Thursday, April 30, 2009

The ACTUAL Best Invention Since Sliced Bread.

What, exactly, was so great about sliced bread as an invention?

Nothing, that's what. There was nothing great about sliced bread as an invention. Sliced bread was a necessity, for one thing. Back in the 1700s, or whenever bread was invented, it would have (as bread does) come in a loaf. What were people supposed to do with it, just eat it that way? Put a couple of slices of bologna, and mayo (they had mayo in the 1700s, right?) and cheese on an entire loaf of bread, then put a whole 'nother loaf of bread on top of that, and eat it?

Ridiculous. And while most of what happened in history was, in fact, ridiculous (why the powdered wigs? What's the deal with pyramids? Flappers and flagpole sitting? Come on), it's beyond comprehension to think that somebody, somewhere, didn't instantly look at a loaf of bread and say I'd better slice a piece of that off to make it manageable.

So the idea of slicing bread was itself not that big of an innovation. And neither was pre-sliced bread, which is what I suppose most people would think of when they refer to something as being The Best Invention Since Sliced Bread.

They don't say "pre-sliced bread," but it's implied.

Pre-sliced bread is also not that great an invention. Unlike actual great inventions, things that improved upon modern life a great deal or otherwise came up with something truly unique or new (e.g., Cadbury Creme Eggs, the Herman's Hermit's Song "Mrs. Brown You've Got A Lovely Daughter":)

Unlike those things, pre-sliced bread was not a major innovation, or even, really, necessary, and in fact, it's kind of unnecessary and wasteful.

Everytime I think of how much trouble must have gone into inventing and maintaining and perfecting a machine that would take a freshly-baked loaf of bread and slice it up and then package it, I think Couldn't the world have done something else with that kind of energy and time and money? Something useful, like maybe finding a way to stop televising hockey or outlawing left turns? Because the act of slicing bread is simply not that hard. Not at all. You take a knife, you lightly slice off one or two or three or however many slices you want, and you go on with your life.

So it's easy to slice bread. Why, then, do we have to have pre-sliced bread, and why is that tiny innovation -- a tiny innovation that's both wasteful and, as I'll get to in a moment, un-American, -- held up as the pinnacle of human achievement, or at least the prior pinnacle of human achievement to which all future inventions must aspire?

Pre-sliced bread is, too, wasteful. Every loaf of pre-sliced bread I've ever seen has the endcaps -- those slices of bread that aren't quite whole slices of bread, and that lots of people don't want because the endcap is 98% crust. If you use that end cap on your bologna-and-mayo-and-cheese sandwich, it will not only mean you get a lot of crust but also that the top slice of bread is going to be a little smaller than the bottom, creating a Nigel Tufnel-esque sandwich inequity.

But what are you supposed to do, create an endcap-only sandwich to match them up? Then you get more crust, plus the endcap is thinner and smaller than the other slices, so you'll have an inferior sandwich experience.

So most people, I imagine, simply do what I am so reluctant to do, and that's throw away the endcap. Imagine. There are, say, 6 billion people in the world*

(*unscientific, made-up-on-the-spot estimate.)

Each of whom eats, on average, we'll say, one loaf of bread per week.*

(* see previous asterisk.)

Now, we can discount Russia from this, because they eat only that black, hard, Russian bread that can't be cut and is also used for ballast in their secret Navy floating just off the coast of Novosibirsk, so we'll reduce the figure to 5.5 billion people. Doing some quick math, that's 5.5 billion loaves of bread per week, or 11 billion endcaps of bread being thrown out per week, which, taken together, would be, in a year, enough bread to build an entirely new planet, which we could put into synchronous orbit around the sun in Earth's orbit, but exactly opposite us, so that the Bread Planet would never catch up to Earth. Then we could take all those people that I don't like (e.g., Ashton Kutcher, Diablo Cody, people who turn left in front of me when I'm in a hurry to get home) and send them to The Bread Planet to live and Twitter and wear trucker caps and write movies that will be overrated and will not hold up to the test of time, and then I would not have a 40-minute commute to go seven miles.

So, using science, you can see ... well, something. I'm not sure what point, or points, I just made, but they were no doubt very cogent.

Pre-sliced bread is also un-American: It stands in the way of freedom, specifically, the "freedom to have whatever thickness of bread I want," and also the "freedom to have different thicknesses of the same bread if that's how I roll."

Pun intended.

When I buy pre-sliced bread, someone, somewhere -- probably a secret cabal, probably including President Obama -- has determined the thickness of the bread I am going to want, or need, or use, and that's that. If I want a thicker, or thinner, slice, well, tough. So I am forced to buy two different kinds of bread if I think Maybe tomorrow I'll want a thicker bread -- like, maybe I'll need thicker bread because instead of bologna, I might put sliced-up corn dogs and macaroni and cheese on it, then microwave the whole shebang, and need some thick bread to hold that all together.

And don't knock the Corn Dog-and-Macaroni sandwich on Texas Toast until you try it. It's delicious!

But thanks to the Obama Bread Cabal, or whoever, I can't just get one loaf of bread and determine how to slice it. Or, I could but I'd have to go to a special store and buy special, more expensive, unsliced bread.

And what kind of world is it where it's more expensive to buy bread that hasn't been sliced? They don't charge more for an unassembled set of bunk beds, you know.

Pre-sliced bread denies me, as an American, my God-given and Constitutionally-guaranteed right to slice my bread however I want it. I get the same width of bread slice that people in Maryland do, for crying out loud.

Anyway, you get the point: sliced bread isn't so great an invention. But, human culture has decided that sliced-bread is the yardstick against which to measure innovation. Just as we rank our inadequacies as a society by comparing them to the moon landing, we judge our successes by how they measure up to sliced bread.

While that's a pretty low hurdle to get over, I still have come up with The ACTUAL Best Invention Since Sliced Bread, and, like all truly great inventions throughout human history, it came to me as a combination of hunger and sloppiness.

In this case, those two qualities were combined into one burger-eating-attempt as Sweetie and I were driving home last night from a visit to Mom, and we stopped to get something to eat. I ordered the "Whopper" at Burger King, even though I knew I'd regret it, and I did regret it.

