It’s Not The Heat

Boy oh boy, what a hot one today! I’m sweating worse than a pig in the slaughterhouse, or some such thing! I know the ol’ weatherman says to try and keep cool on mid-summer days like this, but gosh darn it, there’s only so much I can do. I won’t drink no fancy bottled water or buy me no air conditioner, nosiree. Just give me one of those fans on a stick, a glass of lemonade, and a shady spot and I will make the best of it. It just feels so dang hot!

But you know, it’s like they say, isn’t it? It’s not the heat, it’s the intense animosity between us. That’s what’s making this day just unbearable, I’ll tell you what! Just being within a few hundred feet of you, and good golly, I feel like I’m suffocating like a goldfish lying on the linoleum floor. And not the good kind of linoleum, neither. There are hot days and all, but then there are hot days when you and me’s gotta be here together. An 80 degree day feels like 110, on account of the animosity between us.

I know you don’t like it any more than I do, but we just have to grit our teeth and bear it. I can’t stand you so very much, and I know you ain’t sending me no birthday cards any times soon. But we’re forced to be here on Tuesdays and Thursdays to mind that there art collection and this here history exhibit, so let’s just continue to do our jobs like men. We ain’t little boys who settle things with fists and shouting. We can be respectful gentleman in this here museum and do our community proud by keeping these artifacts safe. And that is what I intend to do here.

Good god damn, son, this has been a real scorcher of a day. And I ain’t never lie when I say I hate you as much as the day is long. And I don’t know if that makes any kind of sense, but it’s as true my daddy’s aim with a six shooter. And even though the Earth will start tilting away from the sun and we will have a cooler time of things and the days will get shorter, I can’t imagine that I would begin hating you less. Why, every single day it takes just about all the fibers of my being not to smash your face with that priceless vase over there. Nothing would make me happier than to knock you out, but then you wouldn’t have to suffer this here hot day and I would still have to. I’m not giving you that satisfaction, believe you me.

I was telling the boys over at Sal’s Pub about your stupid slack-jawed face, and they says to me, “Eugene,” they says, “Why don’t one of ya’ll just work on different days?” And I explained what you and I both already know. You get the kids from that she-devil ex-wife of yours on Fridays through Mondays. And my weekend is filled up with my bowling league, my bridge club, my Sunday of drinking, and my Monday of sleeping off the drinking. And we’re stuck with the museum being closed on Wednesday. And goodness gracious, are we stuck.

You a dang fool, that’s a truth as good as any. And your brainless antics got us all tripped up and stuck in this Le Brea Tar Pits exhibit. This muck is impossible to get out of, but at least it ain’t so deep that we’ll die in here. No one is even gonna come find us here until morning. So that’s the last time I try to help you out. Next time you think you see something shiny in the tar, don’t go chasing after it. And I’ll remember not to try to pull your dumb ass out if you do. Shoot, this is the worst thing you ever gone and did.

A Feminist Critique on “I Fired My Publicist, and Here’s Why”

– by Shelly McTannen, student.

[Note: You must first read yesterday’s entry, I Fired My Publicist, and Here’s Why to follow this critique by our guest author.]

While Munch most often spotlights a man as the protagonist of his cheesy ‘humor’ essays, he recently found an opportunity to use a fictitious woman at the center of yesterday’s attempt at comedy, entitled, “I Fired My Publicist, and Here’s Why.” Today, I will apply a feminist critique to the piece and demonstrate how the author himself lacks the intelligence and self-awareness to create a satirical piece that would boldly push the bias of most Americans to the forefront of their consciousness. We will see that instead of satirizing the stereotypes, he merely exemplifies them.

From word one, Munch crafts a portrait of a woman who supposes to “tolerate” the rest of the world. The narrator is elevated above things like drinking anything but sparkling water and being anywhere that is not perfect or operating at full efficiency. Early on, the reader can detect Munch’s obvious and immature worldview where a successful woman who has high expectations, strong convictions about her likes and dislikes, and the confidence to express these things openly is a ‘bitch.’ Of course, he does not use allow the female author to describe herself as a bitch, as that would be overt. But he does attempt to tap into the stereotypes ingrained in the minds of most readers that any woman with a hard stance on an issue, whether it is about her job, the people who work for her, or her perception of any other woman not living up to her expectations, supposedly can only see how the rest of the world wrongs her and nothing further. This is the classic ‘strong bitch’ formula trying to pass as a standard in entertainment by the men who perpetuate it.

Remember, the argument of the narrator being empowered by her strong convictions could not hold up in this entry, as the point of it supposedly is satire and exaggeration. However, in his blind attempt to the push stereotypes to the edge, the author merely reinforces those stereotypes for himself and his readers. By removing any possibility of humanity from the one-note protagonist, Munch succeeds in mocking a female who possesses power and influence, because every Alpha woman in his world also has a false sense of self-awareness (e.g. she is in charge, but she does not really know she is a man’s version of a bitch).

