Friday, May 28, 2010

10 Reasons Why Salad Bars Are Just Like Real Life

1. Nobody really wants the lettuce.

  Sure, we’ve been raised as consumers to believe that the foundation of any decent salad is chopped-up leafage of some kind. This is a scam. Do not fall for it. The salad people want you to load up on the greenery so your container will be too full when you get to the really good, more expensive stuff. Out of courtesy, it’s okay to get a tong or two of the lettuce, if for no other reason than to have a nice background for your salad-building presentation. Otherwise, just say no.

  Besides, we all know that lettuce has no nutritional value. I don’t care what the granola-crunchers have to say about this, it’s true. Yes, you might get a vitamin or two out of it if you nibble on some lettuce while you stand there in the garden, but once the head has been officially picked, the nutrition starts leaking. By the time the lettuce has been boxed and shipped, it becomes the equivalent of those packing peanuts you get with the more professional eBay shipments. They might fill up a space, but they don’t really do anything for you.

  (Side note to the Lettuce Choppers of the World: Some of you need to get with your union representatives, because you obviously missed out on some training somewhere. Lettuce pieces should be small and manageable, something you can easily get in your mouth without dislocating your jaw. The pieces should not be the size of Delaware. And by no means should you ever let any of that horrid white core get into the mix you present to the public. That’s just obscene. Take pride in your work, for God’s sake.)

2. People don’t understand boundaries.

  The sneeze guard is there for a reason. It’s to keep your nasty-ass germs out of the food. Contrary to what your little mind might believe, it is not there to cause you personal trauma, or to present a challenge of any kind. Do not try to crawl under it, with you and your ill-advised hairdo getting too close to the shredded carrots. I don’t care if you’re just trying to reach the artichoke hearts on the back row of options. If you can’t obtain what you want with only minimal effort, then you don’t need it. Pick something else.

  And just because there IS a sneeze guard, it doesn’t mean you can forget about any other civic responsibilities concerning things you might feel compelled to expel from your body. If you feel a sneeze coming on, you step away and you cover things. If you are one of those people who don’t realize that hacking and snorting in public is vile, then you need to just put down your container and leave the area immediately. There’s just no excuse for body noises in a mixed crowd.

3. Some people don’t do well in groups.

  There is a protocol to going through the salad bar line, and it basically comes down to this: Keep Moving. Yes, there’s a bunch of things to pick from, and it can be a little overwhelming during the first few seconds when you survey the scene and decide on the best approach. But you should already know what you like and don’t like, so there’s no need to consult the stars over every ingredient. Get what you need in the current zone, and then take a step forward.

  If you find yourself behind one of those Jerry Springer fans who are mesmerized by the sliced radishes and can’t make a decision, it is perfectly acceptable to show your dissatisfaction. Go ahead, crowd them a bit. Try reaching for something that is technically in their temporary jurisdiction. Use your elbows, if necessary. If all else fails, and the loser is still befuddled and non-moving, take whatever dish it is that they are staring at and throw it off the back of the salad bar. Done. Now go.

  Oh, and one final thing with this party train business. If you decide that you now want something you passed up in a zone that is behind you, you DO NOT push your way back to that zone, expecting people to accommodate your worthlessness. You step out of line, forfeiting your position, and you start OVER at the back of the line. There is no discussion here. Violation of this rule lead can lead to justifiable homicide.

4. Variety is not necessarily a good thing.

  Although it can be initially intoxicating to encounter a salad bar with hundreds of options, further study will reveal that most of it is for show, with mystifying bogus items that are actually a little frightening if you think about it. Do you really want some of these things on your salad? Of course you don’t, no one in their right mind would want pickled beets or grilled tofu. These things just sit there, never touched, becoming just like those satellite TV channels in the upper hundreds that nobody watches.

5. There is no “five-second-rule” when you are in public.

  If you are uncoordinated and manage to drop a piece of something before it gets in your container, you must be very careful with your next move in order to avoid social ostracism. If the bit of whatever lands in the ice, you can possibly flip it back into the bowl it came out of and no one will notice. (Relax, this is not a sin, the ice will kill the bacteria). But if the AWOL ingredient lands outside the iced area, you just let it lay there. Do NOT pick it up, because it is now officially contaminated. Pretend like you didn’t notice and keep moving.

6. Some people are just pigs.

  But don’t get too carried away with the food flopping, or you will fall into this mortifying category. How is it that some people manage to make a mess from one end of the salad bar to the other? What are they doing to cause this? You’ve seen the damage before, when you innocently waltz up to the bar, and it looks like the dollar bin at Wal-Mart, with crap thrown everywhere, cheese mashed on the sneeze guard, and the salad dressing tubs knocked over. Did some beast just kill its prey?

7. Some people misunderstand the appropriate time for social-networking.

  The salad bar is not one of those opportunities. In fact, it’s basically quiet time. I don’t need to hear anything about why you are having a salad today, what ingredients are your favorite, or what surprising things you may have learned on your last doctor visit when everybody was having a good laugh over your chart.. Shut up. Even if you’re my friend or we’re related. Go down there by the croutons and talk to them.

8. The salad dressing choices are always limited.

  Yes, they might have several varieties, causing some preliminary anticipation and excitement. But again, analysis will reveal that you don’t even want most of these things. What is the purpose of low-fat blue cheese dressing? The whole point of blue cheese is the flavor of the delicious fat grams. Why mess with perfection by trying to make it healthy and therefore tasteless? And all that vinaigrette mess? Vinaigrette anything is just water with some herbs floating in it, it’s not dressing. I doesn’t matter how “balsamic” it might be.

9. In the end, it’s all about the numbers.

  If you find yourself at one of those “one price, all you can eat, pile it on” kind of places, you don’t have to worry too much about what you’re shoving into the container. (In fact, go a little crazy. Pull up to the bar in a Mack truck if you want, and use a shovel.) But if it’s a “by the ounce” establishment, and you’re on any kind of budget, you have to pay attention to what you’re doing. Otherwise, you can quickly end up having to decide between actually purchasing the salad or making your car payment.

  Meat is heavy. Yes, you need a few of those chicken or ham cubes for the protein, but use some common sense. Don’t go hurling entire carcasses around like the Donner Party on a bender. Stay away from pasta salads. From a weight and cost perspective, these things might as well be concrete blocks with a splash of mayo. And don’t touch the cucumbers. After all, cucumbers are really just water trapped in a oddly-oily green casing. They serve no purpose other than to make you burp. Water is normally free. Don’t spend good money on it.

  Follow these rules and you won’t find yourself making the march of shame to the register, forking over twenty-seven dollars for something you’re not going to finish anyway and will probably throw away after you’ve picked out all the good stuff.

10. The world is full of lies about healthy food.

  One of those falsehoods concerns the supposed supernatural benefits of having a nice salad for lunch. Pretentious people who graduated from obscure universities want you to THINK this is a health-positive activity, but it’s not. Look at all that crap on the salad bar. Cheese (usually several kinds), olives, bacon, boiled eggs, and the number one artery-clogging devil product, that salad dressing. These things are dripping with fat and cholesterol. You might as well have the cheeseburger after all.

  The only real way to lose weight at the salad bar is to limit yourself to just the lettuce, the celery, and the carrot shreds. Maybe a sprinkle of pepper. That’s it. And who wants to do that? You will completely lose your mind in three days on such a diet, assuming that you still have the strength at that point to even realize that you’ve gone over the edge.

  It’s not worth the pain. Just eat what you want. Except for the pickled beets. Our friendship is over if you do that…

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Backup Dancers From Hell: Jason Derulo - “In My Head”

We get things started outside some convenience store, because that’s apparently where all the hot girls hang. There’s some people standing around that we don’t know, some of them flirting, others posing in a way that indicates how much they really like wearing odd clothing. Jason is just standing there, looking a little bored or maybe he forgot his lines, not sure.

Then three girls come prancing out of the store, looking like RuPaul just rang a bell and the drag race is on. Jason is immediately infatuated with the third girl, probably because her hair is the prettiest and she has more zippers than anybody else. Jason decides that the best way to impress her is to start singing a Top 40 hit, despite the fact that she might not care for such things and just wants to eat her beef jerky.

Of course, the first line Jason sings is his name, because that’s what people mystifyingly do these days. (I don’t really get that. What serious songwriter is going to go “hey, what this song really needs is for you to product place YOURSELF, right here. That will make the song perfect!”) Once Jason gets to the less self-involved part of the lyrics, we start getting flash cuts of Jason (I’m guessing) shadow-boxing with himself.

Anyway, while Jason sings, Pretty Girl just kind of struts around the parking lot. She know she hot. In fact, she decides to play hard to get, and starts flirting with one of the extras standing nearby, which makes Jason jealous and he snatches her away. Now that they are officially a couple, because that’s all it takes these days, Pretty Girl now gets to appear along with Jason in the flashing shadow scenes, where the first thing she does is grab her breasts, because she’s a good Christian girl and all.

Now that Pretty Girl has been upgraded to co-star billing, she smiles a little bit more and lets the camera get close-ups of her high-heeled boots. In the shadow scenes, she kicks the “dancing” into over-drive, raising her hands over her head and really thinking she’s in a scene from “Flashdance”. (Jason, if you’re keeping score, is still doing some kind of kung-fu crap that isn’t very sexy and doesn’t help move the story along.)

Meanwhile, in the parking lot, the rest of the folks are pairing off into couples and making eyes at one another. They don’t seem to be paying any attention to Jason, which is kind of rude considering all the trouble he went to setting up a sound system at the convenience store. Jason doesn’t seem to mind, focusing on Pretty Girl, because he’s never seen anyone stay on their feet this long wearing heels that high, although she’s cheating a little by leaning against a car.

Then we a have a bridge in the song, where Jason breathes really heavily like he’s doing a voiceover for an Advair commercial. This causes the shadow couple to do a few naughty moves, and we learn that Pretty Girl is very limber and just might possibly be going into labor. She disappears from the shadow scenes for a little bit, probably looking for someone who can hold the baby until she’s done dancing, which leaves Jason by himself, pretending to be a mime in France.

Back in the parking lot, some loser tries to steal Pretty Girl away from Jason, which means they have to dance away from him, making sure they stomp on the beat. Pretty Girl looks a little irritated, mostly because of the attempted abduction, but she’s also not pleased that she can’t lean on the car anymore. Maybe she’s anemic.

