closest to me leaned ominously forward and asked, “So you think this war is right then? Do you honestly think that we are going to end up better off for having invaded Iraq?”

At that point, I was really wishing that I had not been drawn into the conversation but I knew that backing down would be wrongly interpreted as cowardice and was likely produce the same effect that a bucket of blood produces once dumped into shark infested sea water. “In the long run, yes. Outlaw regimes now know that they can not harbor terrorist groups sworn to our destruction with impunity. If they attack us, they’ll feel the full wrath of the US and our allies.”

“Our allies?” he hissed in reply. “Do you honestly think that we still have any credibility with our allies after having conned them into following us with fairy tales about hidden weapons of mass destruction?”

He had a good point and articulated it with much more civility than he had displayed towards the man at his side who had actually been agreeing with him. This threw me off balance. I responded that our credibility had indeed suffered a hit but that was likely the result of the systematic dismantling of our intelligence apparatus during the Clinton administration. He disagreed with me. I disagreed back. In fact, we disagreed back and forth over two more rounds of drinks, one of which was purchased by him and one of which was purchased by me. By the time I finished my third beer and had to leave we were still disagreeing, both of us stubbornly adhering to our positions, but the conversation had taken on almost jovial qualities and we parted with shaken hands and a gentleman’s agreement to agree to disagree.

So, what was gained from this experience? Almost nothing from an argumentative standpoint. He said nothing that would cause me to change position on any issue and I am sure that I said nothing that would cause him to waver on his. The only thing we managed to accomplish was proving that, in a country that is supposedly incredibly polarized after the 2004 presidential election, two strangers could still sit down at a bar and freely express completely opposing points of view in a civil, intelligent manner. After walking out of the bar, I had to question whether we really were as polarized as the media says we are. Somehow, I doubted it.

So, what did I learn from this encounter? I learned that civil political discussions about national affairs, though great for philosophical reflections about cultural unity in the face of political division, are comedic death. Next time I venture into a bar specializing in shots and shells, I am sticking to my proven tactic of getting the natives drunk, letting them get all riled up and then accusing some hapless sap of being the fascist Rotarian they’ve all been waiting for whilst I sit back and document the ensuing mayhem that I’ve just created. (Don’t look at me like that. You want objective journalism? Go to Reuters. You want narratives of mundane events grossly exaggerated to the point of fiction that an aspiring alcoholic is trying to pass off as entertainment? Come to The JEP Report).

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Savage Sushi

Yesterday, my company lowered the boom again and informed me that my trip to China to cover the Shanghai Auto Show has been cancelled. Though somewhat frustrated about having to spend the next year wondering what competitor is poised to spring out from behind the Bamboo Curtain and bite me on the left butt cheek, I am at the same time a little bit relieved. My wife is expected to deliver our third child around the time of the show and no matter how interesting or fun the Auto Show in Shanghai may be, I still do not relish the idea of spending over 18 hours in an airplane. Sticking me in an aerodynamic tin cylinder and combining a continuous intake of complimentary adult beverages with my own extraordinarily overactive imagination is just begging for that unfortunate aircraft to make an unscheduled stop somewhere in the Aleutian Islands. Then there is the fact that, if I can actually manage to avoid the Alaskan detour, once I land I still have to deal with Chinese customs officers who are rumored to be totally devoid of anything even remotely resembling a sense of humor. One ill-timed wisecrack and I am bent over the x-ray machine, enduring a level of anatomical invasion that is very unfamiliar to an unincarcerated heterosexual male with a healthy prostrate.

Still, I kind of miss Asia. I miss its culture, completely alien to our own. I miss its food. I miss its energetic environment that virtually assures that something worth recalling is going to happen nearly every time one steps foot onto its bustling streets. Just the simple act of leaving one’s hotel leads to an overwhelming bombardment of the senses that, when coupled with a truly viscous case of jet-lag, leads to a pre-hallucinogenic state of mind that is hard to come by through legal means. The television billboards and insanely manic flashing of every type of light-emitting device ever invented seems to cover every square inch of urban storefront, assaulting your vision and effortlessly turning nocturnal streets brighter than they were during the day. It makes one wonder whether the advertisers behind this luminescent blitzkrieg are actually trying to sell something or are just part of some devious conspiratorial experiment to induce grand mal epileptic seizures on a monumental scale. The background noise is no less impressive. The air is continuously erupting into an acoustic explosion consisting of automobile horns (which on the far side of the international dateline are often used in lieu of brakes), street venders hawking their wares at the top of their lungs, activists using bullhorns to out-shout the vendors, the blaring rhythm of European Techno-pop emanating from the nightclubs at a volume that could administer CPR and the ever-present cackle of dozens of teenaged girls swarming visiting foreigners while shouting out the Roppongi mating call, “Hi! I’m cheap!”

It is just a crazy place. Even eating is an adventure in itself. One time, while dining at a traditional establishment in Fukuoka Japan, I was literally attacked by an appetizer. The party next to us had ordered a dish that consisted of live shrimp that had to be extracted from the bowl (which is no small feat in case you have never had the opportunity to try and catch an easily excitable entrée with a pair of chopsticks), shelled alive and then dipped into one of several available sauces before being placed, still writhing, into the mouth of a hungry Fukuokan businessman. It was a morbidly entertaining spectacle to behold, at least until the meal was over and the dishes were being cleared. Apparently, one of the little bastards had made a break for it and made its way undetected into the stack of soiled flatware that an unsuspecting server had picked up to return to the kitchen.

Unfortunately, the restaurant was quite crowded and the wait staff slightly less attentive than is the norm in Japan. The waiter, his vision obscured by a full armload of dirty dishes, was headed right for me and, in order avoid receiving a face full of porcelain, I was forced to tilt my head to its side to prevent a collision. As the plates passed over my cheek, a moist morsel of food dropped from above and landed right in my ear.

At first, I was just mildly disgusted. I waited for the waiter to pass before trying to reach for a napkin to clean myself up with. Before I had that opportunity however, I felt ten little legs emerge from the morsel and in a very arachnid-esque fashion, start probing around my ear canal. Of course, I then panicked. In one swift, fluid motion I raised my right arm and batted my ear with the cupped palm of my hand. The trespassing crustacean was then sent flying across the table where it struck my companion, who was tragically seated directly across from me, square in the forehead before changing direction and performing an undetermined number of somersaults before landing just shy of my dinner plate, poised and ready to strike.

Now, I admit that shrimp do not look all that formidable when all you see is their tails hanging from the side of a margarita glass filled with cocktail sauce and lemon wedges. Seeing one whole however, especially immediately after you just barely prevented it from burrowing its way deep into your ear canal until it was free to wreak havoc upon your unprotected synapses, is a different matter altogether. They are primeval looking creatures with ten appendages tipped with miniature lobster claws that evolved through millions of years of natural selection into the ultimate tools for ripping flesh off of bone. They have long antennae, capable of picking up scents and vibrations deep underwater and, no doubt, the unmistakable stench of paralyzing terror in upscale Japanese dining establishments. They are armor plated, protected by a fearsome shell and have beady little eyes that, well, could only be accurately described by Quint, the salty old captain of the Orca in Speilberg’s classic maritime horror story, “Jaws.”

“lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll's eye. When he comes at ya, doesn't seem to be livin'. Until he bites ya and those black eyes roll over white. And then, ah then you hear that terrible high pitch screamin' and the ocean turns red and in spite of all the poundin' and the hollerin' they all come in and rip you to pieces.”

