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Tuesday, March 18, 2008


By now we've all heard that America's productivity takes a dip because of the NCAA men's basketball tournament. The most widely touted estimate comes from Chicago research firm Challenger, Gray, and Christmas, which estimates this year's tourney will cost up to $1.7 billion in lost productivity.

I think we're missing the silver lining. There's a wide swath of Americans, after all, who exert a negative pull on total productivity. Meditate on this: what would be better than having every trial lawyer, Freudian therapist, self-help author, and Congressional staffer take a day off work? A quick look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics data on jobs in the U.S. suggests that far from being a drain on our nation, the NCAA tournament is a blessing in disguise.

Of the roughly 150 million jobs in the U.S. in 2006, for example, 761,000 were held by lawyers. Assuming that lawyers don't procreate like regular human beings, but more like gremlins, that would mean that we have approximately 1 million lawyers today. Given that they all bill roughly $10,000 an hour, right there you've got about $1 billion in American wealth saved from the predatory buzz-saw.

Moving down the list, there are nearly 8 million construction employees in the U.S., and another 1.5 million architects and engineers. I don't know if you've been reading the papers lately, but the last thing we need is for anybody else to slap up drywall. Likewise for the over 1.5 million real estate professionals who afflict this country like locusts. There's a guy in town who drives a big SUV with a personalized license plate that says "REALTOR," and every time I see him I have to resist the urge to run him into a ditch. We need for these people to take a vacation.

Further up the food chain, we have 1 million securities trading and financial analysis professionals. Here's a big thanks for all you guys have done, but please, enjoy the tournament. Feel free to check out the NIT as well, and perhaps you might all consider a season subscription to the UFC. The same goes for the nearly 1 million consultants who make a living telling gutless upper managers what most of them already know needs to be done.

Outside the big cities, we've got nearly 1 million farmers, but at least half of them are growing corn to make ethanol, which we all know is a colossal fool's errand, so having them sit on their hands is a boon. There are over 1.3 million printing and publishing professionals, but only about 10,000 of them work for The Atlantic Monthly, WORLD, or The Wall Street Journal, which means that the other 1,290,000 are wasting paper.

There are almost 100,000 flight attendants, which I think we've all discerned we can do without. There are nearly 650,000 car mechanics, but I've only ever found two who didn't try to rip me off. I've only found one trustworthy plumber, meanwhile, out of the roughly 450,000 over-billing across the U.S.

We have 18,000 practicing political scientists, and I can affirm that these people are up to no good. I've spent enough time in the corporate world, meanwhile, to tell you that a day without our more than 250,000 public relations employees spinning and prevaricating their ways into purgatory would be glorious indeed.

Think how much educating might get done if the nearly 400,000 school administrators living on the public dime took a few days off to root for their favorite teams. Future teachers, meanwhile, might be better prepared if they read Maria Montessori while the nation's 54,000 education teachers take a break.

Finally, having recently assembled a tricycle with directions like "Insert Bolt C in carrier joint A when to be taking care of ball joist," I think we won't miss the more than 45,000 technical writers single-handedly taking all the fun out of our rampant consumer culture.

By my back-of-the-envelope calculations, assuming all these leeches and incompetents spend 10 hours of work-time watching NCAA basketball, the rest of us can get enough uninterrupted, unlooted, uncorrupted work done to justify knocking off early this year, say, around August. March Madness? I don't think so, my friends. March Brilliance is more like it.

posted by Woodlief | link | (5) comments

Thursday, March 31, 2005

My Living Will

It occurs to me that I ought to have some kind of living will. I'd appreciate some free legal advice (from those of you whose legal degrees were not awarded as the result of a three-week Internet course) on the following:

I, Tony Woodlief, being of relatively sound mind (I mean, sometimes I get those middle-of-the-night-oh-God-I-can't-breathe panic attacks, and often when I'm in front of a group I'm overwhelmed by the feeling that I am a fraud on the verge of being discovered, and then there's the lingering anger problems and feelings of guilt and worthlessness, but I think that's all relatively normal, don't you agree, with emphasis on the word relatively, because really, have you met some of the freakjobs who work in this town?), and considerably less sound body, do hereby grant to my beloved, beleaguered, underappreciated wife complete authority to end my sorry existence in the event that I:

A) Need machinery to sustain my life (note: "machinery" does not include my Blackberry, MP3 player, or coffee maker, but can be construed to apply to my car, in the event that my career takes a sudden dip necessitating the delivery of pizzas or other foodstuffs to complete strangers);

B) Start paying excessive attention to gas prices, golf, or "American Idol;"

C) Testify to Michael Jackson's soundness of mind and impeachability of character;

D) Volunteer for any cause that requires me to solicit signatures at the entrance to Metro stations;

E) Ever earnestly use the words "impact," "dialogue," or "interface" as verbs;

F) Get a toupee;


G) Let the pile of mulch in our driveway sit for another eleven months.

In the event that my termination becomes necessary/desirable/so intoxicatingly attractive that she can think about little else, my wife is authorized to employ any means of disposal that does not cause me pain for a period of longer than 0.00000000000000000001 seconds.

IMPORTANT CAVEAT: Regardless of what some cold-hearted twit of a medical professional might suggest, the foregoing excludes the option of freaking dehydrating me to death, and may anyone who would sentence his spouse -- or a bloody stranger for that matter -- to such a fate be resigned with his attorneys to eat sand for eternity in a hell without water fountains.

Stated, testified, blessed, affirmed, and affadavited six ways from Sunday,

Anthony John Woodlief

posted by Woodlief | link | (5) comments

Friday, April 30, 2004

Buy High and Sell Low

I've not yet had the need to plan my own funeral, but I suspect that when I do it will be much like preparing for a yard sale. There's the general sense of getting one's affairs in order, tidying things up a bit -- not because I really care whether some slob I don't know thinks that I am a untidy, but simply because that's what decent people do -- and putting everything in its rightful place.

There's also a Judgment Day air infusing it all, as my possessions -- extensions of me, or at least what gift-buying members of my family think of me -- are separated, some for service in their father's house, others to be cast into the 25-cent bargain box.

I only hope that when I get to the Pearly Gates, assuming some angelic security detail doesn't stop me on the outer grounds, there is someone like Caleb waiting to argue against my dismissal. He's been watching the growing pile of sale items with a wary eye, registering periodic protests and -- we suspect but cannot prove -- developing a plan to smuggle out whatever refugees he can lay hold of before the hour of peril arrives.

"Are you going to sell my [name of toy deleted because relatives may be reading this] in the yard sale?"

"Yes. You never play with it, and it's made of plastic."

"But I'm not done with it."

"You never play with it."

"But it's mine."

"You can use the money we get from it to buy something you like better."

"But I like it."

"You. Never. Play. With. It."

Little hands on hips. "But. I'm. Not. Done. With. It."

"Go play."

Exit one child with bottom lip firmly protruded.

There's the lingering guilt over selling my children's toys, and there's also the cold reality that some of those relatives with very poor ideas about gift-giving may actually visit one day, and have memories so sharp that they think to ask, "so where is the bright orange Ronco Combination Paintball Gun and Phonics Primer, the one that fires projectiles at 110 miles per hour and plays Snoop Dogg at 85 decibels when your child pronounces a syllable correctly?"

"Um, it broke. In several pieces. And caught on fire. There was only a puddle of plastic left."

"Really? It sure looked sturdy enough. Oh well, I was thinking of getting the boys that new George Foreman Veggie and Candy Bar Fryer -- the one they can operate themselves. It plays an educational jingle when the oil reaches its boiling point."

