Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lao Tzu, the Sticks, and the Tree Trimmers - or - Chung Tzu's Funeral Song to a Dolt

As they trim the tree, Lao Tzu, in slow motion, gathers a small pile of sticks, each stick being about 2 feet long. He ends up with a pile of about 40 branches, each the thickness of my thumb. The tree trimmers pay attention to Lao Tzu, but Lao Tzu ignores them. Because he moves slowly, and carefully, the trimmers keep an eye out so they don't drop any of the larger cut limbs onto his head.

I have no idea what he is doing this for, or what he will do with the sticks when he is done. But at the same time, I don't dare interrupt him, because the way Lao Tzu moves and gathers the sticks -- it is poignant, sad, and a bit poetic.


Later that evening, Chung Tzu comes by and sees the stick pile in the backyard.

"Ah!" he says, pointing at the pile, "A family has been dispersed into the world. Some of the babies will never see their Mother or Father again."

"Is that so?" I reply.

"Oh, yes." assures Chung Tzu. "Now I will sing a proper funeral song. Loo loo, cookoo, moo moo, badaboum. Foom foom, room room, badaubeoi boy."

After a pause, Chung Tzu looks at me. "Did you understand what I was saying?"

"No, I didn't quite get it."

"Okay, I'll sing another one. Hoo hoo, boo boo, foo foo, alagaha hoo! Shoo shoo, moo moo, arouh arouh, bama DA BOOM!!"

Chung Tzu looks at me. "Did you understand what I was saying?"

"I'm sorry, but no."

"Since you fail to comprehend, I will attempt one last song for you. Roo roo, goo goo, boo boo Da da DA DA FOOM! MA ma ma goo pop pop slop hrap! Flop schlock mop!!"

Chung Tzu looks at me. "Did you understand what I was saying?"


"GOOD!" shouts Chung Tzu.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Lessons I've Learned from My Son

Here are some things I have learned from my son, who is almost 2 years old:

1. Wake up smiling & laughing. You'll be guaranteed to have a mostly fabulous day, if you start off fabulously.

2. A generous amount of shampoo, if you have it, can be smeared in your hair, to create that sassy "Billy Idol" look. Additionally, any substance worth smearing should be smeared on your temples.

3. You don't have any fireworks? Take an electric toothbrush, turn it on, and throw it on the floor! Wow! Look at that! Seriously, try this.

4. Any kind of race car, or Matchbox, or Hotwheel becomes 20% faster after being bathed in toilet water.

5. Also, if you have a older sister, and she is at school, her flip-flops are supposed to go in the toilet.

6. Food is for eating, throwing, wearing, and playing like a musical instrument.

7. If it can be tossed out an open window, toss it out the open window.

8. People are pleased when you hide their small possessions in random drawers around a room, or in the waste paper basket.

9. If a door is open, shut it. If the stove is off, turn it on. If the cup is full, empty it over your head.

10. Everything is BEAUTIFUL! Everything is AMAZING! Everything is WONDERFUL! Everything is a TOY!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Finding Gifts for Chung Tzu

I like giving Chung Tzu gifts, and I know he enjoys receiving them. One day when I was out walking, I found something I though he'd appreciate.

"I would like to give you this old stick!" I said to him, when I got back to the house.

"Why, thank you. What a pleasant surprise." said Chung Tzu, and he took the stick and he held it as if it were a delicate artifact.

A few days later, I gave him an old banana peel.

"Wonderful!" exclaimed Chung Tzu, who immediately folded it like it was a $100.00 bill and put it in his coat pocket.

When I presented him a empty can of beer, he was quite content to accept it, and peer into the hole like it was an exotic augury.

Finally, one day, I came home with some glistening fresh dog feces.

"Oh!" said Chung Tzu when he saw what I had to give him, "Marvelous! Amazing! You have overwhelmed me with your generosity!"

"No, please," I replied, "I want you to have it."

"I cannot possibly accept such a rare and fine gift as this!" declared Chung Tzu, "No, instead, you should keep it for yourself -- so whenever you look at it, you'll think of me!"

Friday, April 18, 2008

News - A Chicago Earthquake!