In the heat of the moment, when experiencing an unprovoked attack by a homicidally deranged menu item, all it takes is one quick look into those tiny demonic eyes for you to instantly realize you are fighting for your life.

That may seem like an over-the-top comment to the casual reader, but I’ll wager good money that the casual reader has never been suddenly assaulted by a killer crustacean either. To fully appreciate the urgency of the situation, you have to put yourself in the moment. One second, you are discussing the evening’s agenda with a drinking buddy. The next, you find yourself in a situation where some slimy sea spider is attempting to back down into your ear canal and burrow into your brain. You panic then, succumbing to your “fight-or-flee” instincts, bat the little bugger away only to have him bounce right back at you. With adrenaline pumping, you try to assess the situation but you realize that there is just no time for that. You do not know this creature’s capabilities. He may be within striking range but then again, he may not. You just do not know. All you see is your assailant before you, with its tail beneath its body, ready to catapult itself into the air and towards your dangerously unprotected eyes. You have to act. In the heat of the moment you launch your assault, your own personal “shock and awe” campaign. You clench your fist, raise it above your head and let out a battle cry that, to your ears, sounds like the screams you expect US Marines to make after they’ve fixed their bayonets and initiated their charge towards an enemy machine gun nest. Unfortunately, to your drinking buddies and the other occupants of the restaurant, it sounds more like the terrified whimper of a seven-year-old schoolgirl who has been scared dangerously close to the precipice of incontinence. Then, you bring your fist down with a thunderous calamity that, in addition to smiting the life out of escaped entrée, brings all conversation in the bustling dining room to a screeching halt. That is the very first indication you have that you may have been overreacting just a little bit.

Eventually, the conversations around you get going again but you realize that, though the restaurant is still filled beyond capacity, the American dining contingent is suddenly blessed with a lot more elbow room. People were giving us space and, I suspect, not out of a sense of gratitude for having eliminated the marauding menace that threatened us all. Bitter and disillusioned, I hurriedly finished my meal, paid up and left.

And that is just one of a million anecdotes that can be gained from traveling to the Far East. So, even though I dread the act of actually commuting there, I still am saddened about the experiences I will be missing by not going.

Oh well, there’s always next year.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Pudgy Peter’s Porky Posterior Preemptively Pulled

First, Janet Jackson introduces the phrase “wardrobe malfunction” to the American public (while simultaneously introducing this writer to the miracle of TiVo’s instant replay feature) and then the next thing you know, the Fox television network is scrambling to remove any reference to animated anterior anatomy on their cartoon series, “The Family Guy”. Now c’mon people, how offensive could the overt display of a cartoon can-crack possibly be? Worse than the broadcast of Dennis Franz’s full fanny on NYPD Blue? I think not. Worse than the more entertaining passages in the Starr Report? I doubt it. Worse than watching Lisa Marie Presley’s surreal spit-swapping soiree with Janet’s surgically savaged sibling on MTV? No friggin’ way. We’re talking Peter Griffin here! He’s a cartoon character! It’s not like they were filling broadcast bandwidth with horrific close-ups of John Madden’s raging ‘roids for crying out loud! I think it is high time that the FCC, as well as some of the more anal retentive demographics of the American populace, turn off the Trinity Broadcasting Network, have a couple of drinks, organize an impromptu office tournament of strip twister, tell a couple of politically insensitive jokes and rediscover the happiness and inner sense of well-being that only an off-color sense of humor can bring.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Judge Rules That Former State Democratic Party Chairman Not Caught With Pants Down

Franklin Roosevelt. John Kennedy. Bill Clinton. If nothing else, the pillars of Democratic politics were virile specimens and have long been rumored to enjoy overactive libidos that would be the envy of any adult entertainment icon of the modern age. Former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Melvin "Butch" Hollowell apparently is no exception. On August 17th, shortly after leaving his chairman post to serve as an unpaid advisor to 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry’s legal team, Hollowell was arrested by Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputies for allegedly paying a woman $60 to perform a sex act. The woman, an admitted prostitute, was caught in the car with Hollowell and admitted her part in the incident. Using the same defense that proved successful to Eddie Murphy several years before, Hollowell claimed the woman appeared to be in distress and entered his car after he offered to help her. The presiding judge, who I suspect to be either insanely naïve or the subject of incriminating photographs held by Hollowell that would look just as fabulous on CNN as they would on the exposé pages of Hustler, appeared to have bought into Hollowell’s account and ruled that Sheriff’s Deputies have no authority to enforce Detroit’s city ordinances. Yeah, like that argument is going to fly if Joseph Q. Public gets nailed by the “boys in brown” trying to score $60 worth of wild monkey lovin’ along Detroit’s Eight Mile corridor.
So, aside from the obvious double-standard and blatant preferential treatment shown to Hollowell by Wayne County’s judicial establishment, should Americans be outraged by this ruling? Should anyone find this miscarriage of justice disturbing? Well, let us put things in perspective. This incident has cost Butch Hollowell far more than the maximum punishment of a $500 fine and 90 days in jail that he could have received. As a result of his arrest, he resigned from the Kerry campaign, the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and from his day job at a Detroit law firm. In addition to that, his picture was repeatedly plastered to nearly every television screen in the Great Lakes State as well as seen gracing TV news reports in several broadcast markets outside of Michigan. Then of course, there is the internet coverage that he is still receiving (via electronic publications such as The JEP Report) that will continue to add insult to injury long after his television notoriety has subsided. He has paid far more than Joe Public would have should he have been caught doing the same thing. The fact that he was not charged with anything is not the disturbing aspect of this incident, however. The disturbing fact is that Butch Hollowell, former Michigan Democratic Party Chairman, John Kerry legal advisor, member of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and a prominent attorney, was reduced to soliciting crack-addled street walkers in seedy back alleys of the Motor City’s skin districts. Has the DNC become so poor at fund raising that they can’t afford a decent escort service that makes house calls? I mean, what are they going to do when the Kennedys come to town? As much as I often disagree with the Democratic platform, even I can appreciate the dangers of a one-party system and surely do not wish my brothers across the aisle to be bankrupted into financial oblivion. If I see many more incidents like this, I may be tempted to start contributing to the DNC until I see Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich on the dance floor at a trendy L.A. nightclub doing the Macarena alongside celebrity madame extraordinaire, Heidi Fleiss.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Australian Lawmakers Asked For Baby Batter

Former president Bill Clinton, widely rumored to have not seen the sweet side of a C-cup since a certain White House intern got behind on her dry cleaning, is expected to resume his political career on the far side of the International Dateline as soon as his comprehensive collection of Cuban Cohibas clears customs in Canberra.

Kerry Alleges Voter Suppression

Is it not just slightly absurd that the party who fought tooth and nail to try to keep partisan monitors, those trying to prevent voting irregularities, out of Ohio polling stations during the November elections are now the ones crying about alleged voter disenfranchisement in that pivotal state? Are the Democrats finally resorting to blaming right-wing conspiracies for their November loss instead of owning up to the fact that they have evolved into a political entity about as much in touch with the heart of America as Michael Moore is in touch with a 32 inch waistline? I believe so and if this is the best the DNC can do to transform themselves back into a viable political opposition by 2008, Hillary Clinton has about as much of a chance of taking the nation’s helm four years from now as Scott Peterson has of becoming the venerated president of the Modesto, California Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Reading, Writing and Raunchy Rythmic Writhing?