I got the "Whopper" because I was hungry, and it takes a lot of fast food to knock out hunger. Fast food shrinks on its way to the belly, so a quarter-pound burger in your hand becomes nickel-sized by the time it hits your stomach, so if you don't get a big enough burger starting out, you have to keep on eating french fries to fill up, and the french fries were technically for the twins, so you're a horrible person because you're literally taking food away from your children.

To combat that, I ordered the "Whopper" but I knew that was a mistake because the "Whopper" has all those ingredients on it like lettuce and onions and mayo and such, and they all flop out as you bite it, falling onto your dark blue shirt and squirting onto your face and generally making a mess of things, and that's what happened, exactly, with the added benefit of me dribbling a little soda down my shirt, too, and thanking the powers that be (The Obama Bread Cabal) that "mayonnaise and diet Coke on shirt" is not grounds for divorce in our state.

And that's when The ACTUAL Best Invention Since Sliced Bread came to me, and here it is:

Pouch Bread.

That's the name I've come up for it, anyway. Here's how it works. Instead of slicing bread, we devote all our time and energy, as a species, to developing machines that can take bread, once made, and make it into a sandwich pouch -- like a pita, but not all weird and foreign-y, and made up of good, wholesome white or wheat bread.

The Pouch Bread would have an opening into which a hamburger, mayo, lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, what-have-you, could be slid, but all around, say, 90% of the sandwich, would be sealed in, so that no matter what your sandwich is, you can eat it with one hand secure in the knowledge that your ingredients are stuck inside.

Pouch bread wouldn't just be for driving, either -- it would work perfect at home. How often have you tried, as I did last week, to make yourself a deep-fried ham, swiss cheese, and apple sandwich (trust me, it's awesome) and then sat down to eat it, only to have half the ingredients squirt out onto your plate so that you end up eating your sandwich ingredients separately from the bread, with a fork, like some kind of loser?

Too often, I bet, if your life is anything like mine.

But with Pouch Bread (TM), that would never happen. Bite into the open side, and the ingredients skooch back... to be caught by the pouch.

I've even got a mascot for it: Paulie The Kangaroo, a friendly kangaroo who hops around the world, watching kids and grown-ups spill their sandwiches all over important papers and the laptop computers and all, and says, cheerily, "Why try eating a mess? Have a Pouch!" Then he pulls a piece of Pouch bread out of his pocket, hands it to the happy, now-smiling person, and hops off into the sunset while the voice over (James Earl Jones) says "No more sloppy sandwiches. Have a Pouch!"

And here Mom thought I'd never make a positive contribution to society.

In closing, let me just say that (a) you can thank me in $10s and $20s, and (b) here's another Herman's Hermits song to play you out. It's "No Milk Today." I didn't listen to it closely, but if I heard the lyrics correctly, the singer isn't getting milk and that's the end of all his hopes and dreams...

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Chance, love, fate, drownings, packages, movies, music, Las Vegas, brothers, sisters, Madison, snow, fiances, serial killers maybe? Up So Floating Many Bells Down is a novel about a year in the life of a brother and sister as each tries to cope with a drowning and the death of their mother. Heartbreaking and unique: Read it today.

I'll be flying -- and not in that fake Kate-Winslet-Titanic way, either.

I'm going back to SeaWorld, and I'm going in style.

We went to SeaWorld last year on vacation with the kids, and it was excellent -- between patting sting rays and seeing the shark tank and riding the Kraken and the shows, the day flew by too quickly, and I've wanted to go back.

Now, thanks to the Manta, I have an excuse to do just that.

I just found out abotu Manta -- a flying roller coaster that's one of a kind, a flying roller coaster that takes riders through underwater worlds of floor-to-ceiling aquariums filled with seldom-seen fish and rays, sea dragons, schools of fish, octopi, and over 300 Rays -- letting you walk through all that and then rid the Giant Manta Ray ride on steel rails that spin, fall, glide, soar, and race you through, all while lying face down so that you're flying.

And SeaWorld's not just opening that ride, they're giving me a chance to skip to the front of the line, VIP style. They've got a Manta Quiz game that you can take on their site (that link above goes there.) Read through the site and get hints and tips on that site or on the SeaWorld twitter feed (@RealShamu)

Then log in using your own Twitter account and answer 5 Manta questions. Completing all six of the easy activities qualifies you not just as a Manta expert, but also gets you a free "front-of-the-line" pass when you go to ride the Manta.

So now, picture me: Arms outstretched, flying through the Florida sun past aquariums full of exotic pets... and this time, NOT screaming my head off like a terrified two-year-old. I'm sure I'll be braver than I was last year.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Best Aliens In Books That I'm Hoping Are Real Because It Would Be Cool If They Actually Existed.

Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell last week restated something that's been obvious to anyone who, you know, reads. Speaking at a press conference called by the "Paradigm Research Group," Edgar D. Mitchell -- the sixth man to walk on the moon, and so someone who's in the know -- said this: "We are being visited... It is now time to put away this embargo of truth about the alien presence."

A spokesman for the Paradigm Research Group (PRG) then didn't threaten the United States government. He made it very clear he was not threatening the government (he said "this is not a threat or anything, you don't threaten the United States government, they're heavily armed ...") but he did say that if the U.S. Government doesn't make public, by the end of May, what it knows about aliens, the PRG will make it "as difficult on them as possible."

Well, I for one am not afraid of even the heavily armed U.S. government, and this is a crusade I've decided to join because I, too, want the government to reveal what it knows about aliens and the fact...

... yes, fact -- go back and see what Astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell said...

... that we've been visited by aliens, and I hope that when President Obama (who obviously has not much else to do) does declassify the documents, these aliens will turn out not to be merely figments of the imaginations of some science-fiction writers... So here are

The Best Aliens In Books That I'm Hoping Are Real Because It Would Be Cool If They Actually Existed.

1. Tralfamadorians. (As seen in Slaughter-House 5) The Tralfamadorians are little plunger-shaped aliens with hands where their heads should be and eyes in their hands; when embarrassed, they close their hands over their eyes. They kidnapped Billy Pilgrim and put him in a zoo with a porn star.

Why It'd Be Cool If They Actually Exist:
Aliens are always kidnapping people and doing things like dissecting them or raping them and dropping them back outside their trailer in Alabama, or bringing them back to be greeted by Richard Dreyfuss and that one woman. The Tralfamadorians aren't having any of that. They'll just kidnap you and plunk you into your own little life-long porn movie. If you're going to spend the rest of your life on an alien world, do you want it to be with a short guy who hasn't showered in three weeks? Or with Montana Wildhack?