Oh wait, now the two of them are in what looks like a jail cell, while an odd blue light makes their outfits look shiny. Pretty Girl is back to her happy place, because she can lean on the bars while Jason sings, staring at his chin and wondering why he didn’t finish shaving that morning. The prison bars apparently make her feel pretty sexy, because she squirms a lot and pouts her lips.

We are still getting jump cuts of the shadow dancers, but I’m pretty bored with that. You can’t really see anything, it’s hard to tell what they’re doing, and Jason is still convinced that marital arts are somehow romantic. But at least Pretty Girl found a daycare center, because she’s back in the action, touching herself like the Divinyls said she should.

It’s the parking lot again, with PG back against the car, and we get close-ups of Jason comparing his shoes to her boots. (I guess footwear is really important to the younger crowd.) It looks like Jason somehow wins the shoe competition, because then he and two buddies get to have a dance-off in two conveniently-empty parking spaces.

So they hop around in formation for a bit, because synchronized dancing is always happening at places where you can buy Slushees and rolling papers. We’ve seen it all before, and better, so even Pretty Girl gets bored and starts talking to somebody else, because she can’t be in a relationship with someone who has better shoes.

Jason, realizing he needs to kick things up a notch, sends his backup dancers scurrying into the night, and then does a solo dance, which clearly shows that although he may have seen the “Billie Jean” video a lot, he didn’t really pay attention and can only half-ass do the moves. In desperation, he does this weird spinning thing that causes his shadow self to start wearing a red shirt. The backup homies race in just long enough to remind Jason that no dance sequence is complete without a crotch grab, so they all do that.

Finally, Jason stops dancing and we can relax a little bit. As the song fades away, we learn that Jason was only imagining the encounter with Pretty Girl, and now he approaches her without all the singing and dancing and shoe-comparing. She smiles at him and asks “Haven’t we met before?”

Uh, yeah. You were giving birth to his child just three minutes ago. God these people have short attention spans…

Click Here to Watch the Video on YouTube.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

10 Reasons Why the “24” Finale Provides Useful Survival Tips

1. Don’t get an office with a view of the city.

  Although you might enjoy getting up close and personal with smog, and pigeons who apparently consume a lot of fiber, it’s really not a good idea to have one or more office walls composed of plate glass. This allows very bitter men with high-powered rifles to both torment you with rude wireless calls as well as potentially take your life in a non-pleasing manner.

  Instead, you should arrange for your office to be securely located somewhere in the interior of the building or, better yet, in a bunker far below the surface of the earth. This is especially important if your daily activities include killing innocent people and/or lying to the President. People don’t take these things lightly, and there could be retribution.

  On a related note, if you stupidly took the glass-walled office anyway, and you have just survived a narrow brush with death by rifle-fire, you should immediately vacate the office as soon as possible. Don’t stand there and breathe heavily, mopping your sweaty face with a fine-linen handkerchief that you probably stole from one of your victims. Run like the wind and fill out some change-of-address cards.

2. Don’t get a job transporting lying government workers in fancy limos.

  Despite the fact that you are just innocently steering the vehicle and not an actual participant in the deadly cover-up, your life will be considered expendable if enraged people show up with guns and ugly masks, especially if you do something careless like ask one of the thugs why they are being so pushy. You will be mowed down and left to bleed, with no one even bothering to check on you because your name was not in the opening credits and your survival is not critical.

  If times are tough, and the chauffer gig is the only thing you can find, you should at least take preventative measures to ensure your safety. If hooligans approach the vehicle with the apparent intent of foul play, always remember that guests should be treated cordially. Let them do what they want, offer hors d’oeuvres, and discreetly point out exactly where they can find their victim. It doesn’t matter if your passenger might take this as a sign of rudeness. Since he will be dead within 15 seconds, you will most likely not get a tip, and perhaps the still-living hoodlums might need a ride somewhere. Hey, you gotta pay the light bill somehow.

3. Don’t trust the Russians.

Yes, we’re supposed to be all politically correct these days, leaving the Cold War behind us and such, but things aren’t working out as planned. Somebody somewhere didn’t get a memo and the Russians, despite whatever they are calling their country this week, are still mean people with violent tendencies and surnames that have too many consonants. They will kill people you love, especially if you’ve just had sex, and they will feel no remorse whatsoever. Delete them from your Facebook friends immediately.

4. Don’t work as an assistant for busy political figures.

  While you might get to experience a few exciting moments, such as random gunfire at Starbuck’s or running through old subway tunnels while people yell into walkie-talkies, most of your time will be fairly boring. You have to take calls from people with strange accents, and then go interrupt your employer while she’s playing bridge with the Sultan of Brunei. You have to get her a glass of water when she needs to take tranquilizers after threatening foreign heads of state. And you have to look at her with sad disappointment when she violates two-thirds of the Constitution with one aggressive conversation.

5. Stay away from vending machines.

  It’s not just the threat of a sugar coma that you have to worry about with these things. Apparently they also serve as tracking devices, capturing your scurrying image and then broadcasting it to the laptop of horny CTU workers named after dead folk singers. (Let’s not dwell on how Arlo managed to find that one fleeting snapshot of Jack, accomplished in roughly 37 seconds, despite the fact that all known frequencies have been jammed in the entire city. Never dig very deep when it comes to “24” logic. Madness lies in that direction.)

6. Be aware that your ears can be considered snacks by certain members of society.

  This should be fairly understandable. No further detail is necessary.

7. Don’t go near any of the United Nations buildings.

  Apparently they are not very safe, judging by the sheer number of unpleasant things which took place in or near these structures this season. No wonder we don’t have more peace treaties signed in the world. The delegates are too scared to show up, what with all the breaking and entering and dying and poor room service. And the Russians. Stay at the Holiday Inn instead, where death is not surprising and the press won’t bother you.

8. Learn how to drive a drone.

  These are magnificent flying devices which allow you to gather intel about anyone in the city, regardless of what they are doing, where they are doing it, or how many protective measures they’ve taken to stop you from seeing any of this. Oh, and these things can shoot missiles as well. (Which sort of begs the question: If they can do all this, why do we even need CTU? But I digress.) This is not your grandpa’s Hindenburg.

9. Learn how to sew.

  You never know when you might suffer a serious injury that requires your skills with a needle and thread, although in a pinch you can always use weaponry to make other people stitch you up. In any case, once the sewing is done, you will instantly feel better and stop bleeding immediately, allowing you to continue with the head-butting and the single-handed decimation of an entire police force using only a crouton and some dental floss.

10. If you want to end a series on a perfect note, have Jack Bauer on a giant video screen, tenderly saying goodbye to Chloe.

  Perfect, right?

  (And you’re lying if you say you didn’t cry.)

  End trans.

Monday, May 24, 2010

10 Reasons Why the “Lost” Finale Can Save Your Life

  Okay, I’ll try not to get into whether or not that final episode made me happy. Let’s just say that after 6 years of investment, I expected a bigger payoff. Anyway, to keep things fun and happy, let’s focus on the kind efforts of the producers to provide us with life-saving tips. And here we go…

1. If you run across a sacred fountain that somehow controls the world, don’t pull on the shiny plug in the middle of the water.

  Well, if you actually need to kill a “man in black” who can’t be killed, then I guess it’s okay to screw around with the plug. Otherwise, don’t mess with that thing. Islands start to sink and pretty observation areas fall into the sea. And it makes it very hard for planes to take off on a sandy runway. Besides, there’s that electro-shock issue. If you are approaching an object that causes you to vibrate and your nose to bleed, you probably shouldn’t be re-arranging the furniture. Climb back up the water wall and go do something else, like hotwire a VW Bus and drink generic beer.

2. Don’t fall in love with people named Jack.

  You will never get enough validation in this relationship. Sure, he might tell you he loves you as an island is disintegrating around you, but that’s more of a gut reflex, don’t you think? Wouldn’t it have been more satisfying if he told you this at some other point in your past, like when you were in a relationship together for a few years, raising a child that’s not your own and all?

3. Don’t attend rock concerts if you are pregnant.

  This can only lead to unsavory conditions where you shoot a kid out in a backstage area while roadies freak and don’t know what to do. Yes, you might reconnect with a long lost love who has no qualms about playing peek-a-boo with your birth-goo covered child, but there are other factors to consider. Like the fact that you have to make unattractive facial expressions during the delivery process while a certain curly-haired costar gets better lighting and doesn’t have her legs in the air.

4. Don’t try to live in a secluded part of an island and assume that nobody will find you.

  Rose and Bernard, although we basically like you and enjoyed your back-story, you should have known that this whole hermit thing would never work. Yes, I understand that the producers have constantly shown us parts of the island that “no one has ever seen before despite the limited acreage”, with mystifying settings popping up just so they can make the script work. But you should have realized that sooner or later people named Desmond and Locke would invade your private sanctuary, causing discomfort and awkwardness. Just because Bernard now has unruly hair doesn’t mean that you are excluded from the rules.

5. Even if you were killed off early in a series run, there is always hope for a return engagement.

  However, this can be a tricky thing for the audience. We may not necessarily WANT to see the people they bring back. To be fair, Boone and Shannon had their interesting moments back in the day, but seriously, did we really need to see that alley fight? (And what was up with Shannon’s hair? Did it hurt when they styled it?)

  Along the same lines, bringing folks back for a quickie cameo can mess with the rhythm of the show. When these actors suddenly pop up as a different character, instead of paying attention to the current plot developments, you instead spend your time wondering “Hey, how did she die the first time? Something about kumquats?” Next thing you know, you’ve lost the story thread and will have to get on the Internet later.

6. If your mother is Allison Janney, don’t listen to her or accept proffered beverages.

  She lies. And is apparently incapable of finishing a weaving project.

7. Stay out of montages where sad music is playing and short snippets of your life are being displayed on the screen.

  This won’t end well. Something tragic is about to happen, unpleasant revelations are about to surface, or, at the very least, you are actually about to become even more confused than ever before, with mystifying screen shots of statues, and the introduction of additional characters, when you already can’t keep track of the current cast list and the opening credits take twenty minutes just to list all the actors. Oh, and somebody’s probably going to punch Ben in the face, because that hasn’t happened for at least three scenes and we can’t have that.