Not willing to be outdone by Georgians lacking genetic diversity (see posting below), a “Career Day” speaker, Management Consultant William Fried, at the Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School in Palo Alto, California recently extolled the profitability of nude dancing to a class of eighth-graders during his "The Secret of a Happy Life" seminar. According to the AP story, 13-year-old Mariah Cannon was quoting as saying, “He really focused on finding what you really love to do.” Hey, if you glean career satisfaction and social fulfillment out of dancing topless around a chrome pole while geriatric businessmen with salivary retention disorders drip oral ooze onto your toes as they stuff dollar bills into your g-string, bless your heart. Go for it. Just do your dad a favor and figure it out for yourself instead of taking career tips from a 64-year-old management consultant with a suspected penchant for Champaign Room shenanigans when he’s been over-served $12 bottles of Pabst Blue Ribbon.
"We don't have to take our CLOTHES have a good time...NO NO!"
-Jermaine Stewart, 1988.
-JEP, fifteen seconds after hearing that song for the first time.

And People Wonder Where Conservatism Can Get A Bad Name……

Georgia, an apparent anti-pillar of philosophical thought that exemplifies what generations of in-breeding and grain alcohol abuse can do to the intellectual capabilities of a semi-rural population, was ordered to stop putting disclaimer stickers on its science textbooks warning students that they were in grave danger of suddenly learning the soul-corrupting theory of evolution. The disclaimers, with wording eerily similar to the terminology used on packs of cigarettes, alcoholic beverages and pornographic websites (which this writer, a virtual vanguard of vice, can personally attest to) was printed upon stickers that were subsequently placed upon the reading materials. U.S. District Judge Clarence Cooper ruled that the stickers represented a violation of the constitutionally mandated separation of church and state. The ruling, under which Georgia schools would be permitted to unimpededly teach a scientifically sound lesson to children whose parents would like them to be equipped to enter the workforce of the 21st Century, still allows slightly less evolved Georgians to tutor their carnie-larvae in scientific theory created when the punishment for adultery was to get stoned in the marketplace (a concept that, in today’s lexicon, actually sounds like a whole lot of fun).

Monday, January 17, 2005

Poll: Americans are Hopeful About Bush’s Second Term

Of course Americans are hopeful about George Bush’s second term. After the cataclysmic events of his first term, things can only get better. Under the president’s first term, we endured a devastating attack by the Middle Eastern version of the Ku Klux Klan, an economy that (if the mainstream media is to be believed), tanked on a scale not seen since the Hoover administration, a foreign misadventure in a land where drinking and fraternizing with the opposite sex were more dangerous than combat itself and an aquatic apocalypse that sent tourists running from red light bars to Red Cross cars everywhere from Jakarta to Mogadishu. Through it all however, the US is still standing and, relatively speaking, standing pretty proud.

I am not saying that George Bush has not made mistakes. He has, but in the end, things are rolling along fairly well considering the circumstances. Al Qaeda has been hard pressed to terrorize anything outside of lonely sheep herders strolling around the Tora Boran mountainsides. The economy is improving, albeit very modestly, though when one considers the magnitude of the events occurring around the world these days, any improvement at all is a laudable success. The Iraq War, though the press loves to define it as a contemporary Vietnam, is a statistical success with a casualty rate that is spectacularly low given the size of the operation taking place there (though even I have to admit that “statistical success” means absolutely nothing if you or a loved one is among the casualties). As for the Indian Ocean catastrophe, in spite of the incomprehensible cataclysm that occurred there, the US government, an entity widely reviled in that part of the world, has stepped up to the plate with its troops among the first on the ground to help to try and rebuild the shattered seaside settlements that have endured such an unfathomable tragedy. George Bush, whether he is liked or not, IS doing the job. He is succeeding, and doing so despite the ill will of deranged religious zealots, a corrupt world body with the intestinal fortitude of a chronic Bulemic with terminal Crohn’s Disease, frustrated Gallic politicians mortified by their deteriorating relevance in international affairs, Mother Nature and just under 50% of the American voting public. Under such circumstances, he should have a presidential success rate on par with the Carter administration’s.

So, in deference to the impending initiation of George Bush’s second term in office, I raise my glass and offer a toast:

“Here’s to the president, a helluva pal,
He’s pursued the al-Qaeda from New York to Nepal,
He’s toppled dictatorships, annoyed all of France,
And he’s scared charging rhinos by dropping his pants!”

Bottom’s Up!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Pie-eyed Piety

While perusing the sites of my fellow bloggers, I came across this little tidbit on the Conservadiva ( blog. A Fox poll taken last December reveals that 66% of Americans pray at least once a day while 11% admit to drinking at least once a day. More Hail Marys than Bloody Marys? Based upon my own heavily biased point of view, I should be surprised by this but after thinking about this for just a second, I found that I really was not. By nature, I would not at all consider myself a religious man but I have to say in all honesty that drinking does bring out the ecclesiastic piety in me. In fact, I initiate all of my truly colossal benders with a drinker’s prayer:

Our father, who art in heaven,
Protect us from great pain.
When our drinking’s done,
And the bouncers come,
Please let them be forgiving.
Keep us this night from bein’ beaten dead,
And save our drunk asses,
As you smite cellmates who try to molest us,
Keep us from long incarceration,
With sexually twisted people.*

*Unless of course, through some sort of clerical error, we are mistakenly sent to a women’s correctional facility in which case you can disregard all of the above while we write up beaming prayers of thanksgiving in between acting out our basest lesbian dungeon fantasies.

The serious reveler does not just use prayer as a preventative measure either. Right in the midst of the celebration, when the situation is at the precipice of becoming a headlining story on the eleven o’clock news, the discerning drinker will also seek divine intervention at key moments. He may pray that he does not become reacquainted with the buck-toothed, bug-eyed, beer-bellied bondage bimbo that lured him to her den of debauchery the last time he visited that particular establishment. He may pray that the luscious blonde at the end of the bar is smashed enough to give him her real phone number this time. He may pray, while barreling towards the county line at speeds that would make an Andretti lose bladder control, that the officers pursuing him rank just below Amish schoolgirls in firearms proficiency. While he is at it, he may also throw one in to ask God for a presiding judge with an extraordinary sense of humor.

Then there is post-bender prayer. That is one uttered on Sunday morning while sitting in a pew with the stench of stale tequila oozing out of your pores while the preacher unmistakably directs his sermon towards your section of the church as you consider plundering the passing collection plate to replace that portion of your earnings that is now sitting in a safe at your bondsman’s office. That one usually begins with:

Our Father, who art in heaven,
Please let me explain…………

Monday, January 10, 2005

A Public Service Announcement

While perusing my favorite internet site,, I came across a conversation thread that struck rather close to home. The thread was labeled “Cooking for yourself 101” and dealt with a culinary mishap that, in addition to occurring to the author of the thread, had also happened to myself last summer. It is a legitimate kitchen hazard that just does not get the amount of press that it truly deserves. Perhaps if the fear-mongering segment of the national media would get off of the “secondhand smoke” bandwagon and look just a little closer at the dangers found within one’s vegetable crisper, the general public (myself in particular) would be able to happily go about their lives with just a little less occasional excruciation in unmentionable areas. The household hazard I am referring to is the oil excreted by the average jalapeno pepper during preparation.

When I am not working, parenting, writing, drawing, fishing or delivering corporal punishment to my flippant liver, I can generally be found trying to increase my proficiency in the art of backyard grilling. I have become rather good at it and one of my specialties is a Firehouse Jalapeno Mustard Sauce that tastes great when applied in liberal amounts to slowly grilled chicken. As the title implies, one of the main ingredients is the jalapeno pepper, finely diced and applied to the sauce while boiling. After preparing this rather volatile ingredient I found myself having to answer a call nature, which I did without paying any consideration to the idea of washing my hands before making my way to the bathroom as opposed to my normal routine of washing them afterwards. After doing what I had to do, I returned to the kitchen and began working on the onions while continuing the conversation I was having with my wife before I had excused myself.