Then Again, Why It Might
Not Be So Cool: The Tralfamadorians do put people into a zoo, where they're always on display, and there's large crowds. Suppose they get bored watching you just live your life with your porn-star mate and television with pasted-on picture, and decide to make you fight instead? Or suppose they get confused and bring you Richard Dreyfuss?

Why The Government Probably Won't Reveal That They Exist: President Obama's plans to make the United States a communist paradise require that its citizens stay around and pay up to 150% of their income in taxes. (He's hoping you won't pay attention to the math!) If people start applying to be abducted to Tralfamadorian zoos, the whole deal's shot.

2. Moties: (As seen in The Mote In God's Eye and The Gripping Hand.) These three-armed aliens that live inside a red giant star (or something like that; it's been a while since I read the book) have a distinct class system that is strictly enforced: warriors, workers, and tiny "watchmakers" who can build anything. Their civilization rises and falls repeatedly, as they need to breed to survive, and they refuse (mostly) to consider solutions, dubbing anyone who proposes an answer to the constant collapse of Motie civilization a "Crazy Eddie."

Why It'd Be Cool If They Actually Exist: Those "Watchmakers," tiny Moties that can build and rebuild and improve anything. Give me a few of those any my garage door opener would not only work, but it would probably come down off the ceiling and clean up the bowl of snacks I spilled out there a few weeks ago. Not to mention how helpful they'd be in programming my cell phone.

Then Again, Why It Might Not Be So Cool: Two reasons: Warriors and "Fyunch(click)'s." The Warriors are self-explanatory: They can outfight anything and have learned how to hurl asteroids as weapons of mass destruction. We've got Marines and Navy Seals, and don't need anything to outtough those and make the U.S. a second-tier country. But more worrisome than Warriors are the idea of a "Fyunch(click)." A "Fyunch(click)" is a Motie assigned to exactly parrot a human being: mannerisms, speech, even, probably, the way I sort of rub my neck when I'm thinking.

As someone who is surprised every single time I look in the mirror -- where'd those bags under my eyes come from? Is that really my chin? All of it?-- I have no desire to see myself parroted back at me. I know, deep down inside, that I'm not cool. I'd rather not see a three-armed, furry not-cool version of me sitting around scratching its butt.

Why The Government Probably Won't Reveal That They Exist: What, the government is going to let people know that there's a society that strictly enforces class and caste divisions, a society in which moving from one occupation to another is impossible, a society which is built on a boom-and-bust mentality, constantly throwing itself into crisis in order to take the steps it needs to fix a problem because forcing a solution through desperation is the only way the public will ever act? No way, man.

3. Martians: (As seen in Stranger in A Strange Land.) These "Martians" are more ghosts of Martians past than little red men fighting Santa Claus. Armed with physical and mental abilities beyond anything man has ever known, the Martians are, even as we speak, contemplating humanity's fate -- a fate they will determine.

Why It'd Be Cool If They Actually Exist: Look what they taught Valentine Michael Smith to do: heal his body, levitate things, seduce women with ease... that's what it all comes down to, right? Every advance that science makes, it all boils down to Will It Help Men Get Chicks? (Answer: Probably not.)

Then Again, Why It Might Not Be So Cool: Well, there is the fact that the Martians are contemplating whether or not to destroy our planet, contemplation that if I recall correctly might go on for eons (they're slow moving ghosts of Martians and not quick to rush into anything) but which might, ultimately, end up on Let's just destroy their planet. That, and they're humorless: the one thing that Mike never was taught by the Martians was how to laugh. Humorless and possibly destructive: they're like giant versions of Matthew McConaughey.

Why The Government Probably Won't Reveal That They Exist: When Mike the Martian-trained human came to Earth, he pretty much destroyed all of society just as soon as he learned to walk in our gravity. With the help of a crotchety author and three hot chicks, Mike brought the world-government to its knees, made most inventions obsolete, proved all religions false, and generally threw humanity into turmoil. Since that's pretty much President Obama's agenda (as I understand it from glimpses of Fox News), why would he let someone steal his thunder?

4. Hyper-intelligent Pan-dimensional Beings (as seen in The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy and its sequels.) These creatures, whose forms in our dimension look a lot like tiny mice riding around in highball glasses, are the ones responsible for building the two most powerful computers in the history of all the dimensions: Deep Thought, whose job it was to come up with the Answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything... and then Earth, whose job it was to come up with the question that Deep Thought had answered.

Why It'd Be Cool If They Actually Exist: For one thing, they invented the sport of "Brockian Ultra-Cricket," a game so massively complicated that the rulebook was so heavy that it collapsed into a black hole. Any sport that features people growing extra legs to amuse the crowds, and has as its goal the whacking of other players and then retreating to apologize, is a sport that we could use on TV to fill in the gaps that are otherwise, now, filled in with the NFL draft and the neverending and endlessly boring "NBA Playoffs." For another, mice driving motorized highball glasses are cute.

Then Again, Why It Might Not Be So Cool: On the other hand, if they do exist, that means that we're all just part of a giant computer program, and also it means that Vogons probably exist, which means Vogon poetry exists, and if there's one thing that's worse than Shel Silverstein's poems, it's Vogon poetry. Well, maybe not worse, but the two are tied.

There is, it turns out, a "Vogon Poetry Generator" you can go to. I went there, and got this poem generated for me, personally:

See, see the Smart sky Marvel at its big puce depths. Tell me, Ben do you Wonder why the platypus ignores you? Why its foobly stare makes you feel bleary. I can tell you, it is Worried by your thuyrfrgable facial growth That looks like A cottage cheese. What's more, it knows Your hypotenuse potting shed Smells of frog. Everything under the big Smart sky Asks why, why do you even bother? You only charm old cheeses.

Which I kind of like, actually. And it's also true: My hypotenuse potting shed does smell of frog.

Why The Government Probably Won't Reveal That They Exist: They're already busy covering up the disappearance of the dolphins. They don't need another scandal breaking.

5. Quozl: These rabbit-like aliens that took up residence on Earth in underground burrows started out just wanting a planet to live on, and then conquered Earth the best way possible: through the media.

