Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Sometimes, The Wheel is on Fire

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Birthiversary

This past weekend, we celebrated both my mother’s 65th birthday and my parents’ 65th wedding anniversary. How is something like this possible? Well, it’s really quite simple: we all went out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.

But I suppose what you might be hung up on are the numbers. No, neither one is a typo. And no, it wasn’t one of those arranged marriages where, for three head of sheep,1 the skeevy older man gets to wed the underage baby maiden. This coincidence of equal birthday and anniversary (henceforth to be known as birthiversary) is completely and utterly – not to mention, mathematically – legitimate.

Sort of.

My parents first met at a wine tasting at the local Jewish Community Center, where my father, conspicuously, was the only one spitting out the wine after each sip.2 It was apparently love at first spit, for nine months later, in February of 1977, they were married.

But wait! you say. That was only 33 years ago, not 65! You sir, Mr. Blogwriter, are a complete and utter – not to mention mathematical – liar!

Now, wait just a goldarn minute! How many times have I told you not to interrupt me when I’m telling a story? If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times… thus, by my calculations, I’ve now told you a thousand times. So shut up and let me finish.

After honeymooning in a snowstorm in Washington, D.C. – and celebrating my mother’s 32nd birthday – they married once again a week later, in a ceremony that satisfied my paternal grandmother’s peculiar need to involve a little thing called religion.

Although my parents have always counted their anniversaries like a normal couple, my sister and I are decidedly not normal,3 so we’ve always tallied two parental anniversaries per year. In 2010, that was their 65th and 66th.

And thus, the birthiversary was born.

1 And perhaps a couple lodes of ore.
2 A habit he continues to this day.
3 Her, especially.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Doing the Religious Right

Today, many devout Christians demonstrated their piety by putting some soot on their foreheads. Though their intentions may have been noble, the decision to wear the cross is rather half-ashed.1 Old traditions die hard, I guess. Well, as a public service to those poor, misguided souls, I shall now recount the proper way to truly commemorate Ash Wednesday. It’s really fairly simple:
  1. Go to a deserted cabin in the woods.
  2. Accidentally summon some demons.
  3. Chop off your right hand; replace it with a chainsaw.
  4. Go back in time.
  5. Accidentally summon more demons.
  6. Save the day whilst spouting cheesy 80s sayings.
You see, Ash Wednesday isn’t about repenting; it’s about repelling. Repelling the undead hordes. Come get some.

(By the way, you probably celebrated Fat Tuesday wrong, too. Here's what you should have done.)

1 Yeah, I went there.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

I ♥ Mindless Consumerism

For the first 29 Valentine’s Days of my existence, I was single. For the last three years, however, I have been involved in a loving, committed relationship, and as a result, my views on the holiday have not changed one bit. Valentine’s Day is stupid.

Valentine’s Day makes the unattached feel more excluded and more depressed than a Jewish kid on Christmas. Couples already have plenty of opportunities to show their love for each other, such as anniversaries (of their first date, engagement day, wedding day), birthdays, or simply any night they can find a babysitter. Where are the days set aside to celebrate singledom? Bachelor and bachelorette parties come the closest, but the honoree is always someone who’s already in a relationship. A whole separate holiday to make the single people of the world feel worse about themselves is utterly uncalled for.

So, why do we still celebrate it? Why, crass commercialism, of course. In America, Valentine’s Day is the second biggest consumer holiday, behind Christmas. It’s a major boon for the chocolate, flowers, jewelry, wine, and greeting cards industries.1 After all, why should we go to the trouble to come up with personalized ways to show our love and appreciation, when Wal-Mart can do that for us? Expensive restaurants will be packed tonight, romantic comedies will be screened in theaters and living rooms across the country, and cats and dogs will find extra-scrumptious treats in their food bowls.2

If you are part of a couple, instead of celebrating Valentine’s Day with your wallet, follow your heart. Make something with your own two hands. Do something (clean the house, cook dinner) that shows how much you care. Or better yet, ignore Valentine’s Day entirely. Celebrate the Chinese New Year, which starts today.3 Celebrate the Winter Olympics. Celebrate Lincoln and Washington.

But whatever you do, don’t buy crap just because some animated Cupid told you to. Well, unless he’s a Chinese Olympian named Abe.

1 Not to mention – thanks to the slew of women who don’t know what to get for their boyfriends/husbands – the makers of Call of Duty 2: Modern Warfare.
2 Conversely, the anti-Valentine’s Day crowd will also give a boost to chocolatiers, liquor stores, and the makers of Prozac.
3 Interesting fact: During the last Year of the Tiger, in 1998, Mr. Woods (who is 1/4 Chinese) only won 1 PGA tournament, tied for his lowest total in any year.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Say Again?