The author also manages to indict the female gender in more than one way. While using the narrator as the ‘bitch’ of the story, Munch delivers the one-two punch by describing the only other female character, Shana, as at once a subservient, victimized, over-sensitive woman who does not readily acknowledge or understand the value system of her employer. Shana is the narrator’s publicist and the subject of her story, and she is portrayed as having a separate identity outside of her job, which brings the ire of the protagonist. The unnamed narrator believes she is the most important subject in her own universe, and so should it be for her employee, Shana.

Munch also goes to great lengths to portray a woman who is the victim of a crime and who has deep love for a man as incredibly weak. Shana cannot function if her husband is in a life-or-death surgery. She cannot function if she is attacked in the middle of the night. Once Shana confronts both of those realities with her employer, our trusty bitch narrator, Shana breaks down and is immediately categorized as a fragile, “blubbering… mess.” Munch’s apparent contempt for the female gender shines through as he pushes further the dichotomy of a successful and confident woman employing a weak woman with supposedly misplaced values.

Shana is counter to the narrator, and while they exist on the opposite ends of Munch’s sexist world, they need one another. The alpha bitch with all the power is too stupid to understand the mission statement of the charity she joined, and only her “crybaby” publicist is capable of keeping her on track. Whether the narrator chooses to be ignorant or if her ignorance is a result of her reliance on others is not clear, but that is not the point. Woman plus power equals bitch equals ignorant. Her publicist is the opposite: Woman plus love plus victimized equals dependent equals weak. But neither equation is favorable.

The author’s worldview is limited by his underexposure to adult women and his overexposure to immature males who would applaud his type of so-called humor. He lacks the intelligence to understand the point of view of any realistic woman with power and emotion, so he crafts this cartoon where those traits are, without irony, pushed to the extreme. If the author does not allow himself to become more open-minded and cognizant of the world around him, his writings will never be thoughtful musings about the state of things, but instead will always be poor attempts at humor featuring childish jokes about bitches, various forms of physical abuse, and women with big cans.

I Fired My Publicist, and Here’s Why

I’m the type of woman who can tolerate many horrible situations, like waiting a few extra minutes for a table at a restaurant, drinking sparkling water that has been refrigerated, and having a poorly stocked minibar in the back of my stretch limo. But if there is one thing that really gets my goat, it’s paying the salary of incompetent people who only have their best interests in mind, instead of keeping my best interests at the forefront, like I pay them to do. So I fired my publicist, and here’s why.

Three days ago, I had a full schedule of stopping by the headquarters of various philanthropic causes my name is attached to. Photo-ops galore, but did Shana even schedule the photographers to be at any of them? No, she did not, even though she had my full schedule. Where was she? County General, that’s where. All damn day. Supposedly her husband was in emergency surgery. ALL DAY! What, was she performing the surgery that she couldn’t have made a few phone calls? And he turned out okay; he’s recovering in the I.C.U. I think.

Then two days ago, there was the charity event for the Sea Turtles with AIDS Foundation, which I recently joined and donated a large sum to. There was an auction and a comedian performing and plenty of hype, it really was something else. Well, I didn’t hear from Shana all day, and of course she did not show up to help me with the media frenzy. Where was she then? Well, it seems that after she crawled into bed after her husband’s surgery the day before, her home was invaded by three thugs in the middle of the night. She was “too traumatized” to even pick up the phone to even let me know. And God forbid she make alternate arrangements to help me out at the charity event. It’s not like they assaulted her.

And, of course, yesterday I took a pummeling in the papers for sounding like a complete moron at the STAF event. As it turns out, it’s not Sea Turtles with AIDS Foundation, it’s Sea Turtles Need Aid Foundation. Why the hell do they call themselves STAF if there is “need” in the name? Besides, how the hell would I know sea turtles don’t get AIDS? I heard some lady on a plane once say her cat had ‘kitty leukemia,’ so does something like zebras with Multiple Sclerosis or sea turtles with AIDS sound all that far-fetched? Not to this girl!

So when I called Shana to make her fix this, there was complete silence and then she just started crying and carrying on! She was a total mess. What am I supposed to do with the blubbering little Polack who refuses to pull it together? So I just put an end to everything right there. And you know, I still sent flowers to her husband today while he is in the hospital, because he needs something to be positive about. Boy, I wonder why he would bother to pull through if he knew he was coming back to selfish ol’ Bitchy McCrybaby.

Now I need a new publicist.