Why It'd Be Cool If They Actually Exist: They're giant rabbits, with advanced technology. What's not cool about that?

Then Again, Why It Might Not Be So Cool: Well, they do breed like rabbits -- that's why they needed a new planet to live on. And the way they fight is highly stylized -- they have fights in which the goal is to make it appear as though you're going to beat the other guy up, but never actually touch him. After the wrestling, karate, tae kwon do, tae bo, aikido, kung fu, judo, kendo, capoeira, ninjitsu, ju jitsu, "ultimate fighting," "mixed martial arts" and other similar crazes, do we really need another fake form of fighting designed to make middle-aged guys feel good about themselves while spending two nights per week at a strip-mall storefront wearing a bathrobe?

Why The Government Probably Won't Reveal That They Exist: Actually, they probably will, eventually. Whenever things start to look bleak, President Obama hauls out something cute for the media. Need another $150 bazillion dollars for the bailout? Let's see his daughters head off to school with Hello Kitty Backpacks. About to send mixed messages on whether the US will torture or not? Hello, Bo, the Portuguese Water Puppy. So when those jobless numbers come out at the end of May, expect to see a couple of Quozl showing up on the view.

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Children tormented by demons. An old man accidentally killing people. Witches who live hundreds of years and escape from Hell repeatedly. An astronaut drifting through space... these and other great stories can be found only on AfterDark: The scariest things, you CAN'T imagine.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Welcome another TBOE Reader!

Guess who else -- besides you-- is reading The Best of Everything? Dan Patrick and his crew.

Driving into work this morning, I was listening to Dan and his guys talk sports. They began discussing which NFL teams would be good, or bad, to play for, and one of the guys said "We're actually in a time when people are wishing they could get traded to the Atlanta Falcons."

To which another guy said, and I quote: Whodathunkit?

We all know who coined and popularized the term Whodathunkit?! Right?

Me. I did. Keep up with me here.

So welcome, Dan Patrick and his crew of guys on the radio, to the ranks of my readers.

Who else is reading TBOE? (besides you?)

Among others: Mark Harris, Stephen Colbert and dolphins.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Butter must be charming; margarine more so. (It's The TBOE Roundup!)

It's Sunday morning, and I'm spending it, I imagine, doing what almost everybody does with their Sunday mornings: Musing about poetry, writing about sociopathic guys being hunted by other sociopathic guys, and provoking violent physical reactions in people simply by mentioning breakfast food.

Let me hasten to add that I'm not using "sociopathic" in that paragraph in any sort of clinical sense. I mean it in the same sense that everyone uses words like that: the "I'm going to use a big word and hope my readers think I'm intellectual and junk" sense.

In other "intellectual and junk" updates, it's time for some more of my favorite comments, including another one that was left on my old "Best of" Blog, the one I no longer post to. Reading "The Best Book I Think Of When I Think Of The Words 'The Best Book,' " Dorie LaRue writes:

I connected with everything you wrote, except I've always loathed The Great Gatsby, and me, an English teacher. Personally I would not want to hang out with any of those people in the novel. I know I was supposed to see their superficiality as entertaining, but why read that if you gots Flannery o'Connor, if you gots Ralph Ellison, gots Thomas Mann, gots Updike, Paul Theroux, Edna O'Brien.

Especially do I agree for your reasons that people don't read, and add one more: digital natives expect instant entertainment...I read aloud to my college class The Overcoat because I knew they wouldn't read it left to their own devices. To make them interested you have to read it aloud stopping ever so often to point out stuff...

Dorie, it's always nice to preach to the choir. And I've even read one of those authors you mentioned: Paul Theroux's The Mosquito Coast, a fascinating, great book that I'd forgotten about until I read your comment and now wish I had around to go page through. I'd have rather read that twice than anything by Chaucer.

Chaucer could have used some guidance from reader Le Yo, who followed up on the competing nominations for Best Fake Musical by noting this:

"All novels have one of two plots: someone goes on a trip or a stranger comes to town."-- John Gardner.

Which prompted me to run through every novel I could think of (and some comic books) and see if that was true. (It's certainly true about this one, which uses both of those plots...) So the ultimate novel, I think, would be one in which an assistant manager at an aquarium has to get out of town because of the arrival of a mysterious stranger. Look for that soon in bookstores. (Right after I publish "John Tyler: Space President.")

And speaking of Chaucer, Scott Dunlop, of Husbands Anonymous, paused from linking Dr. Seuss to violent crimes to be poetically repulsed by not one, but two of my posts.

First, Scott wrote this about my dreams of getting rich through butter sculpting:

Let's be honest, that didn't look much like Elvis. Very poor sculpting indeed. Surely it goes rancid? a ton of rancid butter must be charming- rancid butter elvis...

A comment which stands alone for its lucid criticism of the shortcomings of butter sculpting, and because it contains almost-a-haiku:

A ton of rancid
butter must be charming -
rancid butter elvis.

Scott wasn't done there, though: He hated the idea of The Best New Food:

What is it about your posts that have the ability to provoke physical response:
This time, I threw up a little in my mouth.

At least he wasn't reading the one about Nick Lachey. I won't stand for any Lachey-bashing here.

Scott's credentials as a foodie might be lacking, though, because while he wasn't impressed by toaster-sausage-puffs, he does dream of Sherbert-Flavored Rasputin sucker, so we both love Communist Candy:

It's a gift- to be able to represent a frog wearing a crown in sillhouette only. I am enthralled. Also hoping for the day they make other sweet figures- you could cut the head off gi joe and replace it with those... Put him in a glass box, enbalmed.
Why stop at dictators? Why not Florence Nightingale, or a Rasputin one, filled with sherbert, that foams at the mouth.
Interesting. You have made me think needless thoughts once more. Thank you.

Scott would also probably have words to say to Lisa Pepin -- writer of Lost In Provence, reviewer of bottled water -- who liked the idea of Toaster Strudels:

Holy crap. Is it wrong that I really, really want one of these?

To which I say: NO, it's not wrong, regardless of what Scott says. It's very right. What's wrong is Scott's sushi pizza.

I'm way way ahead of the curve. Always.

