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November 2007

November 09, 2007

Weather Check-In

They said it might snow today. So far, no snow, which is probably a good thing as I've been doing yardwork in my bathing suit all day. I know what you're wondering: "Don't you have illegals to do your yardwork?" Yes and no. Yes, I have lots of illegals to do my bidding, but I recently had to fire my yard guys because I caught them drinking from the hose. I don't have a problem with them drinking water - obviously, people get thirsty, but I specifically set up a little water stand for the guys when they need to drink. It's ten cents a cup, which I think is incredibly reasonable when you consider how much bottled water costs, and when you consider the fact that I have to get out there every day, set up the card table, put the cups and water out there, and then somehow corral my son to sit in the chair all day to make sure nobody sneaks any free water. Anyway, that's why my guys weren't out there in the yard today.

Next question: why was I wearing my bathing suit? Good question, and it really cuts to the core of who I am as a man. My philosophy is and always has been that if you've got it, flaunt it. Don't just flaunt it when it's "warm," or even "above freezing." Flaunt means flaunt it. That means all the time. Not just when it's convenient. So that when the neighbors ride by on their horses (I live in horse country. Gorgeous and very expensive), they think to themselves, "That guy's really got it." You might think I'm doing that for me. Not at all. I'm doing it for them - so they have something to shoot for. They look at me and maybe they get inspired to get off that horse and maybe take a job. That's why I do it, and I won't make any apologies for it. If it snows tonight, will I be out there wearing my bathing suit tomorrow? You bet I will. With bells on. (Not literally - I tried it, and the bells chafe.)

November 08, 2007

Still On Strike

As the Writer's Guild strike enters its fourth day, things are starting to get a little tenuous. Not with the union, which seems resolved, but with me, who went out and (foolishly) bought a metallic gray 2006 Aston Martin Vantage. This was such a stupid purchase for so many reasons.

1. I do not need a new car.

2. Even if I did need a new car, an Aston Martin is WAY out of my price range, even a used Aston Martin.

3. The money I used to pay for it came out of my kids' college funds.

4. I had to take a HUGE penalty to withdraw the money from my kids' college funds.

5. The car is a stick shift, which I do not know how to drive.

So why did I do it? Honestly, it was an impulse buy. I was heading out to the grocery store, coupons in hand, when I accidentally turned into the Aston Martin dealership and told them to give me whatever was available now. So stupid.

When I got home, my wife was furious. Not only because of all the above reasons, but because I never made it to the grocery store. It's just as well, as (in addition to my kids' college funds) I completely tapped our savings account and credit cards to pay for the car, so even if I had gone to the grocery store, how was I going to pay for the groceries??? She didn't even think of that.

I hope they get this writer's strike resolved soon.


Images

(This is what the car looks like. Gorgeous, but I never should have bought it.)

How I Might Go About Persuading Somebody I’ve Never Met to Give Me Money to Invest in Soybean Futures Even Though I Know Nothing About Soybean Futures Nor Investing

Hi. Is Mr. Cranston there?

For the sake of this hypothetical story, I am going to refer to my potential investor as “Mr. Cranston.” I believe that it’s important to use the honorific when trying to persuade somebody to invest in soybean futures.

Hello, Mr. Cranston. My name is Michael and I was wondering if I could have a moment of your time.

Notice how while I refer to him as Mr. Cranston, I call myself “Michael,” which accomplishes two things: 1. It gives him the illusion of control and 2. I don’t give him a last name, which he can then trace if things go bad.

Mr. Cranston, I just have one quick question, and then I’ll let you get back to your day – do you have as much money as you would like?

This is a trick question. NOBODY has as much money as they would like. When cross-examining witnesses, lawyers are taught to never ask a question to which they do not know the answer. In this case, I’m pretty confident Mr. Cranston’s response will be a resounding “no!”

Also, I have no intention of “letting him get back to his day,” but by telling him I have “one quick question,” I’m reinforcing the idea that he is in control. Not true. I’m in control.

That’s what I was afraid of. Did you know that over 90% of the American public is in the same position as you, unsure of whether or not they have enough money just to survive?

