Yesterday

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Suddenly, I’m not half the guard I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me
Oh, Paul McCartney came suddenly

Why he had to come
To the Grammy party, he wouldn’t say
I told him scram, get lost
Now I long for yesterday

Yesterday, guard was such an easy job for pay
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday

My favorite Christmas story

“Did you find everything you were shopping for?”

“Actually, no. Your store seems to have run out of …”

“This is my favorite color of towels.”

“I got them for Mom’s guest bathroom because they match her Pepto-Bismol walls.”

“I always use this fragrance.”

“Acqua di Gio for men?”

“Absolutely.”

“But you’re … a woman.”

“This is by far the best back scratcher.”

“I hope you read that in a medical report as opposed to trying them all.”

“Wow. ‘Robot Monster.’ I adore that movie.”

“I’m showing that DVD at my holiday party as a gag.”

“This bread makes the most incredible sandwiches.”

“I got it from the day-old stale pile. It’s for bread pudding.”

“You like the same Febreze scent I do — linen and sky.”

“It’s on sale. I can’t recall the sky having a scent, especially the aroma of tablecloths.”

“I drink this every night.”

“Generic cough syrup?”

“Every night. Without fail.”

“That explains several things.”

“This is the best shirt our store sells. You’ll look so good in it.”

“Oh, thanks for reminding me. I was going to return it and forgot.”

“Will that be it?”

“Well, as I said, I was having a hard time finding …”

“Here’s your total. Would you like to put it on our store credit card?”

“No, I’ll use my Visa.”

“You’ll get 15 percent off.”

“I don’t have any room in my wallet for more credit cards.”

“With the 15 percent savings, you can buy one of our wallets with more slots.”

“So, in the end, I wouldn’t be saving any money at all.”

“Here’s a form you can fill out and give to us next time you shop here.”

“This form asks for my blood type.”

“Yes.”

“What difference does it make to my credit if my blood type is AB-negative?”

“Hey, you have the same blood type I have.”

“Merry Christmas.”

“That’s my favorite holiday greeting.”

A visit from …

’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, for each one is a souse

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care

In hopes that St. Nicholas wouldn’t mind the smell there

The children were nestled all snug in their beds

While sugary NyQuil stopped the dance in their heads

And Mama in her kerchief and I in my cuffs

Were role-playing bank robber and sheriff sweet stuff

When out on the lawn there arose such a noise

I sprang from the bed and dropped the sex toys

Away to the window I flew like a sprinter

Tore open the shutters, forgetting it was winter

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow

Yes, our kids formed a breast from the flakes below

When what to my wondering eyes should appear

But an Amazon delivery drone, oh dear

With nobody as driver, yet lively and quick

For it was 300 pounds lighter than old St. Nick

More rapid than eagles, the whirling blades

Drowned out the questions I loudly made

“Where’s Dasher? Where’s Dancer? Where’s Prancer and Vixen?

Where’s Comet and Cupid? Or Donder and Blitzen?”

Their falling reindeer poop aggravating me

I prefer over blades decapitating me

Causing a blizzard, this man-made tornado did push

Through our prized oak, turning it into a bush

Up to the housetop the quadcopter flew

With an Amazon package, personalized too

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof

The slicing of guttering, no longer damage-proof

As I drew in my head and was turning around

Down the chimney the drone came with a sound

Grinding and blowing its damage underfoot

Till my home was all tarnished with ashes and soot

A meager package it carried on its back

You’d need a full copter to carry a sack

Its GPS, how it twinkled; its propellers, how scary

Its exact retail value only known by Drew Carey

Its mechanical arms were drawn up like a bow

And its landing gear just as white as the snow

The thing we had ordered was held tight in its teeth

The name “Amazon” encircled its head like a wreath

It had a metal face and a plastic round belly

That shook as it whirred like a bowlful of jelly

Neither chubby nor plump, unlike that jolly old elf

Of course I’m referring to Jeff Bezos himself

A buzz from a box and a blink from its head

Let me know that I still had something to dread

It spoke not a word, just sat there and sputtered

“Grab your book anytime,” I’m sure it muttered

Then flashing some lights aside of its nose

The blades spun harder and up the chimney it rose

The drone emerged from the roof clean as a whistle

And away from my home it flew like a missile

But I swore it exclaimed as it sailed toward the moon

“Happy Christmas to all. Next stop: Cameroon.”

A recap of ‘Breaking Even’

What happens in Vegas theoretically stays in Vegas. Then again, a memory stays in one place only if your head doesn’t move. Therefore, here are some notes from my recent sojourn to the city of sin and insinuation.

Without a doubt, Las Vegas is the leg capital of the world. Long legs. Long and uncovered legs. And this goes beyond the waitress plying you with cocktails. Almost every woman in Vegas walking your way seems to be walking to a showgirl audition. I had never considered myself a leg man, as opposed to a bosom buddy or a derriere frere. But my trip to Vegas makes me realize that when Abraham Lincoln was asked how long legs should be, he should have answered, “Long enough to reach the libido.”

Las Vegas is also the capital of beverage containers that resemble either a bong or an automobile part. Which makes me wonder if an entire car could be built using just drug equipment. “What’s that crazy car you’re driving?” “It’s a 2013 Heisenberg.”

The worst job in Vegas belongs to the person at the Elton John concert who has to constantly run and up down the aisles and climb over people attempting to enjoy the show so she can stop somebody from making a cellphone video. A few times on YouTube I have watched a cellphone video of a concert performance. The cellphone video camera always looks as if its pupils have been dilated and it is situated at the epicenter of an earthquake. Not once have I looked at such a video and thought, “Now there’s no need for me to see this show.”

By the way, Elton John’s show in Las Vegas is titled “The Million Dollar Piano.” The man is an absolute vocal and keyboard master, and every song in his concert is on the soundtrack of my life and times. The set is a miracle of technology and visuals. But the piano he uses couldn’t possibly have cost a million bucks. Probably $400,000 at the most. Truth in labeling, you know.

I also saw Penn & Teller. My sister got us great seats, in the third row. A few minutes into the show, I realized that my cellphone wasn’t in my pocket — and I wasn’t even using it to make a cheap, shaky YouTube video. Because I was in the third row, I couldn’t drop down to see if my phone had slipped between the seat covers and onto the floor. The last thing I wanted was for Penn Jillette to verbally embarrass me. Come to think of it, the absolutely last thing I wanted was to be verbally scarred for life by Teller. So I was reduced to running my foot underneath my seat to see if my cellphone was there. No luck. Then I realized that Penn & Teller is a magic act. (Yes, panic can slow the senses considerably.) Did they have my phone? Was I a few minutes away from seeing my cellphone emerge from the inside of a fish encased in ice locked in a box sealed in cellophane? It turned out my phone had slipped through the seat and fallen to the floor. The moral of the story is that for maximum enjoyment at the Penn & Teller show, secure your cellphone.

After the magic show, I got back to my room just in time to see a late-night replay of the “Breaking Bad” finale. Spoiler alert. (How many mediocre writers have kept their careers going by using the words “spoiler alert” to keep people from reading the mediocrity that followed?) The robot machine gun in the trunk of Walter White’s car looked just like a Penn & Teller prop. Apparently, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas unless it ends up in a cable television phenomenon’s culmination.

Top 10 royal names

10. Tenenbaum

9. Wil Myers (oops, I mean Wade Davis)

8. King Don

7. Urquhart

6. Rumble (for all you WWE fans)

5. Wenceslas

4. Philharmonic Orchestra

3. Triple Crown

2. Moustakas

And the number one royal name…

1. Albert Hall

Revelations

What with WikiLeaks, National Insecurity Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, and Kim and Kanye’s kid, I am thoroughly convinced that nobody can any longer keep a secret. (North West wasn’t supposed to be public knowledge, right?)

Therefore, before anybody blows the lid off me (Antonin Scalia just read this sentence and went into apoplexy), I am revealing the following secrets:

No one, and I mean no one, buys into a television station proclaiming that its weather forecasts are the most accurate in town. For one thing, when the ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC stations in the same market all run ads saying it, the blood pressure of TV viewers goes up faster than a student loan rate under Congress’ care. For another thing, how the holy hell do you get a weather prediction wrong when your forecast always says there’s a 20 percent chance of scattered showers? If it rains, that 20 percent prediction came true. If it doesn’t rain, we said there was an 80 chance of that happening. If you get rain and somone else doesn’t, hey, we told you the showers would be scattered.

The Republican Party asked for my help in making itself more attractive to women. Granted, that’s like the Vatican asking Don Draper for tips on celibacy, but I must admit I was intrigued, and I even offered an idea for the GOP’s effort called Project GROW. The Republicans rejected my proposal. They decided that GROW should stand for “Growing Republican Opportunities for Women.” In the wake of more and more GOP governors demanding transvaginal ultrasounds for any women seeking an abortion, I thought GROW should stand for “Get Rods Out of Wombs.”

I just bought a Dyson “Animal” vacuum cleaner, but I don’t have a pet. Should a person without a dog or cat be forced to own a device that sucks any less than the vacuum of a pet owner? If you prick us, do we not bleed and thus make the dirt in the corner of our bathroom more difficult to pick up? If you shake our receding hairlines, do we not shed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh until we see how much no lack of suction costs?

Besides, “Animal” was chosen as a Dyson name only because it sounded better than “Hair Pulled by Tweezers Out of Ears.”

The most terrifying dream of my life came just last night. It was the first time I had ever dreamed of being a woman, but that wasn’t the terrifying part. I was a woman golfer — an outstanding woman golfer. I was so outstanding that I had just won the first three major championships in women’s golf and had a chance at history by sweeping the grand slam. Then came the terrifying part. Someone reminded me that starting this year, the women’s golf grand slam has five events.

No one has ever offered me a large sum of money to sing “Happy Birthday” to a ruthless dictator. But I once accepted a modest debit card for not singing to the leader of Turkmenistan, “Get it on, Gurbanguly, get it on.”

The secret to making a chicken and asparagus quiche is to use up everything in your mother’s refrigerator. Otherwise, she will force you to take all 14,000 calories that remain back home with you.

What I admire the most about the signing of the Declaration of Independence is the wisdom of the Founding Fathers not to have fireworks in their hands ahead of time.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was to make sure the Emergency Alert System is activated on TV during the last five minutes of every broadcast of “The Usual Suspects.”

At the National Spelling Bee

“Your word is witticism.”

“May I have a definition?”

“Witticism: a witty remark.”

“May I have a useful definition?”

“Witticism: a clever remark that is often biting or ironic.”

“May I hear it used in a sentence?”

“To express a viewpoint, George S. Kaufman often used a witticism.”

“May someone tell me who George S. Kaufman is?”

“No.”

“Can George S. Kaufman come here and give me an example of a witticism?”

“He died in 1961.”

“Can you tell me if George S. Kaufman left any witticisms to his next of kin?”

“You’re running out of time.”

“Was that a witticism offered to George S. Kaufman in 1961?”

“Spell witticism.”

“What part of speech is it?”

“Witticism is a noun.”

“What is its language of origin?”

“It was coined by English poet, playwright and literary critic John Dryden in 1677.”

“Was this Dryden dude too busy to come up with an alternate pronunciation?”

“It is pronounced only one way: witticism.”

“What is its alternate spelling?”

“It is only spelled one way, and we couldn’t give that to you anyway.”

“Is that anyway as one word or any way as two words?”

“Spell witticism.”

“What word directly precedes witticism in the Webster dictionary?”

“We can’t tell you that.”

“Did I just then use a witticism in a sentence without actually using the word witticism?”

“Spell the word, please.”

“Wouldn’t this spelling bee be a lot more fair if all the contestants had to spell the same word?”

“If we did that, everyone after the first speller who got it correct would know how to spell the word.”

“What if we all tried to spell the word at the same time? That might speed things along because putting this spelling bee in prime time is interfering with my bedtime.”

“Wouldn’t everybody spelling the same word at once slow things to a crawl while everyone waited for someone else to say a letter?”

“Tell you what. You judges get together and figure out all the new rules while I take a library — I mean a bathroom — break.”

“Spell witticism!”

“W-I-T-T … I … C … I-S-M.”

“Correct.”

“You should say the word is ‘spelled only one way,’ not ‘only spelled one way.’ Sheesh.”

“Please be seated.”

“if sheesh is the next word, can I give the definition and alternate pronunciation?”

A closer look at who’s calling the shots

The National Rifle Association has just concluded its latest “convention,” although I think the more accurate term would be “gloatfest.”

Speaker after speaker after speaker at the National Rifle Association gathering crowed over the recent failed effort to expand background checks for gun sales.

“We will never surrender our guns, never,” exclaimed Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president and CEO of the National Rifle Association.

And for the umpteenth to the umpteenth power time, the reason given by the National Rifle Association for this intransigence was the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which says: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”

But in invoking the Second Amendment, the National Rifle Association doesn’t ever mention the part before the comma. To the National Rifle Association, the Second Amendment in its entirety says: “The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Never mind whether or not you happen to belong to a militia.

Of course, we shouldn’t be surprised that the National Rifle Association has taken what reads as a narrowly defined concept and expanded it to “cold, dead hands” hyperbole. After all, the organization that painstakingly defends the right of every person, no matter how responsible he or she is, to own and use every kind of weapon, no matter how rapidly and expansively lethal it is, is known as the National Rifle Association.

Yes, the National Rifle Association.

Why is a rifle group sticking its busybody snout into weapons that aren’t rifles? When a child picks up a parent’s handgun and accidentally shoots another child and someone cries out that something must be done to prevent this from happening the next time, why do we have to hear a counterargument from the National Rifle Association?

Where is Antonin Scalia at a time like this? Isn’t he the Supreme Court justice who keeps saying that texts such as the Constitution have to be interpreted for what they actually say, not the extra meanings that “scholars” keep piling on top of them? Why isn’t Justice Scalia lashing out at the National Rifle Association when it dictates what people should be permitted to do with weapons that aren’t rifles? Why isn’t Justice Scalia sneering that if the National Rifle Association wants to speak out about any and all weapons, it should call itself the National Gun Association or the National Weapon Association?

If you own a pistol or a musket, the National Rifle Association really doesn’t speak for you. We can continue to debate whether it would be benefit the security of a free state to make sure that only responsible people own handguns, for instance, but the National Rifle Association and all its money and all its lackeys really have no business being a part of that conversation.

Then again, when we get around to the subject of rifles — for instance, the assault rifles that were put to unholy use in Newtown and Columbine — then the National Rifle Association can proudly stand tall and defend the right of every person, no matter how evil or unstable that person is — to have a rifle. And not just any rifle, but the most powerful and rapid-firing rifle.

Rifle zealots, gloat over that.

Cleaning up on napkins

There aren’t enough words to explain why one of the great movies of all time is “Bowfinger.”

There aren’t enough Supreme Court judges who will admit they make up their minds on a case first, then figure out the legal justification.

There aren’t enough chances to practice wrapping Christmas presents.

There aren’t enough ways to clean your Mac of MacKeeper ads.

There aren’t enough reminders to college basketball analysts that they’re wearing microphones.