It's easier just to keep this stuff in a big box, with names of the givers attached, so that it can be dragged out when the relevant visitors make their appearance. Being economics-minded, however, we'd prefer to sell the $89.99 Barney and Friends Sing-Along Cattle Prod and use the 75 cents in proceeds to buy the boys something more edifying, like a few of the Lego blocks our neighbors up the street are selling so they can make room for their Squiggles Holographic Dress Up Like a Girl and Shake Your Booty Dance Machine.

And then there's just the deep shame of it all. How could we have acquired so much stuff?

If I were a leftist, I would falsely assume that we could lift entire nations out of poverty simply be sending them our excess belongings. This is a false notion, of course, because people are only lifted out of poverty when they are given the tools and opportunity to produce for themselves. If we send them shiploads of noisy plastic trinkets, we'll only depress their prices and drive nascent indigenous crap-makers out of business.

Being a conservative curmudgeon, however, I look at the rows and boxes of junk that have been extruded from my open garage like some slow-motion home colonic, and extrapolate to the millions of homes across the U.S., and I think: If we weren't so hell-bent on increasing our GDP by acquiring more and more colorful distractions, we might actually be a country that has the time to read.

Which we aren't, at least not in my house this week, because we're busy putting little price stickers on all our junk, and hoping that the old Middle Eastern man down the street doesn't show up with his fourteen family members to haggle over our ugly candlesticks.

I shouldn't complain. I'd much rather be reading right now, but I know that when tomorrow morning arrives and I'm standing, a pouch of change strapped to my waist, amidst my platoons of Care Bears and dragoons of plasticware, that I'll be in my element.

This is because I, like every good American, am an entrepreneur at heart. A French guy would look at my garage right now and think: Sacre coeur, might we be reed of zeez possessions if our country would but adopt a three-day work week? An American looks at it and thinks: Oh, the profits I will reap, thanks to the bad taste of my fellow countrymen.

God bless America. And please let it be sunny tomorrow, at least until we sell the Power Rangers.

posted by Woodlief | link | (8) comments

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

When Duty Calls, Don't Answer

The call came as I laid hold of my intended purchase. "Honey, where are you?"

"The CVS Pharmacy. Why?"

"Well . . . can you pick up a box of [insert name of exceedingly personal female product here], please?"

Sigh. "Okay." I turned and there they were behind me, the entire array of goods designed to mitigate a curse that, let's be frank about it, wouldn't have happened if Eve -- the woman -- could have kept her chompers out of the one fruit God said not to touch.

The wife is fond of pointing out that Adam was standing right there the whole time. Like the woman would have listened. But perhaps Adam would have mustered an objection, had he known that in addition to getting kicked out of Paradise, he would be consigned to purchasing items with names almost as embarrassing as the informative pictures on their packaging.

As luck would have it, my checkout person was a teenage girl. It just doesn't get any better than this, unless you count the two other women standing behind the counter with nothing better to do than observe. You'd think I was buying nude pictures of Rosie O'Donnell, for crying out loud. They're chicks, after all. Have they never seen the product I'm buying? Is there some law that says a man can't pick up a box of freaking [personal female product] for his wife who really, really should have planned her weekly shopping a bit better?

There ought to be such a law. I love my wife, but not to the point of risking jail time, and that could have been my perfectly defensible cover story. But there are no laws against buying products you can't possibly use yourself, probably because the fruit cake industry would long ago have gone defunct otherwise. So there I stood, with a big ole box of humiliation in my hand.

"Do you have a CVS card?" the girl asked as she fumbled about with the package, looking for a price.

"No. And don't you dare price check that."

"Um, okay."

Transaction completed, I slinked out of the store and made my way home. Now, the interesting thing about the embarrassing personal product aisle is that its contents aren't always properly separated. A well-intentioned shopper might intend to pick up a box of [personal female product], for example, and accidentally purchase a bladder control product instead.

In front of witnesses. Which I did.

Exchange? I don't think so. Go back? Not on your life. I paid my dues. The car starts just as well for the wife as it does for me.

And don't think, once she's there, that I'm not going to call and ask her to pick up a can of jock itch spray. I believe you know me better than that.

posted by Woodlief | link | (16) comments

Tuesday, March 4, 2003

Excerpts From the Email Account of WhateverPundit

To: Whateverpundit
From: Newpundit
Subject: Your blog

I'm just writing to say that I think your blog is great. You really stick it to those liberals. In case you're interested, I also have a blog, at www.newpundit.com. My writing is a lot like yours and . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: iamspartacus@aol.com
Subject: Your writing

I really like your writing. You display a sensitive quality that I think betrays your sensuous nature. Have you ever thought of being with another man? Just hear me out . . .

To: Instapundit
From: Whateverpundit
Subject: Your latest Tech Central Station essay

Dear Glenn,
I'm just writing to say that I think your work is excellent. Your latest essay on powerplant deregulation? Brilliant! I also have a blog . . .

To: Vodkapundit
From: Whateverpundit
Subject: Your latest post

Dear Stephen,
I'm just writing to say that I think your writing is wonderful. Your latest essay on war with Iraq gave me chill bumps -- I mean real live bumps on my skin! Let's roll, baby! I also have a blog . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Austrianecon@yahoo.com
Subject: Your comments on rent control

I read your post from 9/17/02 on the topic of rent control and I think you are missing an important point, which is that subjective values are deeply interconnected with the Maslowian hierarchy, such that they are not necessarily asymptotic to satiation, as is predicted by the concept of marginal utility. My approach is laid out on my site, www.oldnewaustrianecon.org. I'm a twelfth-year graduate student at SUNY-Binghamton (part-time) and my area of focus is the pre-Hegelian Austrian economists. The post-Hegelians get all of the attention, but . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Lisa98274kad048kadl98478lad0ae
Subject: It grows!

Now you can enlarge your penis with this proven and effective method from . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: George0293803mdk094kad0z
Subject: Watch it grow!

Now you can enlarge your income with this proven and effective method from . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Newpundit
Subject: Your latest post

Hey, it's Larry from www.newpundit.com. I think your latest post on used car salesmen was hilarious! They ought to have you in the back of National Review instead of that David Frum guy! By the way, have you had a chance to check out my blog? I was hoping you could link to it. In my latest post I talk about . . .

To: Jonahnro@aol.com
From: Whateverpundit
Subject: Your essay in National Review

Dear Jonah,
I've followed your work for some time and I just want to tell you I think it's great. It's original, it's funny, and just when you think it's not going to get any better, bam! you hit us with something right between the eyes. I think it's important to make 'em laugh and make 'em cry, and you do both.

