Sunday, July 29, 2007


There was something almost appropriate about how it looked like it was all going to shake out, something very Homer-y in the level of defeat and disappointment.

Seeing as how we hadn’t managed to get any preview passes, I figured we’d just catch the movie over the weekend like everyone else. But Wednesday night I happened upon a promo for one of the local news programs where the hostess was clutching a fistful of them.

“Tune in tomorrow morning to find out how you can get free passes for The Simpsons Movie!” she chirped amiably. This was it, the last chance! The pass was a shiny and multicolored bit of magic, and I listened closely as the spot went on to inform me that I would obtain this information between 5 and 9 am the following morning.

Well, that was that. There was a very small window of opportunity to watch TV in the morning as we got ready for work and it surely wouldn’t be enough to help.

With a little time to kill, I started flipping through the channels the next morning and, unbelievably, I hit the station just as they’re plugging the thing.

“Just come on down to our studios at 8 this morning and get yourself a pair of passes, etc., etc.” Another roadblock.

I ask the wife if there’s any way she could sneak out of work and make the trip. Surely her employers would be understanding about a mission of mercy. This plan fell through quickly, however, victim of an eagle-eyed supervisor who placed far too much importance on employees being at their desks during working hours.

This was surely the final straw. But then I remembered Norm who worked two blocks away from the place.

Would he be able to sneak out and grab a pass for me? Yes indeed.

I waited patiently for the progress report and found that not only did he manage a pass, but a poster and a donut (which he kept).

So we’d done it. All we had to do was get in line and the rest was gravy. I timed our arrival at what I thought was a reasonable hour and as we approached the theater, we were shocked to find an already lengthy line snaking around the building.

Still, this was not worrisome. Being the thrifty sort that I am, I’ve been to a number of these free screenings and, although the passes always say to arrive early because they do not guarantee you a seat, I have never, ever seen anyone turned away at these things.


Usually these screenings are held at large theaters that can accommodate anyone who wants to come (often these means a great many people, as they often cross-promote these events).

For some reason, they picked this rather small art theater. The line didn’t get to the halfway point before two women came out and apologized to all of us because the seats were now all filled.

An enormous moan came up from the crowd, though many merely reeled in silent disbelief.

Keep in mind that a) there were any number of midnight shows that night I could go to and b) it was officially opening the following day. So my disappointment was somewhat tempered by the knowledge that there were a great many alternatives open to me. They were even throwing posters and passes for other movies at us by way of consolation.

And yet…

Surely we were supposed to be inside, weren’t we? After accidentally catching the blink-or-you’ll-miss-it promo, getting Norm to abandon his post, after all the dominoes lined up so carefully and artfully, this was how it ended?

I turned around to say as much to the wife, but she’d disappeared.

I finally found her talking to one of the women from the theater and the next thing I knew, the wife was ushering me into the lobby.

“What did you say to her?” I asked.

“Shhhh,” said the wife. “Be quiet.”

Trying to blend into the scenery as various authority figures roamed about, the PR woman came back in and walked us downstairs and into the theater, pausing only to exclaim “Press” at the gatekeeper to explain our presence.

There were, quite literally, two seats left and they weren’t together. But we took them.

“You don’t mind, do you?” the wife asked.

“Not if you don’t,” I said, “but what did you say to her?”

“You know, that you were Mr. Simpson and you’d written these books and they’d interviewed you. Stuff like that.”

And as the last two dominoes fell into place, I wondered at the randomness of it all and whether things are meant to be or merely meaningless occurrences that we feel the need to saddle with meaning. We weren’t supposed to be there, or were we?

All this and more I wondered until, of course, Ralph Wiggum showed up.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

I Mean, Le Freedom Film!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Eat My Orcs!

A different Lord of the Rings in Springfield, New Zealand.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Eye On Springfield

Base of the CN Tower, Toronto.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Yellow Journalism

What, you didn't think we'd do me?

The latest issue of Vanity Fair contains a lengthy "oral history" of The Simpsons, but the folks at New York magazine noticed that the quotes it features don't penetrate all that far into the show's inner circle, a fact that resulted in this stinging parody.