After receiving such a great response to my first story a few weeks back (albeit mostly in person, not through the comments section), I’ve decided to share a second one. The other things I’ve written recently for my writing workshop could potentially be reworked into publishable material in the future, but there’s little hope in that regard for a dialogue-only story. Therefore, that’s what you get. Enjoy.

Oh yeah, and beware: Thar be profanity ahead.

“Hi, I’m Detective Dan Ratliff, and I’ll be your good cop for today.”

“You gotta be kiddin me.”

“What? What is it?”

“You actually used the line.”

“I told you I was gonna. You laughed.”

“I didn’t think you was actually gonna use it. I was bein’ polite.”

“And I was supposed to know that how, exactly?”

“We’re here to get answers outta the guy, not make him laugh.”

“I know that, but I thought—”

“He look amused to you?”

“You know you’re supposed to be the bad cop to him, right? Not to me?”

“Does he look amused to you?”

“Well, no, but—”

“That’s cuz he ain’t. Uncomfortable, yeah. Maybe a little angry. But he sure as hell ain’t amused. So can the jokes.”

“Maybe he’s not amused because you interrupted me, Frank, you think of that? Maybe if you let me talk we’d already have everything we need.”

“If you don’t start on him, I will.”

“Fine, fine, no jokes. I promise.”

“Just get to it already. I got lunch with my girl in half an hour.”

“Oh, Brenda? How’s she doin? I haven’t seen her since—”


“Sorry, sorry. Okay. Now, Jimmy – I can call you Jimmy, can’t I? – we’re gonna ask you a few questions, and it’d be in your best interest if you—”



“Take the gag out of his mouth.”


“Oh yeah, forgot about that. Here, let me untie that for you. Now, is there anything I can get you? Water? Coke? Double espresso latte?”

“Who the fuck are you guys?! What do you want?!”

“Jeez, Frank, can you believe this guy? No one listens any more. Like I said, I’m Detective Ratliff, this is my associate—”

“Ya ain’t no fuckin cops!”

“What, you think we wear these uniforms for fun? Want me to flash my badge for you? Of course we’re cops.”

“You ain’t fuckin cops, and you ain’t fuckin Ratliff!”

“Oh, I’m not, am I? You illiterate as well as stupid? Right here on the uniform, R-A-T... sure looks like Ratliff to me.”

“Only one cop in town named Ratliff. And I think I know my own brother-in-law.”

“Fuck, Danny.”

“No, it’s okay, I got this.”

“You stole the uniform from his brother-in-law?”

“I didn’t know it was... how could... don’t worry, I got this.”

“I ain’t telling you fuckers shit.”

“For the love of...”

“Oh yeah, you got this. Totally under control.”

“So I take it you’re not going to answer my questions?”

“Fuck you.”

“Well, if that’s how you want to play it, that’s fine by me. Bad cop, do your thing.”

“With pleasure.”

“Wait. Wait! What are you doing?! Let go of—yeeeaaAAGH! Ow! Motherfucker!”

“Feel better now, Frank?”

“Much, thanks.”

“My finger! You... you broke my fuckin finger!”

“And he’ll break much more than that unless you tell us what we want to know.”

“I’m gonna fuckin kill you! You fuck!”

“Scream all you want, Jimmy. The whole block’s vacant. No one can hear you.”

“Hey Danny, ya want me to...?”

“No! No, I’ll talk, I’ll talk. What… what do you want from me? Who the fuck are you guys?”

“No more questions, Jimmy. Seeing how you’re the one tied to the chair, I think we’ll be the ones asking the questions. Now, if you would be so kind as to tell us... where’s the fuckin money?”

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

It's My Crypt Tonight

Everyone, no matter how tough or how fictional he or she is, has a weakness. For some, it may be a physical weakness or vulnerability. For others, it might be behavioral (e.g. too trusting of others) or something they’re no good at. Or, it could simply be something they’re powerless to resist, such as chocolate, or reality TV.

Achilles’ fatal flaw is legendary: Though the rest of him was impervious to pretty much everything, his heel was surprisingly vulnerable to poisoned arrows. Likewise, everyone knows Superman’s biggest weakness: people whose first and last name both start with the letter L (i.e. Lois Lane, Lana Lang, Lex Luther, Louis L’Amour).

I believe the most amusing discovery of a character’s shortcomings may be from Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, when Officer Palumbo says, upon being shot: “Bullets! My only weakness! How did you know?”