There aren’t enough priests — behind bars.

And, hard as it is to believe, there aren’t enough songs in which the main background singer is Michael McDonald.

But boy oh boy oh boy, there are more than enough napkins.

Empty the bag at home after a trip through the drive-through restaurant and it looks as if you just robbed a party store. Even if you were to wipe your mouth clean after every bite of burger and every nibble of nuggets, you would still have enough napkins remaining to open your own diner, drive-in or dive.

Is this the reason our computerized society has cut down on paperwork? We’ve shifted the facts and figures of our lives to websites, databases and the cloud just so we could save enough trees to provide every man, woman and child with enough napkins to protect the laps of everyone in Lapland plus every lap dancer and lap dancer customer at a laparoscopic surgeon convention.

Walk into a Five Guys burger joint, place an order and watch how many napkins get stuffed into your bag, although if you wish to effectively use any of those napkins to wipe your face, you need to immediately pull them out of the bag before they begin absorbing the grease from the 10 tons of french fries also in the bag, plus the extra scoopful thrown in to ensure that by the time you finish eating, you will weigh as much as five guys.

I have not purchased paper napkins from a store in years. For every trip to a fast-food eatery, I acquire enough napkins to last a week. I occasionally have to spill a pitcher of iced tea just to get rid of a stack of napkins so I have room for the rest.

Might I recommend that we divert some of the enormous quantities of paper used in the manufacture of napkins into the making of more moist towelettes? I always feel much more clean after a fast meal at the fast-food shop when I tear open the container, pull out the moist towelette and make my face lemony fresh. Lemon seems to enhance any cleaning product. As I always say, if life gives you lemons, make Lemon Pledge and wipe away the evidence.

Of course, wet wipes have this nasty habit of leaving you not only lemony, but wet. And it would be unfortunate to get into a traffic accident on the way home and explain to the police officer that my hands slipped on the steering wheel because of excessive wetness in the wet wipes. Eventually my criminal case would end up in the Supreme Court, where Antonin Scalia would explain that the Founding Fathers meant for me to use napkins and I would end up in a chain gang situated between Clark Kellogg and Dick Vitale arguing at 115 decibels over which was the better song, “Peg” or “Ride Like the Wind.”

Overheard at the papal debate

“This would be much more compelling TV if all the candidates weren’t speaking in Latin.”

“Are you sure Newt Gingrich is supposed to be here?”

“I would disagree with you, but your tuchus is in the seat of infallibility.”

“Who are the Koch brothers supporting?”

“If you endorse me, I’ll make you a saint by Friday.”

“Someone might want to tell the cardinal agreeing with all the other candidates that there is no ‘vice pope.’”

“Must you end every personal attack against me by saying ‘Amen’?”

“After the debate, we’ll have dinner as soon as someone multiplies the Wonder bread and the Fish McBites.”

“My learned and holy colleague in Christ, don’t tell me to ‘Et cum spiritu tuo.’”

“I don’t like the chances of the candidate who just brought his wife and kids onstage.”

Alternative names for the upcoming NASCAR race sponsored by the NRA

10. Road Rage 500

9. The Budweiser Shootout, Except With Assault Weapons

8. Gun Your Engine Or Else

7. Hidden Horsepower Is OK If It’s Concealed Carry

6. Will Ferrell Had Better Not Make Fun Of This

5. Bullitt

4. No Background Check On Joe Nemechek

3. Bristol With A Pistol

2. The Second Amendment Also Forbids Restrictor Plates

And the number one alternative name for the upcoming NASCAR race sponsored by the NRA:

1. My Carburetor’s Shot … No, Really, It’s Been Shot

A Valentine’s Day song

To all the girls I’ve creeped out before

Who slammed in my face the door

And thought I was all wrong

I dedicate this song

To all the girls I’ve creeped out before

 

To all the girls I once asked out

Who turned me down devoid of doubt

And said, “Perhaps my friend

You’re less likely to offend”

To all the girls I’ve creeped out before

 

The winds of change are always blowing

And every time I try to stay

I seem to always end up blowing

My chance at her place to play

 

To all the girls who shared my life

And giggled when I uttered “wife”

Not to mention the word “thong”

I dedicate this song

To all the girls I’ve creeped out before

 

To all the girls who’ve been my pal

Not wishing to be my femme fatale

They’ll just be a buddy

To this romantic fuddy-duddy

To all the girls I’ve creeped out before

A thank you letter to Santa

Thank you, Santa, for not getting me any gifts that start with Mr. that are sold exclusively during infomercials. No Mr. Beer, no Mr. Lid, no Mr. Microphone, no Mr. T’s FlavorWave Oven, no Mr. Sticky, no Mr. Mop to clean up Mr. Sticky Beer because it didn’t have on it a Mr. Lid. Just the thought of owning such a contraption makes me feel so dirty that I might have to run to the store and purchase Mr. Bubble.

Thank you, Santa, for not getting Aunt Myrtle an iPad. It’s bad enough talking to her once a year on the telephone right after opening her Christmas present and finding out she knitted me a tie. If she had an iPad with FaceTime, I would have to wear that skinny shawl tied around my neck every time I spoke to her. Besides, one conversation a year with Aunt Myrtle is quite enough. She has a voice that sounds as if she is about to burst into tears, except she’s happier than Michael Phelps’ cardiologist and everyone listening to her is about to burst into an Olympic-size swimming pool of tears.

Thank you, Santa, for not getting me a clock that ticks. I like a timepiece that lets me know what I need to know when I need to know it, not one that constantly lets me know it’s ready to let me know what I need to know even when I don’t need to know it. In other words, a clock should be like  a police officer — readily available to help me when I need help, but not following me in a constant reminder that it’s lurking.

And for that matter, Santa, thank you also for not getting me a clock whose facial glow would put a lighthouse to shame. I like a timepiece that lets me know … well, you know.

Thank you, Santa, for not getting me tickets to a Christmas Day movie. I love Quentin Tarantino’s films and I’m sure I’ll love seeing “Django Unchained,” but not on Christmas Day. I’m in a holiday mood on the holiday, so I want to see Santa Claus fighting the Martians or the Grinch getting less grinchier or Jesus talking in a Swedish accent. Of course, if Mr. Tarantino somehow worked into the script that Django at some point joins up with the baby Jesus to win Santa back from the Grinch, I take it all back. As for “Les Miserables,” nothing makes me less miserable than Chevy Chase causing a Chicago blackout with his Christmas lights.

Thank you, Santa, for not getting me a gift card to a pizza restaurant that feels the need to alter its menu once a week to offer a specialty item. I like a pizza where you can see the cheese as you taste it, not one where the cheese jumps out from inside the crust as if it’s at a surprise party. I like a pizza where the toppings reach the edge 52 weeks a year, not once every 52 years. I like a big slice of pizza with sauce already on it, not a pizza that comes apart in itty-bitty strips so you can dip them into sauce.

Thank you, Santa, for not getting me OxiClean. If oxygen is such a terrific cleaner, why do we have air pollution?

Thank you, Santa, for not getting me anything with a monogram. If I ever have to answer my door wearing a bathrobe with the initials BK, it’s so much easier not to explain that (a) I’m not Ben Kingsley, wearing a crappy hairpiece, after my financial adviser absconded with my fortune or (b) the owner of a free bathrobe included with my Whopper by Burger King.

And thank you, Santa, for not getting me a video game that involves gunplay. I keep hearing how these games have a heightened sense of “realism,” but if there are no funerals, no families emotionally shattered and no NRA spokesman afterward shooting his mouth off about the constitutional rights of mass murderers who wouldn’t know a well-regulated militia if it fired a handful of one-shot muskets right next to them, how in the holy heck is that “real”?

A reason for hope

Other Mayan prophecies besides the apocalypse:

Anyone who drinks hot chocolate made out of skim milk won’t know the difference.

Madonna at one point will say, “This isn’t about me.”

Artificial Christmas trees with lights already attached will never catch on.

“The X Factor” won’t be parodied in a late-night movie on Cinemax.

McDonald’s will keep the McRib on its menu permanently and will offer hand-held hash browns for a limited time only.

The greatest pressure on Washington lawmakers will come from the Hobby Lobby.

You guarantee the unpopularity of your photo gallery when you title it “Bikini Malfunctions on Revenge Bodies.”

On days with heavy snow, TV meteorologists will know better than to broadcast outside.

The overwhelming favorite for the 2013 best actor Oscar is that guy who starred in “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

John Boehner will one day be known as the king of the backup plans.

Cold, dry and wet

I have spent the last two weeks fighting a cold, which is like Woody Allen fighting an MMA champion: You put your arms defensively around your face and gut until your opponent tires of swinging.

There are two stages to defending against a cold, each taking about a week.

The first is the “dry” stage, when you try desperately to medicate yourself so someone you’re trying to impress doesn’t look at you and say, “You’re dripping.”

What’s dripping is your nostrils and your eyeballs. You can blow your nose with a tissue to try to control the nostrils. Unfortunately, at the same time your eyes squirt an oozy substance that takes a month to remove from your reading glasses with industrial-strength Windex.

To dry yourself out, you take an antihistamine. If I’m going to be anti-histamine, I’d much prefer to send nasty replies to Histamine’s Twitter account. Instead, I have to take a pill with the following warning: “Marked drowsiness may occur.” May? I have to swig two Cokes with a 5-Hour Energy chaser just to make sure I make it from the medicine cabinet to my bed before I collapse in deep slumber. The sleep is so deep that the effort to wake up feels like pulling yourself out of an abandoned well before the nostril secretions reach your nostrils a second time.

For the next several days you pop an antihistamine every time you experience 23 consecutive sneezes, wait for the dryness to occur, then try as hard as possible to keep moving because the minute you pause, you doze. The same box that warns “Marked drowsiness may occur” also has this message: “Excitability may occur.” May? Of course you’re excitable. You’re flailing away at the potential of another snooze session in another abandoned well filling up rapidly with mucus.

Mucus. Has there ever been a better word that defines itself with its pronunciation? Maybe not. Or maybe snot. I think of mucus as the clear goop doing the Wham-O Slip ’N Slide from the nose to the lips. But toward the end of the first week of your bad cold (as if there’s such a thing as a good cold), the mucus becomes snot. It begins to congeal ― white at first, then yellow, then green as it thickens to the consistency of Silly Putty and lodges in your highest sinuses and your lowest chest cavities. Your relentless cough is a muffled cry of help from someone gagged with salt water taffy without the water.

Thus begins the “wet” stage of your cold defense. After drying yourself out more than Dudley Moore’s Arthur becoming a safecracker, you now have to drench your innards with moisture to thin out the green sludge within you and force it to accompany your cough to your 19th box of tissues. You need steam.

You can obtain that steam bit by little bit by drinking cup after cup of  scalding tea. Or you can accelerate the process with a humidifier.

There are two kinds of humidifiers: warm mist and cool mist. Warm mist humidiers work by heating water until it boils and turns into steam. Cool mist humidifiers work by … some Penn & Teller magic trick, because cool water isn’t supposed to steam. I own a cool mist humidifier because I don’t like to burn myself and because it’s the closest I’ll ever come to attending a Penn & Teller show.

As you breathe the steam, you can feel your head and chest open up, which almost makes up for the fact that the fog from your humidifier is turning that late night infomercial you’re watching on TV into the movie “The Wolf Man Demonstrates the Microtouch Max Hair Trimmer and Hopes To Hell He Has Enough Batteries.”

A Halloween story

The wind was whipping and the lightning was frightening as I decided I could drive no farther in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

Luckily in the downpour I found a place to stop ― an eerie castle.

“Hello, my boy,” said the crazed-looking man who answered my knock on the door. “Come in out of the Frankenstorm.”

“To be absolutely precise, don’t you mean Frankenstorm’s monster?”

“Don’t get all Turner Classic Movies on me.”

“Sorry.”

“I’m Dr. Akin. You’ll be dry and warm in my laboratory.”

“Why do you have a laboratory? And more important, why do you pronounce it luh-BOR-a tory?”

“Force of habit. You see, I’m a mad scientist.”

“What’s the difference between a scientist and a mad scientist?”

“A scientist is a researcher who depends on factual science. A mad scientist is any Republican on the House science committee.”

“Are you conducting an experiment?” I asked Dr. Akin.

“I’m trying to create a female lab assistant. You see, I have a theory that when I absentmindedly walk out of the laboratory with all the electrical devices on, my female lab assistant has ways to shut that whole thing down.”

“Any luck so far?”

“No, all she does is slap me in the face and register to vote as a Democrat.”

“I see.”

“That’s why I asked a mad scientist friend of mine to come over tonight and help me. When I answered the door, I thought for a moment you were him.”

“What’s your friend’s name?”

“Dr. Mourdock. But I’m not sure he’ll be much help.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“Every time I tell him how one of my experiments went haywire, he replies it’s something God intended to happen.”

“I wonder if he’ll feel that way on Election Day.”

“What did you say?” asked Dr. Akin.

“Oh, nothing. Do you have any other friends who can help you?”

“Well, there’s Eddie Munster.”

“There’s really an Eddie Munster?”

“No. That’s my nickname for Dr. Ryan. He’s a close friend of mine and of Dr. Mourdock, although he’s been reluctant to say that lately.”

“Why is that?”

“He’s been spending a lot of time with a new pal of his, and he has been keeping his mouth shut so people will learn to like Dr. Romney.”

“Why wouldn’t people like Dr. Romney?”

“He changes his views more often than I change the definition of ‘legitimate.’”

“It sounds as if he’s several people cobbled together into one.”

“Have you been in my laboratory before?”

Suggested slogans for the new iPad Mini

The iPad Mini: Because you won’t need as much space to keep track of what you’ll have under President Romney.

The iPad Mini: The perfect size to keep highlights of Kansas City Chiefs games.

The iPad Mini: It’s not big enough to hold all of Ann Coulter’s slurs, but then again, what is?

The iPad Mini: You can afford it now that you’ve given up horses and bayonets.

The iPad Mini: Think of it as a regular iPad swimming in really cold water.

Top 10 alternative titles for “Taken 2”

10. I Can’t Take It Anymore

9. Akin … Ewwww

8. This Movie Sure Could Use A Wacky Joaquin Phoenix

7. If We Had Arrived At The Theater Sooner, We Could Be Now Be Watching Frankenweenie

6. Taken For Granted

5. This Ain’t No Schindler’s List

4. The F Team

3. The Dark Knight Giggles

2. Pray Away The Grey

And the number one alternative title for “Taken 2″…

1. Took … Again

Cruising for a choosing

“St. Bartholomew Catholic Church.”

“Hello. I need you to find me a wife.”

“Excuse me?”

“I read in Vanity Fair that the Church of Scientology auditioned women to be the wife of Tom Cruise, so I figured the Catholic Church had pretty much the same deal.”

“Actually, we don’t.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but before two people get married, don’t you have extensive marriage preparation classes that help a couple decide if they’re doing the right thing?”

“Yes.”

“So, if you do all these procedures to let a man know that the woman he has chosen is or isn’t right for him, isn’t that pretty much like a wife audition?”