Meanwhile, the latest Harper's Bazaar features the Simpson family touring the great fashion houses of Europe.

Lastly, my good friend Pour Milk requested a sidebar for an article he was doing for Philly Edge on our own local Springfields, so I gave it a shot after getting back from NY with my limited Simpsons Vans, a trip which found its way into the end of the story. It appeared last week and can still be read here.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What, No Saxomophones?

Ladies and gentlemen, The Aranjuez Guitar Quartet.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Simpsonize Me!

And the Simpsons Movie Week Countdown continues with...

Why, it's the wife after having been "Simpsonized" by the folks at Burger King!

Hop on over to and have a go...


Friday, July 20, 2007

My Life As A Man

The wife came back from the salon today and, as often happens after one of these excursions, she attempted to measure how receptive I might be to doing something similar.

“Would you ever have something like that done? You could get a massage.”

I snort derisively.

“Or they could wax you. You’d feel cooler and more comfortable.”

Or I could dress up in a pretty pink tutu.

I don’t like to admit this to too many people very often, but in many ways, I am a man.

It’s something I’ve battled with my whole life. I’ve tried to cultivate a rarified air and ignore the crass obviousness of locker room talk, opting instead to drop references to obscure writers and unknown composers.

I abjure the latest results of any competition involving the local sports consortium and drink only on rare social occasions, and then only in a very dignified way (i.e., staying above the table). I refuse to participate in catcalls, wolf whistles, or similar demonstrations of social ineptitude.

And yet, I have to admit, there are things about me that I cannot change which, for all intents and purposes, land squarely in the man column.

The obliviousness to fashion. The reluctance to purchase new underwear. The ability to sleep at a moment’s notice for hours on end. The calloused hand that gives away the frequent presence of a remote.

And, in my deepest, darkest moments, the suspicion that my vociferous championing of feminist causes is really only sincere and dependable above the waist.

So a Y chromosome is definitely present.

By and large, however, it’s been a struggle to appear manly. That is to say, you wouldn’t know I was a man to look at me.

Much of my life has been spent attempting to identify masculine behavior in an attempt to emulate it.

I tried smoking, but it never took. I couldn’t get the hang of breathing in the smoke and, instead, puffed away like one of those smoking monkey toys.

I learned to drive a car, which I was made to understand was something of a manly pursuit, but invariably found it more than a little nerve wracking to venture into the passing lane.

When I was with other men, I’d throw some slang and improper English into my speech, just to show that I wasn’t some kind of sissy.

And, at my most desperate, I’d say to no one in particular something like “Hey, how about them (local sports team)?”

It never really worked, but my good faith efforts were usually met with understanding and tolerance, even if I wasn’t invited to watch “the big game” over at somebody’s house.

Just to give you some idea of how difficult this battle can sometimes be, I can remember this one time when we were attending the big Book Expo in New York.

There were famous authors present by the score, all eager to shake your hand and deface their latest work. I remember the wife meeting Al Gore and, at one point, seeing Heidi Fleiss who looked positively cadaverous.

Now I can’t remember what the book was now, but Harvey Fierstein was there to plug something or other.

When we got to the front of the line we said hello and chatted, and in the course of the conversation, a fine point about a movie musical came up.

Not that this discussion ever became heated, but we both dug our heels in about this particular point, each insisting that the other was mistaken.

No one was persuaded over to the other’s point of view so we agreed to disagree, although the wife insisted that I was, indeed, the more informed party where this topic was concerned.

As we walked away with our newly signed books, she leaned over to me and said, “My god. You just out-gayed Harvey Fierstein.”

And the struggle continues.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Living In The Arterial World, or: Aorta Be A Law

The thing that surprised me the most about the operating theater was the loud, Top 40 music that was playing.

I mean, bad enough you’re shivering naked in a refrigerated room while they pile warm towels on you. You have to listen to 20-year old bombast rock?

One of the nurses reached up and turned it down just as I was considering grabbing a couple towels and bolting for the door. I suppose the music is supposed to relax the patients, but it had me looking for the nearest exit.

A young Indian woman who introduced herself as Suri explained that she would be providing the sedation during my cardiac procedure. I explained that I really didn’t like it and would appreciate just being given the minimum dose, whatever that is. “Just to take the edge off, ok,” she said. “But if you want more, I’ll give you more, all right?”