Now I’m pushing the “fear button.” He didn’t say he was afraid for his survival. He just said he’d like more money. But I’m transferring that “desire” into a “fear.” Very important.

Continue reading "How I Might Go About Persuading Somebody I’ve Never Met to Give Me Money to Invest in Soybean Futures Even Though I Know Nothing About Soybean Futures Nor Investing" »

November 07, 2007

S'more Fair Game

Yesterday I interviewed Josh (brother of Johnathon Safron) Foer about memory, Robert Scotto about the musician Moondog, and my friend Michael Showalter. For all the fun, click here.

November 06, 2007

Fair Game

If you're interested in hearing me talk to an Iran expert, a Seattle singer/songwriter, and a terrific actor named Michael Pena, click here.

If you're interested in hearing me talk about terrorism, Satan, and bumper stickers, buy my album.

If you just want a hug, I'll be right over.

November 05, 2007

I am on strike!

I am on strike! For those of you who don’t know, the Writer’s Guild of America (WGA) is on strike! That means, from this point forward, I will do NO MORE WRITING for any movies or television shows.

Some of you probably are aware that presently no movie or television show employs me, and therefore not writing for said shows is not much harder than continuing to do what I am doing. However, even if I DID have a job writing for television or movies, I would strike! For as long as it takes, or at least until I got back from my already planned vacation.

Why am I on strike? The official line is that the WGA is on strike because the movie studios and multinational conglomerates that own everything are shortchanging writers on residual payments for DVDs and because they’re trying to screw us out of paying us for whatever they show on the internet, cell phones, and, eventually, on the space station. Well, let me tell YOU something, Mr. Man, NO ASTRONAUT IS GOING TO WATCH “RUN, FATBOY, RUN” (Coming out in March ’08 starring Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton, and Hank Azaria) WITHOUT PAYING ME! NO WAY!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – fuck the astronauts.

But that’s not what I’m on strike. No, I’m on strike for a host of other, unrelated issues.

Issue number one. Whenever, I have a really great idea, I check IMDB (Internet Movie Database) to see if it’s already been done. Nine times out of ten, it has been. Case in point: a couple days ago I had a thought. “What if there was a movie about a hit man who doesn’t want to be a hit man anymore but has to do ONE MORE JOB in order to retire and open up a little dive bar in some town where nobody knew his name?”

Great idea for a movie, right? Well, I go on IMDB, and it turns out this idea has been made not once, but like FIFTY TIMES! I’m sorry, but that’s just bullshit! So I am on strike.

Issue number two. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been on a movie or television set with nothing to do. I amble over to the snack table (craft services, for those in the know) to get something to fill the empty hole that is my heart. Inevitably, when I arrive, there will be some form of crudite, which is great. BUT (and here is the problem) almost never will there be any ranch dressing, which is my preferred dressing for carrots and green pepper strips. How many times can I ask for ranch dressing before this becomes a union issue? In my case, two times. So I am on strike.

Issue number three. I don’t like that the puzzles editor of the New York Times, Will Shortz, puts out all these sudoku books that say, “Presented by Will Shortz,” as if he’s the writer of sudoku puzzles. He didn’t write those puzzles! They’re just numbers on a grid that some computer program spit out. But who’s getting rich off those books? Exactly. Will Shortz. Now I know this has very little to do with the television or movie industry, but it still galls me. So I am on strike.

Issue number four. I have always wanted to walk around in a circle with a picket. And so I am on strike.

Issue number five. No television show or movie will hire me. And so I am on strike.

These are just a few of my complaints. I could go on and on about how difficult it is for writers to agree on how high or low the thermostat should be set, about how bullshit it is that sometimes my computer freezes up just after I’ve written something hilarious, about how actors sometimes don’t fully appreciate my genius. I could go on and on about all of that, but I won’t. Because this strike isn’t me. It’s about fairness. And residual checks. And those fucking astronauts.

November 04, 2007

Finally! I'm Involved in a Murder Investigation

I've had a few goals in my life: fame, fortune, inventing a perpetual motion machine, etc. One of those goals, though, was to be involved in a murder investigation. It's taken longer than I would have hoped, but just as Jiminy Cricket once sang, "When you wish upon a star, dreams come true."

