Tuesday, November 22

What's Your Sign?

My wife and I were at a restaurant having dinner with Nelson, my nemesis, and his lovely wife Nini.

After ordering I excused myself to go to the men's room. Regular readers of this effort will recall that I have had my problems with restaurant facilities in the past but I haven't let that deter me from continuing to avail myself.

This particular establishment was one of those sports-themed eateries that feature pennants, archival newspaper photos, sports equipment, and, so help me, athletic shoes hanging on the walls. Generally I find it unseemly to have large, cleated footwear looming a foot from my head as I'm slurping my French Onion Soup, but the food is good and the price is right.

As I headed down a small corridor toward the restrooms I noticed that the two doors did not identify themselves as "Men" and "Women" or "Guys" and "Dolls" or even "Buoys" and "Gulls" (which you find in some seafood palaces). Rather each door had a grainy, black and white photograph of a baseball team on it. The problem was I couldn't tell which picture was the men's team and which picture was the women's team. They both featured a grim looking group of players, with unsmiling, defiant faces. In each photo all wore baseball hats. There were two rows of players, but the front row was cut off at the waist and the lower part of the back row was covered by the front row so I couldn't see if either team was wearing skirts or shorts or bobby sox or some other form of gender indicative apparel.

I was glancing back and forth in befuddled amusement, examining the photos, looking for some sort of clue, when I heard Nelson's voice from behind me.

"What’s the matter, Jim? Can't decide whether to use the little boy’s or the little girl's?"

"I, I, I,...I was just admiring these pictures. I wonder who they are?"

"What, you don't recognize the Topeka Tootsies?" he said, pointing to one of the photos which featured what looked to me like a rather masculine "T" on all the hats. "Or," he added, pointing to the other photo, "the Binghamton Bull Wrestlers?" Then he pushed the door and went in.

I tentatively followed him and was relieved to see a row of sparkling white urinals lining the wall.

It was comforting to know that I was in the Men's Room.

Where the Men go.

To do the Men things.

Like Men.

Eat your hearts out, Topeka Tootsies!

Thursday, November 17

Hamlet At Law

The other day my son’s class went to see a production of Hamlet that was being performed by the students of a law school. At first this seemed somewhat blasphemous to me, since Shakespeare is famously known to have written “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”.

Upon further consideration, however, I became intrigued by the thought of Hamlet as presented by a group of lawyers – or almost-lawyers as the case may be. James Thurber once wrote of Macbeth as a murder mystery. How would Hamlet be as a legal drama? Sort of Law & Order, ECU (Elsinore Castle Unit).
To sue, or not to sue: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of gross negligence,
Or to file suit against a deep pocketed target,
And by litigation ameliorate the damages?
To mediate: perchance to settle out of court: ay, there's the rub;
For in that settlement what proceeds may come
When we have dropped the charges,
Must give us pause.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love - not to mention mental anguish -
Without at least trying
To make a killing in the courtroom.

Of course those in the legal trade - and I suppose some thin-skinned Shakespearian scholars - may object to this flight of fancy.

I have only one thing to say to them.

Objection overruled.

Friday, November 11

It's Settled. The Earth Is Flat.

Recently several arbiters of education have decided that the so called "evidence" of the Earth being "round" is not evidence at all. It is, in fact, just a theory.

The theory of the round Earth.

To present a fair and balanced environment for the children who attend the schools for which they are responsible, they have made the only morally consistent decision they could and that is to teach -- alongside the etitist "Rounders" theory -- the equally valid yet mystical theory that the Earth is flat.

Flat Earth Theory -— sometimes called Flatism or Flatulence —- is the view that the Earth shows tangible signs of being flat. It has been around, in one form or another, since the time of ancient Greece. Flat Earth Theory is still a minority position, but even many scholars who disagree with it are intrigued by the idea—and can’t seem to get it out of their minds.

Last month this gnawing need for knowledge led to the first international Flat Earth Theory Conclave in Columbus, Kansas. Scholars from as far away as Switzerland and China were invited to come and discuss the reasons why the Earth must be flat.

Unfortunately, the conference was sparsely attended because the scholars from Switzerland and China, while on their way to Kansas, fell off the edge of the Earth and were never heard from again.

Thursday, November 10

Human Remote Control

From a recent Associated Press story:

Nippon Telegraph & Telephone Corp., Japans top telephone company, says it is developing the technology to perhaps make video games more realistic...

A special headset was placed on my cranium by my hosts during a recent demonstration at an NTT research center. It sent a very low voltage electric current from the back of my ears through my head -- either from left to right or right to left, depending on which way the joystick on a remote-control was moved...

I felt a mysterious, irresistible urge to start walking to the right whenever the researcher turned the switch to the right… Your feet start to move before you know it...

Yes, it could be used to "make video games more realistic". But it could be used for other things, too. Things that are more, shall we say, nefarious...

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"Alright, Hideki, let us now test the device"

"Yes, Mr. Yamoto. What shall I do first?"

"Make him move to the right. Good! Now make him move to the left. Excellent!"

"It seems to work well, sir."

"Now for the real test. Make him walk to the payphone."


"Yes! The payphone on the corner. Make him walk there. MAKE HIM!!!"

"Yes sir. There. He stands before it."

"Make him pat his pockets to see if he possesses any coins. Now make him reach into his pocket and remove all his coins. Good. How may coins does he have?"

"I have no way of knowing that, sir."

"Never mind. Now he is ours! Now make him...make him..."

"Yes, sir?"


Tuesday, November 8

Election Day

Today is election day. My son just turned 18 and this is his first time voting, so I thought we'd walk over to the polling station together.

It is a humbling experience to bring a new voter into the world. I spoke about how lucky we were to live in a country where citizens had a choice in how they are governed. How blessed America is to be allowed to present to the voters the sacred choice of the electoral franchise. How it is our duty to God and to those who have gone before to exercise our right to vote.

Then came the hard part.

We had to decide whether to vote for the guy who left his wife and kids to shack up with a hot tootsie or the guy who steered kickbacks to his brother-in-law for a series of no-show jobs.

Ah, Democracy in action!

Friday, November 4


It was raining and I couldn't find my favorite umbrella. It's a collapsible umbrella that is remarkably sturdy and is a masculine black that gleams impressively when it is wet. Since I was in a hurry and already late for work, and since it was a day on which I knew the transit system would be climatically challenged, I reluctantly grabbed my wife's spare umbrella and bolted out the door.

As I walked out into a downpour I opened the umbrella to reveal an off-lavender dome with yellowish lacy curlicues around the edges. It did not gleam impressively.

There was also the insignia of a new brand of perfume prominently displayed on the top. The perfume was called "Intensity", but I couldn't help thinking that I might as well have had "girly-man" scrawled across the top of my umbrella.

I had only trudged a few steps toward the bus stop when Nelson, my nemesis, fell in step beside me. He was holding a tent-like umbrella made of dun colored canvas atop a solid wooden pole and having a substantial, leather covered handle.

"What you got there, Jim? Perfume umbrella?"

"Intensity is not a perfume," I said defensively. "It's a fragrance. There's quite a difference. And," I added creatively, "it's unisexual."

"Complementary gift with $35 purchase?"

"I don't know. My wife bought it..." - here I realized I may have made an unfortunate admission, so I quickly covered up. "She bought it for me, though. As an aftershave." I knew it didn't sound convincing but I continued weakly, "Yeah, they threw in the umbrella."

By now I was standing at the bus stop looking pleadingly down the street for the appearance of a bus.

Nelson sniffed the air. "Smells to me like you're wearing Polo." He sniffed again. "Polo Green."

"Yeah, well I don't wear the Intensity every day, Nelson," I snapped. "I like a little variety."

"Let me know next time you're wearing it. I'd be interested."

When I got home that night I found my good old "manly-man" umbrella in the washing machine where I had left it to dry out last time I used it. I also found my wife's bottle of Intensity on the dresser.

I'm debating whether to start wearing it as an aftershave, or just stop shaving altogether.

After all, a bearded man carrying a black umbrella -- what could be less girly than that?

Wednesday, November 2

Restaurant Review

Recently I mentioned an adventure I had in the men's room of a French restaurant. This prompted some friends to ask me why the first thing I do in a restaurant is to use the facilities.

Frankly, I find that the condition of the men's room is often an indicator of the quality of the restaurant.

A clean, tidy, well maintained restroom usually means a well prepared, satifying meal.

A unkept, littered restroom and - well, look forward to a visit from Mr. Reflux.