Sunday, December 7, 2008

Rejected by Perspectives #1 : I Hate Christmas

My local public radio station has a series called "Perspectives" where normal people speak about issues they care about. I submitted this one many years ago and was told that, while they liked it, I had sent it in too late for the Christmas season. I have submitted it every year since then and received no comment. I finally decided to submit it here since I am reasonably confident it will be accepted.

I Hate Christmas

It’s strange, but everyone assumes I like Christmas, which couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Amazingly, I have to have a conversation about it every year. It goes something like this:

“Merry Christmas,” someone says.

“Thank you,” I reply, “but I don’t celebrate Christmas.”

“You don’t celebrate Christmas?”

I explain that I’m not a Christian.

“But it’s not a religious holiday,” they explain. “It’s an American holiday!”

“Then explain the signs that say ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’ Explain all the nativity scenes or the lyrics to ‘Silent Night’ and ‘The Little Drummer Boy.’”

“Can I give you a present anyway?” they ask. “I like to celebrate Christmas by giving gifts.”

“I like to celebrate Hanukkah by setting fire to other people’s eyebrows. Would you mind leaning forward so I could light yours?”

“You celebrate Hanukkah? Could I give you a Hanukkah present?”

“That would be great!” I say. “But only if you convert to Judaism first. Otherwise, it would be like a non-Muslim fasting at Ramadan: a nice gesture, but hardly appropriate.”

At this point it becomes obvious that I don’t just avoid the holiday, I hate it. I don’t decorate my desk or take part in the company Christmas pictures; I stick my fingers in my ears when I hear the song ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ and I never give presents. People call me “Scrooge” or “Grinch” a lot, probably because they hope that, like those characters I’ll change in the end.

Bart Simpson once said: “Christmas is the time when people of all faiths celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ” but I don’t. It’s offensive to automatically assume I celebrate Christmas, just like it’s offensive to automatically assume I eat meat or vote Republican. It’s not hard to ask if someone celebrates a holiday before you include them in it. For those of us who don’t want to be included, it makes life more pleasant.

Most of the people I talk with about this can’t understand and wander off, perplexed. Usually the message sinks in, but sometimes they still leave presents at my desk.

It’s okay. Sometimes I still set fire to their eyebrows.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I Hate Mail Merge

If you've been outside an industry and looking in, like I have, you find yourself besieged by headhunters. You can tell a headhunter because they always try to befriend everyone they meet instantly so they can sell your tasty brains to the nearest zombie.

Perhaps I'm being too harsh.

Anyway, they sometimes send out personal emails to their hundreds of clients (or sheep, whatever they call them). I got one once. It went something like this:


Happy Easter from ZOMBIE FEEDING HEADHUNTERS (a Time/Warner company)!

I'm going to be at E3 CONFERENCE in LOS ANGELES.

Please stop by our booth and have a drink on us! We look forward to seeing you. If you are not going to the E3 CONFERENCE in LOS ANGELES, we'll try to bring back a souvenir for you!



I got a bit annoyed by this email and decided to respond in kind. My response was:


Thanks for your $CHRISTIAN_HOLIDAY greetings! I hope you're having a happy $JEWISH_HOLIDAY as well!

I don't currently have any plans to visit $GAME_CONFERENCE_BASED_IN_DISTANT_LAND since I don't have a $CAREER_CHOICE job to pay the airplane fees. Oh, well! If I was I'd offer to kick back many $ALCOHOLIC_BEVERAGE with you and talk about $CAREER_CHOICE like we have so many times in the past.

Well, $RECRUITER_NAME, gotta go! There's so much email for me to answer!


Matthew Kagle

Not my most original work, but I love the conceit. I still use it sometimes.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Common Parlance #1

I haven’t written much for a while. Sorry about that, but I had good reason: I’m a writing coward. Having decided that I had written enough extemporaneous entries, I was finally going to do some humorous fiction, which was the reason I created this site, and I just couldn’t do it.

As a way of apology, I’m starting a new feature: Common Parlance. In this feature I will attempt to broaden your vocabulary by discussing certain words and phrases that have entered common speech. After reading these articles, you should try and use the featured vocabulary as often as possible in public.

Without further ado I give you:

Scott Bernard
[skot bur-NARD]

In the third Robotech series (“The Invid”), we are introduced to a fighter pilot named Scott Bernard. Shot down over an alien occupied Earth, he spends a good percentage of the show fighting a guerrilla war with almost no weapons. When he finally gets lucky and finds an abandoned fighter mech, he flies into the air with it and destroys two small alien ships with an overwhelming burst of rocket fire. Watching this cartoon as a teenager, my first thought was “Okay, so now he has a fighter with no ammunition. Bravo.”