What To Do With This Chicken Suit

What to do, what to do. What to do with this chicken suit. Boy, if that isn’t the problem of the year, I don’t know what is!

My life has been a mess because of this chicken suit since the third day after I bought it back in 2006. And I can’t seem to get rid of it! No matter what I do, this chicken suit finds its way back to me. Was my ex right? Maybe I’m unconsciously keeping it in my life. Maybe I really just want to be miserable all of my life.

But you know, when I first bought it, the world was so different. We were living in idealistic times. Democrats were elected to a majority in Congress, HEROES and 30 ROCK were exciting new shows that were changing minds of an apathetic America, Zacarias Moussaoui was convicted of conspiracy in the 9/11 attacks, and the United States was still celebrating the Bronze win for Curling at the Olympics in Turin. What exactly could go wrong by purchasing my very own chicken suit? As it turns out, everything.

I’ve always lived life with the philosophy that when you find a unique opportunity, if it appeals to you in any way, you should just go for it. Life is easier if your regrets are for the choices you make, not for the chances you don’t take. So, yeah, when a costume rental shop is closing its door and liquidating its inventory, there isn’t much room to debate paying $115 for a full-sized yellow chicken suit. It’s do or die, sink or swim time when an opportunity like that like comes along. And, oh yeah, I swam.

My wife at the time, Ashanti (not the singer), tried to be supportive, but she was against the purchase from the start. We were still trying to pay off my loans from law school, and her ballooning medical bills also put a strain on things. Chemotherapy ain’t cheap, son! She didn’t choose to have cancer and she was not going to choose to forgo treatment. In that same way, I didn’t really have a choice when it came to the chicken suit. As much as I tried to tell her, she couldn’t see the parallels.

It wasn’t like I didn’t have a plan. I bought the suit knowing that it would serve multiple purposes. First, I would be all set for next Halloween, which was nearly a year away! Second, if there ever was a reason to jump start my singing telegram business, it was having a chicken suit in the house. I didn’t pull the trigger on the business because I didn’t have any gimmicks for it, Ashanti was in the hospital coughing up blood and pus, and the partners at my firm were really riding me. Now I had the gimmick, Ashanti’s condition was improving, and I adjusted to my workload. Sammy the Singing Chicken would be knocking on doors delivering musical messages of whimsy to the masses in no time. Finally, if the business failed, I could sell the suit and probably get about 80% of my money back.

But on the third day of owning the suit was when things went awry. I gave the suit a trial run around the neighborhood, delivering to my friends and neighbors songs of congratulations for a new baby, for graduating dental school, for a recent show of heroism. The songs were clever enough, and it looked like it would be a rousing success. Soon I would make some side cash to pay for the crushing debt we were in, I thought.

On my walk home, still fully in Sammy gear, I passed a few street toughs. Long story short, they beat me pretty severely, tore my suit badly, and I found myself in the hospital with a broken collarbone, three cracked ribs, and some internal bleeding. Full recovery took 3 months, and I had the suit repaired and cleaned. I swore I would be more careful about walking around Detroit as Sammy. I didn’t want to walk around with a backpack with a change of clothes, it would ruin the fun of the costume!

After I was comfortable with walking again, I gave another test run as Sammy a try. But in my stubbornness, I again foolishly walked around the neighborhood in the suit and I got chased by another group of hoodlums. I escaped harm but it didn’t help my mood. The next day, angry at myself and those damn street thugs, I cursed the chicken suit and said the hell with getting my money back. I went down to the alley to dispose of the chicken suit in the dumpster. Little did I know that there was an All Points Bulletin out for a man in a chicken suit who robbed the First National Bank three blocks away. I was spotted by a few police officers and got taken down hard. It took a few weeks, but the mix-up was resolved. The police cleaned the suit as a sign of no hard feelings and sent me packing. Good thing I’m a lawyer; I didn’t have to pay for my services!

Ashanti left me a week later, citing among other things, my “silly” side business venture, my financial irresponsibility, and our “sexual incompatibility,” for divorce proceedings.

I sold the chicken suit on an online auction to man who lived in town and I thought it was over. Two weeks later, I received a promotion at the firm and things were at least looking up on that end. But wouldn’t you know, my boss sent over a singing telegram to congratulate me on the promotion. And guess what, DARRYL the Singing Chicken delivered the telegram. My chicken suit was back! I told Darryl (or Tom, the guy I sold the suit to) to be careful in the neighborhood, and related the attacks I experienced as Sammy. He laughed it off and told me to have a good day.

The next day, at my door was the chicken suit with a note.