“Um … What did you have in mind, sir?”

“It’s been reported that Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johansson were approached by the Church of Scientology about being marital prospects for Tom Cruise, so I would assume that the Catholic Church would have the same high standards.”

“By high standards, you mean…”

“Smoking hot, of course. But when I tried to do a Google search for ‘hot Catholic women,’ all I found was an article by a monsignor about which Catholic women will be going to hell.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“So I guess the first thing I’ll need you to do is to compile a list of hot Catholic women who aren’t now or aren’t planning any time soon to be in hell. Not that I mind them being naughty. How about purgatory naughty?”

“I see.”

“And I suppose that even though they have to be hot right now, they don’t have to be Catholic right now. I mean, Sofia and Scarlett weren’t Scientologists when they were on Tom’s list. So you can expand your list to anyone who wouldn’t mind becoming Catholic.”

“In other words, someone who wouldn’t mind joining a religion opposed to contraception.”

“You might want to check who was at the Republican National Convention.”

“So, someone who is naughty and who likes empty chair jokes.”

“I suppose. Now let me ask you about this marital auditioning?”

“What about it?”

“The Catholic Church opposes premarital sex, right?”

“Absolutely, unless there’s absolution.”

“But a lot of auditions involve casting couches, which involve hanky-panky, right?”

“Your point being…”

“How does the Catholic Church conduct an audition without sex?”

“You don’t read a lot of court depositions involving the Catholic Church, do you?”

“Good point. Now the Vanity Fair article went on to say that when the woman chosen by the Church of Scientology for Tom Cruise was found to be unworthy, she had to scrub toilets with a toothbrush. I wouldn’t want the Catholic Church to be that harsh.”

“Oh, don’t feel too bad for that woman.”

“Why not?”

“She scrubbed the toilets with Tom Cruise’s toothbrush.”

The facts of pro-life

I’d like to offer some help to those of you in the pro-life movement.

Having that never-say-die attitude must weigh on you. You try to shrug it off, saying that it’s just another cross to bear. And that must be tricky, bearing crosses and being pro-life at the same time.

A lot of the trouble stems from that label of yours. It must be hard to call yourself pro-life when the other side refuses to call itself anti-life. That has to throw a wet blanket on any debate wanting to quickly deteriorate into a name-calling contest.

What’s especially frustrating is that the anti side of the phraseology ledger far outweighs the pro side.

We have anti-aircraft weapons, but no pro-aircraft weapons. We have anti-virus software, but no pro-virus software. We have anti-venom, but no pro-venom. Which makes sense, since the creation and promotion of pro-venom would have to be the undertaking of a group of anti-life advocates, and there aren’t any.

Face it, even the most extreme pro-lifers out there have a hard time labeling their opponents anti-lifers. Saying that would make you sound pro-ignorance and pro-repugnance. Nobody in his right mind would say someone was anti-life. OK, Todd Akin would say it, but that proves my point.

And it must be difficult to explain to people exactly what being pro-life means. It should mean that in any life-and-death situation, you’re foursquare in favor of life, but it’s much more complicated than that.

You’re pro-life, but many of you favor the death penalty. You despise people killing people so much that you want to kill the killers. You oppose giving them a sentence of life in prison. Yet you call yourself pro-life.

Many of you enjoy boxing. Yet there’s always a chance that someone will get punched really, really hard and that person will buy the farm. I bet it’s hard for you to explain being both pro-life and pro-farm.

It’s even harder than explaining how the purchase of agricultural acreage equates itself with dying. Aren’t farmers in the business of providing food so people don’t buy the farm? And if somebody on a farm buys the farm, doesn’t that make it less likely that someone else will want to purchase the farm?

As I said, it’s hard for you pro-lifers to defend your cause. So I want to help. All you need to do is give me your undying support for the following proposal:

Let’s reduce the speed limit to 10 miles per hour.

That’s right, 10 miles per hour. On every highway. On every avenue. On every boulevard. On every street. On every thoroughfare. There would be no road anywhere where you could drive faster than 10 miles per hour.

Why? Because you could almost guarantee that no one would die in a traffic accident. You don’t hear about many fatal crashes involving a Buick going 8 miles per hour colliding with a Ford going 6 miles per hour. Oh, perhaps the drivers would fatally beat each other up or shoot each other to death afterward, but technically that’s not considered a fatal crash. Yep, you could save thousands upon thousands of lives a year by instituting a speed limit of 10 miles per hour.

But wait a minute, I hear you pro-lifers saying. That would be crazy, even crazier than Todd Akin, you say. Nobody could get anywhere in any sort of hurry driving only 10 miles per hour, you say. Life is wonderful, you say, but sometimes the pursuit of happiness requires us to compromise for the sake of quality of life.

To which an abortion rights and birth control advocate would reply: I couldn’t agree more.

I say a little prayer

(Bacharach/David/Kempin, vocals by Dionne Warwick)

The moment I wake up

Before the next Royals shakeup

I say a little prayer for you

Constitutionally protected

And conservatively infected

I say a little prayer for Mizzou

 

Missouri, Missouri, you’ll stay in my brain

And I will wonder

Forever and ever if you folks are insane

For ever thinking

That you never, not ever had the right all along

To pray whenever

And wherever the mood hits you strong

 

I run for the bus in a hurry

While riding, I think of Missouri

And I say a little prayer for you

I hope with your next novena

Instead of wishing Obama moves back to Kenya

You’ll say a little prayer for you

 

Missouri, Missouri, you’re so paranoid

To ever think that

Your right to pray was ever destroyed

Oh, how I wish that

I lived in a state with the courage to say

That forever and ever

You have a right to NOT have to pray

My Way (as sung by Mitt Romney)

And now the end is here

And so I face the final curtain

My friend, I’ll say it clear

When I left Bain, I am uncertain

I’ve lived a life that’s full

I traveled each and every highway

And more, much more than this

I retroactively did it my way

 

Regrets, I’ve had a few

But then again, too few to mention

I did what I had to do

Outsourced the rest without exemption

I planned each Cayman holding

Each careful step along the byway

Including Swiss bank accounts

I retroactively did it my way

 

Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew

When I bit off more than I could chew

But through it all, when there was doubt

A signed document said I had an out

I faced it all and I stood tall

And retroactively did it my way

 

I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried

I’ve had my fill, my share of losing

And now, as tears subside

I find Obama so amusing

An apology I’m asking for

And may I say, not in a shy way

Oh no, oh no, not me

I retroactively did it my way

 

For what is a candidate?

What has he got?

Besides a fortune

Then he has naught

To say the things he truly feels

And not Ed Gillespie’s spiel

The record shows

I ducked the blows

And retroactively did it my way

Kansas City is not afraid to take a walk

Since I live in Greater Kansas City (preferred to “Kansas City area” because of our greater inferiority complex), I should give you my thoughts about baseball’s All-Star Game.

Other commentators have spoken of how the Kauffman Stadium faithful treated Robinson Cano (they weren’t saying “boo”; they were mistaking him for Yu Darvish) or how the game was a snooze (even Tim McCarver was watching Greta Van Susteren). So I will address a facet of Kansas City that was greatly in evidence but not mentioned much, if at all.

Kansas City pedestrians must all have Rusty Hardin on retainer.

Rusty Hardin, you will recall, was the lawyer who managed to get Roger Clemens acquitted of charges that the former pitcher lied to Congress. This was ridiculously easy and ridiculously hard. Ridiculously easy because all a lawyer has to say to the jury is, “Let’s see, has Congress has ever lied to you?” Ridiculously hard because Hardin throughout the trial had to keep an eye on broken gavels that an allegedly roid-raged Clemens would have thrown at the jury.

Kansas City pedestrians must have had an esteemed lawyer like Mr. Hardin on speed call from the way they fearlessly walked the streets during All-Star festivities. I’m not referring to festivities such as the All-Star FanFest or the All-Star Grand Slam Fan Jam Please Don’t Say Thank You Ma’am. I’m referring to festivities such as Down A Drink Every Time Tony La Russa Mentions His Best Buddy Dusty Baker or Bartender Pour Me Something Every Time The Milwaukee Brewers Start Zack Greinke or Chug A Beer Whenever Billy Butler Gets Snubbed.

Such activities that make pedestrians see All-Stars also make already fearless street strollers more cheeky than a Kate Upton video. (Speaking of which, I wonder if the reason Justin Verlander was so wild in the first inning of the All-Star Game was because he was in a hurry to get off the mound before Charlie Sheen in the stands asked Justin’s supposed squeeze, Kate, if she’d like to perform a Goddess Daddy.)

It’s not as if these fearless pedestrians don’t look before striding forcefully into the street in front of your car. They tromp into the street in front of your car while looking right at you, daring you to even graze them with your bumper that was space-age plastic until NASA became uncool.

I was 20 feet away from one such intoxicated intruder into traffic one evening while behind the wheel of my Toyota Prius, waiting patiently for a couple of minutes for cars to pass. I was 19 feet away from the pedestrian when I slowly made my move into the intersection, then caught sight of him marching into the street without hesitation, then stopped.

But from his facial expression and mannerisms, you would have thought I had just belted him like Prince Fielder greeting a batting-practice fastball. His face had the indignation of everybody who ever cheated on a test getting mad at the guy who cribbed the lyrics to the All-Star Game national anthem. The pedestrian then demonstratively pointed his right hand up the street, which either meant that he wanted to meet me at the bar he had just left for some fisticuffs or he thought I was Zack Greinke trying to spike his drunken torso with my Prius and he was ejecting me from downtown.

I would have honked, but a car horn means nothing to a person on a toot.

So if you’re one of those Yankees fans who thought Midwestern hospitality took a hike when Robinson Cano was at the plate for the Home Run Derby the other evening, imagine what would have happened had Kansas City’s baseball stadium been downtown and everyone had walked in directly from a drinking establishment. Try hitting homers when people are stepping in front of the pitcher to boo you, not to mention Yu Darvish.

Top 10 ideas for a follow-up movie to “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”

10. “George Washington: Cherry Buster”

9. “John Kennedy: Ladykiller”

8. “William Henry Harrison: Pneumonia Catcher”

7. “Harry Truman: Buck Stopper”

6. “Millard Fillmore: Insomnia Exterminator”

5. “George W. Bush: WMD Hunter … and Hunter … and Hunter …”

4. “Richard Nixon: Sucked So Much Abe Lincoln Would Have Hunted Him”

3. “Gerald Ford: Creep Pardoner”

2. “Thomas Jefferson: Declarer That All Zombies Are Created Equal”

And the number one idea for a follow-up movie to “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter”…

1. “Michigan GOP: Vagina Shusher”

Remote possibilities

The inventor of the wireless television remote control, Eugene Polley, has died. In his honor, I would like to update a joke.

The old joke: Why do hot dogs come 10 to a package while hot dog buns come eight to a package?

The new joke: Why are beds 24 inches high while the cable box shelf on television stands is 19 inches high?

As a result, my TV remote control stammers worse than the awards show producer who has to ask Angelina Jolie if she can pull in her outstretched leg a bit so she quits tripping other celebrities.

I wake up in the cold morning light from a dream in which Donald Trump is chasing me hither and yon trying to convince me that Mitt Romney’s dog was born on the roof of his car. Desperate for a dose of reality, I reach for the remote and hit the power button that’s supposed to simultaneously turn on my TV and my cable box.

But because my bed is five inches above the cable box, only the TV switches on. So I hit the power button again. Now the TV turns off and the cable box turns on. The blue light of the cable box stares at me as if to say, “Why do you have me working at 4:41 a.m. if Mr. Panasonic just above me gets to sleep?”

So I am forced to yank off my sheet and blanket and stumble in the chilly dark over to the TV to find the on/off button, which is on the side of the Panasonic and indistinguishable from the button that switches my television from cable to antenna, which makes about as much sense these days as a button on my surround sound receiver for eight-track tapes.

I finally get the TV and the cable box on at the same time and rush back to the warmth of the bed. Back under the blanket, I hope to watch Comedy Central. But I have forgotten that at 4:41 a.m., Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert have given way to the informercial guy telling me how much weight I could lose with P90X. I have a different exercise regimen that gets me constantly in and out of bed in the overnight hours. I call it Pee 90 Times.

So I attempt to switch the channel to 1301, ESPN HD, because I haven’t seen highlights of that Heat-Celtics game on “SportsCenter” since The Donald started chasing me around trying to convince me that he wasn’t born yesterday. But because my bed is five inches higher than the cable box, the number 1301 gets cut off in mid remote control button pushing and my TV instead switches to Channel 130, which at the moment is showing a documentary about moonshiners on the non-high-definition Discovery Channel.

At first I’m disgusted by the fact that I’m watching something not in HD. Then I’m disgusted by the fact that all the people on my TV screen are wearing bib overalls and nothing else. Then I’m relieved by the fact that I’m not watching morbidly obese moonshiners wearing stretched-to-the-max bib overalls in high definition. But I’m not relieved enough to keep watching.

So I again try to punch the remote buttons 1-3-0-1, which this time sends me to Channel 1, where Time Warner gushes about the wonders of cable. Exasperated enough to go back to sleep and let Donald Trump chase me some more, I hit the power button. Then I hit it again. The TV and cable box take turns turning themselves off and on. I finally close my eyes with the cable box’s blue light staring at me mournfully.

Services for Eugene Polley will be this Saturday at 10:0 … I mean 0:00 … oh brother … 1:00 … damn it … 10:000 … come on … 111:00 … for the love of …

Top 10 companies that haven’t yet pulled their ads from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show

Top 10 companies that haven’t yet pulled their ads from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show:

10. CrappyApologies.com

9. Anti-Flowers

8. Slowpoke Loans

7. Data backup service Carbon Pencil

6. Mattress company Bed O’ Nails

5. Rush Limbaugh’s Wife Of The Month Club

4. Snuggie that looks like a giant aspirin

3. Creep Number (By the way, Rush is a 100)

2. Genealogy service How Many Sluts Are In Your Family Tree?

And the number one company that hasn’t yet pulled its ads from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show:

1. Legal document service Sue Rush Limbaugh’s Giant Ass

Down on the pharmacy

“Can I help you?”

“I have a new prescription.”

“Have you filled this prescription here before?”

“No. That’s why they call it a new prescription.”

“Have you had other prescriptions filled here before?”

“Yes. Although technically, what was filled was a paper bag with your logo in frighteningly large and grotesquely colored letters. This piece of paper the prescription is on is filled with only illegible handwriting by my doctor.”

“Are you still with your insurance company?”

“Yes, they haven’t been able to shake me yet. They speed up, change lanes unexpectedly, drive the wrong way on a one-way street, but I’m still following them. They question every doctor’s appointment, medical test and prescription, but they can’t get rid of me, thanks to President Obama’s health care law. The one that Mitt Romney came up with but now hates so much. The one Mr. Romney referred to the other night when he said in a speech, ‘Vote President Obama out of office before he turns into law any of my other cockamamie ideas.’”

“Do you wish to wait for your prescription?”

“No. I’d like it right this instant.”

“You’ll have to wait 15 minutes.”

