June 25, 2008

Here’s a random thought that has occurred to me on several occasions:

“Just a Friend,” the 1989 song from rapper Biz Markie, has always appealed to me. The lyrics (“Oh, snap!”) are hilarious, the catchy chorus is completely off-key more often than not, and nearly everyone recognizes the song when they hear it.

Given all of those fine credentials, why have I never found “Just a Friend” on any karaoke song list?

[ No. 446 ]

June 23, 2008

This morning, I was shocked to learn that George Carlin, one of my favorite comedians of all time, passed away yesterday at the age of 71.

I was privileged to see Carlin perform live on two occasions. The first took place during my sophomore year at Penn State in late 1993, when I watched his monologue from the fifth row (!) in Eisenhower Auditorium with my friend Suzanne. A few years later, my dad and I howled with laughter during his irreverent show at the Valley Forge Music Fair (a terrific in-the-round venue in the Philly suburbs that sadly closed shortly thereafter).

To be honest, I didn’t always agree with Carlin’s nihilistic, counter-culture view of the world. But the man was a master wordsmith, and he made his audiences both laugh and think. And I can’t remember experiencing more physical pain from laughing at anyone else’s material, ever.

In a journal from my college days, I found a surprising number of paraphrased one-liners from Carlin’s performance at PSU. Thanks to the Internet, I was able to find the exact wording of some of my favorites (at least as they were subsequently published in book form):

Have you ever been talking to yourself, and someone else enters the room, and you have to make believe you were singing? And you hope to God the other person really believes there’s a song called “What Does She Think I Am, Some Kind of Putz”?
[Source: IMDb, Jammin’ in New York]
Do you ever fall asleep in the late afternoon and wake up after dark, and for a moment you can’t figure out what day it is? You actually find yourself thinking, Could this be yesterday?
[Source: Amazon, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?]
Here’s all you have to know about men and women: women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.
[Source: Amazon, Napalm & Silly Putty]

Farewell, George. You were truly one of a kind.

[ No. 445 ]

June 21, 2008

Last week, someone used the contact form on my professional Web site,, to send me a message. I won’t reveal the full identity of the person who contacted me, but the note came from a woman named Joyce (whom I do not know), and she had the following to say:

You voted AGAINST drilling for oil?????? You need to move to another state. I’m EMBARRASSED TO HAVE YOU represent the peoples [sic] republic of Ohio.
[Note: I have carefully preserved the hysterical capitalization and half-dozen question marks exactly as they appeared in the original message.]

That’s a very odd unsolicited note to receive, given that I’ve never voted against (or for) oil drilling, I’d really prefer not to move from my current residence, and I certainly wasn’t aware of my duty to represent the citizens of the Buckeye State.

I responded politely, saying that I actually live near Philadelphia and have no affiliation with the government. (If Joyce had taken 30 seconds to view any other page on my site, she would have found that out for herself.) But I couldn’t resist asking how she had located my Web site in the first place. She apologized for contacting me in error, then explained the reason for her vitriol:

Mike DeVine [sic] is a [R]epublican senator from Ohio. He repeatedly votes with the liberals and we are having a hard time getting our conservative ideas passed. With the price of oil going up every day, we initiated a writing campaign to our senators and representatives, to drill in the USA for oil. We believe the liberals are at fault because they protect the environmentalists and global warming nuts by not allowing drilling in our own country.

Wow. Where to begin?

After five whole minutes of online research, I learned that Mike DeWine (note the different spelling) was a Republican senator from Ohio, but lost his bid for re-election in 2006. So, I replied to Joyce and informed her of the following:

  1. Even if she had located the proper contact information for Mike DeWine, he did not take part in any recent Senate votes.
  2. Personally, I happen to be concerned about the environment and the threat of global warming, but that does not necessarily make me a “nut.” So, she might want to be a little more careful with her generalizations.
  3. In general, people aren’t receptive to terse, angry e-mails. Taking the time to make one’s point respectfully can go a long way.

With that, I still wished her luck in her writing campaign.

Joyce replied to me once more in an irritated tone and reminded me that she had repeatedly apologized for the misrouted e-mail. But, although she had plenty of time to tell me all about those crazy liberals and tree-huggers, she neglected to even acknowledge my few words of advice.

What scares me is that there are millions of Americans like Joyce who see everything in black and white. They quickly make up their minds about issues of the day and remain deaf to any perspective that differs from their own. They absorb simplistic talking points from media pundits and eagerly recite them without comprehending the underlying issues in the slightest.

And sometimes, they mistakenly send their angry, immature correspondence to the wrong person, which only serves to underscore how intellectually careless they really are.

[ No. 444 ]

June 16, 2008

Not surprisingly, my frequent weekends at the Jersey shore can yield some strange sights and sounds. Maybe my fellow weekend warriors just need a release from the previous week’s workload. Maybe they get a little disoriented from staying out in the afternoon sun too long. Or maybe, just maybe, they simply drink too much.

Whatever the cause, the bizarre behavior somehow spread to the DJ booth at the Princeton this past weekend. While the tone-deaf cover band took a break between sets, the DJ decided to entertain the crowd by playing Mariah Carey’s yuletide song, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

After my friends and I stared at each other for a while, we all reached the same conclusion: “Um, that song might make sense as a ‘Christmas in July’ sort of thing, but isn’t it still June?”

[ No. 443 ]

June 12, 2008

After a night out in the city earlier this week, I returned to my favorite garage where I had parked my car. As I approached the automated paystations in the lobby, I happened to notice a small sign informing me that the machines did not accept new $5 bills.

So, when the machine eventually dispensed my change, why on earth did I receive two new $5 bills?

[ No. 442 ]

June 5, 2008

At their arraignments in Guantanamo Bay earlier today, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, two of the primary organizers of the Sept. 11 attacks, rejected their legal representation and openly welcomed a death sentence in order to achieve their goal of martyrdom. In fact, al-Shibh declared:

“If I’m killed, I will be killed for the sake of God. I’ve been seeking to be a martyr for years.”

If anyone deserves to be executed for a heinous crime, these two clearly top the list. And while I’m no expert in criminal justice, I believe the general idea of punishment is to impose hardship on someone, and for most people, death is the ultimate penalty. So, given that Mohammed and al-Shibh conspired to kill nearly 3,000 people, the pair should fry, right?

Not so fast. Since these bastards actually want death, the only logical sentence for them is life in prison without parole (the same sentence handed to fellow 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui in 2006). That way, Mohammed and al-Shibh would be forced to suffer on earth for many years — and then discover that only eternal damnation awaits them.

[ No. 441 ]

June 4, 2008

Last November, I took note of an amusing Onion article, a parody account of American voters’ collective decision to drop out of the presidential race, thanks to “exhaustion, an overcrowded field of candidates, and little hope of making a difference.”

Well, here’s one clear sign of that same fatigue: I actually feel relieved that the field of presidential candidates has been narrowed to two. This weekend, Hillary Clinton will formally end her campaign and endorse Barack Obama, who captured the majority of delegates last night to become the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party and the first African-American to lead the ticket of a major party in our country’s history.

Even better, exactly five months from today, the whole process will finally draw to a close (barring another 2000-esque recount debacle).

[ No. 440 ]