Before long, I started experiencing a wild tingling sensation from beneath my jeans and I began formulating a plan to immerse my kids into some kind of activity that would keep them engrossed for fifteen minutes worth of “alone time” with my wife. Before I could come up with anything however, the sensation began turning rather uncomfortable. Enough so in fact, for me to start modifying my posture to try and compensate for the pain. By the time my wife got around to asking if I was okay, I was doubled over, standing on one leg and gripping onto the kitchen countertop so tightly that I was practically engraving my fingerprints into the Formica. Pathetically whimpering that I thought I needed to take a quick shower, I excused myself and awkwardly limped to my basement bathroom.

Retreating to the shower seemed like a natural way to rectify the situation. With the wisdom that can only be gleaned in hindsight however, I can now confidently say that this strategy was by far the worst thing that I could possibly have done. In addition to having no soothing value whatsoever, the only thing the application of water accomplished was to spread the pain to other areas, with decidedly gender-bending physical effects, while amplifying its excruciation factor exponentially. Inside of thirty seconds I was brought to my knees, hysterically screaming at my wife to bring me a glass of milk in an octave akin to that of Minnie Mouse indulging an urgent helium habit. I was also mentally penning a suggestion that I thought could be of use to the military officers in charge of interrogation at Abu Ghraib (I know that I was ready to talk at that point).

Like some sort of Borden bucket brigade, my wife finally arrived with a generous helping of 2% served in a glass that I instantaneously vowed never to drink from again. Without hesitation or ceremony, I plunged my afflicted appendages into the container while letting out an audible groan, not because of any immediate soothing effect that the dairy product had, but because of the shock of plunging a part of my anatomy that is generally kept warm and protected into a liquid chilled to a temperature that would have placed a polar bear in danger of debilitating frostbite. It was at about that time that my two-year-old son decided to show up to see what all the commotion was about, adding humiliation to the growing list of ailments I was then suffering from. “Wha you do-in Dah’dee?” he innocently asked.

In the heat of the moment, when you are on your knees in a shower stall wearing nothing but a crystal athletic supporter filled with a frigid breakfast beverage, it is hard to formulate an answer that you will be comfortable with having your two-year-old scion repeating in day care. “Daddy’s dipping his…uh….cookies.” was the only thing I could come up with on the fly while shooing him out of my bathroom.

It took a while, but the pain did eventually subside. The memory of it is still rather vivid however and just reading that thread on Zug was more than enough to instantly reduce my locker room bragging rights. Jalapeno oil is, at least in my experience, the second most painful thing that can possibly be applied to a human being’s groin area, running a close second behind exposure to pepper spray, which is something I know as a result of unleashing a spontaneous act of random nudity in close proximity to an ongoing student riot in Korea. While I am preaching to my readership about the pitfalls of careless vegetable handling, it probably bears mentioning that mooning oriental authority figures armed with chemical crowd control devices isn’t such a great idea either.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Ice Folly

Today I watched one of my neighbors, a morbidly obese man with a severe follicle impairment and a capacity for neighborly goodwill akin to that found in the brown-shirted white supremacists of 60 years ago, walk out of his garage to attend to the solid sheet of ice that stretched the entire length of his driveway. Within seconds, he had launched into a frantic dance routine that could not have been better if Fred Astaire had choreographed it himself, complete with acrobatic feats of aerodynamic ability that would have been impressive if performed by Olympian waifs let alone a man of his size. As a finale, he dropped into what only could be described as a “suicide crouch” while he slid down his driveway doing two complete 360 degree rotations before finally landing face down in the slush at the curb.

Dispositionary attributes aside, this man is no Tonya Harding but I feel that an amateur ice performance score of 9.872 was not entirely uncalled for. I would have scored higher if he had taken his mousey wife down with him.

Training Day

The following is a creative exercise, combining three occurrences over a period of years into one story. Hope you enjoy it.
It was a brutal evening. As my two faithful readers know by now, this is the week when my life revolves around the Detroit Auto Show, which I will be covering for the next five days in accordance with my daytime occupation. Tomorrow, I will be picking up my friend and colleague from Germany, a fellow corporate super-spook who I will hereby refer to only by his nom de guerre, Otto. Now Otto, in addition to being an unequivocal master of the art of corporate intelligence, is a man of unquestionable hospitality and has always looked after me when I visit his homeland. As an American, I consider it my national duty to return the favor when he visits mine. This means that I will do my best to ensure that he stays only in the finest hotels, eats only the most succulent of foods and is provided with the most refined alcoholic beverages served in copious, and on some nights, downright lethal, quantities. It is not a task I take lightly. In fact, this is an effort that I feel the need to train for. Neither Otto nor myself have many reservations about getting absolutely pie-eyed on the company dime and after six years of working together, have done so with great success in Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Frankfurt, Geneva and Tokyo. We are aspiring alcoholics of an international caliber and are unrepentant founding members of the Future Friends of Bill W.

Now, I’m no slouch of drinker under normal circumstances but these gluttonous consumption sessions are typically biblical in proportion and need to be trained for. If you don’t warm up before running the 100 meter dash, you’re likely to sprain an ankle. If you don’t warm up before embarking upon an Olympic six day tequila bender, you’re likely to sprain a liver. A bum ankle can be healed with ice but a blown-out liver usually requires prolonged stretches of sobriety and a court-mandated stint in a rehabilitation facility, which is not something that I am not mentally equipped to deal with while I’ve got a pregnant wife at home prone to frequent bouts of hormonally induced homicidal derangement. So with safety in mind, I set out last night to get my body and spirit prepared for the Herculean task that lay ahead of me.

Training for an epic beer bout is a lot like training for a championship boxing match. You have to get back to your roots, forgoing the relatively posh environment of where the match will actually occur and heading for the raw atmosphere fraught with danger and charged with savagery that can only be found in the inner-city. Boxers head for the decrepit, sweaty and decaying gyms where they started their athletic careers. Drinkers head for skid row bars in structurally unsound buildings surrounded by urban blight, packs of wild dogs, junkies, street urchins and, preferably, in close proximity to a condemned trailer park overrun with warring factions of the motorcycle enthusiast community. I found the perfect place located deep inside Detroit.

For some reason, the place was nearly empty for a Saturday night. There were two gentlemen seated in the back shadows at a table who looked as if they were just three rounds of Schlitz shy of homelessness. They were in rough shape. One of them was morbidly obese and agitated about the %&#@ A-Raibs in I-raq and offered insightful, if passionately vindictive, commentary to the ancient wall-mounted television on what he would have done had the American voting public only had the wisdom to proclaim him the undisputed despot of the Kingdom of the United States. His companion, a rail thin man with an obvious disdain for even the most basic of personal hygiene techniques, dutifully nodded his head in a sort of silent endorsement of his over-eating partner’s candidacy. At the end of the bar closest to the door, was a heavily tarted up tube-shaped woman almost completely devoid of feminine features. She was dressed in sweatpants that had seen better days and a short top that exposed a midriff that had no business being seen. It was attire completely out of place in a drafty Prohibition-era bar during a Motor City January, leading me to believe that she was probably a professional on the clock. There was no bartender in sight.

