Wednesday, December 17, 2014

a quarter-century of "The Simpsons"

The Simpsons debuted as a primetime series on Fox 25 years ago today. Back in 2000 I posted the following comment on a website called Jump the Shark. At least I think that was its name; I'm not sure it exists anymore, at least not in its turn-of-the-21st-century format. 

I originally wrote my very long comment in a Word document on my computer. Recently I discovered the file among a bunch of other old files and decided to regurgitate it because, as John Cusack's protagonist says in the film version of Nick Hornby's High Fidelity (which came out in 2000), "I agreed that what really matters is what you like, not what you are like." Until you reach your late 30s and that's no longer necessarily the case, which is why a two-decades-removed sequel to High Fidelity, whether on the page or on the big screen, would be welcome. In the meantime, just like time, The Simpsons keeps moving forward.

Here's what I wrote about the show 14 years ago:

Overall I'd have to say that The Simpsons still hasn't jumped the shark. I don't think it's as amazing as it used to be, but it still makes me laugh. It had five-and-a-half seasons of near-perfect episodes from the beginning of the 1990-1991 season to the middle of the 1995-1996 season, and it was a little depressing to see the show come down from that high, but the slide was inevitable. You can't sustain intelligent, multilayered, laugh-out-loud brilliance like that forever, and I was wonderfully surprised to see the writers and producers keep the momentum going for as long as they did.

For me, the show started to slip in February '96 with "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield." (Did anyone else notice that the font style of the opening writer-producer credits changed slightly in this episode and has remained different ever since? The letters are a little wider and taller than they were before.) This was around the time when Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein took over from David Mirkin as executive producers. There's no reason to blame them specifically since the show is such a huge collaborative effort, but it was during their reign that the show became strangely mediocre. It was also around this time that episodes started referencing earlier (and therefore better) episodes, as if to say, "Hey, remember that episode from 1994 where Homer went into space? Yeah, that was a funny one. In fact, keep thinking about that episode while we insert this scene of two characters beating each other up for no apparent reason."

However, there were several wildly funny episodes during this period, like "The Springfield Files" and "Homer's Phobia." I think the show started to rebound in October '97 when Mike Scully took over as the "showrunner." It's a different show now than it used to be, with a bigger emphasis on Homer's wacky adventures rather than the entire family's dysfunctionality (call me a sap, but I miss the tenderness of episodes like "Lisa's Substitute," "When Flanders Failed," and "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song"), but it's still consistently funny. That's why I don't think the show has jumped the shark yet. If it had stayed mediocre after Scully replaced Oakley and Weinstein, I probably wouldn't be watching anymore.

Many of us have grown up watching The Simpsons in awe and therefore feel very protective of it and defensive about which seasons are best. It's understandable since the show has been so terrific for so many years and has given all of us lasting memories of well-earned laughter. This show has had such a strange history, starting off with a huge merchandising push and media blitz in 1990, which led to some of the first season's episodes landing in the top 10 of the Nielsen ratings. I think most fans would agree that that season doesn't provide many laughs these days, but it's interesting to watch those episodes now and see the blueprint for future greatness.

By the fall of 1990, as The Simpsons entered its first full season opposite The Cosby Show on Thursday nights, the media hype died down and the ratings fell. And then a wonderful thing happened, just like someone mentioned earlier: the show became "a true gem," a work of art. The writers realized that repeating Bart's catchphrases week after week wasn't going to satisfy them creatively, so they opened the show up to the vast realm of comedic and animated possibilities. Even though the show is wackier now than it used to be, it has always operated on dream logic. Unlike King of the Hill, which I also love, The Simpsons has never tried to be realistic. It takes full advantage of its cartoon status, and that's one of the main reasons why it's so rewarding. It also features the greatest running commentary about the love-it-or-hate-it medium of TV that I've ever seen (although SCTV and Late Night With David Letterman came close). And no other show that I've seen has featured so many memorable and endearing supporting characters; we could all rattle off about 50 names. Simply put, The Simpsons is the best TV show any of us will probably ever see in our lifetimes.

... And now, part two of my lecture, in which I attempt to clear up some misconceptions about the show, based on what I read in the comments listed above:

(1) Conan O'Brien was never the head writer of the show. He was never one of the executive producers, either. He was just one great writer out of a dozen great writers during the 1992-1993 season. He's only credited with writing three episodes—"New Kid on the Block," "Marge Vs. the Monorail" and "Homer Goes to College"—and the wraparound segments on "Treehouse of Horror IV," and it's not as if he came up with every joke and sight gag in those episodes. In TV, the writer who comes up with the storyline for an episode gets credited for writing the episode, but this doesn't mean he wrote it all by himself. If Jon Vitti, not O'Brien, had left The Simpsons to host his own late-night talk show, you'd probably be saying, "The show hasn't been the same since Jon Vitti left." I'm not saying O'Brien isn't a talented writer, but some of you are giving him way too much credit for the brilliance of the early episodes. After all, he only wrote for the show for one full season.

(2) As other people on this site have previously stated, Springfield is not actually located in Kentucky. Have you ever noticed the geography of Springfield?It has mountains, it has a volcano, it's next to the ocean, it's very close to Mexico, it's been hit by a hurricane, etc. Sound like Kentucky to you? Springfield is Anytown, U.S.A., and it will always remain that way. It's wherever you want it to be, except it's nowhere at all. However, a previous comment on this site did point out that the Springfield radio station's call letters are KBBL, which would indeed put Springfield west of the Mississippi River on the map.

(3) The first-run episodes of The Simpsons have always gone right into a commercial break after the opening sequence. It's the syndicated episodes that (usually) go straight from the opening sequence into the first block and then put the extra commercial break between the last block and the closing credits. The syndicated episodes also take out a minute of original material so that more local commercials can be added during the breaks. D'oh!

(4) The grocery-store cash register in the opening sequence doesn't really flash the message of "NRA4EVER." That was just a joke on the "138th Episode Spectacular!" If you pause your VCR during the opening sequence, you'll see that the cash register flashes some random shapes that don't spell out anything at all. It doesn't take a "mathematician" to figure that out.

(5) Whoever said the show "will never back down from making fun of all the tight asses out there (and I don't only mean homosexuals)" needs to stop watching The Simpsons. Bigots aren't welcome at this party.

(6) Stop bringing up the "Son of Sam and his Amazing Candlestick" issue, which was resolved long ago. We all know by now that he's the one who shot Mr. Burns, not Maggie. Finally, I want the writers to start showing more of Martin Prince and his raisin roundies! God, I miss that kid.

P.S. Stop making fun of Lisa. She's the conscience of Springfield and the smartest character on the show, which means she doesn't get to say any of the memorable "moron" lines that Homer and Chief Wiggum always say, but she's still a wonderful character. Don't you people realize what a heavy burden it is to be young and highly intelligent? Like Ralph Wiggum, I too love Lisa Simpson.

THE END. (Or is it?!)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Ain't no stoppin' this sixth man.

In the scene that provides the title of Chris Rock's newest film as writer, director, and star, Top Five, his character defends LL Cool J's talents as an MC—"before the show," that is:

Unless I'm way off-base, "the show" is NCIS: Los Angeles, the CBS drama on which the rapper-actor born James Todd Smith has starred alongside Chris O'Donnell since 2009. But LL's first network series was the family sitcom In the House, which aired from 1995 to '96 on NBC before moving to UPN for three more seasons.

Two years prior to its debut Mr. Smith released his fifth album, 14 Shots to the Dome. On the track "Ain't No Stoppin' This" he grouses, "I guess I need a TV show to get mine / But I don't feel like kissin' no director's behind."

Well, not yet anyway. And if you don't kiss the right behind, you may find yourself on the lowest-rated network at the end of the 20th century.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


I thought titles couldn't be copyrighted, which would explain why, for instance, the Replacements could name their 1984 album Let It Be despite the Beatles having used it 14 years earlier. But in The Gross: The Hits, the Flops—The Summer That Ate Hollywood (St. Martin's Press, 1999), author Peter Bart makes it clear that titles can be registered and "coveted":

For a couple of weeks, [director Michael] Bay and [screenwriter Jonathan] Hensleigh met to further refine their ideas before meeting with Joe Roth at Disney. They were twenty minutes into their pitch to Roth when he interrupted to say, "This will be the biggest movie of 1998. I'm making it."

Roth even had a title: Armageddon. The only problem, Roth conceded, was that Joel Silver, a producer at Warner Bros., had registered the title a few years earlier. "I'll do some horse-trading with Joel," he promised, noting that Warner Bros. coveted two titles owned by Disney—Conspiracy Theory and Father's Day.

The Robin Williams-Billy Crystal comedy Fathers' Day (fellow punctuation enthusiasts, note the plural, not singular, possessive) was released by Warner Bros. on May 9, 1997, while the Mel Gibson-Julia Roberts action thriller Conspiracy Theory hit theaters on August 8. The former grossed a disappointing $28.5 million; the latter grossed a less disappointing $75.9 million. Armageddon, on the other hand, made $201.5 million the following year. None of these films will be immortalized in the National Film Registry, but if Paul Westerberg and Tommy Stinson end up recording a new Replacements album titled "Conspiracy Theory Re: Armageddon on Father's Day," I don't think anyone will sue.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

EBOLA (reference) DISCOVERED IN NEW MEXICO (four years ago)!!!!

I didn't see Breaking Bad during its five-year run on AMC, so I've been catching up on Netflix a few episodes at a time over the past month or so. In the third-season episode titled "Fly," which originally aired on May 23, 2010, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) tells his partner in crime, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), that there's a contaminant in their underground meth lab. Jesse is unnerved by this revelation until he realizes Walt is talking about a single housefly.

JESSE: When you say it's contamination, I mean, I'm thinking, like, an Ebola leak or something.

WALTER: (condescendingly) Ebola ...

JESSE: Yeah, it's a disease on the Discovery Channel where all your intestines sorta just slip right out of your butt.

WALTER: Thank you, I know what Ebola is.

JESSE: Uh-huh.

WALTER: Now tell me: what would a West African virus be doing in our lab?

Well, you do live one state over from Texas, Mr. White. Do I need to draw you a map?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

food for thought via thoughts on food bags

Chipotle is currently placing snippets of writing (remember, portion control is important) by authors such as Toni Morrison, Malcolm Gladwell, George Saunders, and Michael Lewis — and actor-comedians Sarah Silverman and Bill Hader for good measure — on its carry-out bags and paper cups.

As Saunders says on the Chipotle-sponsored website, "I love the idea of putting something literary in a place we might not expect to find it." At the very least the pull quote above is more upbeat than the song lyrics featured on either side of the decades-old Treasure Island Foods bag I found in the archives at my last job. I'll take humorous optimism with my vegetarian burrito bowl over romantic pessimism with my European cheeses any day of the week.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

From the archives (i.e., piles of newspaper clippings on my dusty studio-apartment floor) ...

Terje, you might find this interesting. It comes from Miriam Di Nunzio's interview with veteran music producer David Foster, published in the Chicago Sun-Times on October 16, 2009.

Q: Is it getting harder for you to make albums today?

DF: I really love the music of today. I love Beyonce, Rihanna, producers like Tricky Stewart, Kanye, Jay-Z, Sean Kingston. I love those records but I have no clue how to make these records; suddenly, you're 60 trying to think like you're a 16-year-old. I know my place. People who complain about the music business as they get older and say they "had to leave it" are full of it. The business leaves them. Nobody leaves the business. I'm still getting [excited] musically, even more so now that I don't have the pressure of radio. Now I just have to make albums.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

signs of the times

They're pointing from fatty to healthy at the intersection of Clark Street and Drummond Place.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

giving credit where credit was due 20 years ago

In today's New York Times Jon Caramanica writes about André "André 3000" Benjamin's reunion with Antwan "Big Boi" Patton to celebrate Outkast's 20th anniversary as recording artists, plus Benjamin's role as Jimi Hendrix in the new film biography Jimi: All Is by My Side, written and directed by John Ridley, who won the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay earlier this year, for 12 Years a Slave. A couple of points stand out in Caramanica's article:

For the better part of his career, André 3000 has been a pioneer, sometimes to his detriment. Outkast was a titan of Southern hip-hop when it was still being maligned by coastal rap purists. On the 2003 double album "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below," which has been certified 11 times platinum, he effectively abandoned rapping altogether in favor of tender singing, long before melody had become hip-hop's coin of the realm.

I would argue that P.M. Dawn were far more ahead of their time than André 3000 in that department. By their third album, Jesus Wept (1995), frontman Prince Be had abandoned rapping altogether in favor of singing, but even on their 1991 debut, Of the Heart, of the Soul and of the Cross: The Utopian Experience, Be sang for the duration of the tracks "On a Clear Day" and "In the Presence of Mirrors":

In a possible nod to the duo's influence, rapper Childish Gambino, a.k.a. actor-comedian Donald Glover, covered P.M. Dawn's 1992 hit "I'd Die Without You" earlier this year for BBC Radio 1Xtra:

Here's another point of Caramanica's I disagree with:

His forays into fashion (Benjamin Bixby) and animated television (“Class of 3000”) would have made far more sense — and had a far bigger impact — a couple years down the line. In many ways, André 3000 anticipated the sound and shape of modern hip-hop ambition.

I don't care to argue his point about fashion, though I'm pretty sure Sean "Puff Daddy"/"P. Diddy" Combs's Sean John line of clothing came before André 3000's, but does Caramanica not remember Kid 'n Play's Saturday-morning cartoon on NBC in the fall of 1990?

Or MC Hammer's on ABC the following year?

Hey, nobody said pioneering had to lead anywhere good. Just ask the Donner Party.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

"The future is now!"

"The future is now! Soon every American home will integrate their television, phone, and computer. You'll be able to visit the Louvre on one channel or watch female mud wrestling on another. You can do your shopping at home or play Mortal Kombat with a friend in Vietnam. There's no end to the possibilities!"

—psychotic cable-TV technician Chip Douglas (Jim Carrey) in The Cable Guy (1996)

Eighteen years later, however, I still haven't found that female-mud-wrestling channel. C'est la vie.

Friday, August 15, 2014

fantasy vs. reality

Since 2009 Sofía Vergara has played Ed O'Neill's wife on my favorite current sitcom, Modern Family. And in this summer's Chef she plays the ex-wife of Jon Favreau, who also wrote and directed the film.

No offense to O'Neill or Favreau or any men who look like them who don't make TV and movie money, but the odds are that any woman who looks like Sofía Vergara has her pick of the litter. She doesn't have to settle for a big-bellied bulldog—not when she can have True Blood werewolf Joe Manganiello.

But since most of us don't look anything like him, we'll continue to do the right thing and create movies and TV shows in which Vergara plays the homely hero's wife, ex- or otherwise, so that she can continue to pay her bills. (Is selflessness a turn-on for you, Sofía? Just curious ...)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Will there ever be peace in the Middle East (in Duck World)?

As you can see in the Topps trading card below, nothing has changed since 1986. But we mustn't duck and cover. We must not quack up or waddle away from the negotiating table. One day we will all break breadcrumbs together. One day we will finally have peace.

Friday, July 25, 2014

No one opens the door for a native New Yorker. (No one?) No one.

How did Odyssey's ready-for-prime-time 1977 hit "Native New Yorker" not find its way into the opening credits of a network sitcom back in the heyday of disco?

It was used to promote The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon earlier this year, with Fallon roller-boogieing down a New York City sidewalk, but why couldn't Busting Loose, a short-lived CBS comedy starring Adam Arkin as "a young man in New York City who has moved out of his parents' house to live on his own for the first time," according to the show's Wikipedia entry, give it a good home? What, not butch enough for you, Busting Loose?

Okay, I see your point.

To be fair, Busting Loose premiered in January of '77, and "Native New Yorker" didn't become a hit until that summer, apparently. That means the Barney Miller spin-off Fish, which debuted in February, would've been ineligible as well. (When a station in my hometown of Macon, Georgia, aired reruns of Fish in the summer of '83, it used Madness's then-current hit "Our House" in its promos, which is why Abe Vigoda and Suggs will be forever linked in my mind.)

However, the Mary Tyler Moore Show spin-off Rhoda was entering its fourth season in the fall of '77 and could've used some new platform shoes.

ABC's Makin' It didn't live long enough to see its theme song reach number five on the Billboard Top 40. That's because the show was canceled months earlier. (Oh, the humanity.) Besides, Makin' It centered on a native New Jerseyer, not a native New Yorker. (It's worth pointing out that Greg Antonacci, who was scary as hell in the final season of The Sopranos as one of Phil Leotardo's henchmen, was a featured player on both Busting Loose and Makin' It. He also made a couple of memorable appearances in those days on The Rockford Files, on which Sopranos creator David Chase was a writer.)

Welcome Back, Kotter, you could've used a boost in your final season (1978-'79) after John Travolta left for greener pastures on the big screen. On second thought, never mind—John Sebastian's melancholy but ultimately uplifting "Welcome Back" is a perfect TV theme song. No need for a quick fix of something that wasn't broken to begin with.

The same goes for Taxi, which debuted in the fall of '78. I love you just the way you are, Bob James's "Angela."

I guess it wasn't meant to be, "Native New Yorker," but keep your head up—I have a feeling you're gonna make it after all.

Monday, June 30, 2014

"Transformers" transforming without the assistance of one particular human

The fourth Transformers movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction, opened last Friday and is already loudly smashing and stomping its way toward global domination—but without the on-screen services of Shia LaBeouf, the male lead in the first three installments. As he told MTV News in 2011, shortly before the release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon, "I'm not coming back to do another one. I don't think [director Michael Bay] will either. It still is a hot property, I think, especially coming out of the third one. So I imagine they'll reboot it at some point with someone else."

Just three years later, "some point" has arrived, and Michael Bay is at the helm once again. Am I the only one who thinks he told LaBeouf he wasn't interested in making a fourth Transformers just so the actor would say, "Yeah, dude, I feel the same way—a trilogy's the way to go"? LaBeouf hasn't led a quiet life off-screen, to put it mildly, making me wonder if he's a headache on the set who chalks up any and all unprofessional behavior to "performance art."

Bay's continuation of the Transformers series without LaBeouf reminds me of the Ben Folds Five song "Army" (1999), in which the protagonist joins a band after dropping out of college:

Grew a mustache and a mullet
Got a job at Chick-fil-A
Citing artistic differences

The band broke up in May
And in June reformed without me

And they got a different name
I nuked another Grandma's Apple Pie 

And hung my head in shame

If it's any comfort, Shia, apple pie is much more satisfying than any of the Transformers movies I've seen so far.

Monday, June 9, 2014

You've seen my face. Now read the book.

More filler from the Zuck's Great Time Suck (June 2012-May 2014):

1. Yesterday my spin-class instructor called everyone in the room "rock stars." I assume she didn't mean we all looked hungover.

2. "US braces for tsunami debris, but impact unclear," says the AP. Speaking of which, would one of my west coast friends mind snagging me a Honda CR-V? Leather seats, please. Oh, and a tape deck if possible, but I won't hold my breath. 'Preciate it!

3. Whenever I shave, my girlfriend's cat decides it's the perfect time for him to use the litter box next to the sink. Part of me wants to discourage Gus's locker-room mentality, while another part desperately wants to teach him how to snap a wet towel and tell off-color jokes about the opposite sex.

4. Tonight MTV premieres its latest Jersey Shore spin-off, Snooki & Jwoww, a title it hopes dyslexics will somehow misread as "Wow! No Way! Quality TV!"

5. "Facebook will give users a choice of whether to appear in ads," reports The New York Times. Finally! I'd gotten tired of recognizing the top of my head in Rogaine's "before" shots.

6. My Terms of Endearment movie marathon begins today at noon with James L. Brooks's 1983 Best Picture winner, followed by Elia Kazan's Baby Doll, John Schlesinger's Darling, the 2008 baseball drama Sugar, Jessica Alba in Honey, and Gabourey Sidibe as Precious. And later tonight, as a special treat for viewers in dysfunctional relationships, the marathon concludes with back-to-back showings of all three Jackass movies. Be sure to tune in!

7. "'Blade Runner' still subject of scientists' debate," reports Reuters. Oh, c'mon, everybody knows Harrison Ford turns out to be a robot at the end of that movie! Man, some people will do anything to put off curing cancer ...

8. Yesterday on his Twitter page Rupert Murdoch proclaimed Scientologists to be "creepy, maybe even evil." In related news the 81-year-old media mogul's pot tweeted, "OMG, this kettle sitting next to me on the stove is sooo black."

9. "Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to Universe," says The New York Times. The whereabouts of their keys, on the other hand, remain a mystery.

10. "HBO abandons plans for film on Fox News Channel," reports the Associated Press. The cable network stated, "No matter how closely we stuck to the facts, the script had so many over-the-top fantasy elements that we began to worry about 'Game of Thrones' fans feeling shortchanged."

11. "Study: Viewers turning to YouTube as news source," says the AP. Update: Viewers born after 1988 only think they're watching the news, but thanks to certain clips on the popular video-sharing website, they now know that the heart of rock 'n' roll is still beating, that the power of love is tougher than diamonds and stronger than steel, and that in certain circles it's hip to be square.

12. Charlie Sheen is "genuinely interested" in becoming a new American Idol judge, says the AP. The actor stated, "I'm not a singer and I can't play an instrument, but I love cocaine and booze and hookers and self-destruction, and isn't that what being a musician is all about?"

13. In a radio interview earlier this week Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said, "I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, 'We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.'" Maybe so, but doesn't Corinthians say something about the body being a temple, and that if any man destroys that temple, God will destroy him? I'm not saying you're killing any of your customers, Dan, but you're not exactly helping them maintain the property value of their temples.

14. Jonah Lehrer, a staff writer for The New Yorker, has resigned, says the AP, after admitting he fabricated quotes from Bob Dylan in his latest book. On the positive side, because the book is titled Imagine: How Creativity Works, Lehrer is now the front runner for next year's Pulitzer Prize for "truth in advertising of a nonfiction work that contains fiction anyway." (FUN FACT! That Pulitzer doesn't exist. But I don't write for The New Yorker, so I can make up whatever I want.)

15. Congratulations to Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, whose record-setting 19 medals inadvertently provide false hope to young stoners everywhere!

16. According to ABC News, "Mitt Romney Better Move to Right, Says Emboldened Tea Party." Remarked one party official, "With awareness of proper escalator etiquette at an all-time low, it's time for the Republican presidential candidate to lead by example." And in a rare instance of bipartisan agreement, top Democrats issued the following statement: "Seriously, move the f**k to the right."

17. When I tried to kiss the owner he wasn't happy about it. Go figure.

18. "Country star Randy Travis accused of DWI in Texas," says the AP. Yeah, but that's not a DWI, that's a DWBCS—driving while being a country star. He was in Texas, after all, and sure, he was driving a Trans Am, not a pickup, but I have no doubt he was nursing a broken heart, just like in his songs. "Travis ... was found naked and combative at the scene, officials said." Exactly!

19. After seeing Ratatouille for the first time on Saturday, I dreamt that Remy the rat called the health department to report an infestation of celebrity chefs.

20. "Fareed Zakaria's plagiarism more bad news for a CNN," reports The Baltimore Sun, which has apparently begun outsourcing its headlines to ESL students in Italy.

21. "Ecuador Grants Asylum to Assange, Defying Britain," reports The New York Times. The UK responded by patting the South American nation on the head and telling the world, "Isn't that adorable—it thinks it's a real country! Here, have an Olympic souvenir,” causing all 72 of Ecuador's volcanoes to simultaneously erupt.

22. Coming up on the five o'clock news: how to talk to your teenager about Pussy Riot without either of you smirking.

23. Last week in the designated "silent room" of the library a woman asked me to stop eating. "I'm taking a test," she said, and besides, "Everyone can hear you chewing." Eating isn't prohibited in the silent room, but her complaint helped reinforce its cardinal rule—I was left speechless. (In case you're wondering, she passed the test. She's now the official Center of the Universe.)

24. Yesterday I received an e-mail from a book publicist. Subject heading: "'War of the Worlds' meets...The Bible?" Opening sentence: "Science fiction, religion collide in new novel." Dude, that is the Bible!

25. Breaking Bad = Weeds ÷ Dexter + MacGyver

26. "Clinton Urges Second Term to Let Obama Finish Job," reports The New York Times. I presume Clinton's not talking about the kind of "job" that landed him in hot water during his own second term, but if he is, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU AGREED TO THE TERMS OF HIS ENDORSEMENT, MR. PRESIDENT?!

27. Mundane Mysteries of the Universe #4: It is physically/fiscally impossible to spend less than $100 whenever you shop at Target. You say you only wanted tube socks and a cat toy, but you're not leaving until you buy a paper shredder, two ink-jet cartridges, a box fan, a beach towel you'll never use, and a 12-pack of paper towels just so you'll have something to shred with that new paper shredder.

28. Earlier today GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan called the Chicago Teachers Union strike "unnecessary and wrong." What a coincidence—that's exactly how history teachers described his speech at the Republican National Convention last month!

29. This morning I heard a barista at Starbucks say to his coworkers, "You sell a lot of coffee here." That really warmed my heart, because I bet there aren't too many places willing to hire a guy who's been living under a rock since 1997.

30. ‎"Amid outrage sparked by perceived insults to Islam, one Egyptian newspaper has decided to fight cartoons with cartoons," says the Associated Press. In related news, Beetle Bailey has gone AWOL.

31. Bad news, fellas: if you've ever been told "You couldn't find your dick with two hands and a map," it's safe to say Apple's new Maps application won't resolve the issue.

32. In an interview with Atlanta's NBC affiliate, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy said, "We support Biblical families." So if you've worked up a mean appetite murdering your brother, and your wife can't satisfy your taste buds despite her recent conversion to a pillar of salt, head on down to Chick-fil-A, home of the new Locust Crunch Chicken Sandwich! Your immaculately conceived children will thank you.

33. Curiously, the AP story "What Jerry Sandusky can look forward to in prison" doesn't mention the one thing a convicted child molester can actually count on in lockup. (Hint: the best defense involves looking behind, not forward.)

34. Greetings from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, the longest strip mall on the face of the earth! (Too little, too late, Great Wall of China.)

35. The billionaire Koch brothers have warned company employees that they may be laid off if President Obama is reelected. You know how you have to list the reason for your job termination on unemployment insurance forms? If Obama wins, it will be the first time ex-workers can check the box marked "rich asshole boss's bullshit political spite."

36. Attention, presidential candidates: if you need a pick-me-up before tonight's debate, I hear Lance Armstrong's got a warehouse full of blood booster he'd like to unload. There's a catch, of course: if you lowball him on the price, he will endorse you. Consider yourselves warned.

37. I'm no mathematician, but if you switch on your headlights when it rains and signal every turn and lane change, I'm fairly certain you're a better driver than one bajillion percent of the population.

38. Mundane Mysteries of the Universe #5: In Rise of the Planet of the Apes the digitally created lead primate gives a more lifelike performance than human star James Franco.

39. Last night I was craving Chick-fil-A but ordered a Southern Style Chicken Sandwich at McDonald's instead. That's like pining for an ex-girlfriend by asking out a woman who looks just like her but praying this one won't be the type who forces her religious views on complete strangers.

40. THE TRUTH: Last week I took off my shirt and a woman said, "Wow."

THE WHOLE TRUTH: The woman was a nurse at a walk-in clinic, and she was reacting to a rash that covered most of my upper torso.

THE LESSON: When a man says he's telling you the truth, always demand the whole truth.

41. David Axelrod, President Obama's senior campaign adviser, says the Democratic candidate's energy in the final days of the 2012 race is "coming from his loins." That's all well and good, Mr. President, but I'm voting for you because I don't want to get screwed. (If you want to buy me a margarita, however, I won't stop you.)

42. I'm glad President Obama was reelected, but after last month's vice-presidential debate I'm a little disappointed that Joe Biden won't be able to pursue a new career as the Smiling Yet Sinister Sheriff in Hollywood westerns. Gene Hackman, your legacy is secure.

43. On Friday afternoon I spotted a used condom in the parking lot of a multiplex in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I was outraged—Disney wants people to believe that "Wreck-It Ralph" is family friendly, but clearly it makes certain people want to prevent having a family as soon as they exit the theater.

44. Whenever I'm feeling vain I check into a Holiday Inn Express and head straight for the bathroom mirror. The company really lives up to its motto: "Holiday Inn Express: Deflating Your Delusional Self-Image With Harsh Fluorescent Lighting Since 1990."

45. I watched The Walking Dead for the first time last night. Apparently the mild depression I experienced during four of my five years in Atlanta mutated, went airborne, and turned everyone into zombies after I left in '03. Do the zombies spend less time falling asleep to VH1 countdown shows than I did? One can only hope.

46. Allegations of sexual misconduct with minors have forced the puppeteer behind Sesame Street's Elmo to resign, making Tickle Me Elmo a questionable holiday gift for children, but creating a window of opportunity for my newest creation, Tickle Me Elmore! Yes, now your kids can learn valuable lessons through the dialogue of streetwise Elmore Leonard characters! Just tickle Elmore's tummy and you'll be schooled on nutrition ("I could never do pushups and all that shit ... I don't know, it sounds good, but it's so fucking boring. The thing to do, just don't eat so much"), ethics ("I went to Oakland University three years and did some dealing to pay for my tuition and books and shit, but only weed. I wouldn't sell heroin to students, fuck up their young minds"), and even proper eyewear ("Tell Buddy I see this guy wearing sunglasses I'll step on 'em. I might not even take 'em off him first"). Order yours today!

47. Job interviews can be particularly stressful if you're bald:

THEM: Do you consider yourself an organized person?
ME: Yes.
THEM: So what happened to your hair?
ME: (sighs) I lost it.

48. If you're a rapper who's been invited to perform at a benefit concert for amputee veterans, think twice before asking the crowd to wave their hands in the air, waving them like they just don't care.

49. My new favorite restaurant is Toby Keith's I ♥ This Bar & Grill. I've never eaten there, but with a name that dull the food must be terrific, right? I wonder if the runner-up name was Toby Keith's I'm Too Busy ♥ing My Country to Give a Goddamn What This Place Is Called Bar & Grill. Or better yet, Toby Keith's You Interrupted My Mid-Morning Nap for THIS?! Bar & Grill.

50. Local startup Tap.Me has been picked up by a firm in New York, according to the Chicago Tribune, but with a name like that, did anyone really think it'd play hard to get?

51. Who wants a Christmas mix tape? *
* tape not included

52. President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner met earlier today to discuss the "fiscal cliff," but after about a minute of intense studying the conversation drifted to the Redskins, who's the best Bond girl, and what kind of car would look coolest going over a cliff.

53. Whenever someone starts a sentence with "I can't even begin to find the words to describe...," be grateful those words have gone missing—you've just narrowly avoided the tragedy of a bad metaphor.

54. When planning a community-wide Christmas pageant, please keep in mind that not everyone will embrace a performance of "All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth" sung by a choir of recovering meth addicts.

55. The Mayans predicted that the world will end this Friday. They also believed in a sun god. And this Friday is the shortest day of the year, meaning the sun won't be in the sky for very long. But it'll be back on Saturday. Thanks for causing a panic, ancient civilization, just because you couldn't prophesy the invention of bronzer.

56. Looks like I'll have to pay back these student loans after all. Stupid Mayan calendar ...

57. Yesterday, after sitting on the floor for 30 minutes, I had some trouble standing up. I thought, I'm not as flexible as I used to be. That's when a little voice reassured me: "You never were."

58. There's always one gingerbread man who thinks he can escape his fate. Or as my girlfriend said, "He decided he wasn't going to take it lying down."

59. Somewhere in this wonderful world of ours I hope there's either a bar band or a law firm named Stockard Channing Tatum.

60. When my girlfriend and I watched the first season of Downton Abbey last year, we thought Lady Grantham's accent sounded familiar. That's because, as Tamara discovered, Elizabeth McGovern stole it from Henrietta Pussycat of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Way to keep it in the family, PBS. Does this mean Shirley MacLaine, playing Lady Grantham's mother in the new season of Downton, will adopt the speech patterns of Mr. Snuffleupagus? Tune in tonight to find out!

61. "Transplanting feces from a healthy person into the gut of one who is sick can quickly cure severe intestinal infections caused by a dangerous type of bacteria that antibiotics often cannot control," reports today's New York Times. Luckily, I have the perfect PSA slogan to attract potential donors: "Now, more than ever, it's time for you to give a shit."

62. You know how it sometimes takes a while for your baggage to show up on the carousel at baggage claim? And how, after about 15 minutes, only you and a few others are still standing around waiting in vain? All hope seems lost, but you tell yourself, "At least I'm not the only one. At least these people know how I feel. And honestly, it won't be the end of the world if I don't—" That's when your luggage finally appears. And that's when you feel obnoxiously grateful to no longer be "one of those people" still waiting in vain. In conclusion, that's what dating can feel like as you approach 30. But on the other hand, who doesn't want less baggage?

63. "We must act," said President Obama in his inaugural address on Monday, inspiring the vast majority of his fellow Americans to put aside their differences and respond to his rallying cry. Of course, actors being actors, the response was predictable: "I should have more lines."

64. The headline under this photo in yesterday's New York Times was "Clinton Spars With Senate Panel Over Benghazi," which didn't make sense until I remembered all the times I'd given an employer two weeks' notice and then spent those final pressure-free weeks daydreaming about ponies.

65. Earlier this week at the library I sat down across from a teenager who was charging his phone in one of the table's electrical outlets. Thirty minutes later he brought a girl back to the table and made repeated attempts to feel her up, but she acted like he didn't exist. There could be only one explanation: THE TABLE GRANTS MEN OF ALL AGES THE POWER OF INVISIBILITY!

66. Since the Baltimore Ravens are considered the underdogs in today's Super Bowl, why don't they let fellow underdog Ben Affleck battle it out with the 49ers instead? You have to admit he has momentum on his side.

67. I was downtown yesterday when a man with gray in his beard and Chicago postcards in his hand approached me and said, "It's okay, I'm harmless—I'm not a gangbanger." I wanted to tell him he was way too old for anyone to think that, but I was already late for an open tryout at a new male-modeling agency in town. (Keep your fingers crossed!)

68. When asked by the Associated Press if he thought new gun laws could help put an end to further mass shootings, A Good Day to Die Hard star Bruce Willis replied, "I don't know how you legislate insanity." Well, how about with legislation that prevents states from cutting funding for mental health services? I know it sounds far-fetched, but if a 57-year-old cop can save the world from terrorists five times in a row, anything's possible.

69. In case you haven't heard, the January 16 death of André Cassagnes, the French creator of Etch a Sketch, was announced earlier this week. His ashes were reportedly scattered into the Seine after being shaken vigorously one last time to draw something that kind of resembled a dove. In related news, makeup artist Stuart Freeborn, who created the Star Wars character Yoda in his own image, passed away on Tuesday; he was 998 years old.

70. "Pope Resigns, With Church at Crossroads," says the front page of today's New York Times, which means the Vatican can now issue my fake press release from April 2010 for reals! Everybody wins!

71. If it took you more than five minutes to locate a funny Valentine's Day card that doesn't include "fart" in the punch line, you're not alone ...

72. Since 2003 I haven't seen a single person enter or exit the Christian Science Reading Room in Chicago, and the windows facing the street offer no evidence that anyone even works there. Taking into account the philosophy of Christian Scientists, is it possible that every employee gets ten sick years per decade?

73. If Paul Westerberg were to write "Can't Hardly Wait" today, I bet the first verse would be much different: "I'll write you an e-mail tomorrow / Tonight I can't work my thumbs / Someone's got a phone that I can borrow / I promise not to drop it in a river and then throw a box of rice into the river, thinking that'll solve the problem, without first opening the box … again."

74. I've heard of mothers and daughters spending quality time together at day spas, but Joan and Melissa Rivers take "waxing" to a whole new level. My heart, much like their faces, is slowly melting.

75. Cheers to our nation's leaders for unveiling a new statue of Rosa Parks in the Capitol! Jeers for forcing it to sit at the back of this photo opportunity!

76. Following a Harlem Globetrotters game in Pyongyang on Thursday, former NBA superstar Dennis Rodman reportedly told Kim Jong-un, "You have a friend for life." Visibly moved by the sentiment, the North Korean leader responded, "It is a great honor, Mr. Jordan."

77. "Robert, see the best advice Martha Stewart ever got" is the subject heading of an e-mail I received from LinkedIn yesterday. Haven't opened it yet, but I'm hoping the advice is something like "On your first day in prison, go up to the biggest, scariest woman in the yard and show her how to make a decorative wind chime out of discarded toothbrush shivs."

78. One of the several Jesus-themed bumper stickers I saw on a car near Midway yesterday said, "No Jesus, No Peace." No turn signals either, apparently, so if you want to help prevent an accident, Jesus, you need to hurry up with that Second Coming and meet this road warrior's demands.

79. As you all know by now, Eric "The Pope of Greenwich Village" Roberts wasn't elected the Pope of the Global Village yesterday at the Vatican. In fact, after blacking out at an all-night self-pity party he woke up to find that a "thumbs up" from the conclave had been taken from him in more ways than one. (Then he blacked out again.)

80. The following movie clip unintentionally serves as a reminder that when women get drunk on St. Patrick's Day they want to believe they look like Jennifer Aniston, while drunk men want to believe they don't look like mutant leprechauns.

81. During Prince's performance at the 2013 South by Southwest conference in Austin on Saturday he reportedly told his audience, "I love being a musician. It feels like being a servant—a servant to you." An enthusiastic fan then tossed $100 million on the stage, at which point Prince wrote "slave" on his right cheek and abruptly ended the concert. Way to go, Warren Buffett.

82. According to yesterday's New York Times, Düsseldorf International Airport now has a dentist's office that's "open even on Sundays and holidays," supposedly because the airport itself wasn't providing enough stress for travelers. Coming soon: mandatory P.E. classes and an unpleasant encounter with that ex you prayed you'd never see again.

83. Senators Joe Manchin III (D-WV) and Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.) have reached across the aisle to support gun-control legislation, and as they recently told The New York Times, "We also support an increase in your paper's random visual references to Ingmar Bergman movies."

84. Behind every story is ... a rock that's been turned upside down? Thanks for another scintillating brainteaser, vandalized CTA Green Line billboard!

85. "Dutch unemployment rises to 6.4 percent," says the AP, so would someone please tell that little Dutch boy he can go home now? Metaphorical dikes are above his pay grade.

86. "Presidents praise George W. Bush at new library," says the AP. I've heard of the expression "Money talks," so were these presidents of the "dead" variety? Or were the animatronic ones from Disney World rented out for this special occasion? I swear, I've read that headline a dozen times now and I still can't wrap my head around it ...

87. "Government drops plan to allow passengers to carry small knives, bats, golf clubs on airplanes," says the AP, which means flying commercial just got a whole lot duller for Las Vegas jugglers.

88. "Death of Senator Places Christie in Difficult Spot," reported The New York Times earlier this week, prompting the governor of New Jersey to comment, "And I used to weigh over 300 pounds, so I know a thing or two about being in difficult sp— Hey, I just walked right into a fat joke! Well, more like squeezed through the door of a fat joke, but still ..."

89. First an Elvis impersonator from Mississippi was accused of sending ricin-contaminated letters to the president, and now a struggling actress from Texas is the main suspect in a new case. Anyone else notice that Louisiana's mime community has been awfully quiet lately? Hmm ...

90. I wonder how traffic cops get started in that line of work. Do they respond to an ad that says, "If you find yourself getting angry at complete strangers every 3.6 seconds and wish you could get PAID to treat those strangers like lobotomized sea turtles, then look no further!"

91. I thought Superman derived his strength from Earth's yellow sun, not yellow popcorn, but I haven't seen Man of Steel yet. Does he fight superobesity by putting on a Lap-Band of Justice? Can't wait to find out!

92. Earlier today I saw a teenager wearing a shirt with the words "SIZZIN SENIORS" handwritten in ink. I imagine he won't be majoring in English anytime soon. (Or art and design, for that matter.)

93. Warning: The TSA has prohibited certain items from being brought onto airplanes in carry-on and/or checked bags. But because the TSA appreciates irony as much as the next government agency, it does not prohibit, say, a 300-pound man with obvious ambulatory problems from wearing a T-shirt bearing the name and insignia of the Flash, a.k.a. "the Fastest Man Alive," at Chicago Midway International Airport.

94. The New York Times reports that President Obama has only given two Oval Office addresses in four and a half years, tying his predecessor, George W. Bush, and proving that this century's presidents aren't afraid to give speeches while wearing pants. Progress!

95. Last week my niece Sophie, who just turned six, read Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree to me. It's a moment I hope I'll never forget, though I may have ruined the moment when I said, "I guess it's true about Jewish mothers and that whole 'eternal guilt' thing. Oy vey!" Sophie just frowned and said, "You're anti-semantic." Adorable.

96. It makes me sad when I see young people walking down the street with their heads buried in their phones. Boys, you're missing a valuable opportunity to stare at girls. And girls, you're missing a valuable opportunity to tell men like me to stop staring at you. (Emphasis on "like." Don't you judge me. Nuh-uh.)

97. Last week The New York Times reported that Disney's Pixar unit is unhappy with Turbo, the new movie from rival studio DreamWorks Animation, because it "bears similarities to its 'Cars' franchise," a claim that DreamWorks executives call "nonsense." Added one exec, "I mean, isn't it obvious we also ripped off Pixar's 'A Bug's Life'? Try to keep up, dummies."

98. Actor and ex-Chicago cop Dennis Farina died yesterday. Meanwhile, the Duchess of Cambridge gave birth to a son. A year or so from now, if the royal baby's first words are either "Go, Cubbies!" or "Fuckin' Cubbies...," I'll officially believe in reincarnation.

99. The New York Times reports that St. Louis start-up Lion Forge Comics plans to turn the TV series Knight Rider and Punky Brewster into comic books. "I think it's a good time for new companies. You can do new things in different ways," says creative director David Steward II, who's apparently still waiting for someone to tell him he was in a coma for 28 years.

100. Miss a payment to Big Joe's Sealcoating and you'll have to deal with its sister company, Big Joe's Sealcoating: Retaliation. Of course, once a certain toy company sees its logo, the suburban Chicago contractor may have to face the Hasbro Army of Intellectual-Property Lawyers: Retaliation.

101. Earlier this week a bright-eyed twentysomething with a clipboard stopped me on the street and asked if I was "interested in stopping racist hate groups." I said, "Not today, thank you," and walked on. I assume she then checked the box on her survey marked "Totally supports racist hate groups."

102. Alison Arngrim, who played Nellie Oleson on NBC's Little House on the Prairie for seven years, told The New York Times last month that her character is still popular in France: "They don't think Nellie is mean. They just think she's French." In any case, someone should probably remind Melissa Gilbert that Italy is quite lovely this time of year.

103. Thanks to the cost-cutting innovations of, you can now have The Washington Post delivered to your door no matter where you live for just pennies a day (plus $2.99 shipping and handling)!

104. Signaling His displeasure with the human race's overuse and subsequent dilution of His favorite adjective, God has requested that His favorite hymn be retitled "Adequate Grace."

105. I'm remaking 2001: A Space Odyssey with cats. It's going quite well—thank you for asking!

106. Robert's Rules of Order #1: Apart from the vodka and the shame, a bowl of Corn Flakes served with a screwdriver still counts as "part" of a complete, balanced breakfast.

107. Maurice Herrera, the head of marketing for Mentos, recently told The New York Times that "The freshmaker," the candy's slogan in the '90s, "posed a challenge for the brand because it suggested the benefit was 'We make things better,'" which he believes was interpreted as "an overpromise." In my imagination he added, "I'm convinced that anyone who would buy our product is a fucking moron."

108. "Former homeless man to be freed from prison in 2002 rape case," reports the Chicago Sun-Times. Upon hearing the news, the wrongfully convicted inmate remarked, "Free at last! Free at— Hey, for the record, homelessness no longer exists, does it? IT DOES?! Hmmm … Is Jimmy Hoffa still missing? And how'd that JFK assassination turn out?"

109. When I called FedLoan Servicing recently to discuss reducing my monthly payments, one of the songs I heard while on hold was a-ha's "Take On Me," which seemed like a passive-aggressive way of saying, "Hey, remember this hit from your carefree youth? And remember your youth in general? You probably weren't in debt back then!" Maybe I should just be grateful that FedLoan Servicing didn't make fun of my master's degree by playing another big hit from 1985, "Money for Nothing."

110. "Brought in for reform, UNO chairman resigns after 3 months," says the Chicago Sun-Times. Well, if it makes you feel any better, sir, I wasn't able to make my nieces play that game any more honestly than you could.

111. Next to the mailboxes in my apartment building is a makeshift "lending library" of paperbacks left behind by tenants. Yesterday I arranged the books by author and genre. Library and information science professionals, what's the best way to go about invoicing everyone in the building for my selfless public service?

112. The older I get, the more I judge the behavior of strangers by playing a mental game I call "Age, Upbringing, or Cultural/Regional Influence?" (Alternate title: "Is It Me? It's Them, Right? I Thought So.")

113. "Taylor Swift will star opposite Meryl Streep in 'The Giver,'" reports IMDB. In related news, Meryl Streep's cat will enjoy batting around its new cat toy.

114. In a recent New York Times article about college students' use of e-mail, a sophomore at Fordham University said, "E-mail has never really been a fun thing to use. It's always like, 'This is something you have to do.' School is a boring thing. E-mail is a boring thing. It goes together." But listening to the opinions of a 19-year-old? Always fascinating. (Just travel back in time to 1994 and ask me!)

115. Yesterday I noticed a spider near my bed, so I made a deal with him: if he wouldn't crawl on my face while I slept, I would let some flies in the room so he could feed his family. This morning I noticed a centipede near my bed; I let him know where he could find a well-fed family of spiders. The animal kingdom—it's brutal, y'all.

116. Yesterday I discovered that an ABC drama was shooting exteriors in the neighborhood, so I excitedly approached a man with "SECURITY" written on his windbreaker and asked him, "Are you part of the crew shooting Scandal? Ooh! I want to see if I can make Kerry Washington do that thing with her upper lip where she looks like she's about to cry but then she doesn't!"

He said, "It's not Scandal."

So I asked him, "Is it Revenge? Ooh! I want to see if I can get Madeleine Stowe to reveal how many Botox injections she's had in her forehead since that show began."

He said, "It's not Revenge. And the number is 12."

So I asked him, "Twelve?” (Admittedly, that one was a rhetorical question.) “So much for being polite. But if you're not shooting Scandal or Revenge, which means I won't get to harass either Kerry Washington or Madeleine Stowe, what are you shooting?"

He said, "Betrayal."

Indeed, sir. Indeed.

(Slow zoom into Robert as he arches his left eyebrow in a vaguely sinister fashion. Fade to black.)

117. Not to brag or nothin', but I make a mean tray of ice cubes.

118. Last week I was in Target and couldn't find what I was looking for right away, so, naturally, I muttered a popular four-letter word followed by "me" under my breath (longtime grammar enthusiasts will recognize this type of statement as "rhetorically imperative"). That's when I heard a tiny voice say "Hi," and I turned to see a little girl no older than two smiling at me from inside her mom's shopping cart. You could argue that she was just being the sweet, innocent toddler she's supposed to be, but I gave her full credit for recognizing a big baby when she saw one.

119. Drano must have been invented in biblical times, because whenever I pour it down the sink I'm acting on blind faith.

120. I'm surprised The Best Man Holiday isn't being marketed with the tag line "If you're white and/or under 30, it's the sequel you had no idea you've been waiting for!" Tsk tsk, Universal Pictures ...

121. Dear Lord ...

122. On my first full day as a librarian yesterday I responded to requests from a man named Ponce de Leon and a woman named Shakespeare, I had an 85-year-old Puerto Rican named Gunther tell me that the first president to exploit radio's full potential was Adolf Hitler, and I politely explained to a graphic designer that the date "November 22, 1963" should be styled so that the comma is placed after "22," not "November." In the past month I was also threatened on the Green Line by a man with pink-tinted sunglasses and a pet rabbit in a bag because I told him to stop cussing at a woman who'd been startled by Bunnicula's surprise cameo, while at a Red Line station I turned the corner just in time to see a man stick a finger down his throat and share the contents of his stomach with everyone else on the platform.

What I'm saying is, you're full of quirks, Chicago, but I'm glad I have the chance to stick around and experience them a little bit longer.

123. "The Cowardly Lion in Winter, or Let's See How Brave You Are in the Freezing Cold With No Pants On. Put 'Em Up! Put 'Em Uuuup!"

124. Bad dads, on the other hand, get promoted to grand juries.

125. Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the many wonders of this life, but if you could use some of that infinite wisdom of yours to show me how to iron a shirt in less than 20 minutes, I’d really appreciate it.

126. A lot of people think Christmas is magic, but what about AIDS? Yes, Virginia, according to awkwardly labeled archival videotapes such as this one, it can be magic too.

127. Proving to metropolitan apartment dwellers that it's ahead of the curve, State Farm has announced it's changing its slogan to "Like a good neighbor, State Farm will occasionally look up from its phone to acknowledge that another human being is in the elevator."

128. Call me a sentimental fool, but when you work for a nonprofit and freelance on the side, it's easy to become nostalgic for phrases like "direct deposit" and "taxes withheld from paycheck."

129. Underneath the heading of the sign marked "Kid's Korner" at Midway International Airport on Christmas Eve was the sentence "Kids, please enjoy the table and seats as well as the Cartoon Network!" So, kids, can you tell me what's wrong with this picture, then explain to the person who printed that sign the difference between singular and plural possessives? The winner will receive a first-class trip from the baggage conveyor belt to the baggage carousel!

130. If you're a gnome and you're currently unemployed in Chicago, may I suggest applying for work at the Trader Joe's downtown on Ontario? I think you'll fit right in.

131. Cheers to young love! Jeers to it being expressed—repeatedly—in the apartment right above mine! (Show-offs …)

132. Every year Chicago celebrates "Christmas in January," otherwise known as "It's Too Damn Cold to Take Down These Damn Lights and Decorations Right Now."

133. Chicago: "Oh my god, you guys, it's, like, so cold outside. Seriously."

Me: "If you put your gloves on your hands and your hands in your pockets, you might feel a little warmer."

Chicago: "But then I wouldn't be able to type buzzwords like 'Chiberia' and hashtags like '‪#‎cantfeelmyfingersanymore' so people know how cold it is."

Me: "Well, when you put it that way ..."

134. Maybe I'm too sensitive, but whenever my home Wi-Fi automatically connects with another network besides mine, I die a little on the inside.

135. Maria Shriver is obviously the subject of the cover story here, but I'd like to think her face is the subject of "When to Say NO! to Your Surgeon."

136. I passed by a trailer parked downtown last month—I'm pretty sure an episode of Chicago Fire or Chicago PD was being shot nearby—and noticed this sign on the door. I was so angry, I could barely breathe—I mean, first they take the jobs we don't want, and now they take the bit-part acting roles we're not even qualified to play?!?!

137. I think I might have to report my lava lamp to HR.

138. If you want your customers to recycle, Coca-Cola, you've got to offer a better prize than Chicago in January. And if you want to learn the value of a well-placed comma, my fee is $300 an hour, but I'll also accept Chicago in June.

139. Subliminal message: love is hell.

140. If buzzards could operate smartphones, do you think they'd take pictures of roadkill before digging in?

141. Yesterday at work I had to type up instructions on how to flush the toilet in the handicapped-accessible bathroom so that all the non-handicapped people who continue to use that bathroom will stop leaving behind "surprises" for our staff and others.

My name is Robert Cass, and I am a librarian.

142. Yesterday morning I opened my front door to retrieve The New York Times, but I also found a handwritten note that said, "I do not know you, or know what is upsetting you so much, but your screaming has gotten out of control. I imagine you're yelling at a dog by your regular screams of 'get down!' But to be honest, you sound horrifying. No animal deserves to be yelled at like that. I please encourage you to find another way to train your dog. What you've been yelling sounds downright scary and cruel. I shudder when I hear you lose your temper. Several times I've considered reporting you, but I thought I'd write you a note first."

I don't own a dog, and though I have sung along to the Dramatics' 1971 hit "Get Up and Get Down" since I moved into this apartment building last month, I don't remember screaming along to it. However, I do tend to talk to myself while pretending I'm talking to my ex-cats, who I haven't seen in over four months, but I do that in a pathetically loving way.

In summation, Your Honor, the only thing I'm guilty of abusing is my dignity.

143. When did "Room for cream?" begin to mean "Do you mind if I only fill this up three-quarters of the way with coffee?" Congress, we need you to take action.

144. All in favor of letting megacorporations take over America's underfunded public schools, say "aye." (Incidentally, I love 3M's new slogan: "Scotch-taping your children's shattered dreams since 1902.")

145. Another Ash Wednesday, another unofficial "Robert Cass Mistakenly Counsels Women He's Never Met Before on the Importance of Reporting Domestic Violence to the Proper Authorities Day." Until next year ...

146. I didn't know Hollywood was remaking Waterworld. Can't wait!

147. On my way into the Trader Joe's on Diversey after work this afternoon, I stopped to buy the new issue of StreetWise—for those who don't know, it's sold by vendors who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless—from the woman standing outside. She thanked me for my purchase more than I expected, so I explained that I volunteered for StreetWise as a proofreader in 2009 and '10. She said, "You look like a heavy hitter. I thought you were an investment banker."

I'm always happy to be mistaken for someone who makes more than $24,000 a year, but because Chicago's annual St. Patrick's Day parade was held today, I'm pretty sure anyone who hadn't been drinking since 9 AM looked like a million bucks.

148. Last night in the checkout line at Target I heard a guy behind me complaining to his friend about "hipsters" who are "doing it, not living it." I turned around and saw a twentysomething with the most exquisite late-'80s hair-metal mullet and knockoff Members Only jacket I'd ever seen, proving that you can live it even if "it" was dead before you ever started living.

149. I've decided to open a "themed" bar. The theme is that a customer will come in and order a drink, I'll water it down, and when the customer complains that it doesn't taste like it should I'll say, "Yeah, sorry, I can't fix that. You'll have to buy a new one." I call this latest enterprise of mine the Genius Bar.

150. Dear packaged-bread manufacturers:

I'll eat the end pieces, but they have to be full pieces. None of this bottom-half-trails-off-in-a-cloud-of-crumbs nonsense, okay? My peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches deserve better than that, and so does America. (Feel free to give this complaint a standing ovation. I just did.)

Counting on your support in 2016,
Robert Cass

151. Last night at the laundromat, right before I was about to leave, the owner pointed to some items on a countertop and asked me, "Are these yours?"

I said, "Those are bras."

"Oh, okay. I just wanted to make sure."

Geez, you stop doing push-ups for a couple decades and suddenly everyone's on your case!

152. In other words, turn left.

153. Three times in the past month I've walked into a store and been greeted by Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls" on the PA. Maybe not the friendliest greeting—its opening lines are "Sometimes you're better off dead / There's a gun in your hand and it's pointing at your head"—but I get it, shoplifting's a no-no, and, more importantly, I accept that in this life you can't choose your theme song—your theme song chooses you. Besides, "Bad to the Bone" has been done to death.

154. #‎ThrowbackThursday: Maybe I should've stuck with that vegetarian diet I was on in my early 20s, but the choices were so limited back then. And as you can see in the following picture, it did nothing for my complexion.

155. It makes me happy when seniors come into the museum where I work and say things like "Jack Benny is still funny today, and he never used a single curse word." Because they're fucking right, you know.

156. On Friday a guy came into the museum where I work and asked me some reference questions. He said he was in Chicago with his brother, "a famous actor" who's making a movie here.

"If you don't mind me asking," I said, "who's your brother?"

"Al Pacino."

He told me he'd had bit parts in many of his brother's movies, then gave me his business card, which had the name Marc Pacino on it. He said he'd send me Al's autograph.

After he left I ran into my coworker Shannon. "That was Al Pacino's brother!"

"Oh yeah, he's been in here before," she said. "He told me that story too."

Wait a second ...

I went to my computer and looked up "Marc Pacino" on IMDb but found no one by that name in the cast credits of Al's movies. I also looked for Al's bio and discovered he grew up "an only child." His father, Salvatore, was married five times, but according to his 2005 obituary, "Pacino was survived by one son, Al, and four daughters, Josette, Roberta, Paula and Desiree."

I'd been had.

Ladies, now I know how you feel every time I approach you in a bar and say things like "You know the back part of the hammer? The part that can dig nails out of the wall? That's called the claw. I invented that."

You have my sincerest apologies, but as the Official Librarian to Fake Siblings of the Stars®, it's my duty to point out that you can't believe everything you fact-check on your smartphone.

157. "New York Police Department says it has ended Muslim surveillance program that sparked outrage," reports the AP. According to one NYPD officer, who wished to remain anonymous, "It turns out they're mostly just religious. Boooooooooooring."

158. Ah, spring! It shall feel ever so delightful to open these long-shuttered windows of mine after such an interminable, bone-chilling winter and allow Mother Nature to gently caress my face with one of her life-affirming breez—


Ah, neighbor in adjacent building who rarely leaves his back porch and doesn't understand the concept of voice modulation, to say nothing of "too much information."

Come back soon, winter. All is forgiven.

159. Tonight on the train I heard a man complaining to his friend that he can't get a job in marketing without a resumé and portfolio. The friend was carrying an umbrella with a handle shaped like a sword's.

It's hard out here for a hobbit, y'all.

160. When a teenager wraps a Superman-insignia belt around pants worn low enough to expose his tighty whities, the result isn't so super, if you ask me. On the other hand, Superman's been wearing his underwear on the outside of his work clothes for more than 75 years, so I can't exactly argue that the style in question is "breaking canon." (Winner: the American way!)

161. Dear Republican Super PACs:

If Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic Party's nod for president in 2016, you should consider making attack ads that focus on quotes of hers you deem hypocritical, followed by the catchphrase "That's what she said." (Is James Earl Jones available for the voice-over? Make it happen.)

You're welcome,

162. Last night a man passed me on the street and said, "What's up, baldy?" He laughed, and only then did I notice that he was bald too.

I feel sorry for all you non-baldies in this world. You're missing out on some great inside jokes.

163. The recent controversy surrounding racist remarks made by the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has provided us all with a teachable moment, namely, "L.A. has a professional basketball team other than the Lakers? I had no idea!"

164. Sweet Mother Dangle Charm is the name of a bracelet from Jared's line of Pandora jewelry. It's also something I say every time I stub my toe on a bedpost.

165. If your doctor has issues of The New Yorker in his or her waiting room, that's good. If you're able to finish a 20,000-word article while you wait, that's not so good.

166. Hashtags placed at the end of Facebook status updates are popular these days because they're so versatile: they can act as punch lines, footnotes, or even Shakespearean asides. But what if we take a cue from Kevin Nealon's old Saturday Night Live character Mr. Subliminal and use hashtags to say what's really on our minds? For example ...

Congratulations to the happy couple on such an amazing wedding! ‪#‎shescrazyhesadrunkigiveitsixmonths

I believe in basic human rights for all people. ‪#‎thankgodiwasbornwhite

My hedge fund had an awesome year, so I decided to treat myself to a BRAND-NEW CAR!!!#‎bigenginecompensatesfortinyorgan #‎whatareyoulookinat

167. If the majority of cable-news anchors were replaced tomorrow morning with pro wrestlers, would anyone know the difference? 

168. Would it have been considered blasphemous if Mary and Joseph had put this Bible verse on a T-shirt and worn it around Jesus when he was a toddler? After all, they're the ones who had to raise the kid.

169. If you can't say something nice about a person, don't say anything at all. Unless, of course, you can say something nasty about that person in a language he or she doesn't speak, because no one's going to fault you for embracing multiculturalism.

170. Now we know how Buddha got so big.

171. Hey, joke, thanks for pitching in and writing yourself tonight. I really appreciate it.

172. If you build it they will come. Even if all you do is keep it standing a hundred years later, and even if the home team suuuuuucks, they'll still come. I don't get it either, and I'm a disembodied, supposedly all-knowing voice.

Any-hoo, GO CUBS!

173. It's sad that people who speak Spanish don't have a word for "withdrawal." MUCHAS GRACIAS, SEÑOR CASTRO! (Is there a Spanish emoticon for "sarcastic face"? I want to make sure my meaning isn't lost on this Brazilian girl I'm trying to impress.)

174. Lately I've been working "on spec" to create an ad campaign for a local moving company called the Professionals, whose logo incorporates the crosshairs of a gunsight. Let me know what you think about these potential slogans:

"Moving can be stressful, so why not let the Professionals put you out of your misery?"

"When you sign a moving contract with the Professionals, we promise not to put out a contract on you!"

"Tipping our movers isn't mandatory, but do you really want to take that risk? Do ya, punk?"

"Why choose the Professionals? Because we would kill for you. No, seriously—nod your head and it's done. Wait, was that a nod, or were you just scratching your neck fat with your chin stubble? Okay, that's what we thought."

175. If you see something, say something. But if you see something as you're hearing something—say, a classic song like the Spinners' "Could It Be I'm Falling in Love" coming from your car radio or your noise-canceling earbuds—can you really be sure of what you saw, especially if what you saw looked like a heated argument between a man and a woman but may have just been dysfunctional foreplay? I mean, who am I to judge? And who are you to judge a hopeless romantic?

176. On my way home from work last night I almost fell victim to a drive-by finger-gun shooting. I retaliated with a few shots of my own, but did that solve anything? No.

America, it's time to disarm our digits and hand them over to the proper authorities. That's why I'm urging everyone to give the finger to the National Rifle Association.