I was wondering if you could give me some advice. Just between you and me, I think the back page of the print issue has gone way downhill since Florence King left. I've got some really original stuff on my site, www.whateverpundit.com, and I think it could fit really well there, you know, following on the King legacy. (Ha ha ha! who would have thought that National Review would ever care about continuing the King legacy! Get it? Florence King, Martin Luther King? Not that I'm against civil rights, I just mean . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Mybodymychoice@hotmail.com
Subject: Your hate speech

I don't normally read garbage like yours, but I followed a link to your site and read your little rant on "partial birth abortion." First of all, if you bothered to read anything besides your Bible and Mein Kampf, you'd understand that there's no such thing, okay? There's no birth involved, and we all know that a fraction of zero is zero, so there goes the inflammatory "partial birth" term right out the window, and as for that other word, just who do you think you are to condemn millions of women by using hate speech? In case you haven't noticed, it's about choice, you jerk, not that a-word. The only a-word that applies here is what you are, which is an . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: iamspartacus@aol.com
Subject: My last email

Hey, I'm worried I scared you with my last email. I come off as too passionate sometimes -- hey, I'm Sicilian, as you could probably tell from the picture I sent you. I hope that wasn't over the top, I mean its not like I always wear a black leather thong, I was just in one of those moods and . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Newpundit
Subject: My last email

Hey, it's Larry again, from www.newpundit.com. I really really like your writing and I know a lot of other people do too, because I checked out your site hits. Four hundred a day! Wow! I only get thirty a day, and a lot of those are my girlfriend. I was hoping you could link to me . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Pixie1269@aol.com
Subject: Your blog

Hi, I'm writing to say I really really like your writing. I've just started my own blog, called "Girl With a Rant" (www.girlwitharant.blogspot.com) which is all about being a single twenty-something in L.A., with some of my thoughts about economics and war with Iraq thrown in as well . . .

To: Pixie1269@aol.com
From: Whateverpundit
Subject: Re: Your blog

Dear Pixie, I checked out your site and I think it's great, and I'm putting your link at the top of the Recommended Sites section of my blog. Your take on the war with Iraq, and how we should just get after it, is really original. I wrote the same thing on my blog last week. I like the way you think. I'd be glad to give you pointers or tips on how to really make your blog successful. We can do that by email, or if you'd like to call me, I'm at . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: sweetinnocentpuppies@hotmail.com
Subject: Question

Okay don't delete this, alright? It's iamspartacus@aol.com. I'm getting return messages that you are blocking my emails. Why are you doing this? I just want to have a conversation. I feel like I've been laying myself out here, just keeping it real, and you won't even write back . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Newpundit
Subject: My emails

This is Larry. Not to give you a hard time, but I've sent you like ten emails, and you haven't responded. It's okay because I know you are busy and everything, but I was hoping you could link to my site. Your readers would love it, because a lot of the time what you write on, you know, what's on the front page of the Post and the Times and on Instapundit, that's exactly what I'm writing on too! What's even better is that we agree like 150% of the time! It's like our brains are joined at the hip . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: George@FerragoAccounting.com
Subject: Get back to work, jackass

Hey Bret, it's George. You remember me, your BOSS. Heh heh, I'm just giving you a hard time. Pretty cool site you've got here. I've been catching up on all your views about your work environment. I never knew you were so opinionated! I wonder if there's anything about me in here? Oh well, heh heh, I'll find it soon enough. Seriously, I hope you aren't posting anything while you are at work . . .

To: Bill@MecklinAccounting.com
From: Bret
Subject: Hey man

Hey, bud! I haven't talked to you in forever! Anyway, I was just thinking about old times, and thought of you. Hope you are doing well. Say, how are things over at your company? Things are going great here, but I'm starting to feel like there's no growth opportunities. Do you know anyone in HR who . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Newpundit
Subject: Still no reply?

Please, I'm begging you. Do you remember what it was like to check your site hits every half hour and find that you've only gotten 1 reader? Do you remember how much that sucked? I'm thinking of giving up. If you would just link to me, I know people would really dig my stuff . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Objective1999@cybernetic.org
Subject: Objectivism

I've read your essays off and on, and I think you would benefit from reading Ayn Rand. Her philosophy will open your eyes. You should also read Ludwig von Mises' _Human Action_. His analytical economic approach, when properly understood, provides solutions to all problems facing mankind today. As he wrote on page 598, "the praexological methodology . . .

To: Whateverpundit
From: Newpundit

You must think you are so great with your 437 hits yesterday. Well you know what? I said EVERYTHING you said yesterday, only it was funnier and smarter, and I only got THIRTY-TWO FREAKING HITS!!!! You just got out there sooner, and you got lots of people to link to you, and now you and your little club of bloggers (I know you all talk to each other) think you can just freeze little people like me out. Well the Internet is all about breaking down barriers, and I'm not going to let you get in my way you greedy mother. . .

posted by Woodlief | link | (15) comments

Friday, February 14, 2003

Get to Know Me!

I've been informed by one of my readers that I am sometimes "prickly." Actually, she used a derivative of that word. It occurs to me that I haven't shared enough of the Inner Tony with my readers to help you see that despite my crusty, sanctimonious exterior, I am really a gentle caring nurturer.

Or some crap like that. In any event, I give you the wonder that is Tony:

Turn-Ons: Warm summer rain, a gentle touch, and wrestling with my wife for the remote control.

Turn-Offs: Bad breath, people in my way, and federal budget estimates that don't incorporate a dynamic scoring methodology.

Measurements: 65-34-41. No wait, that was my high school locker combination. Speaking of which, do you ever have that dream where you are in back in high school and you can't remember your locker combination? Or the one where you realize that you are enrolled in a class and you haven't been attending it? Freaky.

Nicknames: T, T-Man, T-Dawg, T-Bone, T-Money, T-Square, and Deke.

Hobbies: Hiking, reading to the visually impaired, and composing haiku that articulate the urgent need for world peace.

Interests: Russian literature, 17th century Impressionism, and the politico-theological implications of Bugs Bunny.

Accomplishments: National Honor Society, Ph.D., and once sat through an entire corporate training session while breathing through only one nostril. The instructor kept stopping to ask, "who's whistling back there?" It was pretty funny.

Favorite Books: I Had Trouble Getting To Solla Sollew, Job, and Our Bodies, Ourselves

Career Goals: I am double-majoring in English and Psychology at a large public university, posing nude in order to pay my bills. I plan to become an Internet entrepreneur environmental activist.

Social Causes: Hunger, poverty, and racial prejudice. I'm against them, I mean. Boo them.

posted by Woodlief | link | (16) comments

Friday, February 7, 2003

Dear grocery store,

What's up with putting tomato paste on a different aisle from chopped tomatoes? Do you think that squishing the tomato transforms it into an entirely different food genus? And those automatic sprinklers in Produce -- what the hell? If I get spots on one more starched shirt I'm sending you the drycleaning bill.

Here's a hint: take those little motion sensors you have over the doors -- the ones that assume I am a large turtle and therefore remain resolutely shut until the last second so that I have to stutter step to avoid smacking my face on the glass -- and put them on the sprinklers in Produce.

And another thing, now that the smack is on: you are really starting to cheese me with those little "Very Special Customer" barcode things you expect me to hang from my key chain. I understand the deal -- I give you intimate knowledge of my purchasing habits, and in return you occasionally let me buy a $9.99 gallon of orange juice for thirty-seven cents. The problem is this: sometimes I run in while my wife waits out in the car. If you had children, grocery store, you'd understand. It's like staging the Normandy Invasion out there, getting everybody out of the car, and for a pack of toilet paper it just isn't worth the effort. So sometimes I end up in line, all excited about getting a break on the Pop-Tarts, only to learn that the price I saw was the "special" price, for loners who don't have anyone to leave in their cars.

You think you are so smart, with your little discount cards. Well guess what -- every time I forget mine, I borrow one from somebody else in line. You think Gladys the 50 year-old lesbian with four cats really bought diapers and a box of Goldfish last week? Ha ha ha, grocery store. In your face.

posted by Woodlief | link | (14) comments

Thursday, January 23, 2003

From the Front Lines

My good friend Steve Alves sent me this some time ago, and I've been waiting for the right confluence of astronomical and geological events to place it. Actually, I just forgot that it was in my overstuffed Inbox. I submit, for your enjoyment, another battle in the Customer Service War:

Thought you guys might appreciate a story from my recent trip to Home Depot......