8. Your life will change if you just touch people.

  Tired of total strangers staring at you with a slightly misty expression, as if they might possibly recognize you, or at least think they have the same outfit at home? Well then, just march up to them and grasp whichever hand they are not using to keep their place in the script. Suddenly, you will be treated to a nice little movie that plays in your head, causing you to gasp and realize that you’ve had sex with the person standing before you, only the set decorations were a little different and sand was somehow involved.

  Then some stirring them music will play, allowing you to clutch the other person as you are overwhelmed with memories of a past life when you had a really long time-share on some island. You’ll probably cry, because it’s really emotional and you miss the long walks on the beach in the moonlight, except for the times flaming arrows would fall out of the sky or mean people would kidnap you.

 9. Avoid bamboo.

  Granted, it’s really earth-friendly to grow these trees and then make pricey home décor products out of them, but there is a down side. You should refrain from randomly wandering through a forest of bamboo, especially if you are bleeding from the stomach and all of your friends are busy boarding a plane or pouting on a rock because they didn’t get picked by Jacob. If you don’t get out of that forest in a timely manner, eventually you will fall down and die, but it will take you several seasons to figure this out.

10. If the coffin is empty, run like hell.

  Don’t stop and chat with deceased relatives, don’t ask questions where the answers will disappoint you, and, most importantly, don’t go into the church where “everyone is waiting for you”. It’s a trap. Even though all of your friends are there (or at least the ones who are still on the payroll), and they all seem to be happy that you accepted the invite, there’s one thing they are not telling you:

  If you head toward the light, Carol Anne, it means the series is over and you have to get another job. Do you really want that? Didn’t think so. Head back to the Pearl Station, lock the door, punch the button every 108 minutes, blame Penny for this somehow being all her fault even if it wasn‘t her boat, and pray that the writers can come up with a flash-forward that can get you out of yet another logic mess…

Saturday, May 22, 2010

10 Reasons Why John Saul Books Are Just Like Real Life

1. People don’t pay any attention to what’s going on around them.

  This is a general theme in all of his books, with the townsfolk taking forever to figure out that something is not quite right in their little burgh. Sure, we always have ONE character who clues in fairly early, but this person is always regarded with suspicion and non-validation. In fact, the townsfolk will make very effort to institutionalize this person and their wild imagination if they don’t shut up.

  Everyone else goes on about their day, ignoring the obvious warning signs. (A mutilated corpse was found at Dairy Queen! The kindergarten class has an odd fondness for meat cleavers! The mailman is levitating!) Instead, they just continue watching “Ellen” or preparing for the bake sale at the youth center, which will turn out to be scene of a horrific slaughter-fest in the final chapters. (Don’t go near the raisin pie!)

2. When confronted with a potential crisis, most people choke.

  The few people who DO manage to connect the dots then go into total responsive failure. Rather than immediately packing up the kids and heading to a larger town where John Saul characters don’t usually live, they instead sit around in their unsafe domiciles and talk about what they might need to do. This accomplishes nothing, of course, other than allowing time for the night creatures to find weapons of mass destruction and practice killing lesser characters.

3. People sure sleep a lot.

  When the clueless and non-evacuating people get done talking (usually over coffee, because John Saul characters always have endless addictions to go with their inability to concentrate on the lethal possibilities around them), they then all head off to bed, hoping that “things will be better in the morning”.

  Things are never better in the morning. In fact, if you even LIVE to see the morning, you’re already on the bonus plan. (Surviving until daylight also means that you have a dark secret in your past, and you will have to spill this tea at some later point, so be prepared for a lengthy monologue in a later scene, where you suddenly remember that the killer’s eyes look just like Aunt Sarah’s did before she went insane in 1947 and killed that cheerleader with a blowtorch.)

  Besides, we all know that most of the gruesome mayhem occurs at night, so don’t slack off and try to sleep. Death and destruction in the pretty sunshine is just not as much fun. It is much more emotionally effective for the psychotic farmhand to be running after you at midnight, waving a pitchfork and confusing you with his sadistic uncle who was overly fond of the livestock. When it’s dark, you have a much better chance of tripping over a pocket of air in the evil cornfield, thus allowing John Saul to use his superlative narrative skills as you are dismembered, clutching the very bracelet that could have saved you if you’d only known how to open it.

4. People are ill-prepared for dangerous situations.

  Okay, these characters are already reality-challenged by not leaving town the very second the first odd death takes place, so we know we don’t have the sharpest tools in the shed. But still, why would you sneak into the ancient church, hoping to find out more about the demonic rituals you suspect are taking place, without taking a gun or letting people know what’s on your social calendar? Why would you go back to the used-car lot, where your best friend Franny was impaled on the flagpole, riding your bicycle with the chain that always breaks?

  And why in the WORLD would you march into the blackness of something called Rotted Death Cave, without taking a flashlight, rope, medical supplies, an oxygen tank, the jaws of life, and several pals who have already BEEN in the cave before and/or have appeared in other John Saul books and can point out where the monsters dwell. But no, these idiots go clattering to their deaths with nothing but a tube top and some flip-flops.

5. People don’t listen.

  If a haggard woman you’ve never met approaches you in the grocery store, warning of the dangers to be found at Hangman’s Bluff, listen to her. If you answer the phone and a mysterious voice tells you not to order the hamburger surprise at the local diner tonight, then don’t. In fact, eat in. If the town drunk, who never talks to anybody, suddenly hands you a garlic necklace, then wear it. See how this works? Take notes, stay alive, and hope there’s a sequel.

6. Authority figures should never be trusted.

  There’s always a police officer, lawyer or crossing guard in town that is working for the dark side. Keep this in mind. If they were really looking out for your best interests, they would have captured the killer in the first few chapters and this would be a book about picnics and spiritual growth. It’s not. Be prepared.

7. Never trust a small town with a cute name.

  Do not move to places like “Happy Meadow” or “Clear-Skin Cove”. Nothing good can come of this relocation, no matter how many relatives you have there or even if it’s the place you grew up. And by no means should you select a town with a population under 5,000. That’s total madness. Suck it up and move somewhere named “Insanity Gulch”. At least you’ll know what to expect, and you won’t waste time trusting neighbors that only want to eviscerate you.

8. Avoid families with money.

  It’s a known fact that rich people are serial killers. They’ve got too much time on their hands, and they will eventually turn to the dark arts out of sheer boredom. And if the town is named after their family? Even worse. Never speak to these people. Make friends with the vagrants on the wrong side of the tracks, because they can’t afford to pay off the sheriff or plant evidence. And when you have that inevitable affair with one of the rich sons, because you’re a tramp? Keep it purely physical, and make him leave the light on when you’re at the motel.

9. Children will disappoint you in the end.

  And here we have another central John Saul theme: the angelic children with their pesky mental illnesses that lead to overtime in the coroner’s office. You should never turn your back on these little urchins, and by no means should you ever believe anything they say. They only want to kill you. Especially if they have blonde hair.

10. Happiness never lasts.

  Although John Saul generally wraps up his stories by ending the main section of the book on a slightly positive note (even if most of the characters are dead or confined to mental asylums), he can’t help but add an epilogue. And these addendums are never fun. We always learn that the pain and torment is not over. The madman didn’t really die, the government conspiracy is still going on, the spirits of unfairly-treated victims are still pissed off, or the hostess is still making those appetizers that nobody wants.

  But try and get some sleep. Things will be better in the morning…

Friday, May 21, 2010

Backup Dancers From Hell: Usher featuring - “OMG”

Well, there’s not a whole lot going on in this video, so I’ll have to dig deep to find the mystical symbolism. I’m sure it’s there, because nobody in the entertainment industry would make a pointless video that means nothing, right? Anyway, here goes.

We start out looking at this old-timey TV set displaying flickering images of Usher and/or poltergeists. Why they would be using an ancient TV like this, I don’t know, because there are plenty of new-fangled sets out there and you know User can afford them. The camera starts zooming in while the music starts and Usher utters “oh my gosh” for the first of 7,235 times. Trust me, you will hate that phrase within two minutes.

Then we apparently enter the TV, just like that movie “Videodrome” where lots of people died. Usher appears to be trapped in a room with lots of blue laser lights criss-crossing the room. (Is he trying to rob a bank? Why is Usher insisting on pretending that he’s poor in this video?)

Oh look, the screen splits into two and now we have on the left, in his own room with lasers. His laser beams are orange, though. I’m sure the different colors mean something (rankings on the Billboard chart?) but it’s not clear. We cut between the two for a little bit, so you can understand who is in which room. With two different people singing, it can get very confusing.

Then we have a close-up of Usher, as he’s pulling down what looks like the cowl neck of his black shirt, uncovering his mouth so he can start singing. He wants to love us down, which is nice and all, but you’d think he would have finished dressing before the video started.

Now Usher starts doing what might be dance moves, but they are very complicated and involve a lot of hand-pointing. These gestures seem to make the laser beams move around the room. Quick shot of also wiggling and pointing, and suddenly the objective is clear: they have to dance their way past the security system or Tom Cruise will kill them. Got it.

This goes on for a while, so those must be some really smart laser beams. Or the guys just don’t know what they’re doing. Still, I hope they make it, because even if I don’t like the song, I really don’t want there to be a tragic end to this video. Because then they’ll pre-empt all my favorite TV shows while Larry King interviews the survivors, and I don’t think I can look at Larry’s suspenders one more time.

Oh wait, looks like at least Usher made it out alive, because suddenly he’s in a white room with lots of go-go-booted women who can’t keep still. The girls are hopping all over the place, doing things which include troubling crotch-thrusting, while Usher is acting like he’s on the runway in Milan. (Just a suggestion: maybe if the girls weren’t wearing leather bras, they might be a little more comfortable and wouldn’t need to thrust so much.)

Somewhere along the line, Usher picks up a fancy pair of sunglasses. We zoom in on those, and we are treated to reflections of people dancing around. (While Usher poses with his shades, we get quick shots of the lady dancers still trying to get away from the uncomfortable undergarments and the go-go boots.) Hey look, Usher is tapping a finger on the side of his head EXACTLY to the beat of the song. He is SO talented. Gosh.

Now Usher is wearing a trench coat and standing in front of what looks like a steel-plated wall. He does this little spinning move that causes his shadow to split into two shadows, and the shadows start dancing to a different song. Oh, now there’s four shadows. Not sure what the producers are trying to say. Does Usher have multiple personalities? (If that’s the case, I wonder which shadow is the one that didn’t get enough attention as a child?) Or are the producers just too cheap to hire actual dancers?

Okay, what is THIS? Usher is now leaping about two stories high and twirling in the air. Does he believe he can fly? Isn’t that somebody else’s song? This makes the shadows dance even harder, probably because they’re jealous that they don’t have their own jet packs. All of this activity causes the steel wall to drop, and we learn that it was just a fancy curtain. Well, that was pretty stupid.

Back to, who’s still trapped in his laser room, which means Usher is winning at this game. But at least has some company now, in the form of another tightly-dressed dancer who really enjoys posing with her booty out while her face is covered in a fishnet stocking. She proves to be a very busy girl, running all over the room like the po-po be knockin’ on the door, but doesn’t care, since it’s time for his solo and she can prance around all she wants as long as the camera stays on HIM.

Then we cut back to Usher (I’m assuming it’s Usher, because he’s rudely walking away from us and you can’t really tell) in a room that has apparently been rigged for 3-D filming. I’m only guessing, though, based on the weird red and green out-of-focus crap that is going on. It might just be poor camerawork or the medication I’m taking.

Usher is joined by two male backup dancers, and all of them start puffing on cigars while dancing, because we all know it’s so much easier to keep the beat when you’re sucking burning smoke into your lungs. The tobacco also causes them to do slightly suggestive things with the derby hats they are wearing, like blowing smoke rings while humping the headwear. I’ve never tried this, so I can’t speak from experience, but it doesn’t look like much fun. I guess you have to have a hit album or two to really enjoy it.

Then a red light comes on, and female dancers come piling out from somewhere. The girls mostly gyrate and raise their hands to the sky, thanking the Lord for this gig and the chance to feel tight leather in personal spaces, while the guys do some choreography that involves push-ups, squatting, and standing on their tippy-toes. Meanwhile, some of the female dancers find some convenient metal bars that allow them to spin around like Mary Lou Retton in a porn movie.

Finally, Usher decides that he’s earned his paycheck for the day, so he turns and walks off the set while the camera moves backwards and we pop out of the creepy old TV. Hmm. Interesting. Now, where’s the remote so I can change the channel?


Click Here to Watch the Video on YouTube.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

10 Reasons Why the Underground Parking Garage at Work Is Just Like Real Life

1. Security gates are mystifying to the average citizen.

Dear incredibly annoying woman operating the non-moving car in front of me: Do you not understand how this works? You take your little badge, you wave it in the general vicinity of the sensor, and the gate will magically raise. It’s not complicated. Quit sitting there in a catatonic state and waiting for Jesus to intervene.

If you don’t have a badge, you shouldn’t be in this lane. That’s why there was the big-ass sign at the entrance to this tunnel, the one that said “Employees Only.” You should be in the other tunnel, the one marked “Visitors”, where they have special lanes for people who don’t normally belong here. Over there, well-trained security specialists will come out to your car and help you get through life. Or shoot you. I really don’t know. I’ve never been in that lane because I know what I’m doing.

If you DO have a badge, and your car is not moving because you are slowly searching for that badge in your crowded purse or the over-stuffed glove box, then this makes you worse than Charles Manson. This security gate is here every time you come down this tunnel. It did not suddenly appear overnight. You should be prepared for the drill. Do not even approach this tunnel unless you already have the badge clutched in your sweaty little hand. If this is too much to ask, then find another job.

2. Sudden blindness can strike at any time.

Plunging from cheery sunshine into subterranean darkness can be a bit alarming, especially if your already old and weakened eyes are covered by designer sunglasses that cost more than a car payment. This can cause something of an issue, because you temporarily can’t see the cars coming OUT of the garage, and they sure as hell aren’t watching for you as they babble on the phone about a tube top they saw at the Wal-Marts. Trust your instincts, keep one foot on the brake, and you’ll be fine.

3. Everybody wants to park on the first level.

It’s just like the parking lot at the local mall. Lazy people will do whatever it takes to park as close to their destination as possible, because God forbid they should have to walk an extra three steps. If this means they have to circle the same area 27 times, they will do it, with their car belching out a cloud of exhaust that could bring down an elephant.

Of course, some of these morons will actually just stop their car in the middle of the road, and just wait for someone to leave. This is fun. No one can get through, no one can get out, and the moron cannot grasp what all the angry honking is about. If you see someone slowing down for no reason, peel out and go around them before you are trapped, even if it means you cause the idiot to slam into a wall. You are doing everyone a favor by knocking them out of the competition.

4. Parking structures are designed by people who drive go-carts.

Seriously, how am I supposed to maneuver down a row that is only three feet wide or fit into a space the size of a hopscotch square? Explain this to me.

5. People think that the rules of the road don’t apply if you can’t see the sky.

Okay, folks, just because your assumption that there are no policemen around is probably correct, this does not mean that you should go wall-eyed crazy with your already questionable driving skills. You still have to yield and you still have to watch for pedestrians. You are not going to win a prize for taking a corner on two wheels or getting from one end of the lot to the other in 3.5 seconds. Knock it off.

And yes, even though you think nobody can see you because you’re “inside”, you are still responsible for your actions. Running over people or slamming into other cars CAN have an impact on your personal freedom and/or insurance bill. This is not a session of Congress. You WILL be held accountable for what you do.

6. Most people ignore speed bumps.

This is going to come as a surprise to you, but speed bumps mean “slow down”. It does not mean “try to hit this thing hard enough that you become airborne”. When a two-ton vehicle leaves the ground, bad things can happen. People already hate you because of your unfriendly driving and ugly outfits. Do you really think you are going to gain popularity by flipping your SUV and killing the nice lady who always brings bagels on Fridays?

In our particular parking structure, the speed bumps are these odd plastic-covered things that make sounds like gunshots when you hit them. It’s very unsettling. So at any given time, you would swear you’re in South L.A. after yet another unsavory jury verdict has been reached.

7. Some people insist on driving a pickup to work that’s the size of New Hampshire.

Where are you going to park that thing? I mean really, none of the spaces are anywhere near that big. Oh, my bad, you couldn‘t care less. You’re going to park wherever you want anyway, taking up three slots, with the truck bed sticking so far out into the aisle that nobody can get through or leave the building until you do. And yet you wonder why your tires are slashed every afternoon.

8. There’s always one car that never moves.

It’s always there, in the same place. You never see anyone near it, no one recognizes it, and there appears to be a layer of dust on the windows. This means that someone is probably dead. But it’s not in your job description to investigate, and you have a presentation due in an hour. Just keep walking.

9. People think you are friends just because they park near you.

Let me clear this up: Just because I am close enough to your car that I can see inside and realize you had McDonald’s for lunch, Taco Bell last night, and something that required a tinfoil wrapping the night before, we are not buddies. Don’t stand there are wait for me to get out of my car so that we can “walk together”. If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t be sitting here in my darkened vehicle, pretending to organize my CD’s or fiddle with something in the passenger seat that isn’t really there.

10. Creepy people like concrete.

Who IS that weird man you always see on the lowest level, standing off in a far corner and watching you walk to your car? Why does he always look so angry as he lurks in the shadows? What makes him so bitter?

Oh wait, that would be me…

Monday, May 17, 2010

Searching For Signal: #129 - “Survivor” - Heroes vs. Villains - Episode 14

So we’re back at camp after Rupert’s eviction at Tribal, and Russell is raging at Sandra for not telling him she had an idol. She stands up to him. “You never told ME when YOU had idols. I didn’t do anything wrong.” Then Russell turns on Parvati, who really didn’t know Sandra’s secret either. “You are LYING, you knew she had it.” Parvati gets fed up, telling Russell: “You need to get over yourself for one minute.”

What a way to start things off. One big, happy family, right?

Cut to Colby in a sidebar, grinning from ear to ear: “Hey, let them go at it. Takes the attention off of ME.”

Roll opening credits.

Now we have tree mail, with a bag of puzzle pieces. Parvati reads the attached note, and it sounds like we’re going to have one of those “balance the dinnerware on a pole” things for the upcoming competition. (What this has to do with puzzle pieces, I have no idea.) Upon hearing this, Colby gets mad and stomps off. What, does he hate plates? Was there an incident at the dinner table during his formative years?

Then we have Russell in a really long sidebar, where we don’t learn anything new. He wants to get rid of Colby, he doesn’t trust Parvati, Sandra is Puerto Rican, there’s sand on the beach. Why are they letting him ramble on forever? I realize the producers consider him the star of the show, but what’s the deal? Then I remember that this is a two-hour episode (followed by a one-hour reunion) and we’re only 10 minutes in. Got it. We gonna have us some filler tonight. Brace yourselves for lots of bogus scenery shots and spiders devouring their prey.

Time for the Immunity Challenge.

And yep, it’s a dish-stacking competition. They each have to stand there with a wiggly pole laid on a divot, then add modified Fiesta Ware to a base on the other end as Jeff calls out the next piece. Almost immediately, Sandra is dealing with broken crockery and a seat on the bench. Jerri is out a bit later, followed by Russell (hurray!) Now it’s down to Colby and Parvati.

Then the wind kicks up, and we get to watch these two sweat and tremble as their towers shimmy and teeter. (Hey, is that Russell on the bench adding his hot air to the gale force?) Then the wind finally dies down, and so does Colby. Parvati wins immunity.

Back at camp, we have Parvati in a sidebar: “This is a HUGE deal. Now we can keep all the Villains and get rid of Colby.” By the way, are we hawking any products this time? Because I’d really like to model again, this rock I’m sitting on is perfect.

Cut to Colby addressing the remaining tribe. He knows he’s the last Hero, and he’s going home. Let’s enjoy the day, I’m not going to hustle anyone. Then we have Colby in a sidebar, with second thoughts: “I don’t know HOW to quit.” Yes, you do, Colby. We’ve seen you do it in just about every competition so far this season. Ain’t been no fire up in your grill.

Then Colby just sits there for a long time while the camera keeps rolling. Not sure what this is all about. Is he on the verge of crying? Is he trying to remember the names of all 50 states? What gives? Then he’s back with us: “So I decided to make one more attempt.”

Colby runs to Russell: If you get rid of Sandra instead of me, there’s a better chance that Parvati won‘t win immunity the next time. Russell in a sidebar: Hmm. Very tempting. But if Colby makes it to the top three, it’s over for me. (You got that right, Squat Tag.) I’ll just make my decision at Tribal.

Cut to Tribal, natch.

Jeff asks Colby what it’s like being the last Hero left. (Jeff, why do you ask these lame-ass questions? What do you THINK it’s like? It sucks.) Colby says that it sucks. Then he also confesses that he tried to convince Russell to get rid of Sandra and keep him. (Sandra makes a face indicating her displeasure with this bit of news.) Jeff asks Sandra if she trusts Russell. Sandra: “This is Survivor, I don’t trust nobody.”

Jeff asks Russell: “Is there anybody that would NOT lie to you?” Russell hems and haws and tries to avoid giving an answer, which is odd because Russell loves to hear himself talk. Jeff turns to Colby: “There’s your hope.”

Time to vote, and that brief hope dies quickly. Four votes for Colby, one for Sandra. Colby and his teeth walk away into the night. Somewhere in the distance, a sad little coyote howls.

The rest of the Survivors march back to camp, with them doing a happy dance about being Final four. (Okay, Russell doesn’t dance. The man has never danced in his life, which is part of his problem.) Parvati in a sidebar: “That thing with Colby was an eye-opener. I really need to win immunity tomorrow.” Honey, it’s Final Four. You need to win immunity even if the other three have cut off a body part to show their allegiance to you.

Russell goes to Jerri: “We HAVE to win immunity tomorrow and get Parvati out.” Jerri nods in enthusiastic agreement, and her hair curls even more at all the excitement.

Next day, we have tree mail again, which includes a map of the “ceremonial beach”. Oh boy, here we go with the personal tribute to the “Survivors who have fallen before them.” So off the four go, traipsing around and collecting the little tags with tribe member names, which they then throw into a roaring bonfire. The mixed message of this stunt always cracks me up. Oh, we love you and had such good times, now DIE a flaming death!

(Side note: That bonfire sure gets really big. Hope it doesn’t jack up air travel like that damn volcano in Iceland.)

Time for the final Immunity Challenge.

This one involves a giant maze, which the Survivors have to navigate while blind-folded, feeling around for symbols on directional signs, retrieving four necklaces, and then racing to where the Immunity Necklace is hanging. Off we go, with poor Parvati slamming into the maze walls every ten seconds (you’d think she would settle down after the first three or so hits) and Russell shoving Parvati out of the way because he’s such a gentleman. Sandra is having the worst time, of course, and probably would be in Ecuador by now if the maze walls hadn’t stopped her.

But it’s a very close race between Parvati, Russell and Jerri. All three of them are literally within inches of each other at the very end, with Russell getting there just a half second before the other two. Russell wins final immunity and is guaranteed Final Three. The world is no longer safe.

Jerri in a sidebar: “Parvati’s going home.” Chickens before they’re hatched? Don’t count them.

Russell in a sidebar: “I’m taking Sandra for sure.” Whatever, Russell. You’ll change your mind seven times before the next commercial.

Sandra in a sidebar: “Russell wants to take me because he thinks I won’t get a single vote. But I don’t know about that.” Then she grins.

Quick scene with Russell, Jerri and Sandra, swearing Final Three to the end.

Parvati, who’s been sporting an ugly sack dress the last few days instead of her bikini, with no explanation given, goes to Russell: “Get rid of Sandra.” Russell: “Jerri and Sandra are my best bet right now.” So sorry.

Russell in a sidebar: “If I send Jerri to the jury, I know I’ll still get her vote. If I send Parvati, I might not.” (NOW he’s going to worry about who is on the jury? Dude, a bit late for that.)

Final Tribal.

Sandra: “Russell tells me all the time I can’t win.”

Russell: “Alliances are gonna get broken tonight.”

Parvarti: “I feel very vulnerable.”

Jerri: I don’t know which way to flip this time. What can I do to prove I have no will of my own?

Then Russell and Parvati get into it, mainly over Parv claiming that the two of them have been protecting each other, and Russ claiming “I’ve been protecting YOU” the whole time. They are not very nice to one another. End result, things just don’t look very good for Parvati.

So the final vote surprises me. Three votes for Jerri, only one for Parvati. Wow. A very confused Jerri wanders away into the darkness.

Back at camp, the next day, Russell is being a jerk, mostly bickering with Parvati but swiping at Sandra as well. When Russell runs off to try and form an alliance with a tree, Sandra snatches up that damn hat he’s been wearing all over the place and throws it in the fire. “THAT’S how much game I got.” Sandra deserves a bump for that move.

Time for the Final Three to face the jury.

The opening statements of the Final Three can be summarized by single quotes.

Sandra: “I did it by MYSELF.” True enough, nobody has had the girl’s back since Courtney got sent packing back in the day.

Russell: “If I did anything to offend anyone, I apologize.” This is so out of character for Russell, the entire jury just stares at him in stunned amazement, not buying it for a second. Look, you little urchin, what did you do that did NOT offend anyone?

Parvati: “I needed protection, so I kept Russell as my pet, but I played the ultimate game.” A little bit weak there, Parvati, and not really believable. And why do you still have that ugly dress on?

Then the jury gets a turn.

Colby: “Russell, you are delusional.” (Nail on the head.)

Coach: “Russell, you are a very little man in stature.” (And in other ways.) “Sandra, you were useless.” And as for Parvati, “You were a warrior in challenges.” (Gee, wonder who Coach is voting for?) He ends with “As a Christian, I came in here with no pre-conceived ideas of how I’m going to vote.” Hmm. Looks like Coach had a religious conversion while sitting in the jury house. How nice for him.

Amanda only has one question, for Sandra: “How could your strategy have been better?” Sandra: “Well, if my strategy had been better, then Russell would have been gone by now. I could never get the Heroes on my side.” (Pan to the Heroes on the jury, deservedly staring at the ground in embarrassment.)

Courtney is full of nothing but love for Sandra, babbling about “loyalty” and having each other’s back until the end. She glares at the other two, and then waits for the wind to blow her anemic body back to the jury stand.

JT to Russell: “You think these people are gonna vote for you?” Russell: “They’ll respect me.” Then JT actually appears to be giving slight props to Russell, but Russell can’t just take the sort-of compliment and has to run his mouth. JT gets fed up and just walks away.

Danielle to Russell: “You obviously have a lack of skill in your jury management. Would you change anything that you’ve done?” Russell: “I wouldn’t change a thing, and I’m not gonna say what you want to hear.” Danielle: “Well, you’re not gonna get any votes.”

At this point, the only one to show even slight love for Russell has been JT, and Russell’s arrogance STILL got in the way and scuttled that. I’m starting to get a warm fuzzy.

Jerri to Russell: “The plan was to take me. What happened?” Russell spews some double-talk that doesn’t make any sense. Parvati happily steps in: “He told ME that he knows 100% that he’s got your vote,” and that’s why he did it. Jerri and her hair do not take kindly to this revelation. Another vote in the toilet, Russell.

Candice to Russell: “I understand that you have to tell lies, but you went too far, telling vicious and dirty lies that hurt people.” (Conveniently, no one challenges Candice on her lies, so she turns and marches away, being careful to walk just right so her blonde hair looks really pretty in the fire light.)

Rupert to Russell: It’s hard playing this game with integrity. Being a “manipulative, deceiving, lying person is very easy.” To Sandra: “I was swayed by Russell” and his lies. “You deserve a big thank you” for what you tried to do. (Sandra chokes up a little bit, either with emotion or because a June bug flew in her mouth.) To Parvati: “You aligned with Russell, but at least YOU deserve to be here.”

Time to vote.

Interestingly enough, they actually show us what six of the Survivors write down.

Jerri, Danielle and Coach vote for Parvati.

Candice, Courtney and Rupert vote for Sandra.

We don’t see how JT, Colby and Amanda vote, but one thing is clear: There’s no way that Russell can win.

We do the mystical transition thing and suddenly we are in New York City for the results.

Parvati only got the three votes we’ve already seen.

Sandra gets the remaining votes, and wins Survivor for the second time.

Russell doesn’t get a single vote.

I smile and put down my pen on another season of Survivor, ready to relax and watch the reunion show. No need to take notes now. I already know how this is going to go: A full hour of Russell in denial, Sandra throwing out snappy one-liners, and the other 18 Survivors sharpening their knives for the Munchkin Feast. Good times…

Friday, May 14, 2010

Searching For Signal: #128 - “Survivor” - Heroes vs. Villains - Episode 13

Post Tribal, everybody moseys back to camp, where the Villains scramble to figure out how to repair the damage after Russell managed to send one of their own home. At first, I’m pretty psyched, because I’m fully expecting Parvati to tear Russell a new one. Sadly, this does not happen.

Parvati in a sidebar: “I completely distrust Russell, but I need him so we can get rid of Rupert and Colby first.” Okay, hold up, Teeth Girl, let’s break this down. Russell just knocked off your bestie Danielle, and now you don’t have anybody to play Swimsuit Model with. Why are you focused on two Heroes that don’t have the numbers to do any real damage to the Villains?

Then we have Jerri, Russell and Parvati talking shop and discussing the same thing. Gotta get rid of those Heroes, because there’s SO many of them left and all. They completely ignore the elephant on the island, which is that Russell and Parvati can’t stand each other and Jerri has flipped so many times she needs a chiropractor. Good luck with the trust factor, guys.

Russell in a sidebar: “Parvati has nobody but ME now.” Then he kills a baby turtle with one of the machetes he’s stolen.

Roll opening credits.

Next morning, we get tree mail in the form of a box. Just to make sure we all understand that it’s time for some product placement, the box has “Sprint” stamped all over it. Inside is a Palm Pre. (Imagine that!) The Survivors all stand around and fiddle with the phone, shoving it at the camera so we can see that, yep, it’s powered by Sprint.

(Side note to the Sprint PR people: Maybe you didn’t think this one through. Instead of marveling at your piece of technology, I was turned off by the filthy fingers of the Survivors as they pushed the buttons. This made me not want to own a phone model that dirty people would use. Think about it.)

The phone also has videos of a family member for each of the Survivors. Apparently, these family members have just been whisked to the island so they can help out in the Reward Challenge, and are now standing behind a tree somewhere. Which means that we now must proceed to the Challenge so these relatives can come out of hiding.

So we cut to yet another area of the island where the Survivor producers have pretended that they didn’t disturb the natural environment, but you know they did. (How else are they going to have room for all the cameras, crew and those annoying Medical people that only speak Australian?) Immediately, Jeff starts plugging the wonders of the Sprint Palm Pre, in case we haven’t been paying attention up to this point. Based on his glowing words, you’d think this instrument can stop global warming as well as free Tibet.