“Cliff, you were right. I got jumped by two guys and they smashed my face good. You can have the suit back. It’s cursed. -Tom”

And here I am! What do I do now? I’m supposed to head over to my boss’ house for his daughter’s 10th birthday party. Hey, maybe I can entertain the kids! It’s just a short 30 minute bus ride through town. I’ll just slip old Sammy on and be on my way. If I can impress his daughter with my songs and few card tricks, well, it certainly can’t hurt things when that next promotion rolls around!

Let’s Continue With The Interview, Shall We?

Spending four years in Appalachia is quite a honorable achievement, Mr. Watson. And being able to personally raise $27,000 last year just with a single 20K run is very impressive. Your work history and personal life really demonstrate a unique balance of compassion, personality and business savvy, which is perfect for working in a non-profit.

I’m sorry, what noise? I didn’t hear anything, I’m sure it’s fine. Let’s continue with the interview, shall we?

Now, an important thing we’re looking for next year is aggressive business development. What kind of contacts can you bring to the table and how would you execute acquiring a new book of associations for the organization?

I don’t know what you’re talking abou — Oh, that noise. I guess I’m so used to it by now that I don’t even really hear it anymore. I was going to save that part, but I guess the cat’s out of the bag, right? Here, let me show you what it’s all about it. Stand behind my desk with me.

Now, I’m going to open this drawer and I need you to understand two things. First, this may be a unique experience for you, so I need you to be open-minded. Second, I need you to really just stay still and calm. Try not to make any sudden movements.  I’m going to open this drawer in 3… 2… 1….

That is exactly what you think it is. That is a very tiny Bronson Pinchot.

Tiny Bronson lives here in my office, in that drawer, and he works for me. I know it seems a little strange, but everything I’ve learned about you through these rounds of interviews tells me you can handle this.

That is not the real Bronson Pinchot, of course. The successful actor/comedian sold the rights to his likeness for this little guy, and he lives on a private island not far from the Brazilian coast. But this is one of the perks of working here, Mr. Watson. Every paid associate of the organization gets a tiny assistant to help them through the day.

Look, Mr. Watson, today’s meeting is not much more than a formality; we think you would fit right in here. No associate even gets told about their tiny assistant until orientation. Let’s just sit back down and finish up the interview and we can talk about your future here.

Now, our agenda for the first half of fiscal 2010 basically transitions us into a model of increasing public confidence on a global scale. How do you think —

Boy, Tiny Bronson really threw you for a loop, didn’t he? Listen, Mr. Watson. Steve. Tiny Bronson is a fantastic benefit of working here. He can understand everything you say, but he can’t talk, he doesn’t eat, and he’s here to make things easier for you. Need a fax retrieved from the copy room? He’ll get it in a jiff. Need to relieve some stress? His small but tiny hands give soothing neck and shoulder massages. Need a coffee or water refill? He gets into his cute little mini-scooter and fetches it. All he requires is some attention now and then. Play with him or scratch his head. He makes adorable high-pitched noises and laughter sounds to let you know how he feels. Otherwise, no maintenance is required.

Anyway, with our European partnerships, we hope to extend our reach to —

All right Steve, I’ll tell you, but you have to promise we can finish this interview. He’s little more than an animated puppet. Under those clothes he’s basically a Ken doll. (Oh, you have to give him a new outfit every few days or he gets a little less playful and a bit grouchy.) But the standard answer is that it’s some sort of magicks and technology. Don’t bog yourself down with the specifics, Steve. Tiny Bronson has been with me for nine years now and we’ve never had a problem. Working for non-profit sure is different, am I right?

Oh, you know what else? I completely forgot; you don’t have to have a Tiny Bronson, actually. You can have a Tiny Carroll O’Connor, a Tiny Jackée Harry, a Tiny Frank Sinatra, or a Tiny Cindy Williams. But once you pick an assistant, they stick with you. There’s no changing it.

We can get into it all later. I think you’re going to be a welcome addition to the team and we asbolutely want to extend an offer to you. Let’s just get to the end of this thing and we can talk numbers. Tiny Bronson, can you get Steve here a Dasani while we finish this up? Thanks.

See, Steve, isn’t that little scooter thing hilarious?

What Does This Have to do with My Chocolate Chip Muffin?

Whoa whoa whoa, okay slow down.

I absolutely understand what you’re saying here Jeff. But tell me, what does this have to do with my chocolate chip muffin?

Jeff, you know I get to work 20 minutes early just so I can enjoy my muffin and start my day off right. I don’t even clock in, this is all on my time. Mine. I get my chocolate chip muffin every morning at Marge’s shop around the corner after I come in and set down my things. I come back, pour myself a coffee, and enjoy the New York Times Crossword until I have to start my day. Very simple stuff here.