Let's play some Footvolley! You're up on this, right? "Footvolley" is the new Pepsi Football online game that lets you play this combination of football (soccer) and beach volleyball -- and play as your favorite footballers, players like Torres, Messi, Fabregas, and more.

It can be played at, and it's a blast -- you get to be an international football star, computer animated, of course, and use your special moves to win the game, and then do your personalized victory celebrations. And it's the first game ever based on Footvolley, a sport that's drawing bigger and bigger crowds worlwide.

Go to the site and sign up now -- get on the leaderboard and show the world what you can do as a Virtual Footvolley player. You'll never beat me, of course -- but maybe you'll finish second and bask in my glow.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Best Books Written By Felons (Guest Post!)

Sorry! This post was removed at the request of the original nominator. But if you're looking for something to read, why not check out these books available from The Trouble With Roy Press?

(Click here to go to the Lulu Website and see previews.)

Just Exactly How Life Looks (book)

Print: $11.18

In Just Exactly How Life Looks you'll be introduced to unforgettable people living remarkable lives. Cowboys wander in a timeless desert. Scientists meet in secret to plot a new way to get attention, and money, from people. A man and his would-be lover try to find lions on safari, and more. The people and places in this book spring to life fully-formed and full of anxiety and imagination. They worry about the time they have had and the time they have left. They bury their loved ones and look for new friends. They talk and laugh and hope and cry and die, while their friends and family and enemies and Gods watch them, seeing, in their faces and actions and fears, a portrait of just exactly how life looks.


Eclipse (book)

Print: $11.50

Download: $1.49

Claudius wanted to be the first man to reach the stars... and maybe he was. In a stunning psychological horror work, "Eclipse" unfolds slowly, beginning with Claudius drifting through space after something has gone wrong with his mission. As he stares at the only thing he can see, a tiny rock off in space, he mulls the events that led him here, reflecting on his childhood and the mission-turned-into-murder. Or did things go bad? As "Eclipse" unfolds, the reader is treated to a twisting, constantly changing landscape created by Claudius' own mind, as version after version of what-might-have-happened pile on. One thing is clear, though: Something has gone wrong, and Claudius may never reach the stars. Or will he?

Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?

Do Pizza Samples Really Exist?

Print: $10.06

Download: $1.49

Why will paying attention to Paris Hilton destroy the universe? How can one number be better than the other? Are saber teeth really necessary for a good movie monster? Would Hollywood as we know it exist if not for Jennifer Aniston's hair? These questions and more are asked, and answered, in the only book that dares to explain how jellybeans are related to the apocalpyse. Essays on pop culture, things that are The Best, and life show a provocative, and hilarious, way of looking at the world.

Thinking The Lions, and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take)

Thinking The Lions, and 117* Other Ways To Look At Life (Give Or Take)T

Print: $12.98

Life, only funnier: Here's the book you've been waiting for, assuming you've been waiting for a book about a guy who spends his time trying to prove velociraptors didn't exist, who teaches his kids to gamble and helps them with their homework by wondering what would happen if you cut a superhero in half, whose own wife said he would get a crocodile for a babysitter, who finds squid chili romantic, and who generally makes the most -- or the least? - -of his life.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The 10 Best Movie Villains, According To The Boy (And Some "Man Walks Into A Bar" Jokes.)

The Boy and Middle were stuck babysitting the twins last night while I helped Sweetie grocery shop ("help" in this case = "ask her if she thinks I can keep the paper towels balanced on top of the cart all the way through the store.")(Answer: no.) And The Boy used his time wisely -- not watching the Twins (who threw a can of Lysol into the toilet) and not doing his homework, but instead, creating a list of the The 10 Best Movie Villains, which he then said I should post on my blog.

But he didn't give me reasons why they were the 10 Best, and when I said he should, he said he didn't have time to. (That ESPN isn't going to watch itself, I know.) So, sans reasons, I've decided to fill in the gaps by posting, with each, one of my favorite "Man Walks Into A Bar Joke."

In order, from 10-1, here they are:

10. The Terminator (movie: The Terminator).

A drunk goes into a bar. The bartender tosses him out as he is too drunk. The drunk walks back into the bar. Again, the bartender throws him out for being too drunk. Again the drunk walks into the bar. The bartender is just about the throw him out when the drunk looks at him and says, "How many bars do you own, anyway?"

9. Michael Myers (movie: Halloween).

A guy walks into a bar. The bartender says, "Do you want to play a game? See those two rib-eyes nailed to the ceiling? You get to throw one dart. If you hit one, you get to take them home and I'll give you a free drink." The man says, "No thanks, the steaks are too high."

8. Agent Smith (movie: The Matrix)

Charles Dickens walks into a bar and orders a martini. The bartender asks, "Olive or twist?

7. Saruman (movies: The Lord of the Rings trilogy)

A horse walks into a bar, across the room, up the back wall, across the ceiling, down the front wall and then up to the bar. The bartender gives the horse a beer, he drinks it and leaves. A guy sitting at the bar looks perplexed and asks the bartender "Hey, what's that all about?" The bartender replies, "Don't take it personally, he never says 'Hi' to anyone."

6. Jack Torrance (movie: The Shining)

An amnesiac comes into a bar. He asks, "Do I come here often?"

5. Hannibal Lector (movie: The Silence of the Lambs)

A man walks into a bar and says, "Give me a beer before problems start!" Again, the man orders a beer again saying, "Give me a beer before problems start!" The bartender looks confused. This goes on for a while, and after the fifth beer the bartender is totally confused and asks the man, "When are you going to pay for these beers?" The man answers, "Ah, now the problems start!"

4. Anton Chigurh (movie: No Country For Old Men)

A piece of rope walks into a bar and the bartender says, "We don't serve your kind." The rope goes outside, ties himself in a knot and frays one end of himself. He walks back into the bar and the bartender says, "Weren't you just in here?" The rope replies, "No, I'm a frayed knot."

3. Syndrome (movie: The Incredibles)

A man runs into a bar and asks the barkeep, "Give me ten shots of your best whisky." The bartender sets up the ten glasses. The man starts drinking them as quickly as the bartender serves them. The bartender asks, "Why are you drinking so fast?" "You'd drink fast too, if you had what I have." The bartender asks, "What do you have?" "Seventy cents."