To encounter a small obstacle and meet it with such an overwhelming response that it damages your ability to deal with another obstacle.

Examples:“Yahoo sure did a Scott Bernard on Microsoft with that poison pill.”
“George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq was a bit of a Scott Bernard as it left us vulnerable to the financial crisis.”

Friday, November 21, 2008

If I could draw #3

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you have heard many experts stating that I can not draw. Such evidence is compelling, but far from convincing. Therefore, allow me to submit two pieces into evidence from my sketchbook. Over the years, I have been trying to learn how to draw, in some cases by sketching photographs.

Exhibit A: The photograph I attempted to replicate.

Exhibit B: My sketch of the above image.

I don't feel I have to write anything funny here. This sketch never fails to make me laugh.

Friday, October 31, 2008

If I could draw #2

This one requires some understanding of tools:

A whole cadre of witches are casting spells at and running in fear from a young man in overalls. Their spells have no effect, however, since he is holding an Allen Wrench.

Now go look that up to get the joke...

Monday, October 27, 2008

My Rights as a Parent

Last week, I was driving with my children and listening to an episode of Forum. They were discussing Proposition 8 (banning gay marriage, for those of you living outside California) and a woman called in to say how homosexuals openly getting married impinged upon her right to raise her children as she wanted to. I felt my hackles go up.

I support homosexual marriage and consider banning it akin to banning mixed race marriages. However, a few minutes later, I drove by a billboard with a Microsoft ad on it; in that ad a boxer is receiving a blow to the face so powerful his mouth guard is knocked out. My older son saw the billboard and immediately started asking difficult questions. “Why are his teeth flying out?” “Why is the man hitting him?” “What do you mean it’s a barbaric sport that makes you wonder if we’re more evolved than monkeys?” And so on.

Suddenly, I found myself agreeing with the caller I was angry at a few moments earlier. She was right! That billboard affected my right to raise my children in a nonviolent envrionment and gay marriage affected her right to raise them in a heterosexual-only environment. Then I realized there were a lot of things I didn’t want my children to have to be exposed to, so I made a list of them all:

  • Any Microsoft billboard
    See above.

  • Any film by Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, Kevin Smith, or Tim Burton
    I don’t want my children exposed to terrible movies, immature movies, or movies whose budget is 99% special effects and .001% story.

  • Music
    Not just offensive lyrics, but any music at all. Sure, that seems a bit harsh, but listening to my son sing the same line of a song over and over again for an hour while completely off-key makes it hard for me to parent nonviolently.

  • Trigonometry, Statistics, Honors French, and The History of Photography
    If I failed at a class, I don’t want my children succeeding at it and then making fun of me.

  • Season 5 of Babylon 5
    It seems cruel have my children watch one of the greatest science fiction television shows of all time and then have to endure the horrible let down of its last season. They shouldn’t be exposed to Star Trek: Voyager, Lost Season 2, or any Saturday Night Live made after the 80s either.

  • Christmas
    As I have stated before, I hate Christmas (that’s a topic for another day) and don’t want my children to keep asking about Christmas trees. We have a menorah, damn it!

  • The person who said to my son “God talks to little children." Whoever you are, you creep me the hell out.

  • Republicans and Moderates
    I don’t want my children exposed to contrary political opinions and then make me defend my thinking. Children shouldn’t make me have to think.

  • Anyone else’s religious beliefs
    I’m a secular Jew with an affinity for the pagan god Prometheus. Unless you are the same, you shouldn’t talk about your religion in public. For that matter, don’t talk about it in private.
Of course, there are some who disagree with me. There are some who make the argument that the price of living in a free and open society is being exposed to things you disagree with. There are some who say that teaching my children how to react to an uncomfortable subject is more effective than sheltering them from that thing. Oh, hey, that reminds me; I forgot one:
  • People who expose my failings as a parent

Sunday, October 26, 2008

I'm Worried About Yours Too

It's rare that one gets to make a good joke about the 7th planet. However, today we're having a Halloween party and The Wife was concerned about kids messing up my son's solar system mobile. I took it down, but caused a number of planets to detach and roll across the room. I finally straightened things out, but not after uttering the sentence:

"I'm worried about Uranus."

Rather childish, but you rarely get to make Uranus jokes. I mean, we all know that Neptune is the funny one...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Seven Deadly Holidays

It’s October and the Christmas season is in full swing. (Don’t believe me? You must not have been to a store since early September.) Those who know me know I hate Christmas with a white hot passion that knows no bounds. I’m not going to tell you the reasons why – that’s for a later post – but I’ll tell you what isn’t a reason: commercialism. Sure, there are lots of people who complain about the marketing that has become associated with The American Holiday (I’m looking at you “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” sign posters) but greed is what makes the holiday fun for most people. In fact, the Seven Deadly Sins have made all of our holidays more fun.