This muffin is moist and delicious. The chocolate chips are homemade, Jeff. Goddamn homemade with her special blend of cocoa butter. This muffin is everything I’ve ever wanted. This ain’t some half-assed muffin, Jeff, this is baked fresh every morning. Whole milk, natural ingredients. I pay $3.75 for this shit.

You know the rules, Jeff. The only time I should be bothered with anything before I clock in should be to tell me a) the coffee machine is broken, b) Marge’s shop burned down, c) my wife and children are dead. Anything else can wait because if I don’t get to have my morning done right, I am a complete mess for the rest of the day. Remember June ’04, Jeff? Do you? Yeah, there were some problems that day. I’m going to let this one slide because I’m in a good mood and my muffin looks extra satisfying.

Virtually nothing is that important that you can’t handle it without me. That’s why you’re my number one guy around this place. I still have 14 minutes left before my shift. So here, let me give you the keys to the weapons locker. Get the tranq guns and hunt down those escaped mountain lions before they kill again.

And close the door behind you.

A Stupid Thing I Said

When your job requires you to be on the phone for hours every day, you end of leaving lots of voicemail messages. After doing it enough times, leaving messages develops a second-nature, sing-songy type of rhythm. You have standard phrases that you often use, just like you have different phrases when you’re closing up a live call. Leaving a message, you tell them to call you with questions and concerns, that you look forward to hearing from them, etc. Closing up a call, you ask if they have further questions, you mention it’s been a pleasure speaking with them, etc. Sometimes a mild distraction will make your lines cross, though, and you have to be deft enough to recover. For example, in leaving a message, you accidentally start to say, “Thank you for…” but maybe you normally don’t thank them for anything when you’re leaving a message so you modify it mid-sentence. “Thank you for… considering your options further with us. Give me a call any time before 6:30.” Swish. But there are those times where you really start a sentence that can only end one way. See if you can find where I decided to forgo modifying it in mid sentence and I just plowed ahead:

[at the end of leaving a phone msg. for work] “…Please give me a call at at your earliest convenience, Mr. Schmidt. It’s been a pleasure… leaving you this message. Have a good day.”

Lord. I just did that on Wednesday. I think my favorite part is where I stopped mid-sentence, laughed quietly, and acknowledged the absurdity of the statement just by continuing on. I hope my customer got a chuckle out of it, because I sure did.

What kind of silly things have you said when it became too late to do anything about it, or what kind of verbal faux pas have you made without knowing it?

Dear Boss, I Screwed Up

Dear Mr. Murdock,

This letter may be my last communication on this earth. By the time you read this, you will have seen the results of my absolute incompetence over the last 12 hours. You also probably will have learned two or three things that I have been keeping from you. Upon reflection, considering the bind I now find myself in, some of these I should have mentioned to you, if not in the first interview, definitely in the second. I will attempt to fill in the gaps of knowledge below.

First, you might now know about my true identity. My name, in fact, is not Karl Smiter, but Morton T. Bajimini. Yes, of the very same Lake County Bajiminis. I feared if you knew my heritage, I would not be welcomed into the company’s open arms. Second, I do not have ten years of experience managing high-volume through-put in a three-shift production line, like my job requires. Conversely, I have only mostly overseen a staff of three entry level graphic designers at a tiny design firm. I know that seems odd, given that I could probably be a vice president at Bajiminicorp, but I have always defied my family’s — and our shareholders’ — expectations. Third, as a teenager, I caddied for you at the country club for three separate rounds of golf. You thought I was the one who reported you to the club house for cheating, and you got me fired for it. The truth is I never reported your malfeasance; that honor belongs to your rat bastard son, Jerry, who also worked at the club in those days.

Anyway, let me apologize for what happened to your car. It was the only vehicle left at the warehouse and you were not due back to the site from your meeting for several hours. I needed a fast way to catch up to your secretary, Janet, to stop her from doing something she would regret. The road was slick, I wasn’t wearing my seatbelt, and I crashed into the guard rail at a sharp turn right past marker 21.5 on Route 19. The car went over the embankment and I was thrown hard. My days as a stuntman for Scott Baio actually helped me manage the fall, but even I could not anticipate falling onto a bear trap. My leg is decimated between these metal jaws. I’m immobile but alive. As I write this, I would say the bleeding has not been that bad, all things considered.

I’m afraid that because I did not get to Janet in time, she attempted to seduce your sister-in-law at my request. If things played out how I think it would have, as I write at this moment, Janet is probably elbow deep in the wrong sister-in-law! She was actually supposed to seduce Michelle, and not Pamela. Sir, let me explain: Michelle is withholding important information concerning your expansion project in China. She’s always had a soft spot for Janet, and I thought if I could get her to talk….. Well, you know Janet would do anything for you, and I thought the less she knew, the better. I only told her to go to your sister-in-law’s, seduce her, and try to get her to talk about the China deal so we can help you. I noticed too late that Janet left a printout of Pamela’s address on her desk, so I knew she was heading in the wrong direction. Her cell phone was turned off; I had no way to reach her. I just hope Janet’s marriage to the lieutenant governor can take this hit.