For easy reference, I’ve compiled a short list of some other famous weaknesses:

Adam & EveTalking snakes
Green LanternWood. Or the color yellow. Yes, seriously.
Humbert HumbertPrepubescent girls
James BondHas his martinis shaken, which bruises the gin
Keanu ReevesEmotion; can only convincingly pull off “Whoa.”
King HippoLeaves his stomach unguarded when he jabs
King MidasGreed; everything he touches turns to mufflers
Marty McFlyBeing compared to chickens. Or the color yellow.
Pedro CerranoCan’t hit a curveball
Pinky & the BrainWhere are they going to find a moose wearing rubber pants at this hour?
Sarah PalinWhen mouth opens, words come out
Sherlock HolmesThe loving embrace of the neighborhood opium den
VampiresSunlight, garlic, crosses, holy water
Vampires (modern era)Mopey teenage girls
Wicked Witch of the WestPersonal hygiene.1

When it comes to writing, I know many of you liken me to a god, the way my words flow so effortlessly from my pen.2 Not that I use a pen. Nor do the words so much flow as they spit and sputter, inconsistently and with great effort, like I’m summoning the dregs from the bottom of a liquid soap dispenser. Nevertheless, many of you put my work up on a pedestal.3

Yet I am not infallible. Last week, in fact, I learned my greatest weakness as a writer: Setting.

I can interject a sentence or two of description here and there to help highlight a scene's location, but anything beyond that and the writing becomes dull and stilted; the story crumbles. My strengths are in the characters, the action, the dialogue. For an exercise on setting for my writing workshop this past week, I tried writing three different stories five different ways, and came out with fifteen different pieces of crap. Each time, although I could picture the setting quite vividly in my own mind, on paper it read like a 6th grade book report. And not a good one.

I’ll work at it. Eventually, my descriptions of settings may become passable and enhance the other aspects of my writing. But the important thing is that I’m now fully aware of my weakness. Thus, until I get this chink in my armor buffed out, you likely won’t catch me writing any long, descriptive passages.

In other words, I’ll be keeping my Achilles’ heel far, far away from your poisonous arrows.

1 That’s what happens when you can’t bathe and you surround yourself with monkeys.
2 Some of you, on the other hand, liken me to lichen.
3 Up there, no one can read it.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Super Bol Recap

In the days leading up to Super Bowl XLIV,1 I was astonished by the sheer number of people who had absolutely no idea how the event got started. Everyone assumes it’s a wholly American tradition. Yet, like so many of our movies and television shows, it is nothing but a bastardization of something another country came up with first.

Manute Bol is best remembered as being the tallest person ever to play in the NBA.2 Although he sent most of his earnings back to his native Sudan, he was a hero to his people long before he ever stepped foot on American soil. In January 1966, at the tender age of 3 years, 3 months (and the height of 5 feet, 6 inches), Manute “Super” Bol kicked in the winning goal to defeat Morocco and win the coveted NAFTA (North African Football Tournament Association) Cup. Within weeks, the Sudanese government had decreed “Super Bol Sunday” a national holiday.

We Americans are quick to grasp onto anything that’s popular without actually grasping what it is. And that is why, one year later, the Super Bowl was born. Inexplicably, the game caught on, despite it being entirely the wrong sort of football, and despite its name having gained an extra letter along the way.3

Because Sudan follows the Islamic calendar, Super Bol Sunday falls on a different weekend every year. In homage to its predecessor, the NFL’s Super Bowl also keeps to this schedule. Apart from their names, this is the only thing that ties the two days together.

By the way, Manute’s timely goal in ’66 and his abnormal height aren’t the only reasons Sudan continues to honor him every year. At the age of 2, he saved his father from an oncoming locomotive. By 5, he could breathe fire and see through walls. He would’ve won Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest at the age of 16, except as a handicap he was forced to devour foot-long franks. He can leap locomotives in a single bound and is more powerful than a speeding Bullet.4 In 2002, he pummeled a sentient Refrigerator into submission to ensure that the machines couldn’t enslave the human race.

The Super Bowl’s nice and all, but now that you know the truth, I’d like you to do something for me. Every year, when some ancient rock band takes the stage for the halftime show, raise a glass to Manute “Super” Bol, the man who started it all.

No, he can't fly. He's just that tall.

1 a.k.a. Super Bowl: Extra-Large Intravenous edition.
2 Technically, Gheorghe Mure┼čan was also 7’7”, but technically, no one cares.
3 Historians attribute this to our nation’s British ancestry, as well as our “bigger is better” mentality. After all, if Brits can insert a single superfluous ‘u’ into words (such as in color or parlor), surely we can double that.
4 His Washington Bullets teammate, Muggsy Bogues. All 136 lbs of him.