2. The Joker (movie: The Dark Knight)

A neutron walks into a bar and orders a beer. The bartender sets the beer down and says, "For you, no charge!"

and the The Boy's Number One Movie Villain of all time -- and the villain The Boy forgot about until Middle reminded him (shame on him!):

1. Darth Vader.
(movies: Star Wars series).

A kangaroo walks into a bar. He orders a beer. The bartender says, "That'll be $10. You know, I've never had a kangaroo come in here before. The kangaroo says, "At $10 a beer, I won't be back."

Got a nomination? Think something's The Best? Send it to me at "thetroublewithroy[at]" I'll post any of them, and if I like it a lot, I'll send you a t-shirt!

Related: Longtime readers know that the "Man Walks Into A Bar Joke" is The Best Kind of Joke...

But if you like Knock-knock jokes, you'll want to see The TBOE Players perform "The Best Knock-Knock Joke.

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How can a kid who mostly wears pajamas be so picky about his clothes, anyway?

This morning, getting Mr F and Mr Bunches ready for their day, I pulled out some pants from Mr Bunches' drawer.

"Doesn't he have some jeans?" Sweetie asked me.

To which Mr Bunches immediately interjected: "No. No."

Now, true, Mr Bunches mostly says no, but in this case, I think he was objecting to wearing jeans, and I was on his side, because the jeans he's got are just... not cool. I get so bored and frustrated with kids' clothing these days. I'm always on the lookout for something that's tough and worth the cost and, yeah, cool. Just because they're 2 and 1/2, and just because they spend their day rolling wooden trucks around while wearing their older sister's sunglasses doesn't mean that they can't be cool, right?

Cool like joe's jeans kids wear on sale at R&S Avenue. The Joe's Jeans they've got there are the ones that Middle originally showed me (Joe's Jeans are for girls) and they're both cool and worth the very-low cost. Violet, chestnut, fade-washed, white with rivets... they've got cool jeans there, and at prices that are low enough even for me.

I'm just sorry they don't have Joe's Jeans for little boys. Or for Daddies, for that matter. But they've got a lot of other cool stuff over at R&S Avenue -- funny t-shirts, funky clothes, and more. So while I can't pick up Mr Bunches some Joe's Jeans, I can maybe get him something that'll match those sunglasses.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The 3 Best Cartoons To Forecast The Future (And How They Did)

It's a SemiDaily List!

I'm still celebrating the Month of New, and what could be newer than... The Future?

Unless, of course, the future that is being set up is "the future" in Star Trek: Over And Over Again, that new movie that's coming out that promises to tell, or re-tell, or something, the origins of the Enterprise crew.

Did anyone actually wonder about that? Is there anyone that watched all those Star Trek episodes and movies and thought "I wonder how Kirk and Spock ever met up?" Because I've never wondered that. I just assumed they happened to be assigned to the same military unit, as happens over and over and over again in the military. It happens nowadays, it probably happened in Spartan times, and I'm sure, in the future, guys will enlist in Starfleet and will be assigned to a unit and will then be partnered up with the guys in that unit and... that's it. That's their "origin" story.

So Star Trek: Redux Reduxed is exactly the opposite of what I'm trying to do here in the Month of New. It's a remake that tells the most boring part of the story imaginable, the "origin" of the story, and somehow, even the commercials reduce the fantastic, wondrous world of the future to a great, gaping Space Yawn.

To combat that, and continue presenting the New, I've searched my memory for other, better, more original, more creative looks at the future, as expressed in humanity's highest art form, the cartoon. And that's today's nominations:

The Three Best Cartoons To Forecast The Future (And How They Did.)

1. The Jetsons.

Any look at future-forecasting cartoons has to start with the Jetsons, because they were the first cartoon to take a peek at the future and tell us how we'd be living. Or they may not have been the first, but they are at least the first cartoon I can remember, which, to existentialists, is the same thing. The Jetsons took a freewheeling look at family life, business, and entertainment in the far-flung future of humanity. How'd they do? Let's see:

Year It Forecast: There's a bit of an argument about that, and 50% of that argument takes place on Wikidiotpedia, which in one entry on the less-than-reliable site says 2962 and 2162. (Wikipedia is a sterling example of how democracy does not work for everything, like facts.) The upcoming movie version of the cartoon (you knew there had to be one, right?) is going to be set in 2307. The ultra-reliable website "" says, with no references or source material whatsoever, that the show is set in 2262. Apparently, in the future calendars will not work so well.

Vision of the Future: Upbeat, but a lot like life is today: People still work, the family unit has remained essentially unchanged, and we're all still driving cars -- we're just driving them through the air, but somehow still staying in traffic lanes.

The Jetsons forecast a time of people living in ultra-high-rise apartment complexes, flying to work at their jobs, which for some reason were still mostly drudgery. There was interplanetary travel, but we still had rock stars on TV. We will have videophones and personal little bubbles that drop down from cars-- but people still used cash, as the opening credits showed over and over. We would, in the Jetsons' future, walk our dogs on treadmills hovering precariously miles off the ground, and we get our food from the Food-A-Rac-A-Cycle by the push of a button.

How Right Did They Get It? On a scale of Scotty-to-Spock (Spock being most correct), let's give the Jetsons a Uhura -- not very. We do get our food quickly, but we do it from a drive-through window in a car that remains frustratingly glued to the ground, and we pay for it with a credit card that costs us 17% annual interest on that double whopper. People are leaving the high rises and buying up prime farmland to build 4300-square-foot houses with four-car garages. And while we've got videophones, they're used almost exclusively for "tweeting."

2. Futurama:

How about a cartoon show that doesn't simpy send the Flintstones into the future, instead? Futurama took the bizarre social commentary spawned by The Simpsons and sent it a thousand years into the future -- as you'd know if anyone had ever been able to watch it. Fox, for some reason, thought Futurama would be better appreciated by people if it was continuously pre-empted by football. Then again, who can blame them? They were busy getting ready to pour money down the rathole that Family Critic and its related shows have become.

Year It Forecast: Futurama is set in the year 3000, or, as it will come to be known, "The Reign of Bristol Palin XIV, Queen of All Western Lands."