According to today's New York Post  there was an "accidental murder" during a hold-up at a New York poker room. Apparently, I was there, and "could not be reached for comment."

While it's horrible that somebody died during a stupid robbery, this is awesome for me personally on so many levels.

First of all, any press that makes me seem less gay is good. Being spotted at a murder site is certainly that. Also, being described as a "well known poker player" is awesome because it gives me cred in the poker world and also sounds vaguely nefarious. Like I'm some sort of poker-playing outlaw (which I totally am). The coup de grace, though, is saying I "could not be reached for comment," which makes it sound like I have something to hide. Like maybe I fled the country or something. Again, awesome.

Here's the truth. I wasn't there. Further, I'm glad I wasn't there because guns scare me. Honestly, even ski masks scare me. So combining ski masks with guns is very scary indeed. Sadly, I didn't even know about that club. I had played several times at the other Straddle Club, which was mentioned in the article, never at this new one, although had I known about it, I probably would have at some point. When they say I could not be reached for comment, I suppose this is because they didn't call me. If they had called me, I would have said pretty much what I'm saying now, except I would have said it in a mysterious voice, maybe like the way Dracula talks.

So while it is great to FINALLY be involved (however speciously) in a murder investigation, I have nothing to add to the story. Even so, I want to thank the unidentified witness for mistakenly putting me at the scene, and I want to thank the New York Post for getting it wrong.

The only part about this that bums me out at all is that they did not mention my album, "I am a Wonderful Man", which is in stores now. Would it have killed them to use a senseless tragedy to plug my album?

November 01, 2007

Rainbow Machine Update

Okay, to recap: my rainbow machine is on the fritz and I've been trying to figure out what to do about it. Nobody has my part, which has to be conjured. None of the conjurers have the time to conjure my part and so I've been stuck without a rainbow machine for the better part of two weeks.

Today I finally caved and went over to Best Buy. Before I hear you screaming, "Best Buy has terrible rainbow machines! Blah blah blah" Before you say any of that, I KNOW!!! I know you never go to a "box store" for a rainbow machine, just as you never go to a pet shop for a purebred Pomeranian, but guess what? I've made THAT mistake before too.

Anyhow I get to Best Buy and I have to say, much to my surprise they had a much larger selection of rainbow machines than I anticipated. Yes, they had the basic consumer models, but they also had some high end RM's that were pretty impressive. In addition to their "home theater" room, they've also got a rainbow machine room set up in selected stores. (Check out their website or call 1-800-BEST BUY to see if they have one in your area.)

My sales associate Jeff, nice kid about 20 or 21, was pretty helpful although he freely admitted he normally sells flat-screen TVs and was "not an expert" in the rainbow machine category. "That's okay," I said. "I am."

I spent about an hour sampling different machines. Consumer Reports, to my knowledge, has never done a comprehensive review of these systems. I wrote to them a while back to ask why and they replied they don't review products which "rely on sorcery on magic." Fair enough. I'm not going to do a full review of all of the machines here, but I will share a few thoughts.

1. The Gravistar Rainbow Maker 900 ($3500.00) is a lightweight, but fully functional rainbow machine. It has all the standard features: rainbow making, rainbow projection, glittery/non-glittery, sparkly/non-sparkly (keep in mind that in RM nomenclature "glittery" and "sparkly" mean two very different things), as well as some features generally found only on high-end machines: infra-red and spectoscopic, for example. Overall, I liked it and considered buying the machine, but Gravistar has had quality issues in the past, (missing colors, chimeric imagery). Through the grapevine, I've heard they've dealt with a lot of these problems by bringing in new conjurers and warlocks, but in the end I decided I couldn't trust my rainbow maker to a company based in Bulgaria.