Then Jeff starts bringing out the relatives, and we have the usual heart-stirring mini-reunions while poignant music plays on the soundtrack. Interesting to note: While everybody else busts out in tears and tightly clenches their loved ones, Russell greets his wife like it’s a business meeting. Not a tear in sight while they air kiss. They must live in a very, very cold house.

Down to business. Basically, the Survivors have scoop water out of the ocean with a bucket, run up to a line in the sand, throw the water through the air to their partner who is holding another bucket, then the partner dumps the catch in a bigger bucket. Jeff: First team to fill the bigger bucket gets to fly to another island and “experience the blowholes.”

Oh my. Guess we’ll see what THAT’S all about.

Jeff does some more shilling for Sprint (“You can take the Palm Pre with you!”) and then we’re off.

Right away, Colby is yelling at his brother for doing a lousy job, and he continues throughout the whole competition. (I’m guessing there was a troubled childhood.) Sandra shows that suckage at competitions just runs in the family, because she and her uncle just can’t get it together. (The uncle does try to steal water from the other teams, so I guess cheating is in the genes as well.) Jerri and her sister (All the way from Germany! We hear this 50 times!) manage to fill their bucket first.

Jeff tells Jerri she can pick another Survivor to go with. Jerri immediately tags Parvati (and her dad), but since Jerri’s a greedy little girl: “Can I take one more?” Jeff consents, and Jerri squeals Sandra’s name. Russell, because he didn’t get any validation from Jerri, turns to his wife and mutters: “She’s in trouble now.” The wife whole-heartedly agrees, and throws her bucket down to show her displeasure that someone would not worship her husband. That’s a messed-up redneck couple right there.

Cut to Jerri, Parvati, Sandra and the various family members standing at the blowholes, which turn out to be exactly that, holes on a rocky beach where the surf rolls in and blows out a geyser of water. (Yes, I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t something more intriguing.) Anyway, the good time to be had here is when you throw a coconut in a hole at just the right time for the coconut to be launched high into the sky. They do this repeatedly until I’m ready for one of the falling coconuts to knock somebody out so we can go to another scene.

And we finally do cut away, but it’s only so we can see Parvati and her navel poised on yet another rock, as she babbles away about how the Palm Pre has changed her life. Then she has a small orgasm to prove it.

Finally, we’re done with that mess, and we move on the feast so the girls can shove food in their mouths while strategizing. Jerri’s all atwitter (in 140 characters or less) about Russell being mad at her because she didn’t pick him, and she might go home. Parvati scoffs at this. What? Rupert and Colby are next. You’re completely safe. Are you gonna finish that banana?

Well, turns out the girls might have at least a tiny thing to worry about, and it’s name is Russell. Back at camp, he’s in a sidebar, bellowing about Jerri AND Parvati. It’s one of his typical rants that he goes into when things don’t go exactly his way or someone dares to question his Divinity. He ends by calling them “unappreciative little witches”, although his actual choice of words is bit more colorful.

Russell then hops off his booster seat and races to Rupert and Colby, swearing Final Three with them. (Rupert in a sidebar: “I WANNA believe him.” Idiot.) Colby to Russell: “Can you get Jerri to flip?” Russell: “Yep. Parvati’s going home.”

The girls come straggling back to camp late at night (guess those blowholes had them enraptured for a long time). At first, everybody just goes to bed. Except Rupert. While people are trying to sleep, he starts sawing on things. Seriously. And throwing other things around and banging on stuff. For no reason. Everybody in the tent curses his existence and plots his demise. (Jerri goes off in a sidebar, and she wants him GONE.)

Since nobody can sleep now, Jerri and Russell confab on the beach, where she does that simpering mess where she coos over Russell and hopes he’s not mad at wittle Jerri for the not-picking-him boo-boo. Russell, because he needs her number, accepts her groveling and says he’ll let her know who to vote for. Jerri, skank that she is, basks in his glory. Yuck.

Time for the Immunity Challenge.

This one is simple. You stand there with your hands out, palms down, and have to balance two poles, wedged between your hands and a board over your head. You drop a pole, you’re done. Fifteen SECONDS into it, Colby is out. Dude did not even try. Sandra follows in less than a minute, natch. Poles keep hitting the sand until it’s just Parvati and Rupert. They go for a while, but Parvati ultimately wins Immunity. (Ever notice that Parv is really good at competitions where she just has to stand still?)

Rupert in a sidebar: “Plan B, Sandra goes home.” Um, you might want to check with the short one before you say that.

Speaking of, Russell runs up to Parvati: Rupert is going home.

Sandra and Rupert on the beach. Sandra: “What do we do now? I want Russell to go.”

Rupert, the dumb-ass, runs to tell Russell what Sandra said. Russell storms off to find Sandra. He finds her, lounging in the tent, because she’s really tired after competing for almost a minute. (Parvati is there as well, probably wondering if anyone else needs her to talk about the Palm Pre.) Russell to Sandra: “Are you with me or against me?” Sandra, completely calm: “I’m against you, Russell.” Ohhh, gonna hit the fan now.

Instant squabbling, where it’s not really clear if Sandra was just playing, if Parvati is actually trying to mediate between the two or just pretending, or if Russell can even grasp the concept of people not seeing things his way. Then Parvati teases Russell by calling him Boston Rob for the “with me or against me” thing. Russell blows his top, threatens them both, then runs off to see if he’s finally grown tall enough to ride anything at Six Flags.

Jerri in a sidebar: “What is going ON? You DON’T push Russell’s buttons?”

Russell in a sidebar: “It might be Sandra instead of Rupert. I don’t know.”

Sandra in a sidebar: “I’m not gonna use the idol. It’s the last day to use it, but I feel confident.” (It’s the last freaking day, Sandra! Use it! God.)

Time for Tribal.

Sandra immediately spills about stupid Rupert running to Russell, and then Russell confronting her. Jeff to Russell: “Were you nice about it?” Of course not. Russell: “You go home if you’re against me.” Jeff then asks Parvati if keeping the Villain alliance intact is a good thing. Parvati: “There’s definitely room for switching up, but I want to keep the Villains with me. There’s a lot of Heroes on the jury.”

Pan to the jury, where everybody is looking clean and rested, and full of hatred for Russell.

Time to vote.

Jeff finally wanders back in. Idol, anyone?

Sandra leaps to her feet. (Good girl.) “I would hate to go home with the idol in my bra.” Then she digs around in there for a bit and whips it out.

Two votes for Sandra, which don’t count.

Four votes for Rupert. As Tie-Dye prepares to leave, he turns and glares at Russell. (Nice drama, Rupe, but you fell for his lies. Can’t blame anybody but yourself.)

Then Jeff makes an announcement: There’s only one competition left and we’re done.

Really? But we still have five people.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Idiot Fondue: Case Study #29

Continued from previous post:

Mike Rowe’s face paled considerably in the moonlight washing the patio, which was a difficult thing to discern in the darkness, but I was able to spot it. (Apparently Mother was right about those carrots after all.) He turned to his producer. “Could you step back inside and let me speak to these gentlemen privately?”

Producer: “But Mike, we need to finish this segment. The crew is already on overtime.”

Mike: “Go back in the house. Send the people home if that makes you happy. This is going to take a while.” (Oh?)

The producer stood there a bit longer, glaring at everyone with intense dislike, his eyes telling a tragic tale indicative of years of painful suffering, a miserable existence where people simply did not take his urgency seriously. But we didn’t care. Once he realized this, he and his irritating headset marched back into the house.

Henri and I turned back to Mike, giving him our full and devoted attention. However, he was not quite ready to share. “I don’t know if I can do this without proper lighting.”

Just then, a gypsy woman sporting faded but still colorful attire modestly danced our way from the nearby courtyard, hoisting a clever torch she had fashioned out of an old crutch and a discarded phone book. She gently lit several candles that had been strategically placed in the vicinity, creating a wonderful ambiance, then she waltzed away into the night, warbling a wisp of a forgotten opera. This is France, these things happen.

Mike nervously cleared his throat. “Well, gentlemen, I suppose I have a confession to make.”

Henri stirred beside me. “A confession? Well, then, we simply must have wine.”

A hand suddenly appeared at the kitchen window, thrusting out a bottle. Henri leapt to his feet and graciously accepted the offering, which was quickly followed by wine glasses, some bread, and an artfully-arranged tray of cheese. Then the window was discreetly lowered and the kitchen light extinguished. Well, then. At least someone around here knew how to be a gracious host.

We arranged our treasures on the patio table, made ourselves comfortable in the available roomy and sturdy chairs, and settled in for a winsome tale of livestock and circumstance. Somewhere down the street, a string quartet softly played, perfectly accompanying Mike’s saga, which went like this:

Two days before my surprising arrest for nudity and lewdity, Mike and his crew arrived in Paris for the first of their “Dirty French Jobs” assignments. Not being familiar with the city, there was an error in judgment that resulted in the crew taking rooms at a less than savory hostel, located just a few blocks from Henri’s abode and where we now sat. This in itself is not that unusual. First-time travelers to Paris often find themselves on the unfortunate side of the decision-making process. Just ask Marie Antoinette.

In any case, the crew, finding themselves stacked like cordwood, six to a room, soon grew to hate the sight of one another. There was an altercation involving bathroom privacy, and Mike, knowing that he would need his crew for the shoot in the morning, realized he could not kill them, and therefore decided to venture out, find a nearby bistro, and drink anything the wait staff placed before him.

Unbeknownst to Mr. Rowe, the dominoes of fate were now being placed in position.

Whilst swilling a concoction that supposedly included the once-again-legal ingredient of absinthe, Mike chanced to innocently glance to his right, and spied a comely French woman sitting alone at a table. She appeared to be somewhat blue, possibly on the verge of tears, and quite despondent over making her dinner selection from the detailed menu.

Emboldened by excessive drink, Mike tossed his linen napkin aside and approached her table. “Might I suggest something pleasing?”

The woman, startled at first, glanced up at Mike and then smiled, her tears instantly drying. “But of course. You appear to be a man who knows things. I like men like that.” Then she giggled seductively, which is often all it takes to own a man’s heart, and thus began a whirlwind infatuation. Mike quickly snatched the remainder of his escargots, and slid into the opposite chair at the woman’s table.

As the evening progressed, Mike and the woman, whose named proved to be Vivienne, enchanted one another with amusing anecdotes and flirtatious gazing at one another. By dessert, love was rearing its tender head.

Sadly, the hour grew late, and the lovers had to part. (Vivienne was giving her doctoral thesis in the morning, and simply could not be late.) As they were breathing heavily on the sidewalk outside the bistro, they promised to meet again in two nights. (Mike had an unavoidable segment shoot the next evening, wherein he would be scraping barnacles off of fly boats.) In a frenzied moment of passion, Mike had an inspiration. “Can I bring you a little something for our next rendezvous?”

Vivienne did not hesitate. “I’d like a goat.”

“I’m sorry, my love?”

“A goat. But not just any goat, mon chere. I require a goat, white as pure snow, but with four brown paws. It is something I have dreamed of since my childhood days in the Loire Valley. It would mean the world to me. Now, my love, I must run.” And then she was gone, vanishing into the sultry night.

Mike stood there a moment, perplexed. What an absurd request. But he was smitten, and therefore determined to find the exact goat that would send his new love into rapturous spasms of gratitude, even if it took him the next 48 hours to do so.

But Mike did not have 48 hours. He had a very busy schedule, with segments to film, meetings with boring people who approved budgets, and a photo shoot for an ad campaign wherein he would frolic around at sanitation landfills outside the city and throw sludge at the camera. So he was forced to call upon an innocent intern who could devote her time to finding the perfect goat.

This poor intern. Imagine the horrific experiences she must have gone through, tasked with finding a goat in the City of Lights whilst everyone else gets to wear couture and read poetry in cafes. It must have been grueling, the wretched thing. But find a goat she finally did, with just a few hours before the lovers were scheduled to meet.

Once she had obtained the animal, the intern rushed to the set where Mike and the crew were filming. Upon her arrival, Mike was overjoyed, climbing out of a manhole to embrace the young staffer. After heaping copious praise on the blushing woman, Mike tied the goat’s leash to the crew’s van and returned to the sewers. The jubilant staffer, convinced of an impending raise, raced off to the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honore and immediately purchased something useless but fancy at Givenchy.

Sadly, now that the sacred goat had been wrangled, no one thought to make sure that it remained so. While the crew was busy capturing Mike’s exploits with a drain pipe, a short man by the name of Jacques de Bouvier snuck up to the unattended van, untied the goat, and scampered around the corner. The goat, happy to be away from the sewage, did not protest.

(“Jacques is my client!” gushed Henri beside me. Mike glared at him. Let me tell the story, you insipid little man. Henri shushed and refilled his wine glass.)

Jacques then proceeded to the villa of his therapist, and made his customary payment of livestock, never mentioning to Henri that his funds were tainted. Of course, Jacques didn’t really have a chance to mention it, because Henri was not there, trapped as he was in the south of France, his car having ruptured an axle after being run off the road by boisterous Americans. Jacques simply retrieved the key under the third rock from the sundial, shoved the goat in the front door, and walked away. Done.

(This, dear reader, is where yours truly entered the picture, arriving a few minutes later for my session with the Cucumber Lady, and the tragic mishaps that followed.)

Meanwhile, back on the set, Mike has lumbered out of the sewer for the final time, and various people are rushing about, dismantling equipment and storing things in the van. Since so many careless people are not paying attention, it takes some time for the goat abduction to be discovered. Finally, Mike, putting his shirt back on after once again having taken it off for no apparent reason, realizes that things are amiss.

“Where is the goat?”

No one responded, as none of them were in love and thereby did not understand the significance of the smelly goat. Instead, they continued attending to their various duties and pondering what delicious meal they might encounter that evening. Besides, Mike was always asking philosophical questions that didn’t necessarily require an answer.

Frustrated, and assuming that the goat had simply escaped and had not been forcibly taken, Mike thundered out of the little square, racing in the direction he determined the goat would take if achieving sudden freedom. (Mike had once done a segment on a goat farm, and knew that the unimaginative creatures always ran in a southwesterly direction and would always veer left when given road-choice options.)

Luckily enough, short men named Jacques often adhere to this same flight pattern when bringing payments to their therapists. Within minutes, Mike was approaching Henri’s apartment, and soon found himself at the front door through which the goat and been unceremoniously shoved a few hours ago. The door was now locked (Mike did not know about the key under the third rock), but by placing his desperate ear against the portal, he could hear the sounds of bleating accompanied by running water. Mike raced around the building to the patio, found the back entrance to be locked as well, and pondered his next move.

Then he spied the open kitchen window.

Briskly stepping up to such, Mike peered in, and discovered the goat standing in the kitchen, contemplating a cucumber on the counter. Startled, and not in the mood for further travel, the goat snatched the cucumber and tottered into another room. Frantic, Mike tried to climb through the window in pursuit, but his muscled bulk could not quite slip through.

Then he spied the can of Crisco, and inspiration dawned anew.

Quickly ripping off his shirt (which he probably would have done anyway, given any opportunity), Mike then seized the can and began slathering his torso in the hopes of improving his window-access chances.

Just then, the sounds of running water ceased, and Mike spotted a naked, freshly-showered man stepping out of the bathroom and wrapping himself in a towel. In a slight panic (things might be misperceived, given the circumstances) Mike dropped the can of Crisco and hurried across the courtyard, taking shelter behind a dumpster that reeked of garlic and faded memories. He waited for the showered man to become interested in some activity that would take him out of the apartment, or at least away from the window.

Much to Mike’s surprise, the back door suddenly flew open, and the brazen man with his skimpy towel stepped out and rescued the fallen container of cooking grease. Two seconds later, the goat, the cucumber lodged in his tiny teeth, thundered out the back door as well, completely unconcerned about the Crisco, but certainly interested in something on the other side of the courtyard. The man and his towel let loose with a cry of disdain, and then quickly raced after the Billy.

Realizing that his chances of goat recovery were dwindling, Mike joined in the impromptu parade.

The precocious animal darted toward an open door off the courtyard, with the man a few hooves behind him. There was a brief tussle, wherein the man acquired the cucumber but not the misbehaving creature, and the goat raced through the door. Just before the man entered the building as well, Mike reached out to stop him, hoping to plead his case about how desperately he needed the goat, but his efforts failed. Instead, Mike found himself clutching a consolation prize in the form of a damp towel.

Five seconds later, Mike was startled to hear the sounds of children screaming and a harridan woman alerting authorities. Mike wisely decided that perhaps he would retrieve the goat at another time, despite his desperate desire to please his love, and he slipped away from the scene in search of a calming beverage and an alternate plan.

Mike finished the last sip of his wine, his tale complete, and then regarded Henri and I with doleful eyes. “And that, gentlemen, is my tragic tale of love and livestock in the city of passion.”

Crickets chirped.

Then I regained my composure. “So it seems, Mr. Rowe, that, in essence, due to your torrid romance with a woman you hardly know, I know find myself in this legal predicament. I am facing criminal charges because you got drunk and fell in love with a woman, promising her a goat.”

Mike smiled wanly. “What can I say? Absinthe makes the heart grow fonder.”

Monday, May 10, 2010

Idiot Fondue: Case Study #28

Continued from previous post:

I took a small sip of wine and then focused once again on the drunken man across the table. “Henri, though our friendship has been long and strong, I must say that I am quite displeased with you at the moment. Why did you not tell me previously that Mike Rowe is currently scouring the floors of your dwelling?”

He eyed me with suspicion. “Mon ami, first of all, perhaps you have not noticed my excessive intake of alcohol. This is presenting some focus issues, as well as causing me to lose my French accent at times even though I am a native. Secondly, I was completely unaware of your need to visit with Mr. Rowe until roughly two minutes ago. Prior to that, we were speaking only of the goat. Perhaps you should just relax and join me in the drunkenness. It certainly reduces the stress level, and it makes things pretty.”

I calmly aligned my untouched silverware before proceeding. “Henri, I must apologize for my forwardness and possibly accusatory tone. And I must admit, inebriation does have its call and charm at the moment. However, it is extremely critical that I speak with Mr. Rowe at once, and we must proceed to your apartment post haste. Please do the finger-snapping thing you do so well, and arrange for the check.”

Three minutes later we were on the sidewalk outside the café.

I raised my hand in preparation for hailing a taxi, but was quickly rebuffed by Henri. “We do not need such things. The taxis are for Americans. Everyone else walks.”

“But I AM American. And it’s been a very tiresome day.”

He scoffed. “Sitting in a courtroom? That’s tiring? Come, it’s just a short distance, we’ll be there in no time.” And off he went, briskly marching down the road and easily weaving his way around after-dinner Parisian couples, who were probably reciting poetry to one another in advance of a philosophical discussion concerning tangerines.

I sighed and waddled after him, silently cursing healthy Europeans and their unseemly disdain for lethargic means of transportation. Within minutes, I could barely catch my breath, my legs trembling and my vision hazy. Henri, of course, was never in danger of even breaking a sweat, and actually had the gall to jog in place at the stoplights.

Luckily, we were only a handful of blocks from Henri’s residence, so my struggles were only temporary. A few labored breaths later we turned the corner and entered the narrow street I knew so well from our college days. (Although I must admit that being so near the scene of my purported lascivious crimes did keep my heart rate slightly escalated, as I glanced about for more children with pointing fingers.)

Henri stopped to caution me at his door. “Don’t make a fool of yourself, Dr. Brian. Let me speak with him initially. You don’t want to embarrass yourself unnecessarily.”

I bit my tongue, refraining from reminding him that I had already appeared nude in national publications, clutching a can of Crisco. There was little shame left to heave upon me.

Henri opened his door.

It appeared that there were several hundred people in his apartment, rushing about madly, fiddling with lighting and pawing at electronic equipment. It was quite fascinating, really, and at another moment in time I might have been content to gawk and giggle. However, we had a fully defined mission at hand, and it was imperative that we complete it. Henri served the initial volley.

“Mes amis!” he shouted, jovially. “I am very sorry to be intruding, but I have a friend who must speak with Monsieur Rowe as soon as it is possible. I trust this will not be an inconvenience?”

All activity ceased in the room, and various sets of eyes turned in our direction, most of them clearly expressing that not only was this inconvenient, it was thoroughly unappreciated. In fact, if there had been available weaponry, I dare say there would also have been bloodshed. Things were not going quite according to plan.

A short, bookish fellow broke away from the angry mob and approached us, lugging a clipboard and sporting one of those ridiculous headsets that Madonna is always wearing, even when she bathes. Despite the fury in his eyes, he forced the semblance of a welcoming smile, as if we were the best of companions. I immediately pegged him as a producer of some kind.

“Greetings, gentlemen,” he proffered. “Mr. Rowe would love to speak with you, but he is extremely occupied at the moment. Perhaps another time?” Just then, there was the startling sound of a toilet flushing, followed quickly by the bathroom door being wrested open, and Mike Rowe walked into the living room.

Much to my amazement, he took one look at me, released a startled yelp, raced to the back of the apartment, through the kitchen, and out the back door, giving it a good slam as he hastily exited.

The producer took off his headset. “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.” Then he thundered out the back door as well.

Henri turned to me. “Is there ANYWHERE you can go that you don’t frighten people? It must be terribly difficult for you.”

“Henri, I haven’t the faintest idea what that was all about. I’ve never met the man in my life, so an opportunity to offend him has not arisen. Let’s go see what the fuss is about.” I started marching toward the kitchen.

Henri hesitated. “Dr. Brian, I’m not sure if it’s our place to do so. He seemed quite distraught, and you may only exacerbate the matter.”

I sighed. “Henri, this is YOUR apartment. You have every right to determine why people would want to flee from it.”

He finally joined me, and it turned out that we didn’t have to go far. The kitchen window was wide open, and we were suddenly privy to the conversation on the back patio. (Why does Henri insist on keeping that damn window open? Things fall out of it, and I get arrested. Will he ever learn?) We leaned toward the window, our inquisitive minds yearning for information, but being careful to remain in the shadows. Sort of like those people at the Watergate Hotel.

Producer: “We need to finish the shoot. We’re almost done.”

Mike: “I’m not going back in there. I’m not talking to him.”

Producer: “Who IS he?” (Sound of pages being flipped.) “He’s not on the call sheet.”

Mike: “He’s… it’s not important, but I’m not talking to him. Go do your thing, and make him leave.”

Producer, apparently pausing to reflect, then: “Is there something you need to tell me?”

Mike: “Of course not. I’m just not in the mood for fans right now.”

Producer: “Well, you never ran away from that OTHER fan you have. The only time I’ve seen you run was…. Oh God, have you done something illegal again?”


Producer: “Mike?”

Mike: “Maybe.”

Producer: “Ah, hell. Mike, we’re already over budget, we don’t need any more expenses. Is this something we can fix without writing a check?”

Mike was silent for quite some time, then: “There may have been a misunderstanding with my goat. I was just trying to get him back after he was kidnapped. No pun intended.”

Suddenly, the puzzle pieces began falling into place, and images flashed through my mind. The open kitchen window on another day, the empty spot on the window sill where something had previously been, and a close-up of Mike’s enormously-large hands on his TV show, hands that could easily have made the deep finger tracks that I briefly spotted in a certain can of shortening.

I threw open the back door and confronted him.

“YOU tried to steal the Crisco!”


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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Idiot Fondue: Case Study #27

Continued from previous post:

Henri clarified. “Mr. Rowe does not have YOUR goat, Dr. Brian. He has HIS goat. He had the papers.” He paused. “But why, dear friend of crazy youthful days, is there such interest in the goat? I am not understanding. This goat is not your friend.”

Just then, the bailiff began performing some scurrying activity off to the right, hovering about the entrance to the judge’s chamber. It was time for this insipid show to continue. “Henri, I must let you go. Can we meet for dinner to further discuss this situation.”

“Dinner? Will they let you out for such?”

I sighed. “Henri, I am no longer IN jail. I was released on my own recognizance, which, quite frankly, came as something of a surprise to me. If my sterling reputation is all it takes to get me out, then why bother with the arrest in the first place? In any case, I can do whatever I want. Except leave the city or approach small children, and who would want to do either? Dinner, Henri?”

“The usual place?”

“Perfect. Abientot.”

I slid the phone back to my lawyer, Olivier, who snatched it up and then made a small entry on the expense report he always has open before him. Petty little man, always about the money and who has how much of it. But I needed him for now.

“All Rise.”

We dutifully stood, as the squat and moody judge woman entered the room and regally made her way to the throne of her tiny kingdom. I’ve never understood this business with the standing as legal officials arrive. It reeks of superficiality. If we really had any respect for her interpretation and application of law, we wouldn’t be doing things that would have us presented to her in the first place.

After a few moments of Her Highness perusing all corners of the room to ensure that even babies and the senile infirm where basking in her glory, she waved a dismissive hand and took her seat. Whilst the room did likewise, she then proceeded to spend an inordinate amount of time shifting around royal implements lying about her desk. Finally satisfied, she cleared her throat.

“Before we continue, I would like to address our timeline for the completion of this trial. While I understand that the popular press is making a tremendous amount of money on these proceedings due to the salacious nature of the charges…”

(She glanced at the long row of windows on the left side of the room, where photographers were pressed against the glass, snapping photos of her irritated face which they could then use for belittlement purposes on the evening newscast.)

“…We must also keep in mind that expediency is a just and wonderful thing. That being the case, and along with the fact that the cheese festival in Rocamadour is set to begin in two days, I trust that we can have both a verdict and a sentence by tomorrow afternoon. Ring the bell, bailiff person, and let’s get started.”

What? How could this be? The prosecution was still in the midst of its long-winded and illogical presentation, showing no signs of slowing or any grasp of the truth. Even if they could manage to cease with their bilious puppet show by the end of the day, how could we possibly present a viable defense in a few short hours tomorrow morning?

I turned to Olivier. “How can she do this? Is this legal in any way?”

He sighed. “It’s the cheese festival, mon ami. These things happen.” Then he made another tick on his spreadsheet. Apparently, I was now being charged by the question and not the hour. He was truly an irritating man of suspect worth.

“But, Olivier, are we READY? Can you do this?”

He sighed again, which was quickly becoming his most loathsome habit, about to surge ahead of “his tie smells like garlic”. He fingered his storyboards once again, and then turned to me. “You must trust me, Dr. Brian. Because trust is all we have. We have not much of anything else. They are very strong with the evidence. It is tres difficult to win when there are photos of your manhood where it does not belong. But I will try.”

“But I didn’t DO anything, the entire situation was completely circumstantial, there were many factors well beyond my control or counsel, and really, how harmful is it that enlightened children in a progressive daycare facility were briefly exposed to the male anatomy?”

He sighed a third time, sending me closer to the edge. “Dr. Brian, we really should not rely on the defense strategies utilized by the Vatican. However, it IS true that the children are the heart of the matter. Let us see what the wee ones say, yes?”

On cue, the Prosecution began calling upon the little terror tykes to take the witness stand.

And of course, each of them looked amazingly cherubic, as if they had just dropped down from the artfully-painted domed ceiling of the courtroom, gracing us with their angelic presence, causing the entire jury to coo and smile. They all had the same story, recounting an innocent day wherein they simply wanted to learn about world peace and play Chutes and Ladders. Then the tranquility was shattered by the sudden appearance of an evil man, accompanied by horned-animals and Crisco. They have cried every night since.

As each of the urchins left the stand, they were presented lollipops from the lead prosecutor, the judge, the bailiff, and Mia Farrow, who always flies places where foreign children are in need.

Olivier leaned over to me and whispered. “You are right, Dr. Brian. We must find the goat immediately.”

Later that evening, I rushed to meet Henri at our favorite restaurant, a tiny venue that serves exquisite mushrooms. He was already there, perched at our usual table and well into the process of wine-swilling. I tried not to let his inebriation irk me, for we really didn’t have time for lectures and hateful accusations. Besides, being a fellow mental physician, listening to disturbed people talk of inane things all day, I can understand the attraction of alcohol.

Upon seeing my distinguished figure marching in his direction, Henri’s face lit up. He bellowed something unintelligible and tried to stand. This resulted in the spillage of a water glass, a basket of breadsticks tumbling to their tiny deaths, and an obvious non-Parisian who clearly did not understand the hierarchy in this establishment, muttering about rudeness to her androgynous table partner.

“It’s okay, Henri,” I said soothingly, as I removed my raincoat and placed it on a nearby chair, making sure one of the sleeves slapped the ignorant patron in the back of the head. “I don’t need you vertical. I just need you to tell me where the goat can be found.”

He looked at me with blood-shot eyes, a speck of dried souffle clinging to his chin. “J’ai dit que-”

I held up my hand. “In English, Henri. I’m too traumatized to translate. The children want my soul.”

His eyes came into focus a bit more. “Perhaps I should have the coffee, then.” He snapped in the general direction of the waiter, and within two seconds there was a steaming demi-tasse of thick liquid expertly placed before him. (This is why we loved the place: quick service, glorious food, and a general lack of idiots. The harridan at the neighboring table must have slipped through during a slight breach of security.)

Henri began adding the first of 12 sugar cubes to his beverage. “As I explained, the goat is now in the possession of Mr. Rowe. He knocked on my door shortly after your arrest, presenting me with official ownership papers and waving a leash.”

“But why, Henri? Why would Mike Rowe own a French goat?”

My companion stirred the cup before him. “This I do not know. It is possible that he explained this to me while retrieving the goat, but I was somewhat distracted by the camera crew.”

“Camera crew? He was FILMING?”

Henri nodded, then downed half the coffee in a startling move. “Yes, I believe he plans to use the footage somehow, although I am not certain. He is in our country, producing another episode. He seems to think the Americans will be titillated by the concept of “dirty French jobs”. I am not certain what this means, but his crew snickered and one of the camera people ran into a wall whilst laughing. Americans are clumsy, are they not?” He downed the rest of the cup and signaled for more.

“Henri, do you know where I can find Mr. Rowe? Was there contact information on his ownership papers? Did he give you a card? Did the goat leave a forwarding address?”

Henri accepted his second cup from the efficient waiter, smiling warmly and possibly flirting. The he turned his attention back to me. “I can do better than that. I know exactly where Michel is.”

My heart leapt. “Please tell me, Henri, it is critical.”

“He is at mon apartement, filming a segment for his TV show.”

I was taken aback. “What possible dirty job could he find THERE?”

Henri smiled. “Have you ever tried to get goat crap off of hardwood floors? Mon dieu, it‘s overwhelming.”


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