I should probably explain why your rare prize-winning blue koi fish are dead. Well, I had to put out the fire in your office and the aquarium inside was the closest solution available to me at the time. Sure, how did the fire start, you are probably wondering. Well, as I was racing out of your office with your car keys, I accidentally kicked over a kerosene container on the warehouse floor outside your door. While I cleaned it all up according to safety regulations, one small rag had not been disposed. I admit it, I missed it. I was stressed over causing an accident like that, and in my desire to relieve the pressure from what I thought was a near-miss disaster, I gave in to the dark urges of my most challenging vice. Before I could go outside, I lit a cigarette. And with that one errant half-extinguished match, flames were swallowing your office door frame. I managed to save a solid 60% of your Italian leather couch and most of the filing cabinet marked Q-Z. The rest of your files are lost to the heavens, but the extinguisher I retrieved from a clear 50 yards across the warehouse floor managed to avert a total catastrophe.

Sir, I am genuinely sorry that all of this came to be. If I had been upfront and honest with not only you, but myself, perhaps our Q2 numbers would have been better and not have brought the ire of the board. Your office would likely be untouched by the damage of Prometheus’ gift and my selfish appetite for delicious nicotine. Those poor fish…. Your sister-in-law would not have been violated by the faithful but unclean assistant you keep in your employ. Your Bentley would not be a state of near disrepair. And I would not be here in the woods, my leg shattered between this iron bear trap, slowly losing blood and beginning to shiver on this warm summer evening.

Personally, I’m equally shocked and impressed that I have been able to recount today’s events by etching this entire correspondence onto my chest, stomach and legs with my pocket knife. God bless the Boy Scouts, always be prepared. But I don’t know a Scout who could escape this, but clearly, being two badges short of an Eagle sure doesn’t change a thing for me. Anyway, I just need to say that it has been a pleasure working for you, Mr. Murdock. Hell, Jim, it’s been an adventure. I pray for your forgiveness and understanding, but I pray slightly more for an end to this numbing pain that is creeping up my torso. I’ve been here for hours. I’m getting sleepy, Mr. Murdock.

Please accept this as my formal letter of resignation. Tell Janet I’m sorry. You can keep my pocket knife, Jim. Tell my parents I don’t hate them. It’s been a fun working for you; I learned volumes. I may need a letter of recommendation. You can throw out any items in my desk. Someone has to take care of my cats.


(Morton Bajimini)

Pro Tips: How Not to Make an Indie Movie!

Okay producer! You’ve got the budget finalized, you’ve hired your production staff, casting is complete, location contracts are signed. You’ve spent months on these pre-production details, making endless changes to multiple drafts of the script, hiring the department heads, negotiating with dozens if not hundreds of different individuals, hiring some people for a pittance or no pay at all, and appealing to the creative people to stick with you for an entire month and shoot 135 pages in 24 days in and around Chicago or some other metropolis. Your independent movie is about to shoot!

And while you think you’ve got everything squared away, you’re still getting that nagging feeling in the back of your mind. You may be asking yourself what are some things you should avoid doing to help you be a better filmmaker? Here some ideas that you should stay away from:

1) When you’re working with a crowd of extras, absolutely do not speak to them as a group and make them feel as part of the production. Say virtually nothing, instead of attempting to make them feel like they are contributing to something most of them have never even done before (making a movie, being on a set, meeting C-level celebrities). Completely turn people off of the idea of making movies or doing anything with a collaboratively artistic bent.

2) Hire craft services that will consistently underestimate the amount of water needed on location, especially on hot summer days. Be sure to give them an extremely limited budget to feed the cast and crew who will be working for you for 12+ hours per day. And certainly be okay with the fact that caffeine is not provided most days.Making Movies!

3) If you’re the executive producer, be on set and give orders to department heads. Make certain that you give direction to people on their staff while they are in the midst of doing other things. Do not attempt to understand that you’re meddling with the flow of the production staff, especially when department heads or your assistant director confronts you about it and asks you to stop.

4) While shooting is well under way, be sure to come up with and express good ideas that can only be easily implemented if you thought of them during pre-production and not on day 15.

5) Absolutely refuse to tolerate the needs and directives of the assistant director, whose job is to run the set, keeping everybody on track and on time.

6) Alienate everyone who does not think just like you by making zero effort to understand their point of view, especially because you hired them to do their job well just to make your film.