Not that I expect much more than a 30-minute wait at Home Depot before I actually get to talk to someone who works there.... but I wasn't quite prepared for the level of service I got from one of the part-timers.

After waiting the requisite 30 minutes or so for an employee to assist me in the garage door section, and after watching several early-twenty-somethings with droopy pants and tight shirts cackle like chickens and high-five each other, one would-be future salesperson finally stepped up to the batters box.

Home Depot Employee Of The Year: "Wussup?"

Alves: "Swing and a miss."

HDEOTY: "Huh?"

Alves: "Nevermind. Can you tell me how to get to Lowes?"

HDEOTY: "Sure. It's down on Kellogg and Greenwich."

Alves: "Thanks."

HDEOTY: "No problem."

posted by Woodlief | link | (14) comments

Friday, January 3, 2003

On Half-Time Shows

I caught enough of the Orange Bowl last night to give me pre-irritation (yes, that's a real world -- just ask any parent) at the Superbowl half-time show. College bowl game organizers have fallen under the delusion that the Superbowl half-time show is worthy of emulation. Last night's horror featured four pop "music" bands arrayed in a square in the center of the field; each had stretched before it a throng of girls dressed in what appeared to be colored tin foil. While the bands sang Milli-Vanilli style, the girls twirled and generally engaged in dance moves too mature for the daughters of good parents. The musical arrangement was a montage, i.e., each band sang only a few verses from one of its songs.

Because the game featured the University of Iowa against the University of Southern California, the organizers apparently felt compelled to give equal representation to the countries represented by each school, so two of the bands sang in Spanish, and two in English (though one of the "English" speakers was a rapper who was thoroughly incomprehensible, beyond urging the ladies to "shake what ya mama gave ya, yo"). The music was quite bad and therefore nondescript, and the mess ended with a feeble climax of fireworks.

I swear the planning for these things must go something like this:

"Okay, picture this: we get George Michael, Michael Jackson, and Julio Iglesias to do a rap of 'We Are the World,' while a 12-foot peace sign made of 'No Blood for Oil' flyers painted by San Francisco schoolchildren rises up behind them. Five hundred dancers dressed in hippie clothes will do a moondance in the field in front of them."

"What about James Brown? It's not a Superbowl without James Brown."

"Right. We have James parachute in from a stunt plane that flies a banner reading: 'James is da bomb.'"

"No, no, no, that is soooo 1995 MTV. Let's have the music fade away, followed by James Brown reading a Maya Angelou poem . . ."

"Ooh, I like it! Which poem?"

"Who cares? They all sound the same."

"Yeah, 'hello rock, I was a teenage prostitute . . ."

"Right, so we have Brown read the poem, and as it concludes, we have Aerosmith break into 'Dude Looks Like a Lady' . . ."

"Isn't that homophobic?"

"George Michael won't like it."

"No, let me finish. We flip that around by having Lou Reed bust out from behind the stage, in drag, to sing the chorus with Steven Tyler."

"Dude, you are a freaking genius."

"Wait, it gets better. They then break into 'Walk on the Wild Side.'"

"Great -- only we can't have that line about 'all the colored girls say.'"

"Good point. How about 'all the people of color say?'"

"Mmm, too unwieldy."

"All them other girls say?"

"No, it sounds like we are dissing the colored girls."

"All the mother pearls say?"


"No, bad. All the southern girls say?"

"Hey, yeah, and we could have a band of Hooter's gals singing back-up."

"No, remember we've got to work Shania Twain in here somewhere, and she gets pissed if there are any southern girls dressed more sluttily than she is."

"Right. Ooh, I've got it. All the cover girls say."

"Yes! We could get some supermodels out there . . ."

"Dressed like a male Lou Reed, with leather and frizzy black wigs . . ."

"And we have the Hell's Angels drive them out onto the field!"


Substitute Christians being eaten by lions for Lou Reed dressed like a chick (and I'm not sure which is worse), and you've pretty much got the planning sessions for the Roman arenas. I wonder, how atrocious would the half-time entertainment have to be before a majority of the crowd would feel compelled to boo? In other words, just how little taste does the American public have?

From the look of things, not very much

posted by Woodlief | link | (7) comments

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

So How's Your Colon?

A headline from the weekly news flyer on my commuter train:

"Men Usually Quiet About Colon Health"

And some of you were thinking you don't have anything to be thankful for this year. The author believes this is a problem, because men who are "quiet about colon health" are less likely to ask their doctors to give them the old Vaseline-assisted check-up. I think a nation full of less stoic men, however, would be unpleasant.

"C'mere, kids, and let me tell you about my colon."

"Not again, Uncle Herb. We're tired of listening to your colon stories."

"Nonsense, Junior! We can never get tired of our colon, and do ya know why?"


"Because our colon never gets tired of us. That's right! Why, I remember a year I had to work second-shift, and my poor colon got abused on a regular basis."

"Herb, this isn't another county prison story is it, because I've talked to you about sharing that with the children."

"No, Erma, now pipe down! Now where was I? Oh yes, second shift. I would eat greasy pizza night after night, sometimes a Philly steak sandwich or just a roll of that Hickory Farms beef sausage."


"You don't know the half of it! Why, I don't think my colon saw a vegetable the entire winter of '68! But did it give up on me? Heck no! It kept right on processing, because that's what our colon does! It's God's way of saying 'Eat lots of red meat!'"

"I don't think God said that."

"Well of course he didn't say it, that's just a figure of speech. The point is, our colon is a thick pink snake coiled up inside our guts, waiting to mush up and extrude anything we stuff down our undiscriminating gullets. But if you abuse Mr. Colon for too long, he'll grow long black tumors that eat away your flesh. Okay kids?"

"Children! Time to eat!"

"I'm not hungry."

"I feel sick."

"I want my Mommy."

A nation of men quiet about their colons? Not necessarily a bad thing.

posted by Woodlief | link | (1) comments

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

News Through The Ages

PBS, last week: Many in Baghdad are struggling to survive after years of U.S. sanctions. Ali Ali-Saud, a local vendor, sells CD's of American music, and worries about what war will mean for his business. Saud sells his CD's for only a few dollars each, because he forges them. He has no qualms about this.

"Right now, the Iraqi people need this music. We are all very afraid of what America will soon do to us."

CNN, yesterday: "I'm here with Farouk Al-Flaki, president of the Arab Anti-Defamation Alliance. Mr. Flaki, how great is the extent of Arab unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy?"

"Well, many Americans just don't understand how much business the Arab world has with the West, including the U.S. Many of our members have purchased billions of dollars worth of electronics, chemicals, explosives, munitions, and other humanitarian supplies from the West, especially the French. War in Iraq could be very bad for my, I mean, their business."

"Of course, Mr. Flaki. Tell us, how will Arab people respond if the Bush Administration sends troops against Iraq . . ."

PBS, 1982: Many people here in Gdansk are struggling after weeks of strife prompted, some in the Polish administration say, by a divisive Pope and his backers in the Reagan Administration. Talech Valuski sells work permits in a local government office. He is able to do so for half-price because the increasingly liberal Jaruzelski administration permits graft.

"It will be very hard if this Lech Walesa continues to make trouble. I have two kids in college in France. How will I continue to pay for their education if the Communist Party is no longer permitted to rationally allocate labor? I thought Americans supported education. This proves that they are simply hypocrites."

CNN, 1969: "I'm in a POW camp in an undisclosed location near Hanoi with Nguyen Spinwai, president of the North Vietnamese Anti-Defamation Alliance. Mr. Spinwai, how great is the extent of Vietnamese unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy?"

"America is very bad for disturbing our peaceful transition to communism. We are all about peace. That is why we built these Protection-Outside-the-War camps, in order to safeguard wayward American soldiers."

"Of course, Mr. Spinwai. Tell us, how will the Vietnamese people respond if the Johnson Administration sends still more troops against Vietnam . . ."

PBS, 1944: Many people here in Berlin are struggling to make ends meet after years of U.S. attacks. Deitrich Dormeister sells books on a local street corner, for only pennies a copy. He is able to do this because he contracts with a local labor cooperative near the quaint little town of Auschwitz.

"We Germans are very big fans of American writers, especially Joseph Kennedy and Rev. Charles Coughlin. If only they were more respected in their own country."

CNN, 1945: "I'm in a bomb shelter outside Tokyo with Shoshimo Haki, president of the Japanese Anti-Defamation Alliance. Mr. Haki, how great is the extent of Japanese unhappiness with U.S. foreign policy?"

"Well, we don't appreciate the firebombings, if that's what you mean. This is typical American failure to recognize cultural differences. That thing in Pearl Harbor that you call a "sneak attack," we call "pre-emptive self-defense" -- and I think current U.S. hostilities against us bear that out."

"Of course, Mr. Haki. Tell us, how will Japanese people respond if the Truman Administration sends troops onto Japanese soil . . ."

PBS, 1776: Many people in London are struggling to make sense of a world turned upside-down by, many say, unreasonable hostility from American colonists. The rates of suicide, depression, and eating disorders are on the rise, especially within the Royal Family. James Pennington sells hot drinks on the street corner. He used to be able to sell these for only a half-pence. But now, his prices have doubled.

"Things used to be a lot better for me an' the little ones before all this hub-bub, what? These colonists are right cheeky, I think, to say they don't need our protection. Taxation without representation -- they should be more realistic. Next thing you know, they'll be asking for free speech and a bicameral legislature!"

CNN, -0000: "I'm here in Hell with Snarltooth Angst, president of the Demonic Anti-Defamation Alliance. Mr. Angst, how great is the extent of Demonic unhappiness with Heavenly foreign policy?"

"Well, He Whose Name Cannot Be Uttered Here is totally intolerant. I mean, all Satan was asking for was a little more equitable distribution of power, and the next thing you know, he and all of his supporters have been completely marginalized. This is segregation, there's no two ways about it. We can't wait until Alan Dershowitz gets down here so he can take on our case."

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Monday, December 16, 2002

Stolen Baby Jesus

I think I may have sparked something unholy in my recent post on yard adornments. Alert reader Janis Gore sends this link to the Trentonian. It appears that three thieves have stolen the plastic baby Jesus from the front yard of Tom and Candy Konczos.

The ransom note reads:


We know there were three of them because the note was signed: "Me, him and the other kid who was really scared and didnít want to take your baby Jesus and the whole time all he did was say stuff like youíre going to hell, this isnít right, stop."


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Friday, December 13, 2002

Interview With A Reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer, has been a focus of much adulation since his trials and tribulations as a young buck were first chronicled by Robert May in 1939. Now, on the verge of what will be his sixty-third trip as the leader of Santa's Christmas dash, Rudolph reflects on his life, his hopes, and his regrets, with Sand in the Gears.

Sand: So, Rudolph, your story has been chronicled in books, an all-time best-selling song by Gene Autry, and in a major animated motion picture. You've been going strong for sixty-three years, and you look tanned and rested. How do you do it?

Rudolph: I give a lot of credit to a good diet, you know, berries, leaves, an occasional elf-burger (chuckles). Just kidding, I love those little guys. Seriously, I just try to take care of myself. Pilate's is a big help, of course.

Sand: Tell me about the pain of being left out of the Reindeer Games.

Rudolph: It hurt; I can admit that now. I was in top form, you know? I could have taken silver, maybe even gold in the high jump. But they were all about the nose, the nose, the big red freakin' nose, and I . . . excuse me (covers face).

A few moments elapse.

Rudolph: I'm sorry.

Sand: It's alright (pats hoof).

Rudolph: Please don't touch me.

Sand: I was only trying to express sympathy.

Rudolph: I know, and I appreciate that, but it's cold and flu season.

Sand: Sorry.

Rudolph: Forget about it. Thinking about the old days still makes me a little tense. Please continue.

Sand: Critics.

Rudolph: What about them?

Sand: Some people say you were a sell-out. You had a chance, when Santa came crawling to you that foggy Christmas Eve, to say, on behalf of creatures the world over who suffer from glowing nose deformities, "screw you, Santa." Instead you became part of the establishment. How do you respond to that?

Rudolph: You know, it's really ridiculous.

Sand: Right, here, for the record, let's hear your response.

Rudolph: Who told you that? Blitzen? Let me tell you about that punk -- he's a total junkie.

Sand: If we could just stick to the question . . .

Rudolph: Oh yeah, everybody knows about it. He gets hopped up on like a case of Coca-Cola before the ride -- says he needs a little "pep."

Sand: . . . don't know if this is the right venue for that kind of allegation . . .

Rudolph: Total Coke-head, that guy. I'm just glad I don't have to fly behind him, if you know what I'm saying.

Sand: So did it cross your mind, to tell Santa and the other reindeer to just take a hike?

Rudolph: I won't deny it; it entered my mind. I mean, I was a nobody to them. Persona non freakin' grata. None of them wanted anything to do with me until a little fog hit, and then suddenly I'm everybody's daddy! (Pauses.) I'm sorry.

Sand: It's okay. Nice Pacino impression, by the way.

Rudolph: You caught the "Sea of Love" reference, huh?

Sand: I'm no stranger to the VCR, my friend.

Rudolph: It's faithful when nobody else is, let me tell you.

Sand: But now you have loads of fans, every schoolchild knows your name -- life is much different today, right?

Rudolph: It is and it isn't. Sure, there's the fame, there's the young hottie reindeer slinging their bells up on stage when I do a performance, there's the sweet royalties. (Pauses.) But let me tell you . . . (he pauses again, and a tear comes down his snout). You never know when it will end, right? I mean, look at this nose.

Sand: Yeah?

Rudolph: What's it doing?

Sand: Um, it's glowing.

Rudolph: Uh-huh, and why's it doing that?

Sand: I . . . I don't know.

Rudolph: Exactly! This light could go out tomorrow. You think they'll still want me around if that happens? Hell no! I'd be just another freak with a bulbous and slightly incandescent red nose.

Sand: Like Boris Yeltsin.

Rudolph: Yeah, and you don't see the chicks lining up outside his dressing room, now do you?

Sand: Just the old fat ones.

Rudolph: Yeah, well once you've had caviar, you don't go back to borscht so easy, capeche?

Sand: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: polyglot.

Rudolph: Well, I get a lot of fan mail from foreign kids. Plus I've been taking some community college courses. This sled-leading gig may not last forever, you know.

Sand: Santa is always so coy; tell us, how do you deliver all of those toys in just one night? You must have seen some of the physics analysis of that feat -- it looks pretty darn impossible.

Rudolph: Well, I probably shouldn't say. . .

Sand: (Leans forward, smiles) It can just be our secret.

Rudolph: (Whispers) Most kids don't get presents.

Sand: Get out of town.

Rudolph: Have you been to the mall lately? Little beasts, most of them. They're not even worth a lump of coal, unless you could hit them in the head with it. I tell you, Christmas gets easier on us every year. Five years from now we probably won't even need as many reindeer. (Louder) You hear that Blitzen, you punk?

Sand: You mentioned a couple of years ago, to a reporter for the North Pole News, that you don't like the way some people mingle your statue -- and Santa's -- with the more traditional nativity figures. Talk about that.

Rudolph: I think it's just wrong.

Sand: Sacrilegious?

Rudolph: Yeah, that's part of it. I mean, I'm Episcopalian, right, so it's not like I'm a big literal Bible guy or anything, but still, this is Jesus we're talking about here.

Sand: And Mary.

Rudolph: Right, right. Got a lot of Catholic fans out there. Love you guys. Jesus and Mary.

Sand: So it bothers you.

Rudolph: Heck yeah it bothers me. Remember the name -- Christmas. Christmas. This is the big guy's show. I'm just glad I can contribute.

Sand: Some people would correct you, and point out that the holiday was here before the Christians appropriated it. They'd tell you that the term Christmas is offensive, and that you should say "Holiday Season." They'd say mingling you guys in with the wise men is a good way to make such displays less offensive.

Rudolph: Yeah, let 'em say that when they're sucking on a hot coal in Hell.

Sand: Sounds like you've got some strong opinions on this.

Rudolph: I just hate the whining. "Oh, my feelings are hurt because I have to drive past that little plastic Jesus in a fake manger." Give me a break.

Sand: So, for the record, you oppose having your statue on display too close to Jesus and Mary.

Rudolph: I know my place, alright? Holiday Season. Season's Greetings. Yeah, God took on human form and got crucified as His own special way of telling everyone, "Happy Holidays." Give me a freaking break.

Sand: What about your Jewish friends?

Rudolph: I want to give a big shout out to my Jewish friends. Happy Hanukah, God bless.

Sand: So your criticisms of the non-Christmas types don't apply to them?

Rudolph: Heck no. They're God's chosen people, my friend. That deal is between Him and them, and I ain't one to get in the middle of it.

Sand: How does that work, anyway? Is it only the Christian kids who get gifts from Santa?

Rudolph: Well, the first screen is good kids, which narrows it down to about five percent right off the bat.

Sand: No way.

Rudolph: Yes way. Why do you think Toys "R" Us got so big? Parents need junk for their brats because we've cut them off.

Sand: So tell us, that five percent, are they only Christian kids?

Rudolph: Our attorneys have advised us not to discuss the specifics of how the decisions are made, other than to say that both God and Santa love many children of all faiths.

Sand: Well said.

Rudolph: Thanks. I love this job.

Sand: But there are regrets. Tell us about them.

Rudolph: My biggest regret is that I haven't taken more time to enjoy things. It's always busy busy busy, what with training, and hoofgraphs, and now I've got this motivational speaking program I'm putting together with Tony Robbins.

Sand: Follow Your Nose. Right, I've seen that.

Rudolph: Look for us in a major city near you starting Spring '03.

Sand: You mentioned being busy, but critics might say look, this guy works one night a year. His income per work ratio has to be right up there with Donald Trump and Peter Angelos. How do you respond to that?

Rudolph: Unbelievable how people who don't know anything can't keep their cakeholes shut.

Sand: Right here, on Sand in the Gears, set the record straight.

Rudolph: Look, I have one night a year to complete one of the biggest jobs in human history. You'd think, with the advent of UPS, that Santa would slow it down a bit. I mean it's not like we couldn't start mailing this crap out in June, you know? But the old man wants to stick to tradition, so every December 24th, after all the kids have gone to bed -- and believe me, with rotten parents letting their brats stay up later and later, this ain't easy -- and then we're out there, dashing from house to house, dropping presents down chimneys, creeping in windows, and in general trying to spread Christmas cheer worldwide in about eight hours.

Sand: True, that is hard, but eight hours of work versus . . .

Rudolph: I know, I know, versus poor Erma slinging coffee at Denny's twelve hours a day, yada yada. Spare me the working class hero crap, alright? I'm in training every day, 364 days a year, all so I can deliver under pressure that other professional athletes never feel. I mean, it's not like (points at nose) this thing is some great search beam or something. It's like, twenty watts, and I'm supposed to find our way to every house through a snowstorm with it? It ain't luck that gets the job done, it's training. I know from busy, my friend. I'm talking weights, aerobics, running and flying laps . . .

Sand: Pilate's . . .

Rudolph: You got that right -- you try keeping up with Denise with cloven hooves.

Sand: I hear you.

Rudolph: All I'm saying is, people only see the tip of the iceberg. I've always said, if somebody thinks he can do this job better, he can just bring it, any time, 24/7. Just bring it, and we'll see who's got the real snowballs.

Sand: Thank you for being with us today (extends hand).

Rudolph: Thank you, T. I thought I told you not to touch me.

Sand: Sorry.

Rudolph: Whatever.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2002

A Public Letter to the Quaker Oats Company

Dear Quaker Oats Company;

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to try your new Quaker Quick 1-Minute Oats. As one might expect, they felt in my mouth much the way I imagine elephant snot would feel. Why would anyone deliberately eat elephant snot, you ask? Well, exactly.

You see, I didn't set out with the intention of eating this demon barf you call "oatmeal," but the frat boys in your marketing department apparently thought it would be cute to make the package look almost identical to the original Quaker Oats package -- same color scheme, same smiling white Quaker dude on the cover, gleeful, no doubt, that he is dead and buried and immune to your perversion of his healthy wholesome breakfast food. I imagine your marketing people lurk about the breakfast aisle in the grocery store, snickering when they see unsuspecting consumers looking for a good source of fiber pick up this unholy gruel by mistake.

And it seems your little imps have been hard at work, because they've also devised an Aunt Jemima pancake mix that requires only water. Once again, the only way to know you are selecting this wretched powder rather than Aunt Jemima's down home traditional mix is to scrutinize the package carefully for the chirpy "Just Add Water!" exclamation. Let me tell you, my friends, not even Ponce de Leon's Spring of Immortality could bring this stuff to life. Just add water. Right. Just pour it down your gullet dry, and get the painful experience over with. If Aunt Jemima were still around she'd give you all a good old country butt-whuppin with her big butter churn, for soiling her good name with these chewy flesh-colored frisbees.

So let me see if I've got this straight. When the Quaker Oats Company sits around brainstorming how to increase market share, it chooses, rather than expanding consumption among normal people, to pursue people who are too busy to crack a freaking egg when making their pancakes. People who, in order to save four minutes, are willing to eat obliterated oat bits rather than whole oats. People, in short, who get their breakfast in a cup from Starbucks. So no wonder you disguise these twisted inventions -- you must have realized that the only way to sell your evil food-process spawn is to foist it onto trusting consumers of a once fine family of traditional Quaker Oats Company products.

Well, no more, Quaker Oats Company. You can keep your tortured oats and your freakish pancake powder, because this is one customer who is on to your cruel game. Do you know what it's like to look into the face of your heretofore innocent toddler, and to discover a betrayed expression as he lets gray gruel ooze out of the corners of his mouth? "Why, Daddy?" he asked. "Why?"

Can you sleep at night, Quaker Oats Company? I can't. Not anymore.

Thanks to you, Quaker Oats Company, my son now carefully tests everything I cook for him before eating it, as if I were the untrustworthy one. Trust is a hard thing to win back, you know. You have driven a shard into the fabric of my family, Quaker Oats Company. You have done a disservice to the ready-made packaged food industry. What's more, you have done a disservice to America, which is only as strong as our faith in the large faceless automated multi-national corporations that have made us great.

To sum up, I believe that guy from the movie "Back to the Future" best captures my sentiments: Nice going, butt-heads.

posted by Woodlief | link | (9) comments

Friday, August 9, 2002

On Worldcom and Accounting


To: Obfuscus & Delay, Attorneys-at-Law

From: Worldcom Accounting Group

Re: Latest Audit Results

In re your last memo (re: "Is a team of monkeys doing your books?!?"), we would like to point out that we are a team of seasoned professionals, and restate that you are in the employ of Worldcom on a provisional basis.

As for your question regarding the status of our audits, we can now say with some confidence that, the latest $3.8 billion error notwithstanding, we finally have precise data on our current financial status. What follows is a corrected list of pertinent data:

Total Cash: $78 billion $11 and 37 Virginia Lottery tickets.

2001 Sales: $32 billion No actual sales. We did trade some old cable to Harry's Heating & Cooling in return for a Coca-Cola machine (see Assets, below).

Net Profit Margin: 18.9% IT is currently reconfiguring our spreadsheets to accept a negative denominator. Will report ASAP.

Assets: We need to modify the Key Assets listed in Supplementary Report G-119-L as follows: Strike all manufacturing facilities and sales offices. Strike all numbered Swiss bank accounts. Strike French and Italian art holdings. Strike Washington Redskins luxury boxes, limousine fleet, corporate jets and airplanes, Hilton Head suites, and Lake Placid retreat facilities. Replace with the following: assorted pencils (#2) and erasers, one partially functional stapler, and one vintage 1982 Coca-Cola vending machine, half full.

Liabilities: See attachments, pp. 11 - 983.

Employees: 23,000. 1600. 73. 4.

Finally, we are investigating whether our current shares outstanding amount to 37 million, as our in-house counsel informs us that he has been unable to locate any actual shareholders. We will continue to keep you apprised.

posted by Woodlief | link | (2) comments

Move Over, Ken

I've always wanted to be a hero. Problem is, this frequently involves shedding one's own blood, which, just between you and me, gives me the heebie-jeebies. But now my problems are solved, thanks to this business, which offers to make my very own Tony Woodlief Action Figure.

That's right, now I can leap tall milk cartons in a single bound, without the danger of pulling a hammy. What's more, you too can order the Tony Woodlief Action Figure (it would look great on your computer monitor, don't you think?). Use me to clear off that big spider web in the corner of your basement, or to give Ken the butt whipping he's been deserving ever since he let Barbie get that tattoo. You can even keep me in your bed at night, so long as you don't let the Tony Woodlief's Wife Action Figure find out. Don't miss out on the feel-good meme of the summer. Order your Tony Woodlief Action Figure today!

(Not sold in stores. Tony Woodlief Action Figure, Tony Woodlief Action Figure with Kung-fu Grip, and TonyWoodlief.com are trademarks owned by Tony Woodlief Enterprises, a subsidiary of Tony Woodlief Inc. Dressing the Tony Woodlief Action Figure in Barbie clothes is expressly prohibited by the conditions of sale. Contents under pressure. Lots of pressure. Do not submerge the Tony Woodlief Action Figure in water. Do not freeze Tony Woodlief. Do not place Tony Woodlief in the microwave. Do not taunt Tony Woodlief. Keep Tony Woodlief away from sharp objects. May be harmful if ingested. Thin Elvis and Fat Elvis outfits sold separately.)

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Tuesday, June 11, 2002


My newspaper carries this headline:

Denmark Eliminates France

Unfortunately, it's referring to World Cup Soccer.

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Thursday, May 2, 2002

Be Careful Where You Look

Ananova reports that the U.S. National Research Council, acting on a fear of extraterrestrial contamination, is urging NASA not to search for life when it eventually sends men to Mars. I can imagine the discussion inside the future Mars landing craft now:

Joe: "Here we are, the first humans on Mars. Isn't it incredible?"

Sue: "Yeah, it's ... hey, is that a little man over there?"

Joe: (nervously) "Heh heh, of course not Sue. Come help me with this map."

Sue: "No, I'm serious, that's a little man! He's waving at us."

Joe: "There's no man out there. Get away from that window."

Sue: "He's cute. (waving) Hi, sweetie!"

Joe: "Cut that out, and that's an order! You do not see a little man. Even if you see a little man, you do not see a little man. Catch my drift?"

Sue: "Look, we weren't supposed to look for life, and we didn't, okay? He found us (waves again)."

Joe: "You are so going to be in trouble when we get back."

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Friday, April 19, 2002

Breaking News

Apparently talks have broken down between the Arthur Anderson accounting firm and the Federal government. Prosecutors observe that Anderson's May 6th trial date leaves only sixteen days to negotiate a settlement, but spokesmen for Anderson insist that by their reckoning, there are really 3,438 days left.

"They have their numbers, and we have ours," noted an Anderson official who asked to remain anonymous.

Talks reportedly ended after Anderson representatives presented Federal officials with a bill for $47 billion. When questioned about the bill, an Anderson spokesman responded somewhat tersely, "Look, everybody pays us. We're Arthur f****** Anderson."

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Wednesday, April 17, 2002


Excerpt from the pre-takeoff cell phone conversation of a really large woman sitting next to me on the plane:

"Girl, I got so sick on my last flight. Mmm-hmm, bad motion sickness." (She checks the seat pocket for the sick bag). "Mmm-hmm. Well, I'll just pray this time is better."

Me too, sister.

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Thursday, April 4, 2002

Baby Pinching

So I'm standing in the grocery store checkout line, trying to soothe my screaming infant, when an old woman walks up and says loudly, "Are you pinching that baby?"

For those of you who don't have children, people older than 60 believe this is a clever thing to say when they see parents with fussy babies. I always vow to remember it should I ever get the opportunity to vote for reductions in Social Security, under the theory that hungry old people wouldn't be nearly so flippant.

Until that blessed day of recompense arrives, I've constructed some alternative responses for you parents who find yourselves beset by your local Wal-Mart's version of Don Rickles:

Are you pinching that baby?

"That's the only way to see if they're fresh."

"No, I don't know what . . . Oh My God! His finger came off!! Somebody help me!! Dear God, somebody help me!!!!"


"I only did it once. Please, please don't call Social Services. They already took my other baby. Please, just give me one more chance!"


"Baby pinching? What are you, some kind of sicko pervert?!? Back off, Grandma! Security! Somebody call security!"


"He started it."

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Saturday, March 23, 2002


Unhelpful mental images from my dental hygienist during a discussion about her kids:

Her: "My fifteen year son is finally starting to notice girls."

Me (with her finger and that suction thingy in my mouth): "Mfmhhm."

Her: "Yeah, I keep finding my Victoria's Secret catalog in his bathroom."

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Wednesday, March 20, 2002

Tongue Tied

I caught an NPR segment on the "Miss Barstow" contest, an annual beauty pageant in not-so-beautiful Barstow, California. Here's an excerpt:

Master of Ceremonies (to a contestant, as the audience listens): "Jessica, if you could sit down and talk with one famous person who is no longer with us, who would that person be?"

Jessica: "Um, Tom, uh Thomas Edison, because he, like, invented the telephone, and the telephone is um, like, my life. I mean, I'm sorry, but it is, and like I don't know what I'd do without the telephone."

Please understand that in rendering dear Jessica's comments in English, I am not capturing the full flavor of her speech, which seemed to bury the last consonant of every other syllable in that gravel-mouthed manner that has come to characterize teenage lingual patterns. Here is a closer, phonetic transcript of what actually came out of her mouth:

Jessica: "Um, Tom, uh Tomas Edisu, becus he, li, invened thu teluphone, and thu teluphone is um, li, ma la-ife. I me, 'm sorry, but i is, and like I don no wa I'd do withou thu teluphone."

I have no idea why this girl needs a phone. Or a tongue.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2002

Soviet Schlock

Sometimes it takes some work to find blogworthy items. Other times the material just falls in my lap, or in this case, in my inbox. Somehow I've gotten myself on the list of Sovietski Collection (website: Sovietski.com), a company that sells "Unique Russian and Eastern European Gear." Some of my favorite items, with actual quotes from the catalog (accompanied by my suggested alternative commentary):

Genuine Persian lamb wool cap (p. 20), "Just like the one worn by Russian President Putin." (That's right, whether you are shutting down opposition newspapers or revisiting the good old days when KGB torture chambers were more amply funded, this hat has "Burdgeoning Fascist" written all over it. Comes in Nazi green or Comintern Red.)

Josef Stalin coffee mug (p. 24), "highlighting historic political moments." (It's always hard to execute the children of your political enemies, but a good cup of joe sure makes these tough political moments worth bearing.)

An "intricately enameled brass" KGB badge (p. 31). (Those frumpy historians have ruined the fun in dressing like a Gestapo stormtrooper, but have you considered the KGB? Their reign of terror lasted longer, and darn it, they just looked spiffier.)

Lead figures of "Movers and Shakers of the Russian state" (p. 35), featuring Ivan the Terrible, who, "though ruthless, is also credited with unifying the Russian state." (For a limited time only, buy Ivan and we'll throw in Mao Tse-Tung, who though bloodthirsty, is also credited with reintroducing many Chinese citizens to a fat-free diet of roots and tree bark.)

But the best item, oh, the one that takes the borscht, is a "precision German wristwatch" that "evokes the skin of the classic Junkers JU-52." You remember those classic Junkers JU-52, the ones that bombed Belgium.

I'll bet Sovietski.com provides a really pleasant work environment.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Tuesday, March 5, 2002

Freaky People

Something funny I overheard in a breakroom: "There's a lot of freaky people in the world. I'm sure they have their place, just so long as it's not next door to me."

Words to live by, my friend.

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2002


I recently had an experience dealing with a university registration bureaucrat, which mirrors my experience with a host of government and university officials, computer technology people, and various employees of banks, utilities, airlines, and other organizations where routines have long since erased any notion of customer service. Here's a rough transcript of every conversation I've had in this vein:

Me: "Hi. [Brief statement of my need or problem]."
Cog: "You'll need to file your integrated P-11 form and pull a 990 sheet for rebooting."
Me: "I have no idea what you just said."
Cog: (Louder) "I said that you have to file your integrated P-11 form and pull a 990 sheet for rebooting."
Me: "I don't know what a P-11 form is, or how one integrates it."
Cog: (Frustrated sigh) "Your P-11 is under the Spalding Cap in the Finker section."
Me: "What?"
Cog: (Louder) "Your P-11 is under..."
Me: "I heard you, but I don't understand you. Pretend that I don't do what you do every day. What do I need to do to solve [problem at hand]?"
Cog: "Well, first you need to file your integrated P-11..."

Is it such a huge cognitive leap to understand that customers don't know the jargon and internal processes your organization uses? McDonald's doesn't expect me to be an expert on food packaging and heating before it feeds me; all I have to do is point and grunt, and they give me my freaking chicken nuggets and fries. If I have a question about my cell phone bill, on the other hand, I suddenly have to understand how satellite telecommunications functions integrate with SAP in an activity-based costing format.

This may be a consequence of rapid technological advancement and organizational complexification, such that individuals have increasingly greater difficulty articulating how their routines translate into outcomes.

On the other hand, it may be a consequence of stupidity. I'm sticking with this explanation, for two reasons. First, it suits my misanthropic constitution. Second, if the first explanation were adequate, then these people would at least understand the problems that arise when they speak in organizational code. But they don't. They respond as if the problem is that I'm deaf. Or blind; I once had a woman try to explain something by saying "see, my screen shows you need a 425 allowance."

We were on the phone.

Stupidity. It might explain more than you think.

posted by Woodlief | link | (1) comments

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Reply vs. Reply All

A few months ago, the Human Resources department in a large company I'm associated with sent an email about some benefits esoterica to all employees. They neglected, however, to disable the "Reply All" function. Here's a rough approximation of the ensuing emails that the entire company received:

Idiot 1: This doesn't concern me. Please take me off the distribution list.
Idiot 2: You just hit Reply All. Just hit Reply so the whole company doesn't get it.
Idiot 3: You're both hitting Reply All.
Idiot 4: I don't want to be part of this list either. Please remove me.
Idiot 3: Don't you people get it? When you hit Reply All, everybody gets the email!
Idiot 5: You just did the same thing.
Idiot 6: If I have a deferred medical compensation benefit from last year, is it taxable this year?
Idiot 3: Stop hitting Reply All!!!!!
Idiot 5: You stop too.
I got so fed up that I drafted this fake email, though I didn't have the guts to send it to the offenders:

Dear __________,

Thank you for providing the crucial bit of information we needed in our campaign to reduce overhead. By choosing to "Reply All" to the Benefit message in order to express your dissatisfaction with getting "Reply All" emails, you have proven that you are either: a) astoundingly unintelligent; b) incredibly obnoxious; or c) oblivious to the fact that the distribution list contains more names than just your own.

Whatever the cause proves to be, we hope you can find the right mix of counseling and remedial education to be marginally successful in your next job. Security will arrive in five minutes to escort you from the building. Please take only your personal belongings, and don't let the door hit you in the butt on your way out.

Sincerely yours,
C.U. Lader
Deselection Coordinator

Ever notice how your best emails are the ones you don't send?

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)

Tuesday, February 12, 2002

Iran's New Civic Spirit

Angry at being listed in U.S. President Bush's "Axis of Evil," millions of Iranians have taken to the streets, according to the New York Times, in order to prove him wrong by chanting "Death to America!" and burning the U.S. flag. Through my international terror connections I have obtained an exclusive interview with one of the protestors, Mr. Mohammed Khami:

SitG:"What do you and your fellow protestors want to say to the world?"

Khami:"We are not an axis of evil, as your President Bush has called us. We prefer to be called an axis of Misogynistic Totalitarianism. There's a difference, you know."

SitG:"What do you hope to accomplish by taking to the street today?"

Khami:"Well, just between you and me, my boss has been on my ass to get this big report finished, but with everyone out protesting, he can't really come down on me for it. Plus when the crowd really gets rocking and people are flailing about, sometimes you can see a chick's ankle or wrist.

You aren't going to print this are you?"

SitG:"What do you hope will come from all of this?"

Khami:"I hope that the Americans will choke on their own vomit, and be consumed by the fiery hell that knows no quenching."

"I also hope to get a job in my brother Abdul's computer shop in Detroit, once my papers are cleared. And I think I have a shot at getting on Survivor. Those wussies don't know the first thing about suffering. I would eat them alive one by one until there's nobody left but me and Amber Brkich. She's a hottie."

SitG:"Thank you for your time."

Khami:"May worms devour your intestines. Here's a copy of my resume'."

posted by Woodlief | link | (0)