“It’s right behind you.”

“What’s that?”

“The medicine I’m picking up. It’s on a shelf right behind you. If you take one step back and reach out, you can grab it and give it to me.”

“I’m afraid it’s not that simple.”

“Sure it is. Step, reach, grab, give. I’ll hand you my credit card and the transaction is done.”

“You can’t pick up your medicine at this window. When we call your name, you can pick it up at the pickup window, unless of course you need consultation about using the medicine. Then you go to the consultation window and then move down to the pickup window.”

“You’re in charge of the prescription window?”

“Yes.”

“And the consultation window?”

“Yes.”

“And the pickup window?”

“Yes.”

“Why do you need three windows? It’s not as if you’re a contestant on ‘The Biggest Loser.’”

“When we call your name, I’ll be at the pickup window.”

“Where is the best place to wait in a pharmacy to avoid embarassment? Is it the family planning aisle, the anti-diarrhea aisle, the 5-Hour Energy and Sominex aisle or the muscle powder that will keep you out of the Hall of Fame aisle?”

“I’m not sure.”

“No.”

“Beg your pardon?”

“You originally asked if you could help me. I just answered your question.”

Boehner the red-faced speaker

You know Cantor, McCarthy, Price and Hensarling

Camp and Fitzpatrick and other pols snarling

But do you recall

The most notorious Republican of all?

 

Boehner the red-faced speaker

Had a very shiny nose

When he talked of the payroll tax cut

You would even say it grows

 

All Democrats in Congress

Used to laugh and call him names

They never let poor Boehner

Do anything but take the blame

 

Then one foggy Christmas Eve

Obama came to say,

“Boehner with your face so red,

Don’t be such a doo-doo head!”

 

Then all the Senate Republicans

Shouted with animosity,

“Boehner the red-faced speaker,

You’ll go down in infamy!”

Boo diddling

A woman in Euclid, Ohio, says that she has seen two ghosts having sex.

First of all, how does this woman know that it was ghosts having sex? Did she see writhing beneath sheets? I believe most humans have sex that way too.

Did she hear moaning? I was under the impression ghosts moan all the time, whether they’re making out or not.

Were the two ghosts having safe sex? If so, how do ghosts “protect” themselves? Can a condom cover an ethereal penis? And what kind of condom does a male ghost use? One that feels as if there’s nothing there? There’s already nothing there.

Perhaps the female ghost is the one who protects herself from the demon seed. Does she use a Today sponge — or should that be a Yesterday sponge? Does she use a die-aphragm? Or does she resort to the mourning-after pill?

Is the Catholic Church opposed to ghosts practicing birth control? Is it possible to have a pro-life stance involving creatures that aren’t alive?

And if the two ghosts aren’t using protection, how do they prevent pregnancy? I’m guessing it’s the pull-out method, or in this case the poltergeist-out method.

There are other things to consider. I find it interesting that it was just two ghosts having sex and not a ghost orgy. I believe that’s known as a multiple phantasm.

It’s doubtful that this is the first time a female ghost has had sex with a male ghost. Where do you think we got the phrase “lifting spirits”?

How do ghosts have sex? Do they use the missionary position, with the male ghost on top and the female ghost in the underworld? Or do they do it Nancy Drew ghost doggy style? Or is the female ghost on top, showing off her cowgirl spirit? Is the sex outrageous or merely paranormal?

Before ghosts have sex, do they have foreplay? Does it involve the upper realm or the lower realm?

What kind of female ghost drives male ghosts wild? Does she need to have enormous breasts? If so, can she seek breast enhancement at a place named “Ghostbusters”?

When ghosts have sex, do they go to a motel or some other place they’ve never been before so they won’t be recognized? Or do sexy spirits prefer to enjoy each other at a familiar haunt?

What kind of music do ghosts play during sex? If I had to guess a song, it would be “Misty.” Or possibly “You’re In My Heart, You’re In My Soul.”

Or do they do it with a movie on, like “Harum Scarum” or “Boogeyman Nights”?

Do ghosts talk to each other during sex? If so, do they need to dig up a medium to conduct a seance?

What does a spirit cry out during the heights of ecstasy? One possibility is “Holy ghost!” Another is “Omen! OH-MEN!!”

Or is it sexier to be a ghost whisperer?

And afterward, do spooks spoon? Or does the male ghost immediately go to Sleepy Hollow?

All this talk about ghosts having sex makes me jealous. It really bothers me that when it comes to making whoopee, the spiritual world is having all these in-and-out-of-body experiences. Meanwhile, I don’t have a ghost of a chance.

Occupation explanation

Critics of Occupy Wall Street say the demonstrators don’t understand what they’re protesting against.

Critics of Occupy Wall Street, just because you don’t understand what they’re protesting against doesn’t mean that they don’t know what they’re protesting against.

This isn’t a protest against rich people. It’s a protest against people who get rich by making sure other people get poor and stay poor.

The only time the Occupy Wall Street crowd (sorry, Eric Cantor, unless these folks are brandishing torches and heading to the laboratory of Dr. Frankenstein, it’s not a mob — although, to be fair, anybody whose resemblance to the Frankenstein monster is only missing two bolts in the neck is understandably fixated on mobs) thought about Steve Jobs when they were protesting the rich was when they heard he had died and they started texting each other on their iPhones.

That’s because we like people who become rich because they invent great things that make all of our lives better.

Conversely, we hate people who become rich because they come up with a great idea and then pay the folks who implement that idea 25 cents an hour.

When I was in graduate school, desperately seeking courses to get my master’s degree and get back to the real world so I could get a job that totally ignores the fact that I have a master’s degree, I took a class on entrepreneurism. The instructor was a guy who owned a chain of radio stations. He kindly proceeded to tell us how, even though he was already really well off, he used practically none of his own money to accumulate these stations. Then he showed us how we could turn a handsome profit off a radio station by employing two people to handle the 168 hours of weekly programming and paying each of them $168 a week.

Did I mention that even though each of them worked 84 hours a week, they were somehow part-timers and didn’t get any benefits?

This guy spent more time teaching others how to screw people than Masters and Johnson.

Occupy Wall Street isn’t a protest against rich people. It’s a protest against rich people who think that all the rules of society have to be twisted so that they can stay rich until the end of time, no matter how economic circumstances mess with the 99 percent rest of us.

These wealthy folks believe that just because they own national treasures, they are national treasures. Or as some politicians call them, “job creators.” And these politicians will do everything they can to make sure wealthy people stay rich and powerful, even if these “job creators” have to fire everybody in their companies to stay that way.

Critics of Occupy Wall Street scoff at the notion that the rules have been heavily tilted toward rich people. Let’s see: Laws are created by rich people who are lobbied by even richer people representing even richer people. Why in the wide, wide world of sports would those laws favor rich people?

And these rich people don’t believe in government standing in the way of their prosperity, even if it means more people choking on pollution and less people able to afford iron lungs. But in order to have no government, strangely enough, you need to have a government — the chintziest government that money can buy.

Ironically, the folks who are howling the most at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Chicago and Occupy Los Angeles and Occupy Dallas are people whose consciences have for the longest time been unoccupied.

A memorable fall TV season

In the new television show “Unforgettable,” Carrie Wells is able to remember everything in exquisite detail. This makes her a wonderful crime fighter, but she would be a lousy network executive:

“I seem to remember a show called ‘Charlie’s Angels’ on the air back in the 1970s. How is this new version different from the old version?”

“It’s what we call a ‘reboot,’ Ms. Wells.”

“What does that mean?”

“In a few weeks we’ll kick it to another night, then we’ll kick it to cable.”

“And shouldn’t the title of the 1960-ish ‘The Playboy Club’ actually be ‘Bunnies and Hopping Mad Men’?

“Actually, Ms. Wells, we were going to call it ‘Pan Am’ until someone pointed out that title was already taken.”

“Speaking of titles, we have on the fall schedule at the same time ‘A Gifted Man,’ ‘How To Be a Gentleman,’ ‘Last Man Standing’ and ‘Man Up!’ Notice any similarity?”

“The new person in charge of putting titles on TV programs used to work at a newspaper writing those really short headlines on packages of brief stories: ‘Man hurt in accident,’ ‘Man charged in crime,’ ‘Man robs bank,’ ‘Man, was it ever hot.’”

“How about ‘2 Broke Girls’ and ‘New Girl’?”

“I think Marlo Thomas suggested those.”

“Speaking of ‘New Girl,’ I realize I have a better memory than most people. But do we really expect viewers to believe that Zooey Deschanel’s three male roommates constantly forget they’re living with hot Zooey Deschanel?”

“I’m trying to recall, Ms. Wells. Is she the one on ‘Bones’?”

“You answered my question. Here’s an intriguing title — for once — ‘Terra Nova.’ Is the plot as imaginative as the title?”

“People go back in time to when there were dinosaurs.”

“Remember the movie ‘Land of the Lost’? Television networks need a Will Ferrell rule: Don’t put an idea on TV if it bombed even though it had Will Ferrell.”

“Ms. Wells, does that mean we should scuttle that midseason replacement show with dinosaurs chasing Will Ferrell?”

“Probably. Now here’s a fascinating title: ‘Suburgatory.’ Tell me this show won’t remind me of something else.”

“A father trying to protect his daughter from the sinful city moves to the suburbs, where things are a bit too perfect. It’s ‘Stepword Wives’ meets ‘Desperate Housewives’ meets former ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ wife.”

“Cheryl Hines is in it? No wonder Larry David divorced her.”

“Ms. Wells, we put the creepy guy from ‘Lost’ in a new show.”

“What does he play in this new show?”

“A creepy guy.”

“Did you stop to think that he’s an actor who might be capable of playing something other than a creepy guy? … Hey, that’s Michael Emerson. Sheesh, he creeps me out.”

“The show is called ‘Person of Interest.’”

“I hope that title doesn’t describe the program’s ratings.”

My five-star-special, mortal-lock NFL preview

Arizona Cardinals: They need more work, just like the videotape of a Democrat’s speech in a Fox News editing bay.

Atlanta Falcons: Closer to a Super Bowl trophy than a tennis stroke is to a grunt.

Baltimore Ravens: They hate the Pittsburgh Steelers more than I hate Miracle Whip.

Buffalo Bills: To stop the run this season, the team plans to not cover any wide receivers.

Carolina Panthers: Owner Jerry Richardson won’t let quarterback Cam Newton get tattoos. But with that offensive line, Richardson apparently doesn’t mind if Newton gets tattooed.

Chicago Bears: Anybody who thinks a pouty look is sexy has never seen Jay Cutler.

Cincinnati Bengals: If the University of Maryland can win a game in their ridiculous uniforms, maybe these guys have a chance.

Cleveland Browns: They lack depth. And they lack whatever you need to have before you can rely on depth.

Dallas Cowboys: I don’t like their chances, since any day now they are expected to move to the Pac-12 or the SEC.

Denver Broncos: If your team has two number two quarterbacks, your coach has less backbone than an amoeba impersonating White House budget negotiators.

Detroit Lions: Ndamukong Suh is scarier than Gov. Rick Perry teaching a class on the Constitution.

Green Bay Packers: They might find it difficult to repeat as Super Bowl champs after Gov. Scott Walker eliminated their right of collective huddling.

Houston Texans: Running back Arian Foster tweeted an MRI of his hamstring, followed shortly thereafter by an MRI of his coach’s foot up his ass.

Indianapolis Colts: The only person doing less necking than Peyton Manning right now is me. Meanwhile, Jim Tressel will be a replay consultant. We can create jobs for disgraced former football coaches but not for unemployed people?

Jacksonville Jaguars: Dumped their starting quarterback a few days before the season opener. Saved $9 million plus that nagging expense of printing playoff tickets.

Kansas City Chiefs: They played their starters in the final preseason game and some of them got hurt. Meaningless games aren’t meaningless unless you treat them as meaningless.

Miami Dolphins: If Nevin Shapiro didn’t get emotionally involved with this team, why should you?

Minnesota Vikings: Brett Favre, then Donovan McNabb. Who’s next at quarterback: Wilford Brimley?

New England Patriots: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney insists his Patriots in no way resemble ObamaBears.

New Orleans Saints: They win every home game because Emeril Lagasse has a restaurant in the visiting team’s locker room.

New York Giants: Coach Tom Coughlin always looks as if he just paid for Kim Kardashian’s wedding.

New York Jets: Coach Rex Ryan once again guaranteed that his team will win the Super Bowl. Then came his guarantee that the new “Conan the Barbarian” film was tons better than the original.

Oakland Raiders: Eddie Murphy has been named host of the Oscars. This honor usually goes to someone at their peak, so that means the next Super Bowl champ will be the 1984 Los Angeles Raiders.

Philadelphia Eagles: A team of superstars that many are comparing to the Miami Heat. Which right now is sort of like comparing a dictatorship to Moammar Gadhafi’s.

Pittsburgh Steelers: They hate the Baltimore Ravens more than I hate Miracle Whip calling itself “MW.”

San Diego Chargers: To inspire them, their coach took them to the movie “Shark Night 3D.”

San Francisco 49ers: To inspire them, their coach took them to the movie “Help!” No, not “The Help.” I mean (for this team needs) “Help!”

Seattle Seahawks: To inspire them, their coach took them to the movie “The Smurfs.”

St. Louis Rams: Lots more potential than the brainiac at ABC who came up with the show title “The Chew.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Lots more potential than the brainiac at NBC who came up with the show title “It’s Worth What?”

Tennessee Titans: If Homeland Security follows through on its goal to allow airline passengers to keep their shoes on through security, then airports will stink somewhat less than this team.

Washington Redskins: Inspired by Saturday’s Notre Dame loss and the facial reactions of the Fighting Irish coach, I suggest we stop offending Native Americans and rename this team the Washington Brian Kellys.

License to kill … my appetite

I got a notice in the mail the other day that I need to lose 10 pounds by my birthday.

Well, it didn’t exactly say that. It actually said that my driver’s license needs to be renewed. Which means I need to go on a diet.

It’s true that the photo on a driver’s license doesn’t show your entire body. But it does show your face, and for some reason the first place I gain weight is my face. Which blows to smithereens the adage that the criminal never returns to the scene of a crime.

You can exercise your arms, your legs and your midsection, but it’s hard to exercise your face — other than chewing, which is how I got to the point where I need to exercise my face.

The irony is that the foods that make me chew the most are the foods that make my face the fattest. Burnt ends, french fries, taffy — your face gets a workout and the next day looks as if it stole all the collagen injections in Hollywood. It would be like watching Chuck Norris do his workout on that Total Gym infomercial and end up looking like Roseanne Barr.

An exception to this theory is chewing gum. Constantly chewing gum during a diet is a good idea because your jaw will be too worn out to eat pizza later on. It’s too bad most gum these days is sugar-free because that eliminates the added benefit while trying to lose weight of losing all your teeth.

The other reason I need to lose weight before I get my driver’s license renewed is because the state requires you to list your weight. Interestingly, the folks at the driver’s license bureau don’t weigh you. They just ask you what your weight is. You get the feeling you could say almost all number and they would put it on your license. However, they don’t follow the same procedure with your vision. They don’t say, “What’s your eyesight?” and let you answer, “It’s 20-15. Pay no attention to all the partitions I knocked to the ground walking over here.”