7) Constantly end conversations, disagreements, creative differences, and arguments with phrases like, “Well, that’s your problem,” “Do a better job of keeping me on time,” and “I understand, but I’m in charge and this is how we’re going to do it.”

And remember, you can make movies and do any or all of the above, but if you do, you’re a complete dick.

So, congratulations, champ! Go out there and shoot that movie!

Oh God, 8 hours in Newark….

If you’ve been paying attention to this blog, and I know you have, you know I currently work in Life Insurance. I work in Chicago, a primarily new market for our New York-based company. My superiors thought I would benefit from some training in our NYC office because I would meet the folks who have been doing this for a number of years and I could really see how they get things done. So, a free trip to NYC, staying at Sheraton Towers and Hotel for a week (just blocks from Times Square), and learning some best practices so I can become a stronger asset to the company. Sounds like a pretty good week, right? Well, one tragically unexpected thing occurred; I was to spend one full day in our Newark, NJ office because our trainer had some things to take care of in that office. This was not planned ahead of time, and it certainly wasn’t the news I wanted to hear at 5:30pm on a Tuesday. I spent the next day in that hell, not fully prepared to take it all in. The day, overall, was a wash because no real training went on, but I had some free time to absorb my environment.

Below is the actual correspondence via text message between me and a friend I hold in the highest regard in March, 2008. Cleaned up for formatting and punctuation.

Me 1:16pm: Newark is the shit!

Da Bomb!

Zack 1:21pm: Where is that? Is that Newark?

Zack 1:23pm: Good god! It is Newark! I recognize the filth!

Me 1:32pm: This place is awful. Dregs of humanity prowl the streets. I heard they just got Snapple here.

Me 1:34pm: 12 stories up!

Another angle

Zack 1:38pm: Good lord! What a vile hole of festering spew! Where are they sending you next? Dover? Good god not Dover!

Me 2:08pm: If I have to go to Dover I will quit immediately and walk home. This is bad enough!

Zack 2:09pm: Damn straight! You’re a human being, goddammit! There’s only so much you can be expected to deal with.

Me 2:20pm: This place is of the devil. How mankind dares thrive here is anyones guess. Persistence of the foolish and retarded perhaps.

Zack 2:43pm: That sounds about right. Any serious amount of time spent in Newark renders you that way irreversibly. Get out while you’re not retarded!

Me2:50pm: I’m here until 6. I hope I make it! I was starting to think about watching NASCAR this wekend. What’s next, stop bathing!? Throw out books?! Make Steak-Umms?!

Zack2:55pm: Bah! Horrible! The influence of that shithole may not be evident in your brain for years. But if you start talking about volunteering for the Nader for President campaign, I swear I’ll shoot you.

Me3:42pm: This is murder. I’ve been to ghettoes that look like Six Flags compared to this place!

Zack 3:47pm: I’ll bet they didn’t pitch this trip to you with the caveat that you’d get to visit Newark! You should bomb your work when you get back!

Me 3:54pm: For the sake of mankind I should bomb Newark Fucking New Jersey! God. Plus its been a totally meaningless work day. Unproductive. This sucks!

Me 4:21pm: Oh god no

I think their biggest exhibit is a dog skeleton collection.

Zack 4:26pm: Ha! Jesus Christ! I wouldn’t be surprised. What a disaster that town is. Better get out while you still can!

Me 4:33pm: I saw a homeless man walking a pig on a leash!

Moments after that message was sent, I managed to find a way out and get back to NYC in one piece. Zack heard nothing of my fate until the next morning.

Me8:30am Thu Mar 13: Made it safely back to NY but my clothes still smell like ham and burnt hair. Fuckin Newark.

Zack 9:46am: Thank god you made it. You are of the lucky ones. If they make you go back, go in a tank, take some of that town with you!

Me 10:42am: I’m never going back. God no.

I recommend you absolutely stay the hell away from Newark, NJ. You’ve got too much to live for to go headfirst into one of the worst places on the face of the Earth. My adventure was tame, but a torture to endure. You do not have to face what I did. The text and pictures messages do not tell the whole story. I cannot reveal the whole truth because you do not want to know.

This is your warning.