The doctor appeared and ran me through what was going to happen. They’d be threading the catheter up through a femoral artery to the heart where they’d have a look around and determine what the problem was. If things were in good shape, I’d be out of there in 15 minutes. If they weren’t, it’d take a while longer as they determined a course of action.

It all happened remarkably fast. I couldn’t tell if I felt sedated or not, which I figured meant that Suri had taken me at my word. Large pieces of machinery clicked and whirred, sometimes coming too close to my head but I resisted the urge to cry out.

Only at one point did I feel any pain in my chest and as soon as I mentioned it to them, it seemed to go away.

Then they warned me about the rush of dye that I’d feel in a moment as they took a final picture. It felt like a warm puddle exploding in my chest.

The doctor’s head appeared beside me. He explained that things looked very good, there was the matter of some plaque in the arteries but no real blockages. It was the best possible news, considering the scenarios that had been running through my head.

Then just as quickly as it had all been assembled, everything was broken down and put away as Suri showed me some of the play-by-play on a monitor. “See, that’s very good, you see how that’s open? Your heart is very strong.” I tried to look as intellectually curious as it’s possible to look when most of you is on display.

Then they wheeled my strong heart and I out to lie flat for three hours. At one point they brought me a turkey sandwich which, considering I hadn’t eaten all day, tasted like the greatest turkey sandwich ever made.

As I waited for my ride home, I could hear a woman waiting on a bench several yards away talking on her phone.

“Well, she’s just obnoxious now…she has no idea what’s going on and won’t cooperate with anyone…No, she won’t listen to me and I’ve just about had it with her...I want to smack her, I don’t care how sick she is…”

It felt good to escape from the Top 40 radio, but escaping from her was even better.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Battle Of The Titans, or: Mmmm...Sacrilicious!

Pagans have hit out at a 180ft drawing of Homer Simpson painted in a field next to their famous fertility symbol in Dorset- the Cerne Abbas giant.
The 17th century chalk outline of the naked, sexually aroused, club-wielding giant is believed by many to be a symbol of ancient spirituality.
Many couples also believe the 180ft giant, which is carved in the hillside above Cerne Abbas, Dorset, is an aid to fertility.The giant drawing of Homer, brandishing a doughnut, was painted next to the well-endowed figure in a publicity stunt to promote The Simpsons Movie released later this month, reports Sky News.
It has been painted with water-based biodegradable paint which will wash away as soon as it rains.
Ann Bryn-Evans, joint Wessex district manager for The Pagan Federation, said: "It's very disrespectful and not at all aesthetically pleasing.
"We were hoping for some dry weather but I think I have changed my mind. We'll be doing some rain magic to bring the rain and wash it away."
She added: "I'm amazed they got permission to do something so ridiculous. It's an area of scientific interest."

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Rise And Fall Of The City Of Gotnomoney

I was, like any sensible middle-aged man, on an iced tea and Simpsons toy run.

First I picked up the questionable “Green Tea” at the supermarket, buzzing quickly through the self-checkout line.

I have to wonder why they still make us sign that tiny screen. The pads don’t really work anymore and whatever name you sign comes out looking like this: /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\.

Then it was on to the Toys R Us to see if any of the movie-related toys had arrived yet. Nope. The credit card was safe.

As I started to drive back out of the lot, though, I noticed a young man brandishing a handful of compact discs and motioning for me to roll down my window.

He and some friends were standing around a small van that boasted a custom-paint job. As professional and detailed as anything you’d see on the side of a bus, the van seemed as if it had been plastered in giant dollar bills and the accompanying text extolled the virtues of his rap group, portrayed as a very confident looking collection of young men eager to drop some science, as the kids say.

“Hey,” the young man said as I rolled down the window, “we’re out here with our own music, no corporation, just us, looking for a little support, you know? We’re just trying to do what’s right, know what I’m sayin’?”

I nodded.

“Seems like everybody wants to criticize us when we do bad, but they turn their heads whenever we try and do things the right way, know what I’m sayin’?”