It was immediately apparent that I was way out of my element, but it really was the perfect place for a sincere alcoholic workout. I also could not pass up the character study aspect of the joint so I confidently ambled up to the bar and took a seat in the middle of it, putting equal distance between myself and the two other entities in the place. I was hoping that this would send a message that I was not a willing conversationalist, but a man on a mission that needed to focus on the task at hand. I was not there for social interaction, I was there to practice. I really did not want to talk to these people; I just wanted to drink like them. Under normal circumstances, if I needed to build up my alcoholic tolerance I would pick what I believed to be the hardiest imbiber in the establishment and discretely pace myself with him, ordering a drink every time he did. That was not a feasible technique in this place however. The obnoxious foreign policy expert in back was already close to his limit and I suspected that his silent partner was drinking off of his tab (Nobody keeps that kind of company for free). The working girl was also out of the running. She had the dental evidence that alcohol was not her intoxicant of choice. She was looking for business, not booze. I had to set my own pace, so I decided on six shots of tequila chased down with equal servings of beer, consumed within three hours. All I needed was a bartender to get the games rolling.

While I waited for the establishment’s proprietor, the working girl made her move. “Hi! I’m Janet,” she said in a voice that was either ravaged by decades of chain smoking or influenced by a testosterone level that was not compatible with her wardrobe.

I am sure my eyes opened a little wider as I turned my head towards the baritone at the end of the bar and waved to it with my left hand, doing my best to show off my wedding ring. “Hi! I’m married.” I answered, focusing my vision on its throat to look for an Adam’s Apple. Then, to emphasize that my sexual orientation automatically excluded me from his (found the apple) potential customer base added, “Legally.” My sentence was punctuated by the sound of a flushing toilet originating from the darkness behind the bar’s resident policy guru, who was now working himself into a frenzy over the amount of US aid flowing into tsunami-stricken Indonesia, an enthusiastic al-Qaeda collaborator as far as he was concerned. It was about that time when I decided to reduce my exercise regimen to four beers and four shots in just under two hours.

I was still sizing up Madame Butterfly, trying to determine how offended he was at my obvious rebuff when a raspy voice from behind me asked, “Can I get you something, Sweetheart?”

I turned to answer but hesitated when I took in the woman who was addressing me. The barmaid was an immense woman, nearly as large as the establishment’s aspiring news anchor, who was still shouting a broad range of colorful adjectives at the talking head on the television screen, and it was hard to estimate how old she was. She could either have been a 45-year-old showing off the dire consequences of too many fried chicken dinners washed down with liberal amounts of pure grain alcohol or a sixty-year-old with almost sloth-like metabolism. She wore a tight-fitting v-neck t-shirt (though at that size, I am guessing that options for loose fitting v-neck t-shirts are somewhat limited) that had permanent sweat stains dyed into a large area around her armpits and what appeared to be double-knit polyester slacks that were hard-pressed to contain the load they were tasked with holding back. She had shoulder length stringy greasy hair that appeared to have been styled by a food processor. She wore huge heavy glasses that apparently shared the same prescription of the lenses used on the Hubble space telescope which grotesquely magnified her eyes to inhuman, squid-like proportions. Her other facial features were frighteningly Yeti-esque, with big, beefy and hairy overtones that I guessed terrified a lot of children in her neighborhood. To give her some credit, she had less upper lip hair than a Magnum-vintage Tom Selleck, but still sported much more than most American women would tolerate before breaking out an industrial-strength Epilady. I also have to say that if I had half the hair on the top of my head that she had growing out of that malignant-appearing mole that consumed a healthy portion of her right cheek, I would have a few more instructions to hand out to my barber before he broke out the #3 clipper attachment. What the barmaid had in facial folliclery however, she lacked in oral armament. There was not a single tooth protruding from her gum line that I could see and a side effect appeared to be an inherent inefficiency in saliva retention. Some sort of salivary secretion seemed to have a propensity to build up in the corners of her mouth and had a color and consistency that reminded me of chicken gravy. I prayed to GOD that she did not spit when she spoke.

“Sweetheart? Can I get you something?” she asked again, rubbing my nose in the fact that God has a habit of not listening to me. I was a bit unnerved by her casual use of the word “sweetheart”, hoping that it was just a term of endearment she and not the initiation of some sort of twisted hillbilly mating ritual.

“You got anything in a bottle?” I asked while pulling out the small pad of paper and pen I compulsively carry with me at all times. This was a place that, in addition to being a rather surreal venue to stretch one’s liver at, was a character study bonanza. I was going to have to take notes.

“No honey. We only serve cans here.” I was bummed. In addition to having an aversion to aluminum aftertastes, I felt that if for some reason things went sour and I found myself in a situation where I had to fend off an economically depressed transvestite, a silent stick figure, a pickled porcine political pundit and an amorous gin jockey with no use for a Blue Cross dental plan, I wanted a couple of beer bottles in hand to increase my odds of making it to the door.

Looking over at the limited selection of low grade economy selections displayed on the draft taps I said, “I’ll take a mug full of Miller Genuine Draft…” In the absence of a trusty beer bottle, glass beer mugs were the next best thing. They sort of served as a Waterford set of brass knuckles in a pinch. “…And a shot of Cuervo Gold too, please.” I added this while writing the words “pickled”, “porcine”, “political” and “pundit” in my notebook. I then added in parentheses, “(4 P’s!)”

“We don’t have any Cuervo in here.” The barmaid said as she set my MGD down in front of me in a shell glass that was about as useful in barroom combat as a top billing polka band was in selling Lollapalooza tickets. “Is El Toro okay?”

It most certainly was not. On a scale of tequila quality, El Toro ranks just below fermented toilet bowl water but realizing that I was not going to do any better, I forced a smile to my face and said, “Sure.” It came equipped with a crusty shaker of salt with oyster crackers in it, a wedge of lime with the freshness of week-old summer road kill and a complimentary ration of bar nuts served in a cardboard bowl.

I normally do not bother with salt and citrus when drinking tequila so out of habit, I lifted the shot glass, tipped it in a salutary gesture towards the barmaid and poured it down my gullet. My stomach registered its displeasure by triggering a minor gagging reflex that, though enough to grab my attention, remained minor enough to conceal with a spontaneous full body shudder. Emptying half of my beer in a single drink did not appease my taste buds much but it seemed to put my gastro-intestinal tract back in order so I ordered another round. Five minutes into my workout, I had gotten through half of my shots and was leisurely working my way into my second beer. I was making pretty good time. I was in better shape than I thought.

About a half an hour after I arrived, I ordered my third round of booze and a second helping of complimentary bar nuts. As I lifted the third shot of tequila to my lips, the television newsman must have said something that particularly agitated the big drunk at the table as he let out a loud intoxicated bellow and then, in a fit of overzealous gesticulation, somehow launched his car keys up over his head and onto the floor behind him where they immediately slid beneath another table. Finally annoyed by his boorish antics, the barmaid leaned forward and threatened to cut him off if he did not settle down and shut up. Skinny Dirty Man changed seats, wisely assuming that if a walrus wrestling match were to suddenly break out, there were safer places to drink than between the two behemoth combatants. Madame Butterfly let out an irritating derogatory laugh and then left his seat to go pace the sidewalk out in front of the bar for a few minutes.

Though a couple of words were exchanged, the incident failed to escalate. The barmaid went back and perched herself up on an abused stool behind the bar and shook her head at me in frustration while saying, “Kids.” Then it dawned on me that the big drunk yelling at the TV was actually her son. I placed my third shot of tequila back on the bar after a brief vision of the moment of his conception involuntarily emerged out of the darkest depths of my imagination and started antagonizing my stomach, which had already been weakened by the double dose of El Toro. I turned my attention to her hapless offspring who was by this time trying to extricate himself out of his chair to track his car keys down.