I would feel somewhat guilty, however, giving state officials a bogus weight. It would be like putting phony numbers on my tax return. I would worry about some state auditor going to my doctor’s office and checking up on how much I weighed last time I was in for a checkup.

Speaking of which, do any of us really, really know how much we weigh? That number changes constantly through the day. When I weigh myself, I’m always looking for the lowest number possible. So I always weigh myself first thing in the morning after eight hours of not eating while I’m sleeping. And I weigh myself absolutely, totally, completely nude.

But when you go to the doctor’s office, the scale is out in the open in the busiest hallway. You wouldn’t believe what a stink the caregivers attempting to weigh you there put up if you try to take off all your clothes.

Your weight at the doctor’s office always seems to be 10 pounds more than when you weigh yourself in your bathroom at home. When the caregiver reads out the number, first I tell her not to be such a yeller and then I sneak a quick look to make sure she hasn’t surreptitiously put her foot on the scale next to mine.

Your shirt, pants, socks, shoes and underwear don’t seem to weigh 10 pounds, so why is your weight at the doctor’s office such a high number? The only logical reason I can come up with is that zoning codes must allow medical personnel to locate their offices in the places on Earth with the greatest gravitational pull. It wouldn’t be hard for doctors to gain access to these places. After all, we already know that hernia exams are performed directly over the portals to hell.

That gives me an idea of how to stop eating so I can lose 10 pounds in the next few weeks: Schedule twice-a-day hernia exams.

A credit rating Q&A

Why did Standard & Poor’s downgrade the United States’ credit rating from AAA to AA+?

S&P calculated the creditworthiness of the U.S. and found that it remains a highly trustworthy country to invest in. Then it saw Michele Bachmann’s crazed cover photo on Newsweek and panicked.

What’s with the credit rating system anyway? The United States is still rated AA+. If I copied off Albert Einstein’s paper, the best grade I could get is A+. What’s with all the triple A’s and double A’s? Does Standard & Poor’s not have an angel it can stamp on a country’s credit rating test paper? Couldn’t it stick a gold star on the report? Of course, the cost of gold stars goes up every time you don’t use one on a credit report, so what’s the point? Why not just grade credit the way we’re graded in school — A, B, C, D, F?

I think the reasoning there is …

If every country gets an AAA or an AA, aren’t we like the competition in which every kid gets a trophy? “Congratulations for showing up, Jimmy. Next year, show up on time and wearing pants and we’ll give you a bigger trophy.”

As I was saying, the thinking behind that is …

And what’s with the plus signs? Are some countries doing extra credit to get extra credit? And the minus signs? Standard & Poor’s supposedly made a $2 trillion error in assessing the U.S. credit rating. Should we trust people who can’t subtract with handing out minus signs?

If you would let me explain …

By the way, why do grades start with A, B, C, D and then skip E and go to F? What’s wrong with the letter E? Are the graders afraid we’ll think E stands for excellent? “Yes, Jimmy, you didn’t do enough to earn a D, so we’re grading your paper excellent. Here’s another trophy.”

Do you have any questions at all about the U.S. credit rating?

As a matter of fact, I do. I understand that as a result of the downgrade by S&P, the United States now has a lower credit rating than the Isle of Man.

That’s correct.

How in the holy heck does the Isle of Man get a AAA credit rating? Does the Isle of Man ever have to borrow money for anything?

Well, you see …

Doesn’t the Isle of Man strike you as an elderly woman in front of a long line at the checkout counter fingering through her change purse for the exact number of pennies?

What you don’t understand is …

The head of state on the Isle of Man is Queen Elizabeth II, who holds the title of Lord of Man. These folks call a lady a lord and we’re OK letting them borrow money?

The Isle of Man’s credit rating isn’t based on …

And Luxembourg has a better credit rating than we do. The world’s only remaining grand duchy. Duchy? How can Luxembourg be a better credit risk when it sounds like one of the co-hosts of “Fox & Friends”?

Speaking of borrowing, would it be all right if I borrowed from you some Extra Strength Tylenol?

Jelly roles

As the cost of gasoline keeps going up and up and up, why doesn’t the price of petroleum jelly ever change much? You don’t ever hear people say, “Man, I’d better stock up on petroleum jelly before they jack up the price for Memorial Day weekend.”

Petroleum jelly is indeed a petroleum-based product also known as petrolatum. It was first seen collecting around oil rigs, jamming things up. So naturally somebody thought this would be the perfect thing to rub all over your skin. It was then called “rod wax,” so people of course smeared it on their lips. Had Michele Bachmann’s husband, Marcus, been around then, I’m sure he would have started a clinic to dissuade that behavior.

The most famous petroleum jelly is Vaseline, which is both hypoallergenic and non-comedogenic. Hypoallergenic means it isn’t likely to produce an allergic response. Non-comedogenic means it doesn’t produce acne. The next time you see someone with pimples, be extra tactful and tell that person that there appears to be a sizable amount of comedo emanating from his or her forehead. You’ll be thanked profusely.

So, if your main objective in life isn’t to gum up an oil rig, what do you use Vaseline for? Well, Vaseline is listed as a way to remove makeup. Then again, if you smear enough Vaseline on a camera lens, it isn’t necessary for the person being filmed to wear makeup at all.

Which brings us to a fascinating quality about Vaseline. If you put it on your skin regularly, you’ll look younger. And if you put it on the camera shooting you regularly, you’ll look younger. No other product that I can think of works this way. If you show up on a movie set with acne all over your face, somebody doesn’t say, “Well, either we can put the Clearasil on her face or we can put it on the camera lens.”

Another common use of Vaseline is to protect against diaper rash. You only hear about this with infants, but I suppose Vaseline would be equally effective against Depend rash.

Vaseline is a good way to prevent lips from chapping. Lips chap because they’re either too dry or too wet. Lips must have a precise amount of moisture in them so they don’t crack open and make you look like a “Twilight” actor. That’s why it’s a good idea to have someone constantly test your lips. Which reminds me, I still haven’t heard back from you, Scarlett Johansson.

But by far the most popular use of Vaseline is to relieve dry skin. What’s interesting is that Vaseline makes about a gazillion varieties of lotions to do the same thing. I guess I can see why. We think nothing about people applying lotion all over their bodies. But when we see people slathering Vaseline all over their bodies, we’re reminded of that particular creepy episode of “Law & Order: SVU.”

Vaseline makes lotions that emphasize different needs: total moisture, daily skin shield, renewal, healthy hand and nail, healthy body glow, firming. There is even a set of Vaseline lotions labeled “intensive rescue.” They used to be known as “intensive care,” but people kept rushing to the emergency room when they didn’t work immediately.

As of yet, Vaseline doesn’t have a lotion that specifically says it “stops you from itching like a monkey in a zoo,” even though I think that variety would be quite popular.

I hope this has given you a complete picture of petroleum jelly. If you don’t like this picture, smear some Vaseline on a lens and take your own picture. Meanwhile, I’ll be looking for Ms. Johansson, who appears to be in need of intensive rescue stat.

Drawing the line on lines

I hate to wait.

Wait.

What I really mean is that I hate how we’ve screwed up the process of waiting.

We can’t even do something as simple as stand in line.

The next time you’re in line, notice how far apart people stand from each other. It’s as if the person in front of us is Dominique Strauss-Kahn and his Strauss-Kahn-Do attitude.

A store brags that before its doors open for a big sale, the line is circling the block. Well, if everybody in line didn’t act as if the person in front of them was B.O. Plenty, the line wouldn’t even circle Lawrence Block.

There ought be an understanding that when you get into a line, you have your act together. And by act, I of course mean shopping list. Forgot to get antacids? Sorry, you forfeit your place in line. Asking me to let you step back into line ahead of me is like asking antacids to work on your stomach after you spit them out.

And when you get to the front of the line, for Pete Townshend’s sake, don’t conduct the Rolling Stone interview with the cashier while those of us behind you fantasize about smashing a guitar on your purchase. I don’t care if the cashier is your long-lost mother, your conversation should only consist of “Wow. Thirty years. Trapped in cave. Bear. Hibernated, huh? Well, see you next time I need shoes.”

Waiting is all about lines, even the lines that don’t seem like lines. For instance, a doctor’s office. You check in and then are told to have a seat until your name is called. It would be great if the seats were all lined up in a row so you know who’s first, second, third and so on. But even though the seats are scattered about, the rules about a line should apply.

I hate when I get to the doctor, check in, sit down, watch people come in after me and then see them get called before I do. I don’t care if the time of my appointment is after theirs. First come, first served — a tradition that I believe dates back to lunch break on the set of the film “Debbie Does Dallas.”

When my name finally is called, I’m taken to what is known as an examining room, because I now have an hour to examine the clock while I wait for someone to knock on the door and come in. And that person isn’t the doctor, but the person who escorted me to the examining room, who now tells me that she is taking me to another examining room, where I can examine another clock before the doctor finally arrives. Suddenly I realize that all my skyrocketing insurance premiums and soaring co-pays have gone to my doctor so he could triple the number of rooms where he can juggle patients for two hours before his 12-second examination.

There are lines in cyberspace as well. Tickets for the greatest concert in my life are set to go on sale at 10 a.m. I take a seat at my computer at 9:45 p.m. and find the website for the atomic clock so I know precisely when to click on the website for the concert tickets. I watch every second pass, remindful of the previous day at the doctor’s office. It’s 9:59:57, then 9:59:58, then 9:59:59…

At precisely 10:00:00, I click on “buy” at the ticket website. And I’m told that my tickets are in Row 437.

And I then realize I forgot to get antacids.

Really scary tobacco warnings

In an enhanced effort to reduce smoking, the U.S. government has unveiled a series of graphic images that will be required on all packages of cigarettes.

The pictures are powerful — diseased lungs, disgusting teeth and gums, a tracheotomy hole in the throat — but the accompanying words are the same old same old: “Warning: Cigarettes are addictive” … “Warning: Cigarettes cause cancer … “Warning: Smoking can kill you.”

To really stop people from ruining their lives, the words next to the graphic images on cigarette packages must be equally devastating. For instance:

Warning: Cigarettes will give you the life span of Sarah Palin’s governorship.

Warning: Cigarettes won’t make you look sexy, but you’ll have as many doctor visits as Hugh Hefner has girlfriends.

Warning: Cigarettes will cause your breath to be as short as a concert tour by Amy Winehouse.

Warning: Cigarettes will make you gag so often, you’ll feel as if you’re on the Miami Heat.

Warning: Cigarettes will put you on life support, right next to Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

Warning: Cigarettes will give you more holes than Donald Trump’s logic.

Warning: Cigarettes will cause you to cough up more sputum than the Chicago Cubs cough up leads.

Warning: Cigarettes are more addictive than gambling on Angry Birds with Oreo Fudge Cremes.

Warning: Cigarettes will make your heart function almost as poorly as the one in Wisconsin’s governor.

Warning: Cigarettes threaten others with secondhand smoke, leaving you as friendless as Anthony Weiner.

Warning: Cigarettes will force you to smile less often than Carolina Panthers fans.

Warning: Cigarettes cause a greater number of illnesses than the number of Republican presidential candidates.

Warning: Cigarettes will get you close to Jon Hamm and Christina Hendricks only if you pay them a small fortune per episode.

Warning: Cigarettes are hard to quit, unlike Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign.

Warning: Cigarettes create so much smoke around you that Sen. John McCain will claim that illegal immigrants set you on fire.

Warning: Cigarettes will force you to learn how to spell “emphysema.”

Warning: Cigarettes will leave you as toothless as a class action suit in front of the Supreme Court.

Warning: Cigarettes blow almost as much smoke as financial advisers.

Warning: Cigarettes produce nearly as many hackers as the Sony PlayStation Network.

Warning: Cigarettes will give you more wrinkles than the tax code.

Warning: Cigarettes cause your complexion to change faster than that of the NBA finals.

Warning: Cigarettes are as dangerous as Afghanistan, which unfortunately has no warning labels.

A bicycle built for boo

Performance-enhanced bicyclists are being disqualified from the sport so fast that the only people left to win the next Tour de France are youngsters riding bikes adorned with baskets, smiley faces, mug shots of Dora the Explorer and training wheels.

Who look better dressed in yellow than adult males with 28-inch waistlines, I might add.

Motorcyclists have a reputation of being lawless, but they have nothing on their cousins without the motors. Despite the fact that they drive 50 miles an hour slower than the motorheads, bicyclists take up every bit as much of the road. Never mind that their vehicles are skinny enough to occupy that thin strip of road carved out for them next to the curb. No, far better for them to pedal way out in the middle of the lane, forcing automobiles going much faster than them to veer into oncoming traffic in order to pass them.

And when you do, take a look at the face of the bicyclist you’re trying to pass. He glances at you, then the car coming straight at you, then back at you with a smile that says: “In just a minute, there’ll be one less smog producer on the planet, and we who ride on this green machine will be one step closer to the world domination we so richly deserve.”

Yes, I’m good at reading faces. I should enter the World Series of Poker, except on my long drive to Vegas I’d encounter so many bicyclists trying to do me in that I’d never make it.

Worse still are the encounters with a group of bicyclists riding in formation as if the Blue Angels needed ground support. Again, it would be so ridiculously simple to ride in single file next to the curb. But that’s not what bicyclists do. They fan out in a tandem formation like the tail of the letter Q written backward by a calligrapher buzzed on triple lattes and ginseng cocktails.

Bicyclists will tell you they line up this way in order to avoid a mass pileup in the event that a cyclist near the front hits a pebble and loses control. Please.

First of all, those errant pebbles on the roadway are caused by cars skidding into curbs trying to avoid bicyclists shifting their place in formation as if they’re running an offensive football play collectively designed by Mike Shanahan, Mike Martz, Mike Leach, Mike Riley, and Mike and Mike in the Morning.

Second of all, bicyclists, that’s why you’re wearing helmets — or whatever you want to call those upside-down-canoe-shaped things on your head. These banana hats look like something you would wear after a bike accident, not before.

And while we’re on the subject, shouldn’t bike helmets protect something other than the top of the head? There’s little covering up the forehead or the side of the head or the back of the head. I believe those parts of the head are sort of important as well. Then again, if those parts of your skull swell up, your aerodynamics aren’t affected. How silly of me to overlook that.

If it sounds as if I have a thing against bicycles, you’re right. It goes back to my grade school days, specifically the Christmas gift exchange at St. Casimir’s School. No gift was supposed to cost more than a dollar. The gift exchange taught me generosity, ingenuity and frugality. It also taught me that the only students who obeyed the dollar rule were me and the guy who bought my present.

One year I got lime green handlebar grips for my red bicycle. They caught the attention of every motorist, and I feared getting caught on a vehicle and getting pitched into a ditch because the driver was doubled over in laughter.

So I asked myself: What would St. Casimir do? Then I discovered that Casimir died at the age of 25. Thus inspired, I gave the red bike with the lime green handlebar grips to my sister.