Oh, Life Insurance

If you want to get a quote on life insurance, you can call me up and we would run through some preliminary information gathering. Your health status directly affects your premiums, so I do my best to quote you according to your health. It’s easier to sell a healthy person a policy than to a broken down mess, plus there is less work involved. If you think you have someone healthy, you get excited to work with them and you start building excitement and momentum to actually starting an application with someone.  There is anticipation, and it builds as you get more information that just confirms that you might earn a commission without much effort. You get so psyched just knowing you’re heading to something great, but then, like with SPIDER-MAN 3, you spend time approaching a brick wall and after you slam into it, you walk away disappointed. Here’s an exchange I have a few times a week:

THEM: “I think I need at least $500,000 in coverage.”
Me: “I can help you out with that. I will ask you a few preliminary health questions and that will give us a good idea of where the price may be for that coverage. How would you say your health is? Pretty healthy? Not any problems?”
THEM: “Oh, very healthy. Doing great.”
Me: “That’s good to hear, then this shouldn’t be a problem. Okay then, may I ask your date of birth?”
THEM: “August 11, 1961.”
Me: “Okay. Do you use any tobacco products?”
THEM: “Oh, no.”
Me: “Okay, good. Now, in the last two years, have you been under treatment for blood pressure?”
THEM: “Yes. I’ve been taking a pill for the last six years.”
Me: “Oh, well, then you’re keeping it in check? That’s going okay.”
THEM: “Yes, absolutely.”
Me: “Alright, we’ll get to the history of that in the application. Now, have you had a parent or sibling be diagnosed or pass away from cancer or heart disease before age of 60?”
THEM: “No.”
Me: “Okay, good. Now…”
THEM: “Well, my dad died when he was 58.”
Me: “Oh, what happened?”
THEM: “Heart attack, very sudden.”
Me: “…. Oh. Okay. Well, next question: Are you taking prescription medication for any reason? And we said that you are for the blood pressure….”
THEM: “And I take a pill for my diabetes.”
Me: “OH.”
THEM: “It’s a little pill.”
Me: “So of course that contributes to your high blood pressure, right?”
THEM: “Right, and the doctor said I should quit smoking to help that.”
Me: (weakly) “…. And can I ask your height an weight?”
THEM: “I’m 5’2″ and 214 pounds.”

Jesus Fucking Christ.

I will concede that if they bother to go through the application process after I give them an enormous quote, which is still subject to underwriting requirements (medical question, lab work, doctor’s info, etc), and they are willing to pay the silly-high amount, I get a bigger payday. But these folks go through it only if they actually understand they are mortal and their death will be a burden on their family and they’re willing to pay for something that benefits their family but they will never see it themselves. The odds may not be in my favor at this point.

My real concern is to get people covered, but some folks don’t understand why they can’t get $100,000 of coverage for $10 a month when they have staggeringly poor health. That sort of thing gets especially trying.

Can I talk to you for a second, Björk?

Thanks for coming in, Björk, please have a seat.

It’s been a little while since we had a chat. How’ve you been?

Wow, that’s great! I can’t believe you’re back in the studio. I would think you’d still be busy with Volta, which is really great. You know, keep this up and you’ll have to put out another best-of collection. I’ve been a big fan since you put out Post, and… well, you know all of this already. Björk

Anyway, I think you know why I called you in here. And of course, this isn’t the first time we had to have this talk. Plus, while this was already building, last Friday’s incident brought everything to a head. I want to state for the record that this is not personal and that I hope we can keep this professional. But there has been a serious pattern of inappropriate conduct since you began here.

On Tuesday, the 18th of last month, we can agree you assumed a scorpion yoga pose, otherwise known as Vrschikasana, on a leather office chair right out front and meditated for an hour.

On Thursday, the 27th of last month, we can agree that you spent the better part of 7 hours completely covered in gold body paint, correct? And that anyone who spoke to you that day only received responses in the form of the high-pitch cooing of that venom-spitting dilophosaurus from Jurassic Park?

On the 4th of this month, you flagellated yourself using metal safety cables, cursing in Mandarin and smearing the blood of your wounds on the windows to spell out what roughly translates to “Greed Demon Escorts Damnation.” You were promptly sent home to get cleaned up.

Finally, on the 11th, a day you should not have even been here, you set up a one-person performance piece outside, in which the word “Happiness” was across written your stomach and you simulated being mauled by a paper-mache grizzly bear with the word “Money” painted on its back, all while thumping electronic beats emanated from a cartoonishly large boombox. You did this for 3 hours.

Look, obviously this is not the right way to do business, Björk. You’re not in Iceland anymore, this is America; we do things differently here. And sure, that yoga thing was during your lunch break, but it gave other people an odd impression of the company, if it did not drive them away like your bloody Chinese letters did or your occasional yodeling does. And you know that while I am a big fan of yours (and a friend, I hope!), I am also your direct superior. I have to address these issues with you.

But I think that you can only give so many verbal and written reprimands before serious action has to occur. Again, this is not personal. And I don’t want this to be something that soils your perception of the company. This is clearly a business decision where we have to protect the company and our loyal customers. I hope you understand.

I’m sorry, Björk, but we’re going to have to let you go.

As of today, you no longer work for Home Depot. Please hand in your orange apron.

And good luck on the next album.