It was a mildly entertaining spectacle. It took several tries for the drunkard to get out of his seat and ultimately he just gave up and rolled out of it onto all fours, violently upsetting the table that had held his and his companion’s glasses of beer. Not a single one of them remained upright after the table’s wobbling came to a rest and a substantial stream of cheap beer poured off of the table and onto the crawling commentator. His mother buried her face in her hands and shook her head in disbelieving resignation. Unfazed by the shower of stale suds cascading onto his back, the barmaid’s son suddenly changed direction and wobbled towards the spot he believed his keys had come to rest, flashing my side of the bar with a gargantuan display of angry ass crack highlighted by a raging outbreak of posterior acne that appeared suspiciously terminal. I immediately tore my gaze away from the back of the bar to avoid seeing something that would give me cause to claw my own eyes out later. That is when I saw the barmaid looking at me with an expression of desperate anxiety that betrayed her hopes that I had not just seen that. The dumbfounded expression of complete horror on my face instantly gave away the fact that I indeed had.

The barmaid was mortified. She practically leaped out of her seat screaming, “THAT”S ENOUGH, PERRY!” I went back to my notebook and modified my notes to read “PERRY, pickled porcine political pundit. (5 P’s!)” Perry’s mother hurriedly waddled out from behind the bar into the lounge. Silent Stick Man jumped out of his seat as well, seemingly unsure of whether to try and help get his drinking companion up off of the floor or make a frantic attempt to bolt for the exit and save his own skin. He opted to go for the keys, and came up with them just as the barmaid was approaching striking distance.

“YOU TWO ARE FINISHED! BOTH OF YOU GET YOUR WORTHLESS HIDES OUT OF MY BAR AND DON’T COME BACK UNTIL YOU LEARN HOW TO BEHAVE LIKE NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS!” That is almost a verbatim quote. I was scribbling notes pretty furiously by this point. “I HAVE PAYING CUSTOMERS IN HERE AND I AM SURE THAT THE LAST THING THEY (her use of a plural pronoun here was accurate due to the commotion drawing Madame Butterfly back inside along with two Detroit police officers who had apparently stopped by to chat with him) WANT TO SEE IS A NO-GOOD DRUNK CRAWLING AROUND THE FLOOR SHOWING HIS DIRTY ASS OFF TO EVERYONE! HOW DO YOU EXPECT ME TO DRAW GOOD CUSTOMERS INTO THIS PLACE WHEN YOU TWO ARE IN HERE ALL THE TIME PULLING S*** LIKE THIS!” If the barmaid was really serious about drawing a greater influx of quality clientele, it was going to take a lot more than banning Perry from the establishment but I had to admit, eliminating the overt display of anterior skin afflictions was as good a place as any to start. “JONAS! TAKE HIM HOME!”

After convincing the cops that he was in good enough shape to take Perry home, Jonas, with the help of two of Detroit’s finest, guided the drunk out of the bar while his mother set to cleaning up the mess he had made. The entire time, she complained about how hard she worked to save up the money to buy the bar and how frustrated she was that the children she raised seemed utterly incapable of accomplishing anything else besides sabotaging her business. She went on and on as she mopped the floor, spewing heartfelt vindictive and a generous amount of that gravy-like spittle that collected on the corners of her mouth. While she did this, I killed my third round and ordered my last, which turned out to be my undoing.

I had been tempting fate by drinking El Toro in the first place, but after three shots of this vile demonic elixir from Jalisco, I was at my tolerance limit. I was not by any means drunk, I was just disgusted. I have to admit, as I raised that fourth shot to my lips I was feeling rather apprehensive. I got it down, but not without a fight. My gag reflex kicked in with a force that was just barely controllable and I felt the color rush out of my face as I struggled to keep my dinner right where I had left it. The bar maid sensed something was wrong and, with genuine concern, leaned closer to me and asked, “Are you okay, sweetheart?” As she spoke those words, a significant serving of her lip ooze was lifted from the upper left corner of her mouth and was sent hurtling through the air in slow motion until it passed out of my field of vision and landed just inside my lower lip. I was wrong about its gravy-like consistency. It was more reminiscent of something one would find in a discarded Kleenex.

At that point, all bets were off. My sweat pores opened up, my abdomen muscles erupted into painfully uncontrollable gut spasms and I started making sounds I had not made since I had a brief fascination with water-bonging when I was in the tenth grade. I left my money, enough for the drinks and a sizeable pity-tip, on the bar, grabbed my coat and rushed out the door past Madame Butterfly and the same two cops he had been talking to her earlier. I tried to escape around the corner of the building where I would be safely out of sight but just couldn’t make it. A solid five paces short of my goal, I stopped, doubled over in agony and abruptly projectile hurled all over the sidewalk, drawing the instant attention of the two police officers and cheerful horn honks of encouragement from passing motorists.

Unfortunately, one gastro-intestinal revolt was not enough. It took several before I was afforded enough of a break in the action to try and catch my breath. It was during this lull that one of the officers walked up beside me, bent over and asked, “Sir? You’re not driving, are you?”

“No,” I answered while trying to figure out whether or not he was asking me a trick question. After blowing the remaining stomach bile and chewed up remnants of complimentary bar nuts out of my nose, I turned to him and elaborated. “I’m not driving. I’m puking.” At that point I became convinced that the Detroit Police Department was in desperate need of a tougher entrance exam.

In the end I was allowed to drive home, having successfully regurgitated enough alcohol to keep my BAC just barely within legal driving limits. I was painfully sober and at that point, sick to boot. Knowing that Otto was showing up on Monday filled me with an urge to continue my training in a more hospitable environ, but I had honestly had enough so I called it a night. Even though I had not successfully completed my regimen, I felt that my system was comfortably primed for the week that lay ahead. As a bonus, I met some very interesting people that I hope to never meet again and left that rundown dirty watering hole with a confidence that, no matter how bad things get in the future, there are at least four people in the world that I can visualize who are in far worse shape than I am. I also left wiser. I learned why that particular venue I chose for my alcoholic workout was so slow on a Saturday night. I learned that poor posterior hygiene can lead to a condition that could prove an effective defense against unwanted romantic advances should I ever find myself incarcerated. I learned what someone else’s cholesterol-laden oral ooze tastes like. I learned that chewed up bits of complimentary bar nuts can be abrasively excruciating when violently blown out of one’s nasal cavities and last, but not least, I learned that there is a distressing lack of intellectual acumen among some of the more recent additions to the ranks of the Detroit Police Department.
Overall, it was a very enlightening experience. I concluded that I was going to have to do it again some time. There is nothing like a skid row bar to prod one past a serious case of writer’s block.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

2005 Detroit Auto Show Preview #6 - Hummer H3

Hummer, that vehicular icon of American ingenuity, power, wealth and our penchant for wanton natural resource consumption and foreign misadventure, will offer a kinder, gentler version of its marauding freeway behemoths in 2005. Though smaller, faster and more economical than its H1 and H2 siblings, the H3 still radiates a commanding road presence and bears the formidable military styling that has been striking fear in the hearts of Afghani brigands, Iraqi firebrands, Colombian narco-terrorists and slow left lane drivers for the better part of a decade now. Based off of the same platform that spawned the Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck, the H3 possesses a fuel economy well into double-digits. In fact it is just 3 miles per gallon less than its Colorado sibling which is surprising, given that the Hummer’s rectangular silhouette typically gives it the aerodynamic qualities one would expect to find in rocket-launched hippopotami. Though there are distinct disadvantages to Hummer ownership, not least among them the bankrupting financial burden required to feed them when accounting for recent fuel costs, it is hard to imagine GM losing with this one. Hummers are fun to own, project a powerful image, handle well and, in short, give men that same kind of confidence boost that women usually turn to breast enhancement surgery for.