Surreal estate

Dear New Homebuyer:

As the president and CEO of Are You For Real Estate LLC, let me congratulate you on your new purchase. Acquiring a home is undoubtedly the most significant day of your life — never mind what the person you’re married to has to say on the matter. A home represents a desire to establish deep roots in a community, a long-term financial and emotional commitment, a sense of permanence.

Therefore, you should find a new home immediately.

Yes, problems in the housing market are rampant. Prices are down. Sales are down. Foreclosures are climbing faster than a Sherpa full of Mountain Dew. Subprime lenders have gone subterranean. Builders are turning termites loose on their profit-and-loss statements.

In other words, there has never been a better time to move.

This is especially true if you’ve just purchased a town house, one of those “half houses” where two homes in the same building are mirror images of each other. When you think about it, there’s practically no difference between a “half house” and a “halfway house,” and you know how people get freaked out by halfway houses in their neighborhood and the people halfway between confinement and societal freedom who live there. Since all your neighbors will also be getting my brochure suggesting a link between your “half house” and a “halfway house,” you might as well pull up stakes right now.

To encourage you in this direction, my team of real estate professionals will be sending you brochures every darn day until you let me handle your property. I’ll constantly tell you what your current home is worth, and the number will constantly be going up. Even if locusts take over your neighborhood, even if the dollar is replaced as U.S. currency by a bucket of mud, the value of your home will keep going up and up — until we begin negotiating with you as the representative of the prospective buyer.

Each of our brochures will provide tips on how to make your home more attractive to sell. Tips on housecleaning. Tips on landscaping. Tips on finding a plumber who won’t ask you upon arriving at your house if you have a plunger, a Shop-Vac and an extension cord. If you follow all these suggestions, your abode will be so cozy that you’ll think you never want to leave.

So we’ll then send all your neighbors brochures suggesting that on Halloween this year, they should forget about that safety tip of putting a flashlight instead of a candle inside a jack-o’-lantern. A flickering flame inside a sliced-out pumpkin head is a heck of a lot spookier than the look of someone pulling an all-nighter inside an orange Frank Gehry home. And once you realize that your entire neighborhood is about to go up in smoke, you’ll be dying to give us a call.

My real estate team will also be sending you postcards showing you a beautiful home that just sold for top dollar and suggesting that if you sell your home right this minute, you’ll make just as much dough. You might get suspicious if you look carefully at these postcards and realize that each lovely home pictured — with terraces and waterfalls and masonry galore — looks exactly the same as the home on the previous postcard. Don’t be. Just assume that I’ve sold the same home five times in five months.

That’s how effective my real estate team is. We’re one of the top 10 teams in the metropolitan area. And by that I mean we’re 10th. If we were ninth, I’d be telling you we’re one of the top nine teams in the area.

I’m proud of my team and I’m proud of my city. You can count on me because I will be here forever.

Or at least until I get a real estate brochure that convinces me to move.

Trash talk

When it comes time to get rid of something, one must be properly disposed to properly disposing of the item. Every item has to go into a certain place.

Getting rid of white paper? That goes into the white paper bin.

Getting rid of a newspaper? That goes into the newspaper bin.

Getting rid of a plastic bottle or can? That goes into the bottle/can bin.

Getting rid of a printer or fax machine cartridge? That goes into the cartridge bin.

Getting rid of a candy wrapper? That goes into the … hmmm.

You see, once upon a time we had a quaint device for such things known as a trash can. But in the modern age of recycling, our zeal for putting everything in its proper bin has relegated the trash can to … well, I’m not sure where you dispose of a trash can nowadays.

I want to be a good steward of the planet. I’m not like Rush Limbaugh, who believes that Earth is this highly adaptable ecosystem that can accommodate any amount of garbage and make it part of the planet. I believe that Earth is a big rock that can no more handle a cascade of filth on its own than a cat box can handle a bunch of cat turds on its own.

If Rush owned a cat, when guests came by and complained about the awful smell from the cat box, do you think that Rush would reply, “You pseudoscientists don’t understand that excrement in an unfettered free enterprise society without government regulation will over time by metamorphosis become one with the cat box”?

I think the only thing that’s one with the cat box is Rush’s brain.

As I said, I want to be an environmentalist. Which is why I use plastic bags at the grocery store. But when I leave the store and put items in my car for the trip home, I can’t help but notice that I have more plastic bags than items purchased.

When it comes to grocery bags, plastic is better than paper. It takes up less space. It consumes less energy. It produces fewer emissions. It can be reused. It can be recycled back into plastic.

But to make plastic this flexible, it has to be thinner than the plot of a Vin Diesel movie. The plastic bags are so thin at my grocery store that when I buy a package of Scotch tape, the clerk has to double-bag it. Is using this many plastic bags really good for Mother Earth?

True, you can reuse plastic bags. You can collect them at home and bring them back to the grocery store next time.

But I never see anyone coming into the store carrying plastic bags, probably because it’s too embarrassing to hear someone at the checkout line say, “The cloth bag you bought to be more environmental just fell through your plastic bag.”

Strength isn’t a problem with my trash bags at home. They’re advertised to be made of some space-age material that won’t come apart. So let me get this straight: NASA spacecraft are coming apart, but my space-age trash bag won’t. Shouldn’t we line the next rocket with trash bags just to make sure the mission is successful?

Trash bags have gotten away from using twist ties, whose paper used to fly off in the middle of twisting so that the exposed wire could end up sticking through your finger. Trash bags now use drawstrings, which no matter how many times you knot them untie faster than a 3-year-old’s shoestrings. The job of the trash collector has become much easier, since 80 percent of your trash has blown out of the open bag and down the street by the time the trash truck arrives.

Too bad Rush Limbaugh refuses to help figure out these environmental quandaries. I bet he could solve all these problems with half his cat turds tied behind his back.

A cut above

The fine folks at Gillette have decided that their Fusion razor no longer cuts it, so to speak. In its place, they have created the Gilette Fusion ProGlide, supposedly the closest razor this side of a Sweeney Todd musical.

The Fusion ProGlide’s blades are thinner, without the benefit of a maniacal 90-day workout program, and slicker, without the benefit of a maniacal 90-year BP oil spill. Gillette says that the new blades replace shaving with “gliding,” which is not the word I would have chosen to convey a total absence of danger to cliff dwellers, but then again I will never be confused with Don Draper.

Gillette would like me to ditch my Fusion razor for the higher-tech Fusion ProGlide razor so my face can be as smooth as a baby’s behind. Then I can get my vastly smoother face in the proximity of a somewhat older and less smellier behind.

But I really like my Fusion razor, which, like the new Fusion ProGlide, has five blades. I could have chosen a rival razor with only four blades made out of titanium, but then I realized titanium is the substance most drivers in golf are made of and I was worried that driving pieces of beard 300 yards from my face would make cleanup a bitch. So I opted for the shaver with the extra blade made of — well, the manufacturer won’t say what the blades are made of, but I’m sure it’s a substance on the periodic table. Maybe it’s promethium.

If I understand shaving surface technology correctly from my extensive study of television commercials and “Saturday Night Live” skits, the first blade of the five-blade razor isn’t meant to cut the individual stubble of beard but to merely pull it farther out than it was, preparing it for the next blade. The second blade is especially designed to meet with the facial hair and dislodge it even more, setting it up for the third blade, which, with qualities unlike any of its companion blades, prepares the hair for its appointment with the fourth blade. Blade number four proves to be uniquely qualified to yank the now severely weakened soldier in the beard brigade to a point where it is totally vulnerable to blade number five.

Here, finally, do we have a blade that actually cuts. This, finally, is the blade that inflicts mortal damage on the facial hair, which has been pulled from its roots by the previous four blades to the point where it can no longer gain nourishment from the face and, in this weakened state, is no match for the sharpness that is blade number five.

But if the fifth blade is the only blade that cuts the beard, and if it can do so only after the facial hair has been thoroughly set up for execution by blades one, two, three and four, which are especially designed to do their jobs only in that order, what happens if you flip the razor over and try to shave the other way? Will the person doing this be horribly disfigured for life? And if so, won’t the shaver’s stunning effectiveness prevent facial hair from growing back for an appreciable amount of time, meaning it could be several weeks before the person is able to hide the horrible disfigurement?

Apart from the five blades of the razor, on the back of the shaving cartridge is a single blade. This so-called precision trimmer has been designed for tricky places on the face such as sideburns and the area under the nose. So it takes five blades working in an especially choreographed tandem to cut ordinary facial hair, but it only takes one blade to cut the trickiest part of the beard. I can’t help but think it would have been much easier and much more cost-efficient for the shaver manufacturer to just put this one “wonderblade” on the razor and be done with it.

If I choose to replace my Fusion with a Fusion ProGlide, I will once again face the option of choosing a battery-powered version that vibrates with micropulses that further reduce razor friction and increase razor glide. That sounds impressive until I remember that I already have a razor with all those features. I think it’s called an electric shaver.

Fortunately, I have some time to contemplate whether to switch shavers. You see, to save a few bucks, I chose a while back to buy a package of 12 Fusion replacement cartridges, each of which lasts me a month. I’ll be damned if I throw away that money on the whimsical promise of facial gliding. And by the time I finish the last of the replacement cartridges, Gillette will most likely have come up with a replacement for the Fusion ProGlide, probably called the Fusion ProGlide My Face Must Be Numb Because I Can’t Feel The Shaver.

Whether you use a Gillete Fusion, a Gillette Fusion ProGlide or a lawn mower blade, it’s helpful to remember this: The goal in shaving isn’t to get the closest shave possible. The goal is not to cut yourself. Women are always dating guys with stubble. Women are never dating guys with a bleeding face.

A special message from PETA

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has long been dedicated to protecting the rights of the animal kingdom. It is our fervent belief that animals should not be food, clothing or the subjects of scientific experiments. And we further believe that animals have a dignity that should not be diminished by human beings seeking entertainment. When people degrade animals in this fashion, not only do animals lose respect, but humans lose respect as well.

Keeping this in mind, PETA is launching a new campaign focusing on a mode of entertainment that for years has sought to amuse people at the expense of the animal kingdom. This humiliation cannot be tolerated any longer.

We’re speaking, of course, about greeting cards.

The occasion of someone’s birthday should be the happiest of events, but it seldom is happy for the animals who are asked to participate in conveying this greeting. A card depicts an actual dog whose face is being pulled back tightly by its owner. The card reads, “Before deciding on a facelift, she sees how it would look on Barney.” The mild irritation on Barney’s face barely speaks of the mortification the dog is experiencing.

And what of the card with an illustration of a plump cat lounging in the front room. Above the cat are the words, “A little bird told me you were another year older.” You open the card and read the rest: “So I ate him. Happy birthday!” It’s not enough that to spoof someone’s advanced age you must resort to the stereotypical fat cat with a stereotypical Cheshire smile. You also must give the kitty a live bird to devour to satisfy your hunger for amusement. I suppose had there been a birthday card depicting cockfighting, you would have gladly chosen that instead.

Even a birthday card for an innocent child is fraught with embarrassment. A frog peeks through a number showing the birthday child’s new age. The frog has a chance to shape the young person’s mind to forever treat the world of animals as an equal partner, friends to be treated with respect and nobility. But that image is quickly wiped away when the frog says, “Hope your birthday is un-FROG-gettable.” The child will forever think of the frog as a creature of stupidity, an animal unable to express itself with intelligence and grace. The child will look down upon the frog as a lowly creature of the pond, someone to serve every capricious whim of humans between ribbits. How distressing.

It’s bad enough that this image is burned into the mind on one’s birthday. But the evil purveyors of greeting cards wish to strip dignity from animals all year long.

At Christmas, we see pets decorating the tree, again in the role of servant to the lord high ruler, mankind.

At Thanksgiving, an unsuspecting turkey shakes his tail merrily in celebration, not realizing that his fattened body will soon be roasting in an oven and supplying enough tryptophan to cause an entire family to doze through an NFL tripleheader.

And then there’s the poor Easter Bunny. On the surface, he seems to be an ambassador of good will, spreading joy as the welcomer of spring. But what does this so-called friendly bunny carry in his basket? Easter eggs. Yes, this cheerful bunny has the maniacal laugh of someone who has stolen many a chicken’s offspring and delivered the hostages to boys and girls deceived into thinking that eggs are chocolate and marshmallow goodness. How many chicks will have to give up their lives to prove otherwise?

PETA asks you to boycott greeting cards that degrade animals into being furry court jesters of silly rhyme. Instead, celebrate special occasions by creating your own dignified greeting cards. Spray-painted mink coats immediately come to mind.

Forever in doubt

I have no intention of ever starting a new religion. But if I did, it would be a tough religion to name, because it wouldn’t be based on praying to anybody.

No, people in my new religion wouldn’t be bothering any deities, mothers of deities, angels or saints with their desires to get a pony or a Porsche or a Pamela Anderson. It must really bug these heavenly beings — no, Pam, I’m not referring to you — to constantly be harassed by requests, especially the same prayer over and over again. Mary must jump out of her skin — if she has skin these days — when somebody says a rosary and she has to hear “Hail Mary” murmured at breakneck speed, or at least sprain-tongue speed, 53 times. No, in my new religion, people could pray, but they would have to pray to themselves. My religion would be big on self-reliance.

But “self-determinism” would be a goofy name for a religion. Too many syllables. Maybe I would call it “meism.” Sort of like Maoism, but without all the propaganda and military theories.

It’s important when starting a religion to distinguish it from all the other religions already established. One of the ways I would do this is to declare upfront that this new religion wouldn’t be tax-exempt. That would get the other religions’ knickers in a twist.

No, my new religion would announce that it’s more than willing to pay taxes. Of course, the taxes wouldn’t be much, if any. You see, I wouldn’t ask members to contribute money. None of this tithing claptrap crap. The money is supposed to wind up with God, and I haven’t figured out a reliable delivery system to send the money to him. So I would tell folks to keep their money and use it on food, clothing, shelter and religious experiences, like trips to Vegas.

And we wouldn’t pay property tax, because we wouldn’t have any churches. None of this dressing up to impress others and gathering at a building to alternate between singing, mumbling, listening and nodding off. You can do all that someplace else, like “American Idol.”

Another way my new religion would be different is in its primary virtues. Religious people put a lot of stock in faith, hope and charity. Hope and charity are fine, but I have no confidence in faith. You see, faith has gotten an awful lot of folks disappointed through the years, believing in things that turned out not to be true. It takes no brains to have faith. Doubt, on the other hand, has been responsible for most of the great discoveries in history. You’ve got to be thinking to have doubts that Plan A works and to look for a Plan B. Faith isn’t a virtue. Doubt is.

But the most important way my new religion would differ from the other religions is in its approach to the afterlife.

Heaven knows, I hope there’s a heaven. It would be spectacular if there were really a place of eternal bliss, with no acne and with bikini models who are friendly. But my religion couldn’t put any faith in that — we’re doubters, remember.

And there wouldn’t be a hell, either.

In the debate over what happens after we die, it has always bothered me that if the people who believe in an afterlife are correct, they get to spend eternity ribbing the people who didn’t believe in an afterlife. But if the people who don’t believe in an afterlife turn out to be right, they don’t get the same opportunity.

So my religion would fix all that. It would teach that the afterlife isn’t eternal.

It lasts only an hour. One hour at the end of time.

All of us will gather in one place, and in the middle of our huge gathering will be all the priests and ministers and evangelists and other religious folks who convinced us there was an eternal afterlife, which turned out to be wrong. They convinced us to have faith in them, which turned out to be wrong. They convinced us that good things happen only to good people and bad things happen only to bad people, which turned out to be wrong. And they convinced us all the money we gave them would improve our standing with God, which turned out to be wrong.

So after spending a lifetime taking these men of the cloth seriously, our enormous throng will spend the next 60 minutes making fun of them. Merciless fun. The more they beg us to stop, the louder and sillier the laughs will get. And an hour later it will all be over. Amen.

Chart toppers, your days are numbered

I have no idea what it means anymore when a particular piece of music is termed a “number one song.”

I used to know what that meant. Every Friday, I would beg my mom to drive me to Woolworth’s to pick up a top 40 list put out by the local radio station. And right next to the top 40 list were the singles, each one in its own numbered tray. Whatever record sold the most copies that week would be in the number one tray, the next most in the number two tray and so on. It was all so simple then.

Now, when’s the last time you bought a single in a store? My guess is that it was just before Simon and Garfunkel started quarreling over whose baseball cap was hiding the biggest bald spot. You know, back in that quaint musical time when those clever kids in The Zombies could sing “no” 21 times in a row in “Tell Her No” and manage to make it melodic.

Oh, people are still buying singles — except that these days they’re known as “tracks.” And they’re not purchased in a brick-and-mortar store, not even the brick-and-mortar stores not made of brick and mortar.

They’re purchased online at places such as iTunes. But I wonder sometimes whether those sales have any effect on the charts.

A while back I bought and downloaded John Lennon’s “Imagine,” which was released as a single way back in 1971. So if a bunch of people did the same thing, would “Imagine” show up next week at the top of the charts?

Imagine it’s number one

It’s easy if you try

No song above us

Below us “When Doves Cry”

And if the charts aren’t determine by sales, what determines what’s number one? Apparently it’s airplay — how often radio stations play a song. They compile a list of the hottest tunes and play them over and over and over again.

And how do they know what are the hottest tunes?

First, sales — except we’ve already established how worthless those are.

Second, requests from listeners. And what inspires listeners to request a song? Hearing that song on the radio. So someone hears Cee Lo Green’s “F*ck You” on the radio, then that someone calls in to the station and requests “Fu*k You,” then someone else hears “Fuc* You” and then that someone else requests “*uck You.” Talk about a self-f*cking-fulfilling prophecy.

Pretty soon you look at Billboard magazine and notice that “Fu*k You” has been on the charts for a million weeks. Hey, Cee Lo Green, it’s a great song, but if “Fuc* You” stays on the charts any more f*cking weeks, we’re all going to go *ucking crazy. And if your next Gnarls Barkley song is “Fu*king Crazy,” I want a cut.

Oh, eventually “F*ck You” will be displaced in the longevity category, probably by The Black Eyed Peas’ “Just Can’t Get Enough.” Hey, Black Eyed Peas, maybe you just can’t get enough, but I’m sick and tired of your tune already.

Let’s drop this charade and enjoy music without worrying about who’s number one.

“Imagine there’s no Billboard

It isn’t hard to do

Nothing to keep a count of

And no “Fu*k You 2”

I’m afraid to have to tell you this

Now that you’ve gotten to know me a bit, I feel that I can share with you some of my deep-seated phobias:

I have a fear of fire. More specifically, I have a fear of a fire started by an unattended candle. Even more specifically, I have a fear that after the fire, some group hoping to convey the danger of candles will conduct a candlelight vigil.

I have a fear of pop-up books. Like the one with the title “The Pop-Up Bear Who Suffered a Torn ACL When His Sudden Entrance Startled a Young Reader Who Slammed the Book Shut.”

I have a fear that some television network will bring back the classic show “Playhouse 90” and again put all the great plays in the history of theater on TV week after week, except that this time in the starring role of each and every production will be The Situation.

I have a fear that whenever I fish for a compliment I bring the wrong bait.

I have a fear that I will proudly display in a frame the first dollar I ever earned from being a writer and that I will subsequently fall short of the title of world’s wealthiest writer by one dollar.

I have a fear of showerheads with a knob on the side that adjusts the flow of water. The water shooting through the showerhead is ideal, but my curiosity gets the best of me and I wonder if some other setting wouldn’t be even better. So I turn the knob and the water pulsates or dribbles or spits at me, so I try to move the knob back to its original position. But I never get the water ideally spilling on me ever again.

I have a fear of any restaurant that offers little chunks of chicken in a cup and tells you to pour sauce into the cup, hold the lid shut and shake the cup so that the sauce coats every morsel of chicken. Except that the person sitting at the next table from me forgot the part about holding the lid tightly shut. And I in my sauce-spattered shirt am obliged to suggest to the dip that he instead ought to dip.

I have a fear of splinters.

I have a fear of someone removing a splinter with a needle 50 times the size of the piece of wood lodged in my finger.

I have a fear of bleeding profusely while someone examines my reddened finger with a magnifying glass to see if the brown speck is still there.

I have a fear of someone laughing at me when I wear oven mitts to help carry a wooden table.

I have a fear that poker will one day get rid of poker chips and just use electronic scoreboards to let people know how much each player has, and that poker will suffer a precipitous decline in popularity when player after player gets shocked while nervously manipulating the electronic scoreboards in their hands while deciding their next bet.

I have a fear of parades. I fear the pounding of parade drums and how it makes me blink in perfect synchronicity to the pounding. I fear the smell of parading animals who think even less of using the portable toilets along the parade route than I do. And I fear standing 20 feet above the street in a moving device supported by nothing more than flowers attached to each other.

I have a fear of fireworks. More specifically, I have a fear of fireworks starting a fire that I happen to notice and extinguish before any serious damage is done. Even more specifically, I have a fear that to honor my bravery, officials hold a parade in my honor capped by a fireworks display in which a flying ember finds where I live and burns down my house, forcing me to wear oven mitts as I carry lumber to the site of my new home, where a candlelight vigil is in progress.

Just an old softie

Hand lotions contain aloe vera.

Body lotions contain aloe vera.

Baby lotions contain aloe vera.

Face creams contain aloe vera.

Foot creams contain aloe vera.

Massage creams contain aloe vera.

Anti-aging creams contain aloe vera.

Anti-wrinkle creams contain aloe vera.

Anti-itch creams contain aloe vera.

Antifungal creams contain aloe vera.

Antiperspirants contain aloe vera.

Deodorants contain aloe vera.

Bars of soap contain aloe vera.

Hand wash products contain aloe vera.

Bath gels contain aloe vera.

Shampoos contain aloe vera.

Conditioners contain aloe vera.

Styling gels contain aloe vera.

Shaving creams contain aloe vera.

Aftershaves contain aloe vera.

Sunscreens contain aloe vera.

After-sun revitalizers contain aloe vera.

Makeup products contain aloe vera.

Makeup removers contain aloe vera.

Wound gels contain aloe vera.

Burn gels contain aloe vera.

Acne scrubs contain aloe vera.

Astringents contain aloe vera.

Skin pH balancers contain aloe vera.

Moisturizers contain aloe vera.

Toners contain aloe vera.

Analgesic rubs contain aloe vera.

Toothpastes contain aloe vera.

Lip balms contain aloe vera.

Detergents contain aloe vera.

Fabric softeners contain aloe vera.

Dishwashing liquids contain aloe vera.

Juices contain aloe vera.

Capsules contain aloe vera.

Softgels contain aloe vera.

Nasal sprays contain aloe vera.

Vitamins contain aloe vera.

Pet care products contain aloe vera.

And they wonder why the modern generation is considered soft.

Oz-mosis

The Kansas Jayhawks are again contending for the NCAA basketball tournament championship.

Fans of the University of Kansas cheer at this thought. Fans of the state of Kansas cringe at this thought.

Kansans and lovers of Kansas cringe because they know it’s only a matter of time before some basketball announcer or some basketball analyst or, as a result of the “Big Love” NCAA marriage of CBS and Turner, the Mormon Tabernacle Studio Analysts Choir says the following:

“The Jayhawks are on the Yellow Brick Road to the Final Four!”

The constant references to “The Wizard of Oz” are pissing Kansans off. And no, I don’t mean off to see the wizard.

And it goes beyond basketball.

Anytime somebody from Kansas mentions having a dog, somebody trying way too hard to be witty asks whether the dog’s name is Toto.

Anytime someone is playing tag with a little Kansas girl who has a pet, somebody trying way too hard to be cute says, “I’ll get you, my pretty … and your little dog, too.”

Anytime a Kansan brags about his kid getting all A’s on his report card, somebody trying way too hard to be ingratiating says, “Looks like you’ve got yourselves a wizard.”

Anytime a Kansas zoo is visited, someone trying way too hard to be the next special guest presenter on Turner Classic Movies makes a big deal out of the lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

Oh, by the way …

Every Kansan’s auntie isn’t named Em.

Every Kansan’s small child isn’t a munchkin.

Every Kansan’s slippers aren’t ruby red.

Every Kansan’s mother-in-law isn’t known as the Wicked Witch of the West.

Every Kansan’s cry as he marches isn’t “O-Ee-Yah! Eoh-Ah!”

And in case you were wondering …

When getting into a fight, Kansans don’t gather up what smattering of courage they have and say to their foe, “Put ’em up! Put ’em up!”

When accidentally getting splashed with a bucket of water, Kansans don’t disintegrate into a heap while saying, “I’m melting, melting! Oh, what a world, what a world!”

When signaling to neighbors that they should head to their basements, Kansans don’t yell out this storm warning: “It’s a twister!”

When returning upstairs after the storm has blown over, Kansans don’t gasp at how everything has changed from black and white into color.

When running through a poppy field, Kansans don’t get sleepy and lie down until an unexpected outbreak of snow arrives.

Oh wait — maybe they do.

Anywho, you get the point.

But when you think about it, it’s a shame that these constant not-so-wise cracks about “The Wizard of Oz” have turned Kansans against the movie.

Kansas possesses an inferiority complex. That will happen when you’re 33rd in population, your highest point is only 4,000 feet off the ground and you’re surrounded by states with shinier buildings and snappier mottos. The motto of Kansas is the Latin phrase “Ad astra per aspera,” which means “To the stars through difficulties” or more simply, “Lindsay Lohan.”

But Kansans would be wise to remember the scene in “The Wizard of Oz” when the scarecrow asks the wizard for a brain and is told the only thing that separates him from a scholar is a diploma. When the cowardly lion asks for courage, he’s told the only thing that separates him from a hero is a medal. And when the tin man asks for a heart, he’s told the only thing he’s lacking is a testimonial. Brains and courage and heart, oh my.

So give Kansans a break and drop all the Wizard of Oz references. It will warm their hearts to know that ding-dong, the glitch is dead.

For the umpteenth time, my privacy policy

I take your personal privacy seriously. That’s why I’m once again invading your privacy to let you know how much I value your privacy.

Why am I sending you a notice of my privacy policy? And why do I insist on sending you a notice of my privacy policy every couple of weeks? It’s because I value your privacy so much that I don’t keep records of how often I send you these notices. There’s some federal law that requires me to write to you every so often to let you know about my privacy policy, but because I respect the government’s privacy so much, I don’t have a copy of the law, so I don’t know how often I’m supposed to write to you.

Identity theft is a massive problem in today’s society. Unscrupulous people can make millions of dollars from stealing my identity, which is odd because I’m barely able to make ends meet with my identity. Sometimes I wish I could steal the identity of some evildoer just long enough to find out the secret of how to get rich from my own identity. Because while I take personal privacy seriously, I take the making of money from my identity even more seriously.

To protect you from identity theft, I maintain the following privacy-protecting principles, which I will reveal as soon as I wipe the spittle off my computer monitor.

That’s better. Now the principles:

I do not sell information about you. That’s not to say I don’t make a dollar or two from what I know about you, but it’s usually in the form of an amusing anecdote in something I write, and I hardly ever mention a name unless I’m guaranteed to get a bigger laugh. I also avoid mentioning a name if there’s the least little-bitty chance of a lawsuit, because while it’s terrible for me to make money from information about you, it’s even worse for me to lose money from information about you.

Winning bar bets because of information about you is not the same as selling information about you.

I do not allow those who do business on my behalf to use customer information for marketing purposes. That doesn’t mean some company won’t read about you in something I wrote and use that information to try to sell you a weed trimmer. It only means that I didn’t say ahead of time, “I allow you to do that.” There’s a legal fine line that I’m straddling here, but because I respect the privacy of the legal profession so much, I won’t bother calling a lawyer to find out where I stand on the matter.

Medical information, in particular, is off limits. I won’t share your diseases, maladies, allergies or foibles with anyone else. And it would please me to no end if you didn’t share all your imperfections with me to begin with. This will darn near guarantee that I won’t blurt out your condition to others. It will also guarantee that I won’t embarrass you by topping your ailment with one of my own. For if you tell me you have a bad cold, I will one-up you by saying that I have bronchitis, probably the lingering effects of that black plague I was suffering from a while back.

There is one medical condition, however, that I will make an exception for and share information about. It’s a condition that should be of great interest to those wishing to combat identity theft.

If you’re worried about someone stealing your identity, you should seriously consider developing multiple personalities. That way, if one of your identities is stolen, you’ll have plenty more to use until the authorities retrieve the one that was taken. And I’ll have an excuse for sending you several more notices of my privacy policy in the next couple of weeks.

Act of contrition

At this point in the proceedings, I feel I should apologize.

Somewhere it is quite possible that I have written something sort of clever that someone else has written or said before.

It’s not that I meant to steal the thought. I read it or heard it, enjoyed it, then stored it away in a recess of my mind.

Note that I didn’t say a “niche” of my mind. I may have accidentally borrowed an idea or two for my writings, but “niche” isn’t one of them. The world has way too many niches, if you ask me. You can’t go more than a minute or two without learning that someone else has found a niche and called it theirs.

The thing is, if the niche was already there to be found, it can’t be their niche. Just because they stumbled upon it doesn’t mean they can steal it and call it their own. That’s not the American way. Even though our ancestors found America and stole it from the Indians. Which is why many Indians even today think of us as sons of niches.

Anywho, if I have misappropriated anybody’s ideas in anything I wrote, then that was inappropriate. It’s inappropriate to misappropriate. Although it might be somewhat appropriate if “inappropriate” could appropriate the same pronunciation as “misappropriate.” You see, even the slightest change of a letter or meaning can make a world of difference. Or even a word of difference.

Which, getting back to my heartfelt apology, is the point I’m trying to make here. I may have accidentally purloined an idea, but in doing so I most certainly have changed a word or two along the way to clarify it, to recast it, to improve it.

Think of me as you would BASF.

You know, BASF, the chemical company. I feel safe in calling it that because on its Web site it’s identified as BASF-The Chemical Company. This is what happens when you find your niche — you advertise it on your Web site in ways so obvious that people roll their eyes and make fun of you.

BASF’s slogan at one time was “We don’t make a lot of the products you buy. We make a lot of the products you buy better.” Following that slogan on the Web site was a ®, which means that the slogan was registered somewhere and I’m probably getting into a lot of trouble using it here. Which leads me to two points:

1. I shouldn’t be getting into trouble for repeating somebody’s slogan to make a point.

2. If all the other people worried about me plagiarizing their ideas had stuck a ® after them, I probably would have left them alone and we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion right now.

Anywho, back to my apology and BASF. The company went on to explain its slogan this way: “We don’t make the sunscreen. We make it stronger. We don’t make the helmet. We make it tougher. We don’t make the bridge. We make it more durable. We don’t make the car. We make it more colorful.”

That’s exactly what I’m trying to do with my accidentally stolen ideas from other people. I’m just like BASF. I’m not ripping off an idea. I’m ripping it off stronger and tougher and more durable and more colorful.

Then again, with all the money that BASF makes, shouldn’t the company do at least one original thing? Like writing an apology that manages to work in a reference to BASF.

Heck, for that I deserve a ®.

Writer inaction

If I write five pages a day, I’ll have this book done in January.

Then again, if I write four pages a day — two in the morning, two in the afternoon — I’ll finish in February.

But why take evenings off? The only thing that will see me through this long task is a strong work ethic. So I’ll do three pages a day — one in the morning, one in the afternoon, one in the evening. At that rate, everything will be wrapped up in March.

Of course, if I spend all day typing, I’ll miss out on the world around me and I’ll have nothing to write about. Make it two pages a day — one in the morning, one in the afternoon. That will allow me to recharge my batteries and still be a completed author in April.

Speaking of batteries, I’m getting tired of always changing the batteries in my cordless keyboard and cordless mouse. I think I’ll take the day off and go to the computer store…

I intended to buy a keyboard and mouse and I ended up getting a whole new computer. It’s just as well. It wouldn’t have been good to start my book on one computer and finish it on another. Now that I have this slick machine, I’ll have this manuscript completed in no time.

Yes, this superfast computer will make it no trouble at all to write one page a day every day. Sure, this device is snappy, but I’m not in a speed typing contest. I’m writing a thoughtful book. And when May comes around, I’ll be through.

As I said, one page a day Monday through Saturday. How am I supposed to concentrate on writing with sports on TV all day Sunday? Besides, it’s the Sabbath. I wouldn’t want to show up God by working a seventh day when he didn’t. And I’ll still be done by June.

Then again, there’s wall-to-wall sports on Saturdays too. So one good, solid page a day on weekdays. Then I’ll take the weekends off to watch sports, rest up and ponder my next literary move. And the manuscript will be ready in July.

It’s very distracting trying to write when all this dust is hovering between me and the computer screen. Before I get any writing momentum built up, let me get out the vacuum…

That’s better. Let’s see, what was my strategy? Oh yeah, one page a day Monday through Thursday. Then I can use Friday as a day to read what I’ve typed and do some editing. That puts my manuscript’s target date in August.

Editing is a vastly underrated part of the writing process. So I should write Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and edit Thursday and Friday. That will give me the weekend to think and outline — oh, and to catch a little sports. At that rate, I should be finished in September…

As I stare out my window, pondering where to begin my book, something has caught my attention. I need to pull all those weeds growing around my sidewalk. Pronto…

While pulling weeds, I had a great thought. What I need to do is to write one day, then edit what I’ve written the next day, while it’s still fresh on my mind. So I’ll write on Monday, edit on Tuesday, write on Wednesday, edit on Thursday. But if I do that, I won’t be able to write on Fridays, since I’m not planning to edit over the weekend. So two pages a week every week, and it will all be completed in October.

But what about the second draft? Maybe I ought to write on Monday, edit on Tuesday, rewrite on Wednesday and edit that on Thursday. And I’ll be through in November.

Unless something comes up. Hey, you can’t force a calendar on genius. The book will be better if I write when I feel like it and edit when I feel like it. And it’ll all be over in December…

As I stare at the walls, searching for an idea, I come to a realization. The walls need to be painted. Pronto.

Paths of laure

What’s so special about poetry? What is it about a poet that commands such exceptional attention and rapture?

A poet gets the end of each line to rhyme. Big deal.

Should we bow all our heads in adoration and kneel?

Should teenage girls become poetry groupies and squeal?

I’ll step away from my PC and do a cartwheel.

Enough said, Fred.

Besides, poets invariably cheat. Slaves to a particular

rhythm of words, they will finish a line in

midsentence thought and carry an idea to the next

line, leaving the reader hanging as to when the thought will

end.

And yet the United States has a poet laureate. Many individual states have poet laureates. Other countries have poet laureates. Shouldn’t there be some world poetry championship so we can have one global poet laureate and be done with it?

There are all kinds of artists in all kinds of other areas, yet no other art form has a laureate. If we can have a poet laureate, there should also be…

A musician laureate.

A painter laureate.

A dancer laureate.

A sculptor laureate.

An architect laureate.

A filmmaker laureate.

A magician laureate.

An escape artist laureate.

A plumber laureate.

A potter laureate.

A jeweler laureate.

A game show host laureate.

A talk show host laureate.

A mechanic laureate.

A mime laureate.

A farmer laureate.

A fashion designer laureate.

A stand-up comic laureate.

A cartoonist laureate.

A news anchor laureate.

A car salesperson laureate.

A safecracker laureate.

A lawyer laureate.

Laure, laure, hallelujah!

Deciding who should get all these laureates should create enough reality shows to keep Fox on the airwaves for the next 150 years.

The law of unattraction

When you think about it, unrequited love is a lot like spirituality. You adore someone divine from afar to the point where you’re constantly sending messages to that person. Then one day you assess your relationship and realize that the communication has been totally one-sided.

Maybe I’m not practicing the right kind of spirituality. Maybe I should be practicing “The Secret.”

According to this “law of attraction,” I can beckon anyone I want by simply thinking about that person. I am a magnet. This makes sense to me. I orient myself to poles, especially the kind that scantily clad women hang from. I can often be found close to a refrigerator. A compass never seems to work right when I’m holding it. Magnetic people repel me.

Now, now, let’s think positive. “The Secret” says that what you believe is what you achieve. How skeptics got their own society and magazine and philosophy, I’ll never understand.

Back to the “law of attraction.” In order to put this into action, the first thing I have to do is be aware of my desire and ask the universe for it. This used to a tricky proposition, but ever since the surveillance policies of the Patriot Act, getting the universe to listen to your thoughts has never been easier.

After that, I must focus upon the person I desire with an attitude of gratitude. I am especially grateful that her lawyer is out of town at the moment and won’t be able to put the restraining order into effect until next week.

Then I must act as if the object of my desire has already been acquired. Never mind the platitude that when we assume, we make an ass out of “u” and me. I have replaced that platitude with an attitude of gratitude without any latitude. So why do I sound like an ass trying to avoid being an ass about getting some ass?

Finally I must be open to receiving what I desire. I must allow it to happen. I must raise my vibration. Then again, people with really good vibrators don’t seem to have a need for anyone else.

The fact is, if thoughts produced action, I would be with someone today. Possibly the girl that I wanted to take to senior prom at Immaculata High School. Sounds like a school that encourages male-female interaction, doesn’t it? Especially when the priest in religion class complains about boys hanging out near girls’ lockers and a student asks the reverend why he insists on looking for trouble and he replies fervently with a flushed face: “I don’t look for trouble. I see it anyway!”

I waited four long years in high school for the girl I couldn’t stop thinking about to not have a boyfriend so I could ask her out. That time finally came my senior year, just before prom.

We had finished playing tennis after school when I popped the question. She took a long sip of water at the drinking fountain and replied, “Let me think about it.”

Here’s what a dolt I was. Those words got me all excited. I was going to consume her thoughts all night long, I thought to myself.

The next day before classes began, she came up to me and told me that she thought it would be a better idea if I took her friend to prom. Then in a gesture of apology, she handed me a powdered doughnut. A zero covered with sugar. How appropriate.

You see, it really isn’t a secret. It doesn’t matter if you’re constantly thinking about being with another person if that person is constantly thinking about how not to be with you.

The best you can do is wish that the person you love the most feels exactly the same way about you. Hey, hey, hey, one to a customer, George Clooney.

Signage language

Whatever happened to signs? You know, street signs, yard signs, store signs. People don’t put up signs anymore. They put up signage. Campaign signage, digital signage, traffic signage. Who signed off on the idea that signage should get a lot more mileage than signs? Every time I hear about signage I feel as if I’ve eaten a lot of roughage. Religious wordsmiths probably do a signage of the cross every time they hear the word signage instead of signs. To me, it’s a signage of the decline in language.

Whatever happened to duplicate? Nobody these days making a copy of anything wants to duplicate it. Everybody wants to replicate it. Who got duped into thinking that duplicate isn’t a good word to use any longer? I remember not so long ago when the only people replicating were scientists repeating an experiment. Maybe that’s why everybody replicates now. They think it makes them sound smart, even if it doesn’t. How about if we experiment with throwing in a duplicate every so often? Maybe lots of people will duplicate what we’re doing.

Whatever happened to probably? All of a sudden, things aren’t probably happening. They’re likely happening. Likely was once considered strictly an adjective: It’s a likely occurrence that I’ll be the person least likely to succeed. And probably was strictly an adverb: I’m probably going to throw up. Then someone started modifying the two words and decided that “I quite likely will need some assistance after I very likely throw up on your dog” sounded better than “I quite probably will need some assistance after I very probably throw up on your dog.” Soon the modifiers were left out, but likely became more likely to be used than probably. Also, likely sounds more positive than probably, and people hate to sound wishy-washy. But we live in an uncertain world. We should probably use probably at least some of the time.

Whatever happened to a list? Everything now is a listing. Whatever happened to a sample? Everything now is a sampling. Are we so concerned about inertia in our lives that we feel the need to add “ing” to every noun to set everything in motion? If you don’t believe me, look what you’re standing on. We used to call it a carpet, but now it’s called carpeting. Or maybe you’re standing on what used to be known as a floor. Now it’s known as flooring. What’s the difference between carpet and carpeting, between floor and flooring? Several dollars per square foot. Of course, that’s just a guesstimate, which once upon a time was known as an estimate.

Whatever happened to snacks? People still eat them, but they don’t call them snacks. One fast-food place invites people to go there for a “fourth meal, the meal between dinner and breakfast.” In other words, a late-night snack. But nobody is supposed to snack anymore. That’s not proper nutrition. In fact, nutritionists say that you shouldn’t eat three big meals a day, but several smaller meals. In other words, snacks. But that doesn’t sound healthful.

Speaking of health, is anyone considered sickly anymore? That’s not a term that comes up in modern conversation. Especially if you work for an insurance company and you’re attempting to refuse coverage to someone. Turning down help to a sickly person sounds cruel. But turning down help to someone with a pre-existing condition sounds financially prudent.

Whatever happened to letters? You know, the things you write and then send in an envelope with a stamp on it. Oh, people still write to each other, but they do it electronically, because nobody wants to spend the price of a stamp to say something that won’t be read for two or three days. But when it came time to name this letter sent by computer, nobody thought to call it an e-letter. It was instead called e-mail. That way, even if you’re an outcast who gets only one electronic letter, you can say you got e-mail, which sounds like a whole lot of letters. You can be on a popularity listing without having to likely replicate your letter as a signage of desperation.

Just the fictions, ma’am

There’s fact in every fiction, and there’s fiction in every fact.

The minute the Oscar nominations were announced, controversies arose about two films that were deemed true stories. But some folks insist that “The King’s Speech” and “The Social Network” play fast and loose with the facts. Which prompts me to think of the biblical question Pontius Pilate asked Jesus: “What is truth?” A dramatic quote, even if the author of the Gospel of John, who may or may not have been John, made up that quote to make a dramatic point. Which brings me back to my original point.

There’s fact in every fiction, and there’s fiction in every fact.

You start out trying to write something totally factual, but you reach a point where you don’t know precisely what happened next. So you find yourself having to make up a line of dialogue here or an episode there to bridge the gap between facts. Not one of those rickety rope bridges that sway wildly when a wise-ass fat-ass jiggles while aboard. We’re talking a Golden Gate Bridge of made-up stuff.

So now technically you’re writing a piece of fiction, except that as you’re getting into the head and heart of one of the characters to write your fiction, you’re asking yourself: What would I do in this situation? And what you would do becomes precisely what the character does. Fiction has suddenly become fact again.

And you keep bouncing back and forth between fact and fiction, fiction and fact, until the two are barely distinguishable. Which is why I say:

There’s fact in every fiction, and there’s fiction in every fact.

So why oh why oh why do most best-seller lists have separate categories for fiction and nonfiction? And who exactly is the person who reads each book and designates this one as fiction and that one as nonfiction? Does this person ever come across a book and hesitate about which category to place it in?

“Well, it didn’t seem real at all for the first 47 pages, but then it got very realistic until Page 116, and then it turned unbelievable again until Chapter 9, when suddenly it sounded exactly like my bar mitzvah.”

Considering how many books read like this, perhaps there should be a third category besides fiction and nonfiction, something called “semifiction” or “pseudononfiction.”

If I ever own a library or bookstore, there won’t be separate fiction and nonfiction sections. Since there’s something made up or sort of made up in every book, I think the categories ought to be along the lines of the term popularized by Mark Twain: lies, damned lies and statistics. Or maybe they should be categorized as fibs, whoppers and Bill O’Reillys.

“I’m looking for the new Bill O’Reilly book.”

“That would be in the Bill O’Reilly section, ma’am. It’s past fibs and far beyond whoppers, right around the corner from Glenn Beckisms.”

There’s fact in every fiction, and there’s fiction in every fact.

Nothing more clearly illustrates the illusion of what’s real than the so-called reality show. No such creature exists. A television show quits being “real” the moment a camera is introduced on the set, meaning the term “reality TV” is about as incongruous as the term “amazing race.”

People do not act real when you point a camera at them. Have you ever been yourself when someone has taken a photo of you? No. You never smile in real life the way you smile in a photo. You never think to yourself in real life, “Is my smile balanced? Do I have as many teeth showing on the left side of my mouth as on the right side of my mouth?” And how many times when you smile in real life are you mouthing the word “cheese”?

Likewise, nobody in front of a television camera acts like himself or herself. You’re acting like Al Pacino or Meryl Streep, who when they appear in front of a camera are acting like other actors or the people who taught them acting. You know what they say about sex — that you’re not having sex with just one person, but with all the people that person has ever had sex with. Well, when you act in front of a camera, you’re not acting like yourself or acting like some other actor. You’re acting like all the people that your actor model has ever acted with. And maybe one of them, at most, was acting sort of kind of like himself or herself. Which is why I say:

There’s fact in every fiction, and there’s fiction in every fact.