2. The Inner Dimension Rainbow Troubador IV ($5750.00 - on sale for $5300.00). Inner Dimension has been a player in the rainbow making business for over twenty years. They started as an Irish "micro maker" specializing in small rainbows for the office, but over the years they've really grown their business and now have RM's for every space and size. What separates Inner Dimension from the rest of the field is their attention to detail. Starting with their signature prism dial system and up through their reflective gossamer "fairy webs," an Inner Dimension Rainbow Maker is truly top of the line. Their strength is also their weakness, though, because an ID RM is considerably more expensive than comparable rainbow makers. The Troubador is their attempt to offer a midpoint RM for the home office, and it's a beautiful machine. The III Series was voted "Rainbow Maker of the Year in 2004," and the IV is the first significant redesign since then - and it's a beauty. Available in burnt umbra, copper glaze, or matte black, any professional would be proud to be bathed in the glittery rainbow magic of a Troubador IV. Unfortunately, for the money, I'd like a few more features  that can be found  on their higher end machines. For example, where is the Duplicator? The Magnesium Rainbow Condensor/Sizer? Yes, they've managed a facsimile of their Prismic Separator on the IV, but is it worth an extra two thousand dollars? Methinks not. Also, I'm told a lot of their magic comes from children, and I'm not comfortable with that. (For the record, the company denies the charge.)

3. The Delphinium X "P" Series ($3800.00).  Delphinium is a relative newcomer to the RM scene. Founded in 1999 by Marco LeBoulle protege Hans Vilnius, Delphinium picks up where the master left off. Sleek, understated lines, intuitive controls and limitless rainbow options distinguish the entire Delphinium X Line. The P Series is their newest line, and the company calls it a "crossover" rainbow machine. Basically, what this means is, it gives you the functionality of a traditional conjured RM with the technical ease of use of some of today's synthetic models. Unlike some machines in its price point, the P has a full range of rainbow intensity (top luminescence is a staggering 6 RLU on TD 20/20!) Their warranty is not the best in the business (1 year parts/3 years magic), but I was willing to take the chance as their reputation is excellent across the industry.

In the end, I went for #3. To my surprise, the unit fit in the back of my Jeep, and it really was "plug-n-play." I was bathed in both glittery and sparkly rainbows within an hour of unpacking the box. The rainbows were sustained and strong, and did not come with that annoying RM "hum" I keep reading about on the message boards. I turned the thing full blast. This is what it looked like:

Photo_26
(Here I am registering my new Delphinium X - the company does not offer computer registry yet, although my rep told me they expect to offer it soon)

Anyway, I'm thrilled with my purchase. Hopefully it will last a long time to come. Thanks to everybody for their emails and suggestions. Yes, it's been a very trying past couple of weeks, but in the end, I "conjured" up the best rainbow machine for me.

A Series of Emails Between Executives

Hi Jim,
Thought I’d shoot you a quick email to let you know I got the “projected revenue growth” report you sent over. Thanks for getting it to me so quick. I’ll look at it in the next couple of hours and give you my thoughts.

Bill

Hi Jim,
Just finished reading the report. Thought it was very well written and concise. Nice job! However, I have to question the wisdom of your conclusion.
While I agree that our new line of frozen diet entrees needs “zippy” new names to make them stand out in a crowded market environment, I strongly disagree with your choices.
Did you talk to Vicki in marketing before coming up with these?

Bill

Jim,
Got off the phone with Vicki a couple minutes ago. She says she did NOT discuss your ideas with you before you forwarded your suggestions to the CEO. I would have preferred if you had my okay before doing that, because as I indicated in my last email, I do NOT think “Chicken Poops and Farts” is a good choice for our “Southern Fried Chicken with Creamy Mashed Potatoes” frozen entree. Nor do I think our “Classic Spinach Lasagne in Old World Marinara Sauce” would be “funnier” if it were called “Boogers ‘n Cheese.” 

As you know, our goal with this line of frozen entrees is to appeal to single women and working moms who are looking for “comfort food” that will also help them shed unwanted pounds. “Funny” is not what we’re going for here.

Bill

Jim,
This is really getting out of hand. I had no idea that you presented your ideas as my ideas to Frank and the rest of the Board. These are NOT my ideas! I do NOT think the words “Poopy” “Barf,” “Sanitary Napkin,” “Purple Penis Eater,” or “Ebola Virus” have ANY PLACE in our new line of Mama Marino’s Frozen Entrees.

Nor do I think the mock-ups you made of sample packages were appropriate, They were excellently rendered, yes, and I especially liked the reworking of the Mama Marino logo and typeface, but other than that, I have to say I am utterly bewildered as to what has gotten into you. I’ve asked Human Resources to arrange a meeting between you, myself, and the head of your department.

Bill

Dear Bill,
Hi. This is Mick Taylor, head of marketing. I understand you’ve exchanged some pretty heated emails with Jim regarding his suggestions for the new Mama Marino’s Frozen Entrée line. Let me start by saying, I agreed with several of your thoughts and expressed as much to Jim. Yes, the reworking of the logo is excellent, and yes, using the words “Sanitary Napkin” as a possible description for cornbread probably crosses the line.

However, I have to disagree with you about the overall tenor of your criticism. Yes, working mothers and single moms are the target demographic for this new product line. Yes, we may turn off some potential customers by calling our new “Succulent Homemade Meatloaf” a “Big, Steaming Turd.”
BUT, have you at all considered the potential press we could receive as a result of this new direction? For every customer that decides NOT to buy these new entrees based on the name, consider that probably a hundred or more POTENTIAL customers will hear about the product through increased press coverage. If just two of those hundred customers then decides to sample our product, that’s a net gain of one customer, a sales increase of 100%!!!

I’ve had my people run the numbers, and it looks very promising!!!

Mick

Dear Mick,
Thanks for the thoughtful response to my email. And thank you for putting this in perspective for me. I read and reread your email, and I have to say, I think you’re crazy.
Let me explain: Mama Marino Foods was founded over a hundred years ago to make good, simple, high quality food available to everybody. It is the Mama Marino tradition of excellence that has seen this company through a turbulent century, and it is that reputation that we anticipate carrying us into the next century and beyond.

To sully that name with these utterly puerile and sophomoric stunts is tantamount to spitting on her grave and then, excuse the expression, fucking her skull.
For fifteen years, I have devoted my career to carrying on the proud tradition of Mama Marino, and I will continue to do so until the board sees fit to replace me. I am forwarding this email, along with our entire email chain to Mama Marino’s grandson and CEO Frank Marino with the hope that he will terminate you and Jim ASAP.

Bill

Dear Bill,
Thanks for forwarding me the email chain between yourself, Mick Taylor, and Jim Verplotz. I am CC’ing both Mick and Jim on this email so there is no confusion about what I am about to say. First of all, forgive me for being under the impression that this new marketing strategy was your idea. I should have known it was not.

After reviewing all the documentation, I have come to the conclusion that you are absolutely correct about equating these new product names with skull fucking my grandmother. Mama Marino would never have approved anything calling the pork tenderloin a “Snot Dick,” and certainly would have frowned on our popular tuna steak being renamed “Mama Marino’s Stinky Vag.”

All of this is absolutely correct, and yet I can’t help but find the names refreshing, funny, and a perfect way to distinguish ourselves in, as you pointed out, a very crowded marketplace. Mama Marino always believed in going against the flow of conventional wisdom. If conventional wisdom dictates that frozen food companies make their entrees sound as delicious as possible, it is incumbent on us to make them sound as undelicious as possible.

You may respond, as my secretary Kate just did while I dictated this to her, that “undelicious” isn’t a word, but that is exactly the kind of unconventional thinking that we need around here! We also need a pool table in the break room, and I’m having some guys come by at three to look at that.
Now I know that a lot of people in this company were upset when I took over as CEO, considering that I don’t even have an eighth grade education, and I know that some people might frown on my relationship with Mick Taylor and Jim Verplotz, considering I met them in “Juvie Hall.” But that’s why it’s so great to be CEO. Because I can do whatever the fuck I want.

Anyway, thanks for all your hard work. As always, your thoughtfulness and regard for the Mama Marino legacy is appreciated. I’m having Kate run over to your office with a fifty dollar bill. Please use it to buy yourself a big double-headed dildo and then go fuck yourself.

Yours truly,
Frank Marino
CEO, Mama Marino’s Frozen Entrees