Friday, January 07, 2005

2005 Detroit Auto Show Preview #5 - Chevy HHR

When you first look at pictures of the front end of the Chevrolet HHR, you can not help but think that GM blatantly ripped the design right off of Chrysler’s PT Cruiser. Then you look at pictures of the vehicle’s rear and find that you were mistaken. Apparently, GM must have blatantly ripped off the new Dodge Durango. Five years ago GM, like Ford today, had endured some tough media and consumer accusations of pushing uninspired designs upon its customer base but of late, they had taken some fairly bold steps to silence its critics. The Trailblazer breathed some new life into an already strong SUV segment. The SSR, though a sales flop, got people talking about Chevrolet. The Aztek, though universally reviled for an exterior look that suggested the aesthetic grace of an epileptic water buffalo in the throes of a bad acid trip, was a hit with the demographic Pontiac targeted, with its owners among the most satisfied customers in the North American market. Unfortunately for Aztek sales, Pontiac just grossly over-estimated the size of this demographic. These three vehicles displayed a new willingness to abandon cookie-cutter engineering and by taking on former Chrysler car-czar Bob Lutz, General Motors showed a strong commitment to this new product philosophy. So why they decided to go ahead and release a new car-based retro-themed compact SUV after peak market demand was already tapped by Chrysler’s unchallenged PT Cruiser is a mystery to me. GM says the inspiration for the HHR was the 1949 Chevrolet Suburban but at this point in the game, it does not matter. My bet is that consumers will see Cruiser, and if this vehicle does not offer increased functionality, better performance, and lower prices than the PT, the chances of it meeting Chevrolet’s sales targets of between 80,000 and 100,000 units per year will be akin to those of Donald Rumsfeld sweeping the Palestinian Authority presidential elections in 2005 on a B’nai B’rith party ticket.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Fox News’s Bill O’Reilly Wants Bill Clinton to Head UN

Right wing news commentator extraordinaire Bill O’Reilly, in an interview with Former U.N. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, proclaimed his support for the idea of Bill Clinton as president of the United Nations. This would be a perfect match as former-President Clinton’s inaction in Bosnia, near total dismantling of the US intelligence apparatus, overt loathing of the US military and inaction against foreign militants that fostered a near perfect environment for the September 11 attacks nicely compliments the UN’s inaction in Darfur, distrust of the US intelligence apparatus, overt loathing of the US military, and utter impotence in the face of foreign militants.

I think somebody has been tampering with Mr. O’Reilly’s medication. If they have not, I think they should start.

2005 Detroit Auto Show #4 - The Dodge Charger

Capitalizing upon the success of the 300C and Dodge Magnum, the DaimlerChrysler Group unveiled the latest addition to its product portfolio based off of the LX platform, the eagerly anticipated 2006 Dodge Charger. To date, the LX platform has garnered well-deserved acclaim for the brand that, if one were to believe all the media hype, was just months ago on the verge of catastrophic financial ruin. The Bentley-esque 300C was universally embraced by everyone from upwardly mobile business executives to inner city street pimps with lucrative rap-recording contracts. The Dodge Magnum actually made station wagons seem cool again by offering a family vehicle that looked awkward picking up the kids from soccer practice but perfectly within its element springing one’s future felons from maximum security detention centers. The power, style and nameplate reputation of the new Charger suggests that this vehicle too will have little trouble finding its niche. The revered Charger moniker will appeal to the mid-level corporate hedonist old enough to remember the passion he had for the vehicle before the Dukes of Hazard was relegated to syndicated showings on Spike TV. The styling will lead him to believe that he has even odds of car pooling with high school cheerleaders that just barely crossed over to fun side of the age of consent. The Charger’s performance will make him confident that, if pursued by the authorities (or the cheerleaders’ parents), he will at least have a fighting chance of beating them to the Tijuana border crossing where he can enthusiastically begin a new glorious career as an international fugitive.

Detroit Auto Show Preview #3 - The Ford Explorer Sport Trac

The Ford Explorer Sport Trac concept to be unveiled at the 2005 North American Auto Show in Detroit is meant to presage the vehicle that will ultimately replace the aging version of the SUV/pickup hybrid currently gracing the American highway system. The concept’s styling is sleeker than the current model and helps to differentiate it from the base Explorer which possesses a design that, though it may have worked when the SUV was first introduced, is now about as sophisticated-looking as an Appalachian outhouse in a 5th Avenue apartment complex. Though it remains highly doubtful that this product offering will generate the kind of buzz that last year’s Mustang did, it remains a step, albeit a baby step, in the right direction. Unfortunately, I do not think that this baby step will be enough to outrun the Honda Ridgeline, which debuts in North America later this year.

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

2005 Detroit Auto Show #2 - The Chrysler Firepower

If there is one thing that Chrysler really excels at, it is identifying consumer needs and developing a product that meets them to excess. A perfect example would be the creation of the minivan in the 1980s. Chrysler sensed the animosity that baby boomers, who at this time were approaching their peak earning years, had for the station wagon yet knew that they would still need a means to transport four screaming pre-pubescent savages, an incontinent border collie, two coolers full of sickeningly sweet orange-flavored wine coolers and a wide array of Rubic’s Cubes, Cabbage Patch Kids, Smurf Items, intimacy aids and caseloads of Valium to the summer cottage for a weekend getaway. Voila, they developed the minivan. Twenty years later, Chrysler has recognized that there is a population segment that is unable to reap the benefits of Viagra, Cialis and the plethora of herbal erectile dysfunction aids lauded in the multitude of spam e-mail messages that bombard every internet-savvy American male’s electronic inbox every week. For the ultimate experience in non-pharmaceutical penile compensation, the DaimlerChrysler Corporation offers the Firepower concept. Built off of the Viper platform, the Firepower is driven by a 425-horsepower HEMI V-8, boasts a top speed of 185 miles per hour and will go from 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds, which is just .0765 seconds longer than the average …a-hem…..staying power, of the vehicle’s target demographic. Fuel consumption has not yet been announced, but I would bet it is safe to say that it probably falls within a range that would make an opponent to Arctic oil drilling shake with an intensity seldom seen outside of the French armed forces.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

2005 Detroit Auto Show Preview #1 - The Mercury Meta One

Due to the nature of my actual career, the next two weeks are going to be consumed by preparing to cover the 2005 North American International Auto Show in Detroit. As a result, my postings this week will have an automotive theme as I relay the results of my findings to both of my loyal readers. My postings next week will probably be drunken, hallucinatory ramblings describing my after-work wanderings through the Motor City's less reputable watering holes with my trusty German drinking from Frankfurt. I'll post as long as I can keep from slipping into another tequila coma a la 2004.
Mercury, the red-headed step-child of the Ford Motor Company, is set to unveil the Meta One at this year’s exposition of all things automotive in Detroit. The Meta One is derived from the popular, if aesthetically uninspired, Ford Freestyle but Mercury refreshingly takes the vehicle’s design into a completely different direction. The current batch of Mercury products found on the road today are distinguishable from their Ford-labeled siblings only by the front grill and an average of $2500 in base model MSRP increases. The Meta concept however, possesses a significant stylistic departure for Mercury. To make a statement that would surely raise adamant (and very likely, vehement) denials from Ford’s design staff, the Meta seems inspired more by Cadillac’s “Art and Science” theme than on anything exported out of Dearborn in recent memory. The Meta seems to work. It looks sharp and bold and, if it is ultimately released in a form that even remotely resembles the concept shown in Detroit, could signal that Ford is finally willing to abandon the institutionalized product blandness that has helped do to its market share what recent Sumatran seismic activity has done to the Indian Ocean’s shrimping industry.

In addition to a new vehicle style, the Mercury Meta also boasts several cutting edge safety features. The model shown in Detroit is equipped with a Collision Mitigation by Braking (CMB) system that uses forward facing radar systems, similar to those found in luxury vehicle Adaptive Cruise Controls, to predict imminent collisions, warn the vehicle operator and apply pre-emptive braking that may help prevent the crash or at least significantly lessen its impact. The Meta is also equipped with a Lane Departure Warning System that alerts an operator when the vehicle drifts out of a lane due to inattention, fatigue or after irresponsibly climbing in behind the wheel on the tail end of a savage week-long tequila bender that would have sent Senator Ted Kennedy rushing to the Courtney Love Suite of the Betty Ford Clinic. These two features, combined with the touted Roll Stability Control, could inspire confidence in even the severest of over-cautious highway hypochondriacs.

The Meta, if it makes it to market with its concept powertrain, would be the first diesel/electric vehicle on the road, a significant achievement that could give Ford a decent amount of street cred with the Sierra Club environmentalists it fell so far out of favor with when it launched the goliath Excursion six years ago. This powertrain, in addition to providing stellar gas mileage, puts out more torque than Ford’s current gasoline V-10 with a substantial reduction in output emissions.

The Meta, if its design and technological attributes are embraced and economically implemented into Ford vehicles, could foreshadow some very positive developments creeping into the automaker’s product lines, which is something Ford desperately needs if it does not want to deteriorate to the point of trailing Nepalese rickshaw makers for North American market share and prevent its stock from being traded in dark alleys behind seedy skid row drinking establishments for vouchers redeemable in Styrofoam cups full of watered-down Pabst

Monday, January 03, 2005

Somalia Urges Speedier Aid

Apparently Somalia is not satisfied with the speed with which the international community has responded in the wake of the tsunami disaster. Of course this veritable desert paradise of the East African Horn, a shining example of peace and harmony blessed with a charmingly tranquil native population, deserves aid just as much as the rest of the nations affected by this horrible event. However, after spending the last thirteen years creating their own disasters that statistically make this latest one look like little more than a paint-scraping fender bender in the arms-bazaar parking lot, I think they are being a bit overly optimistic about the rest of the world’s ability to implement instant to relief to a nation who has so wantonly vandalized its own infrastructure to the point that it can only aspire to be Paleolithic.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Blogs Have Their Day

The gist of this article is the nature of blogs and, as they become more mainstream, will they eventually become part of the media establishment that they are all too happily contrary to at the moment? The answer of course is yes, and no. Those bloggers with the talent to be picked up by the mainstream media machine will undoubtedly be all too eager to follow the money. They would be insane not to. Hopefully, then they could help change the mainstream media from within, resisting the contemporary editorial influences that plague news organizations at the present, namely the information conglomerates that have buckled under the pressure of advertisers to produce a product consumable by the masses that weakly appeals to everyone yet fails to present a clear and accurate product to anyone. If bloggers fall into that trap, they naturally will lose the appeal their success depends upon and their readership will pick another blog out of the virtually unlimited legions of them out there edgy enough to appeal to their specific interests.

So, would I ever sell out for big bucks? In a heartbeat, though I know I would fail miserably if I did. I do my best work sitting in my underwear, alone in the dark, while listening to my Twisted Sister cassette tape collection at decibels that could induce terminal psychosis in an epileptic Chihuahua from fifty feet away. Somehow, I just don't think I could reproduce that environment in a corporate setting without becoming a permanent remedial student in the company's sexual harassment training course.

Saturday, January 01, 2005

An Ode to Tubgirl

It started with a random hit on my blog, no doubt by accident, and ended with me unleashing a primal scream at 1:30 in the morning that terrified my wife, startled my kids awake and induced incontinence in my border collie. When it was over, I was left a broken shell of man, emotionally scarred and with a vividly disturbing image indelibly and permanently etched deep within my iron psyche. When my wife found me I was naked and sobbing hysterically in the darkest corner of the basement laundry room. I felt horribly unclean and psychologically violated. I had come, quite unwittingly, face to face with that most horrific of internet phenomena: the gruesome and terrifying digital image of TUBGIRL.

Now, I spent three years of my navy enlistment paying visits to some of the most exotic and erotic ports of call the world has to offer. I’ve walked through red light districts from Amsterdam to Bangkok. I have seen things that I could not possibly have imagined and that is no small feat considering that I have got one overactive imagination. Still, whatever spectacles of the perverse I may have witnessed in my youth, I have never seen anything that would have prepared me for that horror that crossed my eyes early that morning. When that photograph popped up upon my computer screen, my eyes opened wide and any moisture they may have held instantly evaporated. My stomach turned rebelliously and just as I was on the verge of launching Technicolor laughter all over my Dell, I managed to tear my line of site away from the monitor. My mouth went dry and my sphincter puckered. I started to shake and sweat. Then I took a deep breath and looked back at my screen incredulously to confirm that I had actually seen what I thought I had. After finding out that I had, I let out that scream that so unnerved my family and tried unsuccessfully to claw my own eyes out.

Before I go any further, I need to explain exactly how I came across this particular gem lest my loyal readership (both of you), think I am deep within the grasp of some demonically depraved fecal fetishist cult. As stated in an earlier entry, someone was referred to my blog via a Google search for a “picture of a retarded llama”. While backtracking, I came upon a comedy website called ZUG (which I might add is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on the internet. I highly recommend it. I must warn you however, it’s more addictive than crack {}). As I followed one of the conversation threads, I clicked upon a link that gave absolutely no indication of what would be unleashed once I had freed it. I refuse to link to it, or even to describe it, for fear of permanently alienating the few loyal visitors I have. Not only that, but once you see this picture, you find your mind jostling too many questions to maintain any semblance of mental harmony. Even though it has been a week since I’ve seen it, I still find myself wondering what possibly could have lead to that event. Was it some sort of twisted sexual fetish finally fulfilled? Was it the result of a lost wager or an innocently intentioned bar trick that went horribly awry? What was that woman thinking as this event unfolded? Was it, “My God, how could it possibly have come to this?” or “I’m absolutely NEVER eating there again!” Somehow I think neither. Due to the incredible marksmanship displayed in this image, I am quite certain this was not an isolated incident. I am sure that she had done it before and, in fact, had gotten quite good at it. I’ll give even odds that she’s probably done it since.

Anyway, hopefully this entry exercised that demon. For those of you with the decency to leave this creature be, you may have a little curiosity knowing at your consciousness but, unlike the travesty that is TUBGIRL, it will eventually pass. For those of you who are so sick and demented that you just can not resist the temptation to seek her out: May God Have Mercy On Your Soul.
When Supervisors Snap Posted by Hello

Quick Question: I've been noticing a lot of traffic coming to this image and was just wondering how you found it. Could you please leave a comment and tell me what brought you here to this image? I appreciate you visiting this site and would love to hear from you!
The JEP Report Store Reader Sites
  • Inflammable Hamster
  • Right Michigan
  • Great Writing