To demonstrate, I present to you a quick, chronologically-ordered guide to the major American holidays and how you can enjoy them more through the lens of the Seven Deadly Sins:

  1. Halloween – Pride
    Remember, the more elaborate your costume, the better a person you are. The more elaborate your children’s costumes are, the happier they’ll be. While you’re at it, why not dress your teenagers up like prostitutes? All their friends are doing it!

  2. Thanksgiving – Gluttony
    What better way to give thanks than by stuffing yourself silly with piles and piles of food? As a side note, it seems God wasn’t too impressed by the Pilgrims’ prayers on the first Thanksgiving as he killed half their number a couple months later.

  3. Christmas – Greed
    Gifts! Must buy more gifts! If you don’t have enough gifts under your enormous, garish tree it means you don’t love your family.

  4. New Years Eve – Envy
    If you feel bad about growing older, you should make a list of the things that you envy about other people so you can work on being more like them this year.

  5. St. Valentines Day – Lust
    Valentine, like every other Catholic saint, loved the idea of people all over the world immersing themselves in carnal lusts. I’m not going to go into details here (I can’t figure out how to change this blog’s settings to “not safe for minors”) but I’m sure you can figure something out.

  6. Labor Day – Sloth
    You could spend this holiday thinking about the lives of the average worker and those things labor unions have done for us (5 day work weeks, 8 hour days, medical benefits, etc.), or you could sit on the couch and look for football games on your 398-channel HD Television.

  7. Independence Day – Wrath
    How many people died in our war for independence? What were the causes and results of their sacrifices? Who cares, we killed a lot of British! That’ll teach them for invading other countries. Extra tip: hold the bottle rockets really close to your face when you light them if you want the doctors to give you the extra special meds when they do the skin grafts.

I’m sure you’re thinking “But what about all the other holidays? I want to get the full, self-indulgence out of St. Patrick’s Day, Mardi Gras, and Secretary’s Day!” Sorry, there’s only seven sins. On those holidays you are expected to act as perfect, spiritual beings.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Worst Haircut Ever

I have had a lot of bad hair cuts in my life. Perhaps this comes from living in east central Illinois where the stylists practice on cows. Maybe it was my parent’s discount philosophy (“Forty dollars for a hair cut?!”). In any case, I’m no stranger to bad hair. In fact, I almost preferred the bad hair cuts; when you look like one of the Monkees, people assume you’re in your early twenties (or lost in the sixties).

Cast your mind back to the end of 1996. Jose Aznar became prime minister of Spain, Australia’s Northern Territory authorized euthanasia, and the last Magdalen Asylum was closed in Ireland. Don’t remember any of that? Tsk, tsk. *Sigh* The American school system has a lot to answer for.

I was living in the lower half of someone’s house (but that’s another story) in Belmont. My soon-to-be-ex-wife (also another story) was still in Wisconsin (still another story) leaving me alone in California. After a few months of neglect, I realized I desperately needed a haircut (another st- Oh, wait, that is this story).

Back then, I used what I called the “proximity method” of finding the things I needed. Later, I called it the “Yahoo Maps method” and now it’s the “GPS method.” It’s a pretty simple system, really, you just pick the place that’s closest to you. I found a lot of things that way and they’ve worked out great: my tax preparer, the store where I bought my pet, my children’s preschool, the place I dump my toxic waste, etc. So, I opened my yellow pages (remember yellow pages?) and looked for nearby barbers.

A large, square ad jumped out at me. The VIP Salon was only a few blocks away. It seemed they also did massages, manicures, and pedicures, but I figured it was just a fancy-shmancy salon. I called to make an appointment. A few minutes later, they called me back. Did I want a haircut? Yes I did. There was a pause and they confirmed they could do that. That should have been my first warning.

A few nights later, I entered the VIP Salon. It was a narrow space, with a long row of barber’s stations taking up one whole side, a wooden screen created a small entry area and there were closed doors in the back to private rooms. Boxes were stacked in the barber’s chairs; that should have been my second warning. A small African-American woman appeared wearing a shimmering red sarong, piles of gold jewelry, and enough makeup to paint a wall That should have been my third warning.

“Are you here for a massage?” she asked with a disturbing amount of enthusiasm.

I explained that I was there for a haircut. Undaunted, she told me that the stylist hadn’t arrived yet. (The stylist wasn’t hadn’t arrived yet; that’s warning four for those of you keeping track at home.) I waited while the two women busied themselves around the place. The woman who greeted me explained to the other woman, a sullen Russian, that I was “the one who wanted a hair cut.” Another client came in and was greeted as I was. He asked if he could “see who else was available” and went in one of the back rooms with the Russian.

Finally, my barber arrived, carrying a leather bag of equipment with her. She quickly set up and asked me the standard questions: how long did I want it, on or off the ears, which way did I part my hair, etc. I tried to make the standard jokes: I just want a cut that will make women love me and men fear me, can you give me horns, how much to shave it all off, etc. Unfortunately, I was thrown off my delivery by the Russian woman returning from the back and grabbing something from a nearby drawer. It was in a flat square wrapper. Okay, it could have been lotion but it looked exactly like a condom.

Suddenly, it all hit me at once. I was having my hair cut in a brothel. (I just searched through the available synonyms for “brothel” and didn’t find a better word. What do you like better? The choices are: brothel, bordello, bagnio, house of ill repute, bawdyhouse, or cat house.) My face flushed. My heart began to pound. All the blood rushed up to my ears. My stomach turned. I had a sudden desire to listen to Enya CDs. What to do? What to do? Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do, but continue to pretend that there was nothing unusual going on. Hey, people get their hair cut by prostitutes all the time, don’t they? To be fair, the stylist was probably one of the prostitutes’ friends they called in to cut my hair and not a working girl herself. Still, it kept my mind busy through the whole hour of the hair cut to think about it and not what was going on in the back room.

When it was finally over, the woman who greeted me (and whom I had decided was the madam) thanked me for coming and encouraged me to come again.

“We do massages!” she said.
“I know,” I replied, about sixteen octaves too high and thirty decibels too loud.

Needless to say, I didn’t go back. Soon after that night, I moved to a new apartment and did the proximity method again. This time I found a more reputable (but still terrible) place near a Chevy’s that I stayed with for a couple of years. The woman who cut my hair was quite definitely not a prostitute and we talked mostly about what cheeses went best on burritos (Monterey Jack). Later, my girlfriend (soon-to-be-wife-but that’s-another-story) convinced me to go to a good (expensive) place and people starting thinking I was really old.

Every now and then I would drive by the VIP Salon. I was strangely relieved when it closed down (or moved away or whatever happened).

I honestly couldn’t tell you if it was the worst hair style I ever got. It was, however, the worst hair cut I ever had.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Why I'm Voting Ulster Unionist This Year

I was at a playdate yesterday. Normally, this playdate is held by a nanny with a definite British accent. She was away, however, and her employer (ie. the father) was running the playdate. As it turns out he's a very prominent politician in England, but here he was just another guy holding a playdate: charming but nervous.

At one point he said he didn't really know how the nanny ran the playdate and what she did at them.

"She usually gives us all gold coins," I said.

He looked at me for a moment, taking in the idea, the entire room silent.

"She does?" a woman on the other side of the room finally asked.

"SHHHHHHH!!!!" I practically screamed. (Have you ever tried screaming a shush? It's not easy.) "I almost got him to give us all gold coins!"

It's nice to know I can pull stuff like that off with a straight face.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

If I could draw #1

I can't draw. Well, not very well. Some day, I'll upload scans of my scrapbook and milk will shoot out of your nose. Seriously. Even if you don't have any milk within a three mile radius of you, milk will shoot out of your nose.

Anyway, if I could draw, this is what I would post:

You see a world full of iron nails. The buildings are giant nail skyscrapers. The people are walking nails with faces painted on. Nail dogs trot on nail streets. High in the sky are nail jets flying behind nail clouds.

In the middle of all this is a lone man carrying a claw hammer. The look on his face is disturbing in its eagerness.

The caption: "When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Just an example

You want to know how funny this page is going to be? I just spent a half an hour trying to choose a font and font color for the title of this page. My final choice (out of a whole six font choices) was Trebuchet.

You may ask "why?"

Go ahead, ask it, I'll wait.

I chose it because it had the funniest name. A trebuchet was a medieval siege weapon. Get it? It's funny! I mean, come on, how funny is the name Courier or Roman. Come to think of it, the Romans did some pretty funny things.

Shoot, back to choosing again.

I can do it. Honest.

If you know me, and I hope you don't, you know I don't write very often. As a child, I always wanted to be a writer, but as my father pointed out, I just didn't do any writing. Writing, as everyone will tell you, is really-eely hard. Well, not exactly hard. I guess it's more painful than hard. Anyway, I never wrote anything or improved my skills because writing was painful to do.

Years later, I tried to push my writing skills along and, spurred on by a late night inspiration and a regular train trip with no internet access, found myself writing a lot. The result? A couple dozen depressing, moralistic tales. Sure, my family liked them, but they all thought I'd do better if I was working on better material. In other words, write funnier stuff.


So, here I am trying to find my funny side. Once a week I will try to write something, anything funny.

Is this funny yet? No? Shoot, I'm already in trouble. Um....


Hahahahahahahahaha! That never gets old.