Vision of the Future: The year 3000 is a mind-bogglingly complex to former Delivery Boy Philip Fry, who accidentally cryogenically freezes himself and then wakes up in that year to gaze in wonder at a world where he can ride a Tyrannosaurus Rex at the children's zoo, where he can visit an amusement park on the moon in an afternoon, where Blernsball is a major sport and Hypnotoad threatens to rule the world... and where his job chip says he's going to be a delivery boy. We will travel by spaceship and by personal transporter tube. We will... drink cola advertised by a slug. We will constantly re-elect the head of Richard Nixon as president of Earth, and the Harlem Globetrotters will help us save the planet a few times. Also, there are Robot Devils co-existing with space paperboys.

How Right Did They Get It? McCoy (Fair-to-middlin'). To begin with, we don't have paperboys at all anymore -- we barely have papers, and those that still exist are delivered by surly old men and recently-laid-off banking executives. Nobody's going to the moon, and the only thing we send to other planets are radio-controlled cars. But package delivery is, as accurately forecast by Futurama, one of the primary industries of planet Earth now -- by my estimate, 98% of all commercials are for a package delivery service already, and that's not counting the by-now-tired "Whiteboard" UPS commercials that have blown through their original premise (clever drawings that morph into something else) and are just dumb. We're still more than 900 years away from the world of Futurama, but it's not hard to envision our entire economy being based on package delivery by then.

As for electing the head of Richard Nixon, is that so far-fetched? We've turned Bill Clinton into an "elder statesman" in just 8 years, we gave a Nobel Prize to Former Worst President Ever Jimmy Carter, we named an airport after Ronald Reagan. With our culture repackaging old disgraces as new triumphs faster than ever, if we could elect Nixon's head, I'm sure we would. And you say you wouldn't, but you haven't yet seen the People magazine special issue with the headline "Nixon's Head: Shame Over Childhood Made Me Do It." That, plus a special interview with Dr. Phil's head, would be all it took to vault him into the presidency.

And the commercial success of Slurms Mackenzie, the spokes-slug for "Slurm," the drink of the future? Have you seen those little boogers that advertise "Mucinex?" We're already using slugs as spokespeople.

3. G-Force:

How much more popular would "G-Force" have been if it ran with its original Japanese title, "Science Ninja Team Gatchaman?" About a billion times more popular, I bet. As it was, G-Force was, I think, pretty unknown to everyone but me. Strange. You'd think a show about a bunch of teenagers who protect the Earth from an alien planet by donning bird-suits and fighting in space would have broad appeal. G-Force was actually the second of two shows featuring those teens; the first was called "Battle of the Planets," and had the same general theme, with the added allure of "Keyops," a childlike artificial life form that stutters, chirps, beeps and talks.

The old G-Force classic cartoon is not to be confused with the big-budget 3d blockbuster about the government training hamsters to spy. (A movie which, apparently, and for some reason, is destined to exist.)

Year It Forecast: Unclear, although one episode was said to be set in 2001.

Vision of the Future: In "G-Force/Battle of the Planets" future, the Earth is threatened by Spectra, and the sole guardians who can help us are Mark, Jason, Princess, Keyop, and Tiny -- teenagers (who look 35 or so) who can fly a spaceship, don flight suits, perform acrobatic, vaguely-karate-ish stunts, and otherwise wreak mayhem. Their adventures are, in the American version, guided by a humorous robot, 7-Zark-7, that has a robotic dog named 1-Rover-1, and also has a robotic crush on the sexy early warning computer... Susan. When not fighting, the teens eat "Space Burgers," work as test pilots, attend "Space Academy," drive in inteplanetary car races, mess around with space yo-yos, and drive Galacticycles.

The spaceship they fly can transform itself entirely into fire. They fight against aliens led by a hermaphroditic leader who goes by both male and female names, the latter being an anagram of the former. There is a galactic federation of some sort, and planets can "hide behind" other planets.

How right did they get it? Spock -- dead solid perfect. I wish. What's life without a Space Burger? If we need to be constantly at war with alien hermaphrodites hiding behind other planets to get that kind of cushy futuristic lifestyle, then so be it. And what could possibly be wrong with trusting the fate of the human race, not to mention weapons of interstellar mass destruction, to teenagers?

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Take A Book For Charity? I recently published my first novella, Eclipse. To celebrate, I'm sponsoring Take A Book For Charity: I'm offering my book to various public and private people and asking that they do something neat with it -- like take it into space. The book will then be auctioned with the proceeds going to benefit Mateo and McHale Shaw.

If you've got a charity, or an idea, email me at "thetroublewithroy[at]" If I like your idea, I'll send you the book to carry it out and then will auction your book off.

If you're a library, public school, or other group that makes books available to people for free and want a free copy of my book, email me, too, and I'll send you one. Make sure the subject line includes the phrase "Take A Book For Charity."

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Four Best Best New Artists Who Weren't.

Maybe one of the reasons why people in the entertainment industry are so afraid of the New is because so often, they're wrong about something new being something good.

Take the Grammys, for instance. Every year, there's a Grammy award for "Best New Artist." I'm not sure who votes on these things, but all the evidence is that the people who vote for Best New Artist have the worst taste in music, and that's a shame, because it not only reinforces society's love of the old, but it also bypassed some very very good acts that should have been Best New Artist, but weren't.

To rectify that wrong, I've selected The Four Best Best New Artists Who Weren't -- six "New Artists" who were up for the not-so-coveted Best New Artist Grammy, but who then lost out to...some people you never heard from again.

The J's With Jamie.

Year Nominated:

Representative Song: "Your Dog."

Why They Should've Been The Best: That song's catchy, isn't it? It should be, because "The Js With Jamie" know a little something about catchy. Time Magazine said this in 1964 about "The J's With Jamie:" "They have probably been heard by more people more times than any other group in the history of sound." Back in the day, they made $250,000 a year, "the day" being the 1960s, when $250,000 a year was nothing to sneeze at.

Lost To:
"The Swingle Singers." No, I've never heard of them either. But because of that loss, "The Js with Jamie" have the ignominy of having not a single word devoted to them in Wikidiotpedia. And that's on a site so devoted to cataloging (and writing poorly about) the minutiae of our world that it has a lengthy dissertation on "Dungeons & Dragons," a thesis that includes carefully researched footnotes (like this one:)

“Generally, when you are subject to an unusual or magical attack, you get a saving throw to avoid or reduce the effect.” There is identical language in sections titled ‘Saving Throws’ in (Tweet 2000:119).