His eyes seemed very bloodshot and he looked and sounded a little like an understated, less glitzy Flavor Flav. He reached in to show me the discs.

“That’s why we break it down with the titles of these three cd’s: the first one’s called From The Hood To Hollywood…”

Indeed it was. On the cover was a picture of him with a large pair of sunglasses and a coat that resembled a polar bear. I turned it over as he continued.

“And then the second step here is to Increase The Peace…”

I could see now that he was wearing a large silver belt buckle in the shape of a skull.

“And we’re just asking 5 dollars for any of these, just 5 dollars. Just looking for a little support from the community so we can try to raise ourselves up…”

It was about this time that I realized that the music I’d been playing throughout all of this was Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins, sung in English by Marianne Faithfull. He can’t have thought he had much of a potential sale here.

“Hey,” I said, “other people have done it, there’s no reason why you can’t do it, too.”

“That’s right,” the young man said, “so you want to help support us, help us out?”

I immediately realized that I had no cash at all, just a driver’s license and a credit card.

“I’d like to,” I said, “but I haven’t got any money on me at all. I just ran out to put some iced tea on the credit card. Really.”

He seemed less than convinced but took this in stride.

At this point, a chubbier member of the group approached and said, “Get you some of that 20-year old tail, man!”

“Wait a minute!” I said with mock astonishment. “Is he saying I look old?”

“No, man, no,” the skinny kid said, laughing. “He’s just sayin’ that, you know, you don’t want the Garth Brooks on there.”

He was right about that.

“They’ll run away from the Garth Brooks, man!”

Meanwhile in Seven Deadly Sins, Anna was trying to score some major bling to bring back to Louisiana, one half trying to do things the right way but the other half always winning.

“Good luck, though,” I said, shaking his hand.

I thought about coming back with one of my own cd’s and trying to do a trade.

I’d hand it to him and say, “This will get you dates that you won’t believe.”

Monday, July 09, 2007

Some Basic Principles Of Modern Conservatism

You can go to jail, but we don’t.

You can go to war, but we won’t.

Our daughters can be lesbians, but yours can’t.

We can abuse prescription drugs, but will arrest you for doing likewise.

Ridiculing the widows of men who died in terrorist attacks is a patriotic act.

Everything we say is a lie, but a lie told for the greater good is the truth.

Jesus forgives everything.

Denial is reality.

Take no advice. Never speak on the record. Make no apologies. Answer to no one.

There is no law.

The word freedom is only useful for making lies palatable. Never use it seriously.

If you attempt to raise any questions about our conduct, be you black or white, Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, we will make you pray for death.

Go fuck yourself.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Delta Of Cleanness

There’s no gentlemanly way to discuss this, I suppose.

When I began to enter that stage of Life in which a young man becomes curious about the ways that ladies work, I found myself informed by two major sources.

One was our high school Hygiene class. Having divided the sexes into two sessions as if it were an annual dance, our gym teacher endeavored to explain the whys and wherefores of what to expect from our newly pubescent bodies.

There was something about the class, with its strange medical terms and clinical descriptions, that made us feel as if we had suddenly become aliens. Usually, the lesson over, a group of us ended up gathering in the hall as we trooped dutifully to our next subject, saying things like the following:

“God, I’m sick! Do you feel sick?”

“That made me nauseous! I think I have to throw up!”

“It’s just so…disgusting!”

The whole biological carnival had come as a bit of a shock. Girls and boys would pass each other in the hall with these looks of profound dread and shock on their faces, all thoughts of dates or parties in the dark having been banished since the ugly truth about existence had been revealed to us.

It’s a miracle that any of us ever went on to have any sex at all.

Thankfully, there was also another educational tool available, which was called Playboy.

If they’d had any sense at all, they would have just put a couple of centerfolds up in Hygiene class for, in our hormonal frenzy, this was as much about women as we wanted, or were willing, to know.

Here was the mystery revealed, albeit stretched lazily across a pool table or a piano. The usual bewildering maze of frustrating foundation garments had no power here, as we were greeted by young women who seemed to have no idea that their appearance could be, in some circles, considered inappropriate. In fact, the expressions on their faces suggested that they probably went around like this all the time.

We had yet to meet one, however.

And, although our eyes usually went quickly and greedily to the upper portions of these portraits, it was in the lower half that we were confronted by that which felt truly mysterious and forbidden and, hence, erotic.

It was, in some sense, the final and inexorable proof that they were different from us.

Now I mention this because, although I’ve seen my share of these airbrushed still lives over the years, it never occurred to me that these would ever change in any major way. So when I decided to have a look at the past few years worth out of curiosity recently, I was somewhat unprepared for what I found.

I’d say that in about 60 to 70% of these modern centerfolds, something very definitely seemed to be missing.

And the funny thing about it is that such a huge fuss was made when it first showed up.

Now, I was aware of certain trends in this area that proclaimed that less was more, so to speak. But I hadn’t realized that the standard had changed so radically. Somehow, as the rest of the world was held in rapt attention, I had missed the entrance of this Brave New Mound.

This is a matter of taste, I suppose, but for men of my generation, this is what we went to centerfolds for. I can’t help but think that more than a few of them are disoriented by this.

This new bunch sort of look like Barbie dolls. But then, they always did.

Besides which, having been forced to scrape away at their bodies so much already, it seems a little ludicrous to add something else to the list.

I mean, I can hardly be bothered to shave my face.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Up Yours, America

Sunday, July 01, 2007

My Inevitable Coronary, or: Angioplasty Jolie

In my mind I always call it My Inevitable Coronary - the way I figure I'm going to go out. I call it that because of some family history, my own general laziness, and my inability to tolerate what passes for courtesy in the 21st century.

Anyway, I'm thinking about retiring that one for a while.

“It’s not like I just said that you’ve got cancer,” my doctor said.

And he was right.

“Look at it this way. Instead of something terrible happening, we’ve got a chance to go in and make sure that it doesn’t.”

Readers of this occasional page of complaint may recall my doctor’s words of warning upon achieving my half-century mark:

You know … you’re 50.

The implication being that things can start to happen that we don’t anticipate.

I had begun to notice the shortness of breath even before leaving Endless Bore and Tedium, I think. I didn’t seem to be able to run very far or very fast anymore, even if I was still able to walk for a good couple of miles in the evening without any trouble.

I don’t know why we didn’t try and do something about it before. Certainly we’d discussed having a stress test before, but somehow we never got around to arranging it.

The one time I tried to take one, years ago, it triggered a huge panic attack and so I wasn’t anxious to schedule another one. For some reason, though, during my last visit to the doctor’s office, the idea stuck. I made the appointment, which turned out to be difficult to keep as I’d just started a new job, and got myself on the treadmill.

I’m not sure if this was part of the test, but they played two Jennifer Lopez movies back-to-back while we sat waiting for the next portion of the exercise. I missed the end of one of them, but I’ll assume that things turned out pretty well for everybody.

The test itself involves having an EKG done while you’re walking on a treadmill, pausing occasionally for a refreshing apéritif of radioactive dye. There’s a lot of picture-taking, too, of your heart before and after.

I could feel myself hitting the same wall in the test that I had before, as my hands got damp and I started to feel slightly faint. This time, though, I was determined to get to the end of the thing which, thank god, ended just at the point I figured I couldn’t go on.

I have the sort of doctor you really can’t find anymore. You can call him up anytime there’s a problem and, as a result, he’s very well acquainted with my personality. Which is why he thought it would be better to discuss the results with me personally, rather than have the news come from the cardiologist’s office.

I can be a little skittish.

So he comes in and explains that they found something abnormal. Some part or other of the heart isn’t getting the proper oxygen it needs and they’d like to perform a catheterization. That’s the deal where they thread a phone line up inside your torso and into the heart and have a look around.

Depending on what they find, they may leave behind a stent, a small bit of mesh that can help to prop open a narrow artery.

I’d heard of them before. My father has one. My 90-year-old father-in-law, too.

I think he was expecting more shock on my part, as he seemed to be talking to the patient he expected to find, rather than the one who was there. Which is not to say that I didn’t revert to type more than a few times.

“Aren’t I a little young for a stent?” I asked at one point.

“Yeah,” he said, “you’re a little young for a heart attack, too.”

He’s good, isn’t he?