At about 4 AM this morning, half awake, I noticed the earth was shaking. Why was I awake? One of our kids had decided to get up at 3 AM and they were happily burning the midnight oil in our bed. So at about 4.25 I hear the windows rattling -- and I knew what it was! Earthquake! Being from California, I know intimately what earthquakes feel like. This one lasted about 20 seconds, a gentle rolling sensation. Next day I read that it was a 5.2, second strongest ever recorded in the state of Illinois. It was followed up by a 4.5 aftershock, which is nothing when it comes to shaking. A 5.2 is sorta an earthquake. Now, if we get a 6.0 or above, now you're talking. Remember, each time you go up in the Richter Scale, you up the shaking by a magnitude of 10. But the intensity of an earthquake also has to do with how deep the event is in the depths of the earth, and how close it is to you on the map. Put it to you another way... when the earth starts shaking, and you go outside and you see parked cars see-sawing end to end, and power lines are going up and down like jump-ropes, and you feel like leaning against the doorjamb -- now that is an earthquake. I hope that doesn't happen here, because our house would fall down. Do I have earthquake insurance in Illinois? I'll have to look that up.

"Connections" by Kevin Spaide, over at Opium Magazine

Opium Magazine posted a hilarious story the other day, called "Connections" by Kevin Spaide. I'm always doing this kind of thing to my friends. And by now, they know they have to put up with it. Blame the internet. Hey, speaking of the internet, here's another story by Mr. Spaide called "Come Home", from the Summerset Review. I like his writing. It reminds me of stuff I used to do & situations I was in, growing up in semi-rural Sonoma County. Most of the places I used to go for fun are all gone, it is all built up now.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

News - Ranting over at THINGS DON'T WORK

I posted a fine rant over at THINGS DON'T WORK, about how my land-line phone has been co-opted by legions of robotic telemarketers.

Leprechaun Facts

Do you like Leprechauns? Of course you do! Here are some interesting facts on the wee little folks that I have discovered recently:

- If you touch a Leprechaun with the handle of a used toilet plunger, they will explode like a hand-grenade. I guess you shouldn't be doing this, unless you are wearing a bomb disposal head to toe outfit.

- Leprechauns are crazy about Sudoku -- simply mad about it. Fluffenuffer O'Callaghan, from Kelp County, Wisconsin does at least 500 a day. He very nearly lost his pot of gold over one particularly enthralling puzzle.

- When it comes to drying their clothes, Leprechauns prefer natural, air drying. But a Leprechaun will only wash his clothes every 100 to 200 years in a Clear Stream with Smooth Pebbles at the Bottom looking of Gold. You could say a Leprechaun is generally very aromatic, smelling strongly of cheese, mead, and randy wool.

- Leprechauns have a "Wall of Shame" in a Dale, hidden under a Spring, by the Large Crooked Oak, in Peel County, Scotland. Leprechauns that have violated Leprechaun Law have their names written on it for all eternity. Smargis O'Toole is the latest entry, for turning a few innocent rabbits from flesh to lead.

- How much gold is in a Leprechaun's pot? That is a good question. It depends on how old the Leprechaun is -- there will be one magic gold piece per year of the Leprechaun's life. This magic gold coin will appear in the pot year after year on midnight of midsummer's eve. Ordinary gold coins are collected if the Leprechaun feels like having more coins.

- Now I know some of you are wondering, what do Leprechauns do? For real. Unfortunately, if a mortal ever figures this out, the nearest Leprechaun to them psychically realizes this, and the Leprechaun is duty-bound to come and kill you with a big wooden hammer with a shamrock on the side of it. So it is well to be wise in the ways of Leprechauns, but not too knowing, at the same time.

Did You? Wake the Hell Up!

I wake up, covered in ants. I discover don't like waking up covered in ants. Why am I covered in ants? They aren't biting me, but the ants are tiny and taste like pepper when they get in my mouth. I think, someone rolled in food, and then slept in this bed. Did you? Wake the Hell up!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Walking on a Beach on the Isle of Fork

Waking up this morning, I got some dream advice: If you walk on a beach that is covered in forks, on the Isle of Fork, expect to get stuck by at least one fork.

Friday, April 11, 2008

How to Dress Like a Tourist in Europe

You are an American, and you are going off for your first trip to Europe. You have some vague ideas on what this trip will be like, you'll have to go see the Effile Tower (sic), and the big art museum nearby in Paris Town. You've wanted to do that since 9th grade. Also, stop by jolly old England, home of the Brits, and go to the other Tower, this one of London where they chopped off peoples heads. Rome is in the running too, the Pope lives there.

But the main thing you worry about is, how to dress like a proper tourist. The kind of tourist that can get around savvier and faster than the locals, under their "cultural radar". You want to be dressed, so when it is time to strike & get that deal for a hotel room or a platter of pommes frites, you'll not get snagged on something or be laughingly turned away. To help you, here are some suggestions:

1. Wearing blue jeans is a must. In fact, don't bring anything but blue jeans. Bring some new ones, bring some old ones -- if you get in a jam, everybody knows you can sell them for hundreds of Euros a pair -- those damn Europeans are crazy about American blue jeans.

2. Nobody in their right mind would go to Europe and not wear white sneakers. Due to Europe's arcane and antiquated transport systems, and the fact that many Europeans have never learned to drive a damn car, because the roads are too small -- you know you'll be hoofing it all over the place. You've studied many travel shows and seen how much walking is done in Europe. Sensibly, white sneakers, the whiter and fatter the better, are the obvious choice. Bring two pairs.

3. If you forget a fanny pack, you might as well curl up in Heathrow and die. You're going to need all your money and important irreplaceable documents on you at all times, for easy access to conduct business and clinching a deal that may come up with rude or unsuspecting foreigners. Without this fanny pack, you won't be able to hustle your way in and out of those tight situations. Wear it right in front, and don't worry, it doesn't make you look silly, because you have a purpose here.

4. The weather in England is pissy and rainy. In France, the weather is pissy, rainy, sunny, and full of the French. The sun in Italy is harsh and unavoidable. You'll want to make sure you bring a baseball cap, the kind with webbing in the back to keep the back of your head cool, but with foam fabric in the front, to shield you from bird droppings & staring locals, because face it, Europe is full of pigeons and gawkers. If you feel sassy and proud, have a big American Flag patch on the front of it. That'll show them you're serious and not afraid of what those people from the EU think.

5. Have lots of maps and travel books. Carry at least two maps and a travel book with you at all times. For perspective, one map should be of a country you have been in, or are going to next. Thinking strategically, the other map should probably be of the last city you were in, or the next city you'll be going to. There is a lot of information to absorb, and you may need to consult from your travel book at any time to glean the obscure cultural references that are going on all around you. Mark places that you think will be key with little post-it stickers. The locals expect to pull some fast ones on you, taking advantage of your lack of travel experience, and the fact you haven't bothered to understand anything about their day-to-day lives, or learn the rudiments of their language beyond hello and another kind of hello, but that is what being a tourist is all about. You can read the travel books and maps for the first time while flying on the plane, a few hours before you land. Then the knowledge these materials impart will be fresh in your mind.

6. Either wear a sweatshirt two sizes too big, for comfort, or a nylon windbreaker. Better bring both, because sometimes it snows in Europe, at any time. Logo or information on the sweatshirt could be a swanky victorious American flag, unfurled and blowing impressively. Barring that, sport logos, like the Chicago Bears will make you friends or mollify hostility because everybody loves the Chicago Bears. Have a Disneyland sweatshirt as a backup. A Seattle's Space Needle sweatshirt will show you are culturally adept, or at least show you know how to drink good coffee.

7. Though not technically an article of clothing, a camcorder is going to have to be on you at all times, at least in public. Use the device more, not less, and be sure to narrate loudly to the microphone exactly what you are seeing and exactly where you are, so you won't be confused when you watch it later in your living room at home with the extended family. Don't worry too much if this seems to be irritating people who live in Europe, they know their whole economy runs on tourism, and they couldn't get a decent living without travelers like you.

8. BACKUP: If all goes wrong, and you can't make headway, bring a Canadian maple-leaf pin and some Canadian flag patches. Though this feels dishonorable, and you are betraying your nation by having these & displaying them, the Canadian pin or patch could be your ace in the hole. Of course, when you open your mouth, everyone will know you aren't Canadian -- keep mum and your eyes on the prize, and you should be able to get though a rough spot.

9. MISCELLANEA: Here are some optional things you can bring that you may find pleasing for your trip.

- A sun visor, the kind that has no cap on it so your hair sticks out the top. The deeper the visor, the better.

- The biggest, blackest sunglasses you can dig up. To shield your eyes from the glare of the sky on all that marble & stone ruins.

- A second camcorder! In case their first one gets damaged on the plane, train, or cab by jostling persons who have no concept of personal space.

- Lots of sunscreen, lip balm, and extra make-up -- because you know at some point you'll mess up packing and you'll have your stuff confiscated.

- A few bottles of American bottled water. You might want to ration this and see if you can make it last for as long as possible, until your tummy gets used to the water over there.

- For the above reason, and if you are sensitive and haven't eaten food in places other than your home town, you might want to consider bringing a Cosco sized Pepto-Bismol too! Better safe than sorry!

Good luck and have a memorable trip!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Aren't You Going to Thank Me for That?!?

Yes, yes, I drank your precious bottle of genuine India Ink. There, are you happy? No deceptions, I did drink it. If it makes you feel any better, afterwards I was immediately sick for 25 hours. I was horribly and absolutely ill, like I was going to die. Don't you feel bad about that? Wine? What wine? OK, I'm really going to come clean with you -- I drank your wine. How much? I don't know, how many bottles did you have laying around? That many? I don't know if I could have physically drank all of that. I had a few glasses. More than a few, don't get so touchy. Look, calm down, don't be so goddamn touchy. It cost how much? Lordy, I didn't even know you could buy French wine at that price. I won't say I'm sorry because I can see that will only make you more angry, and do you see how that makes me feel? Hurt. Speaking of hurt, I may have hurt your car. Where is it? That is a Question for the Ages. I was in a hazy state of mind and the road was definitely not the safest place to drive, in my confused state of mind. It may be under a large tree. Scattered under a large tree. OK -- I parked it in a large tree, and parts of it are scattered under the tree branches. But I have the keys, and it is locked, so nobody is going to steal it. Aren't you going to thank me for that?!?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I was going to write something good, but then shit -- we go out to breakfast. I get the kosher salami with eggs sunny-side up with a coffee. You get the baby Belgian waffle and a vegetarian omelette with an orange juice. Yes, we want cream with the coffee. The waiter tell us he's waiting 6 tables, and sorry if he's slow. No problem, don't worry, ok. The Belgian waffle is slightly burned on top, so is my kosher salami. Your vegetarian omelette is fabulous. Daniel takes all the sugar packets and dumps them one by one onto the floor, experimenting with gravity. Pay the bill, leave my cell-phone behind, go back, get it, go to the grocery store at the corner because we really do need a few things. Now back at home, I sit down. I still have to put all the groceries away & the leftovers. What the hell was I going to write?

Monday, April 07, 2008


Hey -- I'm firing up my long neglected blog THINGS DON'T WORK. Used to just be for technology, but now it will be for multi-topical bitching and complaining, too. Because everything should generally work better than it does, and it could, if people gave a damn. Drop by and see the latest diatribe -- airline horror stories. If you have a topic or a complaint, feel free to send it to me. If it is good, I'll just put it up.


"I've been told that fleas don't drown in water." I say to Chung Tzu.

About ten minutes of silence goes by. Then Chung Tzu looks up at me, and he says, "AND?"

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Hill of Beans

Things are just ducky. I have a nice spread, neighbors don't bug and the kid can walk to school. Then one day, a big beanstalk pops up through the floor and this human boy is running around the house screwing with stuff and it all goes to hell. Wouldn't you know I end up blind, drowned in a lake by that wiseass Jack. And the last thought that goes through my head as I settle at the bottom is, who'd believe how I got down here and life in the end ain't worth a hill of beans.