They can footnote D&D, but they can't say anything about a band that was so catchy they became the go-to group for commercials. Things might have been different had The Js With Jamie been named Best New Artist. They might have a Wikipedia page, and they might (like The Swingle Singers) still be around to this day. With a website that includes this actual question:

* ...the question asked by a little boy in Cerritos, California : 'What were you thinking when you joined the swingle singers?'

I think, most of us were screaming and jumping around with joy... ! For many of us it has been a life-long dream to perform with this group and we are all very happy to have the privilege of being part of the history of the swingle singers !

Is there anyone out there, honestly, who had a life-long dream of doing this:

Although that IS very cool. Not as cool and catchy as "The Js With Jamie." But very cool.

2. Elvis Costello

Year Nominated:

Represenative Song:

Why He Should've Been The Best: Elvis Costello might be the only rock'n'roll artist ever to voluntarily dumb down his own wordplay (besides the lead singer of "Warrant," that is.) Costello called himself "Rock and roll's Scrabble champion," because of his love of wordplay and obscure lyrics, then ultimately toned it down to avoid losing his audience -- maybe because he remembered that your message is only effective if understood? Maybe because he wanted to leave obscure puns based on Chaucer to Sting? Who knows: whatever the reason, Costello dumbed down his lyrics to, oh, about the graduate student level, and went on making smart, fun pop rock that nobody ever got a chance to listen to.

Lost To: "A Taste Of Honey." What can be said about a group that apparently stole its name from a Herb Alpert single? How about this, from Wikidiotpedia: "Two ladies up front singing and playing bass and guitar, this innovation was unheard of in its time. " Interestingly, if you search Wikidiotpedia for "proper grammatical construction of a sentence" you'll find... nothing. You will find, though, that "A Taste Of Honey" lit up the charts in 1981 with a version of "Sukiyaki."

So in 1981, you were listening to this:

But you COULD have been listening to this:

3. Timbuk3:
Year Nominated: 1987

Representative Song: No, it's not The Future's So Bright, etc. etc. Timbuk3 made a lot more songs than just that one. Like one of the sweetest, saddest love songs ever, a song worthy of being made into a movie... "The B Side of Life."

Why They Should've Been The Best: Timbuk3 made great music, and in doing so, made a lot of political statements, and as is the case with most political statements made via song, the statement itself was completely lost and/or ignored. (see also: "Born In The U.S.A.", "Our Country," Every Song That Tried To Make A Point Ever") The Future's So Bright, blah blah blah, was a catchy song that mocked the very people who adopted it as an anthem, and their adoption of that anthem meant it got overplayed to the point of nausea, which meant that nobody could stand to ever listen again to Timbuk3 (see also "Men Without Hats.") Which meant that people not only didn't get a chance to misconstrue "National Holiday," but also missed out on the sad, bluesy, partially a capella "Eden Alley," the steel-drum tinged "Sunshine," the trucker-blues number "Mudflap Girl," the also-sweetly-sad "Don't Give Up On Me," and even the pulsing rocker "Too Much Sex, Not Enough Affection" (featured in D.O.A.)

How quickly did Timbuk3 fade away? So quickly that there's no mention of most of those songs on the Internet... at all.

You can listen to snippets on Amazon, if you want. But you don't hear about them because instead of Timbuk3 as Best New Artist, we got:

Lost To: Bruce Hornsby & The Range. Which is kind of like having plain oatmeal for breakfast and then finding out 22 years later that you could've had Peanut Butter Cap'n Crunch. Quick: Name a Bruce Hornsby song. You can't, can you? And if you can, then quick: Name a second Bruce Hornsby song and describe the difference between them. You can't do that, either, can you?

I tried to Google "Bruce Hornsby number one hits" but my computer shut down out of sheer boredom the moment I finished typing Hornsby.

4. Fiona Apple.
Year Nominated: 1998.
Representative Song: "Extraordinary Machine."

Why She Should've Been The Best: Everyone who reads this for any length of time knows that I'm a big Fiona Apple fan, almost entirely by accident. What's not to like about Fiona Apple? Great voice, interesting songs, obviously very talented... and seemingly determined to not have a musical career, which might explain why she wasn't chosen. There are all kinds of rumors behind what took so long for Extraordinary Machine, Fiona's last album, to be released and most of them have to do with claims that she turned in a record full of bells and whistles and quirky songs that horrified record company executives, balanced by Fiona's own version of events, saying that she was the one who was unhappy with the original album and went back to the studio to re-record parts of it. The result is that Fiona Apple has released three albums in 12 years, and one of those albums had, as its title, a 90-word poem.

Lost to: Paula Cole. Granted, Fiona Apple's difficult background and behavior made it tough for the music industry to want to reward her, but did they have to go 180 degrees from her and give a Grammy to the generic sounds of Paula Cole, instead?

Paula Cole's biography on this site has three interesting quotes:

There's this one: "After graduation, she enrolled at Berklee [sic] full-time, studying jazz singing and improvisation, and 'becoming a sexual being'." I'll assume the site, not Paula, spelled the college's name wrong. But basically, in college, Paula studied jazz and fooled around -- making her identical to 99.9% of all other college freshmen.

Then there's this one, on her early career performing jazz songs: "There was that side of it that made me think, 'How am I ever going to live like this? It's so depressing.' " Which is what I think about jazz, too. And a world where Paula Cole got the Grammy for Best New Artist.

Then there's this one: Although she is aware of skeptics who consider "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" nothing more than a one-off novelty hit and who speculate about whether they'll ever hear from her again, Cole, of course, holds no such doubts. "Hopefully good art will appeal to many different people, and people will realize I'm not just about 'Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?,'" she told Request magazine. "There's a lasting artist here. In a decade, I think that will be pretty clear."

And it is. In the decade since she was Best New Artist, Cole hit the charts one time, rising to 112th with "I Believe In Love" in 1999. Following that, let me quote from her Myspace page:

My relationship with my record company became increasingly remote and strained. I left. Or, as they see it, they dropped me.

Which leaves Paula these days touring the northeast and writing on her Myspace blog, apparently with a new record deal -- which, judging by the sample you're forced to listen to if you link to her Myspace page, is going to feature songs that sound exactly the same as her first go-round.

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Celebrity Adoption: